Let’s Get in Formation: Beyoncé and Black Hair

MJ Profile PicA reflection written by Women’s Center staff member, MJ Jalloh Jamboria

Beyoncé’s newest hit, “Formation” has been the topic of conversation everywhere. If you missed the video, here it is!

Since her Super Bowl performance on February 7th, Beyoncé has received mountains of praise and criticism for her performance and newest video. (Also, take a second to watch the Super Bowl performance here if you haven’t already. Ready? OK!)

While surfing Twitter during the Super Bowl performance (obviously not as Bey was singing), I came across a tweet that angered me to my very core. In efforts to find the original tweet, I came up empty handed, so instead I’ll summarize. The author of the tweet expressed anger at the hairstyle Beyoncé chose to rock for her Super Bowl performance, specifically the color and texture of her weave.

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Credit: Getty Images

Their ire was grounded in the fact that Beyoncé’s weave wasn’t aligned with the pro-blackness and importance of self-identity portrayed within her video.

Trying to isolate my frustration with the tweet, I found myself asking (and later dissecting) the following questions:

  • Why are people focusing on her hair style?
  • Why is wavy, blonde hair considered anti-black and indicative of self-hate?? 

Continue reading

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Black Trauma + Mental Health Resources Round-Up

A resource round-up provided by Women’s Center staff member, Meagé Clements

In case you missed yesterday’s roundtable on Black Trauma and Mental Health (or if you were there and want to keep the conversation going), I thought it might be useful to share some resources that have helped me, as a Black woman, deal with my own experiences of Black trauma. It’s hard to summarize everything that was discussed; however much of the discussion revolved around the problematic “Strong Black Woman” stereotype. We also discussed the experiences of tokenization, involuntary (or feeling it necessary to have to be the) spokesperson in class, and microagressions. Black trauma isn’t just one kind of experience, and certainly isn’t only what is captured by the media. Rather it is a daily and ongoing experience – much like a death by a 1000 cuts. Below are just a few resources I’ve found helpful in learning that I, too, can be strong AND vulnerable.

The poem Dr. Jasmine Abrams shared: The Strong Black Woman is Dead

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Dr. Abrams kicked off the discussion by asking us to close our eyes as she read the poem, “The Strong Black Woman is Dead”

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You Are Valid: Women Students with Mental Illness

Shira by Shira Devorah, student staff at the Women’s Center (she/her) 

Every student has their personal struggles that make being in college difficult – responsibilities and personal needs to attend to while also working towards a degree. Like many other students, I also face mental illness on top of every other responsibility.

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This is probably one of the more pleasant stock photos I found when searching for “mental illness.” Get on that, photo people….

I struggle with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and ADHD. These diagnoses do not define me, but they do tend to get in the way of my school day. Sometimes classes have to be skipped, assignments need to be pushed back and plans must be cancelled, all in the name of mental health.

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Beyonce from her music video “Flawless,” which inspired the hashtag #wokeuplikethis (screen capture)

As a woman with depression, I can’t always look happy for the sake of making someone else feel good, as stereotypical female empathy demands of me. I will not seem ‘flawless’ because sometimes I can’t remember to eat, let alone put on lipstick. I cannot be around people for an extended period of time without being exhausted. I am no less woman than someone without depression, but I have to work harder to be accepted by a sexist world as worthy of the title “woman.” This pressure is made more difficult when you factor in the fact that I am a full time student. I am expected as a student to do my best and succeed while also fitting into the tiny box of “womanness.”

Society presents a very limited definition for what a woman is “supposed” to be and look like and these strict gender roles rarely fit the dynamic and complex individuals we are, but they are even more inadequate for people of color, LGBTQIA-identified people, and people with mental illness and/or disabilities. Women students who navigate life with a mental illness have to deal with often unachievable standards, including the expectation of “effortless perfection.”  Continue reading

Who Makes Your Snowday Possible?

Daniel Profile Pic    A post by Women’s Center staff member Daniel Willey

Earlier this semester, as I’m sure you all remember, we got hit (bombarded, pelted, buried, whatever) by winter storm Jonas. BWI airport recorded almost 30 inches of snow and the wind blew the icy flakes sideways into drifts best navigated with a harness and rope or a tunneling machine. 

