ATA Magazine

The same tribe

Honouring relationships uplifts us all

I am only good if all my sisters are good.

By midday, the inviting aroma of dinner wafted through the house. Within the tiny kitchen, my Caribbean aunties reached across and dashed behind each other with grace and precision — their beautiful choreography of cooking.

Their recipes were intended to be my inheritance. I was grateful, but the repetition of onion slicing and pot stirring ran counter to my sense of adventure. I leaned against the doorway, contemplating escape. 

A hand settled on my shoulder and steered me back to a nearby chair. It was Mom’s dearest friend, Auntie Dee. She was family, even though we had no blood connection. She slipped a piece of gum into my hand, carefully concealed to avoid my mother’s watchful eyes.  

“Do you know how I’m related to you?” she asked. Leaning in on the 
wooden chair, I drew closer. She whispered, “We belong to the same tribe.”
Her ashy hands circled over my head as she continued. 

“All of these women raised you from a child. It is our belief that I am only good if all my sisters are good.”  

This moment shaped the fundamental convictions that I hold as a woman of colour in leadership; each member of the tribe has a role in the success of another.  

My tribe has taught me that the most vital qualities of leadership stem from honouring relationships.  

The real inheritance, I now know, is the recipe for women uplifting women: 

  • Create a network of empowered women who form your trusted tribe. Appreciate that your own success is indebted to women who have uplifted and assisted you. Move beyond a mindset of doing everything yourself. Use the wisdom and experience of your tribe, ensuring that the rise of one member leads to the uplifting of all. 
  • Normalize excellence, especially for women of colour. Resist the urge to downplay achievements and camouflage talents to fit in. Overcome self-doubt; it is the ultimate betrayal of a woman’s abilities. Balancing family, housekeeping and a career amplifies the adage that “a woman holds a knife at the sharp end.” Embrace this as strength and grit. It will inspire others to experience their own greatness. 
  • Widen the door to bring others along with you. Break the cycle of only helping those whom you resemble. Be an advocate and mentor, particularly for women of colour, helping others recognize and reach their leadership potential. 
Portrait of a smiling black women with long black hair in a fuscia blouse.
Gail-Ann Wilson Mitchell

Executive Staff Officer, ATA