March 2, 2015
Las Vegas, N.M. – An International Women’s Day Celebration at Highlands University March 5 aims to raise awareness and inspire social activism on issues ranging from challenges facing African American women today to reproductive justice.
Highlands University students will be at the heart of the celebration, whether they are reading original poetry, presenting on panel discussions, or performing traditional Polynesian dance and hip-hop.
“International Women’s Day is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the contributions of women and inspire political engagement,” said Kristie Ross, Highlands history professor and co-director of the Women’s Studies Program. “Historically, when women come together it can be a powerful force for change.”
The free public event will be from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the university’s Sala de Madrid building at 801 University Ave. The celebration includes international food as well as Northern New Mexico favorites.
Lauren Harris, a sociology junior who minors in women’s studies, is the emcee for the celebration and will present on the panel. She is African-American.
“My panel discussion, “Black Girls Matter,” is about bringing awareness to how women of color also experience police brutality,” Harris said. “Research shows that the Black Lives Matter movement focuses primarily on men of color, and you don’t hear about how women are affected by police brutality. I’m concerned for both my daughters and my son because they are African-American. They’re young now, but will grow up in a society that treats them differently because of the color of their skin.”
The university’s Women’s Studies Program, Women’s Center, and Women for a Change club are sponsoring the celebration, along with Casa de Cultura, a Las Vegas nonprofit. The celebration is one of thousands of events being held worldwide to mark International Women’s Day on March 8.
“Women’s issues are still such a big part of cultural dynamics internationally, and this celebration is also a reminder of the work that needs to be done,” said sociology professor Erika Derkas, who co-directs the Women’s Studies Program with Ross. “Femicide – the systemic killing of women – is very much a part of global societies. For instance, an estimated 500 to 2,000 women have disappeared along the Mexico-U.S. border, and last year in Nigeria, Boko Haram abducted 200 school girls, most of whom are still missing.”
Derkas added that women and girls are still trafficked into the sex trade in the U.S.
Ross said that cultural sexism still affects women’s everyday lives in the United States, but is more subtle than sexism in other parts of the world where women are overtly prohibited from certain public spaces and jobs.
“I like to give the sexism example of how even after almost 200 years of activism in the U.S., only 18 percent of the members of Congress are women,” Ross said.
The program for the evening includes:
Panel Discussion – In addition to Harris, presenters include Emily Schneider, M.D, an OB/GYN fellow in family planning at the University of New Mexico, on the topic of reproductive justice; and Las Vegas activists Cordia Sammeth and Dianne Lindsay on the topic of local opposition to hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – for oil and gas extraction.
Poetry Reading – Highlands University students will read their original poetry on themes such as women’s empowerment, celebrating motherhood, and neo-soul. Poets include Harris, as well as media arts senior Devon Allen, sociology senior Monna Anaya, English graduate student Katherine Whitney, and media arts graduate Shanea Strachan.
Children of Highlands University students will read the Maya Angelou poem, “Still I Rise.”
Dance – Master of social work student Tina Sione and other Polynesian students will perform traditional dances, and the HU Dance Entourage club will perform hip-hop numbers.
Silent Auction – This will feature faculty, student and community artwork, along with jewelry and accessories.