Westhampton College hosted the Connecting Women of Color Conference on Feb. 13, a convention that promoted inclusivity, diversity and support for women of color.
It sought to cultivate an outlet on campus in which women of color from University of Richmond and their allies could have meaningful dialogues centered around shared issues. Although geared toward undergraduates, the conference also welcomed women from other local universities and members of the Richmond community. The event at the Jepson Alumni Center was themed “When I look at you I see…”
The conference featured keynote speaker LC Johnson, an award-winning blogger, entrepreneur, activist and Duke University graduate. In 2010 she became the founder and editor of her own blog Colored Girl Confidential, where she created a forum to promote women of color’s personal and professional development.
In terms of how the Richmond community can foster an inclusive and accepting environment on campus for all, especially women of color, Johnson said, “That looks like creating spaces where people of all different experiences and identities can be seen. It looks like spaces that have been designed for different groups to be able to share their lived experiences in powerful ways with their classmates.”
During her address, Johnson fostered a dialogue about current issues facing women of color. She challenged women to build one another up and cultivate a mindset of “seeing themselves in their sisters” in order to create the most supportive environment possible.
Following the presentation, conference participants were encouraged to take part in two of three sessions, including “Young, Powerful and Professional,” “Unwritten Rules,” and “Media Malay.” They focused on explaining appropriate professional attire for corporate America, understanding microaggressions in an everyday context and examining the portrayal of women of color in the media today.
Following these workshops, there was a networking reception in which women were able to converse in a welcoming community and connect with other supportive women. When asked about the network for support on campus, Charm Bullard, Westhampton College's associate dean for resident life and the founder of conference, said, “I think the role of allies on our campus is extremely important. An ally should have the ability to listen to and be supportive of the stories of women of color. While allies may not have the same experiences, they can certainly lean into compassion and empathy. The University Richmond has two offices dedicated to supporting students of color: The Office of Multicultural Affairs and Common Ground.”
The conference was founded by Bullard in 2008, and has received overwhelmingly positive feedback since then. This year, it took place during Black History Month, a time designated for celebrating the achievements of African-Americans and recognizing their role in the United States' history.
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