Influential women

Continuing with the celebrations of Women’s History Month, the Organization of Latin American Students hosted “United Together,” a forum that gave students a chance to reflect on and praise the women who have shaped their lives. The even took place last Wednesday in the U.C. Lounge.

The event got under way as members of OLAS passed around blank sheets of paper with the heading “My Woman of Influence.” Participants filled out the sheet and began passing around the room. According to Cultural Committee Chair Lisa Algarin, the activity aimed to “get in touch with women who have influenced our lives. Passing it around makes the name of the person more vivid and human.”

What began as an informal gathering of students turned into an emotional time for those present. When the floor was opened for testimonials, students proudly told of women who overcame the odds, displayed strength and gave them guidance and support. One student told how her mother pushed her to go to college, even as her health declined. She eventually passed away. Another student beamed as she related the story of how her grandmother raised six children in the midst of the poverty and discrimination that was commonplace in Mississippi in the early 1900s. Still another related how his mother gave him a chance to live his life fully even when faced with single parenthood as a result of his father’s incarceration.

A poetry reading followed the discussion. The poem, “A Strong Woman, A Woman of Strength,” provided more material for the second activity, in which group members were asked to think of one word to describe the character of their woman of influence. Words like “mother,” “life,” “courage” and “teacher” rained down from all corners of the room.

Even though the event sought to honor women, many men were in attendance, which was not lost on audience member Felicia Legier. “It’s nice to see men coming here and giving praise to their moms and grandmas. It’s kind of surprising in a way.”

Algarin was satisfied with the effect of the event, noting the power that women have in society. “I think events like this are nice because women in general sometimes focus on what they lack rather than on who they are and what they have done.”

She ended the evening with a thought that summarized the experience for all of those in attendance. “I think women’s history should not be assigned a month, but rather, it should be celebrated every day.”