Women in Leadership holds third annual symposium

Women in Leadership held its third annual symposium throughout the day on Wednesday at the University main library, hosting various presentations.

The first event of the day included keynote speaker Judith Wellman, who is discussed her book Brooklyn’s Promised Land, The Free Black Community of Weeksville, New York. Wellman said the book is about a community that disappeared, was lost and then found.

Wellman added that it is a mystery story and includes the importance of women in the Weeksville community in Brooklyn, New York.

Wellman discussed the various roles women took on within society during the ‘70s and expressed her own opinion on the subject.

“If we separate ourselves into categories that are only race, class, gender or sexual preference, or only a multitude of other things we can think of – religion, geography, personality styles, roles we play,” Wellman said. “Then I thought, ‘well … how can we describe ourselves? How would you describe yourself?’”

Wellman said she was pleased to find that Weeksville was a successful African-American community, and was one of 100 (communities) that was built before the Civil War. She said the community became powerful for advocating African-American rights, as well as women’s rights.

After Wellman’s discussion, she hosted a book signing. Other sessions followed her speech.

Participants were able to choose which class they wanted to attend: Session A included a speech on League of Women Voters: A Historical Overview with Iris Meltzer, and Modern Day Slavery: Sex Trafficking in the United States.

Meltzer, who is president of the League of Women Voters, discussed the historical impact of the League. Meltzer said the League was founded in 1920 and that they are getting close to celebrating its hundredth anniversary.

“When the League was founded, the founders said ‘This is great, we’ve got this organization; women have the right to vote,’” Metzler said. “We’ll teach them the mechanism of voting, how to evaluate candidates and issues, and how to actually physically vote, and then our job is done.”

Meltzer said the League’s goal is to empower citizens to shape better communities worldwide and to be a nonpartisan political membership organization. Meltzer added that the League acts with trust, integrity and professionalism and that they operate in an open and effective manner.

Other sessions during the day discussed African-American’s voices during the 19th century and their experiences, academically successful African-American women, a brief history on African-American architecture, and endangered stories such as documenting aboriginal elders.

Another event included the play “Harriet Tubman Sees a Therapist,” which was performed on the fourth floor of the library.

The play features two young women who are dealing with the same oppression but have different survival methods. Tubman is sent to a therapist by her slave master because he’s afraid she’ll runway. The therapist tries to convince Tubman that it’s safer to endure being enslaved.

The play was written by lesbian and feminist activist, Carolyn Gage, in the 1990s. The production at Kent State was directed by Eileen R. Janis Larson, a senior theater production major.

Sydney Smith, a sophomore theater studies major, starred as Harriet Tubman.

The role of the therapist was played by freshman musical theater major, Montrol Walker. Walker said playing the role of the therapist wasn’t easy. “To know that there were probably people in her life trying to withhold her from doing what she wanted to do was hard,” she said.

Smith also said her role of Tubman was hard to identify with.

“I don’t know if I could have the bravery of everything that she (Tubman) did,” Smith said.

Jessica Smith, an employee of Jones Lang LaSalle, said she thinks the symposium was informative and educational.

“My purpose here is I am part of the diversity inclusion committee with Jones Lang LaSalle,” Smith said. “We’re here to make contacts, you know, to learn as much as we can about diversity, and take it back to work.”

There will a second presentation of the play on April 8.

Kimberly Laferty is the libraries reporter for The Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected] 

Jillian Holness is the humanities reporter for The Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected]