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BWO renewed, revitalized after 10 years

Ashanti Wallace
Viewpoints Editor

After an almost 10-year hiatus, the Black Women’s Organization (BWO) is active once again. BWO will kick off its conference entitled “Connecting Our Minds, Liberating Our Souls and Breaking Our Chains” tonight.

Originally founded in 1977, BWO is a politically based organization that fosters leadership within black women on campus. The group was extremely active up until its halt in 1995 and had its charter renewed just last year.

In speaking about the need to bring the organization back, current BWO President Emerald Rutledge ’17 said, “We thought that there needed to be a space for a more political position on campus for black women … and hop[ed] that they use the leadership skills they developed in other other leadership positions on campus that are not necessarily person of color organizations.”

BWO treasurer Christina Elliot ’17 added to this sentiment. “[We need more spaces for students to look up] to black women leaders on campus like faculty and staff and asking them how they navigated Wooster or any other predominantly white space,” making it a joint collaborative effort.

However, efforts to reestablish BWO have not been easy. Rutledge and Elliot expressed frustration in having to constantly validate the organization’s purpose and significance to the larger campus community.

Elliot affirmed the importance of multicultural student organizations like the Women of Images and The Men of Harambee, but added that black women “also need to be political as well and see how [these skills] go hand in hand with surviving at Wooster and life in general.”

Organizing the conference, on the other hand, turned out to be a much easier feat. For instance, Rutledge said that it was “almost too easy” booking the keynote speaker Jamilah Lemieux, senior editor of Ebony Magazine, whom she originally made contact with after following her on Twitter. The same was said of securing participants for the poetry performance entitled Black Womyn Magic Show.

Headlining the show will be CUPSI winner and world renowned poet Crystal Valentine, who is New York City’s current youth poet laureate. Alongside Valentine, Wooster alumna Ashley Jones ’14, Caira Lee ’16 and the newly formed RA Poetry Collective will also be performing.

In addition to original BWO board members, Wooster can expect to be visited by some more recent alum. Among them include Antwan Chambers ’14, Deja Moss ’14, Bria Price ’14 and Erin Johnson ’14, all members who had an orginal hand in bringing back BWO prior to graduating just a few years ago.

Excited about the collaboration of so many different figures, Rutledge said, “bringing all these people back on campus is a totally different energy and hopefully coming out with some kind of liberation is exactly what we need.”

Students seem to be equally excited about such an important event. Senior Anastasia Etienne said, “I am excited to attend the BWO’s black women’s conference because it allows women of color to collectively organize in a space where we can grow and uplift each other.”

The conference will begin this evening with a documentary viewing of What Happened to Nina Simone? in Kauke 035 at 7:30 p.m.

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