Spelman College: The Epicenter of Sisterhood & Strength

Aug 30, 2021
Aug 30, 2021
MBIB founding member Andrea Wilkerson shares Spelman College’s everlasting effect.

Sisterhood is a powerful, everlasting bond between like-minded individuals who hold us up and bring out our most endearing qualities. So when we sat down with P&G’s Andrea Wilkerson, we were inspired to learn how strong sisterhood can be coming out of your alma mater—specifically for Spelman College, the collegiate home to four of My Black is Beautiful’s founding members.

Ahead, we talk with Andrea about Spelman sisterhood, the 1996 class reunion event, and how Spelman’s motto is infused into the work MBIB has done since 2006.

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Four polaroid style images of Spelman College students

MBIB’s Connection to Spelman

MBIB: Hi Andrea, and thanks for being here. Can you give us a little bit of background about yourself?

AW: I’m Andrea Wilkerson (she/her), the current Vice President, Global Skin & Personal Care, Consumer & Brand Insights at P&G, and the Old G founding member (that’s what they call me!) of My Black is Beautiful.

MBIB: So we heard that four of MBIB’s founding members (including you) are Spelman alumna.

AW: Yes! If you look at the women who came together to step forward and launch the MBIB platform, four of them were Spelman (College) graduates. That includes Najoh Tita-Reid (class of 1994), Dawn Williams Thompson (class of 1986), McGhee Williams Osse (class of 1974), and myself (class of 1996).

The Power of Spelman Sisterhood

MBIB: That sounds like a powerful bond to Spelman. What does Spelman College stand for, and mean to you?

AW: The motto we have at Spelman is, "A choice to change the world." I was reminded how strong the Spelman sisterhood is—if you fast-forward to a corporate environment, corporate culture, the values and traditions that we hold very near and dear—what motivated us was to bring forward the opportunity to truly celebrate Black women. Personally, I have never left Spelman. I am fairly active with our on-campus campaigns and initiatives. I've done that for the last decade or so. I am second-generation Spelman. My aunt, who I'm named after, also went to Spelman. She was very instrumental in my aspiration and desire to go and attend Spelman.

MBIB: How would your college-aged self feel if she could see the work you’re doing now at P&G, and of course, MBIB?

AW: Super proud. Maybe a little bit amazed. I come from a Southern upbringing, so going to Atlanta and having the opportunity to attend Spelman College with so many amazing women from around the world, who had incredible backgrounds, who were really smart and sharp and ambitious… It just really opened my eyes to what was possible. One of the first big projects I worked on (at P&G) was, "How do I think about building a more inclusive strategy around multicultural?" That lit a fire in me to go after what's right for our consumers and what's right for our women at P&G, and I have been on that mission ever since.

Collage of yearbook pictures with Spelman '96 College lettering

A Three-Day Reunion Built On an Everlasting Bond

MBIB: So let’s talk about the Spelman 1996 Virtual Reunion event. Break down the details for us.

AW: We were all incredibly excited, coming out of COVID, coming together for our 25th class reunion—this class has stepped up in amazing ways in their individual careers. We've all had different journeys leaving Spelman. It's a thing to see us come back together as 400-strong and celebrate one another.

It was a mighty team of classmates who rallied and came together to host us over the course of three days, including: Kisha Pass Bailey, Sharita Beamon, Melissa Hunter, Joslyn Jackson, Andrea Lewis, Kenya Pierre, Nashetta Rowell, Tina Shelton, and Ivy Simmons. When we started to move into COVID and lockdown, the team really kicked into gear when it came to the question of, “What are we going to do come May if we're still in this lockdown state?” I think the deliverance, the care, and the detail put into the planning brought us back to what bonded us as sisters when we were students from 1992–1996 when we graduated.

MBIB: Thank you for sharing that. Sounds like an amazing time to reconnect with your classmates. What were some of your favorite moments?

AW: From Friday–Sunday, we had the opportunity for a class meeting and the Convocation, and a movie night showcasing our freshman dorm step show. The next day we had a health and wellness event. That day ended with a throwback event of the '90s featuring many of the artists we loved and that solidified our college experience. And then we culminated a weekend of activities with Dr. Johnnetta Cole, our guest speaker for our Sunday brunch.

They made a way out of no way. I think that speaks to the tenacity of women, holding on to that legacy of tradition. My 15-year-old daughter would pop in and out at various times over the course of the three days. She was really blown away. If I can get a 15-year-old to be excited about what we're doing, we must be doing something pretty good!

MBIB: Dr. Johnnetta Cole, the first African-American female president of Spelman College. That must've been an impactful brunch!

AW: We didn't know Dr. Cole was going to show up. They had arranged these curated food kits so we could make charcuterie trays. We're all set up with our drinks and ready to eat, and all dressed in white. All of a sudden Dr. Cole comes on in her iconic voice: "My Spelman Sisters." Talk about chills. I think it was a drop-the-mic moment. We often joke that, “Gosh this was probably more fun than when we're in person,” but this was even more special.

Two polaroid style images of Spelman College graduates

Be the Change. Pass It On.

MBIB: Sounds like a lot of effort, and even more execution. How did it remind you of the effort and execution of launching MBIB?

AW: This group of women took on an incredible task. They were undaunted, and MBIB embodies that. When I think back to the launch days of My Black is Beautiful—we were undaunted. We've pushed forward, continuing to support the My Black is Beautiful platform and grow it beyond a social platform.

MBIB: And watching the brand come full circle!

AW: Yes! MBIB’s current brand manager, Karen Evans, is also a Spelman Alumna, Class of 2010. It shows that we still come together beyond the experience we each had at Spelman.

MBIB: That was a powerful parallel to witness. What can MBIB take away from this reunion event? What could the future of MBIB be in relation to Spelman College?

AW: Black women aren’t authentically portrayed in media and advertising—even with all the progress we’ve made—so it continues to be relevant to enforce that “My Black is Beautiful.” Given what MBIB is strategically going after and what Spelman continues to put out in the world, where are these opportunities to come together more deliberately?

Whether that’s a content series or mentoring initiative, there’s definitely an opportunity to connect these two strong organizations together. MBIB and the Spelman Class of 1996 Virtual Reunion event are the epitome of positive representation of Black women and bringing together the sisterhood of the African diaspora.

MBIB: What do you think is important for MBIB as we move forward as a platform, and where does the focus need to be?

AW: I think it’s important that we leverage the (MBIB) platform to elevate and celebrate women and how they are truly changing the world. As a mother of two Black children, it’s important that we continue to reaffirm (the next generation). Their pride, heritage, and culture. There are still so many stories that have not been told.

MBIB: Andrea, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. We appreciate it and you.

AW: Thank you—and thank you to Kisha Pass Bailey, Sharita Beamon, Melissa Hunter, Joslyn Jackson, Andrea Lewis, Kenya Pierre, Nashetta Rowell, Tina Shelton, and Ivy Simmons for hosting the Class of 1996 Virtual Reunion event. Spelman College is truly the epicenter of sisterhood and strength.

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