Writing workshop acts as ‘pinnacle’ for Women’s ‘HerStory’ Month at VCU

Kaya Windpainter receives snaps after reading her prompt response at the “Pass Her the Pen” workshop. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Emily Richardson, Staff Writer

Author, blogger and poet Paula G. Akinwole led a writing workshop in collaboration with VCU’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs for students last week, inviting attendees to express themselves creatively in a positive and intimate setting.

“Pass Her The Pen” consisted of open discussions before attendees were given prompts and time to write. Everyone participating was encouraged to share their writing aloud. One prompt asked attendees to choose a word they have been called — good or bad — and turn it into an acrostic poem. 

“Pass Her The Pen” was one of three events in the “Pass Her” series, according to Beck Oh, Interim Program Manager for LGBTQ+ Initiatives at OMSA. 

“We didn’t intentionally set out to do this series, but it started with the ‘Pass Her The Mic’ event,” Oh said. “‘Pass My Crown’ was something a different organization ended up planning. We decided, why don’t we just make it a three-part series and invite everybody who goes to one to the others?”

“Pass Her The Mic,” a collaboration between OMSA CULTURE, and Poetry Club gave the community the chance to honor Women’s “HerStory” Month with performances, readings and music, according to RamsConnect

The series completed Friday, March 17 with “Pass My Crown,” a panel discussion about women in hip-hop co-sponsored by the Department of African American Studies, OMSA and others, according to the event’s webpage.

The writing workshop was designed to be a “precursor” to the open mic, which occurred on Thursday, Oh said.

“I think for any cultural heritage month, it’s really to make the people who identify with that community feel celebrated and to give them cool opportunities to expand on skills like this,” Oh said.

OMSA aims to facilitate “community-wide” celebration by putting events organized by other departments and organizations on their calendar, Oh said.

“We want there to be a VCU community-wide feel that we’re all celebrating this month together,” Oh said.

Paula G. Akinwole, owner of PGArtistry LLC and her personal blog, “For Lack Of Better Words,” said her passion for writing draws from two reasons: that she “wasn’t seeing a lot of the type of expression that [she] felt was needed in the world,” and that her great-grandmother had to have her own work published under the name of the white woman she worked for.

“After the death of that person, their family refused to acknowledge that their family member didn’t write it — a Black woman did,” Akinwole said. “I sort of, at an early age, felt passioned about telling my stories, talking about the uncomfortable things, and doing it as my full and authentic self in honor of my [great] grandmother who couldn’t do that.”

Though “Pass Her The Pen” was tailored to Women’s History Month, Akinwole said, her writing workshops typically fall under one of two categories: therapeutic or creative. Therapeutic workshops are the more popular of the two, Akinwole said.

Seeing a positive response to her own work, which she had written as a form of self-therapy, helped her understand how a workshop might help others, Akinwole said.

“It really grew from there, from me having a personal experiencing of needing an outlet for my feelings in a really closed-in space, to realizing that there are a lot of people who needed an outlet to their feelings,” Akinwole said.

Kaya Windpainter, a senior studying graphic design, came to the workshop to gain a new perspective on writing, she said.

“I’m doing a piece myself about writing, turning some poetry into a record,” Windpainter said. “I really wanted to see some other opinions about writing because I’ve been in my own little world.”

Windpainter said, in her opinion, this workshop “might be the pinnacle” of Women’s History Month programming at VCU this year.

“Women and what they have written define women’s history, and what we will continue to write will define women’s history,” Windpainter said. “It’s integral to everything.

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