Saturday's Womxn of Color Summit Serves a Community Purpose

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Members of the USD Womxn of Color Summit Planning Committee.Members of the USD Womxn of Color Summit Committee prepare final details for the Oct. 12 day-long event.

“I am not free while any womxn is unfree, even when their shackles are very different from my own.” — Audre Lorde.

Sitting on a couch below the late poet’s quote that adorns a wall in the University of San Diego’s Women's Commons on the fourth floor of the Student Life Pavilion, Ashley Raines and Mayzong Lee aren’t there to be comfortable. No, they too, are speaking up.

They are two staff members of the Women Commons — Lee is a graduate assistant and Raines a programmer — who are part of a committee putting on the Second Annual Womxn of Color (WOC) Summit from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 12, in Hahn University Center Forum C.

Following in the footsteps of the inaugural summit last December 1, the goal now is to continue creating a community rooted in relationship building, vulnerability, and empowerment. By establishing a community of WOC and allies, a secondary goal is to generate more visibility of WOC at USD. These goals will be accomplished through storytelling, small- and large-group dialogue, interactive art, written reflection, and other creative expressions.

“USD has a decent amount of people who identify as Womxn of Color on campus,” said Raines, a third-year business finance major from Seattle, regarding the importance of the summit. “If we can build those connections with each other and seek each other out on campus, this community is going to grow stronger.”

Lee, a Midwest U.S. native who is in her first semester of a higher education leadership master’s degree in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, looks forward to the opportunity to share her story and to hear stories of other womxn of color.

“This is the first time I’ll be part of something of this kind and I’m super excited to be in this space. To be able to share my stories about what it means to be a woman of color from the Midwest is different than someone from here. But even if we have different experiences, it will increase the amount of understanding and we can find solidarity in that.”

Vulnerability will be a constant while sharing stories on Saturday, but Lee and Raines both understand the emotional toll that can come from what a WOC experiences. Lee says the summit “can hopefully be a de-stressor. This can give people a chance to breathe, to be present in the moment, but to also take comfort in the fact that you have a whole community of people there who are behind you and you can feel supported.”

The summit’s programming schedule, which was still being finalized this week, will feature small-group breakout discussions, networking opportunities, developing a personal My Story, and a panel event with undergrad students, faculty members and a representative from USD’s Career Development Center who can each share their thoughts on navigating life as a WOC.

There will also be time spent on follow-up while still at the summit, Raines stated. “We want to do more action steps. A lot of times after an event is done, we’ll talk about it for a day or two and then move on. What can we do next? We want to get feedback from participants and hear what they need, how people can be there for each other and how, as an institution, how can it be there.”

At least 100 RSVPs have been accepted, Lee said, including faculty, staff and administrators as well as some attendees who identify as non-WOC, but they’re welcome to be there to gain knowledge and to serve as supportive allies for those who are WOC.

Both Raines and Lee believe that the Women’s Commons’ involvement is a reminder to the rest of the campus community of the space’s desire to be a valuable resource.

“We’re trying to redefine what the Women’s Commons can do to help create more inclusivity, so it’s very important for us to be part of this summit,” Lee said.

The more who are present, the greater the awareness and the better informed.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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