Shirley Chisholm Women’s Empowerment Conference

A major women’s group in Brooklyn will on Saturday, March 15 hold its Third Annual Shirley Chisholm Women’s Empowerment Conference, saluting the legacy of New York City’s first black Congresswoman, Yvette D. Clarke.

The Black Women for Fairness, Equity & Justice-organized event, under the leadership of former New York City Councilwoman Una Clarke, takes place at the Crown Heights, Brooklyn campus of Medgar Evers College, 1637 Bedford Ave.

Under the theme, “A Legacy Reborn,” the day-long gathering of elected officials, community activists, business leaders and educators is held in collaboration with the Caribbean Research Center at Medgar Evers College.

Beginning with a “Women in Leadership” power breakfast, focusing on electoral empowerment and key legislative issues, the conference will address concerns of women’s health, education and financial disparities, according to Congresswoman Clarke’s mother, Una Clarke, the first Caribbean-born woman to hold elective office in New York.

“We are encouraging women to come out not only because we have distinguished panel members and keynote speakers but so they can better understand civil engagement,” Clarke told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview.

“Each of us has value to the community, and we want everybody to understand their value to the community,” she added.

The Jamaican-born Clarke said the conference emerged from the last redistricting in 2010, when the Caribbean American community, in particular, did not respond well to the Census.

As a result, she said there was a “great undercount of the community, and we had to go to Albany to make a case in order to make it a ‘community of interest.’”

“We have convened this conference in order to educate our black women, who are head of households, to remain engaged, so we can continue to educate the community on issues that are important to the growth, development and expansion of the black community,” Clarke said.

She said the conference will also include panels on professional and spiritual development and workshops on small business creation and resume writing.

Scheduled panelists include: Educators Dr. Carole M. Berotte Joseph, president, Bronx Community College and Dr. Evelyn Castro, associate dean, Medgar Evers College, CUNY; immigration specialist Dr. Claire Nelson, Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS); and health care professionals, Dr. Miriam Vincent, director of Family Medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Norma Amsterdam, registered nurse, executive vice president, Union 1199.

Others are: Social service experts Bishop Sylveta Hamilton-Gonzales, Black Women for Fairness Equity & Justice, and Kimberly Hardy, New York City Deputy Commissioner for Housing Community Partnership.

Among the women leaders addressing the conference are: New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray; U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; Congresswoman Clarke; State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery; New York City Public Advocate Letitia James; Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna; and New York City Council Member Laurie Cumbo.

The program closes with a VIP reception, honoring black women in judiciary.

Chisholm (Nov. 30, 1924 – Jan. 1, 2005) was an educator, author and politician. First elected in 1968 as the first African-American woman elected to Congress, she represented the 12th Congressional District for seven terms until 1983.

On Jan. 25, 1972, Chisholm became the first major party black candidate for president of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Rooted in the late congresswoman’s commitment to social and economic empowerment, the elder Clarke said she aims to use the conference as a policy think tank and platform to highlight the status and aspirations of women of African descent in Brooklyn.