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(L-R) Gwen Copeland and Kgopotso R. John and Linda Wallace. Photo by Joy Childs for Sentinel Dr. Eva Seobi Photo by Joy Childs for Sentinel By Joy ChildsContributing Writer It wasn't a convention or a mere conference that brought A Company of Women (ACW) for their first gathering on American soil. Rather, it was, in the words of founder and CEO Linda Wallace a convergence. More specifically, it was, in the words of Dr. Eva Seobi, a "convergence masihlanganeni gathering" for the purpose of "indaba" ("dialogue") in the Zulu language.
And dialogue, they did-the multiethnic participants attending a variety of useful workshops at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel who hailed from the states, from Africa and Asia. This third gathering of ACW women far exceeded its goals of developing and mobilizing women and equipping them with the tools necessary to change lives through mentoring relationships.Lofty goals for some, perhaps, but ones supported and totally achievable by the individually powerful women who make up the ACW leadership. From COO and president Gwen Copeland to CEO and founder Linda Wallace, these women head this international alliance of women with the shared missions of helping women discover their identity, unlock their potential and deploy them to positively impact society.Asked what inspired her to found ACW, Linda Wallace explains:What was happening was that I just started mentoring individually and just saw that there a gap, a void-intergenerationally-particularly because I'm so immersed in the church world. I could see that we'd been missing the spiritual moms so I felt like the next generation is dying because they don't have the morés, the foundations and the values that I grew up with ... And I really started developed a passion for the 21-35 year old segment of women ... God began to send young women that just needed a mom. Some of them didn't have healthy relationships with their own biological moms ... And it just started with one young woman and, before I knew it, I was doing all these individual mentoring sessions, and I said, 'Whoa, I need to consolidate here and do something with my time' so I felt like God said to me, 'Pour your life into 12 women for 12 months.' Explaining that she modeled the 12-women group on the Bible book of Esther, she says she saw a "monolithic leap in the lives of those young women because they had a safe place to come to as they were making life choices and decisions ... [Then] four years ago, I felt we needed to just launch ACW. God was speaking to me, and it came after we did the 12 women. That was like the foundation of it. ... Then I felt God said, 'Start another group.' But these were older women who wanted to mentor as well. So they shadowed me to learn how I did what we do. So [now] I train women to become mentors to other women. So we started taking teams to South Africa. Then in 2009 was our first conference in the Jo'Burg area."There is a kinship between Johannesburg, South Africa, and Los Angeles in the person of Kgopotso R. John. She's the Consul: Political of the South African Consulate-General in Los Angeles. One of the Consulate-General's main purposes is to promote South African trade and film-you can catch many of their movies at the Pan African Film Festival. Says John, "We work closely with the mayor and the City Council to lure business to Los Angeles ... " and vice versa, of course.ACW also has a spiritual mother, Dr. Eva Seobi, whom Wallace met when she took her first trip outside the U.S. LW: I went to South Africa in 2001 ... Dr. Seobi was the keynote speaker at a conference at a Soweto university. I was invited to be a speaker ... I was sitting in this session and she began to speak to me prophetically, saying 'You're not by accident. You are here hearing things (about AIDS) that you would have never heard had you not come.' Years later I realize that those were the words that unlocked my destiny ... I fell in love with the land with the people, and God began to give me more clarity about [how to help] the women come into their freedom ... For her part, when Dr. Eva Seobi-a medical practitioner, who's also a minister ordained by the Moments of Blessings ministry based in Sacramento-is asked, "What's the common thread that binds the many disparate cultures and ethnicities" represented at the convergence, she replies:"Our belief in God is the commonality. And defining ourselves from God's perspective ... The purpose is to want to realize the potential in us. Once we find direction, then we find our direction in life."Why this year in L.A., we ask Wallace?LW: Because Dr. Seobi prophesized that we would have a conference in California because [the South African women] were so inspired that we were bringing women there that we could do the same thing. So we were just waiting for the right time. JC: And this was the right time!