Women’s History Month takes place in March of every year. Participants in the Spring 2023 LEAVES Feminist Leadership program were tasked with attending Women’s History Month events that would enrich their understanding of intersectional feminism and feminist leadership.
Below are their reflections on these events.
Kylie Jones, LEAVES Graduate Spring 2023
As a member of the LEAVES Feminist Leadership Program, I attended two Women’s History Month events sponsored by the Women’s Center here at Wake Forest. One common theme the two events had was the welcoming sense of community I felt with the other women who attended. My first event was the Women’s Center Girls’ Night, which was also hosted by the Black Student Alliance. We met in the Black Student Alliance Lounge (BSA), where sororities Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha lead the event. We broke out into groups and discussed radical self-care, which I found to be very helpful. With the academically rigorous environment at Wake, hearing from upperclassmen and my peers about how to take care of ourselves in difficult times was very useful to me. I was able to meet new people and enjoy being in a space where I felt truly welcomed and seen. There was a plethora of food provided at the event, and the second half included us watching the shows Girlfriends and Insecure, which we were able to bond over as well. Upon leaving, products such as body butter and shampoo bars were given out, which I thought was very generous. and Everyone involved in putting the event together did an outstanding job of making sure everyone felt included, seen, heard, and was able to spend a little time to truly relax. After the event was over, I felt refreshed and happy that I was able to spend time with such intelligent and kind women. I had not met a lot of them before, but this wasn’t an issue because they were so warm and welcoming. They cultivated an uplifting and supportive atmosphere, and for that I’m grateful. The second event I attended was Con Confianza with the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS). I had never attended an event with this organization before, but this was a great first experience. The group provided arts and crafts supplies for us to journal and decorate the journals as well. I thought this was a great activity for my mental health because amid a hectic week, it was nice to just take a break and have a fun activity. In a way, it helped me connect with my inner child, as I remembered how much fun I had doing arts and crafts when I was younger. I met lots of new people and had great conversations and found this event to be extremely engaging. Decorating a journal, eating snacks, and having meaningful discussions was a great way to unwind. I remember having a lot to study for and I came into the event a little stressed, but I immediately forgot about all that and could immerse myself in the event while I was there. Afterward, I felt a little lighter, too. For both of these events, I think everyone who attended came into it with a positive attitude, wanting to contribute, and wanting to engage meaningfully. It was evident that each of these organizations put a lot of time and effort into making sure their events were not only fun but were centered around leaving their participants to feel uplifted afterwards. These events, run by women, were skillfully organized and executed, resulting in successful and impactful outcomes for all attendees.
Danise StFleur, LEAVES Graduate Spring 2023
Women’s History Month was a very insightful month for women who do not often receive appreciation or value for all of their hard work. Being a black woman can be extremely difficult, especially in a society that denigrates black women for their accomplishments or successes in life. As a black woman, we tend to be the underlying race, so having a month dedicated to not only women but also women of color was fantastic.
That being said, this month I attended three insightful events that shaped who I am as a person and paved the way for future generations. “Shea Moisture: A Conversation on Black Hair Love” with Shea Kidd Brown was one of the events. This event was extremely beneficial to me because I met other black women who also struggled with hair issues such as maintenance and love for their hair. Growing up, I always wore my hair in protective braiding styles such as weaves or wore a wig. I had refused to go out in public with my natural hair. I always wore it under something because I couldn’t bear the thought of having to care for it. Because of this, I began to despise my hair and stopped caring for it. But the more I allowed myself to meet people like me, people who had to learn to love their hair and take the time to change it—the more I loved my hair. My hair is distinctive, and it contributes to who I am as a black woman.
In addition, “The Women of Color Hike and Dine” was the second event I had attended. This event was a bit nerve-racking for me because I tend to avoid being outside, but I like that I was able to challenge myself and focus on meeting new people. I learned more about leadership and teamwork as a result of this event. Who would have thought hiking could have such an effect? But it was really inclusive for me because we were able to collaborate and develop teamwork by climbing up the mountains and getting through the paths that could have been against us. We were able to strive and make it to the end, despite the trails and rocks that could have limited us. As women of color, we continue to forge ahead despite the hardships and
challenges that have been instilled in us, making us strong leaders and companions. Leaders in which we were able to take charge and assist others in climbing the trails, as well as companions, in which we developed friendships and cared for one another.
