26th annual ‘I believe Anita Hill’ party offers networking opportunities for students

Claudia Smith Brinson

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The 26th annual “I Believe Anita Hill!” networking event will be held Thursday, Oct. 12, in Columbia, to once again encourage women and men to stand up and speak out for justice and equality.

This year, the 75 hosts will introduce a new initiative, “Connecting Community.” The hosts, who are S.C. professional women and activists, know that many people want to volunteer but may not know where to turn to make a difference. “I Believe Anita Hill!” will make that easier by introducing potential volunteers and donors to vetted organizations that can support their values.

The 2017 event will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at 701 Whaley Street in Columbia. Admission is free and open to the public. 

“I Believe Anita Hill!” is likely South Carolina’s largest networking opportunity for women. “I Believe Anita Hill!” is also the nation’s oldest continuous remembrance of Hill and her testimony. In 2016, 750 women and men attended.

The networking event celebrated its silver anniversary with Hill’s attendance; she also attended in 1997 and 2011.

Hill, an attorney, electrified the nation in 1991 at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing when she described alleged sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas, her former supervisor and then a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. At a Congressional hearing, Hill, who is African-American, was grilled aggressively by an all-white, all-male panel.  That sparked a nationwide discussion on sexual harassment in the workplace as well as what was called the “Year of the Woman,” when more women than ever before ran for and were elected to Congress.

The first 10 years of the organization were dedicated to informing women and men about workplace issues such as sexual harassment and to empowering women to actively change any hostile work environment. Hosts then decided to broaden the mission to show concern about justice and equality, by encouraging women to push back and resist the continuation of unequal pay and unequal access, for example, to health care, to mortgages, to top corporate jobs or to board rooms.

The organization now enhances that mission with its “Connecting Community” effort.

“We know many people want to volunteer but may not know where to turn to make a difference,” said Barbara Rackes, an S.C. entrepreneur and coordinator of “I Believe Anita Hill!” “They may fear they don’t have the right skills or the ability to match their values and skills to the right organization.

“So this year we will mobilize 750 people to put their boots on the ground; we will connect them with the organizations just right for their donations and volunteer work.”

For more information, http://anitahillparty.com

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