Kent State Library Hosts 4th Annual Women’s Leadership Symposium

Kent State alumna, Cassie Phillips, stands next to one of her pieces that she showcased at the Women’s Symposium on Wednesday, March 1, 2017.

Lyric Aquino

Kent State hosted its fourth Annual Women’s Leadership Symposium Wednesday in honor of the beginning of Women’s History Month, themed “Framing Art and Protest.”

Throughout the day, 11 speakers and presenters spoke to the audience about their professions, hobbies and knowledge on the subjects of art and protesting. They centralized their speeches around women and their role in protesting, art and research in order to express the issues of both gender and racial inequality.

Guest speakers at the symposium not only shared their research and pieces of art, but also heartfelt, personal stories that embodied its goal to educate and spark discussion.

Artist and Kent State alumna Cassie Phillips presented her artwork in order to take a political stance. Phillips said she wants her work to not only inspire people, but educate them as well — a luxury she did not receive as a young woman.

“I grew up in Appalachian Ohio and we never learned about this stuff,” Phillips said.

Phillips told the audience that art is not only therapeutic, but it can be used to protest in a peaceful manner that is still effective.

Similar to Phillips, senior studio art major Dadisi Curtis uses art as a form of protest and information in his presentation. Curtis creates art that is centralized around Pan-African women and their roles in society.

Curtis said he uses natural women in his art in order to protest against women being over sexualized within society.

“This is beauty,” said Curtis, as he pointed to a natural Pan-African woman in one of his pieces. “It isn’t over sexualized. It’s natural.”

Graduate Student Natalia Roman spoke about the identity messages that Latina women face when they attend college. Through her research, Natalia found that Latina women are often scolded by their families and supporters for going to college, and therefore have a more difficult time adjusting.

“These women go to school for their families,” Roman said. “They have their families saying ‘Go to college so you won’t have to live like us, check to check.’ Yet when they do go to college, they’re chastised for being better than their families.”

Roman went on to tell the audience about how difficult it is for Latina women to remain traditional but also take part in millennial ideas and sentiments.

Laura Fong, a Kent State alumna and professor at Mercer University, presented her documentation at Standing Rock, promoting the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Fong shared her experiences and encouraged the audience to do something about what they believe in. She listed ways to get involved in order to get major news networks out firsthand to Standing Rock.

“For 500 years, they’ve been disrespecting the agreements they made,” Fong said.

English professor Denise Harrison and theater professor Yuko Kurahashi concluded the day by presenting handmade quilts to the Women’s Center and Pan-African Studies Department.

Both quilts are titled “Broken Dishes” to symbolize suffragettes breaking dishes in their homes when they were denied access to perform activities once deemed unfit for women.

Nearly 50 people helped make the quilts, which total 180 packets of triangles sewn into squares to form the pattern. The color scheme is purple for valor, yellow for roses given to women after they voted for the first time and white for integrity.

“Every culture has a type of quilt,” said Kurahashi. “It brings people together. Those quilts are going to last longer than we will.”

Lyric Aquino is the humanities reporter, contact her at [email protected].