On Wednesday, March 6, the Women's Center hosted Celebrating Global Sisterhood, an event to acknowledge the achievements and cultural diversity of all women at Miami and everywhere around the world.
The event, held in the Shriver Heritage Room, embraced the empowering theme of "Collective Healing for Liberation: We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For," with a talk by keynote speaker Darsheel Kaur.
Jane Goettsch, director of the Women's Center, along with many colleagues and the Office of Diversity Affairs, worked to produce a fresh touch yearly to the series and hopes to increase awareness for the cause. Last year, they were able to include multiple cultural performances including a dance from the African Students' Union.
As organizers, they hoped to bring a new perspective, yet remain in touch with the origins of the series every year.
"I would like to think that it has always been an important event and it continues to be because we continue to value diversity, idea, equity and inclusion," Goettsch said. "Those things are as equally important today as they ever have been. We know that while progress has been made, a lot of work needs to be done, not only in this country but globally."
The date of the event was timed with the conclusion of Black History Month in February and the beginning of Women's History Month and International Women's Day.
Izzy Owen, a first-year English education major and enthusiastic advocate for feminism, attended the event. Owen learned about the event through an interview with Goettsch for a journalism class.
"An event like this is really important because you get to hear other's stories and sort of intertwine them with your own," Owen said.
Although only required to stay for part of the event, she decided to stay out of personal interest and passion for the cause.
The event began with an opening statement from Patricia Ellis, winner of the Jennie Elder Suel Distinguished Women of Color Award in 2017. In her speech, Ellis touched on how we often seek satisfaction from superficial things, and said that she believed that it was necessary for people to find a more meaningful goal in life. Instead of focusing on what society tells us is important, Ellis believes that people need to determine what is important to them as individuals.
"What I see is a room full of beautiful women and men. What I see is love floating around the room. What I see is hope," Ellis said.
The event also featured three student narratives from seniors Sara Al-Zubi, Aleah Holley and Azieb Zeray.
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"I am who I am, and I am okay," was a message from Azieb that received an 'Amen' and nods of pride from some people in the audience.
When it came to the keynote speech, Darsheel invited the whole room to close their eyes and immerse themselves in a performance of cheerful melodies and poetic rhymes that drew from the experiences and struggles of those she looks up to.
"We carry the legacies of struggle and resistance that pass through the seas. We carry pains from our ancestry, these conflicts are a part of our history. They flow through me, got us burning down trees. I feel like I'm stuck, but I'm wanting to flee," Darsheel said in her performance. "To get unstuck, I can always create. I inherited trauma, but it isn't my faith. A different future, you can watch me make."
She finished her speech on an optimistic note.
"It is time to speak your truth. Create your community. Be good to each other and do not look outside of yourself for a leader. We are the ones we have been waiting for," she ended.
The event concluded with the awarding of the 2019 Jennie Elder Suel Distinguished Woman of Color Award, which went to Gwendolyn Etter-Lewis, a professor of English and global and intercultural studies, as well as the founder and director of Dream Keepers. Her involvement with Dream Keepers, which promotes college readiness in underserved areas, has paved the way for local high schoolers to build meaningful relationships with Miami students and help prepare the former for higher academic success.
Charlie Powers is a senior political science major and was one of the few males present at the event.
"For me as a white male, hearing stories like that just open up your eyes and your mind. I thought it was all very uplifting," Powers said.
Although the event had particular significance at this time of year, the Women's Center encourages all Miami students to call attention to social issues and celebrate achievements in diversity year-round.