I understand passion. I understand movement, activism and progression. I understand a commitment to equality, humanity and education.


By Azure Antoinette
2013 ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference Panelist and Commissioned Spoken Word Poet

ICAN understands those same things; coupled with a philosophy of empowerment and engagement. The combination of this commitment to humanity, and, what I consider a strong and principled corporate responsibility to the global community, is what makes us kindred spirits. That is, if you can be kindredly-connected to a corporate entity.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mary Prefontaine and Lisa Kaplan of ICAN shortly after I performed at the Women’s Conference in Long Beach, CA. I had been commissioned by First Lady Maria Shriver to write a poem that would open The Grand Finale Minerva Awards. Mary and Lisa were among the other 1,500 women in the audience.

When I was performing, I remember experiencing only joy. However, after the conference had ended, I wondered what this experience meeting Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Mary J. Blige and being complemented and thanked by the incomparable Oprah Winfrey was going to do to my life. If nothing else, I was extremely grateful for the opportunity I had been given. If there is a point of satiation at 27, then consider me satiated.

I was approached a few months later and asked to attend the Women’s Leadership Conference in Omaha, Nebraska. I was new to the entire genre of feminism, women empowerment, girls’ education and the entire cadre that makes up 60% of my travel and speaking engagements to date. Although I was unfamiliar with the conference, I have always been a purveyor; I am intrinsically eager to try new things and thirsty for self-improvement.

My research took a matter of hours. ICAN was an organization that was fully activated, engaged and committed to the progression of humanity and education. They were committed to having a global conversation about the issues that plagued everyone – Issues that do not discriminate based on financial status, zip code, race or gender. When I got to know the ICAN objectives, I felt at home. I felt like this organization, this conference, I needed to be a part of.

The most frightening part of my “job” (I do NOT consider what I do Work) is the probability that I will be commissioned to write for a cause that I do not connect with or do not believe in. To date, IT HAS NOT HAPPENED. I am a person of faith. It is my belief that I have been blessed to work with some of the most inspiring women and organizations on the planet earth. Mary and Lisa are among the celestial organizations and people I speak of.

The theme this year is Ignition.

Some days I have to pinch myself, as I am certain, the life I am living is but a dream. I say this to say, that this theme was a pleasure to take on, to deconstruct. However, the poem arrived long after the attack and deconstruction. The poem was born after a phone call with Mary. I asked her, “What is the take-away that you want attendees to have after hearing this poem?” Eloquently stated, she said, “Azure, I want to remind everyone to listen to their inner voice, to believe in themselves like they used to.”

Mary’s answer carried the kind of profundity that was found in love letters in the 1700s when candles were the only source of light in the evening. After that call, I sat down and wrote “Inner Voice”, the closing poem for the upcoming conference.

The day I wrote “Inner Voice” was a good workday. Even if it would have been a Monday, I would have marked it down as a great day. Thank you Mary.

Looking forward to seeing you all in just a few days!