I walked into the Pusey Room and noticed that signs had been posted everywhere. They read: Race and Ethnicity, Gender, Socioeconomic status, Sexual orientation, Political ideology, Mental health, Religion, Education level, Nationality, Ability, Age, Immigration status. With trepidation, I took a seat at one of the chairs that had been placed in a circle in the middle of the room. I was attending “Transformative Sisterhood: A Conversation about Feminism, Womynhood and Solidarity on Campus,” one of the many events of the People of Color Empowerment Week, organized by All Is One.
I spoke with Junior Brienne Colston, who began the organization in Spring Term of her sophomore year. “There are a lot of issues that are specific to being a woman of color in the world, as well as issues that come up in Lawrence. We felt that people needed an outlet in this school to talk about things like that and to talk about other social justice issues that we don’t normally talk about with our friends, so the members of Beta Psi Nu decided to create the organization for that purpose.” Colston is also president of Beta Psi Nu, a predominantly African American sorority, and the seven members of the sorority became the executive board members of All Is One when it was founded. “Our mission, essentially, is to empower women of color, to promote sisterhood and to promote education and graduating,” Colston said.
All Is One plans several events during the year to spread their mission around campus, but for Black History Month, they felt they had to do something on a larger scale. “It was almost as if we, the student organizations, did not plan things for Black History Month, or the Diversity Center and Office of Multicultural Affairs didn’t plan anything, it was going to go unnoticed.” Colston and the other members of All Is One began the daunting process of scheduling this weeklong event the first week of Winter Term.
“We started planning this and started legitimately securing things first week, and it’s been a lot of the Beta Psi Nu members who have been busy from week one to week eight, trying to make sure this goes off without a hitch,” said Colston. People of Color Empowerment Week features three different guest speakers: Michelina Ferrara from the Sadie Nash Leadership Project; Mia Mckenzie, a social justice blogger and award-winning author; and LC Johnson, another extremely popular social blogger, as well as eight different events from which students can choose, ranging from a how-to on social justice blogging to an exploration of white privilege.
I asked Colston what went into the planning for such a comprehensive event. “First of all, having people to help you plan, second of all getting the money, third of all securing the space, and then you have to work with the speakers to try and get hotel accommodations, flights, everything. And those were just the speaker events.” All the members of All Is One and Beta Psi Nu are extremely grateful to the Alyssa Marie Paul Grant, LUCC, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and BSU, who provided the funds that made the week possible.
As I sat in the circle of chairs, and women of all ages, races, ethnicities and sexual orientations shared their stories and emotions, I felt that this event truly did promote transformative sisterhood and the feeling of a bond and connection on campus. Since the creation of All Is One and the beginning of People of Color Empowerment Week, Colston has noticed several differences. “I’ve seen people excited for the events and people who I don’t normally communicate with on this level, on a social justice, empowerment for women of color level, and that’s always great for me to see as a student leader on campus.”