Finally, the last event I attended was “Girls Night,” where we participated in a night of mentorship and fellowship while discussing the topic of radical self-care. I had no idea how important self-care was until I attended this event. I usually prioritize academics and/or school, but it was nice to have a day dedicated to myself to just relax. As a black woman, I was taught that regardless of my emotions or mental/physical state, I should always work hard, but this event has completely changed my perspective. It’s okay to take a break, and as I mentioned earlier, this event allowed me to talk to other black females while we sat together and watched shows. There has always been a stigma attached to black women cooking, cleaning, and caring for the family, but what about caring for ourselves? I liked how we challenged the social norms of being a housewife and always thought about others rather than ourselves. It’s okay to be selfish from time to time, but instead of calling it selfish, I call it self-ful. This event really allowed me to prioritize myself and pay more attention to taking better care of myself so that I can continue to achieve and succeed in the future.
Overall, these three events—Shea Moisture: A Conversation on Black Hair Love, Women of Color Hike and Dine, and Girls Night—opened my eyes to new opportunities and feminism as a black girl and a woman of color. I truly understand what this month entails, which is the appreciation, hard work, and successes that we black girls have achieved in our lives, and how we have paved the way for future black girls or women to see.
Jamarea Johnson, LEAVES Graduate Spring 2023
My Women’s History Month experience was amazing. In the month of March, I realized that Women’s History Month is not only a celebration of women’s achievements throughout history, but also a reflection of who women are in society in order to instill knowledge, power, confidence, and leadership abilities in the next generation. The word “women” is commonly associated with submissiveness and weakness in society; however, women should be able to stand in a position that is rightfully earned and respected. As I reflected on the things that question who and what a woman is in society, I discovered new things and connected with astonishing women. I was reminded about who I am as a female of color. I am a beautiful queen who illuminates her light onto others, and I am everything I need to be to validate who I am. I was reminded of the different qualities: truth, education, honorable, and efficiency. Women of Color Hike, Women’s Leadership Power and Confidence Conference, and Girls Night, the three events I attended, emphasized the importance of qualities and the importance of the self.
These events provided a safe space for women to converse with one another, fostered community, and promoted inclusivity. I was able to connect with other women on the women’s hike and talk about our experiences as females of color in the world. Many comments were made about not being heard because of oppression in society and how to find a way to be in a position of power so that our voice matters just as much as everyone else’s. Even though some of the experience was negative, we found a way to make them positive. We made it our duty to keep reminding each other throughout the hike that we are strong, confident, courageous, and enduring, which are all qualities that contribute to becoming a leader. We treated each hill as an obstacle we had to face as women of color as we dared to challenge each other on the hike. We were able to take away from this how to overcome obstacles in our lives. We have to tackle each obstacle, like the hill, to the best of our abilities.
The Women’s Leadership, Power, and Confidence Conference was open to women and non-binary people. During the event, we were able to hear about the experiences of other women on the Wake Forest campus. Weightlifting was used to discuss mind, body, and soul. We tend to believe that weightlifting is only for men, but we have seen leaders on campus who challenge this notion. Weightlifting has numerous benefits for women, including reduced disease risk, improved mobility, and increased confidence. This discussion about weightlifting-challenged power structures helped me think of a way to raise awareness about existing power structures and effectively combat them. Also, the Girl’s Night was a night of conversation, movies, and entertainment for women on campus to share their experiences and network with others. We gave each other power and made meaningful connections. As a result, I was able to form more relationships with other women on campus.
All in all, I discovered that Women’s History Month is underappreciated. Women have made sacrifices and paved the way for the revolts that are taking place in today’s society. In my opinion, women should be recognized for all that they have done and accomplished. I believe that women deserve recognition and that it has been long overdue.
Mansi Pethkar, LEAVES Graduate Spring 2023
I recently attended the Con Confianza event organized by the women’s center and OLAS. I thought the Con Confianza event was a fun and lighthearted event that brought women in Latinx together for an event that emphasized unity and bonding. I conversed with the other girls and bonded with other women of color on campus. As a South Asian woman, I typically would attend cultural events in the South Asian Student Association and the Hindu Student Association.
