The Collegian
Tuesday, November 29, 2022

2022’s Connecting Womxn of Color Conference celebrates storytelling through art

<p>Interdisciplinary artist Carolina Mayorga leads the workshop "Coloring Xperiences" on Oct. 21.&nbsp;</p>

Interdisciplinary artist Carolina Mayorga leads the workshop "Coloring Xperiences" on Oct. 21. 

The 14th annual Connecting Womxn of Color Conference hosted by Westhampton College on Oct. 21, focused on the power of storytelling through different forms of art. 

The conference’s theme this year was “The Power of Your Story,” bringing in three artists with different styles who all work to spark change with their creativity. The conference speakers included photojournalist Regina Boone, artist Carolina Mayorga and artist and educator Shani Shih discussing the power of their stories as women of color. 

The conference is an open dialogue for participants to think critically about current issues, according to its website. “Womxn of color” is used to include those who identify as women and gender-expansive people of Arab/Middle-Eastern, Asian, Pacific Islander, Black/African American, Caribbean/West Indies, Hispanic/Latinx and Native/Indigenous descent.

Senior Mildren Santana has come to the conference every year she has attended UR and has enjoyed it each year, she said. 

“It feels like a safe environment to talk about issues that we don’t usually get to talk about on campus and it’s not awkward,” Santana said, “because I feel like in a lot of white spaces it’s awkward to say what you have to say.”

The conference began with Boone’s talk about her family’s experience with oppression and activism. She is a photojournalist at her family’s newspaper Richmond Free Press, which primarily serves Richmond’s Black community. But Boone came to the conference to share the story about her Asian heritage because she believes students are a group she has not connected with, she said. 

“The conference showed me that even though I have a specific story,” Boone said, “it can resonate with so many people. We all have a connection.”

Her grandfather was one of the first people of Japanese descent to be taken to an internment camp after the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor during World War II, Boone said.

“It was an injustice that turned my grandmother into a single mother,” Boone said, “and my dad and uncle into fatherless boys.”

The trauma of this history affected both Boone and her father. Boone knew little about her Japanese heritage for a large part of her life, as the pain of being a fatherless child was often too much for Boone’s father to deal with, she said. 

Later on in life, Boone’s father asked her to find out what happened to his father before he died. 

“He challenged me from his bed to dig for the truth — our truth,” Boone said. 

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Boone discovered she could spread love by speaking her truth and connecting people who have unanswered questions about their past, she said.

“I stand as just one example of our connection, our intersection,” she said. “It makes me think of our innate desire for harmony.” 

regina boone-.jpg

Photojournalist Regina H. Boone conducting workshop "Reclaiming and Proclaiming Your Story" at the Connecting Womxn of Color Conference on Oct. 21. 

Boone’s words really stood out to sophomore Carmen Ovalle.

“There’s not that many women of color on campus, so it’s nice to go to a conference where you are with people who talk about similar issues.” Ovalle said

Workshops held by the three speakers followed Boone’s keynote talk, each one highlighting their take on the theme: “The Power of Your Story.”

Mayorga hosted a workshop called Coloring Xperiences, where she passed out pages from her coloring book with colored pencils and markers and told the group to “just go for it”.

“The reason I do it is because I like it,” Mayorga said, “I always have a lot of fun with my art.”

Mayorga reminded the group that risk-taking is a part of art and she made a choice for her coloring book to be more interactive by leaving blank spaces and unfinished lines so the drawer could be more creative.

“Sometimes for us, drawing and painting and all that is intimidating — art is intimidating. That’s why I left some of those lines for you,” Mayorga said.

Westhampton Dean Kerry Fankhauser said she was trying to let go of that intimidation by coloring in a picture that had a blank face that she would have to fill in herself.

“I think it’s hard to unlearn what you learned as a kid,” she said, “and it takes a long time. But I’m going to get to the face before I leave today, and, then, we shall see. I will try to let go a little bit, but, right now, I’m still wanting to do the lines.”

Down the hall, Shih was holding a workshop called Flip the Script, and Let it Go: Exploring Public Art, Story and Narrative.

Shih’s workshop focused on how she told her story through street art and graffiti. She showed the group pictures of her street art and told them she even has a piece here in Richmond.

“The hope was through my story to encourage folks to think about ways that they want to write or rewrite their stories,” Shih said. “Or, get rid of stories that aren’t serving them anymore.”

Boone’s workshop, called Reclaiming and Proclaiming Your Story, focused on her photojournalism and how she could tell a story using her camera.

Boone told the story about learning about her grandfather while at university.

“It wasn’t a visible story,” she said, “but as I said, I’m a photojournalist, so I had to figure out a visual way to tell the story visually.”

Boone started taking pictures on her phone camera of moments that spoke to her while unpacking the history of her grandfather. She showed photos like one of a whip and talked about their significance to her story.

Contact news writer Amy Jablonski at amy.jablonski@richmond.edu and news writer Andrea Padilla at andrea.padilla@richmond.edu.

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