Conference provides learning opportunity

Instagram photographs of black women and their ranging in skin tones are meant to celebrate the color of one’s skin. Valerie Moreno’s photos capture the essence of black Puerto Rican natives. 

Moreno showcased her photographic movement at the first annual North Bay Womxn of Color Conference on Wednesday at Sonoma State University. Themed workshops shined light on a variety of issues and creative movements pertaining to women of color. Some of these topics included uncommonly known Title XI, creating empowerment by gaining tools of consent, the cultivation of self via the power of yoga and combating high rates of Latina teen suicide by gaining knowledge and creating conversations.

Moreno’s photographic project is intended to capture the underrepresented black women of Puerto Rico. Her focus was to convey the beauty of dark skin along with the variety of physiques, ages and hair. Moreno explained her surprise when she moved to Puerto Rico four years ago and was exposed to the higher black population.

“It was partly my ignorance and partly the media. What I had seen in the media were images similar to J-Lo, Marc Anthony and [fair skinned people] a lot like me,” said Moreno.

Moreno knew immediately after realizing the inaccurate media portrayal, that she wanted to photograph and interview black natives of Puerto Rico. Moreno’s work shows the harmonious emphasis of the photos along with the stories of the women. Her photography can be seen on Instagram under AfrosInSanJuan.

“Consent, Please” was a workshop by Carina Buzo, program coordinator of the HUB, focused on reclaiming boundaries of one’s body.

“Consent is about figuring out who you are and what your boundaries are, so that you can share that with other people. So that people will know how to best interact with you, in hopes that you can find someone who is willing to do the same thing,” said Buzo.

“Consent can change the world. If we do not have consent to cause violence in another country, then we cannot do it. If we do not have consent to put an oil pipe through someone’s home, then we cannot do it,” Buzo said at the end of her talk.

Buzo referred to real life issues like the Dakota pipeline and President Donald Trump’s scandal referring to lewd comments about grabbing women. 

Sonoma County local Virginia Harris who attended the event asked, “In the political climate now, what are we each individually consenting to?” 

The topic of consent and many others from the workshops, can be helpful teaching tools and can lead our society in more focused directions.

The conference ended with keynote speaker Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. Cullors touched on the moment leading to Trump’s election.

“It was in that moment that crystalized how much this country hates black, undocumented and Muslim people,” said Cullors.

Cullors also explained her focus and purpose of the talk with the audience is “[The focus is] to ensure if you haven’t joined a movement, then now you have.”

The North Bay Womxn of Color Conference was student lead with the help of faculty, staff and student volunteers. Co-Student Lead Coordinator Patricia Ayala Macías and Sonoma State student Pam Rivas had felt inspired to create the event since the summer of 2016. 

“This is important, this is an event that we need to continuously have on all campuses. Not just for students, but [for] community members in order to create connections,” Macías said.

The event was inspired by the annual UC Berkeley Empowering Women of Color Conference, which has gone on for 32 years. Macías said she is excited for the second annual conference and invites all students to attend next year; and also to consider joining the event committee.