Women of Color in the Essential Workforce

By: Adriana Miranda 

Trivia Question: _______ __ _______ (demographic) are more likely to be doing essential jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic than anyone else.

Answer: women of color

Did you know women of color are more likely to be doing essential jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic than anyone else?

“Of the 5.8 million people working healthcare jobs that pay less than $30,000 a year, half are nonwhite and 83 percent are women.” says the New York Times.  Also, according to Think Global Health, “one in every three jobs held by women has been deemed essential, and women of color are more likely to have essential jobs”.

We as an entire global population are relying on healthcare workers and service workers to keep our lives semi-normal and semi-functioning. While these roles have always been important, and we should always treat others with respect regardless of their job being “essential”, these past two years have REALLY shown us that these essential workers are truly the backbone of our everyday lives. They keep our groceries stocked, they keep our public spaces clean, they keep our families alive. They are also more likely to be women of color.

Not only are things like racism and misogyny facing women of color every day, but they are also more likely to be putting themselves in danger of getting COVID to keep our communities running, AND very often being overworked and underpaid for it.

It’s time we start acknowledging how crucial women of color are to our workforce and our lives.

Next time we’re out getting groceries, picking up takeout, getting a COVID test, shopping, trying to make our lives feel a little normal during a global pandemic, let’s be grateful for the people who risk their well being every day to keep this country running.

The Struggle

Photo credit: via Flickr, “Struggle” by photographer: Sam Cox

By Caroline Turner

The 12th Annual Women of Color Leadership Conference at UMKC last Friday sold out. It featured keynote speaker Angela Rye and focused on the theme, “United and Strong: Rising through the struggle”.

“The struggle” is a broad word that can be defined at large as the struggle that we all face day to day, our “daily struggles”. For some, the daily struggle can come from situations at work, school, relationships, clumsy hands, forgetful minds, or malfunctioning technology. But for some, the daily struggle is one that is experienced with people on the subway, institutions, personal narratives, glass ceilings and ol’boy club doors, stemming from a deep rooted history.

I am currently reading, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a marvelous book wherein Coates narrates his history to his son, and delves in the mysteries of race. In the book he explains that his son, Samori, was named after Samori Ture, an Emperor of the Wassoulou Empire who resisted the French until his capture. Coates says, “The Struggle is in your name, Samori.” Keeping in mind the experiences and truths of a young black person in the USA that Coates opens up and passes to his son (and to the reader), I can’t help but connect it to this year’s Women of Color Leadership Conference theme.

The struggle that only a woman, a person of color, a woman in leadership, and the combination a woman of color in leadership all face, are unique and real. A diamond in the rough, the flower that breaks through the cold concrete, is what the keynote speaker Angela Rye represents as she rises above and then challenges the struggle as a young black political strategist, activist, and CEO by spreading seeds to others. Understanding what the concrete surrounding us is made of is part of our mission. For women, the cement can begin from being told what we can or cannot do as children, identifying and reacting to injustice as adults, and what lies between and beyond. We are all striving to be our best flower blossoming as big and beautiful as possible, having our diamond light shine bright in the sparkling eyes of all others. This year’s Conference theme reminds us there is strength in numbers and unity, and the help of others is essential and necessary for us to rise through the struggle. As Coates emphasizes in his book, we do not rise alone. There are many along our journey that help us to rise.

This week, if you have a moment to reflect, do not lose sight of your focus. Do not forget what your struggle is for. Remember that, “United and strong, we are rising through the struggle.”

Angela Rye: Modern Day Angela Davis

By Caroline Turner

The keynote speaker for this year’s 12th Annual Women of Color Leadership Conference is Angela Rye, a political powerhouse who is being called “TV’s Wokest Bae.” Named after the legend Angela Davis, she has been living up to the movement of being the change. Angela’s continuous work has been connecting the public with politics, and growing the ever evolving sphere of politics and leadership towards one of equity.

Angela is deeply rooted in political leadership and has a very impressive history with political activism and education. A graduate of University of Washington and Seattle University School of Law, she is now the co-founder, Principal, and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, “an organization that seeks to encourage young professionals in three core areas: economic empowerment, civic engagement, and political involvement.” She has been featured in many publications and outlets as an influential politico, lawyer, and advocate. Angela serves on a number of boards including the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, and the Seattle University School of Law Alumni, and is a member of many groups including the National Bar Association, and has won 21 distinctive awards from 2010-2015. Catch her on CNN as a regular commentator, and read more about her history on her website.

Angela continues to speak at events and on media outlets, reaching local and national audiences. Her conversations are crucial to help new upcoming leaders, and help educate and advocate awareness of the issues that we face in our government and institutions today.

