Author Archives: drrani

Get Inspired by Women’s History in the Nation’s Capital

Photo credit: Vietnam Women’s Memorial by Cliff (cliff1066), via Wikimedia Commons

Washington D.C remains a hub for cultural enrichment and many sites recognize the hardships and achievements of women throughout history. As you plan to attend the AAUW National Convention in D.C. in in June 2017, consider allotting time to visit and be inspired by the extraordinary efforts of the women immortalized in these sites.

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Diversity and Inclusion

Autoethnography—Am I Confirming and Assimilating?

By Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP
Diversity Consultant, ESVB-AAUW

This article is an adaptation of the author’s original article on LinkedIn

In March 2005, I gave a lecture at Howard University as part of a series on Multiculturalism in the Classroom. My particular lecture was on, “A South Asian teaching African American/Indian (comparative) courses at an Historically Black College and University (HBCU),” wherein towards the end of the video you will see that I wore a shawl and bindi and spoke about what might be the effect of my visual appearance if I went to the class like that and spoke about African American Women’s History to a class of predominantly African American students, while dressed like an Indian (I could not change into a saree, however, attempted to replicate an ethnic look). Only the last minute or two of the video are relevant to what I am saying. Please click her for the video:

I constantly face my own assumptions on where I stand in the American fabric. Recently, it struck me even more deeply while discussing with a friend about cultural expressions. We both erstwhile South Asians now Americans, talked about how we both don’t wear traditional clothes except on ethnic occasions such as festivals, weddings or funerals. The discussion took me to Dr. Marilynn B. Brewer’s Optimal Distinctiveness Theory and made me question as to where we stood in her various definitions? Were we part of “inclusion” wherein we were treated as insiders while allowed and encouraged to retain our uniqueness? Were we part of “differentiation” wherein we were not considered as insiders but allowed and encouraged to retain our uniqueness. Or were we part of “assimilation” wherein we were treated as insiders only when we confirmed to the cultural norms of the majority. Or finally as per Dr. Brewer’s matrix, were we part of “exclusion or dissatisfaction” wherein we were neither treated as insiders nor our uniqueness valued. (Please see Brewer’s chart below)

Upon pondering, one considers that certain critically labeling words are attached to the above four markers in the matrix such as, “treated” “allowed” “encouraged to retain” and “majority.” Why do immigrant groups have to be treated as such or such, or allowed and not allowed, or encouraged to retain? Why would immigrants not decide for themselves how much they wished to retain and how they wished to portray themselves, or how much they were willing to allow others to make them feel belonged or not? Of course, these are rhetorical questions as a number of research studies have been conducted on the notions of belonging and/or alterity for immigrants. In one study, I found some of the below questions very pertinent to the questioning of my own continuous assumptions about myself:

“… (1) During life, when does belonging to a nation, ethnic group or a culture become important for an individual? (2) How does self-definition impact how one deals with specific experiences, such as being a refugee? (3) What are the impacts of the process of migration on one’s sense of belonging? (4) How do immigrants re-construct their sense of belonging in their host societies? (5) How is the sense of belonging to a collective expressed in different generations in families of immigrants? (6) What is the impact of being a citizen of a country versus being a temporary resident on one’s sense of collective belonging? And (7) How do intergenerational conflicts manifest themselves in terms of identity ownership? (For further on this work, please see, Ethnicity and Belonging: An Overview of a Study of Cuban, Haitian and Guatemalan Immigrants to Florida by Julia Chaitin, J.P. Linstroth & Patrick T. Hiller in, )”

The opposing need of individuals according to Dr. Brewer has led them into a tug of war between their desires to feel “belonged” yet retaining their “uniqueness.” And yes, I have felt these tugs sometimes living in the West, in relation to me or others. When I wear traditional clothes, the way folks look at me, some admiringly, some wondering, some ignoring and some disdainfully. Some of the same reactions I too have shown towards others in ethnic clothes, and especially towards those from India. Visual representation feeds deeply into our comfort level and since we don’t know the other person as it is, the ethnic clothes become an additional layer of being unknown and thus to be feared. This in turn can lead to any number of biased ways—implicit and unconscious– we might be perceived or perceive others. “The implicit associations we harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance.” (Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Ohio State University.

Unconscious bias in particular, of which we all are culprit, can in turn lead to challenges in cultural competency, and in diversity and inclusion in professional spaces in all HR practices from recruiting, hiring to promotion to terminations.

