In May 2010, the Women of Color Network (WOCN) hosted the first Women of Color Network Call to Action Institute and Conference in New Orleans, LA. (You can read more about this in a recent post here.) CALCASA had the opportunity to participate and provide support at the conference and I had the privilege to participate as a co-facilitator during the week long events at the Conference. The WOCN Call to Action Institute and Conference offered a variety of great workshops as well as opportunities to network and meet people many of us have only spoken to via teleconferences. I was also fortunate to co-facilitate three separate workshops as well as help co-facilitate a “Critical Conversations” session with a number of other great people at the conference.
There was opportunity for dialogues related to issues of racism within the movement as well as men’s involvement in the movement and the current, racist anti-immigrant/Latino law in AZ (SB 1070).  Being in New Orleans post-Katrina, and currently dealing with the ramifications of the BP oil spill on their shores, it seemed like an appropriate setting for these types of conversations and dialogues.  On a personal level, some of the highlights of the Institute and Conference included:

  • Loretta Ross from SisterSong.   Loretta was the featured plenary speaker during the Women of Color Institute and, as always, she provided a powerful and entertaining presentation. Loretta talked about the importance of the work we are doing as well as how we can continue to support each other and our communities.
  • Co-facilitating the “Intergenerational Mentoring” workshop with Angela Sutton from the WOCN. It was a great opportunity to co-present with Angela Sutton during a workshop focused on the importance of mentoring women of color advocates to ensure their retention within the movement.  We discussed the importance of developing mentee and mentor relationships organically and the roles and responsibilities of both in order to maintain a healthy mentoring relationship.
  • Co-facilitating “Critical Conversations” with women and men of color. A few of us were  asked to co-facilitate an hour and a half dialogue with women and men of color focused on defining what violence, safety planning and prevention work means to communities of color.  Simultaneously, during the conversations with people of color; mainstream allies had a facilitated discussion on what their roles as allies to people of color are and what that looked like.   After the separate dialogues, both groups rejoined as one  and shared the information discussed during their individual conversations.
  • Co-facilitating “Building an Inclusive Work Environment” workshop with CALCASA staff (Ellen, Villena, Althea) and Caucus Reps (Yesenia and Christina) We presented a interactive workshop on methods in which agencies can move into becoming more inclusive environments for existing staff and future staff.  We discussed what an inclusive work environment meant and what it would look and feel like in an agency. The workshop generated great discussions and idea/resource sharing!
  • Co-facilitated the workshop “SA and Underserved Communities” with Yesenia Curiel and Christina Vasquez (WOC South and North Caucus Representatives) Discussed SA through the lens of communities of color and the unique barriers to reporting.   This conversation highlighted the issues around the fact that sexual assault is not discussed and is considered a taboo issue as well as the hypersexualization of women of color.   Participants were broken up into groups and discussed how centers are currently serving communities of color, what they would like those services to look like and what steps they may be able to take to get there. Great resource sharing among participants!