Westhampton College at the University of Richmond hosted the Connecting of Womxn of Color Conference in person on Oct. 22 at the Jepson Alumni Center and focused on the theme of EmPOWER, EnVISION: Radical Self-Love and Self-Reflection.
Last year’s conference was held virtually on Oct. 16. The theme was Care!: Sustainable Activism and Advocacy.
“[Westhampton College members] were very happy that last year we were able to hold the conference virtually, because it is so important, and we are incredibly delighted that we were able to be back in person this year, to continue to build and sustain our communities and connections with each other," Westhampton College Dean Mia Reinoso Genoni wrote in an email to The Collegian.
When planning this year’s theme for the conference, Westhampton College members thought about everything that had occurred in students’ lives and in everyone’s lives throughout this past year and previous years, Genoni wrote.
“We wanted this conference explicitly to proclaim and reaffirm Womxn of Color’s incredible value and worth – to be a space that welcomes and celebrates our bodies, our presence, and our identities," Genoni wrote.
Mildren Santana, a junior at UR and a student ambassador of the conference, introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Melanie Hussain, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. In her speech, Santana shared her personal story of what it has been like to be a womxn of color at UR. She also discussed how the conference helped her meet other womxn who she could connect and relate to because of shared experiences.
During her speech, Hussain spoke about her story about growing up as a womxn of color who moved from Toronto to a small rural town in West Virginia and eventually started the journey toward obtaining her doctorate, which included messages of discovering one’s identity, self-reflection, self-care and self-empowerment.
Following the keynote speaker, Hussain and workshop leaders Tiffany Goodman, WC '07, and Eva Rocha, a Brazilian multimedia artist, led a panel discussion. Goodman has worked in various non-profits in the Richmond area that center around youth, advocacy, or mental health, according to Westhampton College website. They explored the themes of the conference while connecting it back to their own individual stories.
Attendees then chose between three different workshops: "Building your Toolbox for a Sustainable Life" facilitated by Goodman, "Runway to Empowerment: A Therapist’s Self Reflection Approach on Mood and Appearance" led by Hussain, and "Contour to Enlarge Your Nose and Mind" led by Rocha.
Santana attended the conference in her first year at UR and was not able to attend last year’s virtual conference, she said.
“It's just kind of an awakening every time I come," she said. "I just remember who I am and it just makes me more self-aware and it just kind of places me in a room with people who are like me, and it just means a lot because I feel like I'm not alone."
Santana said the conference was a perfect opportunity for students to realize that they were not alone in their experience and that they could connect with others who have those shared experiences.
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Onaney Garcia, a first-year student at UR, was not going to come to the conference, she said, but Genoni had convinced her to attend. The conference was a nice opportunity to meet other womxn of color, Garcia said.
The conference made Garcia proud to see the womxn of color speakers representing other womxn of color, she said. After attending this conference, Garcia said she would definitely come to future conferences.
Junior Penny Hu has attended the conference for three years in a row, she said. Last year, she did a yoga session from her room for one of the workshops from the virtual conference, Hu said.
She appreciates that UR made an effort to hold the conference last year, but the online format made it harder to focus for the whole conference, Hu said.
“You just feel better, like you feel more connected when you are in a room with people, sitting down and just to see the speakers in person and everything,” Hu said.
Hu values making connections and seeing classmates who are womxn of color on campus as some of the most important aspects of the conference, she said.
"I love seeing supportive womxn of color on campus and discussing topics that we sometimes ignore because of our busy lives," Hu said.
Contact news writer Jasmin Portillo at email@example.com
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