Change the Narrative Fellows Graduation

Kelly Sheard, Director of the Gender Wealth Institute, shares her reflection below about the graduation of the second cohort of Change the Narrative Fellows.

“Come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.” Lucille Clifton

If you ever doubted the ability to build a sisterhood via zoom, let me assure you- it can be done.

Over the course of 7 months of bi-weekly virtual meetings, I was honored to watch our group of 10 Fellows in the Change the Narrative Fellowship blossom and take shape beyond what we could have imagined. While the team at WOMEN’S WAY and First Person Arts worked hard to share facts, histories, contexts, tips, tools, and exercises around narrative storytelling – whew! – the Fellows served as eager consumers of information and generators of knowledge and wisdom themselves.

They showed up consistently, while battling personal challenges, traumas, and the muck of life. Their dedication to the experience was sacred in its own way – an expression of their commitments not just to the program, but to their own selves. They wanted to hear more, understand more, and to support each other as they unpacked their own complicated and private personal histories. Narrative storytelling is not for the faint of heart – we asked Fellows to reach back in their memories and articulate their experiences around insecurity and instability.

That vulnerability can be as threatening as it is freeing, and while we were prepared to hold space with dedicated support from our therapeutic partner, Reggie Jones LCSW, we felt the weight of what we were asking Fellows to do. At every turn, we were met with the courageousness of the group – raw at times, halting in rhythm, but undeniably there. Their bravery was a critical catalyst for breakthroughs, and we will forever be grateful for their offerings.

The strength of black women is a complicated construct. It is both a tool and a weapon – sometimes used to affirm and build up, often times used to obscure the structures and systems that demand inhumane strength to survive. Our graduation ceremony was an attempt to honor the light in each of them – strong, to be sure, but pure, multifaceted, and dynamic. We are excited to share their stories with our partners and communities. Their stories are one thread in the rich tapestry of their lives, and we are grateful for the opportunity to center their stories as we continue to have generative conversations about the ways we want to build safety and security for all women.

Won’t you celebrate with us? 


The Change the Narrative Fellowship trains and empowers women with the lived experience of economic insecurity to share their personal stories through professional-level audio, visual, and print. The purpose of the program is to generate awareness of racial and gender inequities in economic opportunity and spur actions among the public and private sectors that improve economic security in the Philadelphia region. To learn more about the Change the Narrative Fellowship, click here.