This past Friday on March 24, 2017, the University’s Femmepowerment committee put together their first Femmepowerment Brunch. This event was the first of what is intended to become an annual brunch put on by the organization. Lasting from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Bianco Room in One Pace Plaza, it was put on with special help from the women of The Office of Student Success, The Center of Student Development and Campus Activities, the LGBTQA+ Social Justice Center, and the Writing Center.
As the program for the event says, Femmepowerment “seeks to provide Women/Womyn focused events to engage the entire University community in networking, education, empowerment, leadership, and diversity.”
The event was titled “Femmepowerment: The Future is Ours”, similar to the common women’s rights advocacy slogan, “The Future is Female.” The committee is made up of successful women from the NYC University staff: Jen Crespo, Jenny Ko, and Linnette Veloso from OSS, Jemima Fortune from SDACA, Erin Furey from the LGBTQA & Social Justice Center, and Agie Markiewicz from the Writing Center. Only 50 students were allowed to RSVP for the event, though there was a wait list for those who did not RSVP. Staff members were also in attendance.
The brunch began with coffee and check-in time for the first half hour of the reception, followed by a welcome speech performed by Dr. Sue Maxam. Entitled“Be the Change You Want to See in Yourself and the World.” Dr. Maxam discussed how everyone can make a difference, even with just the little things, like buying fair trade and raising awareness. University sophomore Maddie McLain had this to say about what she learned from Dr. Maxam: “Change is as easy as buying bamboo underwear.”
The next event was an hour-long panel of students from the Dyson Women’s Leadership Initiative. The students who spoke were Selin Edebali, Adria Branson, Samantha Ericson, Brenda Hernandez, Sydney Korman, Nikki Noorian, Julia Stribula, and Bre Taylor. The panel covered big issues in the post-election climate, such as intersectionality and stress. It was refreshing to hear such well-spoken young women making large strides and really trying to make a difference in the world. On intersectional feminism and the lack thereof in popular media, Ericson said, “If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it isn’t feminism.” Edebali expressed the importance of trying to see all sides of the issues. “Listening to other people’s stories makes me feel more motivated to stand up, because if I’m able to represent at least one person, then I’m making a difference.” She then encouraged all the women in the audience to try and make a difference to at least one person this week.
The next event was a number of separate discussions at the tables throughout the Bianco Room. Students and staff were encouraged to pick one table, each with a different topic and discussion. “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Boss” was about women in business and was lead by Fortune. “Body Image & Wellness” was held by Dr. Emily Bent, who teaches Women & Gender studies. “Women in Tech” was discussed by Eiman Ahmed, Niamh Fitzsimmon, and Ava Posner from the Seidenberg School of CSIS. “Worldwide Initiatives to Provide Women with Equal Access to Education” was run by Malinda Bacaj, who coordinates the programs at Pace International. “Furthering Women’s Advocacy at Pace” was a table held only for faculty of the University, and was run by Dr. Maxam.
One of the table discussions was “Sister Slay: Coming together to support ourselves as marginalized women.” It was held by Furey and explored the different challenges and implications that different marginalized groups face everyday, such as discrimination due to race, gender identity, social class, outward appearance, and sexual orientation. One of the quotes shared with the women at the table was “Nothing about us without us,” in reference to men making legislation without the input of women, or television producers writing female characters without afemale point of view.
Finally, lunch was served that included bread, chicken, vegetables and pasta primavera. Dessert consisted of brownies and cookies. During lunchtime, Keynote speaker Tamala Baldwin came to the podium to deliver her presentation. Baldwin is an international performing artist and inspirational speaker. Baldwin began her session with a dance party to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” having everyone in the room stand and dance with her to get their energy up. The room’s atmosphere was charged when Baldwin finally began speaking. Her first words left the crowd silent: “My being here is to plant good seed.” She then had the room meditate, leading them to a beach scene where they could picture their goals and understand what is possible for them to achieve. They then filled out a packet Baldwin had brought, which asked questions about what they wanted their legacies to be, and how they can help one person who they think needs it the most. Baldwin continued by telling personal anecdotes, one about how she reconnected with her high school prom date and was convinced it was love, only to be dumped and head into a depression. The real inspiration came in how Baldwin told the room that she got back up and was better for it. She used the power of affirmations to lift her spirits, telling herself every morning that she was a good person and that she could do anything. At the end, Baldwin had all the women in the room shout affirmations, loudly repeating “I Am!” to the ceiling.
Overall, the session was inspiring and incredibly feminist. No group was left out or forgotten; every girl in the room left with a passion for change. Raffles were drawn, prizes and gift cards given out, many of them books written by those who had spoken. Everyone left with full stomachs and full hearts, ready to take on the world.
Photo courtesy of Kelsey Nicholson