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Annual Women of Color Day

February 14, 2013

In 1988, Director of Affirmative Action at Penn State, Suzanne Brooks, urged several female members of the UPenn faculty to join the National Woman of Color Day. A year prior, the National Institute Women of Color officially decreed March 17th as the first National Women of Color Day. The purpose for this day of celebration is to remember “the ordinary women who made extraordinary contributions to their families, communities and the world.”

On March 1, 1988, a group of sixty-five women held the first annual celebration for Women of Color at Penn (WOCAP) in the Penn Tower Hotel. The Women of Color Day Celebration included awards for the “deserving members of the Penn community who made a difference in the lives of women of color.” Since its creation, Penn faculty, staff members, and students increasingly attend the annual celebration—with the 1993 celebration resulting in 500 participants. Marcia Rafig, former General Manager of the Penn Tower Hotel, became the first Woman of Color Award recipient. In 1990, a new category was created to award student honorees. The Women of Color named its most prestigious award to Dr. Helen O. Dickens, the first black woman to serve as a faculty member in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Penn. Most recently, Elder Marietta Melton of the Helping Hands Ministry was honored in the 2012 celebration.

Today, WOCAP considers itself a campus support and advocacy group as well as a community for sisterhood between black, Asian, and Latina women within the entire University. The Awards Day includes an annual conference along with a full day of activities that examine issues of significance to women.  The 26th annual theme for this year will be Definitions of Family among Women of Color: Past, Present, and Future Definitions. The celebration will hold a mini-conference discussing women within the family structure and the changing definitions of women within that context.

To order tickets for the Annual Women of Color Awards Day Program, send journal voucher payment information to Terry Sacksith at or fax her at 215-898-9659.

Victoria Ford, CAS ’15

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