Daijiah Steele | Contributing Writer
Marking its return to campus after a four year absence, the first call to action of Hampton University’s new National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) is a feminine hygiene products drive for underprivileged women. The drive, which runs from March 20 to April 3, aims to collect pads, tampons, and other feminine products for Menchville House Ministries in Newport News.
“Being able to give to women that need feminine products but don’t have the means to get it themselves inspired me to start this drive,” said junior psychology major Arie’yana Easterling who is a local vice president who helped spearhead the effort to bring the historic organization back to campus.
Menchville House, at 13658 Warwick Blvd., is a 46-bed emergency housing facility that helps homeless these families in their journey to self-sufficiency with temporary housing and supportive services.
“Without the donations, the women here would have to use their own money to buy the feminine products they need and a lot of people that come here don’t have that money,” said Menchville House case manager April McKinney. “With the donations we receive, the feminine products are already in their rooms by the time these women get here.”
At Hampton’s NCNW’s first meeting the executive board told their sisters to start collecting items from their dorms and people they knew to donate to Menchville House Ministries. At the second meeting, so many products were donated, the organization had to arrange for extra storage space. Organization officers said the newly formed group was already living up to the legacy of assisting women in the community, the original mission of the NCNW, founded in 1935.
Its mission is to lead, develop and advocate for women of African descent as they support their families and communities. Founded by educator, philanthropist and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, the organization historically pushed for jobs, voting rights, and anti-lynching legislation.
Bethune envisioned NCNW as a clearinghouse for other organizations with similar goals, facilitating networking and coalition-building, and advocating the use of collective power on issues affecting women, their families and communities, according to the NCNW website. Local president of Hampton University’s NCNW Olivia Okeke made a promise to herself and to HU women that she would try to bring this sisterhood back to Hampton University. “The reactivation of this organization means everything to me,” Okeke said. “Words can’t explain how elated I am.”
Initially, Okeke was unsure whether the women on campus would be familiar with NCNW. She feared that they would categorize the organization with other campus programs for women and not be interested. Her fears were unfounded.
“Students were excited for the reactivation of this organization and I cannot thank them enough for their support,” Okeke said.
By keeping in contact with the National Headquarters as well as the chapter president from her hometown Staten Island, New York, Okeke avoided the time-consuming process of re-activating Hampton’s NCNW. She sees the National Council of Negro Women as the epitome of excellence and wants Hampton’s NCNW to maintain that image.
The feminine hygiene drive is just the beginning of the legacy of service that Hampton’s NCNW plans to uphold. The group is planning an empowerment event for homeless women in efforts to ensure that these women understand their value and that they have sisters in the local NCNW that genuinely care.
“NCNW is a new concept to the younger generations of Hamptonians,” said Okeke, who believes NCNW will be a force to be reckoned with on HU’s campus. She hopes students will attend events, donate to NCNW drives, and consider joining the sisterhood.
“We need our Hampton family more than ever,” she said. “So please look out for us and support our efforts.”