Loving one’s authentic self was at the heart of the 2013 Connecting Women of Color Conference at the University of Richmond.

The annual conference, held Feb. 15, aims to create a safe place for women of color to discuss current issues they face. The event features a series of workshops on culture, communications, and mental health, as well as a keynote address from Sabrina Squire, news anchor for local news channel NBC12.

In her talk, Squire discussed the importance of loving oneself authentically, but also the need to look beyond the self and find ways to support others.

“Our welfare is so much intertwined. If one of us succeeds, the door of opportunity opens that much faster, that much wider,” she said. “Loving ourselves, living freely, living our lives with passion and purpose, fuels right through you and affects someone else’s life. Loving our authentic selves is to be willing to come out of your comfort zones, to have the courage to confront your fears, to deal with the doubts.”

Squire explained that women of color are a growing demographic — more than 36 percent of the nation’s female population — and are exerting a growing influence on the country’s economic and political aspects. Women of color, she said, are majority owners of almost 1.9 million firms that generate 165 billion dollars of revenue and employ 1.2 million people.

But despite the progress, Squire said, “we have miles to go.” Squire discussed a number of issues facing women today, including equal pay, the battle for reproductive rights, and misinformation about rape and abuse.

Every nine seconds, Squire said, a woman in America is abused or sexually assaulted. “You see the faces on your television screens, grieving families, torn apart children without a mother or a father who is in jail. This is something we cannot be silent about,” she said. “We have to act. We have to speak out. We have to tell someone in a position to do something. Maybe give a brochure, a phone number, to help that sister out. These are all issues for which we must come together to get our voices heard from campus. We can be a powerful force of change.”

Squire didn’t just focus on the big picture. She spoke about her own life and experiences, how watching journalists report the civil rights movements inspired her and how she repeatedly pursued the career she knew she was meant to have. Along the way, Squire learned that loving her authentic self was the key to being successful. She stressed the important of making peace with the past and realizing that every misstep, every hardship, every hurtful word, every embarrassing episode, and every single struggle has a purpose.

“I realized that the greatest obstacle I ever faced, the greatest barrier I ever had to contend with, was the one right here—the one that I created,” she said. “We have to stop with the self-destructive, to overcome the shadows of our minds and our hearts. And stop investing in our own demise. Be strong enough to stand in your own truth and that is the best way to love yourself authentically.”