At the BMCC HerStory luncheon, Richard Harris Terrace buzzed with excitement in celebration of women.
This year’s theme is “Educating Girls, Education Women.”
While staffers and students were treated to a formal lunch, student Kim Gonzalez, Secretary of the Sisterhood Society Club, spoke. “The Sisterhood Society is here to educate and support women on many issues, and we work in harmony with WRC,” she said.
Deborah Parker of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) and a member of the Women’s History Month planning committee, talked about the colorful poster artwork created by student Pedro Valentine, that advertised HerStory month events.
Craig shares her story
Dr. Marva Craig, BMCC’s Vice President of Student Affairs told the audience why she “loves events like this.”
“This one celebrates mothers, aunts and cousins…women…in the same capacity. But it was my father who told me to be a strong woman.”
Craig shared a personal story about her childhood. Her two sisters lived with teachers, coming home to visit the family on the holidays. A young Craig stayed home and, with the encouragement of her father, worked with a local teacher, who took her under her wing.
“Women’s HerStory month is a chance for me to look back on the woman and men who made a difference in my life,” she said, closing her speech with one of her favorite quotes: “A woman is like a tea bag—you never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.”
The uniqueness of women
BMCC President Antonio Pérez grew up with three sisters.
“I was the only kid who knew how to dance, because my sisters always made me their dancing partner,” he said at the Luncheon. “What I didn’t do for my sisters!”
Pérez just returned from a trip to Puerto Rico, where he visited his 87-year-old mother.
“My mother was full of wisdom, and I was always in awe of her ability to perform miracles. She could have one chicken and serve eight people with it," he said. "Growing up, I never noticed my mom eat…she took care of everyone else first; always provided.”
So, events such as HerStory Month at BMCC “celebrate the uniqueness of women and the strength they possess,” concluded Pérez.
Hiding out, then speaking up
BMCC counselor Eric Glaudé introduced his friend Joyce Roche’-Seals, CEO of Girls Inc. and the Luncheon’s keynote speaker.
“Joyce won acclaim for her achievements in the business world and has been profiled in magazines such as Fortune and Business World,” said Glaudé.
Girls Incorporated, (Girl's Inc.) is a non-profit organization based in Manhattan and dedicated to empowering girls.
“We are passionate about educating girls and hosting programs that support girl’s growth. We inspire girls to be strong, smart and bold and encourage them to dream big dreams,” said Roche’-Seals. “As women, by sharing our stories, we support each other, and our stories band us together.”
Roche’-Seals shared her career path story. “My career options, at certain times, were limited by racism and sexism,” says the Columbia Business School graduate. “I first worked in marketing for Avon, and ironically, there were few women in the company, and the women who were there, were very quiet in business meetings.”
One day, Roche’-Seals noticed she was “hiding out” in company meetings.
“Hiding out in the business world was no way to get ahead. So, I spoke up more.”
Eventually, she was promoted at Avon, eventually moving over to Revlon, where she “learned and grew as a marketer, manager and person.”
She then returned to Avon, where she broke new ground by becoming Avon’s first African American female vice president.
Roche’-Seals also worked at Carson Products, an African American personal care company, prior to her tenure at Girls Inc.
“Girls Inc. is committed to improving life for the next generation of women,” she said. “We as a society still have a long way to go. But over the past 35 years we have made great strides in education.”
According to Roche’-Seals, “Ninety percent of the world’s billionaires are men. There is still a gender gap. So, we empower girls and provide them with the opportunity to explore roles that are not traditional. We help them develop the confidence to say ‘I’ll try’, to be a role model and to stand up for themselves.”
The Luncheon concluded with a reading of the play The Sweet Girl Graduate by writer Sarah Anne Curzon, and a performance of “Success Secrets of the Queens of Comedy” by Dr. Susan Horowitz of the English department.
Professor Melissa Brown of the Social Science department, co-chaired Women’s HerStory Month with Professor Christa Baiada of the English Department.
“Educating today’s woman is vital,” she said. “BMCC educates me, and moves me to educate others.”
For a complete listing of HerStory months events, click here.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Special thanks to those who made this event possible, and not mentioned in this article: Ellen Baryshev, Carol Cleveland, Betty Copeland, Olivia Cousins, Virginia Gadson, Ann Hjelle, Susan Leopold, Victoria Washington.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Girls. Inc is always looking for interns. Please call the Manhattan location directly for more information.