Women of Color Summit 2021

Picture courtesy of Himeno Yamane ’22

Picture courtesy of Himeno Yamane ’22

Victoria Gralla '22, Copy Editor

The second annual Women of Color Summit was held over Zoom on Saturday, Mar. 27 and Sunday, Mar. 28, consisting of speeches and workshops. They covered a range of subjects, from “Working Women” to “Global Sisterhood”. Saturday’s events were specifically created for women of color and Sunday was an allyship workshop, open to all students.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Dr. Brontè Burleigh-Jones and co-advisor Sunnie Ko worked with students to make this year’s summit possible. Burleigh-Jones has been involved from the beginning, when founding members Toni Ortega ‘18, Sara Jackson ‘18, and Dana Marecheau ‘20 first came to her with the idea in the spring of 2018. The inaugural summit took place in 2019 and unfortunately, the 2020 summit was canceled due to COVID-19. The 2020-21 Women of Color Summit Committee included Trang Dang ’22, Gita Elangbam ’21, Zori Hamilton ’22, Pamela Ortiz ’22, Rediet Patterson ’22, Patricia Santos ’22, Prachi Shah ’22, Amanda Sowah ’22, Nelly Teta ’22, Jaren Wyaco ’22, and Himeno Yamane ’22.

Burleigh-Jones said, “[Ko and I] are loving every minute of working with these amazing leaders.”

Burleigh-Jones emphasized the powerful impact working with the students involved with the Women of Color Summit has had on her. “This experience has been among some of the most gratifying work that I have ever been involved with,” Burleigh-Jones. “These young women identified a need within our community and then took action to develop, plan and implement programming to address that need.”

Although Zoom events may look easy to attendees, putting on an event like the Women of Color Summit took a tremendous amount of planning. “When you’re thinking about an event this big, you’re first marketing an event, then you have the meetings to discuss questions with the speaker, then you reach out to speakers,” said Yamame, explaining why the process begins a year in advance. Sowah added, “there were definitely tons of hiccups behind the scenes as we communicated with all our groups. It was a lot to handle and I am glad we were able to pull it off.”

Being online meant students had to adapt and the 2021 summit looked different from 2019. Elangbam shared, “With the Summit going virtual, the executive committee and I decided it was best to cut our three-day weekend to only include Saturday and Sunday while condensing the schedule to include options within three different workshop series to avoid Zoom fatigue.” She and other members of the marketing subcommittee created an online booklet detailing a schedule and the speakers’ backgrounds.

For Yamane, Sowah, and Elangbam, their favorite part of this year’s summit was listening to Maureen Newton-Hayes ’65 and Judith Rogers ‘66. Sowah explained, “They were the first WOC on campus and it is because of their strength that we exist at Dickinson.”

Elangbam said, “I know, it sounds simplistic, but to me, each of our women of color speakers were inspirational trailblazers that our college failed to previously acknowledge. Had we not invited them our community may have never known them.” Yamane agreed, adding, “They need to come back because the students need to know.”

When asked about thoughts for future summits, Sowah said, “I would love to find a way to engage more men in our conversations; white and men of color. Their attendance was low, and I think for next year there needs to be some sort of special marketing that targets them to be a part of the conversation.”

Yamane is also hoping to see higher participation from students looking to support women of color. She said, “I think performative action is a very problematic issue that we have. You would see someone post on Instagram that they’re supportive of a community but then they don’t come to these events where we have opened the space to the Dickinson community.”

Applications for the next committee will be open soon, likely in April and May of this year. Both Sowah and Yamane encourage underclassmen women of color to apply. Yamane said, “I don’t think I will be a part of next year’s summit [committee] because I do want to allow other students at Dickinson to experience what event planning is like for Dickinson.”

Elangbam had a message for future members of the committee: “You were selected for a reason; whoever read your application and agreed to interview you saw both spirit and potential for making the next Summit’s vision come to life.”