The fourth annual Kick Ass Ladies Club, once at again at our favorite spot, King’s Baracade, was an amazing night! Our success was  due our MC, Pam Saulsby, and our totally kick ass panelists! Saulsby’s magnetic personality kicked off the show and immediately warmed up the crowd.  We quickly saw her unique gift for connecting with people as the audience cheered and laughed along with her opening. Saulsby shared her own kick ass motto, “If all you do, is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll get, is all you ever got,” before introducing our panelists.

It was a special opportunity to showcase the talents and hard work of these women. And while we heard about their impressive backgrounds in the introduction, our first question asked them to tell us about their most spectacular failure. It is, after all, often our failures which make us stronger, smarter and more compassionate. Sticking to the theme of the night, Saulsby asked them to also explain how this failure made them even more kick-ass. Here are some highlights from the night’s discussion.

Devin Lentz (Chair of the LGBT Center of Raleigh’s Transgender Initiative program and self-described nerd):  “My voice…Learning how to cope with being unintentionally offended and learning how to cope with that in a way that doesn’t leave me bitter and angry all the time has been an education.”

One wish for Raleigh and the Triangle: “Redistribution of social, political and economic power so it is not quite so concentrated in the hands of cisgender white men.”

Laila Bell (Director of Research and Data at NC Child and member of the over-achievers club): “My spectacular failure was trying to do too much and trying to do it exceptionally well…I didn’t say I needed help with enough authority or conviction…The lesson I got was to ‘sing out Louise!’, don’t be afraid to ask for help and do not be afraid to say no.” 

One wish for Raleigh and the Triangle: “My one wish for North Carolina, for Raleigh, is that we once again become a state and a community that looks challenges in the face and says we will solve them together.”

Jessica Holmes (Education law attorney, Wake County Commissioner): “My most spectacular failure was staying in a particular relationship for too long.”. Jessica’s significant other responded to her many opportunities with a “no, that’s not what I see my woman doing, my woman’s place is in the house.”. “I had to realize that I was enough and that I was capable of doing things that my man at the time told me I couldn’t…and because [my friends] told me I could, because of women in positions of power, I was able to become elected as the first and youngest person ever elected in Wake County’s history - woman, man, blue, black, whatever!”

One wish for Raleigh and the Triangle: “Upward mobility for everyone!”

Chanda Branch (Arts Educator and award winning performer): Chanda shared a story about failing an early audition, causing her to “dissolve into a puddle of tears…I let myself get ahead of myself and I messed myself up.” “It took that moment of me falling from grace and splatting flat on my face before I could realize that just because you kick ass, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to kick your own ass sometimes and get up and do the work.” Chanda’s moral: Bounce back!

One wish for Raleigh and the Triangle: “When this foolishness is all said and done, let’s all sit down, have a coke and a smile and R-E-L-A-X.”

Kellie Burris (LGBT Center of Raleigh, Women's Initiative): “When I first took over [my current position]…my goal was to revive this program and many times at the beginning I missed the mark.” After these early failures of trying to engage younger members of the queer community with her group, Kellie thought about her own interests and started to find success by rethinking her approach. “I was able to reach out to this network of 200 women that we’ve created and we have been able to nail something down.” Kellie’s takeaway: Listen to your community because at the end of the day it is about serving them.

One wish for Raleigh and the Triangle: More empathy!

Melony Allen (Director of Conservation and Diversity at the Conservation Trust for North Carolina): After the diagnosis of a chronic illness at an early age, Melony was driven to become an advocate for health care issues. “I started to work with the Children’s Defense Fund…from about 2003-2005, I ate, slept, breathed this legislation…and it didn’t happen and I was devastated.” In 2008, while working on the Obama campaign, Melony found additional opportunities to work for what she was passionate about – connecting with people, with communities, organizing and, of course, healthcare. “While it is really easy to give up, in the end, we keep going and persevering and we can see the change that we want.”

One wish for Raleigh and the Triangle: “I want Raleigh and the Triangle to be as wonderful, as awe-inspiring and as much of a launching pad for the people who have been here for a long time as well as for those people who are coming.”

Molly McKinley (Grassroots Organizer for NC Conservation Network, Oaks and Spokes): After a long period of job searching, student loans coming due and guilt from not wearing her retainer, Molly shared, “these insecurities were exploding, I don’t know where they’ve been but I hope they never come out again!” In May, Molly started her new position with the NC Conservation. “I love this job. Here I am, kicking ass and I’m so humbled to be here with these women that I admire, with all of you, who kick so much ass. You can be here too! You’re going to be kicking ass before too long.”

One wish for Raleigh and the Triangle: “I wish that every single person who wants to make change will have a community that will lift them up and cheer them on, like this.”

For the second year, the Kick Ass Ladies Club was followed by the Eyes up Here Comedy Showcase, hosted by one of Raleigh’s Kick Ass Ladies, Erin Terry.  We were thrilled to have so many attendees stay and enjoy this all-women comedy showcase.

Special thanks to all the local food vendors that donated food for the Kick Ass Ladies Club: Fiction Kitchen, Buku, Capital Club 16, A Pig’s Ear Donuts.