Rainbow/PUSH conference opens

The convention highlight Monday was the women's luncheon. Each year, the luncheon celebrates more success, more achievements, and each year attendees focus on the challenges ahead. Monday, a challenge went out to each of us to be a mentor.

Some of Chicagoans most influential women join in the annual women's luncheon. It is part of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 2008 conference convened by Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr.

"While we delight in the joy of watching the ascendancy of Tiger Woods in golf and the Williams sisters in tennis, and Kobe in basketball, and Barack in politics, as we watch these ingenious young people ascend to higher heights, the question is what about those who are left behind?" said Jackson.

The idea for the women's luncheon was conceived by Mrs. Jacqueline Jackson. In 1971, they held the first luncheon with only 150 people. Monday, there were 1,500.

"The hand that rocks the cradle will rule the world, and certainly the women who are a part of this conference, those women reflect that force," said Jacqueline Jackson, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

The luncheon celebrates those who have made significant contributions to our society, like Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to presidential candidate Barack Obama, and Dr. Mahalia Hines, retired high school principal and mother of rapper Common.

"I thought it was odd that I would be getting an honor for what I love to do," said Dr. Mahilia A. Hines, Education Excellence Award recipient.

The luncheon is also a opportunity to motivate. Monday's keynote speaker was Susan Taylor, formerly of Essence magazine. But now she's the author and founder of a campaign: Essence Cares Mentoring Movement.

"We have to link arms and aims and really just mentor. It doesn't cost anything. Each one of us take one vulnerable youngster, a group of us can take a group home," said Taylor.

Taylor encourages women to take care of themselves then help care for those who need guidance.

"I think what women do all too often is we give ourselves away before we give ourselves to ourselves, and you can't give from an empty cup," Taylor said.

For more information about how to become a mentor or to pair a child with a mentor, go to the Essence Cares web site.

The Rainbow/PUSH conference continues through Wednesday.

Monday night, 200 young men and women were acknowledged for their hard work as the Rainbow/PUSH gave out college scholarships.

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