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African-American, Latina contributions highlighted at women’s history events

Women’s History Month last month on campus supported the contributions women have made through events that highlighted African American and Latina accomplishments.

UCA Real Beauty and the UCA Student Government Association hosted “A Conversation with My Sister,” a presentation featuring Rae Lewis Thornton on March 19.

Earlier last month, the gender studies program and SGA diversity committee hosted “Sex Crimes in Indian Country,” a presentation about Pawnee Indian women.

The Vagina Monologues play March 14 featured women’s’ experiences and struggles.

Proceeds benefited the Conway Women’s Shelter and Eve Ensler Foundation.

The gender studies program, UCA Feminist Union and Speak Out will host a “Body is Not an Apology” poetry slam workshop from 6-8:30 p.m. April 14 in the College of Business Auditorium.

WOMEN’S PANEL

Only one student attended a College of Liberal Arts women’s panel March 19 in Harrin Hall, as part of Women’s History Month.

The panel was composed of Spanish professor Alana Reid, French professor Katelyn Knox, English professor Elizabeth Harper and gender studies program director Taine Duncan.

Sophomore gender studies minor Joe Love was the only student who attended, which gave him the chance to ask any questions he had in mind.

Love asked why three semesters of foreign language is a requirement for students working toward a bachelor of arts degree.

Reid said the requirement expands a student’s knowledge and enables students to “get a feel for other cultures and gain awareness of your own place in the world.”

Knox agreed, adding that foreign languages make applicants look well-rounded to future employers.

All four women agreed that learning new languages helps people understand their own language better and provides a different way of thinking about language.

Love’s question about gender uses in foreign languages opened discussion about gender and language analysis and how it affects culture and gender relations.

Panelists discussed France’s ban on the term “mademoiselle,” citing its sexist nature.

Men are considered monsieurs on government forms but women are either madames or mademoiselles.

“How does your gender affect your research?” Love asked.

The panelists agreed that gender and feminist issues tend to play a role in their research because personal experiences typically influence interests.

Reid said while gender and experiences can influence research, a person cannot rely on anecdotal and personal experiences.

Research should focus on a theory, she said.

“Ethos and Eros” was another topic discussed where being passionate about your subject and bringing that passion into your research.

Love’s final question was whether his use of “you guys” throughout the discussion bothered the panelists.

Duncan and Harper laughed and said “no,” calling it more of a regional phrase, since most people outside of the south refer to a group of people as “you guys” rather than “y’all.”

“The key is humility,” Harper said. “Admitting that you don’t know and ask or acknowledge your lack of knowledge says a lot.”

ANTI-LYNCHING CAMPAIGN EVENT

Learning Communities Director Jayme Millsap Stone directed an event on behalf of Women’s History Month during x-period Thursday March 20.

An event March 20 explored the role of Arkansas women in the anti-lynching campaign and focused on Carrie Shepperson, social activist, teacher and Little Rock NAACP charter member during the 1920s.

Shepperson was a teacher at M.W. Gibbs High School in Little Rock, now Dunbar High School.

She became a social activist as an NAACP charter member, focusing on the injustice during the “Jim Crowe South” from 1896 until about 1965.

“The Jim Crowe South” describes the time in southern history in when laws were passed to assure that African Americans were treated as second class citizens, with restrictions on their already minimal rights.

Sheppardson was sick of injustice going unnoticed, especially the lynching throughout Arkansas, along with majority of the South.

UCA Counselor and Outreach Program Coordinator Reesa Ramsahai said, “When you hear stories about the many people lynched, it really just makes you feel.”

Shepperson worked for the NAACP to raise awareness and stop the injustice, focused on an anti-lynching crusade.

She worked in the community to raise $600 in 1924 for the Little Rock NAACP after the national headquarters told her she would need $100 in order to make a difference.

Shepperson taught her students to be social activists and worked non-stop for change and was awarded the first “Madam C.J. Walker Gold Medal” honor in 1924.

She died soon after in 1927 of a suspected flu case.

Shepperson was the last woman to make a social difference for the equality of colored people in Little Rock until Daisy Bates with the Integration of Central High School in 1957.

“I became involved in Shepperson’s story as part of my dissertation work for my doctorate, my research focusing on Arkansas women and radical networks for social change and she was just one woman I stumbled upon,” Stone said.

LATINAS IN ARKANSAS

Notable Arkansas Latinas, including Arkansas Board of Education Representative Mireya Reith, spoke during a March 20 panel discussion.

UCA’s Latino Student Association hosted the event in the College of Business Auditorium.

Latina and Mexican-American struggles hit home for senior Brenda Mendoza.

She said hearing Christina Madsen’s story of becoming a broadcast anchor on KATV was powerful.

“At one moment, Christina [Madsen] mentioned how much it meant to her mother when she told her that she would be using her [maiden]name, Munoz, in her career as a news anchor,” she said.

Madsen said her mother experienced discrimination for being Latina.

Mendoza said the other Latina speakers also made an impact on her when they spoke about the significance of being involved in our school and in the community.

“Their stories taught me that no matter where you are from or what obstacles you come across, if you work hard you can make your dreams a reality and be a leader of change,” she said.

The Latina panel discussed being treated differently.

Panelists talked about their role models and their struggles.

Each on the panel shared what they were involved in when they were in college and how that helped them be where they are now.

Panelists included Grace Smith who grew up in Honduras.

Though she didn’t experience discrimination growing up, Smith said she has experienced a few moments where people don’t take the time to know more about her and form stereotypes.

Junior Elizabeth Flores said the other panelists grew up in the U.S. but said misconceptions and stereotypes did not define who they are and what they could achieve.

“I think what really stood out to me is that one of the questions I got to ask [the panelists]was what was it that motivated them to help their communities with their careers,” Flores said.

“It was so inspiring to see how passionate they all were about giving back and seeing the need of our community.”

Panelists said giving back has been a great part of their journey and has gotten them to where they are now.

“[The event] was so encouraging and just awesome to have these women here with us sharing their journeys with us,” Flores said.

While the Latino community at UCA is small, she said the event was encouraging.

“Sometimes it feels like we’re the only ones in this situation. Like we’re the only ones fighting against misconceptions and the language barrier and being a minority and being first generation college students,” Flores said. “Sometimes it even feels like maybe we can’t do this, like what if we can’t reach all the goals and dreams we have.”

Flores said Reith particularly inspired her with her words about Latinas and the overall Hispanic story.

“I’ve known Mireya since I was in high school and what stood out to me was something that I saw since the first time I met her,” she said. “In every response she spoke with so much passion for people in general, but especially for the Hispanic community and I can really relate to that.”

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