Updated: Oct 5, 2018
I remember searching for a grad school to attend in the summer of 2008 I knew I wanted more out of life and where I was at that very moment wasn’t the answer. I was in a bad place I lived with a boyfriend who saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself. His biggest fear was that one day I would see that potential and realize I shouldn’t be with him. I also knew that I had left undergrad with a 2.87 GPA, I didn’t think any school would take me but someone did. Norfolk State University. I remember telling my then boyfriend, who insisted it wasn’t a big deal because anyone could get in that school. He also enrolled in school for his bachelors and told me he bet he would get better grades than me. I told him lets do it and that I would graduate with a 4.0. It was the first time I saw his fear, he knew his words had loss their power, and somewhere deep inside I knew I had found mine.
I started in January of 2009 and I learned so many things, but in July of that year, Professor Bond tasked us with creating a community organization that would solve a problem in the community. That summer World Wide Women was birthed. I spent the rest of my Master’s program developing this organization, finding me, oh and I left single, with a 4.0 GPA.
My dreams of what World Wide Women Group would be were so big. It would be another 4 years before we became at 501 (c)3 nonprofit, but that didn’t stop me from working. I contacted someone to create our first logo and I was so excited about it he charged me 50.00 for the clip art, but it made my vision real.
The first year as a true nonprofit we hosted the Return to Royalty Rally at Portsmouth City Park. It was so overwhelming we had about 18 vendors and 25 acts. It rained like hell that morning and then it stopped. People came out in waves to support, it was a beautiful day. It was a win that we needed as we worked hard to make it happen. We kept pushing with that momentum and in November of that year we launched the Survivors Celebration. Instead of limiting our celebration to one type of survivor we wanted to honor all survivors and so we did. I felt like we were in a good place and I was ready to see what the next year would bring.
That next year I connected with two women that would change my life forever. Deonna Lindsay-Lewis and Anika Rogers. They made me realize my dreams were too safe. There ideas were big and they costed a lot of money, money I didn’t have. I continued meeting with them weekly but I no longer believed what they were saying was possible. I never told them this, then they showed me the logo for Return to Royalty and once again I saw the vision. We pushed the launch of Return to Royalty until the following year but I felt that this time it was going to happen and it did. It became a two day celebration and in the tradition of all things WWW Group it rained like hell.
In the time of drought and low funds we launched Dream Team Academy which was so fun and refreshing. We connected with so many women who are now leaders, business owners and one soon to be doctor. These girls reminded me that we could still make an impact with limited funding.
As we begin to prepare for our 2016 Return to Royalty weekend. We believed early preparation would put us in a great position but it didn’t. All of our plans were cancelled or completely altered. We found ourselves grinding to pull off the weekend once again two months before the event. We nearly killed ourselves but we pulled it off. It was our best event to date. Deonna and I left that event ready to completely revamp WWW Group. So we began to do so. A new logo was created with all of the elements of our influenc-her's (this is how we spell it) we honor each year. A new website, a new vision, we were ready. We have a great logo launch and reveal and it was well received. 2017 came and we were ready to make it a great year then something happened within me and I don’t really know what that was. But somehow I fell out of love with WWW Group. I thought by hosting a dope panel filled with amazing women I would be excited about it again. I left the panel even angrier. That summer and I prepared for the rally with Deonna I felt that it was too much and I couldn’t do it anymore. Deonna gently said we don’t have to do it right now Elle. I needed that permission, so that I could stop beating myself up for not being able to handle getting my doctorate and managing the nonprofit along with all my other duties in life. WWW Group became a burden it felt like a prison sentence handed to me by God. I couldn’t wrap my mind around exactly what it should be, and why I always felt alone in it. I felt its days were numbered.
But then 2018 came, and we begin to prepare for the Rebelle Summit. I found myself moving again with the same hunger I had when we first began. We had really horrible days putting this together but we had even more amazing days seeing the lives that what were impacted by the dreams of two crazy dreamers. We left that summit, Deonna and I losing a lot. Deonna loss her complete hard drive with all of her company’s work, I loss my aunt, my husband loss his camera. But what we found at the end of this was our ability to dream again and to make those dreams come true. And most importantly, I found my love for WWW Group again.
There are many days where I find myself in this crazy place trying to understand why this is my journey, my nonprofit. And then there are days when I feel and believe so clearly that it is why I exist. My visions and ideas are as clear as the air I breathe on those days. Today I know WWW Group exists to give rise to women and girl influencers around the world, it will. it has already started. This is because at my darkest moments and biggest upsets I didn’t let the dream die, I never stopped dreaming, I never will.