The motto “Be Uplifted. Be Inspired. Be Empowered” guided the Week of Women Speakers Feb. 27 through March 2.
Monday’s original presenter, actress Elaine Miles, could not attend due to illness, so assistant professor of American Indian studies Jeanette Weaskus filled in. She spoke mainly of her struggles attending 17 years of college while raising several children.
The Black Women’s Caucus hosted Luzviminda Carpenter’s presentation on Tuesday.
Carpenter graduated from WSU in 2001 with a bachelor's degree in English. Carpenter has worked with the Ladies First Program and created the Women Who Rock conference. She currently works in social services in Seattle.
“I’ve been very humbled as a community organizer,” she said.
Carpenter had a more interactive presentation than the other presenters.
“I don’t do lectures," Carpenter said."I do community workshops."
She asked the audience to think of African American women who made an impact on society, then place their names on a timeline in the back of the room. She also had audience members write down common stereotypes of homosexuals, African Americans and women.
“(Carpenter) is a youth and women’s advocate,” said Brittney Rogers, Coalition for Women Students chair and senior psychology major. “She spells women with a ‘y’ to take the man out of it. She’s empowering.”
On Wednesday, writer and performer Yadira De La Riva performed her thesis monologue “One Journey: Stitching Stories Across the Mexican ‘American’ Border.” De La Riva recently obtained her master’s degree from New York University. She creates, performs and organizes performances that represent and empower marginalized voices nationally and internationally.
Thursday’s speaker was Shared Hope International founder Linda Smith. Her book, “Renting Lacy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Children,” is named after a girl who was sold into prostitution when she was young.
According to Smith’s book, Shared Hope International was founded in November of 1998 to fight sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, and to serve the long-term restoration needs of women and children in crisis.
Smith said the average age in the United States for girls to be trafficked is 13. Las Vegas has the largest child market in the U.S.
Her presentation was hosted by the YWCA of WSU. To learn more about Shared Hope International, visit www.sharedhope.org.
On Friday, Hyeok Kim, the presenter hosted by the Association of Pacific and Asian Women, spoke about her role as a contributor to the Asian and Pacific Islander community.
Kim’s family, originally from Korea, moved to Federal Way, in the 1980s after her father died. Her mother worked as a night janitor in order to support Kim and her two older sisters. When Kim was almost 11, her mother passed away from lung cancer.
“My mother broke down,” Kim said of a moment they shared the month before her mother’s death. “She couldn’t stop the cancer and there was no other parent to take care of her kids.”
Kim said adversity happens all the time and people learn from it.
“It’s not a question of if and when you’ll experience adversity,” she said. “The experience forces you to grow up … adversity makes us stronger than we realize at the time. The struggle itself (is) important. I wouldn’t give up that struggle for anything.”
Kim described herself as a slacker in junior high and high school. She feels lucky that she got a four-year scholarship to Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY, because college was her biggest growing experience.
“The first year was very bumpy,” she said, referencing her culture shock and homesickness. “But what else can you do in the middle of nowhere but study? College … was transformative.”
Kim imparted some lessons she has learned throughout life.
“If someone messes up at work my natural instinct is to apologize for the situation,” she said. “It’s a natural instinct in women to be humble, self-deprecating and play the mediator in society. These aren’t bad qualities in themselves, but we can’t take on all the problems in the world.”
She also said it took her a long time to realize she was competent in her line of work.
“(At first), I exaggerated my inner confidence,” she said, emphasizing that she did not lie, but simply projected confidence even when she did not feel it. “When all else fails, just fake it.”
Kim currently works on President Barack Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to improve those groups' access to federal programs.
To learn more about the commission, visit www.aapi.gov.