Mills College women supported alumna Congresswoman Barbara Lee at a recent book signing in Oakland.
The nine students helped host the Feb. 20 event, in which Lee talked about her autobiography Renegade for Peace and Justice: Congresswoman Barbara Lee Speaks for Me, published in October 2008.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Center hosted the event. The Mills students helped manage book sales, welcome guests and staff the sign up lists.
Freshwoman Lina Blanco gathered the Mills contingent to help represent women in leadership and build community with those currently involved with the
Blanco has been involved with the Freedom Center for five years, including having graduated from its leadership training. She now works as a community organizer for the organization.
Located in downtown Oakland near Laney College, she said the Center’s goals are to promote non-violence leadership development and public speaking skills among local youth.
Lee cofounded the organization in 2004, and spoke to the audience of approximately 85 about her own personal journey and experiences writing the book.
“She came across as pretty amazing,” said sophomore Veronica Beaty.
In the book Lee covers her experience, from being a young single mother living on public assistance, to her rise as a powerful voice in politics.
Freshwoman Kirstyne Lange said she identified with Lee as a woman of color.
Junior Jennifer Stoney said “I liked how she talked about her emotions while she was writing [the book].”
She added she has often thought writing autobiographies comes easy for politicians, but “[Lee] expressed how difficult
Stoney said Lee is inspiring that a local politician was currently chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Blanco said Mills women should look to Lee as a role model for what they can accomplish.
“It kind of ups the ante for us at Mills, knowing that a graduate of Mills has a greater impact,” Blanco said.
“She said she was born in struggle,” Blanco added. “Where we come from and where we are going, we can use struggle the way Barbara Lee has.”
Freshwoman Mariah Olivera said in an e-mail “As a Mills woman volunteering at this event and building community among all of the guests, I felt like I was living our Mills motto of being strong and proud women.”
She said Lee instills inspiration “in everyone she meets,” and that “it was very comforting and inspirational to be in a room with so many ambitious people who have the same dreams that I have, of a world in which nonviolence and equality are the norm.”
Lee represents California’s ninth Congressional District in the House of Representatives, and was first elected to the post in 1998.
She received international attention when she was the only member of Congress to vote against a resolution that gave then- President George Bush more power to wage war against countries deemed capable of terrorism.
Blanco said the Freedom Center is working to make “BART more owned by the community,” in light of the New Year’s Day shooting of Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART station.
The organization is planning community leadership workshops for BART police, advertising at stations with photos of community members and their local impact, and painting murals.