Women’s History Month: An acknowledgement of the invisibility within

by Mirella Flores

Today marks the last day of Women’s History Month for 2016. It is pretty amazing to consider how it all began with celebrating women one day out of the year, and now has turned into a whole month. Women get thirty one days to be acknowledged for their many contributions and accomplishments. To some level this is great, but it is also very upsetting. I could use this blog to discuss the need to celebrate women during the remaining 334 days of the year, but instead I want to acknowledge some women who are still largely invisible within Women’s History Month.

Think of this: We need Women’s History Month because women are still marginalized in our society. What about women who also hold other marginalized identities? Trans women, LBQ women, women of color, women with disabilities, and women with multiple intersecting marginalized identities are all just as much women as all women with privileged identities. I will dedicate this blog to briefly acknowledge some of these women and their contributions.

Disclaimer: I will be grouping these women into trans women, LBQ women, women of color, and women with disabilities groups. However, some of them have multiple marginalized intersecting identities (i.e., trans women of color, women of color with disabilities) and should be acknowledged as such, rather just a part of their identity. 4a721dfc53ac94b28fcf52fd7776afa7

Trans women of color such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were co-founders of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), and are often erased figures of the Stonewall Riot. The Stonewall Riot went down in history as the event that set off what we now know as the LGBT movement; however, Rivera and Johnson’s contributions did not make much news. Johnson was the person credited for starting the riot and Rivera as the first bystander to throw the first bottle at the police. Other trans women like Christine Jorgensen and Renee Richards were also vital in terms of their visibility. These women were open about having had gender-affirming surgeries during a time when the very concept of these surgeries was considered extremely shocking to most. Their efforts helped to advance the very simple idea that trans women should be treated equally. Lynn Conway, a trans woman, is one of the pioneers of modern computer science and an Emeritus professor at the University of Michigan. Trans actresses like Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, and Caroline Cossey broke major ground in the film world decades ago, and women like Laverne Cox and Alex Billings continue to do so now. The list can go on.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I always come back to this saying to remind me that I need to engage in self-care. I have to thank poet, writer, and activitist Audre Lorde for this quote, who also was a lesbian, womanist, and civil rights activist. LBQ women also take a place in entertainment history, for instance women like Josephine Baker, Greta Garbo, Billie Holiday, and Ma Rainey. LBQ women have also made a part of visual art history through Frida Kahlo, Patricia Highsmith, Amrita Sher-Gill, Cristy C Road, just to name a few. How about the sciences? Yup, LBQ women have been in the history of science through women like Margaret Mead, Louise Pearce, and Sofia Kovalesvsky. Even more recently we have women like Dr. Rochelle Diamond, the Chair of National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) and a research biologist at Caltech.

Earlier, I mentioned Sylvia Rivera and Frida Kahlo as women who have made contributions to history. Other Latina women to acknowledge are activists Comandanta Ramona and Rigoberta Menchú. Ramona was a package of fury and revolution as she led the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the 1994 New Year’s Day uprising in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, as the Zapatistas demanded land, jobs, housing, food, health care, and justice and democracy. Menchú is an activist dedicated to bringing recognition to the rights of Guatemala’s indigenous people and promoting indigenous rights in the Guatemala. Menchú was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 and the Prince of Asturias Award in 1998. Latinas have also been part of the literary history, with women like Rosario Castellanos, whose work explored the differences of being both Mexican and a woman, and Claribel Alegría whose poetry was political and encouraged women to rebel against the patriarchy. Alegría’s poem Ars Poetica is particularly poignant and hopeful. Check out this link to learn about the contribution of other Latinas.

In the antebellum period, many Black women became active abolitionists and supporters of Women’s Rights. Sojourner Truth was a former slave, abolitionist, and advocate of Women’s Suffrage. In 1851, she made her famous speech, Ain’t I A Woman? Other Black women suffragist and abolitionists from this time period included Margaretta Forten, Harriet Forten Purvis, and Mary Ann Shadd Cary. I mentioned the contribution of Audre Lorde as a writer, and other Black women who have made contributions to the history of literature include Alice Walker, best known for The Color Purple, and Bell Hooks. Another woman to mention is Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter (read Garza’s own words on the movement here). There is also Karen Byrd, a woman who works to combat the notion that Black hair isn’t beautiful. For this purpose, she created Natural Girls United!, a company that customizes dolls with natural hairstyles.

