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CFW panel talks race, feminism
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Melissa Wasserman
2015-02-17

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Chicago Foundation for Women ( CFW ) kicked off the new year and its 30th anniversary year with "Race & Feminism: Where Do You Stand?" at the Chicago Cultural Center on Feb. 10.

"Race & Feminism: Where Do You Stand?" welcomed more than 180 attendees in GAR Hall and was the first of a series of events focused on race, gender and social justice.

"The element we're trying to create throughout this year is a continuous conversation," said Monique Brunson Jones, director of programs at CFW. "That's what the 30th year stands for. It's elevating the issues that effect women and girls across Chicago and making sure we put that into a format that's understandable. [We're] trying to hit as many different communication formats as we can and as many different audiences as we can."

Sparking the conversation and panel, in 2013, blogger and writer Mikki Kendall started #solidarityisforwhitewomen on Twitter to vent her frustration about the discrimination women of color experience within the feminist movement. CFW states, it is interested in further understanding how the community uses race and feminism to move the women's equality agenda forward.

"The thing for this year is to really celebrate the accomplishments of the past and sustain the future," said Jones. "A big part of the year is fundraising to make sure we can still answer the call when non profit organizations ask for the money. That's a huge part of the year, but it's also that leadership pipeline and making sure women across Chicago know where they fit, know what their talents are and how they can implement those talents in each space that we choose to take up for this year."

Along with Kendall, the diverse Feb. 10 panel included Joy Messinger, deputy director of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Dr. Ann Russo, associate professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at DePaul University, and Veronica Arreola, assistant director of the University of Illinois, Chicago's Center for Research on Women and Gender. Award-winning journalist, teacher and non-profit executive Sylvia Ewing served as the moderator.

The multigenerational, multicultural discussion examined the intersection of race and feminism, two topics, Jones said, "CFW is really strong in talking about."

"We need to continue to have conversations and continue to actually have them with young people if we're saying we want to include youth voice and lift up youth voice and youth power," said Messinger who was brought on to represent the millennial point of view. "Another thing I really wanted to bring to the conversation, and I tend to bring to all my conversations, especially in queer communities where femphobia and misogyny just runs rampant, is this idea that feminism shouldn't leave femininity behind. There's still a way for people to be fem, to be feminine and to have that associated with strength and power that I think really gets left out of so many conversations; in feminism in general, but queer communities especially."

The conversation was not restricted to the room where the event was held. Along with a few pre-selected topics, an interactive component was in affect as most of the questions the panelists discussed were obtained via Twitter using #areuafeminist and Facebook throughout the event.

"I think it's easy and probably the best way to get to the answers of what people want to know," Jones said of using social-media platforms to collect questions."

"As an African-American woman and as a feminist and as someone who is a humanist, I think these conversations are critical and we need to look in our past and really reflect on the ways our lives intersect and when an organization like the Chicago Foundation for Women takes the leadership in convening these dialogues, it really serves everybody and the panel was one of the most exciting that I've worked with as someone who does a lot of these types of events," Ewing said. "I think the audience took something away and I hope that we've built another community just by building the conversations."

To see the discussion, follow #areuafeminist on Twitter and for more information, visit: www.cfw.org/page.aspx .


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