I thought it was a very enlightening experience to go to the cultural event of another culture on campus. I felt as if I could bond with the other women and immerse myself in the cultural event provided by OLAS. Organizations such as OLAS are essential because minorities in predominantly white institutions rely on spaces where they can tap into their cultural roots and find other peers and friends who share their culture and heritage. Finding a community of people where individuals can share an interest in your culture’s traditions and customs allows one to feel as if they can stay in touch with their roots and explore and strengthen their connections to the heritage of their family members. I find that cultural organizations allow me to stay connected
with my Indian heritage and enjoy Indian customs and traditions such as Garba and Holi. We can also have essential conversations about diversifying the school community, such as establishing a Hindu Chaplain and how this will bring more resources and support for Hindu students on campus.
Similarly, OLAS is an essential organization for Latinx students on campus. It is an organization that provides awareness of diversity-related issues for students of Latin American heritage. It also provides a sense of belonging and community for students of Latin American heritage. The event was a great opportunity to ease and calm my mind amid many exams and projects. I felt at peace at the event as I could tap into the creative side of my mind and customize my journal. Although I was having a hectic week, with high stress from demanding academic assignments, I found so much peace in my time at Con ConFianza. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to attend an event of another culture and immerse and broaden my
cultural perspectives. It also inspired me to partake in more well-being practices that ease my mind during high-stress periods. As a woman of color, I find so much joy and pride in spaces created for women of color to bond with one another. In many spaces, women of color feel that their interests or perspective are not valued or considered to the same extent. Creating these spaces is essential in developing and strengthening their sense of identity and empowerment. The Con Confianza event is a demonstration of how important intersectionality is. It also establishes the necessity to view feminism through an intersectional lens. The Con Confianza event
combined the organizations of OLAS and the Women’s Center to demonstrate how the identity of being both a woman and a member of the Latinx community provides a unique perspective. Therefore, the intersection of organizations catered to both ethnic identities and gender identities is imperative as race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other aspects of one’s identity are not separate from each other but rather intersect to pose a unique set of societal challenges based on demography.
Tyler Ard, LEAVES Graduate Spring 2023
This past month I had the privilege of attending two women’s center events. The two events I attended were “Con Confianza”, sponsored by the Organization of Latin American Student Association, and “Girls Night” sponsored by the Black Student Alliance with the Pi Omicron Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the Pi Beta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. I found that both events centered around connection and identity, both ethnic and racial, and both were extremely culturally enriching.
Going to the “Girl’s Night” event at the Black Student Association lounge was my first interaction with that organization. I did not know what to expect, but I can say with certainty that I was pleasantly surprised. Upon walking into the lounge, I was surrounded by the sound of rich laughter and welcoming smiles. I was so comfortable in this space, and I got the impression that so were all of the other women there. It was so exciting being able to interact with black, female upperclassmen in a place where we could all be vulnerable and open. Hearing of shared experiences added to the feeling of comfort and security that had already been established. The evening’s activities included getting into small groups lead by upperclassmen to discuss self-care, eating pizza, and lounging around watching Girlfriends on Netflix. I felt that the most crucial of these events was the discussion of self-care in small groups. This self-care included but was not limited to, journaling, taking walks, and talking with friends and family. It was extremely beneficial talking through different self-care strategies, and I was able to adopt some new ideas into my own routine. As black women, we are expected to be strong and wholly independent, and we are not given much room to breathe and just be as we are. Delving into the importance of self-care, both mental and physical, helped to emphasize the fact that, sometimes, it’s okay to not be put together. Being able to interact with other black women who have been in the same situations allowed me to understand the importance of representation and intersectionality in feminism. Having a network of women that you can identify with can help you to truly thrive. These women have persevered, and so will you when given the opportunity and the right support and self-care practices.
“Con Confianza” had a slightly different vibe, but one that was equally welcoming. There were fewer people at the “Con Confianza” journaling activity, which made the atmosphere slightly more intimate. The Spanish music played added an air of playful relaxation. The task at hand was decorating journals, and many supplies were provided for our every need. An assortment of different color glitter, stickers, and glue sticks were available to and spread all over the floor and table. While decorating, I had the opportunity to speak to many women of Hispanic backgrounds. We talked about everything under the sun, from griping about chemistry homework to what we liked to do in our spare time. I enjoyed sharing their culture, and I definitely vibed with the music. Although this time was much less structured, it was a welcome moment of self-care and reflection. It prompted me to consider the different ways that women of color can and have experienced discrimination, and how they coped. What I really took to heart during “Con Confianza” was the theme that even though one might have different backgrounds, I found it was important to be able to share and talk about our experiences, to build resiliency, and to make life less stressful and difficult for others walking the same or similar paths.