Monday, October 26, 2009


Kudos and much appreciation to Dr. Arlette Miller-Smith, St. John Fisher professor and “Go, Tell Michelle” contributor for organizing an extraordinary program last Wednesday evening (October 21st) entitled, “SUMMIT of SISTERS”. This special symposium, an extension of her Women and Gender Studies Senior Seminar – Assumed Positions: Re/dis/uncovering Resistance & Resilience in the Black Female Body – brought community members and students together to identify and analyze the issues, challenges, achievements, experiences and resistance strategies used by herstorical (sic) and contemporary African American women. Nearly 85 women and men attended the program and I was particularly pleased and impressed by the 15 young women and their advisor, who drove two hours from SUNY Courtland to attend the symposium. Mrs. Donald E. Bain, wife of St. John Fisher College’s President as well as the official Monroe County Historian also attended this special event.

Dr. Miller-Smith set the stage by offering the background for the course. Dr. Margie Lovett-Scott and Rev. Iris Banister, guest presenters, addressed the issues of health and the significance of religion in the lives of Black women. Dr. Miller-Smith’s students presented the outcomes of their oral history interviews with three “community torch bearers”. We would call them “Uncrowned Queens” and in fact, the biographies of these women will be submitted to the Uncrowned Queens Institute for our digital archive. Again, I want to acknowledge the importance of these students’ research and to thank them and Dr. Miller-Smith for designing this course, which has such a positive impact on the community as well as the students. Through their oral history interviews and papers, the students are preserving the biographical histories of women, who might not otherwise have their histories documented.

I’m pleased and proud to have been invited to participate in this major educational presentation as a guest speaker also. The topic of my presentation was the Phyllis Wheatley Club, Buffalo’s oldest affiliate of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. Founded in 1899, the members of the Club exemplified the strategic resistance, representation and resilience approaches that have sustained Black women in this country. Together, with the other presenters, I think we fulfilled the goals and objectives of this symposium. Although the program was slated to end at 8:30pm, people did not want to leave and we continued the discussion for at least a half hour past the official end of the symposium.

It was a full evening! Prior to the symposium, a reading from “Go, Tell Michelle” was held from 5:30 to 6:30pm. Dr. Miller-Smith and I were joined by fellow contributors, Janeen Ceparano Wilkins and Dr. Sharon Amos, who also drove to Rochester from Buffalo. Over sixty women attended the reading and although we had little time to chat following this session, a number of women purchased the book and said how excited they were to hear us read the letters and to learn about the history of this publication.

(artwork - courtesy of Cheryl Olney)

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