The Women’s Freedom Conference made history this past Sunday as the first all-digital, highly accessible conference organized by all women of color. The creator of the conference, Feminista Jones, an activist and writer, stated in her welcoming keynote, “I realized women of color don’t really get the space to have their issues, their ideas, their concerns, their work, their talents, their success and their achievements all centered with the focus primarily on them. I wanted to change that.”
Jones organized the conference with web designer Sarah Huny Young and writer Melanie Dione. The Women’s Freedom Conference advisory board consists of over ten women of color including Ebony Senior Digital Editor Jamilah Lemieux, Johnetta Elzie, lead youth activist in the Ferguson protest movement, Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani, a host of HuffPost Live, digital undivided founder Kathryn Finney, Reagan Gomez, an actress and writer, and Lourdes Hunter, co-founder of the Trans Women of Color Collective.
The naming of the conference was very intentional, Jones said in her keynote. “We didn’t call it the Women of Color Freedom Conference because we want to get it into your head that women of color are women,” she said. “When you say women you are not simply referring to white women, able bodied women, cis gendered women, or heterosexual women. You are referring to all women and all women matter.”
The conference lasted 12 hours and there were over 40 women speakers of color from all over the world who presented freestyle talks or spoke on a panel. Some of the freestyle talks and panels included “Imagination and the Internationalization of #BlackLivesMatter,” “Designs of a Millennium: Women of Color Are Redesigning the Tech Landscape,” “Harnessing the Global Power of Black Women via Social Media,” “Empowerment of Trans Women of Color,” and “Black Girl in a Digital World: Creating Diversity in Digital Careers.”
With inclusivity and accessibility in mind, the Women’s Freedom Conference gave a space for women of color to share their stories and for the world to hear them — all for free. The only paid part of the conference were two master class webinars hosted by Majora Carter and Dior Vargas. The technology used to stream the conference was designed and developed by Sarah Huny Young and the webinars were hosted by Black Star Media, an accessibility and education company. In her keynote, Jones addressed the issue of accessibility for non-digital conferences:
“Conferences can really gather people together and you can learn so much and share so much, but you also know that it is cost prohibitive and difficult for people with different disabilities, for parents who can’t afford childcare, for people who are economically disenfranchised to save money, travel and pay the costs of conferences. So often these conferences gather together those who can, not those who really want to and we wanted to change that.”
The work accomplished by Jones and her team did not go unnoticed. The hashtag used for the conference, #WFC2015, was the #1 US trend on Twitter for hours on Sunday and even trended globally. The conference was incredibly inspiring and shed light on issues women of color face around the world. It is rare that women of color get the opportunity to be celebrated and the Women’s Freedom Conference provided that opportunity, as well as allowed anyone from anywhere to access these women’s stories.
Women’s Freedom Conference was funded by She Knows Media, digital undivided, Revision Path and Black Star Media, but they are still accepting donations. All twelve hours of the conference can be accessed here.
Addendum: The original post stated that the conference’s live stream technology was made by Black Star Media, this has been corrected. The live stream technology was developed by Sarah Huny Young. Black Star Media created the technology for the master class webinars.