Eastern RSO tackling issues Black women face

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Campus Reporter

The National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC) is an organization that was first formed in Washington, D.C. in July 1896 to help all Black women with issues of civil rights and injustice, such as women’s suffrage, education, lynching and Jim Crow laws.

The founders of NACWC included many powerful women in history, including Harriet Tubman, Margaret Murray Washington and Mary Church Terrell.

Since then, NACWC has grown, having dozens of chapters around the country. Eastern has its very own chapter: The Women Improving Lives (W.I.L.) Chapter.

Eastern’s chapter of the NACWC was founded on May 2, 2014 by Maya Pitts, the club’s first president, and a group of women known as “the first 16 sisters that embodied patience and strength.”

Starr Smith, a junior community health student, is the organization’s president.

She said that the women came together and founded Eastern’s chapter of NACWC because they wanted to raise awareness on issues going on in the community or around the world while also completing community service and gaining a sisterhood.

With every passing year since, different groups of ladies have joined NACWC, helping it grow into the organization it is today.

“The purpose of this organization is to be a safe space for women of color,” Smith said. “We are all alike and different in many ways but I think that it gives us an opportunity to do good, reflect positively and work together.”

Because the organization raises awareness on important issues and includes members of many diverse backgrounds, this space provides people with the opportunity to learn more about and from one another.

The RSO has created a space where members know it is okay to be different and to have different perspectives.

Carole Collins Ayanlaja, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and the organization’s faculty advisor.

Collins said that the organization has a lot of social, economic, and cultural diversity.

“There’s opportunities for these young Black women to intersect on many levels,” Collins said. “Not just coming together as Black women, but as Black women of diverse backgrounds finding that space where they can collectively make a difference.”

NACWC also provides members with opportunities to give back to the community while uplifting women and youth in the community. It specifically focuses on advocating for and protecting the rights of Black women and children.

Collins said it is important to recognize the way women are often oppressed in communities and in the social hierarchy, so organizations like NACWC are important for helping women “feel empowered to lead, grow, and be role models to one another.”

“It allows our members to build on their gender as women in a very positive way and in a multi-faceted way, so that women are not relegated to only certain roles,” Collins said. “They know that there’s a gamut of ways in which they can lead and serve.”

The way race and gender have worked to marginalize Black women in the United States makes organizations like NACWC so important for the community.

“The focus is really strongly on service, on supporting and helping the community, and on helping Black women succeed educationally,” Collins said. “One of the big issues is promotion of social harmony and the importance of Black women’s role in being promoters of racial, cultural, and social understanding amongst all groups.”

The organization’s meetings throughout the school year provide the members with opportunities to be leaders and to work together.

NACWC meets via Zoom, and during those meetings they discuss upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, and any important developments that happened between meetings.

Pre-COVID-19, the organization used to have in-person meetings on campus, and now they run meetings via Zoom. It took a while for them to get used to the new format.

Smith said that she misses the face-to-face meetings they used to have, saying that members would come to meetings in business attire and that being in-person helped create a more intimate space.

“I think our energies work better in person,” Smith said. “We can read each other a little bit better than when we are on the phone or on the computer.”

Despite the problems they have had with the online format, they have found ways to make it work in a way that keeps the meetings running smoothly and professionally, helping them continue achieving their goals.

Every year, NACWC hosts social, educational, fundraising and volunteer events.

They have given presentations, had open conversations about important topics, hosted game nights, hosted potlucks and so on.

Many of NACWC’s events are open to the community, but some of them are only open to the organization’s members. Those private events typically involve team-building activities that allow the members to bond with one another.

This school year, the organization’s events moved to virtual formats, with them hosting many events via Zoom. NACWC has hosted fun events such as karaoke nights and bingo nights, but also educational ones such as open discussions on issues such as sexual assault.

“We have also used different social media platforms like Instagram,” Smith said. “We’ve tried a few different things to see what attracts the most students. It has been a little difficult to get students to work with Zoom.”

The organization’s members say they are looking forward to events they are planning for the rest of the semester and for the upcoming school year.

“Ending the school year, we will be having a Fed Week, and we will have a series of events throughout the week that will be coming up in April,” Smith said. “We’re really excited. We’re having our meetings and we’re planning like crazy, so we’re trying to be as creative as possible to see how many students we can get to participate.”


Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]