Empowerment Banquet fosters strength in young women

Comedian April Lee Hernandez headlined the 16th annual event, hosted by the Xi chapter of Omega Phi Beta. “The Era of the New Woman” was the banquet's theme.

With a brilliantly themed Gatsby-styled banquet, the Xi chapter of Omega Phi Beta hosted their 16th annual Empowerment of Women Banquet and managed to carry out this year’s message: "The Era of the New Woman."

Held on Saturday, April Lee Hernandez was the event's keynote speaker. The sorority also took advantage of its event to present some awards, one being Sister of the Year. The banquet included a live jazz band, a performance by Otto Tunes and real-life flapper choreography.

The sisters of the Xi chapter of Omega Phi Beta hosted the 16th annual Empowerment Banquet.

Noemi Cardenales, Omega Phi Beta Xi chapter president, delivered her opening speech and provided some anecdotes about herself as a young woman of Puerto Rican descent in high school. As salutatorian of her graduating class, she was asked to deliver a speech at her graduation, but she refused. Instead, she said she decided to stand among the rest of her peers in an act of solidarity.

"Now, I stand in front of you as president of Omega Phi Beta," Cardenales said. Even though the night was focused on the strength and power of women, Cardenales said there is potential for greatness in everyone — and how it is used is what matters. 

"Empowered women," Cardenales said, "act as the essence of womanhood."

Up-and-coming actor and comedian Hernandez stood under the spotlight and, surprisingly, asked for the light to be turned off. She requested instead to have it shine on other people in the audience.

With humbleness and swift wit, Hernandez kept her well-known humor in check as she talked about personal experiences and touched on subjects most people would find uncomfortable. Hernandez talked about Ronda Rousey and her recent first-ever defeat. Hernandez admired the fighter for her ferocity and power, but she mentioned that Rousey’s loss affected her to her soul.

Hernandez's words were touching and inspiring — she said life has a way of knocking people down, but it's important to have the power to get back up.

She then talked about her parents and what they taught her. Her mom would tell her that her voice matters, and her father would tell her that the choices she makes matter.

"When we have a voice, then there’s power. When we speak, life things happen," Hernandez said. "I see a room full of people who are going somewhere, and when you’re going somewhere you might get knocked down."

Hernandez used Rousey’s story and what her parents taught her as an segue into her recollection of teen relationship violence. Hernandez said she dated a guy throughout high school who abused her to extreme levels, and she felt alone in her situation without a way out. She even considered killing herself.

She emphasized the importance of the women's empowerment movement. Even after getting knocked down multiple times, she said, it is so important for a woman to know she can stand up feeling stronger.

Isis Orejuela, freshman child and family studies major, said that Hernandez's speech was powerful and relatable. Sophomore biology major Jennifer Rodriguez agreed, saying she thought it was an inspiring speech.

"Everybody falls and gets back up," Rodriguez said. "But empowerment is not about how many times you fall — but about getting up."


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