Black History month at MU ends with HERstory event

The event included opinions about what it is like for young black women in the workforce and college.

Uplifting messages for young black women in college were on display Tuesday for the Black Women in History and Culture: HERstory event.

The event was held in the Walt Disney Room at Memorial Union.

The event included panels of students and community leaders answering questions ranging from handling pressure and adjusting from college life to working communities to keeping a singular identity throughout one's career.

Some of the student panelists were recipients of the Mizzou 39 award, such as senior Lakeisha Williams, and recipients of the Gates Millennium award, such as senior Bianca Aaron.

Freshman Shemiah Curry said initially settling into college life was difficult, but she had to get over being isolated within her own race — a method that others should try.

“I think it’s important to get out of a number mentality in order to make a change and to build social skills in order to make it in college,” she said. “Complaints have to be followed by change, which has to happen within yourself and knowing what works best for you.”

The community panel consisted of leaders ranging from professors to directors of programs at universities around the Columbia area.

Some of the panelists were Yvonne Chamberlain, director of leadership and diversity at Stephens College, and Nadege Uwase, who serves as executive director of the Global Issues Leadership Development Program. It also consisted of a current student La-Nee Bridewell, who heads a local organization designed to help with being a single mother in college and working communities.

The most spirited responses came when the professional panel was asked what they would say to their older or younger selves. The women stressed that they would tell their younger selves to listen to their hearts and the lessons the older generation taught them.

Regarding her past, Bridewell said she wished she had others to guide her and that she had events like HERstory to inspire her.

“I would want those who attended to learn that no one is weak or bad and that the thoughts they have are not strange and their feelings are valid,” she said. “If I could talk to my former self I would tell her that people have the same thoughts as I was having and that you must learn to grow and cope with these things.”

Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, director of diversity and outreach initiatives, said this event could provide the boost that diversity events need to get more spotlight.

“We want to capitalize with the momentum that we’ve gained through this event,” she said. “It’s important to do more mentoring because although young black girls can be impressionable, they have to be comfortable in their own skin in order to be pushing forward.”

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