Bridges: Making A Change For Women In Poverty

My first event as a Kent Campus student was the TEDxFSCJ Women: Bridges, held on November 2, 2017 in the Kent Campus auditorium. Upon entry, I received a warm welcome at the door from several of the other participants. There were tables filled with items such as key chains, brochures, and business cards if you were looking to get involved in the programs listed. Other tables included refreshments and drinks, which I helped myself to. Surprisingly, I ran into two of my old teachers from 8th grade and spoke with them briefly before entering the auditorium.

It wasn’t extremely crowded, but I would say that there may have been about 40 people in total, not including either the hosts or panelists. After finding my seat in the very front of the auditorium, pen and pad in hand, I waited patiently with everyone else for the event to start. We were greeted by two young ladies, who looked as though they were students as well. They introduced themselves, welcomed us to the event, and gave us a brief description of what the event was about. After that, we were shown a video onstage. The video consisted of different speakers (mostly women and one man) who spoke of the struggles women face in both America and in other countries. All speeches were very heartfelt, powerful, and sad.

The stories ranged from experiences with sexual harassment to being separated from family at a young age. Each story seemed to get more and more devastating. Out of all the speakers, two in particular fascinated me the most. The first one was Mwende Katwiwa, a poet, activist, and freedom fighter. Her speech was so touching and relatable. She spoke of always wanting to be a mother when she was younger, but at 26, the changes in society changed her mind. She spoke about how she feared her children would be judged on the basis of race and how it could lead them losing their life like other young, black children or adults. It wasn’t just her speech that touched me, but also the emotions she expressed while giving it. She expressed fear and anger, and she even shed a tear.

The other speaker I enjoyed listening to was Clemantine Wamariya, an author and a human rights advocate. She shared her experience about dealing with death as a child and how she and her siblings had been sent away by her parents. She was originally sent to her grandparents and then was sent away again to be on her own with her siblings. She spoke about how they became refugees for years. She also shared how she was reunited with her family in 2016 on the Oprah show, but how she also felt anger and pain because of all the time lost with them.

All speakers left a huge impact on me and I gave a lengthy applause, along with everyone else after the video ended. Soon after, five ladies approached the stage. We were greeted by Courtney Weatherby-Hunter, the panelists were introduced later. They were Dawn Gilman, CEO of Changing Homelessness, Teresa Miles, Executive Director of the Women’s Center of Jacksonville, Dr. Gail Patin, CEO of Hubbard House and Sheneda Jones, a current FSCJ student. After taking their seats onstage, the women were asked a series of questions, such as their favorite speaker on the video shown, different ways to help women in poverty and those that suffer from domestic violence, and ways their organizations help out women in need. They all had very uplifting and powerful responses, and I could even relate to Jones, who grew up in poverty and who also received a GED.

By the end of the event, I had completely understood the whole purpose of it. This was an opportunity to encourage people to get involved, to help out our fellow women in need, even by doing something small. We were all given information on how to get involved with the organizations some of panelists participated in. The event closed with a huge “Thank You” by the panelists and hosts. I walked out of the auditorium with a huge smile and a whole new outlook on helping those in need. My overall experience with the Bridges event was very inspiring and I look forward to attending more events in the future.

By Laquisha Toby

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