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First HERfest sparks spirit of sisterhood

Published on October 16, 2023

First HERfest sparks spirit of sisterhood

Face painting by Eminence Ink at HERfest
Face painting by Eminence Ink at HERfest

The spirit of sisterhood permeated the Student Center during Eastern's first HERfest on Oct. 6. Sponsored by the Women's Center and several campus partners, the event hosted woman-owned businesses in celebration of womanhood and female empowerment.

“Sisterhood is the theme here tonight,” said Starsheemar Byrum, director of the Women’s Center in the Unity Wing. “When you feel good about yourself, it helps you to feel good about other people. We’re here to inspire and encourage women to complement, not compete.”

The purpose of the event was to celebrate womanhood, but students of all gender identities participated and acted as allies toward their peers. “This is really cool, I’m surprised how big this event is,” said one attendee, “I was expecting it to be more low-key, but it turned out really dope.”

Women-owned businesses hosted a wide range of activities for the girls who wanted to have fun. Bring the Hoopla, a business located in New Haven, encouraged female students to move and embrace the way their bodies move. This fit well with the recorded music played by female artists such as Doja Cat and Beyonce. “I think this is a fun and empowering environment,” said Sarah Murphy, program director of Bring the Hoopla. “They really did a good job pulling this together.”

Jewelry booth at HERfest

Volunteers from the Center for Community Engagement collect donations.

CreatedbyHER art exhibition

NoRA Cupcake Co. at HERfest

Other vendors included a face painter from Eminence Ink, a tattoo and piercing parlor located in downtown Willimantic, as well as booths distributing succulents and jewelry. A stilt walker was a figurative and literal highlight of the evening, offering photo opportunities for the attendees. NoRA Cupcake Co. and Cake, Batter, And Roll, two pastry businesses located in Middletown, CT, provided elaborate cupcakes and other sugary delights.

A major subject for the event was awareness and the availability of support for women, in accordance with October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month. A representative from the Sexual Assault Crisis Center set up a table with pamphlets and fliers from crisis centers across the state. They explained the importance of having services for college students, citing that “It's extremely important that people know there are resources, and that there is always someone there to help.”

The CreatedbyHER art gallery featured illustrations and sculptures by female students. An addition to this collection was Kara Mahoney’s self-descriptive multimedia piece titled “Everlasting,” a punching bag she crafted herself, covered in text and photos of her life.

“I originally concentrated in graphic design," said Mahoney. "I feel that incorporating words adds new layers ... a lot of my work is autobiographical. 'Everlasting' is meant to be a representation of myself. It's about learning how to hurt, how to be hurt, how to forgive and how to be forgiven.”

In addition to the Women's Center, HERfest was made possible through collaboration with the Center for Community Engagement, which collected donations for feminine hygiene products, Women’s and Gender Studies program, Campus Activity Board, Office of Equity, F.E.M.A.L.E.S. and Office of Housing and Residential Life.

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Written by Elisabeth Craig