HerStory Slam discusses trials, tribulations and triumph in womanhood


Ethan Shulman | Senior Staff Photographer

Audience members listen to a speaker at the HerStory Slam Monday night in the Frick Fine Arts building.

By Shreya Singh, Senior Staff Writer

While learning to be confident in her own skin, Megana Dwarakanath described how a high school teacher helped bring her out of her shell.

“Debate really kind of opened up this avenue for me to be comfortable in front of people,” Dwarakanath, a graduate medical fellow at UPMC, said. “That was because of Mr. Bond. Unlike anybody who I have ever met, he believed in the power of ideas, really big ideas.”

More than 100 people gathered in the Frick Fine Arts auditorium to attend the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’s HerStory Slam event Monday evening in honor of Women’s History Month. The event, which was rescheduled from last month, united women across the greater Pittsburgh area to share “​​a pivotal moment in the formation of [their] identity,” according to the event’s webpage

Before the event started, there was about an hour-long reception with appetizers. The topics of conversation varied greatly among the volunteers who spoke. Topics included domestic violence, remembering grandparents and finding a sense of identity. 

Dwarakanath said her story about her late high school debate coach was a way to keep his memory in people’s hearts. 

“I think my story was the eulogy I wanted to give for my mentor,” Dwarakanath said. “I had a lot of guilt about not staying in touch in over a decade, especially since much of what I do now and what I am now is to his credit. Sharing a memory of him to a group of people who did not get the privilege of knowing him was a way of keeping him alive through stories.”

Shallegra Moye, a speaker at the event and a faculty member in Pitt’s School of Education, said the event represents the experiences of womanhood. Titled “The Time I Found Myself,” Moye’s speech focused on embracing her identity as a Black woman. 

“The impact was that people do want to hear what women have to say,” Moye said. “It reminded us that we are not alone in our trials or triumphs, that we are the outcome of collective brilliance and that our story is part of someone else’s liberation.”

Moye added that she spent too much of her life letting the world tell her who she was before taking control of her own identity. 

“It is utterly remarkable for me to consider how much of my life was spent lost in the narrative of what the world told me I should do and be,” Moye said. “As a Black woman, the world inundated me with contradictory messages that kept me bound. There is such joy, peace, hope and love on the other side of liberation, and I want people to know that it’s possible to find yourself.”

Tushita Mayanil, another speaker and a faculty member in Pitt’s School of Medicine, said HerStory Slam fosters a sense of unity in womanhood. In her piece, Mayanil spoke of her grandmother’s strength and love for family.

“It’s about learning resilience in the face of trauma and adversity and how much more similar we are to each other than we’d like to think,” Mayanil said. “HerStory Slam brought some very inspirational women from all backgrounds, ages and ethnicities together to talk about a common thread in their life, hope and inspiration. There is a hidden strength in vulnerability and it was a very uplifting experience.”

Adriana Modesto, another speaker and a professor in Pitt’s School of Medicine, said she hopes the event fosters a sense of community and support for women. 

“We are always so busy and overwhelmed and we never stop to listen to stories,” Modesto said. “I hope that this event raised awareness of our humanistic side and cultivated a positive mental attitude of support and community building.”

Grace Zheng, an attendee and a sophomore marketing major, said it was empowering to listen to the different stories told on stage. 

“All the stories on stage were so moving and emotional, and especially as a woman of color myself, being able to see all the women of color talk about their personal experiences was comforting,” Zheng said. “Hearing all their stories of not only themselves, but their mothers and their grandmothers reminds me of my own mother and grandmother. Their experiences showed me how similar all of our stories can be, but yet so different.”

Zheng said she left the event appreciating how multifaceted each woman’s experience is in life. 

“Something that I took away from this event is how important it is to recognize the diversity within the identities of women,” Zheng said. “Everyone has so many cultural differences and different experiences, which is a crucial role in shaping womanhood. It’s important to remember that one woman’s story may not be another’s, but that doesn’t mean that one woman is less of a woman than another.” 

Mayanil said she chose to speak at the event because of the opportunity to learn and listen to other women share their stories. 

“It is important to just learn to listen to other people, and there is no better opportunity than to be around women like these storytellers, who are a powerhouse of energy,” Mayanil said.