“Lifting As We Climb”: Fifth Annual Empowerment Conference Inspires Female African American Students
The fifth Empowerment Conference for Black Women, which serves as the annual signature event of the Sisters United Mentoring Program was held at California State University, Dominguez Hills on March 26 in the Loker Student Union.
The Sisters United Mentoring Program was established in 2005 to increase retention, develop leadership skills, and promote a supportive network of African and African American female students, faculty and staff at CSU Dominguez Hills. To this end, the program addresses issues of mental health, self-esteem, academic excellence, and civic engagement in order to foster a positive self image among black women, who in turn become active in the university, give back to their communities and lift up others as they climb.
As is the custom in African tradition to have “Queen Mothers” begin the conference proceedings. Mary Anne O’Neal, presiding Queen Mother of The Fannie Lou Hamer Queen Mother Society began the conference. This was followed by the pouring of libations, a form of African prayer which honors the creator, spirit world and ancestors, by Africana studies professor Jalondra Davis. Cynthia Turner, articulation officer in Records and Registration and president of the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA), gave a little history of how Sisters United and the conference were conceived out of a concern for African and African American female student retention at the campus.
“I couldn’t be more proud that BFSA is still committed and part of this venture,” said Turner. “We feel it serves a great benefit to the campus community and to the community at large, because you ladies take what you learn here then go out [there].”
Joy Masha, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) president also spoke. She asked participants to look at the fellow student sitting to her left and tell her, “Girl, you look good today.” She thanked all who were involved in the conference and emphasized to the students that “This conference is for you, to uplift you, to motivate you and to empower you.” She also praised Dr. Herbert, who was instrumental in the Empowerment Conference since its inception, and encouraged students to help Herbert plan next year’s event.
Herbert, a psychologist in Student Health & Psychological Services, presented the topic titled, “I’ve Got Issues.” She had participants write out their problems in an exercise to show and reflect how many young African and African American female students share common issues and that it’s good to open up and talk about them.
“Our unwillingness to really confront these preconceived ideas that we have with masculinity, and with what manhood and womanhood are can be really damaging to our health, to us as a people,” said Davis. “So much of what we see as flaws or shortcomings in the black community are actually good spaces for opportunity where we can reconstruct and reformulate some of these things.”
CSU Dominguez Hills alumna Robyn McGee, the author of “Hungry for More: A ‘Keeping It- Real’ Guide for Black Women on Weight and Body Image,” spoke on good and bad portrayals of African women in the media and read from her book, which she said was a memorial for her sister who died from gastric bypass surgery.
“My sister was fly and fashionable on the outside, but tormented by her weight on the inside,” said McGee. “Body image, our hair, our skin color, believe it or not, in 2010 there are still some worried about who’s lighter and darker… and even though we’ve taken some steps forward, we’ve also taken quite a few steps backwards in some regards.”
The conference also had internationally acclaimed life empowerment speaker Dr. Barbara Young who presented “Dare To Be Different: A 30-Day Action Plan.”
“You were all born to be successful,” said Young. “Your foundation is to know yourself and who you are, what is your USP? (unique selling point). Remember that each one of you ladies is the president and CEO of your own corporation. Repeat after me, ‘We are united sisters, uplifting one another, but we know that the first principle is to uplift our self, I love my sisters, I will try to love more, and remember love conquers it all.’”
Closing statements were made by Queen Mother O’Neal.
“I would like to acknowledge Dr. Herbert for her continued commitment to keeping the conference active and going,” she said.
“Lifting as We Climb” was sponsored by the Black Faculty & Staff Association, Student Health & Psychological Services, the Fannie Lou Hamer Queen Mothers Society, the Office of Student Development, Associated Students, Inc., the Pan African Union, the University Bookstore, and the 50th Anniversary Golden Toro Grant.
For more information on Sisters United, contact Dr. Herbert at (310) 243-3818 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Fredwill Hernandez
Photo above: Mentoring program Sisters United inspired and encouraged female African American students with the fifth annual Empowerment Conference for Black Women.
L-R: Mary Anne O'Neal, presiding Queen Mother, The Fannie Lou Hamer Queen Mother Society; motivational speaker Dr.Barbara Young; Dr. Tiffany Herbert, psychologist, Student Health & Psychological Services; and graduate student Dawnna Matheiu (Class of '05, B.A., music), art and humanities major
Photo by Fredwill Hernandez
Fredwill Hernandez is a communication major and an intern in the Office of Communication and Public Affairs. He is also a reporter for the student newspaper, The Bulletin.