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The sea of snow outside my house in Halethorpe on Sunday

Baltimore shut down the Light Rail, MARC, and buses for almost a week — only the fourth MTA shutdown in the last 40 years. My roommates and I braved the grocery store on Thursday night before the storm hit and it was a nightmare. I thought my mom was just being a mom when she texted to warn me that all the bread was gone. Some impatient man in a business suit chased me away from my parking spot at the Giant by honking his horn repeatedly so he could swoop in and take it. People were getting nasty.

Now, I’m used to this kind of snow.

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Our dog Raven wondering how she’ll ever get out to pee

Having grown up in the mountains in Western Maryland, I’ve seen my fair share of snow and ice storms. But I’ve never experienced it in an urban setting and I’ve definitely never been old enough to be the responsible snow survivor before. It got me really thinking about what it means to have a snow day and how the local and state government reactions to something like Jonas has a lot more to do with social issues and inequality than you might think. 
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Speak: Knowing a Survivor Without Knowing Their Story

A post written by Women’s Center Director,  Jess Myers

*Content Note: Sexual Violence*

And knowing these statistics and being someone who works on a continual basis with and for survivors of sexual violence, I was shocked and disappointed in myself that it still took me more than half of a novel to realize Melinda, the main character of Speak, was a survivor of sexual assault.
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I picked up Speak on a whim after seeing a picture of its front cover on the online Enoch Pratt library catalog. It was a librarian’s recommendation and it was one of the last books I needed to get through from my pile of winter break readings. Reading the vague synopsis on the inside flap of the book, I began reading what I assumed would be any other young adult novel. What I knew –  Malinda was a 9th grader. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Everyone hated her because of that. Consequently, high school was a disaster for her. She had no friends. She stopped doing her homework and cut class. She didn’t have a good relationship with her parents. And, one day, she finally just stopped talking.

I get it. High school can really suck. Being an outsider is awful. Being 13 is awkward and painful and hard to navigate. Been there. Done that. So, with each turn of the page, I became more frustrated with Melinda. She was annoying me. I almost stopped reading the book.

Get it over it, Melinda.

But, for some reason, I kept reading. Melinda left me little clues throughout that led me to understand that she wasn’t sharing her full story. Something was going on with her. Continue reading

Meet the Spring 2016 Women’s Center Staff!

Get to know the Women’s Center’s Spring 2016 staff — including our newest student staff member, Shira!

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Women’s Center Staff – Spring 2016

Shira Devorah (she/her)
Hi, my name is Shira Devorah. I’m a Gender and Women’s Studies and Psychology double major in my junior year here at UMBC. I’m planning on spending a lot more time in school in order to become a Clinical Psychologist specializing in counseling LGBTQ youth, homeless youth, and transitioning youth. Eventually I would love to come back to a university and teach. ShiraI am a bisexual woman, and LGBTQIA+ issues are my passion. I believe that an intersectional approach to feminist thought and action is vital. I am also a Peer Health educator with University Health Services, and I am interested in conducting research regarding the discrepancies in health education for LGBTQIA+ youth. In my spare time, I love to journal, binge on Netflix, and sing along to musicals. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work here at the Women’s Center! I want to challenge myself to become more involved in feminist activism, here on campus and within the Baltimore community. I would love to continue to learn, grow, and create with every person who takes the time to visit the Women’s Center and participate in the brave conversations happening here.

Meagé Clements (she/her)
Hi! My name is Meagé, and I am a new staff member in the Women’s Center. I am currently a senior studying Psychology and Social Work, as well as a member of UMBC’s Honors College. I am a social work intern at Delrey School, where I will be working with children and adolescents with cerebral palsy, among other physical and intellectual disabilities. After college, I hope to earn my MSW and find a career where I can help marginalized and oppressed people thrive in our society. In addition to being a staff member in UMBC’s Women’s Center, I am a member of Zeta Sigma Chi Multicultural Sorority Inc. In my spare time, I enjoy yoga, reading, listening to music and creative writing.Meagé Profile Pic This semester, I am excited to learn and become more involved in the efforts of the Women’s Center. If you happen to see me in the Women’s Center or around campus, feel free to say hello! I am looking forward to meeting new people and engaging in some thoughtful dialogues!