Interestingly the tugs of assimilation/conformity I feel pulling at me in reverse when I go to India for a visit as well. I don’t wear skirts and dresses that come up only till my knees… or shorts, or other too skin revealing clothes. Perhaps no one will say anything (as some of my younger friends strongly argue that times have changed), yet I feel, due to my early upbringing in India, that folks in their fifties and beyond are supposed to dress in a particular way in public. Regardless of what my younger friends say, I still feel the “looks” from strangers, friends or relatives if my clothes are too revealing or not age suitable. My “otherness or alterity” is very apparent to me in India as much as it is in the US. Where do I belong, sometimes I question? Do I belong anywhere I choose and am comfortable? Or do I belong a little here and little there, or nowhere? I am reminded of Nigerian poet, Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s poignant poem:

All this is something to think about especially in relation to Dr. Brewer’s four classifications, in relation to unconscious bias, cultural competency and diversity and inclusion. I am still debating whether I am confirming and assimilating to the American fabric, and do the same while on a visit to India. And I have touched upon only visual identification in my auto-ethonographical analysis. There are so many other ways to confirm and assimilate; speech, tone, gestures, body language; marriage, job, education, religion and so forth. In a new study done by neuroscientists (Ryan M. Stolier and Jonathan B, Freeman) at New York University, on the way individuals react to diverse faces, they have shown that, “The stereotypes we hold can influence our brain’s visual system, prompting us to see others’ faces in ways that conform to these stereotypes.” ( and )

A variation of this article appeared on LinkedIn first. The author’s other posts on LinkedIn can be found at:

Public Policy


There are bound to be Suffragists in your area. Thousands of people across New York State formed grassroots organizations to bring male voters to the realization that women should have the right to vote. You can find them in your communities. Honor these brave people who worked tirelessly to obtain the vote for women.
You will find it exciting, interesting, rewarding and meaningful to discover these courageous people who fought so hard to “Give Women the Vote”.

1. Contact the County Historical Society
2. Contact the Town Historical Society
3. Ask the Town Historian (They love to share)
4. Visit the Local Library-They house historical documents
5. Ask librarians if they know of any suffragists
6. Talk to people you think might know of suffragists
7. Follow up on any leads
8. Find a book on the history of your area and who wrote it. You may find this by using the web and/or interlibrary loan
9. Read the book chapters that maybe useful on the web
10. On the web try different key words and various combinations of words-use your imagination for example: Make up the possible name of a suffragist society or club
11. Try the Library of Congress data base using key words
12. Research the Fulton History Project. It indexes hundreds of old newspapers around NYS
13. Explore old digitalized NYS newspapers at articles contain info about suffragists, events and provide names which can then be followed up
14. Search in NYS Library Suffrage catalog and request files with suffrage connections
15. Access on line university archives.
16. Investigate museum archives especially women’s museums
17. Seek specialized local libraries-a letter will reveal names
18. Search your own home attic-relatives papers-those related to you
19. Ask family members-amazing what you will find.

It is a thrilling adventure finding these people who gave so much of themselves so that we can have the vote. Their stories will capture your interest and your heart.

Happy Successful Researching!
Bonnie and Nancy Mion-AAUW -LI Suffragists Committee Chair

Fairy Tales Wisdom by Joan Monk

Never get tired of doing little things for others. For sometimes, those little things occupy the biggest part of their heart.'” – Ida Azhari

Positive Affirmation

Today I am stronger than yesterday. I see the sunshine peering through the darkness.

An Act of KIindness

Go out of your way to make someone laugh today. Laughter feels so good and is a true gift!
Meir Kay spreads positivity and cheer by complimenting complete strangers through free style rap and beatboxing.


Join Us for 50/50 Day on April 26, 2018!
Joan S. Monk
Leadership Board Coordinator

Character Day & 50/50 Day
914-245-7704 (h)    914-486-1182 (c)




Join at the NYC Department of Records and Information Services
BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center
Borough of Manhattan Community College Women’s Resource Center
The Women’s Salon and JoAnne Akalaitis

Monday, November 6, 2017
BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center
199 Chambers Street
6pm – 8pm

Honor the Women Who Won the Right to Vote in NYS in 1917
and People Fighting for Justice Today

100 YEARS! Stay Tuned…
A Centennial Anniversary Celebration of Women’s Suffrage in New York State
drama * poetry * stories * open mic
*suffragists’ recipes * sing-along * birthday cake
site-specific performance
100 YEARS! Stay Tuned… is an open performance.
You can come anytime after 6pm.
Tickets are not required but we would like to know you are coming, so please rsvp!

Empire State Virtual NY Branch Members at the AAUW NYS

AAUW NYS Summer Leadership Conference
Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, New York



AAUW NYS Summer Leadership Conference in Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, New York. The Empire State Virtual NY Branch (ESVB) members always actively participate in this Summer Leadership Conference but this year was very special to us because we celebrated our 5th Anniversary!



