UC Berkeley hosts 29th annual Empowering Women of Color Conference

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On Saturday, more than five hundred women from the UC Berkeley community and beyond congregated at Wheeler Hall for the 29th annual Empowering Women of Color Conference, which focused on the prevention of violence against women of color.

The oldest women of color conference in the country, the event featured more than 30 workshops, multiple entertainers and select speakers throughout the day. These communal gatherings provided a safe space for attendees to share their stories of struggle and to connect with other women who have faced relatable forms of physical or verbal violence.

“You can do individual work, but the real power comes in (building) relationships, partnerships and solidarity with each other,” said Amber Akemi Piatt, conference director and UC Berkeley graduate student.

With topics ranging from how to live a healthy lifestyle to music’s ability to help one cope with and overcome hardship, workshops were designed to focus on alternative forms of healing, Piatt explained.

Though the conference was designed for women who have dealt with oppression, it also welcomed outside community members to listen to these women’s stories and to be an ally for social change.

“(Although) I am not a survivor (of domestic violence), I want to be informed so that I can be of help (to other people) and help them shine through,” said Brittney Enin, a UC Berkeley freshman and volunteer for the event.

One of the most anticipated events of the day was the “Enough Talk: Taking Action Against Violence” panel, in which four different guest speakers — including two UC Berkeley graduates — opened up about their experiences with issues including child abuse, rape and discrimination in the workplace. The first segment of the panel was dedicated to subjects such as the root causes of violence and the objectification of women’s bodies.

UC Berkeley graduate student and panelist Kim Tran cited imperial violence and oppression as one of the fundamental causes of violence. Because of such pervasive persecution in certain countries, she said violence is often passed down through generations of the family line.

“When your country is constantly under siege, what other choice do you realistically have to communicate your pain, anger (or) even joy?” Tran said to the audience.

The discussion was then opened up to audience members, who were able to directly ask panelists questions on a topic of their choice. The attendees who chose to speak opened up to the audience about their own personal issues and looked to the panelists for how to effectively reconcile with their painful pasts.“(By) being able to talk about (these issues), you are curing the cancer (you) are holding inside,” said panelist Brianna Michelle, a rape survivor and future head of the nonprofit organization Victorious Victim.

Contact Becca Benham at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @beccabenhamdc.