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Empowering women of color

"It is time for us now to really be actionable"
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Posted at 5:22 PM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 17:22:09-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — You might say Maia Chaka blew the whistle on breaking barriers for women of color. She was the first black female to officiate an NFL football game.

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Maia Chaka, keynote speaker, was the first black female to officiate an NFL football game.

The Rochester native was the keynote speaker during Friday's Women of Color Summit on the SUNY Buffalo State Campus where she offered inspiration and asked for a moment of silence for the Jefferson 10, who investigators say were murdered because they were Black.

Women from diverse backgrounds shared their experiences and challenges at the Women of Color Summit held on the SUNY Buffalo State campus Friday.

The summit is designed to uplift and empower women of color and promote equity, education, and professional development.

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Woman of Color Summit.

Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner also spoke at the event, explaining how the college is a highly diverse campus with 55% of its students from underrepresented backgrounds.

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SUNY Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner.

Conway-Turner shared her personal story of how a Black woman is “least likely” to be a college president, but how she reached the goal of leading a large SUNY school, which she called the “only urban engaged campus.”

The event was planned well ahead of the tragic and racially motivated attack in Buffalo, but organizers felt it was important to move forward with a discussion of racial equity.

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Women of Color Summit.

“And I think a message today is about unifying the community and understanding the need for healing,” remarked Sara Taylor, founder, Women of Color Summit. “This space is important not for us to just come and talk, but offer some concrete strategies — how do we address it, how do we move forward, how do we help grieving communities address trauma."

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Sara Taylor, founder, Women of Color Summit.

Taylor founded the summit four years ago.

The goal of the summit was to provide discussions on advancing racial equity and removing career barriers for women of color.

“When we look at the pay gap — when we look at the tenured of women of color in leadership positions — we don't stay there long, so while we have made some progress, we still have a long way to go,” explained Taylor.

“Now is a moment. This is a moment in time where we are kind of at a cross in the roads,” replied Kelly Dumas.

Dumas is chief operating officer with BestSelf Behavioral Health and was honored at the event.

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Kelly Dumas, chief operating officer, BestSelf Behavioral Health and was honored at the event.

Dumas has been working on the front lines since the tragic mass shooting.

“The sense of safety has really been shattered, so that has to be restored and the racism and oppression that many people of color have dealt with over the years it kind of just resurfaced,” explained Dumas.

Summit leaders say they need allies in workplaces and corporate America, who have the influence and power, to be the voice and advocate for women of color.

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Carlette Bradley, co-chair, Women of Color Summit.

“And so I think it is time for us now to really be actionable — to really make sure that we are doing — what we need to do — saying what we need to say and partnering with people that we need to partner with so that change can happen,” responded Carlette Bradley, co-chair, Women of Color Summit.

The women I spoke with say they will not accept the horrifying event as a setback but as a time to come together to be stronger and forge ahead.

“We talk about not just systemic racism, but health care disparities — the economic pay gap for women of color,” Taylor noted.