Sonya Renee Taylor coming to Mount Holyoke

By Sasha Nyary

“Body positivity” is a movement that encourages people to become more forgiving and affirming of their bodies as a way to improve their health and well-being.

At the forefront is The Body is Not Apology, founded by performance poet Sonya Renee Taylor in 2011. The organization promotes visibility and acceptance of people of all sizes, genders, abilities, ages and ethnicities, and its website reaches hundreds of thousands of visitors from over 140 countries.

Now Taylor is coming to Mount Holyoke College as part of the College’s programming around National Eating Disorder Week, Feb. 26 to March 4.

Taylor will be speaking on Thursday, March 2, at 7:30 p.m. in Hooker Auditorium. The event is hosted by the offices of Student Life, Health Services and Counseling Service and is free and open to the public.

“We are thrilled to be bringing this engaging and powerful speaker to our campus,” said Marcella Runell Hall, vice president for student life and dean of students, noting that the College has long held education and stigma-reduction campaigns that are designed to build awareness about disordered eating and positive body image.

“This year we are specifically addressing themes of diversity and intersectional identities in exploring constructs of body image and size,” Hall said. “We believe Sonya’s affirming messages, its delivery and her platform will connect with many in our community. It is also important to note that we are very inspired by the many colleagues, offices, student groups and Five College partners who have agreed to co-sponsor this event.”

Taylor was named by Bustle magazine as one of “12 Women Who Paved the Way for Body Positivity Before It Was a Buzzword,” which called her “inspiring, in part, for her intersectional body positivity.”

The winner of national and international poetry slams, Taylor gives lectures, workshops and performances around the globe that are focused on healing and personal transformation. In 2015 she was named one of Planned Parenthood’s 99 Dream Keepers and given Planned Parenthood Generation Action’s Outstanding Partner award. She has published a collection of poetry and her work has been included in several anthologies. Her TV appearances include MTV, BET, CNN, PBS, NPR and HBO.