The second annual BRAVE Summit, hosted on Saturday, offered black women a space to promote dialogue on issues of feminism with a series of panels and a keynote by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).
BRAVE — Black. Resilient. Artistic. Vigilant. Enough. — was organized by 14 undergraduate female students and saw a 40 percent increase in attendance from last year, with about 350 attendees.
“I really think the momentum from the inaugural conference carried through to this year in terms of interest,” BRAVE Board Co-chair Ashlie Williams (MSB ’17) wrote in an email to The Hoya.
BRAVE was founded last year to specifically address issues affecting black women in the United States, which are often excluded from discussions of feminism, according to Williams.
“BRAVE’s purpose is to create an environment to celebrate and educate,” Williams wrote. “Many of the topics that were discussed are often left out of the mainstream narrative and I hope that attendees felt fulfilled from participating in dialogues that they may not normally be able to.”
Over 30 speakers presented at the summit, including Erika Totten, a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement in Washington, D.C.
This year’s conference featured two panels and six breakout sessions. Breakout session topics ranged from black female sexuality to the representation of black history in Washington, D.C.’s public education system.
The morning panel, “#BlackLivesMatter,” focused on how black women are often excluded from conversations around police violence and the role they are playing in the movement, while the afternoon panel A Seat at the Political Table advocated black women’s involvement in politics.
The District faces a series of challenges as it becomes gentrified, Bowser said in her keynote address, which was sponsored by GU Women of Color and the Lecture Fund.
“People often ask me, ‘Why is it important?’ or, ‘What do you see as your role as mayor right now?’ and I think I have a special role in Washington right now because I stand in the middle of the Washington that I grew up in and the Washington that our city is becoming,” Bowser said.
Bowser said the District must make a concerted effort to ensure the city addresses inequality as it modernizes.
“If we’re going to be a city like the one that I grew up with, and was richly diverse, the government has to be intentional and focused on how we can maintain our diversity,” Bowser said. “We have been focused on affordable housing, for example, investing $100 million each and every year in government funding to create more affordable housing units. We’ve been focused on ending homelessness in the District of Columbia as well.”
Donald Trump’s presidency poses a threat to women, Bowser said in reference to the tape of Trump’s remarks about his treatment of women that was leaked during the campaign against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“Women in a lot of ways felt threatened or attacked following those days,” Bowser said. “First of all, you had a woman who almost became president, and many of us were concerned with Secretary Clinton’s loss that women would see the negativity in the campaign, they would see how tough the press is with female candidates, they would see that she had to almost be perfect and they would stop aspiring to office.”
Bowser said women are held to a higher standard than men when running for elected office.
“I know and I’ve always recognized in my five campaigns, and certainly it was on display in the most recent presidential election, that women are more often, more wrongly and more harshly criticized for the work that they do in office — by men and by women,” Bowser said.
Correction: This article previously stated former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson spoke at BRAVE; she was scheduled to speak but did not attend.
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