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#MeToo Meets #GirlsToo at Girls Inc. of Holyoke Benefit on Jan. 30

HOLYOKE — #MeToo has galvanized a national reckoning about sexual harassment — but girls have been downplayed in the dialogue. “Speaking Out: For Women and Girls,” an event presented by Girls Inc. of Holyoke on Wednesday, Jan. 30 at the Delaney House, is doing its part to change the exchange.

The need is dramatic. Sexual harassment doesn’t begin in the workplace, but starts much earlier: studies show that seven of 10 girls are harassed before they leave high school, and one in four girls experiences sexual abuse and assault in childhood.

This is why “#GirlsToo: Respect Starts Young” inspired the night’s theme. #GirlsToo is a new viral media campaign launched by the national Girls Inc. organization that adds girls’ voices to this essential conversation.

“After witnessing a global year of women being brave enough to speak out, I think our ‘Speaking Out’ event is more timely than ever,” said Debra Vega, the event’s chair. “It’s just one of the ways we’ll continue striving to cultivate a world where women and girls can feel they can be heard.”

The moderator of “Speaking Out: For Women and Girls” is Victoria Ann Rodriguez, a litigation assistant at MassMutual and committee member of Springfield’s Puerto Rican Parade. The three featured local authors are Latoya Bosworth, Magdalena Gómez, and Crystal Senter-Brown. They have long advocated for women and girls and promise to present a lively, thought-provoking evening.

Bosworth is an educator, author, motivational speaker, self-esteem expert, and consultant. At age 21, she dubbed herself “Brenda’s Child,” in honor of her late mother, Brenda Kay. In her adult years, Bosworth has learned to reframe the tragedies and issues of her childhood through seeking out mentors, using writing as an outlet, and giving back. She has a Ph.D. in social services, and has consulted with the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Youth Services. Her latest book is The Right Amount of Sunshine: Cultivating Little Girls into Young Ladies.

Gómez is a teaching artist, performer, playwright, motivational speaker, workshop facilitator, and author. She is a recipient of the 2018 New England Public Radio Arts and Humanities Award. Her plays, performance poems, and monologues have been performed everywhere from UMass to Off-Broadway to the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater to Teatro Vida, Springfield’s first Latina theater, which she founded. She is also a commentator on NEPR, the author of poetry collections such as Shameless Woman, and the co-editor of an acclaimed anthology on bullying.

Senter-Brown is the director of Employer Relations at Bay Path University, an author, and a justice of the peace. She has written seven books for children and adults, led writing workshops in the community, spoken at local schools, and taught in the Women as Empowered Leaders and Learners program at Bay Path. One of her novels, The Rhythm in Blue, was adapted into an award-winning feature film. She was named a BusinessWest Difference Maker in 2018.

“Speaking Out: For Women and Girls” takes place from 5-7 p.m. Event tickets are $100 each and include an open bar and hearty appetizers. To purchase tickets, visit bit.ly/SpeakingOut2019. The authors’ books will be on sale at the event. All proceeds will benefit Girls Inc. of Holyoke.

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