On Mar. 30, the 3rd annual North Bay Women of Color Conference will take place at Sonoma State University. The free and open to the public conference is organized and facilitated by Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (or MALCS) de SSU, and the Chicano and Latino Studies Department. The conference also received funding from the American Multicultural Studies and the Women and Gender Studies Departments at SSU, the PUERTA program (“Preparing Underrepresented Educators to Realize their Teaching Ambitions” – a project through the U.S. Department of Education), and a $1,400 grant from the Rohnert Park Foundation small grants program.
The conference will offer a variety of workshops and panels centered around the experiences and challenges faced by women of color. It will also focus on strategies for empowerment and self-care aimed specifically at this population.
“Our theme this year is ‘Community Healing through Intersectionality,’” says Gabriela Davila, President and Co-Chair of MALCS de SSU and student at Sonoma State University. “This conference is mainly to promote activism and growth and self-determination for women of color during our political climate right now. We acknowledge the work of women of color, try to dismantle systems of suppression, and work towards a better future. The goal for this year is to also look at how intersectionality is central to community healing and social justice movements.”
The North Bay Women of Color Conference recognizes the work of earlier women of color that worked tirelessly to dismantle systems of oppression towards a just and equal future. The event hopes to attract those in the community who are not only interested in learning about the issues affecting women of color, but to also inspire them to apply their knowledge and give back to their communities.
“Since I loved being involved, I thought it was time to give back to my community,” says Davila, who volunteered to help with the first and second conferences and then became involved in MALCS de SSU. “I took on the role of President of MALCS and organized this conference for the third time.”
The all day event will take place in the SSU Student Center Ballroom from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will feature various speakers, workshop sessions, a resource and vendor fair, performances and an open mic opportunity. The keynote speaker will be Janet C. Mendoza Stickmon, a tenured professor of Humanities at Napa Valley college. Stickmon teaches Africana Studies and Filipina(o) American Heritage. She is also an author and has worked with the community to advocate for the integration of ethnic studies in the K-12 curriculum. At the time of this writing conference organizers are still accepting proposals for vendors, workshops and performances that explore intersectionality and categories of difference such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, nationality, citizenship, immigration, migration, religion, spirituality, and disability.
“It’s a great event, especially since Sonoma State is a predominantly white institution,” says Davila. “I feel that this event is critical for women of color to come together and share stories and share experiences, especially in academia. I also think it’s a great way to connect with women of color if you’re in the North Bay and potentially build a network. I’ve met a lot of people through this conference and it allowed me to have a network outside of SSU. It’s just a really empowering experience.”
MALCS is a national organization of Chicanas/Latinas and Native American women working in academia and in community settings with the common goal of working toward the support, education and dissemination of these women’s issues. The SSU chapter expands that description to also publicly acknowledge and include all women of color and gender non-conforming individuals. MALCS de SSU, which started on the campus three years ago, strives to be a space for students who have a strong commitment to working towards the support, education, and dissemination of underrepresented students’ issues.
“It’s a national organization that basically translates to active women in letters and social change,” says Davila. “By letters it means education and how that was critical for women of color in academia. Our club meetings are a safe place for women of color at SSU to discuss our experiences and our stories and we also put on events that are critical for women of color on this campus.”
Registration for this event is free and open to the public and the first 150 registered participants will be granted a free lunch. Interested attendees can register at https://sites.google.com/sonoma.edu/ssuwocc/registration?authuser=0, or through the event’s Facebook page, listed under “3rd Annual North Bay Women of Color Conference.”
“This conference is a really good first step if people are trying to get in touch with their community,” says Davila. “If they’re too scared or too busy to take that step this would be a great opportunity to get to know other people going through the same experiences as they are.”