SORT Celebrates Women of Color

Jacqueline Serrato

Sisters of the Round Table (SORT) made last week a celebration dedicated to honor and to raise awareness of the struggles and contributions of women of color of the past and present. Africana Women’s Week, taking place during Women’s History Month, consisted of a series of six women-empowering events.

Last Monday in Lathrop Hall, SORT presented a film entitled I is a Long-Memoried Woman, produced by a black women’s collective, which chronicled the history of slavery through the viewpoint of Caribbean women. The plot told of the abusive conditions on plantations, but also of acts of rebellion leading to eventual freedom.

The following day in Brehmer Theater, Guerrilla Girls on Tour performed with the purpose of educating the audience about the lack of opportunities for women, particularly for women of color. Concealing their identities behind gorilla masks to put an emphasis on the issues and on not the performers, the actors engaged in a theatrical dialogue with the audience to encourage feminism and discourage discrimination.

Wednesday evening at the African, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center, SORT hosted the Circle of Support Dinner for women faculty and staff in appreciation of their support and influence as female professionals in Colgate. In semi-formal attire, the women of SORT opened up dialogue with the mentors over a home-cooked meal.

“This dinner was a great opportunity to share food and enjoy conversation with other women in a warm setting,” first-year Starr Kelly, who made a Native American dish for the event, said. “When awareness is spread, a community is developed, and such a community should not be undermined.”

Thursday morning in the Women’s Studies Center, Diane Nash, a prominent civil rights activist, official leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee, and friend of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke of her experience as a woman leader.

“Women can do and did as much as men: protests, sit-ins and jail,” Nash said.

That afternoon she gave advice about nonviolent tactics to make progressive change. Students posed questions about ways they could target specific issues on campus and beyond. Nash emphasized the importance of awareness and unity among those seeking change.

“Unity does not happen at the beginning. Unity grows out of struggle,” she said.

Chairwoman of SORT junior Courtney Richardson said that Nash’s visit was a positive experience on an educational and a practical level.

“Not only did she share her painful yet inspiring mobilization within the Civil Rights Movement and desegregating lunch counters, but it was an honor that she passed down tactics from a legendary movement to the Colgate community,” Richardson said. “The pure fact that she gave us a piece of history to utilizewas indeed an honor.”

On Friday, Michele Alexandre ’96, an alumna of SORT and the Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUS) program and Colgate’s first black woman valedictorian, spoke of her experience as a woman of color at Colgate. She credited SORT for helping her climb to the top academically, for supporting her as an individual, and for helping mold the successful woman that she is today.

The final event of the week, the second annual Finesse of Tress, took place on Saturday at The Edge Caf?e. Created by senior Kia King and former OUS staff member Christine Miller Kelly, the yearly production consists of monologues and poetry and focuses on the aesthetics of hair and identity.

“Hair is used as a forum to discuss issues of race, gender and other social constructs that may limit or liberate people in our society,” King said.Through different people’s perspectives on their hair, it is desired that a diverse mirage of insight can be given to the topic of hair and even can be used as a critique of Western society and its aesthetic ideas of beauty.”

Richardson expressed the success of Africana Women’s Week.

“Africana Women’s Week lived up to her purpose of inspiring and uplifting the community in the spirit of womanhood and knowledge,” Richardson said. “This year’s Africana Women’s Week will go down in history as a week that provided many opportunities for communities to learn and celebrate the spirit of women of color as well as serve as a tool of empowerment for all who participated in the week atany capacity.”