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Learning What Change Looks Like at On the Move: Forum to Advance Women

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The 5th annual On the Move Forum began by honoring the artists of Bay Path. Curated by Ashley Pereira, MS, Executive Assistant & Manager of Academic Operations, the exhibit featured art owned by Bay Path including digital art and photography by students Cora Swan and Le Ngyuen Thi. Along with the moving images celebrating women, quotes from inspiring leaders were dispersed throughout to remind attendees of the purpose of the day. “If we do not lift up women and families, everyone will fall short.” - Kamala Harris

The welcome video, narrated and produced by On the Move founder Professor Janine Fondon, included reflections from Natalia Muñoz, News Director for Holyoke Media, and Amihan Matias, Founder of And Still We Rise. This welcome set the tone for the event discussing the many ways women can create change and a lasting impact. 

In addition to marking On the Move’s first year being virtual, the 5th annual event was the first one attended by Bay Path University President Sandra Doran, J.D. “I have witnessed firsthand the power of higher education for women,” shared President Doran. “My grandmother attended Barnard, a women’s college in New York City, and my mother returned to school to earn her degree at a women’s college as an adult learner. With such personal role models, I felt called to be the President of Bay Path.”

Following President Doran’s remarks, attendees viewed a special video message from State Senator Eric. P. Lesser, a Longmeadow native, to congratulate the women of Western Mass on their many achievements and celebrated On the Move as an especially important forum in this challenging year. “We know that women who have bared the brunt of this period need to be at the center of the recovery of this period,” Lesser shared. “And I know Bay Path and everybody assembled at this event is gonna be at the center of that.”

Next up was remarks from Dr. Ariana Curtis, a Western Mass native, who is currently the Director of Content for Smithsonian’s new initiative on systemic racism called Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past. She stressed the most pressing issue in advancing women by posing this question: “How do we present women in ways that are inclusive, diverse, authentic, and sustainable far beyond Women’s History Month?” Her presentation honored all types of women, including nods to poet Audre Lourde and Cuban singer Celia Cruz. Her hope is for us to celebrate everyday women daily, such as the women teachers, entrepreneurs, and doctors of the world. 

Attendees then heard from Kamilah Avant, NAMIC (National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications) New England President on continuing NAMIC’s mission in ensuring their industry reflects the world. “We are committed to this excellence by inspiring, connecting, and elevating those creatives (many who are outstanding women) doing the work, making strides, and achieving their maximum potential both personally and professionally.”

After moderator Nikai Fondon thanked Lesser, Curtis, and Avant for their remarks, Dr. Demetria Shabazz introduced her video featuring poems by poets and Bay Path students Aprell May and Nicole M. Young along with pictures of groundbreaking women in the Bay Path community.

Keynote speaker and author Dr. Laura Lovett of the University of Pittsburgh presented on her new book, With Her Fist Raised: Dorothy Pitman Hughes and the Transformative Power of Black Community Activism. Attendees enjoyed going through the history of the feminist movement, recognizing the racial inequalities within the fight for gender equality, and learning how to be an intersectional feminist in modern day. Dr. Lovett also expressed her excitement in the chance to interview Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes when they reprised their famous fists held-high photograph for Gloria’s 75th birthday. She fittingly ended her presentation with images of Dorothy and Gloria’s original photoshoot. “This contact sheet shows you the power and the vision of an interracial sisterhood and the notion of what we can do from here.”

After Dr. Lovett’s moving presentation, attendees were sorted into breakout rooms to discuss topics introduced by Dr. Andrea Hickson-Martin. Some of the top concerns in the obstacles to advancing women were the difficulty of just getting in the door, being given opportunities, and securing funds for child care and adult care. Many women are juggling taking care of their elderly parents, younger children, and trying to have a successful career. When asked how we can help women, the consensus among all breakout rooms was sharing resources, lifting each other up, and being advocates for one another. 

To end the inclusive and eye-opening event, Professor Janine Fondon announced opportunities coming up for Bay Path community members to earn scholarships to help chase their dreams in advancing women. Anonymous women donated money to be distributed to  talented and motivated young women in the community including artist Cora Swan ‘23, podcaster and entrepreneur Nikai Fondon, local high school senior Anna Lee Thompson, yoga instructor and entrepreneur Allison Zaczynski ‘20, and the business Olive Tree Books in hopes of encouraging reading in the community. 

The On the Move Forum planning committee thanks all the attendees for the enthusiastic participation and wishes everyone a Happy Women’s History Month!