Rebecca Kiss/Pipe Dream Photographer Sociology professor Juanita Diaz-Cotto speaks to students, faculty and staff Sunday afternoon for the first Women’s Empowerment Brunch.

In honor of Women’s History Month, over 75 students, faculty and staff gathered in Old Union Hall of Old University Union on Sunday for the first Women’s Empowerment Brunch, sponsored by Binghamton University’s Multicultural Resource Center (MRC).

The three keynote speakers at the event were Sarah Saad, a senior majoring in human development; Juanita Diaz-Cotto, a professor of sociology; and Estacy Porter, a member of the local community. Jose Maldonado, one of the organizers of the event and a fellow for the MRC’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said they decided to hold the first annual Women’s Empowerment Brunch to celebrate the different contributions women make to BU.

“There’s a lot of people on this campus and, it being Women’s History Month, I think it’s important to acknowledge the women and the scholars on this campus and the great work that they do in regard to education and scholarship,” Maldonado said.

Saad spoke first and emphasized the importance of choice in all aspects of a woman’s life, as well as the struggle of understanding the traditional viewpoints of various family members within a feminist context.

“Rejecting every feminine norm is not what it means to be a feminist, but rather acknowledging that we have the freedom to choose because of our womanhood,” Saad said. “When I look back at the community I grew up in, I regret what I thought about my cousins. I looked down on them for pursuing a career as a wife.”

Diaz-Cotto spoke about her role models, as well as about the discrimination she’s faced as a woman of color and a lesbian within academia.

“I have had five men be promoted over my head and one white lesbian, so I wouldn’t say that I’ve been discriminated against just because I’m a woman, lesbian or person of color,” Diaz-Cotto said. “I was in a Catch-22 situation.”

Yaa Takyiwaa, a junior double-majoring in comparative literature and integrative neuroscience, said that she attended the brunch to be with people who have the same goal of empowering women.

“I feel like right now, with the climate with Trump and the Women’s March, I just came here to be in an environment where we all have the same agenda and where we’re just trying to move each other forward,” Takyiwaa said.

The final speaker was Porter, who enlisted in the army when she was 17 and is the founder of Jewel in His Eyes, Inc., a group that aims to empower and inspire young women.

Porter focused on how she learned resiliency from her parents, who illegally immigrated to the United States from Honduras before she was born. She said that to her, empowerment is the ability to motivate others.

“I want to help women to be able to see beyond their flaws and limitations and also provide a platform to give those that do not have a voice, a voice,” Porter said.

Awards were given by the MRC to women who have influenced the BU community. The recipients included Lisa Blitz, an associate professor in the BU department of social work; the Dean of Students CARE team; and Onyx Ramirez, a senior triple-majoring in political science, sociology and Latin American and Caribbean Area studies.

“I think it’s important that we continue to recognize women for all the amazing work that they do on our campus,” Ramirez said. “All of the most inspirational people in my life are women, and so I think it’s really important to honor each other.”

Editor’s Note: Sarah Saad is an opinions columnist for Pipe Dream, and did not play a role in the writing or editing of this article.