Our two newest members, Raegan Sealy, from
England and a recent graduate of the New School
and Ali Comerford, from Ireland and a recent graduate of the Manhattan School of Music entertained us, sang and played the guitar and inspired great moments of joy as we continue to live our AAUW mission to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.







              Raegan Sealy                                                                                       Ali Comerford

Congrats to the ESVB newest members, Raegan Sealy and Ali Comerford for creating the Sound Board, , an innovative non-profit based in NYC that uses poetry, music and performance to educate young people as artists, self-advocates, and emerging professionals.

Through creative programming, training, performance opportunities and mentoring Raegan and Ali provide young people with the skills they need to overcome roadblocks to education, engage in constructive political discourse and foster inclusion in their communities.  They connect our demographic through relevant art forms that they identify with; Sound Board is committed to the social capacity of rap, hip hop, jazz and songwriting to fight stigmas that are too often attached to terms like ‘poetry’ or ‘music,’ or the very idea of creative dialogue and social change.

Their target demographic has a powerful vocality and perspective that they seek to amplify. Their services are geared for young people who come from low-income families, ethnic minorities, have had contact with social services or are otherwise disadvantaged, disenfranchised or disengaged. They create platforms from which their voices can be heard. They partner with communities that are historically and culturally rich but face a daily reality of income, ethnic and other forms of discrimination, where they often find the young people with the most to say to give to their society.  Raegan and Ali coach their participants in reclaiming their narratives, taking the aspects of their stories often perceived as deficits, and turning them into assets for self-actualization, educational progress, and vocational capacity-building. If you would like to learn more about their work, email Raegan at

Public Policy

Lobbying Legislators by Cell Phone
Nancy Mion, AAUW ESVB Public Policy Director

We live in a democracy. The dictionary defines the word thusly-DEMOCRACY –noun– A system of government in which power is vested in the people, who rule either directly or through freely elected representativess. Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address … government of the people, by the people and for the people… It is as true now as it was 154 years ago.

We elect those who create and pass the laws that determine how we must act. They need to know what we, AAUW members, believe to be the best course of action for the people of our great nation. We, the members of ESVB AAUW, believe in gender equity. We can work to achieve this by being informed and by taking action to be certain that those who represent us know how we feel about pending legislation and governmental actions related to those issues.

Public Policy is one of the areas, where being a Virtual Branch is most effective. Often action to support our Mission of equity for women and girls needs to be taken immediately. The weekly Washington Update, to which I hope you subscribe, gives you the latest Public Policy news and updates from AAUW.

AAUW Public Policy has developed a new way to stay informed and active. It is the Two-Minute Activists mobile. This exciting new tool delivers timely, targeted communication straight to your cell phone via text message and offers other important advocacy features such as the ability to connect with your legislators’ offices by phone. That means AAUW can provide you with strategic opportunities to take action right when your advocacy can make the biggest impact. Your text message from AAUW will make it easy for you to call your US Legislators’ office by phone. After you dial the number given you’ll hear a brief introduction before being automatically routed to the appropriate office. Remember to identify yourself as a constituent, and then ask your legislator to take the desired action.

Ready to take your advocacy to the next level?

Go to  Complete the form there and opt in to the Two Minute Activists mobile. — or simply text the word “AAUW” to phone number 21333.

Once you sign up for the Two Minute Activist mobile you can advocate for gender equity wherever you go. You provide the voice — AAUW provides the megaphone.


Great Total Solar Eclipse of 2017!

A composite image of what the total eclipse looked like from
the Lowell Observatory in Madras, Oregon


Mary Watson Whitney (1847-1921)
Goddess of Wisdom
AAUW Member & Professor at Vassar College

On 2017 August 21, a total eclipse of the Sun was visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses the United States of America. The path of the Moon’s umbral shadow began in northern Pacific and crosses the USA from west to east through parts of the following states: Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina. The Moon’s penumbral shadow produces a partial eclipse visible from a much larger region covering most of North America.

According to our AAUW archives, many women have contributed to our knowledge of Astronomy and the universe.  For instance, Astronomer and AAUW member and professor at Vassar College in 1861, Mary Watson Whitney (1847-1921) built the school’s Astronomy program into one of the nation’s finest.  Under her direction, the Vassar Observatory issue 102 articles. Her classmates called Mary “Pallas Ahene”, our Goddess of Wisdom. She fought against the popular notion that women could not carry on sustained scientific research.  She was a passionate mentor, specially committed to securing jobs for women trained in Astronomy and Mathematics.