What does freedom look like to you? What does it feel like? Are you fighting to achieve it in your home, career, or sense of self? Have you already claimed it as yours, walking in light and inviting others to join in your liberty?
Wherever you are on that spectrum, you are not alone, and this weekend brings an incredible opportunity to join, learn from, and bask in an amazing community of women of color with the inaugural Women’s Freedom Conference.
The Women’s Freedom Conference, or WFC, is the first-ever digital conference organized by and intended for women of color on a global scale. The idea of women’s liberation is not at all a new one, and we in the developed world certainly enjoy literal freedoms that our ancestors and certain women today exist(ed) without. We don’t take that for granted, and yet when we look at the current landscape in which we operate, women of color are not often the voices that are centered or amplified in mainstream feminism.
Thus, there is a need for us to come together to honor and elevate, as the WFC organizers say, “the unique voices and experiences of underrepresented women who have been disenfranchised beyond gender alone– women of color whose identities are intersectional and whose womanhood is shaped and defined along those intersections.”
Some of you are already familiar with the WFC through the PSAs on YouTube, or the Twitter account and #WFC2015, where women have already been sharing information and experiences, and others of you might be wondering what exactly a “digital conference” is. Essentially, anyone with internet access can take part in this informative and educational global conference call of sisterhood.
Through partnership with digital media and education company BlackStar Media, WFC will be streamed online this Sunday, October 25, 2015, with 12 continuous hours of scheduled content. Whatever your time zone, WFC states that you will be able to log on and “access presentations from women of color discussing topics including diversity in technology fields, sustainability, art as activism, mental health, movement-building, and the impact of colonization on women of color around the world. (Content will be transcribed for the hearing-impaired and translated into Spanish, French, and Chinese.)”
Initially conceived as a physical gathering or a march of some kind, it was decided (wisely) that travel alone is prohibitive for many, and choosing one location can be an inherently unfair and unsuccessful endeavor. The digital platform of the WFC means that you can cozy up in your pajamas and glean expertise on being a Black woman in political spaces from national political strategist and President of the Brooklyn NAACP L. Joy Williams or discuss single motherhood with Laneè Bridewell, creator of OneParentWonder.
The WFC has an incredible roster of scheduled presenters representing five continents and diverse backgrounds and topics, but the aim is singular: to recognize the diversity within our community and the value we bring to our areas of expertise and the world at large. To center our experiences in community and solidarity, and to claim our space in the liberation of women with the full force of our humanity.
I asked some of the WFC organizers and featured speakers what freedom means to them.
WFC Advisory Board member Jamie Broadnax is the creator of Black Girl Nerds, the award-winning BGN podcast, and even Shonda Rhimes is a fan. Jamie told me that yearning for “the freedom to be comfortable with my identity and to find a safe space where others like me can also share that same kind of comfort” is part of why she creates the online spaces that she does.
She says, “Freedom means you know no limits, that you set no boundaries, and that you don’t place yourself in a box based on who society expects you to be. In mainstream pop culture, Black women are marginalized so much, we rarely see images of ourselves that do not fit the negative tropes we see of ourselves in media. The ‘geek girl’ archetype is accepted and common among white women, but somehow an anomaly to Black women and other women of color. I finally have the freedom to be who I want to be and crush any and all stereotypes, and live in my truth as a Black woman who loves nearly everything associated with geek culture.
I’m finally at peace with being comfortable in my own skin, and I get the opportunity to share that each and every day with a large community of supporters who feel the same way about themselves. It’s rewarding and it is exactly how freedom should feel.”