Women of Color Conference set for March 5.

Transgender rights activist Janet Mock is the keynote speaker at the Women of Color Conference.

By Alheri Egor-Egbe ’17

Mount Holyoke College’s student-organized Women of Color Conference, which aims to encourage open dialogue, personal growth, and social advocacy, is set for March 5.

This year’s conference, “Learning to Speak, Learning to Listen,” will include workshops that focus on peer networking, activism, professional development, and leadership opportunities. The conference also will provide an avenue to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of women of color.

Author, cultural commentator, and transgender rights activist Janet Mock is the keynote speaker. Her memoir, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, debuted at No. 19 on the New York Times Bestsellers List and was featured on CNN’s Piers Morgan Live. Mock’s talk is open to the public. Donations will benefit the TGI Justice Project, which supports transgender women of African descent.

The student speaker is Ellen Chilemba ’17, who founded Tiwale, a community-based organization that empowers rural Malawian women. Tiwale trains women in business and provides economic and social opportunities such as small scale loans, vocational skills training, and school grants. Chilemba has received international recognition for her work with Tiwale. She has received a Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development Work and the Grinspoon Entrepreneurial Spirit Award. She has also been named as one of Forbes’ “Africa’s 30 Under 30.”

Mount Holyoke’s Students of Color Committee organized the conference with the help of the Dean of Students office. Assistant Dean of Students Latrina Denson said the conference is intended to inspire and connect women of color within the Five Colleges and the Pioneer Valley.

Quanita Hailey, a Frances Perkins scholar in the class of 2014, founded the conference three years ago, Denson noted, as a way to promote discussion among and with women of color.

“The conference has continued to grow and build networks,” Denson said. “Our goal is that five years from now, this conference will be something that the entire area comes to and supports and that we will have community partners who are part of it.”

The conference will take place in Chapin Auditorium of Mary Woolley Hall. Chapin is wheelchair accessible and listening devices are available upon request. Preregistration is required. All who register will receive an invitation for a private meeting with Mock.

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