On a sunny Saturday morning in October, just over 100 Black women gathered at the Jack Robinson Gallery on Front Street for some 'girl talk' on life, love, business education, wellness and more at the inaugural Auntie Round Table.
Mothers and daughters, sisters, cousins, friends and aunts of varying ages shared generations of wisdom during this first installment of a series of discussions launched by Memphis native and serial entrepreneur Jada Davis.
The October 5 event was billed as unplugged, unfiltered and unapologetic. Davis said the concept is a call to action for Black women to make a decision to have transparent conversations that cross multiple generations.
“I know for a fact that the things that 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds are talking about, those that are 60 and 70 may not be talking about," said Davis. "I wanted to create a platform where we had an unplugged meeting — put your phones down and take a moment to hear each other out as sisters, loved ones and as a community.”
discussed education, careers, health and wellness, love, relationships, money and business at the October round table. Topics included saving while struggling, Black female veterans, loving Jesus and your therapist, imposter syndrome, the loss of adult friends and much more.
Jada Davis (L), founder of the Auntie Round Table, with her mother Nedra Redditt who served as a panelist for the event. (Erica Horton)
The room was peppered with local and national sponsors and Black, female entrepreneurs. During breaks, guests could eat or shop for jewelry and clothes. There were also health and wellness services, financial services and other vendors.
The idea for the Auntie Round Table started with conversations between Davis and her friends. They would mingle topics from the news into what she called their "normal girl talk.”
As she and her friends exchanged life notes — What does love look like? How do you deal with the stress of starting a business? Did you hear what Congresswoman Maxine Waters said? Who else do you talk to about these things? — the Auntie Round Table began to take shape.
“I want us to write our own narrative. I want us to be the leading authors of our story. I think we all have a story to tell,” said Davis. “Unfortunately, for centuries we have lived with people telling us what we need to do for ourselves. I know that Black women drive dollars in this country, therefore we’re very capable of driving our own narratives.”
Cristina McCarter, owner of City Tasting Tours,
founder of the Craft Food and Wine Festival
and founder of Feast and Graze
, all based in Memphis, was a sponsor for the event. She met Davis in college, and they bonded over their shared entrepreneurial spirits.
“I’ve been following her journey since college," said McCarter of Davis. "When she told me she wanted to do an event in Memphis talking about things we may not have known growing up and giving women a platform to do so, I was all for it. I wanted to be part of it however I could."
The importance of Aunties
Traditionally referencing your mother or father’s sister, the word 'aunt' has specific cultural impacts and meaning in the Black community.
“The term aunt is fluid. It’s one of the reasons I love Maxine Waters,” said Davis. “She is a clear example of what an auntie is for a whole community. No matter where you go, if you see her she will embrace you, and she knows she has a whole generation of young people looking up to her.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters is currently serving California’s 43rd district and has always been open and vocal with her critiques of political processes and presidents.
She was publicly opposed to some decision made by former President Obama but earned the title “Auntie Maxine,”
in recent years with her no-nonsense attitude towards the current presidential administration. Her most well-publicized moment came when she reclaimed her time
from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a House Financial Services Committee hearing. She then began to interview with millennial-targeted publications, challenging the next generation to get involved in their future.
McCarter said an auntie is a person you can talk to when you're scared to talk to your mom. She said aunts were the fun women.
“I always wanted to be the fun auntie that all the kids can go to,” she said. “Now auntie has taken on a whole other meaning — it means awesome Black woman. Whoever is doing something awesome, we make them our auntie now.”
Davis said she remembers her biological aunts always showing up for her whether it was graduation, sending money when she was a broke college student or picking her up so she could come home to celebrate Thanksgiving.
“Those are women that I know pray for me when I don’t even ask for it and that are edifying me when I’m not even in the room,” she said.
Stacy Greer attended the Memphis round table with her mother and sister. She said she appreciated the exchange of information and stories, especially as a mom of two.
“Sometimes in the African American community it feels like information is hidden," she said. "They were so open about the mental health awareness."
For Greer, the presentation by a birth doula was especially helpful, as she has a newborn son.
“These conversations are important. We need to talk about things like postpartum [depression] and the different ways it can manifest,” she said.
Attending the event also made her realize she needed to thank her aunts.
“As a kid, they made me feel so important," she said. "They made me feel like I was the prettiest little girl. They gave me the one-on-ones I needed. They spoiled me. They loved on me. My mom did too, but they gave me a different perspective on things.”
Just over 100 women attended the Auntie Round Table at the Jack Robinson Gallery on Front Street. (Erica Horton)
Denise Ransom attended with friends and counted attendance as self-care for the weekend. Ransom said she enjoyed learning new ways to negotiate her worth when working for someone else and was inspired to explore other avenues to make money for herself and family.
“An aunt that has influenced me was my Aunt Gloria," said said. "She has spunk, personality, opinion and she’s going to do it all and be it all because she can."
Ransom said remembering women like her Aunt Gloria and meeting with other women in spaces like The Auntie Round Table creates lasting impact.
“It’s important that we have events like this to create bonds in our community. I’m not trying to fight my fellow sister,” she said. “I want to figure out how to get where you are or how to pull you up to where I am.”
Bringing it Home
Now a resident of Washington, DC., when Davis isn't at her day job, she runs management consulting firm JD Global Strategies. She also owns motivational apparel line, GrindMatch.com, and promotes sustainable travel through her exclusive voluntourism group for millennials, The Global Intent.
Davis plans to next expand the Auntie Round Table into Dallas, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and any other cities that express interest, and she welcomes collaborations.
But Davis said she knew she had to launch the series in Memphis because there are amazing women breaking ground in the city and the most important women in her life live in Memphis and influence everything she does. She got her entrepreneurial spirit from Memphis and her family and felt it was right to honor that.
Davis said she doesn't remember her mother Nedra Redditt, who was also a panelist for the round table, ever working for anyone else.
Redditt is a real estate agent licensed in Tennessee and Mississippi with 30 years of experience, a certified real estate instructor and founder of From The Ground Up USA, a nonprofit dedicated to mentoring young adults interested in entrepreneurship.
“For me, everywhere I go I represent Memphis," said Davis. "I’m definitely an example of hardly home but always reppin’. That’s who I am … the grit and the grind of this city is definitely a clear description of who I am. I’ve built my brands around that motto."