Poet: Women need to make own decisions

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    It requires risk and danger for women to move on in life and strive for freedom to live better, a poet at the International Women’s Day Luncheon said Wednesday.”You are lucky if you have a lot of money and freedom, but that’s not the case for women who don’t have the access that we have here,” said Camille Dungy, assistant professor of English at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia.

    Referring to her poem, “Diana in the Box,” which she recited at the luncheon, Dungy said, women have taken risks throughout history and are still doing so today.

    “They do that because they need to live,” she said. “They need freedom to live and breathe and work.”

    Dungy said students should pay attention to the world around them and become involved in the global decision-making process because those decisions directly affect them.

    “You might as well be part of the decisions, instead of letting them to be made for you,” she said.

    Dungy, the author of 52 poems encompassing the lives of African-American women and their experiences, talked about the plight that faces minority women around the world.

    She said women experience restrictions because of certain societal pressures, such as oppression and the balance of family and work life.

    At the luncheon, Dungy recited poems from a her new book, “What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison.”

    The book is an anthology of 20th century African-American history poems. Based on her family history and the role her grandmother played, it discusses the difficulties that women face in society and how they can free themselves from society’s cage.

    “It’s about the decisions African-American women have to make, their trials and ways they affect people they love,” Dungy said.

    A gathering of about 30 audience members sat in silence, staring and listening as Dungy passionately recited poems from her book.

    Lauren Love, a junior social work major and one of about four students who attended the event, said she was disappointed her peers missed the program.

    “You learn a little bit about yourself and your gender,” she said. “I personally enjoyed it. I had not heard of her work before, but I’m definitely a fan now.”

    Dungy alluded to “Pity,” a poem narrating the story of her grandmother, a black woman in the 1930s who struggled to achieve her professional goals before she had children at age 33.

    The poem explores the decisions women have to make between career and family and the difficulty it entails due to society’s economic and social demands, Dungy said.

    Marcy Paul, director of the Women’s Resource Center, said Dungy’s presence at the event and the background of her book were in honor of International Women’s Day, which has been celebrated since the early 1900s.

    “It is for women around the world to know that while we celebrate, we also have to recognize that women are still in trouble,” Paul said. “I think it should be celebrated throughout the year.”

    At the end of the luncheon, Dungy stayed to autograph the 23 copies of her book, which people could purchase as they exited the room.