Black women’s empowerment panel speaks at UConn

UConn held it's second annual Black Women's Empowerment Panel at Oak Hall on Saturday, Nov. 12.  (Ruohan Li/The Daily Campus) 

University of Connecticut students arrived at Oak Hall Saturday afternoon for the second annual Black Women’s Empowerment Panel, sponsored by UConn’s branch of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) just days after the presidential election.

“Knowing your worth, knowing your value, you don’t allow anyone to de-value you or to marginalize you,” Theresa Hopkins-Staten, Esquire and Superior court judge of Connecticut, said.

The majority of the audience, including the panelists, shook their heads in disbelief when the topic was brought up.

“We actually didn’t plan it to be after the elections, we did this event last year at the same time,” Wambui Gatheru, seventh-semester English pre-law major and vice president to NCNW said. “It’s an event to bring women of color who have been successful and offer their advice to the audience.”

All four panelists spoke about their stories of personal struggles they faced throughout their professional lives and hinted concerns about the future. One example was told by Dr. Williams, OB-GYN at UConn’s Medical Center at Storrs Center.

“There are some things I do that impact on helping women to make decisions regarding their reproductive healthcare, which I think is extremely important and maybe in jeopardy,” Dr. Williams said. “But, I also help them when it comes to issues of sexuality and consent…I hope that by having that (consent) dialogue, I am empowering them to understand their own power about their reproductive health and about consent.”  

In addition to advice about the professional world, all four panelists agreed that the current students in audience need to learn to “enjoy the process” rather than focusing too much on career goals.

“I think I spent a lot of my life in graduate school and my early career trying to get somewhere,” Dr. Tamika La Salle, an assistant school psychology professor at UConn’s Neag School of Education and research scientist, said. “…To sit back and reflect, to be thankful for where I am and still understand that I still have a long way to go; be thankful, appreciative and happy.”

Overall, the panelists comforted the audience with a sense of security, despite the uncertainty about presidential-elect Donald Trump’s plants that will impact minorities.

Finding a strong sense of community is the first step because it develops the foundation needed to navigate the future struggles black women and all other minorities will endure, according to Gatheru.

“I think it’s just the fact we’re asking these women their honest answers. To be straightforward and give their best advice about it.” Gatheru said. “And it’s not just for black women, it’s also focused on lifting up other women of color and other marginalized groups.”

For more information about the NCNW and future events, go to uconntact.uconn.edu or follow them on Facebook.


Arlene Blum is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at arlene.blum@uconn.edu.