Women of Color Initiative Presents Fall 2016 Speaker

portrait of a woman with brown hair and glassesThe Women of Color Initiative (WOCI), an effort to organize events for women of color and allies on MSU’s campus, recently brought academic, writer, musician, activist, and storyteller Leanne Betasamosake Simpson to campus. 

Author of Dancing on Our Turtle's Back and Islands of Decolonial Love, Simpson conducted a creative writing workshop on October 6. The next day, she presented a public lecture, titled “Freedom Sings: Land/Bodies/Resurgence.”

“I’m of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg ancestry and I live in Ontario, so I wanted to share some stories, some theories, and some Nishnaabeg intelligence with the audience,” Simpson said.

She added that there were some truly brilliant students in her writing workshop.

The students had a deep level of engagement with my work, and we had an excellent conversation as a result.

“I spoke with them about my own processes as a writer and about the different genres I work in. We talked about my poetry, my music, and my short stories, which a number of the students had read as part of their coursework,” Simpson said. “The students had a deep level of engagement with my work, and we had an excellent conversation as a result.”

Simpson was the fall 2016 speaker for the Women of Color Initiative. WOCI aims to create spaces for students to be in conversation with each other and to engage with women of color faculty, guest speakers, staff, and community members.

The purpose of the Women of Color Initiative is to create a space for a collective of women of color to focus on some of the most pressing issues and research in higher education and to present women of color with an opportunity to address the racial, class, sex, and gender issues facing Indigenous, Black, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Chicana, and Latina women.

woman behind podium lecturing to room of people

“The Women of Color Initiative is sparking some interesting conversations and a deep appreciation of the work that often goes unrecognized by our communities,” Simpson said. “It’s really important to bring in indigenous women and women of color – who are working in their communities in different ways than you might imagine – and give them space to interact with students, faculty, and staff.”

The annual speaker series brings one nationally recognized woman of color speaker per semester. The public talks are open to the larger East Lansing/Lansing community and are recorded in order to create a digital archive and to provide access to an even larger audience.

“It has been a wonderful experience for me to be at MSU,” Simpson said. “There’s a fantastic, diverse community here.”

Conceived by Professors Yomaira C. Figueroa and Rae Paris, the Women of Color Initiative is supported by the Office of Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Sheila Marie Contreras. Additional funding is provided by MSU American Indian and Indigenous Studies, the Timnick Chair in the Humanities (Kyle Whyte), the MSU Center for Gender in Global Context (GenCen), and the Department of English.