The Organization for Women of Ethnicity (OWE) held their first annual Women Empowerment banquet to celebrate women’s history month in the Warren Ballrooms of the Angell College Center Monday at 7 p.m.

The special guest for the evening was Juliet Castaneda (JuJu) from the VH1 reality show “Love and Hip Hop.”

Before the event started, OWE member and organizer Oumar Diallo explained its intentions

“I’ve always wanted to bring a diverse speaker on campus,” Diallo said. “More specifically, it just so happened to be after the recent incident, so we felt that the school needed exposure of different culture.”

Beside Castaneda, other important figures made an appearance, including Title IX Coordinator Butterfly Blaise.

“I think it’s important to support an organization for the empowerment of women and I am happy to see the collaboration between men and women on this project,” Blaise said.

Blaise also gave her definition of empowering women as the Title IX coordinator.

“Title IX was created because of the lack of equality between women and men,” Blaise said. “Empowerment means we provide a platform for women to thrive.”

The event kicked off with a question-and-answer portion by Diallo and another event organizer, OWE secretary Breyana Anderson. The first question asked was “How was your childhood?”

“I grew up in Miami, Florida, with a single mom,” Castaneda said. “My dad was incarcerated.”

Castaneda then proceeded to talk about how she used food stamps to get by as a young child and how she worked in a Chinese restaurant  while other girls her age were having fun.

She remarked on how  those experiences made her the woman she is today.

“Those experiences made me strong,”  Castaneda said.

Being a “black Latina” was a challenge for Castaneda as well. She opened up about how she felt isolated in her neighborhood because of her Hispanic heritage and her dark skin.

“I was in this weird place,” Castaneda said. “I was too black to be Spanish and too Spanish to be black.”

The next question was “Do you have any tips for the young women present today?”

“Be very independent,” Castaneda said. “When you make your own money, you don’t have to deal with people’s crap.”

As a college graduate, Castaneda holds a Business Administration degree from Bear University.

“Education is key,” Castaneda said.

An audience member raised a concern to Castaneda: “What if my classes are useless?”

“Do work with an open mind,” Castaneda said. “It seems like stuff you don’t need, but one day you will need it.”

The final question asked was “As a young black woman, how do you deal with insecurities?”

Castaneda explained that she had an insecurity about her thighs at one point in her life, but soon realized that one must accept who they are

“Just embrace what you have,” Castaneda said. “This is me”

After all questions were answered, Anderson conducted a “Tea” session where Castaneda was asked to dish some dirt on her co-stars from “Love and Hip Hop.”

After the “tea” session was over, PSUC students lined up to take a picture with Castaneda.

After closing, Castaneda had the chance to define female empowerment herself.

“Empowerment means not being afraid to encourage and motivate other women,” Castaneda said.

Email Mataeo Smith at news@cardinalpointsonline.com

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