Women’s Conference encourages black and brown girls and women to become leaders

As part of a partnership with Shaw University, the 2019 Women's Conference featured community speakers and introduced the Social Equity Podcast to participants

The 34th Annual Women’s Conference titled “Becoming: Souls of Black and Brown Girls/Women Rising” was held at Shaw University on Oct 11-12, 2019. A coalition of organizations and community representatives helped plan and sponsor the Women’s Conference. The 2019 planning committee, led by ShawU Divinity School faculty and staff, included professionals from the faith community, law enforcement, healthcare, mental health and human services. Additionally, representatives of civic organizations and social advocacy groups such as Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. and the Poor People’s Campaign, along with several Elon University faculty and students, provided input and guidance in the development of the program.

The conference was designed for people of all ages, genders, and ethnic and racial backgrounds and sought to provide transformative experiences for those attending. It explored a wide range of barriers that black and brown girls and women confront and inspired about 150 participants to become leaders in the community in addressing those barriers and advancing the fellow minority girls and women in North Carolina. Conference speakers and panelists addressed strategies for women to develop their leadership potential in church and society, as well as embracing diversity by building cross-cultural relationships. Featured speakers included Mary Drew, author and historian, the Rev. Chaurita Dawson-Herring, nationally recognized psalmist and preacher; the Rev. Dr. Sherry Arnold-Graham, founder and CEO of Dunamis, Inc.; Cathy Moore, Superintendent of Wake County Schools; and Carmen Monico, assistant professor from Elon University.

The presenters encouraged participants to become by turning to our ancestors and embracing our legacy as black and brown girls and women. Becoming is possible by assuming action and leadership, and enabling a process of liberation and transformation for ourselves and our societies. Other key messages included that leadership is grounded in morality and spirituality to inspire others from the bottom up; that is by working in the community for better opportunities, bearing witness, with unapologetic action, and accepting our journey and brightness, and following our dreams. Because black and brown girls and women are criminalized and “adultified” (treated as adults), we need to understand the barriers they face in order to bring down those barriers.

To engage in learning about the social barriers black and brown girls and women face, Monico and the Rev. Donna Vanhook from the NAACP and Morrow Town Task Force (MTTF) introduced the Social Equity Podcast “Learning, Lifting, Leading: Social Equity for and by Black and Brown Girls & Women” that emerged from the key messages from previous Women’s Conference. Students from the Human Service Studies Working and Groups and Communities course discussing specific podcast episodes included Sherri Retig, Caren Aveldanez & Qwai-Zia Pennix. The podcast has been used at Elon University for educational purposes as well.