This Must Be The Place

Recently, I’ve been buoying myself in this onslaught of political shitstorming by listening to a self-care playlist. The playlist is chock full of all of the songs that help me get by when it’s hard to navigate the world and ones that I can sing very loudly.

One song that I gravitate towards lately is the Talking Heads’s “This Must Be The Place.”

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Click here for text version of This Must Be The Place lyrics.

This song has a lot of meaning for me. It’s the song that my dad serenaded my mother with at their wedding. “This Must Be The Place” is the crucible of my parents’ love, so it’s sort of the thing that formed me. It’s a song I sing to myself when I want to cry and when I want to smile and when I want to scream. I sang it with my dad through a vocal harmonizer as we welcomed 2017 (and threw 2016 into the fire pit). I think my mom cried a bit, but I couldn’t see because I was crying.

Coming back to work at the Women’s Center, I am, yet again, thinking about this song’s resonance and its meaning and its magic.

The Women’s Center is home for me. It is a beacon when trauma strikes and when justice is sought. The Women’s Center simultaneously grounds us and lifts us up—like any good home does. It is a place of love, warmth, truth, and hope. A place so rare and crucial right now.

It would be an understatement to say I am happy to be back at UMBC and at the Women’s Center. I am elated, I am at peace, I am confident. This space, this place—the Women’s Center—fulfills the promises of feminist, queer, radical social justice theories by providing a home for me and all the other community members who occupy its world.

As the Special Projects Coordinator (a title Jess lovingly made for me), I am diving back into the constantly evolving environment of the Women’s Center. Over the semester I will be collaborating alongside staff and interns to enhance programming, expand social media outreach efforts, and design marketing initiatives. In short, doing everything I love to do for an organization I love.

I am so thankful to be back home at the Women’s Center and at UMBC. I am beyond ecstatic to join a team that inspires me everyday, and that I care about so deeply. I am enlivened by the opportunity to continue working with a mission centered on intersectional feminism and critical social justice.

Home, is where I want to be

But I guess I’m already there

I come home, she lifted up her wings

I guess that this must be the place.

 

2016, The Tower, and Diving Head First Into The Unknown

daniel-headshot An end-of-year reflection from staff member Daniel

I am far from the first and will certainly not be the last person to say this year has been… quite a time. In the last 362 and counting days, bad things have been happening all around the world . And like, bad things have always and will always happen and sometimes we create the illusion that more bad things are happening than normal by highlighting and paying more attention to the bad things, but to be perfectly honest there is something hellishly special about the year Two Thousand And Sixteen. There’s been a lot of personal stuff too. Most of the people I know– and me– have all been going through significant change in our lives, our social circles, our beliefs, and our goals. We’ve had some pretty big losses and intense life experiences. Everything is so strange lately, like we’ve clipped into an alternate universe where everything is exactly the same except that it’s… not.

My friend recently texted our group chat with the revelation that the 16th card in the major arcana of a traditional tarot deck is The Tower. Next year, 2017, is The Star and 2018 is The Moon. If you know much about tarot I don’t really need to say anything else but I will anyway. If you don’t know much about tarot that’s awesome because at least what I’m saying will be new to someone.

Let me tell you a little about The Tower.

The Tower is typically depicted as a tall cylindrical fortress with a few small (or no) windows built on a crop of jagged rocks. Flames burst from the tower as a storm of fire and lightning rages around it. Atop the tower is a crown being struck by lightning as the structure cracks and crumbles. Often, kings and court royalty are pictured tumbling down from the wreckage. It’s a lot to take in. A lot of people will read The Tower as death and destruction, chaos, disaster. When you interpret it this way, The Tower feels much like an omen if it comes up in a reading. But, here’s the thing. The Tower is ruled by Mars and when you read it through the lens of Mars, the meaning takes a whole new shape.

