Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dear Howard University Community:

On March 8th every year, International Women's Day is celebrated to commemorate women and their achievements. Although women have made significant strides in their fight for justice—there remains a long distance to cover. International Women’s Day commemorates the movement for women’s rights and highlights the academic, social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.  This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Be Bold for Change.' At Howard University, we stand in solidarity with the women who stayed away from work today to demonstrate how important and integral they are to our economy and lives.

As you know, women have always played a significant role in Howard’s history, and some of the first graduates of this institution were women—the daughters of trustees. Today, Howard University is proud to celebrate and acknowledge the accomplishments of the bold, trailblazing women in leadership on our campus and around the world. My passion for inclusivity in leadership and specifically my persistence to place women in leadership roles across the University is a direct result of experiences that have allowed me to witness this world through a plethora of lenses.

I was raised, mentored and taught by some of the most hardworking women—particularly at this institution. I believe that the Howard Woman is: a barrier breaker, she is a trailblazer, she is tenacious, intellectual and hopeful. The Howard woman is a mosaic masterpiece of: Charlotte E. Ray, Toni Morrison, Dr. Lucile Adams Campbell, Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Zora Neale Hurston, Patricia Roberts Harris, Shauntay Hinton, Meshell Ndegeocello, Jessye Norman, Dr. Joyce Ladner, LaRue Barkwell, Dr. Carolyn Broome, Allyson Carpenter, Dr. Debra Ford, Dr. Marian Johnson-Thompson, Artis G. Hampshire- Cowan, Esq., Kamala Harris and many more. The Howard woman is a necessity to ensure that our local, global communities, and our Howard University is sustained.

On this day, especially, I am compelled to challenge our community to collectively commit to direct action – action that ensures women don’t just have a seat at the table, but rather they have an opportunity to sit at the head of the table. We must be bold enough to advocate for women and criticize attitudes that do not support and celebrate their success.  We must scrutinize routine street harassment and misogynistic language toward women who have stood beside, behind, in front of and supported our world’s greatest success stories.

As a son, husband, father and the president of an institution, whose undergraduate student body is more than 70% women and more than half of my academic deans and cabinet members are women, I am driven by the thought-provoking words of Audre Lorde, "I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own."

Excellence in Truth and Service,

Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA