The Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) was proud to partner with The Home for Little Wanderers for the inaugural Women of Color Conference held at Wellesley College in June 2018. This program -- geared toward providers who work with thousands of at-risk youth and families across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts -- highlighted the importance of self-care, offered opportunities for relaxation, renewal, and inspiration, and provided a context in which to view the critical work done on behalf of young women and girls of color.
Over the past four years, The Home, in collaboration with Brandeis University, has held a Young Men of Color Conference for 12-17 year-old boys and young men. This new full-day conference for women will, in the future, focus on girls and young women, but was deliberately designed to commence this year with a focus on the women of color who advocate for and work directly with the community.
“We have the opportunity today to think about how we as professionals are going to contribute to the overall wellbeing of young women and girls,” said Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Ph.D., the emcee and recently retired president and CEO of The Home. “Most of us have chosen to do this work because we believe in the fundamental capabilities of young women and girls of color, and know that with the right amount of support, care, and allocation of resources, they can achieve at the highest levels and they deserve to be given the opportunity to do so.”
The conference was divided into two components -- a morning session for women of color only and afternoon workshops for staff of color affinity group allies to join with women of color. Wallace-Benjamin, a member of the WCW Council of Advisors and a Wellesley College alumna (Class of ’75) was joined by other dynamic speakers -- the Rev. Liz Walker, M.Div., who offered a keynote that included reflections on her decades of work in journalism and ministry; Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 executive director of WCW, who led a mindfulness and meditation exercise, Paula Johnson, M.D., president of Wellesley College who offered the luncheon address, and several other women of color presenters and performers.
WCW scholars lent their expertise during afternoon workshops which included, “Body and Culture,” by LaShawnda Lindsay-Dennis, Ph.D., WCW research scientist; “Equity & Equality in the Classroom and Beyond,” by Kamiliah Drummond-Forrester, M.A., director of Open Circle at WCW; “Finding Courage, Self-Confidence, and Role Modeling,” by Mia Roberts, vice president of Strategic Partnerships at Big Sister Association of Greater Boston; and “Impact of Social Media (dating and bullying) and Television,” with Linda Charmaraman, Ph.D., WCW research scientist.
“I was excited when Joan and The Home asked the Wellesley Centers for Women to partner to offer this conference,” Maparyan said, “because both our organizations are committed to social justice and human wellbeing. While our approach is through research, theory, and action programs, and theirs is through direct service, we are working together to amplify our efforts to create a better world for women and girls, families and communities.”
The Home serves children and youth from birth to 22 and makes a positive impact on over 7,000 lives each year through a network of services including behavioral health, therapeutic residential and special education, adoption, and foster care. In addition, a number of innovative programs provide specialized assistance to youth transitioning to adulthood from state systems of care. The Women of Color Conference was designed to engage Boston’s most influential women working with children and families living in at-risk circumstances.
“Our work has given us the great opportunity to see that the young women and girls we serve have access to caring adults that can be those mentors and supporters for them. We have the opportunity to pay it forward for the young women and girls we serve, but also the young women and girls in our personal lives,” Wallace-Benjamin told the attendees.