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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Chicagoans set to appear at upcoming Black Women Rise conference in Florida
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2018-01-09

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Black Women Rise ( BWR ) will hold its second annual conference March 16-17 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The multigenerational, multicultural event centers the expertise, issues and leadership of Black women.

Last year's conference—with Dr. Angela Davis as keynote speaker—had more than 200 participants from 20 cities, Washington, D.C. and Canada. They ranged in age from 14-83.

Chicago is represented among conference organizers and presenters; including performance poet/writer E. Nina Jay, educator/performer Dr. Carla ( C.C. ) Carter, retired police Captain Lillie Harris, Northwestern University History Professor Dr. Leslie Harris, writer/artist Jorjet Harper and activist/organizer Toni Armstrong Jr.

Friday will feature Carter, OUTMUSIC award-winning singer Nedra Johnson, and Jorjet Harper jointly presenting "Black Women History-Makers," an historical-cultural slideshow with live music and spoken word. Firebrand performers May Reign and Stacyeann Chin take the stage in the evening.

Saturday will include the keynote speech by Pierce County Superior Court Judge Helen Whitener and a multigenerational panel featuring Whitener and activist Danielle Allen, author Jewelle Gomez, Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith and BWR Youth Leadership Development Team Lead and blogger Chanice Lee; evening concert headliners include comedian Karen Williams and drummer Ubaka Hill with the Drumsong Orchestra, emceed by Rev. Candy Holmes and Rev. Darlene Garner.

On Sunday morning, there will be an interfaith worship service led by Rev. Dr. Charmayne Davis and other Black female clergy leaders.

"I feel very excited to be among a very small fraction of Black women thinkers and feelers, migrating to one space, hungry for each other and yearning to listen and heal and hold space with one another and feel powerful together," said Jay. "Of course, I take Chicago with me everywhere I go. I will be presenting a portion of my film, Body of Rooms, which is an oral delivery of my book, Body of Rooms. This is one of the hardest projects I have ever worked on. I have made it in such a way that it renders me feeling naked in any room where it might be present."

"This is a solution-based conference where Black women and our allies examine, reconstruct, and implement language and skills to tackle social injustices in an impactful way that ensures that our narratives are historically included," said Carter. "I am attending and supporting this conference because it intentionally focuses on the issues around the intersections of Black women—including sexual orientation and gender identity, class, immigration status, age, religion, our emotional health, our histories and more."

Captain Harris said this conference is "critical to ensure that our next generation of Black women, our youth, are empowered for a better future and quality of life for us all. My presentation will focus on empowering the community—especially our youth."

"We learned that last year's conference inspired both younger and older women who wanted to continue learning, conversing and sharing their ideas on topics that were of mutual interest," said conference organizer/presenter Dr. Delores Walters. "BWR 2018 highlights 18 workshop sessions, including Mothers Against Murderers, Black Lives Matter/#Say Her Name, Community Policing, and Sexual Abuse in the Black Church. We anticipate that coalitions of community activists and scholars will be energized into transformative leadership."

Conference co-producer/website manager Sonya O. Pressley agrees. "I hope women are inspired and transformed to take positive action in their community, within their capacity, however they can, just as they did in March 2017. We had not planned on hosting another conference, but by verbal request and survey feedback from 2017 we knew we had to orchestrate another BWR conference of phenomenal performers and presenters. The delivery format for this year's conference will be the same, including panels and participatory workshops."

"There is a resurgence of white dominance which is white-centered, anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ," said conference organizer Denise Walker. "Everything we have ever fought for is under attack. We are living in a time where America does not care that we are female, people of color or LBGTQ. I thought no one would come to last year's conference because people were hurting so much, but I was wrong."

"Historically Black women have been intimately involved in major human-rights movements addressing the elimination of systemic racial, economic and misogynistic barriers," said Whitener. "Yet history has been predominantly silent on our contributions and accomplishments. As Black LGBTQI women, silence surrounds our stories. But that silence allows others to define and control who we are and how we will be seen. Silence allows others to tell our story without our input. I am a Black gay lesbian who will always live my truth, and my truth requires that I be visible, vocal and vigilant; because today Silence Equals Death."

Lee, a 15-year-old Fort Lauderdale student whose blog ( The Melanin Diary ) has a national following, raised $1000 toward bringing Black female high school activists to the conference.

"Last year, I was the youngest person in attendance," said Lee. "I had such an amazing time that I wanted to help other young women have the same wonderful experience I did."

Tickets are on a sliding scale from $125-$275 and include all programming plus lunch on both days www.blackwomenrise.net/registration-tickets2018.html .

For more information visit www.blackwomenrise.net/ .


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