Black History & Women’s History Month Speaker Series

Hartford's Color Women's Liberty Loan Committee, 1917

By Victoria Coverson-Baxter with support from SJPL’s Family Learning Center (FLC) Coordinators

Every year, many communities join in celebration to recognize the contributions African Americans and women have made to our society. In the United States, we celebrate Black History Month (BHM) in February, and March is reserved for Women’s History Month (WHM). What is the idea behind these events?

According to the Library of Congress, Negro History Week was first celebrated in 1926, and it was expanded in 1976 to the month-long event we hold today. President Gerald Ford told the country to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Women’s History Month (WHS) followed a similar path. President Jimmy Carter issued a proclamation marking March 2-8, 1980, as the first national Women’s History Week. The celebration was later expanded into a month by congressional proclamation in 1987.

Join the FLCs during our weekly Community Connection Hour (CCH) for our Black History and Women’s History Month Speaker Series!

Our hope is to no longer limit ourselves to one month for recognizing and supporting the experiences of historically underserved groups but rather to include broader perspectives in how we study and celebrate history throughout the year. The Speaker Series will feature different local women's experiences and contributions to our community and beyond. Join us in hearing their stories and gain a new perspective on the experiences of women of color. As we transition from Black History Month to Women’s History Month, let’s make sure that we are applying the lessons from this Speakers Series and community celebrations throughout the rest of the year.

Our Esteemed Speakers

Dr. Marcelle Dougan

Dr. Marcelle Dougan – "Making History"

Thursday, February 4, 2021 at 1:00 PM

Presentation & discussion will address Blacks and their contributions to science, including the scientific discovery process, and how these contributions have been previously erased or minimized.

Meet Dr. Marcelle Dougan: Dr. Marcelle Dougan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health and Recreation at San José State University. Her research focuses on improving the quality of life of breast cancer survivors, and the social factors that influence who contracts COVID-19. She has published peer-reviewed articles including the International Journal of Cancer, the International Journal of Obesity, and the American Journal of Epidemiology. Dr. Dougan holds a doctoral degree in epidemiology from Harvard University, a master’s in public health from Columbia University, a master’s in chemical engineering from Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine, University of London, and a graduate certificate in technology management from Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey.

Dr. Monica Allen, MD

Dr. Monica Allen, MD – "Building on History: How Black People Can Continue to Contribute to Science"

Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 1:00 PM

The presentation & discussion will focus on the importance of Black people getting involved in medical research and its benefits to the community.

Meet Dr. Monica Allen: Dr. Monica Allen completed her BS in Health Sciences and MPH in Health Promotion and Education at Loma Linda University. Her research interests include health literacy and health issues in diverse populations, with focus on reducing disparities. In 2005, she entered the Doctor of Public Health Degree at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. She is currently completing on her dissertation on partnerships between the Faith Community and Public Health Organizations.

Mychele Riddick

Mychele Riddick – “Inside Tips on Mastering the Behavioral Interview”

Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 1:00 PM

Presentation & discussion will address the structure of the Behavioral Interview and how it is designed to collect information on past behaviors. Conversations will include tips and strategies on mastering the Behavioral Interview, as well as AT&T’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Meet Mychele Riddick: Mychele Riddick currently serves as the lead College Recruiter with AT&T. In this role, she is responsible for strengthening University Relations with key schools in the Western Region, building AT&Ts college hire funnel and ideal employer brand. Before entering the role of University Relations Manager, Mychele was responsible for attracting and sourcing top talent for AT&T’s Leadership Development Programs.

Zeena Yasin

Zeena Yasin – “Expanding Your Tax Aptitude & Living a Tax-Free Retirement”

Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 1:00 PM

Zeena will engage participants in a Q&A to explore tax-free investments every woman should consider. Participants will also learn the difference between being rich and wealthy, and will leave with steps to reach personal financial goals.

Meet Zeena Yasin: Zeena Yasin is a Leading Broker with World Financial Group and has been serving her clients and the community for over 10 years. She has presented financial seminars for Google, Apple and Facebook and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the NFL Alumni Caring for Kids. Zeena is committed to empowering families and entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to have a better financial future.

Marisa Gaska

Marisa Gaska – “Selflessly Serving Your Community”

Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 1:00 PM

Join Marissa in a conversation about how you can grow creatively and serve your community in the midst of a pandemic.  She will share her own story and encourage you to explore how difficult times can uncover your hidden talents and skill sets.

Meet Marisa Gaska: Marisa Gaska was born, raised and educated in the Bay Area. Marisa balances full-time work with caring for her family and caretaking for her mother. Marisa was inspired to create her PPE business after hearing from a nurse who was reusing paper face masks in the early stages of the COVID –19 pandemic. Her business continues to provide the community with safety essentials.

Dr. Susie Reyes, MD

Dr. Susie Reyes, MD – “The Impact of Health Disparities on a Young Woman of Color”

Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 1:00 PM

Dr. Reyes will share her journey of determination and invite participants to engage in conversation about the lack of access to medical treatment many black and Latinos experience today, and how to exercise self-advocacy.

Meet Dr. Susie Reyes: Dr. Reyes was born and raised in San Jose, CA to immigrant parents. After having her daughter at a young age, Dr. Reyes decided to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. It was the experience of giving birth to her daughter that highlighted the disparities in treatment for young, women of color in the medical world. Dr. Reyes is one of the only Spanish speaking doctors at the facility where she works, a facility that provides services for a large Spanish speaking population. She strives to make a difference in the community from whence she came.

Be’Anka Ashaolu and Jeronica Macey

Be’Anka Ashaolu and Jeronica Macey – "Selfcare in a Cup: Using the power of coffee & tea to bring people together"

Thursday, March 18, 2021 at 1:00 PM

Come listen to co-founders of the San José based coffee shop, Nirvana Soul. Be'Anka and Jeronica will share their journey about opening a business in the middle of a pandemic, including some of the challenges and opportunities of being Black women entrepreneurs. Join us in learning more about how they made their vision to create a community space and retreat for self-care come to life.

Meet Be’Anka Ashaolu and Jeronica Macey: Be'Anka and Jeronica are self-described "sisters, bffs, and co-founders." Since they were little girls, coffee has held a special, calming place for them. Their life-long dream has been to create a space that "feeds our souls and makes people happy." This is #selfcareinacup.

Denise Williams

Denise Williams – “Parent Engagement”

Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 1:00 PM

Denise will share strategies for involving parents in their child’s educational journey, and the innovative ways California Schools are reimagining Parent Engagement.

Meet Denise Williams: Denise Williams recently retired from Evergreen School District where she served for 35 years as a teacher, computer instructor, literacy coach, principal and director. As the Director of Instruction, Denise was responsible for state and federal programs enabling her to be an advocate for historically underserved students and English language learners. Denise is very intentional and passionate around her equity work ensuring that all students and parents receive what they need to be successful in the 21st Century. Her work in the community empowering parents to be successful with their children led to Evergreen receiving the state’s Golden Bell Award and the County’s Kristy Porter Award for Parent Engagement. Denise was also the recipient of the 2019 NAACP Emmitt Dollarhyde Award for her work in the educational community. Denise is passionate about serving her community and now has embarked upon her second career as the Chief Program Officer of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. 

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