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Students Organize First Ever Women of Color Summit at Dickinson

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Students Organize First Ever Women of Color Summit at Dickinson

Jules Struck ’19, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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A year of work by a diverse panel of students culminated in last weekend’s well-attended Women of Color Summit that built career and personal development for women of color. 

“It was a needed space for empowerment, for connection, for sisterhood, for networking and career,” said Joanne Adebayo ’21, one of the executive organizers of the event. 

The executive board of four students invited students, alumni, staff and faculty women of color to participate and lead events during the three-day event. Attendees participated in workshops like “Finding Meaning & Purpose with a Wakanda State of Mind,” to figure out “how do you maintain your identity in a world that is not necessarily structured for you,” said Adebayo, and “She Goes International,” to discuss “navigating identity internationally.” 

The Women of Color Summit planning committee formed in spring 2018 and four students are on the executive board: Adebayo, Preeti Khanal ’19, Titilope Ogunsola ’19 and Eunsol Jun ’19. “Every single decision was student-driven,” said Adebayo. 

Friday’s and Saturday’s events were open to women of color and over 100 women attended each. All Dickinsonians could attend Sunday’s “Who Are our Allies?” event, which drew close to 100 people. 

“It’s good to be in a space like this as a woman of color because you can empower each other but then when you leave or when there are other people in the mix, do you keep the same energy? Are you as strong, are you as loud, are you as vocal?” said Jiberly Sandoval ’22, who attended the Sunday event. “I think those things held up. And it was interesting to see what people were saying.”

Adebayo said alumni participation was key: “With a lot of networking experiences it’s like, ‘OK, take my card,’ and that’s it,” but with the “commonality of, this is a women of color summit, this is for us, we have that shared experience,” alumni were willing to commit to “I want to help you.” 

“One of the alums expressed that it’s been ten years since she came to Dickinson and that she didn’t expect to learn and be inspired by us,” said Adebayo. “To think that we did something for them, rather than them just doing something for us, and I think that really expands the scope of what we have the potential to do,” she said.

Cheyenne Bailey ’18 was inspired to return to campus for the summit.

“As a recent alumna, I was hesitant to come back on campus following The Dickinsonian articles and racist letters in the student dorms. The WOC summit, however, allowed a shift in the atmosphere, as current students and alumna gathered together to strengthen our community. A group that is often pushed to the margins, the event finally allowed our voices and experiences to be front and center.”

Han Hong Cao ’21 was on the planning committee for the event and said, “For me I just appreciate the openness of the space [where] people can so freely express what they have in their mind. I think that, I’m grateful for.” 

“I’m extremely humbled that this is something that is happening the year that I am leaving because this is something I was looking for my entire four years at Dickinson,” said Hayat Rasul ’19, “And just seeing so many powerful people in this space was really pivotal towards the energy I need to go out there” after graduation.

“Relationships were made and bonds were strengthened in these three days,” stated Bailey, “and I am grateful for the work of those…vibrant women of color who recognized a need and provided a space of fellowship, community and vulnerability. I entered the space in need of a community and found in three days what I struggled to obtain in four years. It solidified my conviction that women of color will show up, show out and make the changes necessary to transform Dickinson’s institutional culture in the way that is long overdue.”

Nelly Teta ’22 attended Sunday’s event and said “I honestly just want to know who the allies are. I want to know of people who weren’t in the summit, what they think this is and why they came here today and what they think what is an ally, honestly… I expected some people to be here and they weren’t, so that’s kind of a disappointment.”

Teta said for those who didn’t attend to “Watch out for the next one because this is definitely something that’s going to keep going. It’s not going to stop here.”

Former Dickinson College vice president and dean of student life and current adjunct faculty in the sociology department Joyce Bylander moderated the Sunday event and said, “What happened in this space this weekend was empowering and healthy and good and I’m glad that this was the final session, ‘Who are our allies,’ because none of us can do this alone. None of us are islands, we are in the world together. We have to keep connecting beyond ourselves.” 

“As a senior at Dickinson I’ve been waiting my 4 years to have a space where it’s not just inclusive in words but in practice,” said Laura Celedon ’19. The summit “made me embrace my own identity, it made me question things and then talk to people and meet people that I otherwise wouldn’t meet. I hope this will be a legacy,” she said.

Adebayo said the organizational board will have to decide how to plan for a summit next year, but that applications will be sent out to fill committee positions.

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2 Responses to “Students Organize First Ever Women of Color Summit at Dickinson”

  1. Stephanie on March 7th, 2019 1:53 pm

    Very proud of this summit!! Looking forward to next year’s!

  2. Judy Rogers on March 11th, 2019 3:04 pm

    So happy to hear of the success of the summit. Dickinson has come a long way since Maureen Newton and I were the only support system for each other, later joined by Rosalyn Robinson. In my junior year I took a Chinese student, Hsaio Mei Tso and other foreign students under my wings. Continue to be there for each other and gather more allies. Sorry I couldn’t join you this year.
    Judy Rogers, ‘65

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Students Organize First Ever Women of Color Summit at Dickinson