by Sabrina Guilbeault ’18
If students happened to walk by the Fishbowl in Slavin last Thursday night, they would have seen giant posters of famous women of color who have greatly impacted history but are often left out of the textbooks. Sponsored by Women Empowered, the event allowed students to learn about these women by taking a step into “Her-story.”
Images included Michelle Obama, actress Viola Davis, and Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel through space. During the event, Women Empowered also collected donations for the Sojourner House in Providence, a collective that provides support, advocacy, and education for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Chalayna Smart ’18, a member of the executive board wearing the new Women Empowered shirt that says, “Be Strong, Be Resilient, Be Empowered,” shared that one of the women she looks up to most is Angela Davis. “She’s super smart,” Smart said about Davis, a political activist and author who had ties to the Black Panther Party. “She’s just so cool, and was so underestimated.”
Smart explained that the history that is taught in school systems is often very male dominated and she believes it is important to have a platform to learn about the women who often went unnoticed. “It’s great that we can learn and grow together,” she said and also pointed out that having events like this shows progress.
Sara Jean François ’19 also said that Davis was a woman she looked up to. “A lot of people don’t know the woman behind the icon,” she said. “It is really great that we can look at these women leaders who are so often forgot about, and continue to look forward.”
According to François, who is vice president of the club, Women Empowered meets once a week with a purpose to provide a safe space to empower multicultural women to discuss issues they may face on campus. Furthermore, the club has a goal to “engage the campus on issues women of color face daily.”
“As a woman of color on campus, walking around and seeing people that do not look like me can feel lonely,” François said. “As empathetic and kind people can be, it’s really easy to feel isolated, and so Women Empowered has become my home away from home to discuss these things.”
She explained that at each meeting, the first 10 minutes are spent in an open forum where club members can talk about anything that is on their mind—be it something that made them angry or something that made them happy or energized. During the rest of the meeting a theme is usually discussed, which entering into March will be women’s history.
“What’s so great about these meetings is that they give club members an opportunity to be open,” said Ashley King ’18, president of Women Empowered. “It’s a time to come in and unwind after a long day of school and support each other.” She explained that the club feels like a sisterhood and a place to share stories that often promotes self care.
When asked what women on display at the event she most looked up to, King had hard time choosing.
She first pointed out that leaders like Marsha P. Johnson, a gay activist and self-identifed drag queen who was very vocal about gay rights, are inspiring. “Imagine fighting for the LGBTQ community in the 60s,” King pointed out. “It’s so important to highlight someone like this because her story is not shared as much as it should be.”
King then shared that Daisy Bates, who helped the Little Rock Nine integrate into the segregated Central High School in Arkansas, was another inspiring leader. Bates, whose family operated an African-American newspaper, provided a new perspective on journalism that was often silenced.
Looking around at all the photographs on display at the event, King said, “A lot of people don’t realize there were more women of color behind the black history moment than Rosa Parks.” She explained that often times we only acknowledge the women we hear about, and the “Her-story” event is so great because it gives the campus a chance to acknowledge even more women.
Women Empowered meets at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Soft Lounge in Slavin.