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Here’s what my favorite site for all things astrology has to say about Mars: “Mars represents the energy and drive of a person, their courage, determination, the freedom of spontaneous impulse. It also describes the readiness for action, the way one goes about doing things as well as simple aggression.” Mars is the warrior. Mars is about fighting, action, and personal conviction. So what does this say about the tower? It symbolizes the crumbling of an empire. An era. Upheaval, social change, karmic consequences doled out to those who benefit from the exploitation. It’s not senseless chaos. It is action taken and the consequences which follow.

“The Tower signifies darkness and destruction on a physical scale, as opposed to a spiritual scale. The Tower itself represents ambitions built on false premises. The lightning bolt breaks down existing forms in order to make room for new ones. It represents a sudden, momentary glimpse of truth, a flash of inspiration that breaks down structures of ignorance and false reasoning.” –BiddyTarot

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The Tower card from the Rider Waite deck, a trusted classic version of the deck

“It means great change forced by those who have been made to feel powerless.” TAROT.com

The tower itself represents the structures we’ve built to protect ourselves and block out the outside world. They can be as personal as your own emotional barriers and your social circle and support network but they can also be the social structures built to protect the ruling class and protect social stratification. The lightning represents truth and the fire represents consequence. The Tower reminds us that there are some things that cannot protect us from the consequences of our actions and that truth will prevail. The changes brought on by The Tower are sudden and great. Foundations are being destroyed and order is being overturned.

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Some versions of The Tower. Featured center is from the Collective Tarot

Okay so back to the year 2016. So much has happened I can’t even remember what events belong to this year. I know that Donald Trump was elected president of the US along with a majority Republican Congress, an administration which will appoint at least one and up to three supreme court justices, signaling the end (or beginning) of an era. The tower of liberalism and “progressive” politics some of us have built for ourselves is being destroyed by the truth that white supremacy is alive and well and just as insidious as ever. Meanwhile, the tower we built out of privilege is struck by the cumulative weight of the actual human cost of struggles and wrongdoings we’ve chosen to ignore. As everything falls away we are finally able to see it all laid out before us.

A revelation: the way we’ve been doing things isn’t working. The way we’ve been doing things is causing harm.

That’s not news to a lot of people and we seek to create awareness and education about in the Women’s Center on a regular basis. For those who have been living outside the tower, these are the truths of their daily lives. Before #NODAPL Native Americans were fighting for their lands, their livelihoods, their cultures, and the basic rights of their people. Before Black Lives Matter, the Black Panthers and other groups of Black Americans organized against police brutality and white supremacy. Before Brexit and the US election, fascists and Nazis and the KKK have thrived and held active roles in upholding and advancing white supremacy. The difference is now that the tower is gone, there’s nowhere left to hide. It’s all right here. Now it’s up to us to dig through the wreckage and begin to rebuild or be left behind to lament to no one about the way things used to be.

Where The Tower was the upheaval and the change and the revelations, The Star in 2017 is healing and transformation. We’re left with something totally different from everything we thought we knew. We’ve endured so much but we’ve learned (or are in the process of learning) how to take care of ourselves and each other. Amidst this “massive garbage fire” of a year, we’ve built networks of resilience. It’s really hard to know what our future looks like right now and I don’t know what happens next but I do know that we are resilient. I know that we will be okay because we will take care of one another. We will build resistance and do more than just imagine a different world. Our survival depends on our commitment to change on a much larger scale because–GUESS WHAT–it’s happening whether we like it or not. Plus, we’re not the only ones gearing up for big change and a new era. When the tower comes down, it’s anyone’s game– and resisting change or being passive observers means handing our new malleable world over to white supremacy and fascism.

(Can I just take a second to point out that I’m telling you all to watch out for Nazis? Like, actual legit real life Nazis. How we got to this point is a whole other blog post, but I just wanted to make sure we’re all clear on the severity of the situation.)

I know this may seem like a lot to put on a deck of cards and some numbers but I think as humans we need to find some order in the world, something to explain the entropic chaos of the universe. I love astrology and tarot because it helps me interpret, understand, and come to terms with what I already know and I’ve connected with people in unique ways because of it. It’s one of the ways I build resilience and community just like some people do with religion or political organizing.

