By Erica R. Williams, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
“Empowered women, empower women” – the theme of this year’s annual Tribute Luncheon hosted by the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis — is also one of the mottos of the luncheon’s keynote speaker, Terri Carmichael Jackson, the executive director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association.
Jackson’s notoriety includes being the mother of Memphis Grizzlies forward – and symbol of the future – Jaren Jackson Jr. The luncheon is set for the Memphis Cook Convention on Thursday.
“I always say that if you’re in a boardroom or a meeting and you’re the only girl at the table, celebrate that moment; but then realize that you have a responsibility to make sure that never happens again,” Jackson told The New Tri-State Defender during an interview before the luncheon.
Jackson’s job embodies that belief, ensuring that players in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) get equal representation. In her role she oversees board relations, executive leadership, financial governance and stakeholder outreach. She is also an attorney and married to former NBA player, Jaren Jackson.
For leaders at the Women’s Foundation for Greater Memphis, having the attorney/sports executive made sense.
“Terri is dynamic, engaging and a powerhouse who has a track record of supporting young women and women’s issues,” said Ruby Bright, WFGM executive director. “She embodies this year’s Tribute Luncheon theme – Empowered Women, Empower Women.”
Jackson was also instrumental in the representation of WNBA players after they were fined for using their voices to speak out against injustice.
In 2016, only three months into the job, Jackson recalled when she got word that her players were being fined by the league for wearing unauthorized T-shirts in support of Black Lives Matter and for the families of five Dallas police officers killed in a July 2016 ambush.
“I begged and pleaded for the league not to fine them. It was a pretty intense conversation. And they still fined the players anyway.”
After public pressure the fines were rescinded. Despite the pushback, Jackson said it was still a victory for her players.
“Our players understand now that they are more than basketball and I am so proud of them and that they recognize that they have the opportunity to use this time to speak about issues that matter to them.”
Jackson encourages other women to use their voices to implement change. It’s the essence of her keynote address at this year’s luncheon.
“No matter our jobs, we are more than just that and have the opportunity to use our voices for positive change,” she said.
The Tribute Luncheon is one of WFGM’s biggest fundraisers with proceeds going to Vision 2020. The goal of the comprehensive plan is to reduce poverty by five percent over five years in the 38126 ZIP code. FedEx is a presenting sponsor at this year’s event.
“At FedEx, we are focused on connecting people with possibilities,” said Brie Carere, executive vice president and chief marketing communications officer for FedEx.
Supporting the Foundation’s Vision 2020 is an example of how we can move the poverty needle and connect people with a brighter future right here in Memphis.”
The Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis’ mission is to encourage philanthropy, foster leadership among women and support programs that enable women and children to reach their full potential. The Annual Tribute Luncheon was held at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, April 25 at 11:30 a.m.