National Body Image Conference

By Sydnee Reddy
November 29, 2020

Usually, a two-day Body Image conference became a one-day virtual conference that ended up having international presenters, with also a dynamic keynote speaker.

The keynote speaker was Amber Hikes, the ACLU’s first Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer. She worked for the Mayor of Philadelphia, during that time she developed public policy in support of the LGBT community that was then used across the country. As keynote speaker, she discussed how if we are actual allies, we will eventually be called out for making a misstep but think of it, work on it and be better.“Amber is engaging, dynamic and inspiring as a community organizer and leader for social justice advocacy work,” Dr. Michelle Filling-Brown, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences school, said.

Photo Credits Cabrini University

The National Body Image Conference started in 2014 after a donation from the Katherine Alexandra Foundation. Dr.Michelle Filling-Brown, dean of the school of humanities and social sciences, started the conference. National body Image Conference is hosted every other year and it features a plenary speaker, throughout the day they have panel presentations and to end the conference they end with a keynote speaker, the conference often has a period of time where students can display artwork or perform poetry. The conference usually is two days in person but because of COVID they switched to an online platform and it shifted to one day. “The silver lining of having a virtual conference is that we were able to have presenters from universities in Italy and Turkey and attendees from all over the world,” Filling-Brown said. ”Almost 300 students, faculty, staff and community members registered to attend the conference.”

“The theme for this year’s conference was Diversity and the Body.”We set this theme prior to the events of 2020 and are grateful that we had the space of this conference to consider issues of diversity, equity and inclusivity in relation to the body and body image,” Filling-Brown said.“Grateful that we had the space of this conference to consider issues of diversity, equity and inclusivity in relation to the body and body image, especially in light of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many more,” Filling-Brown said.

This year the conference hosted Ashley Franklin, author of the children’s book “Not Quite Snow White”, as the featured speaker. Ashley spoke about diversifying our bookshelves and thinking about what we are reading to young kids. The plenary speaker, Dr. Mark Destephano from St. Peter’s University, discussed the body in relation to the virtual world we are living in and in connection to the social movements of 2020.

Photo credits: Cabrini University website

Julia Smith, Brittany Romano and Ceonna Morris Hayes three Cabrini students presented their own research on a panel during the conference. The three students started their time here at Cabrini together in the Body language Learning Community and culminated their learning through the conference.”When I heard about the opportunity, I was really excited. It was something I wanted to do since I was a freshman. I spent my summer planning pictures and doing research, but I was still anxious because I wasn’t sure how my message would be perceived or if I was a good person to deliver the message,” Ceonna Morris Hayes, senior Social work major with a minor in gender and bodies studies and philosophy said. “I remember my stomach hurting my palms sweating as I turned on my screen and began presenting, but I was excited to finally share something that I had been working on for such a long time.” Ceonna’s presentation discussed what it means to exist as a fat Black Women and how her identity affects the way she views herself as well as the way that society is programmed to view people who look like her.

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Sydnee Reddy

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