So, here’s my advice for the year 2017: don’t resist change. Don’t just let change happen to you either. Be an active agent in change— in your personal life and in the world. Build coalitions, build resistance. Resolve your beefs and learn to love with your whole body. Find what helps you understand the world and put your whole heart into it. We’re gonna be okay.

A Brief Reflection on Finding My Voice

Mariana De Matos Medeiros

A blog reflection by Women’s Center intern Mariana de Matos Medeiros 

I’ve been working on a draft for this blog post for over 6 weeks. It’s been intimidating and scary to be vulnerable in such a public space.

I was hoping to describe how I self-silence and how I struggle to find words that match my thoughts and feelings. I often try to polish them, make them perfect and pristine. Drafting and editing about a million times and still feeling like what I’ve written is not quite right. Sometimes I feel that folks are all too willing to accept that femme women often struggle with expressing their unique voices.

Further, my ideas and how I express them through writing—in other words my voice—have often been devalued. Whether through my experience with academic writing or the constant rhetoric that lived experience is less valuable than ‘objective’ facts found through scientific research. Often, lived experience is closely associated with emotion and thus femininity. It feels invalidating and that my thoughts are only valuable if I can back them up with an outside source.

Recently, while scrolling through my various social media pages, I noticed that I share poetry quite often. In fact, out of 20 posts on my Facebook about 12 of them were poetry by Rupi Kaur.

Some of them include:

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Sharing these images and words is how I communicate with my friends via social media. Often, the poetry I share is a reflection of my thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

Which sounds like the definition of ‘my voice’ that I described earlier.

Perhaps, it’s fine that I can’t find my own perfect words to convey my voice. I’m finding that self-expression does not have to fit into a box of what other people expect. Also, that there is value in empathizing and sharing other people’s words in addition to creating my own.

It is self-expression anyway and if I feel accurately represented by the words and images that others have created, then so be it.

Poetry has played an immense role in my healing from sexual violence. The words of others have also served as a reminder that I am not alone. My experience did not happen in isolation. The personal is political. I have a community and that realization has changed everything for me.

This journey to finding my voice belongs deeply to me and I can make it my own.

 

What Does Self-Care Really Look Like?

Prachi Kochar

A reflection of what self-care really looks like for each of us, especially during finals, by Women’s Center student staff member Prachi Kochar.

It’s a common refrain that we’ve all heard, especially around this time of year. “Don’t forget to take care of yourself during finals week!”, “Remember that self-care is important!”, and so on. But what does taking care of yourself look like? Does it look like buying yourself your favorite drink at Starbucks? Does it look like going to the gym for a hard session on the treadmill? Does it look like sleeping in an extra hour? Does it look like going to the movies with your friends? Simply put, there is no easy “yes” or “no” answer to these questions. Self-care looks like what is right for you at this point in time. And self-care does not always fit into a neat little box of “Do this and you’ll feel great!” Self-care can be an ongoing process, a process that is sometimes painful and sometimes exhilarating. And it is something that everyone has their own interpretation of, which can be incredibly overwhelming – googling “what does self-care look like” yields over 29 million results!

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Besides these yummy cupcakes, what does treating yourself look like?

For me, self-care can take the form of sleeping in a few hours and giving my body and mind the time to rest and recover from stresses. It can also take the form of waking up early and going to the gym for a 7 AM yoga class or going for a run. Sometimes self-care means showing up for all of my commitments, even when I am tired, and sometimes it means saying “no” or “I can’t do it.” Sometimes self-care means pushing myself to finish all of my assignments when I am not feeling my best so that I will not be thrown into crisis mode later when all of my commitments pile up. What is most important is that I take stock of how I am feeling, mentally and physically, and do not become upset at myself for not being able to do everything, but also recognize that sometimes it is necessary for me to push myself to take care of myself. In other words, self-care sometimes involves doing the hard things and showing up for yourself. Continue reading

Slaying on the Weekly: What’s the Bell Foundry?, Self-Care + More

A weekly round-up curated by Women’s Center staff member, Michael Jalloh Jamboria

In the spirit of my friend, who gave us the glorious name ‘Slaying on the Weekly’, every week I will be bringing you some interesting, funny or thought-provoking content from the internet! Be sure to join us next week for more and continue to slay!

