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Women's Forum at UVI to Focus on Black Males in Crisis

The University of the Virgin Islands third Annual Women's History Month Forum will feature a panel of four influential women set to discuss this year's theme - "Women's Perspectives on Black Males in Crisis." The public is invited to the forum scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on March 26, in the first floor conference room of the Administration and Conference Center on the St. Thomas campus.
The Women's History Month Forum, which is in observance of Women's History Month, is designed to highlight the accomplishments and contributions of women, particularly Virgin Islands women, and to empower female UVI students to realize their potential. It is also designed to bring to the forefront issues in the society that affect women of all races, and to demonstrate that it is ok to talk about these issues publicly. The forum is sponsored by the St. Thomas campus Office of Student Affairs.
The panelists are Superior Court Judge Debra Smith Watlington, UVI Psychology Professor Dr. Patricia Rhymer Todman, Global Life Church Pastor Everine Hazel and V.I. Department of Education Director of Intervention Services Cira Burke.
"The panellists will raise the consciousness of other women and will articulate bold strategies for addressing this issue," said St. Thomas campus Dean of Students Dr. Doris Battiste. "I think this year's theme will spark quite a bit of discussion on the roles that both males and females need to play in order to get us out of this crisis. This discussion is not about casting blame, it's about recognizing that women have the power to effect change and that together we can." 
Dr. Battiste added, "The crisis with our young men in our society requires ongoing discussion and implementing effective strategies. We have to be bold in our approach. When our black men are in crisis so are our daughters, who have no one to date or marry, children who have no dads around to play with, mothers who are weeping and stressed."
The panelists come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Prior to her appointment as a judge, Smith-Watlington served as legal counsel for the V.I. Housing Authority and chief territorial public defender. Judge Smith-Watlington has also worked as a law clerk for the presiding judge of the Territorial Court of the V.I. and served as chief of staff for the Virgin Islands Housing Authority's executive director. As public defender, Judge Smith-Watlington represented indigent persons charged with criminal offenses. She demonstrated a particular affinity for juvenile cases and recognized the critical issues facing young people, and the connection between education, crime and the quality of life.
Burke has served in various capacities in V.I. Department of Education to include teaching science to seventh and eighth grade students at the New Horizons Alternative Program, as an intervention specialist, and as a program director of the Edith L. Williams Alternative Academy. Throughout her career, Burke has focused her efforts on working with high risk young people.
Dr. Todman is a past chair of Graduate Programs in UVI's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Her work has focused on the development of psychology within the University and the community. She has presided over the implementation of the Masters in Psychology program initiated by UVI in 2010-2011. Dr. Todman's research has focused on HIV/AIDS in the territory and the chronicling of the development of psychology and mental health services in the territory. A member of the American Psychological Association since 1988, she is also a founding member of the Association of Virgin Islands Psychologists. She has served on the Virgin Islands Board of Psychology Examiners from 1997 to 2011.
Pastor Hazel is currently a prevention assistant and school counselor at the V.I. Department of Education where she has worked for the past 20 years. In her work with the church, Pastor Hazel has worked as a psalmist, counselor, teacher, guest speaker and conference host. For more than 30 years she has held many leadership positions including, youth pastor, music coordinator, praise and worship leader, and Sunday school teacher. Pastor Hazel worked for the Center for Independent Living - a private non-profit organization - as an advocate for the disabled. She has also worked for the South East Regional Center with the V.I. Department of Education as the local area coordinator of drug-free programs that provided intervention and prevention services and trainings.
"We hope that this discussion will be the beginning and not the end of continuing the dialogue of how to address these issues which are gravely affecting women, who are in many cases, the head of household," said Dr. Battiste. "Women need to use their voices."