Purpose, Promise, Passion

Joint student-alumnae/i conference brings the College community together.

“Now more than ever,” says Kierstin Gray ’01, “it is important that we, as alumnae of color, renew our commitment to each other and to Bryn Mawr College. It is the duty we have as women, as leaders, as Mawrters, not only to amplify the stories of our diversity but also to protect the legacies of the women who came before us so that future Mawrters might carry forth the common purpose, promise, and passion that will bring positive change to the world.”

Gray was one of 20 participants at Perceptions of Blackness, a joint student-alumnae/i conference that took place in February. Subtitled Our Past and Present at Bryn Mawr, the event brought together current and past Mawrters for two days of discussions, panels, lectures, and networking.

Highlights included a lecture by cultural anthropologist and filmmaker Sheila Walker ’66 and Director of Museum Studies Monique Scott on art, history, and culture from the African diaspora, with Olivia Porte ’18 facilitating an audience conversation. Jada Ceasar ’20 and College Archivist Christiana Dobrzynski led a discussion of the origins and evolution of the Black at Bryn Mawr tour, and campus leaders—current and past—spoke about their experiences at Bryn Mawr. And a career panel featured Tia Burroughs ’05, M.S.S./M.L.S.P. ’08; Mia Mosely Parker ’87; Dr. Deborah M. Smith ’74; and Walker.

Also on the docket was the We Are Here working lunch, facilitated by Gray and Alexis Wiltshire ’17. As its name suggests, that session invited attendees to bring photos, mementos, and stories to add to the College archive. Among the artifacts contributed is the photo of Civil Rights Movement leader Whitney Young and daughter Dr. Marcia Young Cantarella ’68 at her Bryn Mawr graduation. (Young was the speaker that year.)

With an aim of forging cross-generational connections, the conference was a collaborative effort of the Alumnae Relations and Development Office and student leaders from Sisterhood*, BaCASO, and the Enid Cook ’31 Center. 

“I really learned so much more about the initiatives that are being taken to document Black history at Bryn Mawr. Thank you for helping something like that come to fruition, as it was very powerful.” —Dezirae Gomez ’20

By all measures, the conference succeeded in fulfilling its goal. As Gray says, “As new generations come to the campus, we must make sure that we are present and willing to lend our stories, teachings and wisdom to our younger sisters, as we borrow, learn, and grow from theirs. I hope that through sharing my experience, I might provide one of the myriad perspectives that resonate with students, and they will in turn inspire me.”

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Marcia Young Cantarella '68 with her father, Civil Rights Movement leader Whitney Young.
Scholar addresses issues of differing experiences.