Things you should know:

The Bell Foundry, a queer/POC dominated art space, was condemned on Monday December 5th, displacing dozens of artists and performers in the process. There are efforts to find temporary homes and long term spaces for those people, including a benefit relief fund event.

Article of the Week:

Time Magazine has a pretty good list of tips for exam week. Take care of yourself, get some sleep, you’ll do fine.

The holidays are coming up, meaning family. We understand family can be difficult to navigate and be around. Check out Feministing’s guide for navigating the holidays.

UMBC Happenings:

Self-Care Day is December 12th from 12pm to 1pm. Join us during free hour for arts/crafts, tea/coffee and a stress-free zone.

During Exam week and Winter break, the Women’s Center will be reducing the hours of operation.

Song of the Week:

I’ve been listening to really great music recently, and I want to share that with all of you! This week’s song is a youtube playlist for studying. Enjoy some jazzy goodness and get some work done!

You are great! You can pass all of your exams! Enjoy winter break!

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The panelists and facilitators (from left to right: Shira Devorah, Dr. Kate Drabinski, Dr. Mejdulene Shomali, Dan Wiley, and me, Mike Jalloh-Jamboria) from the Fatness in Focus Roundtable. Keep an eye out for the roundup! 

Slaying on the Weekly: Oh Crap! What Now? + Other Survival Tips

A weekly round-up curated by Women’s Center staff member, Michael Jalloh Jamboria

In the spirit of my friend, who gave us the glorious name ‘Slaying on the Weekly’, every week I will be bringing you some interesting, funny or thought-provoking content from the internet! Be sure to join us next week for more and continue to slay!

Article of the Week:

The Women’s Center is dedicated to our mission. In our effects of promote gender equity and serve marginalized communities, we want to provide a few resources and encourage all of the UMBC Community to reach out to the Women’s Center. We want to hear your worries, questions and concerns. In the meantime, check out our list of resources.

UMBC Happenings:

Professors and activists within the Gender + Women’s Studies Dept have started a petition to Pres. Hrabowski and other provosts to make UMBC a sanctuary institution. Want to sign? Click on the link to add your name and affiliation to the petition!

This week was Black Lives Matter week. They had a plethora of great events that helped mobilize students and expand on their definition of Black Lives Matter. The UMBC event page for Black Lives Matter week has recounts and pictures from the week, in case you missed the festivities.

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Check out the Black Lives Matter memorial display on the Quad

Song of the Week:

I’ve been listening to really great music recently, and I want to share that with all of you! This week’s song is ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ by Bob Marley + the Wailers.

Before I leave you, I’m sure you are all aware that next week is Thanksgiving. I understand how difficult it can be to navigate going home and being with family, especially over longer periods of time. Feministing’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays is a great resource for tips pertaining to how to gendered expectations, political arguments and more. Take care!

Enjoy the Holidays! See you soon!

Self-Care for Thanksgiving

ciera-headshot  A blog written by Women’s Center student staff member Ciera Earl

November. It has been a month of triumph for some, but a great loss for most of us. While this month is coming to an end and the holiday season is beginning, it’s important to know how to handle the obstacles that may come with going home or visiting families during this time of year.

I know for myself, being around family is very difficult. Whether it’s from the constant questions about the future, my love life, or whatever “phase” I’m in this time – my anxiety goes through the roof. I’m sure many can relate.

But that actually bothers me. It’s unfortunate that in some way, shape, or form this is relatable for so many people.

Be that as it may, it’s important that while passing the gravy and dodging topics that you come first. Having a self-care plan can be a way to prepare for the challenges that come with the holiday season and families.

Here are a few tips on how to survive the holidays with family: 
Continue reading