Donna-Marie’s Story: Sisterhood of Acceptance

Today, we are happy to share Donna-Marie Winn’s beautiful story about sisterhood of acceptance. Enjoy!

“Come to my house this Friday, so you can meet your NC daddy,” she said as we walked down the cavernous, glistening halls of the NC legislative building.

My mind bristled. “What? Wait. You don’t know me. My daddy lives in Dallas.” So, in my most deferential, always-respect-your-elders voice I said, “Sure, I’d be happy to.”

Truth be told, I thought her statement was weird. She knew nothing about me. Well, almost nothing. We’d met a mere several months ago. She chaired a committee on Youth Violence Prevention, and I had somehow managed to get on her committee. She ran that committee with a joy, healthy skepticism and authority that left me practically speechless, until she called on me.

I noticed that with every passing meeting she began to call on me more and more until after a while, it only took a “look” from her to know that it had been too long since I’d added my voice to the conversation. Soon we began to talk after the sessions, just light chit-chat.

“Where are you from?”

New Orleans.

“How did you get to Duke?”

A job after finishing my degree at UNC-CHapel Hill.

“Do you have family in North Carolina?”

I don’t really have family west of the Mississippi.

Hot fried fish. Hearty, belly laughs. Corn. Kind touches. Potatoes. Political insights. Desserts. Dirty jokes. All of these were ingredients of my first meal in her home that Friday and countless other meals to follow.

Donna-MarieTo be clear, I wasn’t her only “daughter,” she had many. Her heart was so vast that she would have had many more daughters if there were more hours in the day. “This is my daughter, Dr. Donna-Marie Winn.” Always my whole name. Always my title. She’d say it boldly and often, anytime and anywhere, always evoking feelings of warmth and deep pride within me. She’d even brazenly claim me as her daughter in front of her church congregation and my biological mother. Both situations required further explanation afterwards.

That she decided to claim me as her own changed my life. Being showered with her protection, affection, connection, and correction did that even for a 30-something year old, strong-willed woman like me. It was because she accepted me fully into her life that NC began to feel like home. I began to claim myself more fully. I began to feel a more urgent, internal push to live my purpose out loud.

It has been nearly 20 years since Senator Jeanne Hopkins Lucas claimed me for the first time and nearly 9 years since she did it for the last. She made her transition on her own terms — with as much caring, intellectual clarity, and compassion as only she could do. I was blessed to be there to bear witness as she slowly turned her gaze towards the hereafter.

My “You-don’t-know-me’s!” stopped that first Friday night, before I left her home. My “Why-me’s?” Have virtually subsided. But, my “Thank-God-you-chose-me’s” will continue. Forever.

Today’s story by Tiara Russell showcases the warmth of a loving sisterhood during a difficult time of suffering. Thanks Tiara, for taking up your pen.

Five years ago my life drastically changed.

We were out of town due to the weddings of a close friend of mine, as well as my husband’s youngest sister. After leaving my friend’s wedding, headed to our hometown, my husband was involved in a car accident. He suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down.

Due to the severity of his condition, he was airlifted to a larger hospital an hour away.

As I stood in the ER hallway still wearing my fushia bridesmaid gown, my steel wall of composure began to crumble.

I knew I had to get to Wilmington fast, change clothes, and get my baby (yes, we had a four month old at the time).

Tiara Russell imgMy younger sister, Jacquana (we call her Quana or Jane), picked me up at the ER waiting room. In her jeep, she had my son buckled in, and my suitcase in the back ready to take us to my husband. After spending six days in Wilmington, my husband was airlifted again, but this time he was headed to a spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation center in Atlanta. Once again, my sister packed up her car with my belongings to make the journey to Atlanta.

Quana was completely selfless during this time; she left her 3 kids with my mom for a week to stay and help get me settled in Atlanta. She was instrumental in helping me to regain a little bit of my composure back during one of the hardest adjustments of my life.

I called my sister-friend, Pam, immediately when I found out my husband’s condition. She’s a person that when you ask for prayer, you can rest assured that she intercedes on your behalf.

Pam was my much needed medication of calm, peace, distraction, and laughter. It seemed as if her calls, texts and even care packages were always right when I needed them the most.

I know that she was praying for us and had enlisted some other pray warriors to keep us lifted as well.

There were many family members, friends, church members, and coworkers, who called, donated, visited and prayed for us and I’m thankful to each and every one of them. I’ve only shared a morsel of the ways that my sisters helped support not only me, but my little family as well.

I’m forever grateful to God for blessing me with my sisters.

Sisterhood of Suffering: Presence of a woman who stood (or stands) beside you when you could not stand on your own due to some level of suffering or loss.  Today we are grateful to share Nikki’s personal story about battling depression with the love and support of her dear friends. Listen to how her sisterhood of suffering turned into a sisterhood of triumph. Thank you Nikki for sharing your story.




