By Rena Ali, Staff Writer
Black Women’s Empowerment Day was held Feb. 23, by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, as part of Black History Month. The day was divided into three parts: the Expo, the Natural Hair Forum, and Black Women & Health.
The Expo was filled with local, independent, African American owned-businesses, such as the Nappy Hutt, Kainat Josephine, Damsel in Defense, Sharonda W. Johnson Consulting, Sisters, and Unforgettable Bakery & Café.
Belinda Baptiste of the Unforgettable Bakery & Café said, “As a community, this is a great opportunity for black small businesses to advertise and for us to meet one another as business owners.”
SAAS (Student African American Sisterhood) and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority were also in attendance.
Desiree Adams, a junior, said that she’s happy to be at the Black Women’s Empowerment Day as a SAAS member, for her working with an organization that helps to empower and inspire African Americans and other minorities to reach their academic goals lends fulfillment. Adams also said that SAAS hopes to start a mentor program for the community.
Shawntel M. Waajid of Nappy Hutt was the speaker at the Natural Hair Forum. Waajid’s lecture focused on the policing of Black women’s hair throughout the years (as a means of classification in the Declaration of Independence and the more recent military hair regulation policies) and the resulting generational curse and denial of identity and culture Black women deal with in regards to their hair. She emphasized, “You can’t regulate DNA.”
Yinessa Lee, a junior Zeta Phi Beta, said that she was “really interested in the Natural Hair Forum for tips, advice, and to learn about new styles, since I just started going natural.”
Waajid’s advice to black women is to “embrace who you are and accept who your friends are”, to “learn your hair”, and learn the ingredients that make up the products that go into it.
Throughout her lecture, Waajid emphasized, “healthy hair regardless of texture is good hair”.
Next on the agenda for the Black Women’s Empowerment day was the “Black Women and Sexual Health” forum. The discussion was led by Lekara Simmons, a Coastal Health and Armstrong alumni. Simmons advocated safe sex practices and earlier sex education classes for the youth. She was delighted with the sharing of knowledge and answering any questions within the discussion. Simmons stressed that “as Black women and women of color, we are responsible for our sexual health.”
Black Women’s Empowerment day came to a close with a dinner organized by SAAS and the zeta Phi Beta sorority. The dinner was composed of musical performances such as that of Ahna Zackery, who started the night with by playing the piano. The keynote speaker for the event was Lady Mahogany, a Savannah native who has modeled for designers such as Calvin Klein, has owned her own businesses, and has her own radio show.
She brought spirit to the night and inspired the room with her story of struggle and come-up. “Pressure bursts pipes,” Mahogany said, “but it also makes diamonds.” She reminded everyone that no one is in control of what happens to them, but they do get to decide what to do with the circumstances they are presented.
Black History Month continues until the end of February, then the Women’s Empowerment Month starts in March.