Women's conference raises the voices of black and brown women and girls in North Carolina

Elon was a partner in the conference, which focused on learning about and lifting the souls of black and brown women and girls. The event was held at Shaw University in partnership with the Raleigh/Apex chapter of the NAACP. 

Shaw University's Divinity School in partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Elon University created an opportunity for more than 100 participants of all ages, genders, and ethnic and racial backgrounds to have a transformative experience at the 33rd Annual Women's Conference. Titled "The souls of black and brown girls/women: learning, lifting, leading," the conference was held Oct. 20, 2018 at Raleigh.

The Annual Women’s Conference explored a wide range of issues affecting this population throughout the United States and in North Carolina, resulting in the development of a podcast scheduled to be completed in early 2019.

Funding from the development of both projects came from a Community Partnership Initiative grant of the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement. The activities involved students from the service-learning course HSS 111, Introduction to the Arts and Science of Human Services.

The annual conference started with songs, speeches and prayers for the souls of black and brown women and girls. Most of the speeches revolved around faith and sisterhood, matching the conference theme.

The key organizer and master of ceremony for the conference was Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, professor of religion at the Shaw University Divinity School. Speaking in the first panel were the Rev. Janet Woods, and Shaw students Taborah Adams and Phoebe Roberts. Performing were the Shaw University Divinity School Chorus and the Zion Temple COGOP Choir.

Panelists of of prestigious community leaders and educators.
The Rev. Jeannette Barnes concluded the welcome with an uplifting sermon. The conference shifted to a workshop on child sexual abuse and sexual assault for female participants. Men and children were invited to join separate sessions for dialogue on relevant concerns. Leading the conversation were the Elon Assistant Professor Carmen Monico and Julie Budd from Crossroads Sexual Assault Response and Resource Center. The session exposed participants to the facts of child sexual abuse and how to recognize it and prevent it.

The conference included a panel of prestigious community leaders and educators. They included Ashleigh Dunston Parker, district court judge for the 10th Judicial District; Ana Blackburn, Hispanic liaison from the NAACP; Nayely Perez-Huerta from Southeast Immigrant Rights Network, Shaw students Justin Collins, Kathlene Corley, the respected educator NaShonda Cooke, and the Shaw SGA President Ryan Grant. They discussed their own experiences and how they are fighting from within the system to make sure that the black and brown girls of the future embrace their heritage and seeks their dreams.

 The last panel of the conference included Iliana Santilla, who spoke about her experiences about growing up as a second generation immigrant and her experience of racial discrimination in school. Elon student Angelina Lu summarized the conference themes, and identified next steps to take as a community. The Rev. Terrill Lloyd spoke about his experience of being a black gay male and the sexual discrimination he faced. Finally, a formally undocumented woman spoke about how she was raised by a strong single Latina mom and was encouraged to follow her dreams in the United States. 

The conference ended by honoring three female community leaders who have lifted other black and brown women and girls, including the Rev. Portia Rochelle as the president of NAACP Raleigh-Apex Chapter.

For more information on the annual conference, visit: http://shawu.edu/Divinity-Women/

Julie Budd from Crossroads Sexual Assault Response and Resource Center (standing) and Elon faculty Dr. Carmen Monico (not shown) facilitating the conference discussion on child abuse prevention.
To expand the conversation and education/awareness into the 2019 women’s conference, a podcast project is under development. “Learning, Lifting, Leading: Social Equity for and by Black & Brown Girls & Women” is the working title for the podcast series developed to become the intersectional version of podcast created by the New York University McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research http://mcsilver.nyu.edu/black-boys-and-men-changing-the-narrative.

Podcast episodes will focus on a wide range of related topics, such as historical trauma; violence against women & girls; public health and Social Policy; Womanism, queerness & social equity; perspective and policies affecting Black & Brown mothers; segregation of Black and Brown girls in school; school-to-prison pipeline; police brutality; and reentry following incarceration.

Academics from Shaw and Elon, as well as faculty from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro have been interviewed. Speakers include community leaders assisting black and brown women and girls, and 2018-19 Common Reading author Kristen Green.

Jenn Grimmett will be the producer for this project given her background in the intersections of peace & conflict resolution work, media design, social justice & advocacy, and program facilitation. A formal launching event of the podcast will be held in spring 2019.

Special thanks to Elon students Olivia Cromwell and Angelina Lu, and the Rev. Donna Vanhook ‘07 representing the NAACP Raleigh/Apex Chapter, who helped put this article together.


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