Black Women’s Coalition celebrates close community

The Yale Black Women’s Coalition celebrated its annual Black Women’s
weekend at the Afro-American Cultural Center this past weekend.
The Yale Black Women’s Coalition celebrated its annual Black Women’s weekend at the Afro-American Cultural Center this past weekend. Photo by Mariah Harris .

Since its founding in 2006, members say the Yale Black Women’s Coalition has evolved into a strong organization that emphasizes diversity, leadership and community.

Celebrating the closeness of the group, YBWC held one of its signature annual events on Saturday — Black Women’s Weekend, which featured a few hours of karaoke along with food, music and games at the Afro-American Cultural Center. According to Chelsea Handfield ’15, president of YBWC, the low-key event fit in perfectly with the organization’s goal of providing a safe space in which black women can come together to talk about sociopolitical events, discuss unique experiences and form a stronger community.

Handfield said that as a double minority — both a woman and a racial minority — she is grateful to have a group like YBWC, where she can meet and become friends with other women who are going through similar experiences. At a university like Yale, she said, she is even more aware of her identity, as students often ask unintentionally insensitive questions.

Christina Lockett ’14, last year’s YBWC vice president, said it is important for an intersectional group like YBWC to exist because there are few spaces elsewhere to discuss issues specific to black female identity.

“Traditional feminism ignores black women,” she said, adding that YBWC is like a sisterhood.

Ashley Ison ’14, last year’s YBWC treasurer, said the group is a space where she can talk about experiences that she would not feel comfortable discussing anywhere else.

Aside from shared experiences, members of YBWC said that they also look to the organization to meet women from other backgrounds and learn about their experiences. For instance, some of the women are from low-income communities while others are wealthier, Handfield said, and some went to predominantly white schools while others lived in mostly black neighborhoods, Handfield added.

According to all members interviewed, these differences help to strengthen the community.

“It’s a great chance to see how we relate to each other and how we can learn from each other,” Ison said.

In addition to hosting Black Women’s Weekend and a series of discussions, guest speakers, panels and information sessions, YBWC interacts with other groups and communities through joint events and mixers. Every year, YBWC hosts an awards ceremony for black men in conjunction with the Black Men’s Union’s own awards ceremony for black women, and YBWC also collaborates with BMU and the Black Students at Yale group to put on an open discussion about race and identity.

Azmar Williams ’15, president of BMU, said the setup with three similar groups — BMU, BSAY and YBWC — allows black students to have the “best of everything.”

“While they all have slightly different missions, the overall mission is unity in the African-American community on the Yale campus,” Williams said. “I feel like we’re all making that possible.”

An important goal of YBWC, according to members interviewed, is connecting black women across multiple class years and generations. To accomplish this, the organization hosts a graduate student panel every year with speakers from various professional schools. Handfield said that the event is meant to help prepare women for their future careers.

Members of the group also mentor younger students at Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School in New Haven. According to Handfield, many of the students had never even considered college as an option for their futures.

Lockett spoke about a different kind of mentorship, explaining that, as a senior, she feels it is her responsibility to reach out to black female freshmen and help provide resources and solidify the community.

Black Women’s Weekend this year kicked off at 6:30 p.m. at the Afro-American Cultural Center at 55 Whitney Avenue.

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