Reflections from the Womxn of Color Conference 2019

July 3, 2019
View of the projector showing art before the conference started.

View of the projector showing art before the conference started.

CCE Staff

The staff and VISTAs of the Center for Community Engagement attended the annual North Bay Womxn of Color Conference held at Sonoma State University. These are their reflections:

CCE staff and VISTAs attending the 3rd Annual North Bay Womxn of Color Conference. [from left to right: Ashley Simon, Elizabeth Villaseñor, Caroline Bañuelos, Pam Rivas, and Suzie Littlewood]

Ashley: I was glad I was able to attend another conference that held space for women of color. There are not very many places on campus that provide that type of support. The theme of this year’s conference was, “Community Healing Through Intersectionality.” Intersectionality is a critical lens in which to recognize that a person can experience different oppressions at the same time and that those oppressions may inform each other. I was unsure of how we could heal from sources of marginalization but I was more excited to have lots of people of color in one room who also wanted to be together. Many of workshops interested me but I went to the ones I thought would support my current needs. I didn’t know just how emotional or intense the day would be but I am appreciative of the insight it gave. 

It is part of being a woman of color that you experience great systematic discrimination. And as I talked with others at the conference after each of the workshops, we noticed how deeply personal and vulnerable the workshops were. They all revolved around trauma -- trauma acknowledgement, shared trauma, trauma healing. Even though we all face different issues, we connected over processing those feelings and seeing that we shared more than pain. 

I wish for the conference to continue cultivating a space for women of color to gather, share experiences, and connect despite challenges and differences.

Suzie: I was incredibly grateful to be able to attend the Womxn of Color Conference. As a cis white woman, I am grateful that the organizers allowed space for white folks to sit in and learn. The conference was not created to cater to my needs or my experiences, but I can’t tell you  enough how happy I was to be there to listen, learn, and provide my own feelings of love and support. It was an exciting day from start to finish, from the opening song and blessing to the DJ’s set to the closing, and throughout it all I felt excited to be surrounded by energetic, passionate people. I had an excellent time as well chatting with the local vendors, presenters, and fellow audience members from all over California.

As an alumna of Sonoma State I was thrilled to see so many young people engaging with their community and taking charge of their education. The students who attended were introduced to helpful resources, new ideas, and local businesses to support. I think this conference encourages great personal growth within the students while providing womxn of color a support system, a listening ear, and information to help navigate their lives. And, for the white folks who attend, we receive a free education on world views that are different than ours, and hopefully challenges the way we think about our lives and our worlds. I encourage everyone to volunteer or attend, and be ready to be amazed with the resources that are right here at Sonoma State. 

Elizabeth: As a Latina and recent sociology graduate, I take special interest in the efforts to create safe spaces, especially when it comes to women in academia. While this was my first time attending the Women of Color Conference, I did not expect to come away with such a large part of me unlocked. With the theme of the conference being “Community Healing Through Intersectionality” it truly made the community involved in the healing process. It was not just the time for community to come together but for individuals to be present and aware of how they felt in that space. Women of color and allies joined together at the event. The tone of the event was clear; listen, participate, and always check yourself. The speakers came from a wide-range of backgrounds, and it was imperative that everyone come with an open mind and an open heart. I had the pleasure of attending SHE MAGICK in the first round of workshops followed by Style by Malia in the second round. It was inspiring to listen to our speakers acknowledge that there’s no perfect journey because there will be challenges along the way.

In a safe space in academia, you should feel no limits to what you can achieve. You should be able to express yourself without having to deal with gender or racial discrimination. Over the years, gender and race have been pulled apart to show that they should hold no barriers to an individual’s goals but when a space is predominantly white and works for the benefit of white students, an event like this helps equalize the ground. I asked one of the speakers how she handled adversity, her response was simple; make your presence known and don’t be afraid to use humor to ease the tension in the room. Although I believe that’s easier said than done, it’s true. There’s really no time to be silent in this political climate. There will be times where you’re not welcomed into spaces and minds you won’t be able to understand or enlighten but it starts with us, individually coming together.

The social and political climate of today made it all the more important that Sonoma State is a safe and welcoming space for all our students, who come from different backgrounds, to share. Throughout the day, I learned just how much community healing can happen when we surround ourselves with those who care and show up to support us. As the two DJs played and the attendees danced, I felt hopeful that the conversation for community healing would continue.

Pam: I was fortunate enough to not only attend this year’s NBWOCC, but serve as a conference advisor. Although it’s only been a year since I’ve graduated from SSU, I was surprised to see how much the conference has changed since I was a student. I think it’s also important to note that the conference has historically been organized by students from various campus organizations— did I mention attendance and lunch are free? The passion and dedication shown from students is truly inspiring and reminds me and other working professionals that we, too, can get involved and find new ways to collaborate with our community and, as the conference goal outlines, uplift women of color from all backgrounds and privileges. Although I believe there could be more women of color represented at NBWOCC (Asian women, hood women, Indigenous women, etc), I am excited to see where this conference is headed in the future and hope many more people get involved. For me, the highlight of this event is the unity and love that is displayed in every aspect of the day. I could be dancing next to someone I’ve never met before and they could be hyping me up like I was their best friend. Thank you to all the beautiful women and people of color who were a part of organizing this wonderful conference, you all have a very special place in my heart!

Caroline: As a Latina and alumna of SSU, I was really honored to be able to attend the North Bay Womxn of Color Conference. Since I graduated in the mid-nineties; I can’t begin to explain how much the campus has changed and how much more open it is now in 2019. For many students of color, I’m sure it’s not enough and it isn’t but just having a conference like this on campus tells me how far the university has come.  

Given the theme of the conference (“Community Healing Through Intersectionality.”); the fact  that healing is still a large part of our experience tells you we still have a long way to go. I was very empowered by the opening of the conference; the music and what the organizers told us about the day ahead. No matter how many times I see the Aztec Dancers, it is always a joy to see them and to take a moment to be grateful for all that we are and all that we have. I attended a workshop in the morning on meditation as a way of dealing with stress (“Emotional Resilience”).  While the meditation techniques we were taught were different and thought provoking; they also brought up a great deal of emotion for some of the participants. The second workshop I attended was about looking at ourselves in a unique and powerful way (“Overcoming Negative Life Stories that Hold You Back”). There’s no doubt that this topic affects all of us but for women of color it truly resonates. 

Overall, it was a day filled with validation, comfort and safety.  I thank the organizers for all their work and commitment; it was a day of joy and healing.