Many thanks to Yana for sharing her witty and honest story about a sisterhood that embodies all 5 tenets: joy, sharpening, suffering, keeping, and acceptance.

So,  what if you have been fortunate to have a friend that embodies all five of the tenets?

When I first met her, she instantly celebrated me and shared in my joy. I had never met anyone so generous.

“You’re gorgeous!” she said.

“I loved you’re seminar.” she said.

I was blown away. Like, “Harpo, who dis woman?”

Yana Conner imgLittle did I know that her generous spirit would soon sharpen my not so generous spirit, that wrestled to affirm and compliment those around me in fear that I would disappear.

I can’t tell them that I love their voice because I fear that mine will become unheard.

I can’t tell them that I love their style because I honestly believe that mine is subpar.

However, this generous women says,

“I love your style”


“My homie can sing?!”

And to sing with my generous friend and not against her is the sweetest thing. Because when I sing with her there is no fear that I will be unheard because I know that with her I am loved.

With her I am accepted.

And with her I am known.

For all three “withs” to be true is truly a gift because if you haven’t already noticed yo girl got some issues! And wouldn’t you know it, this generous woman has entered into my suffering to provide comfort, wisdom, truth and correction.

I couldn’t ask for a better friend…a better sister.

I think I’ll keep her.

I’ll definitely keep her knowing that she too has chosen to keep me.


Sisterhood of Sharpening: Presence of a woman who stood by and loved you up, correcting your messiness with grace, dealing with you in honesty, even when it required that she say the hard things, all toward your growth and well being. Today we share Erica Everett’s sisterhood story of sharpening. Enjoy!

Erica Everette img

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17

A dear friend of mine has sharpened me through the influence of her actions, relationships, and words from the heart.

Alexis has been a wonderful friend.

We met in our first year of college, when we were each seeking out new friends, so it worked. I quickly learned that she was a very hard working, intelligent and kind person. We were able to work together on a project that she started. I think that’s where the sharpening began. I saw her do work that was important, impactful and meaningful. It sharpened me to think about what kind of work could I do that would be meaningful, impactful and important? That’s what started me thinking about the pathway that I chose, which was to be an educator.

So, when our friendship started, I could quickly see that she was a positive force in my life. 

As we became closer friends while roommates, what I noticed about Alexis was that she took great care in her friendships. She was really intentional about the way she spoke to people, treated people, and supported people. She was really intentional about showing people she loved them, and giving her love away. She was very free in that, and it allowed me, as well, to be free in reciprocating in our friendship. I think because we had trust in our friendship, I was able to value her opinion and accept it, and know that her feedback was always coming from a good place. When it came time to think about other relationships in my life that weren’t going as well, and she gave me some honest feedback, I took to heart what she said.

I thought about the advice she gave me, to be myself around the people who loved me, no matter what.

I realized I needed to be who I was with the people that loved me all the time. I think her words influenced my thoughts while I was in a challenging relationship; gave me the courage to freely exit that relationship, and helped me to realize what to do when I got into my next relationship. Her advice to me has been valuable and has sharpened me over the years.

When we allow people to impact our lives, and speak into our lives, we give them a tremendous amount of power.

Alexis is a true friend who has had such an impact on helping me to become the person who I am today. Alexis was the friend I needed at the moment I met her.  She set the tone for the kind of friend I would want in the future. I wanted someone who was chasing after their dreams and goals, was supportive, and fun.

I’m thankful for our friendship because she helped to sharpen me in a time when I appeared to have everything together on the outside, but I needed a friend to help sharpen me and to actually become the person I needed to be.

Sisterhood of Acceptance: Presence of a woman who chose you, and embraced you fully when she didn’t know you, or when she knew everything about you, admirable and despicable. Today’s sisterhood story comes from Eden Segbefia who tells a sweet story about acceptance and friendship. Take a listen.

Eden is 14 years old and is a student at Riverside High School. Be sure to check out the rest of The Sisterhood Storytelling Series in our Gallery.  We are still accepting submissions! Check here for guidelines. 




Our goal with The Sisterhood Storytelling Series is to shed light on how Black women engage with each other, lift each other up, and care for each other. This is sisterhood as activism. Be sure to check out yesterday’s post on how sisterhood can be a tool of activism. Today, we are excited to share Ronda Bullock’s story about sisterhood of joy. If you have a story to share, feel free to submit to our series by August 1st. Guidelines are here. Enjoy!

Sisterhood of Joy: Presence of a woman who stood (or stands) beside you during your most joyful moments in life and cheered for you, congratulated you without jealousy, comparison or any sense of personal loss or longing.


Ronda Bullock is a 34 years old doctoral student at UNC-Chapel Hill and university supervisor at Duke University MAT Program.