East and South Asian women have become powerful figures in multiple arenas. Women like Pramila Jayapal, and Kshama Sawant have won city and state elections and been active figures in U.S. politics. Radhika Coomaraswamy is an internationally well-known human rights activist and served as the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. Comedians Aparna Nancherla and Mindy Kaling broke barriers on prime time television shows. Comedian Margaret Cho has become well-known for her stand-up routines through which she critiques social and political problems, especially around race and sexuality. Some Asian American women who have made their mark in executive roles include Keli Lee, Vice-President of Casting for ABC Entertainment Group, and Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO of Pepsi CO. Social activists like Bhairavi Desai, founding member of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, and Rinku Sen, executive director of Race Forward and publisher of Colorlines have become powerful voices for social change and racial justice.

I recognize I did not talk about the contributions of Native American women. This is not to say Native women have not done and continue to greatly contribute to history and society. I would encourage you to read Betty Mae Tiger Jumper and Judge Diane Humetewa‘s blogs. Furthermore, look into Native women’s fight in gaining protection against domestic violence.

March is not only Women’s History Month, it is also Disability Awareness Month. Women with disabilities have been part of history. For instance, Frida Kahlo had spina bifida and due to having polio as a child, one of her legs was thinner than the other. Kahlo drew inspiration from per pain and painted wonderful self-portraits, many of which she depicted herself in a wheelchair. Most of us maybe familiar with Helen Keller’s work. Keller, a deadblind person, made numerous contributions through her 12 published books and political activism in support of women’s rights and labor rights. Women with disabilities have also been a part of entertainment history. For instance, actress Marlee Matlin, who has been deaf since she was 18 months old, won an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for her leading role in Children of Lesser. Dancer and actress Sudha Chandran turned to acting upon losing one of her legs in a car accident. Chandran has been in numerous Indian shows, including Kaahin Kissii Roz and K Street Pali Hill. In terms of her dancing career, Chandran still graces people with her dance and has performed in many countries. Mayuri, a Bollywood film, where Chandran plays herself. Women with disabilities have also been part of the athletic history. Marla Runyan is a track and field, road runner, and marathon runner who’s legally blind. Runyan has remained three-time national champion in the women’s 500 meters race, and she has won gold and silver medals in the Paralympics.

 There are numerous women that deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments. Don’t let Women History Month end on March 31. I encourage you all to continue to acknowledge and celebrate the many contributions and accomplishments of women.

20th Annual Women of Color Networking Soul Food Dinner

By Arzie Umali

Image from Flickr

Networking and soul food – does it get any better?  This weekend, on Sunday, November 6, from 2 – 5 pm, a group of Kansas City area women (including the UMKC Chancellor’s wife, Yvette Morton), will be hosting their 20th Annual Soul Food Dinner at Prairie Star Middle School, 14201 Mission Road in Leawood, Kansas.  For the past 20 years, this group has been gathering women of color from across the Kansas City metro area to enjoy great soul food while networking and finding out about businesses owned by women of color, community happenings, and relevant issues and topics for women of color.

In honor of their 20th Anniversary, the group is looking for 100 women of color to attend the dinner and bring a “written prayer” regardless of religion or creed.  These prayers can contain any request for family, country, health, jobs, education, community, prosperity, neighbors, neighborhoods, safety, or anything else that affects the quality of life that everyone should be living. The prayers will be placed in a prayer chest with hopes that they will be answered.

Everyone is invited to attend this event to meet new friends and to learn about, and support, the endeavors of Kansas City’s women of color. Admission is $5 and the group asks that you also bring your favorite soul food dish to share.  You are also encouraged to bring your business cards, fliers, and brochures. For more information contact Yvette Morton at wocmail@aol.com.

2011 Women of Color Leadership Conference

By Maritza Gordillo

Image copyright: WOCLC, (2011).

The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Division of Diversity, Access & Equity (DDAE) and the Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management will host their 6th Annual Women of Color Leadership Conference (WOCLC) starting on Thursday, April 28th. This conference started off as the Black Women Leaders Conference, which focused on issues affecting black women. Now the conference is devoted to all women of color with the addition of young women in high school and college. WOCLC is free and open to the public and is a great way to gain confidence in areas of education, career development, leadership and health/wellness and how to use that empowerment as a tool in the future. Deputy Chancellor of the DDAE, Karen Dace, PhD., says that they have “…invested in providing a network to improve the participation and involvement of Women of Color in all communities by providing programs that improve communication, collaboration, and action.”

As a Latina college student, I am so glad that we have events that focus on women like me who struggle in many ways to succeed in college and in our future careers. The WOCLC will kick off its three day event with a conference for college students that will be held on April 28th at 9 a.m. and the conference for high school girls will be on April 29th at 9 a.m. The conference for adult women will be on May 12th at 7:30 a.m. All events will be held at the Pierson Auditorium, UMKC University Center, 5000 Holmes.