IRVINGTON, NJ — Adenah Bayoh, owner of the International House of Pancakes in Irvington, was a featured guest speaker on Thursday, May 26, at the second annual Women’s Symposium organized by My Sister’s Keeper at the New Jersey Institute of Technology campus in downtown Newark.
“That was exciting,” said Bayoh on Tuesday, May 31. “I was asked by the Mayor’s Office to just come and really talk about my experience growing up in Newark and going to high school in Newark, and what it was like. I was there to empower the girls and let them know this time in their lives is the time to empower themselves and that there’s nothing better than being a woman today.”
Bayoh said her personal story is proof that hard work, dedication and “doing what you love and what you have a passion for” can pay off. She also said education is vitally important.
“We’re getting there,” said Bayoh. “I would be a hypocrite to say that all the challenges women and girls have to face in this world are a thing of the past, but I truly believe that things have gotten better for women and, right now, things are better than they ever were before. Especially (for) someone like me growing up in Newark, I can stand up in front of you today and say: ‘I’m a developer and I have a say so in how my community looks and the future direction it’s going.’“
Bayoh said she’s proud to feel that way and that’s a feeling she would like every high school-age girl who attended the symposium at NJIT to experience in their own lives.
“I was there to let these girls know the world is really yours today,” said Bayoh. “No empowered woman can say she got there without being smart and educated, so staying in school and getting an education is important. I feel, as a woman, when you can control your own financial destiny, you’re saying something. And what better way to do that than through your education?”
Remy Ma, “Love and Hip Hop” reality TV star and rapper, was also a headliner at the event and the center of attention for the teen girls from participating schools such as Arts High in Newark.
“I think (Ma’s) testimony was really good for us to hear,” said Ahjanay Price, 17, a senior at Arts High School who wants to become a doctor. “To see a celebrity going through all that just shows that everybody goes through the same struggles.”
“I’m surprised that she actually showed up,” said Elaine, another Arts High senior, of Ma on Thursday, May 26. “She comes from the inner city, so she knows what we go through and, even though she’s a celebrity, she still understood the struggles that a lot of girls our ages have to go through. She stressed and proved that, even though she went through whatever she went through, all the trials and tribulations, she pulled through and look at her now.”
Bayoh said she didn’t actually get the chance to hear Remy Ma speak at NJIT on Thursday, May 26, but she understands what the Arts High girls were talking about, and said that’s why Baraka invited her and the other guest speakers to participate in the symposium in the first place.
“When (Ma) was coming in, I was leaving; we kind of passed each other really, but I saw all of the girls running over to her and how excited they were that she was there,” said Bayoh. “That example up there from myself, Remy Ma and all the other different types of women that were all successful in different ways was really showing the girls there are so many ways to slice an apple. I always say: chase your passion and the money will come. But does that dream inspire you and lead you to give it your all? I felt like having all those different types of women up there on the stage was a beautiful thing.”
Bayoh said she also tried to instill a sense of urgency in all the girls as she spoke, and really wanted them to understand that their time is now.
“More and more in the new millennium, the definition of success is changing,” said Bayoh on Thursday, May 26. “I’m doing two things that really drive me — create opportunities for people outside myself and I’ve always been extremely intrigued building and property — and to be doing that at the relatively young age that I am is mind-blowing. So I wanted to encourage the girls to be really be bold and go for it. Really get out there and get after it.”
Locally, she and her partners have been making strides in their ongoing Hilltop redevelopment project. She said the former Irvington General Hospital building on Chancellor Avenue has been torn down to make way for a planned mixed-use residential and commercial building.
“It’s called the ‘Hilltop Project’ and we just started on Phase 1,” said Bayoh. “We were successful in demolishing the old hospital and we’re starting on our first phase. I was just so grateful and thankful that Mayor Baraka asked me to come and speak. We’re here to empower the community and really have a say so in my community.”