The annual College of the Canyons Women’s Conference returned to the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center on Saturday, with this year’s theme being “Think Big, Speak Up!”
The event featured speeches, a panel and breakout sessions led by prominent local dignitaries. The panel consisted of three Black women who were elected simultaneously in the city of Hawthorne’s November election — City Treasurer Marie Poindexter-Hornback, City Councilwoman Katrina Manning and City Clerk Dayna Williams-Hunter. It was the first time in that city’s history that three women of color were elected in the same election cycle.
The event kicked off with a welcome speech by the building’s namesake, COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook.
“Today is about developing human potential. It is designed to inspire you to dream and to do; to get up, to dress up, to show up and to never, ever give up. It is designed to inspire you to get into the room; take your seat at the table, speak up and believe you can,” said Van Hook. “You are the designer of your destiny — believe in yourself and do not let anyone put limits on what you can do.”
Manning’s speech was about determination — she ran three times before being elected and said gathering funding and support each time was difficult. But, because she believed in herself, she eventually succeeded.
“I will tell you that running three times, you’re always in a room full of men. Sometimes, I was intimidated when I went to some of these interviews to get endorsement. It would be 15 men and just me, and a lot of times they just assume you don’t know anything, that they’re smarter than you,” said Manning. “I’m gonna brag on this, and I’m biased, but we rule the world. We multitask. We take care of them, the kids, work and the community — all at the same time.”
Poindexter-Hornback spoke a little about her background, saying she was a mother of two working as an accountant, providing free tax help for the members of her community, before she decided to run for office. Poindexter-Hornback said her election marked the first time a woman, and the first time a Black woman, had been elected to her seat.
“We should celebrate ourselves more often. As I sit here looking at everyone, I think to myself, ‘Wow, this speaks to the conference title, Think Big, Speak Up!’ This says a lot and I’m so honored to be here at this event,” said Poindexter-Hornback. “It’s one of my first I’ve spoken at… so I’m very proud to be here and very proud to be a part of it and I was so grateful for the invitation.”
Following the panel, attendees had the option of going to six different breakout sessions on different topics, which featured speakers such as former Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares, former Assemblywoman Christy Smith, CEO of the Child and Family Center Nikki Buckstead, CEO of Global Education Solutions Inc. Gloria Mercado-Fortine and former Santa Clarita City Council candidate Selina Thomas.
The keynote speakers were Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, and Hildegrade Aguinaldo, vice president of the board of governors for California Community Colleges.