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Empowering Women of Color Conference at Columbia Law School

The Second Annual Women of Color Conference

Hosted by Empowering Women of Color at Columbia Law, The African American Policy Forum, and The Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies

This event is made possible by the generous support of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Jones Day, EWOC's Platinum firm sponsors.

In 2015, Empowering Women of Color held our first conference, Playing the Game: Reflections on the Lives of Women of Color. While last year was a reflective update on the impactful ABA study, Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms, this year we will be more forward looking, building on this legacy with an eye towards arming our membership with an activist toolkit for inspiring the change they seek.

Titled Frontlines: Women of Color on the Forefront of Activism, our second annual conference hightlights attorneys as activists, who are blazing trails for women of color in the legal profession; invites mental health professionals to bring to light the under-discussed topic of mental health among women of color, as well as the importance of self-care in the legal profession; gives stage to artists who use their talents to make a social impact; and features women of color organizing around police misconduct, a major legal issue of our era, who often go overlooked as the drivers of activist movements.

Conference Schedule

9:30 AM - 10:00 AM: Breakfast and Check in

10:00 AM - 10:10 AM: Opening Remarks: Elena Rodriguez, President of Empowering Women of Color at Columbia Law School

10:10 AM - 10:15 AM: Introduction of Opening Keynote Speaker: Kayasha Lyons, Vice President of Empowering Women of Color at Columbia Law School

10:15 AM: Opening Keynote: Cathy Albisa, Cofounder of the National Economic & Social Rights Initiative

10:45 AM - 12:00 PM:  Our Minds, Our Health: Self Care for Women of Color Communities

Panel Discussion

Mental health is often underreported and under-discussed in communities of color, especially for women. Due to gendered and often-cultural pressures, there is little space for women of color to vocalize their needs and burdens or prioritize self-care. Statistics for all women of color are grim: For instance, U.S.-born Asian-American women had a higher lifetime rate of suicidal thoughts than that of the general U.S. population, and American-Indian/Alaskan Native women aged 15-24 have the highest suicide rate compared to all racial/ethnic groups. However, mental health issues go beyond just seeking care for individuals who struggle with them. It is also essential to discuss how to support and respond to people who have them. There is no better example of how failure to consider the intersection of mental health and other issues than the case of Natasha McKenna. In the midst of a mental health crisis, Natasha McKenna called the police for assistance--only to be Tasered repeatedly and to die in the hospital several days later. Join our panelists for an important discussion on how to de-stigmatize mental health, recognize the importance of adequate training and solutions, and how to support those in mental health crises.

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Lunch for all registered guests

1:10 PM - 2:25 PM: Artist Spotlight

Women and people of color have been historically underrepresented in art and media. Consequently, women of color face the uphill battle of double disadvantage in the art world. Although digital spaces are predominantly created by, and for, white cis-gendered man, artists and activists of different gender and racial identities are deploying new media to amplify their voices, and in ways that redefine the forms and limits of creative expression. 2015 witnessed the arrival of female artists of color, who have been doing groundbreaking work in precisely those spaces, to the forefront. Juliana Huxtable, who we featured in last year’s artist spotlight, became a household name in the art world with her MoMA performance. Although some artists, like Juliana, have finally received much-deserved recognition, many continue to have their voices silenced and their work erased. Despite the critical acclaim that Tangerine received, the film and its lead actresses did not receive a single Oscar nomination, and only an abysmal 2% of the MoMA’s collection was produced by women of color. Since social and political action start at the level of consciousness, and art plays a crucial role in shaping how we see the world and expanding our capacity to imagine alternatives to the current situation, our project demands the critical interrogation of the politics of representation. This conversation between theorists and practitioners of art will explore how female artists of color can leverage new media to center their voices and to advance the projects of racial and gender justice.

2:30 PM - 3:45 PM: WoC on the Frontline: Intersectional Erasure of Women of Color Activists

Panel Discussion

Though women of color have played major roles in activist movements throughout history, they often go unrecognized compared to their white or male counterparts. From the whitewashing of the Stonewall protests in the recent film adaptation, to the underplayed importance of Latina organizers in the farmworkers movement, women of color activists struggle to gain their deserved recognition for organizing and sustaining activist movements. This panel features current activist leaders who are organizing around police misconduct, one of the main legal issues of our era. They will share their experiences as on-the-ground organizers, and recount the challenges they have faced as women of color fighting for change.

3:45 PM - 3:50 PM: Introduction of Closing Keynote Speaker: Cynthia Luo, Secretary of Empowering Women of Color at Columbia Law School 

3:50 PM: Closing Keynote: Professor Kimberle Crenshaw, Director of the African American Policy Forum


Friday, April 15, 2016 from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM (EDT) - Add to Calendar


Columbia Law School - 435 West 116th Street Jerome Greene Hall Room 101, New York, NY 10027 - View Map