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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Speaker Forum Honors Women’s History Month

The Women’s Center began its month long celebration of women’s history with a speaker forum on March 26. Faculty and students gathered in the Wheatley Student Lounge to listen to the stories of three female speakers who spoke about issues concerning women from Latino and Black communities.

Sandra Alvarado was the first to speak at the forum, focusing on women as ethical community leaders. Alvarado, a UMB graduate, discussed her journey from giving up an executive director position to becoming an urban missionary at her church. “I put my administrative skills to good use,” she said about her decision to leave her job. “I talked to my pastor about a higher calling in life. I started discovering passion and a spiritual calling, not a career change. It has been very, very difficult making the transition; it took a lot of time and energy. I feel extremely fulfilled, even though I make little money.”

Alvarado supported and encouraged women to “explore finding your calling in life, but there are no easy answers.” Journaling, prayer, caution, and determination led Alvarado down the path to spiritual and personal fulfillment. Her advice to women who are considering becoming an ethical community leader was to “ask yourself, am I happy where I am? Am I creating changes in my community? How can I help? Review what you’ve done; think about where you are now and where you want to be. Explore your passions. Look at your life and you’ll know what you were born to do.” Deciding to devote her life to social service has been a very rewarding, but difficult, transformation for Alvarado. “I had to make big changes along the way, making sacrifices to find my calling in life.” All in all, she felt that the end result was worth the struggle.

The second speaker was Dr. Lorna Rivera, a UMB professor at the CPCS/Gaston Institute. Rivera spoke about the education and empowerment of Latino women. “This issue is important to all of us even if you are not Latino, because Latinos are the largest minority group in the U.S. population.” One of the biggest problems that plagues Latino women is adult illiteracy. Rivera spoke of a “popular education approach” to change the women’s lives. This innovative approach teaches women to read and write by “relating the material to the reality of the learners’ lives.” The women are then empowered by finding their voices to fight the dominant oppressing social or political paradigms.

Classroom activities included having the women write letters to legislature to protest changes in welfare reform. The popular education approach “addresses personal, community, and academic goals” for the Latino women. By using real life struggles in the classroom, the women fully comprehend the “root causes of their problems and take action to change by participating in projects inside and outside the classroom.”

In correlation to becoming literate, the Latino women “advocate for themselves and their community to facilitate the process of change.” The popular education approach empowers these women to make changes in themselves, their families, socially, and politically.

Judy Smith was the final speaker to appear. She spoke on Lorraine Hansberry and Black Feminism in the 1950s.