Local activists, organizers and business owners spoke about the ups and downs of their work in the community and the outlook for the region at a panel on International Women’s Day .
With origins dating back to the early 1900s, before being officially recognized by the United Nations in 1975, International Women’s Day is a celebration of the achievements of women around the world while also focusing on issues of inequality. and oppression for all women, especially transgender people. , Black and Indigenous women and other women of color.
Dozens of members of the Elon community gathered in Lakeside on Tuesday, March 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day locally.
“It’s important for us to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month in general,” said Becca Bishopric Patterson, associate director of the Gender and LGBTQIA Center.
“This year, we wanted to take advantage of International Women’s Day to highlight women activists, scholars, and leaders in Alamance County,” said Shayna Mehas, visiting assistant professor of history.
Panelists for the event were Mtende Roll, Kim Lan Grant, Kimberly Romero and LaShauna Austria. They focused on this year’s themes “Breaking Down Prejudice” and “Gender Equality for a Sustainable Future”.
Roll, a trainer and organizer at the Racial Equity Institute, came to the United States in 2016 from South Africa and connected to the Saxapahaw Social Justice Exchange, of which Austria is a co-founder.
Roll said it was encouraging to see a community in Alamance County raise these important issues, including burnout. Roll said burnout is something she has experienced, even at the age of 28, and it could impact her ability to continue her job for years without health issues.
“I have seen incredible women in my family, from my mother to my aunts, who have continued this work. And I was like, ‘Of course I have to, there’s no other option. And if I’m not doing this job, then who’s going to be there for me? “said Roll.
“Now I’m in this space where I try to accept moments of rest and how can rest be a real release, especially for black women in this work,” she added.
Grout, the founder of The Redefining Disabled Project, marketer, journalist and disability advocate, echoed the call for rest while tackling such important issues. With the many ups she experiences with her job, including the changing narrative of people with disabilities, one of the downs is finding time to decompress and not feel guilty.
Grout told the crowd that she has two young children, one of whom has type 1 diabetes and the other is transgender, which presented challenges. “I convinced myself that rest is in itself an act of resistance,” Grout said. “The lowest points were when I felt guilty like I wasn’t doing enough. But I have so much more to feel that way.
As Assistant Director of Admissions for Diversity and Access at Elon, one of Romero’s many roles is to serve the needs of the Latinx community. When creating a goals presentation, she identified three areas of growth at Elon for the Latinx community: accessibility, appeal, and visibility.
The establishment of virtual information sessions in Spanish and the creation of ¡Viva Elon! were all highlights of his time with Elon.
Originally from Alamance County, Romero is hopeful for the future of education in the region.
“I hope the future in Alamance County is one that always makes me proud to call it home. I really can’t wait to see where it can be in 10 years. I hope it continues to build spaces where people feel safe and heard in our community,” Romero said.
Austria, founder of Kindred Seedlings Farm, was inspired to start her farm after working at a farmer’s market in Orange County where she was the only black person there. Realizing that there must be black representation in farming, a field that has been mostly done by white people, she started her own business by “just putting dirt in little cups”.
A friend put her in touch with several Elon students who wanted to be part of what Austria had started and helped her drop Kindred Seedlings Farm from the group.
“These Elon students helped me start my black-owned farm,” Austria said. “People said ‘we believe in what you’re doing, we want you to be successful, and we want it to happen in our community.
But it takes more than just “help” to make change happen.
Quoting Australian visual artist Lilla Watson, Austria said: “If you came here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you came because your release is tied to mine, then let’s work together.
“I believe we are at a time when women need to see that our liberation is connected,” Austria said. “I don’t need your help, but we can work together for our collective liberation. We can do so much more together.