The Committee for Services and Resources for Women (CSRW) at The University of Southern Mississippi hosted a Brown Bag Lunch lecture event Tuesday afternoon to begin the celebration of Women’s History Month.
At the lunch, Peggy Jean Conner Grant recipients Elizabeth Lentz-Hill and Kelly Ferris Lester presented a lecture titled “People Issues” and were followed by lecturer Danielle Cottonham’s presentation of “Risky and Safe Behaviors Among African- American College Women.”
Lentz-Hill and Lester opened the discussion by having all the participants flip through an issue of People Magazine. Lester asked the participants of the lecture to look for a white woman in your magazine.
“Raise your hand when you find one, and keep them raise until you no longer see one,” Lester said.
“Now look for a white man,” Lentz- Hill said. “Now raise your hand if you see a woman or man who is African- American.” Hands started lowering. The presenters then instructed the audience to raise their hands if they saw anybody of another race or ethnicity or with white/silver hair. The hands continued to diminish.
Lester said raise your hands if you see someone with a physical disability.
“Not many hands right now,” Lester said.
She finally instructed the audience to raise their hands if they saw someone overweight.
“No hands right now,” Lester said.
Lentz-Hill explained how the collaboration created a “dance” that symbolized three things from what they saw through these magazines: all the visual images, how those images related to current social issues and all the ways these social issues interact with each other.
Kelly and Lentz-Hill discussed several challenges they faced through the piece including what exactly they wanted the piece to say about these issues. In the end the two were happy with the outcome.
“It’s important that the audience also goes through this journey with us,” Lester said. “By the end of the dance, I felt like I was about to cry. I got so into what we were saying, and I do feel like the audience goes through what we feel too. We feel their energy.”
Cottonham’s research, “Risky and Safe Behaviors Among African- American College Women,” focused on different theories within mass communication.Cottonham said her research concluded that racial and sexual discrimination are separate entities.
“I wanted to give a language for what we as black women experience,” Cottonham said. “Gendered Racism –I wanted to give it a word.”
She said she was happy to create research about African-American women by an African-American woman.
“I’m an advocate for us, by us,” Cottonham said.
Cottonham said she hopes that her research will push others to continue to research different variables among African-American women.
“African-American women get overlooked [in drinking statistics] because they don’t drink as much as much as white women,” Cottonham said. “It’s still important.”
Cottonham not only used her study as a research mechanism, but also as an opportunity to advocate.
“Voices need to be heard,” Cottonham said. “People need a mic and an opportunity to use their voice. This research gave a voice to a population who aren’t always heard.”
Cottonham plans on publishing her work.
The Committee on Services and Resources for Women will host a series of other events throughout the month as part of Women’s History Month 2017. For more information, visit aquila.usm.edu/csrw_events.