The Foundation of Women of Culture
In 1981, the National Institute for Women of Color (NIWC) was established to build a strong national network for women of African, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, Latina and Pacific Island heritages and to advance the issues of Women of Color. These efforts resulted in National Strategies Conferences for Women of Color in 1982 and 1983 in Washington, DC, 1984 in Reno, Nevada and 1987 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. NIWC also published three Fact Sheets on Women of Color and as well as several NIWC Brown Papers—researched writings on issues of concern to Women of Color.
In 1986, in response to the suggestion of Pat Williams, Ohio University administrator, NIWC proclaimed March First—the first day of Women's History Month—as National Women of Color Day. Since that time, Women of Color Day Programs have been held across the United States and in other countries.
In 1988, Suzanne Brooks, then Affirmative Action Officer of Penn State University, began developing a group of practices and traditions to be used when Women of Color Day is commemorated. Ethnic dress, for example, is a characteristic tradition at Women of Color Day events, as are awards presented to "Outstanding Women of Color."
In 1991, as Director of the California State University Multi-Cultural Center, Brooks implemented the first Women of Color Day program in California at that university. She directed subsequent programs there until 1995. Thereafter, Brooks began the work of converting a national observance into an international one. In 1998, she developed a special cultural ceremony for Women of Color Day, providing a unique worldwide tradition to can be shared. In 1999, with funds from a New Work Award to her as a poet and support from a local restaurant, Brooks organized and implemented the first Sacramento Community Women of Color Day Program. In 2000, the program was moved to Sacramento public television station, KVIE-Channel 6. Programs for 2001, 2002 and 2003 were also held there. In 2004, the Sacramento Community Women of Color Day Program was held at the Cosumnes River College Recital Hall.