Enough is Enough

I've known women hard at work; women from groundskeepers to presidents and every role in between on college campuses across the country. They share common traits in their industrial DNA of loving students, taking great pride in campus communities, and building a legacy for their families through the dignity of work.  


Of the many roles women play in the lives of others or in the life of an institution, it is work that gives affirmation of our dreams being the essence of our fierceness. We may make less than men and men may have the advantage of unbalanced scales of evaluation or opportunity in the workplace, but many of us endure and survive because we believe in the merits of work that serves others. We believe in serving through our calling.


Presently, I am mourning women who were called to eternal rest while at work, and in the absence of their loved ones. Two Black women serving in college leadership in two different cities with two different sets of circumstances surrounding their appointments and executive objectives died suddenly only a few weeks ago. Temple University President JoAnne Epps died while attending a memorial service on her campus. Volunteer State Community College President Orinthia Montague died days later while preparing for a board meeting.


There has to be a place for us where the work we put in to create good for others does not, in return, create fatal outcomes for us. We cannot find it in motherhood, as preventable maternal death rates for Black women are soaring in comparison to our white counterparts. It is not in the political process, where we stand as an important voting bloc helping to guide the direction of the nation but remain underrepresented and underserved in the halls of legislature at every level of government.


The workplace is where we have the power to make change. At Howard Community College, we are intentional about leveraging work as a safe space for women with special care for women of color. Our senior leadership team of nine features five women of color holding the offices of president, chief of staff, provost, chief financial officer, and vice president of workforce, innovation and strategic partnerships. Our ideas and identities shape the direction of the college and benefit women in teaching and working in powerful ways.


This reminds me of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs motto, “Lifting as We Climb,” but there remains a sense that it may not be enough to insulate us from the conditions that permeate every area of our wellness. Sleep is a privilege. Exercise happens only when we are intentional. Eating becomes a chore as our days are consumed with endless meetings and heavy - weighted decisions, but we depend on our tribe to keep us balanced. And doctors appointments are scheduled, and rescheduled, and often go ignored until it is too late.


I don't know the factors that led to the deaths of these dynamic women in leadership, but I know that in conversations with other women presidents and leaders, we are increasingly fearful of the strong correlation between the extreme mental, emotional, and physical stress of the job and our untimely demise. 


We are intrinsically connected; Drs. Epps and Montague are us and we are they.


We proudly forge new and uphold generational traditions of working for our families and our communities, but we wonder if withstanding suffering should continue to be badges of honor that eventually become flowers in words, adornments on caskets, and named scholarships for students when we have given our lives for institutions that will replace you in a moment's notice? Or much worse, will continue the business of the college moments after you collapse.


To my fellow sister presidents, we need to build ecosystems upon foundations of preservation, trust, and loyalty. We can no longer say “yes” to everything; “no” must be a complete sentence.


I am guilty of neglecting my body and placing work above family. The deaths of Drs. Epps and Montague was a jolt to my system, where something inside me said, "enough is enough." We must be intentional to care for ourselves, because no one else will.


There are limits to what the human body and spirit can endure, and the limit is not the industrial interpretation of Wonder Woman.

I've known women hard at work, and that is where they are now dying. Stopping that starts with each of us.



Write a comment

Comments: 15
  • #1

    Jamonica R (Thursday, 19 October 2023 05:50)

    This was beautiful reflection. Thank you for leading, sharing, and caring!

  • #2

    Mamie Perkins (Thursday, 19 October 2023 06:06)

    With tears streaming down my face, I understand and agree. “No” is indeed a complete sentence that I learned very late in my career. God bless you and the work you do for others.

  • #3

    Kristine Strickland (Thursday, 19 October 2023 06:33)

    So we’ll written and on point. The scheduled/rescheduled doctors appts. Resounded with me as my personal well-being often falls into a category of I’ll do it when I can fit it in- which is usually months down the road if at all. Thank you for the important reminder to make time and space so we can continue to serve.

  • #4

    Tyjaun Lee (Thursday, 19 October 2023 06:47)

    I appreciate your message immensely. It's crucial that as many people as possible see this. We need to embrace self-care without guilt and make a habit of reaching out to each other.

  • #5

    Tameka McKeithan (Thursday, 19 October 2023 07:21)

    Prayers for both families and all loved ones.

    Thank you for sharing your heart and the harsh reality of our truth. Women of color, in executive level roles, carry tremendous weight and make huge sacrifices. We often are always available, work nonstop, neglect ourselves and even our loved ones at times. Just typing this made me emotional.

    This is eye opening and I know that it not by happenstance that I am reading your blog this morning. Enough is enough. Immediate changes are necessary. Thank you.

  • #6

    Candice P. Baldwin (Thursday, 19 October 2023 07:38)

    Your willingness to be vulnerable and share and speak truth as you see and experience it is encouraging and affirming to us processing many of these same thoughts and feelings. This message is so timely as I reflect on how to prioritize self-care, wellness, and the best ways to support myself and others in this work. As always, I'm grateful for your leadership, mentorship, and authentic modeling as we navigate various spaces and places as Black women leaders in this field and work.

  • #7

    Kymberly Truman Graves (Thursday, 19 October 2023 10:13)


  • #8

    Dr. LaKisha Barrett (Thursday, 19 October 2023 10:29)

    Listen. Learn. Lead. Rest, watch your energy budget, talk kind to yourself, normalize learning through risk taking and risk aversion, love even when it isn't reciprocated, but do check in and on yourself. This message is timely and insightful, thank you for reflecting with us and sharing the lessons stirring from the guttural nature of the universe. We only live once, and while our profession is a vocation...our body is our temple and if we don't take care of it, no one else will... Self love is not selfish, it creates the embers to keep us burning bright.

  • #9

    Darron (Thursday, 19 October 2023 15:41)

    Your words speak volumes, and we as men must do a better jobs at supporting our working women to make sure they have the time and space to refresh and recharge before it’s to late….

  • #10

    Zakia (Thursday, 19 October 2023 16:53)

    Thank you for your authentic and powerful reflection! You are an AMAZING and INSPIRATIONAL leader who recognizes the struggles and barriers placed before us, yet and STILL rises to the call and SHINES your light while doing it! Truly a joy to watch and support!

  • #11

    Jacky McCoy (Thursday, 19 October 2023 22:17)

    Enough is enough! Thank you, Dr. D., for reminding women that loving and caring for others means loving and caring for yourself first!

  • #12

    Conchita (Saturday, 21 October 2023 03:38)

    Outstanding! This so adequately describes many of us called to servant leadership. And it is indeed a calling that carries a heavy weight that tugs at your heartstring - constantly. It was perfectly characterized in your words “ but many of us endure and survive because we believe in the merits of work that serves others. We believe in serving through our calling.”
    I could not have stated it any better and thank you for allowing me to see myself through your words. Self-preservation will now become a higher priority.
    Peace and Blessings to you!!!

  • #13

    Vivian Moore Lawyer (Sunday, 22 October 2023 11:19)

    Well said! Well received! Keep on keeping on with balance! You’re needed for a long time!

  • #14

    Trelaunda (Sunday, 22 October 2023 18:58)

    Your article is a “call to action and purpose “ for all of us…..a wake up call that “SELF-CARE is a requirement “! We need to develop a WIL Alliance to create this necessary safe space. I think I will start one!

  • #15

    Dr. Nicole Houston Johnson (Monday, 06 November 2023 10:35)

    Thank you for this call to action. I will prioritize my mind, body, and soul.....if not me who! Prayers of grace and mercy to comfort those who knew and loved both leaders.