The struggle and accomplishments of black women in America were discussed last Wednesday at the first ever Women’s History Month Forum.
The Florida A&M University History Association, the Center for Equity and Cultural Diversity, and the Friends of the FAMU Black Archives hosted the event.
“We wanted to address women’s issues and their history during Women’s History Month,” said Anthony Mitchell, president of the FAMU History Association.
The forum opened with a slide presentation set to music. The slide show honored women such as abolitionist Harriet Tubman, tennis star and FAMU graduate Althea Gibson, educator Mary McLeod Bethune and former dean of SBI Sybil Mobley.
The forum also included a panel discussion on the state of black women today. The first question directed to the panel asked whether black women are still strong compared to their ancestral counterparts.
“You have to be very strong,” said Dr. Sharon Dennard, director of the Sakkara Youth Institute Independent School and Amen-Ra’s Bookshop owner. “It is in fact, only the strong that survive.”
Brenda Jarmon, chairwoman of the FAMU School of Social Work, also contributed to the discussion. Jarmon said a person’s outlook and approach to life are the determining factors when considering one’s destiny.
“Attitude determines altitude in life and how far you will go,” Jarmon said. “I believe that strong black women have to be positive.”
Questions were raised about hip hop and the way in which many believe it portrays black women. Some panelists termed the popular genre as a demeaning depiction of black women.
“This hip hop, this [degradation] of women is deplorable” Jarmon said.
Graduate student Daleah Goodwin agreed with Jarmon and said glorifying such negative actions in music is undermining the black community.
“I think the idea of a pimp being cool is unacceptable,” Goodwin said. “Behavior like that on no account is acceptable.”
As the discussion shifted from music to motherhood, the panelists warned black women to be aware of the types of men to whom their children are exposed.
“As women it is very important for us to watch the men who we bring around our children,” Andrea Oliver said.
Graduate student Marion Coleman cautioned mothers about their decisions they make concerning their children. Coleman said what is done now will impact the future lives of an entire race for years to come.
“The choices you are making now will affect us for generations to come,” she said.
The forum closed with the panelists sharing advice about African-American attitudes.
“Remove the word can’t from your vocabulary,” Coleman said.
“We are Africans not Africant’s. There is nothing we cannot do.”
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