Johns Hopkins hosts conversation about how women of color influence public policy

'JHU Forums on Race in America' event will take place at School of Advanced International Studies on Wednesday

Tarana Burke is the leader of a significant global social movement, and yet her name is often left out of the conversation.

Burke is the founder of the #MeToo movement, which began on the social media site MySpace in 2006 and has since grown to be a global phenomenon exposing sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. The hashtag was used on Twitter by actress Alyssa Milano in October 2017 and within 24 hours had circulated in 12 million posts on Facebook. It's been translated into 16 languages and is now the basis for anti-harassment legislation in four states and Washington, D.C.

Composite image of four women

Image caption:JHU Forums on Race in America speakers include (clockwise from top left): Veronica Cool, Serena Fong, Elsie L. Scott, and Janice Mathis

"Women of color are no longer leading resistance from the margins," says Chiedo Nwankwor, a visiting research associate and adjunct lecturer at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. "They are brokering power in the center and driving changes in policy and state priorities while reshaping societal values and norms. The Women's Marches, #BlackLivesMatter, and #MeToo movements are evidence of these changing patterns in politics and the engagement of women of color."

On Wednesday, Nwankwor will provide introductory comments for the first installment of the JHU Forums on Race in America of the 2018–19 academic year. The conversation, which will take place at the SAIS in Washington, D.C., will focus on the impact of women of color on public policy.

"Our current period represents what is arguably a critical juncture in America's engagement with gender, race, and other correlates of identity," says Nwankwor. "The women's vote contributed decisively to electing the past two presidents, and women of color constitute 74 percent of newly eligible women voters in the country since 2000. These statistics have women-positive policy implications and bode well for the election of women of color into legislative and executive positions at all levels of government."

The speakers at the panel discussion are:

  • Veronica Cool, founding and managing director of Cool and Associates
  • Serena Fong, vice president for strategic engagement at Catalyst
  • Janice Mathis, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women
  • Elsie L. Scott, founding director of the Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center at Howard University

The discussion will be moderated by Noemi Crespo Rice, assistant dean of student affairs at SAIS. This is the first time SAIS will host the JHU Forums on Race in America.

"This discussion, as well as the overall global empowerment of all women, must be at the forefront of discussions about how we can contribute to and build a stronger society."
Fenimore Fisher
Chief diversity officer, Johns Hopkins University

"I can't think of a more appropriate venue to engage in dialogue concerning the impact of women of color on public policy," says Fenimore Fisher, chief diversity officer of Johns Hopkins University. "This discussion, as well as the overall global empowerment of all women, must be at the forefront of discussions about how we can contribute to and build a stronger society."

The JHU Forums on Race in America will take place Wednesday at noon in the Kenney-Herter Auditorium of the School of Advanced International Studies, located at 1740 Massachusetts Ave, Washington, D.C., 20036. A webcast of the talk will be available online.