Six years ago, a few Eastern Michigan University students came back from a conference at Spelman College with an idea. The conference, entitled "Words of Fire," honored the voices and experiences of Black women and girls affected by sexual and reproductive violation.
Upon their return from the HBCU, the students approached Dr. Dyann Logwood, an assistant professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, with the hopes of creating a safe space for women of color unique to EMU.
Now, Logwood would refer to herself as one of the "co-coordinators” of what came from that idea: the Women of Color & Feminism Leadership Symposium.
The symposium is in its fifth year, the first back in person since campus shut down more than three years ago.
“Our third symposium happened the day before campus shut down. We had a year to plan for the next one,” Logwood said.
Held virtually in 2021 and 2022, the Women of Color & Feminism Leadership Symposium garnered support from organizations, offices and departments across campus.
This year, the symposium will be a two day event featuring workshops, keynote speakers and performances. It aims to center and highlight the voices, ideas and concerns of women of color on both EMU’s campus and in the local community.
“The event is open to everyone. It is a space for people to learn,” Logwood said.
As co-coordinator, Logwood sits on the committee for the symposium alongside faculty, staff and students. The event is put on by the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, the Women’s Resource Center and the Center of Race and Ethnicity, with support from countless student organizations and campus offices and departments.
The head of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at EMU, Dr. Elizabeth Currans, has been working on the symposium for four years now and is excited for the event to be back in person.
“The students on the committee made it really clear that for them being in person felt really important,” Currans said.
Coming from an academic perspective, Currans wants to make sure that there is a clear link between what students are learning in their classrooms and what they have the opportunity to experience through campus events.
“It’s nice to be in really different conversations than we often are on the academic side and really looking at the university experience in a more holistic way,” said Currans of the collaboration between organizations on campus to put together this event.
This year’s symposium features half a dozen co-sponsors: the LGBT Resource Center, Student Government, Campus Life, Student Success and Academic Support Services, Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Chief Diversity Office.
On day one of this two day event, students will have the opportunity to attend an intimate poetry workshop with Chicago-based poet, e. nina jay. This workshop will “use poetry as an instrument to inspire an intimate exploration of our diverse ways of resistance to oppressive culture and how we hold ourselves accountable as individuals and as a community.”
On day two, keynote speaker Julisa Abad will be speaking, along with a panel of local community and student activists. The day will end with performances from EMU’s Poetry Society.
Bringing together poets, spoken word performances and activists has been one of the most exciting parts of the planning process for the Women’s Resource Center Program Coordinator and symposium committee member Deanna Kowaleski.
“If I have to pick one favorite thing, I think it would be centered around that and making sure we are providing a fun, exciting, safe and welcoming space for students at the event,” Kowaleski said.
Another member of the committee is Shay Webb, program coordinator of the Center of Race and Ethnicity. She has had fun meeting women and planning an event that highlights the stories and experiences of women of color.
“I’m looking forward to being able to create a space for women of color to talk about our experiences and visions and not having any limits on that conversation,” Webb said.
Students can attend the poetry workshop with e. nina jay from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, March 20 in room 300 of the Student Center and the keynote presentation, panel and performances from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21 in room 310AB of the Student Center.
Attendees will earn LBC credit.