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Cornell's First Annual Women of Color Conference
kjb234@cornell.edu
| November 12, 2011
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The Women of Color Conference was held on November 12, 2011 at RPCC.

The conference brought together both women and men of different races to create unity, empowerment, and pride. The theme of the conference was "Where’s my movement?", focusing multiple identities, ending silence, and creating an environment where women of color could speak freely and openly.

The conference highlighted two speakers, Jessica Yee and Sahra Vang Nguyen. Both speakers led very powerful and distinct presentations. Along with the two keynote speakers, there were two sessions of workshops with topics such as beauty, consent, women’s portrayal in media, and identity. The conference also included a panel of Dr. Laura Brashears (a visiting professor of Sociology), Dr. Carole Boyce Davies (a professor of Africana Studies, English, and Comparative Literature), Kakwireiosta Hall (the Residence Hall Director of Akwe:kon and Advisor or the Native America Students at Cornell), and Dr. Sofia Villenas (professor of Anthropology and Director of the Latino Studies program).

Attendees of the conference felt that the conference provided a great opportunity to explore the identity of women and color, while also building connections between cultures. The attendees felt that the workshops and discussions encouraged learning about race and gender issues and promoted to break the silence that is quite prominent on campus about the challenges women of color face. They realized that they were empowered, yet comforted by the similar struggles women of color, women, and minorities face. Planning for an event like this began nearly a year ago. The small group of students moved their centralized discussion to the general community for collaboration. This event was to expand the conversation and awareness of issues that reflects the ideas that were initially proposed. It clearly served its purpose.

The conference brought together members and the services of the Women’s Resource Center, Consent Ed., Teach for America, Wari House, ALANA, Asian Pacific Americans for Action, Black Students United, the Intercultural Center at 626 Thurston, the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, Ujamaa Residential College, Hillel, EARS, and many other multicultural, minority, and majority student groups. The planners of the event worked very hard to put this event together.

Workshops committee chairwoman, Khamila Alebiosu ’13, the theme, “Where’s My Movement?,” allowed students to discover question, such as “What is my voice?,” through methods of discussion, music, poetry, and writing. As a co-planner, she knew that it would be hard to get people involved. “We have to get integration to let women know that there are resources available to support them.” Entertainment committee chairwoman Catherine Jung ’13 and Speakers committee chairwoman Rebecca John ’14 agree with Alebiosu. They seek for women to “find the movement within, trying to show that the issue is not just race or gender, but actually both.” The diversity of the planners of the conference helped to create a collaborative experience and spread the event across campus. Alebiosu believes that programs like this “allows for self reflection. It begins a mental conversation within and allows for women to gain comfort with their identity.

The conference helps women of color, and even men, face their multiple identities so that they are able to empower themselves and feel confident as they move through school and into the professional world. Women need this internal comfort so that they could face prominent issues such as sexual assault, the slow responses to issues, the comments made about women, the tensions against women, and how issues are addressed on campus.

Though this one-day conference will not start a campus wide revolution for women, it begins the discussion that change is needed. Alebiosu envisions that the conference will “bring the community together against marginalization and oppression. It takes dialogue to make change about the expectations on campus.” Jung and John also believe that the conference will promote allies and interaction within women of color women, minorities, and the entire community.” There are big plans for the Women of Color Conference since its first year was so successful.

The remainder of the planning team includes Logistics committee chairwoman Ashley Harrington ’13, Funding committee chairwoman Marcella Cabello ’13, and Publicity committee chairwoman Narda Terrones ’14. Their staff advisors are Kiranjit Longater (Assistant Dean of Students and ALANA Programming Board Advisior), Laura Weiss (Assistant Dean of Students and Cornell Women’s Resource Center Director), Patricia Nguyen (Assistant Dean of Students and Asian and American Center Director), Dr. Renee Alexander (Associate Dean of Students and Director of Intercultural Programs), and Theoria Cason (Residence Hall Director of Ujamaa Residential College).

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