April Lee, president of Lee Building Maintenance, opened up the S.H.E. Week panel "Women of Color: Stories of Resilience" by asking if anybody knew what the difference between bravery and courage is. 

She explained that bravery is confronting something dangerous or difficult with no fear. Courage, on the other hand, is confronting something dangerous or difficult despite being fearful. 

"I decided to participate in this panel as a woman of courage," Lee said. "I thought today was important."

Lee spoke with three women from the Frederick business community about their personal stories of resilience and how systemic racism has affected them throughout their lives.

Yvonne Smith spoke of her journey through the educational system. She first attended a segregated school in Indianapolis in 1950, before moving onto a predominantly-white high school in 1960. Her test scores were above the 99th percentile, and she wanted to ensure she would be well prepared for college.

But she faced discrimination during college, at Indiana University, Bloomington. While the school was technically integrated, the social activities and Greek life were all still segregated. She found community among her fellow Black students and on different boards of the student council. 

She recalls the fear students had driving through southern Indiana when they had to go home. The Ku Klux Klan had killed a Black girl in the area around that time.

"We were always concerned about just trying to get home for Christmas," she said.

Later, she went on to get a PhD in sociology and urban studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. There, she was discouraged from finishing her dissertation by fellow students and faculty. The same thing happened again when she got her second doctorate years later at Fielding Graduate University in California. There, she was told the night before graduation that her dissertation must be re-researched. After a Black faculty member advocated for her, she walked across the stage. 

Since, she has started her own business, Wake Integrative Behavior Medicine, in North Carolina. Her daughter, Piper Crawford, lives in Frederick County and was on the panel as well. 

Sue Hough, owner of Octavo Designs, also grew up in the Midwest, and was the only Asian-American student in her school. Hough was abandoned as a child in Korea, and was adopted by her American family shortly thereafter. But in America, classmates teased her on the playground and called her names, which evolved into racial slurs as she became older.

Later on, Hough moved to the East Coast with her family and met other minority students. She was no longer alone.

Still, now, Hough hears racial comments from peers, friends and even children passing by her in the grocery store. It brings her back to being a child on the playground and feeling helpless. 

"To this day, I still struggle with going into crowds," she said, "to meet new people and start a conversation. I’m very introverted."

Crawford spoke on the importance of parents teaching their children about what it means to be anti-racist in today's society, to ensure they do not allow another generation of hurt and discriminate. 

Crawford's four children grew up in Lake Linganore, and she said they have all experienced racism in their schools and within their community. There are more incidents than she can count, but she is proud of their resilience. Despite their challenges, they became straight-A students, team captains and college graduates.

"I am resilient because of the mother I have and her mother, and all of our ancestors. I am resilient because that’s what Black women are, resiliency is what we do," she said. "... I am resilient because I thrive in a system that was designed for me to fail."

Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley

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