May 18, 2011

‘First I Dream: Women of Color Collective Dialoguing Difference Conference looks at the role of imagination

News and Information

The Women of Color Collective was formed in 2009 because many such women felt their voices were not being heard on campus. Now the collective is going strong, and will hold its third annual Dialoging Difference conference May 25-27 on the UW campus.

Organizers and keynote speakers at the 2010 Women of Color Collective Dialoguing Difference Conference. From left, they are Daphne A. Brooks, Ralina Joseph, Sara Diaz, Balbir Singh, Manoucheka Celeste, Michelle Habell-Pallán, Martha Gonzalez, Angela Ginorio and Ileana M. Rodriguez-Silva.

Women of Color Collective

Organizers and keynote speakers at the 2010 Women of Color Collective Dialoguing Difference Conference. From left, they are Daphne A. Brooks, Ralina Joseph, Sara Diaz, Balbir Singh, Manoucheka Celeste, Michelle Habell-Pallán, Martha Gonzalez, Angela Ginorio and Ileana M. Rodriguez-Silva.

The theme of this years conference is “First I Dream,” and will focus on “the role of dreams and imagination in building and transforming the community,” promotional notes state. Unlike many academic conferences, the Dialoguing Difference Conference will feature live musical performances as well as speakers, discussions and research presentations.

The Women of Color Collective is an academic and social support network for faculty, graduate students, undergraduates and staff at the UW.

“I think what makes this such a great event is the positive energy that it generates,” said Michelle Habell-Pallán, professor in the Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies Department and adjunct faculty with the School of Music, who is a keynote speaker. “This is organized by graduate students — they put a lot of time, effort and ‘blood, sweat and tears into it. And theyve really made a space for themselves on this campus.”

She said the conference reflects cutting-edge scholarship across different disciplines. “Its a place of support, but also, if youre interested in knowing new directions of interdisciplinary scholarship, this is the place to come and see it while its developing.”

The collectives founding force was Manoucheka Celeste, who is this year graduating with a doctorate in communication. She said the idea started as a response to her own experience when she came to campus. She said Women Studies Professor Angela Ginorios class on women of color in academic also served as inspiration, as did a class with Habell-Pallán and advice from Ralina Joseph, professor of communication.

“It was not just me who was feeling isolated, so I started thinking about what I could do to change this experience for other people,” she said. She got together a proposal for funding and took it from there.

Speakers at the 2011 Women of Color Collective's Dialoguing Difference Conference. From left: Valerie Smith, Michelle Habell-Pallán and Régine Jean-Charles.

Celeste said the groups aim is to celebrate the work of women of color, “who are in a lot of ways invisible in general” on university campuses, she said. About 250 people attended the 2010 conference, she said.

She said she is especially pleased by the attendance of undergraduate students, “who get exposed to a whole new kind of scholarship, and a whole new range of professors they may not encounter in their classes.”

Habell-Pallán agreed, saying the energy of younger students reinvigorates others “and helps us see the Academy in a new light.”

The conference will begin Wednesday, May 25, with a keynote address by Walker Ames Visiting Lecturer Valerie Smith, professor of literature at Princeton University and founding director of Princetons Center for African American Studies. Smiths address will be at 4 p.m. in the Ethnic Cultural Center Theater. Local artist-poet Faviola also will perform.

On Thursday, May 26, there will be roundtable discussions about women and religion from noon to 1:30 p.m. Friday, May 27, will be full of events from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will feature keynote addresses by Régine Jean-Charles, assistant professor of French at Boston College; and by Habell-Pallán.

Habell-Pallán said she will talk about “the collaborative process and how powerful that is within the University in terms of mentorship among graduate students.”

The conference is sponsored by the Diversity Research Institute, with additional support from the departments of communication, American Ethnic Studies, Ethnomusicology, Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies and Latin and Caribbean Studies, as well as GO-MAP, GPSS and Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at UW Bothell.

Learn more about the Women of Color Collective Dialoguing Difference 2011 Conference online.