Wellesley Centers for Women and Boston’s Home for Little Wanderers Host Women of Color Conference at Wellesley College

June 19, 2018
Liz Walker speaks at a podium as the keynote speaker at Wellesley's first ever Women of Color Conference.

More than 100 Boston-area women of color who work with at-risk children and families—including practitioners, clinicians, direct care workers, and administrators—gathered June 16 on Wellesley’s campus for a first-ever Women of Color Conference that focused on leadership development and inspiration, and on the work being done in the community on behalf of young women and girls of color.

The event was co-sponsored by the Home for Little Wanderers, which provides community-based programs and services to Boston families, and Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), and drew on the center’s mission to put research into action. The full-day conference, held at Alumnae Hall and Pendleton Hall, included morning sessions exclusively for women of color; afternoon sessions were open to affinity groups as well.

Joan Wallace-Benjamin’75, former president and CEO of the Home for Little Wanderers, served as the conference emcee. She is on the advisory board of the WCW and is a former member of Wellesley’s Board of Trustees. “We have the opportunity today to think about how we as professionals are going to contribute to the overall well-being of young women and girls,” she said to the attendees. “Most of us have chosen to do this work because we believe in the fundamental capabilities of young women and girls of color; and know that with the right amount of support, care, and allocation of resources, they can achieve at the highest levels, and they deserve to be given the opportunity to do so.”

Liz Walker, Boston’s first African-American weeknight news anchor (WBZ-TV) and now senior pastor at Roxbury Presbyterian Church, gave the morning’s keynote speech.

Wellesley College President Paula A. Johnson spoke at the conference lunch sessions. She noted that the partnership between the Home for Little Wanderers and the Wellesley Centers for Women “honors the missions of both organizations.” 

The WCW is “internationally recognized for pathbreaking research that can inform and effect positive change, globally and locally,” she said. “And for us at Wellesley, the Home for Little Wanderers epitomizes our motto, ‘Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.’ Your work with children in need, the sacrifices you make, and the impact you have…this is the kind of service, though often unsung, that moves communities forward.”

Johnson added, “Wellesley is an institution that deeply understands the power of bringing women together to learn from each other, inspire each other, and lift each other up in good times as well as in challenging times,” noting that “perhaps we are the perfect place for today’s conference.”

Layli Maparyan, the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, participated in the conference, as did several WCW researchers.

LaShawnda Lindsay- Dennis, a WCW research scientist, led a workshop on body and culture, which she said focused on “helping practitioners to examine the nuances of culture and the body. More specifically, the conceptual underpinnings of culture, body politics, and respectability politics were applied to situate discussions about girls and women’s body image.”

Linda Charmaraman, also a WCW research scientist, convened a workshop on the impact of social media (dating and bullying) and television. “Online victimization disproportionately affects women, children, and minorities, particularly those who are depressed, perceive themselves as low social status, and come from a family with low educational attainment,” she said.

In afternoon sessions, community allies joined in for workshops on topics like finding courage, self-confidence, and role modeling, and equity and equality in the classroom and beyond.

Photo: Liz Walker, Boston’s first African-American weeknight news anchor (WBZ-TV) delivers the conference's morning keynote speech.