Carrie Cleveland (she/her)
My name is Carrie. I am BEYOND excited to be starting my last year at UMBC. I will graduate in May with a degree in social work after being in college for ten years. Yep. That is NOT a typo. Ten FREAKING years. See, I have three daughters and they keep me incredibly busy and because of that I decided that part time was the way to be. I think we will all be doing a happy dance when I graduate.

Beyond that, I am involved with the BreakingGround initiative on campus as a member of the Community Program Grant Committee. I also am a member of the Leadership Advisory Committee. I am also super proud to be a Return Women’s Scholar. It was my membership in that group that firstCarrie Profile Pic brought me to the Women’s Center and that has been such a source of support for me as I took the long and windy road to graduation. Other that that, I am a wife, a friend, a chick from New Jersey, a lover off all things pop culture and a huge fan of They Might Be Giants.

MJ Jalloh-JamboriaMJ Profile Pic (they/them)
Hey! I’m MJ Jalloh-Jamboria.  I am currently a Gender/Women Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies (Pathology) double major. My minor is Critical Sexuality. This is my second year at UMBC and my first year as a student stuff member here at the Women’s Center. In addition to that, I am the Director of Events of the Council of Majors/Minors. Finally, I am the Music Director of UMBC’s newest a Capella group, the Culture Chords. I know it may sound like a lot but I enjoy staying busy and contributing to the UMBC community!

My favorite thing to do, besides singing and eating, is to look at how my identities come into play as I interact with the world around me. As a fat, non-binary, first generation West African Immigrant, Muslim person, I have a lot to think about!

Daniel Willey (he/him) 
Hey everyone! My name is Dan and I am a junior GWST major. I joined the Women’s Center staff last year and I am so excited to be back again as the senior staff member. You’ll see me around a lot because I never actually leave the Center. I am the peer facilitator for Spectrum and Rebuilding Manhood, and I’m very involved with the LGBTQIA+ community here. I love answering questions! Daniel Profile PicIf you want to have a discussion about or have questions about gender, sexuality, sexual health, polyamory, fiber crafts, cats, or Steven Universe, I’m your guy! I live by the idea that everyone has the capacity for good and every interaction can be a learning moment. Being at the Women’s Center feels like not only a home away from home, but the place where I have learned how to be the best version of me. I really hope the Center can be these things for everyone, and I do my best to facilitate that here. If you need anything, please ask! I’m very excited to meet you all.

Megan Tagle Adams, Assistant Director (she/her)
I’m an unapologetic feminist and woman of color. I’m not your model minority. Megan Profile PicI’m an introvert. I’m not always angry. I’m Team Nicki. I’m a cat lady. I’m a queer femme. I’m not ashamed of my love of boy bands. I’m an advocate for critical social justice. I’m a picky eater. I’m not a fan of Maryland’s humidity. I’m looking forward to another great year at the Women’s Center! 

Jess Myers, Director (she/her)
Wow-wee, where do I begin?! Today I logged into my LinkedIn account because I got an alert that someone was looking at my profile… who was checking me out?! I had to know. Long story short, I found myself skimming through my profile and was alerted to the fact that I have been Director of the Women’s Center at UMBC for 4 years and 6 months. How lucky am I?! I have learned and grown as a professional, as a feminist, and as a person so much since I first arrived here at UMBC. I have gotten to work with some of UMBC’s brightest and most courageous students. I’ve learned how to insert gifs into emails and how to tweet on the Twitter. I’ve been challenged and held accountable to expand my notions of feminism beyond “white feminism” and to boldly live out my social justice values in Jess Profile Pic 1a critical way. Moreover, I get to work in a place where I am authentically me.

I love being silly. I relish in the opportunity to use Leslie Knope gifs as a mode of communication. I identify as a queer lesbian and deserve medals for my fierceness in spin class. I approach my work from my collegiate background in social work and identify as a student affairs professional. I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Kingston, Jamaica, and Fort Collins, Colorado but Baltimore is my hometown. It is a city that forever is rooted in my heart and very being. I also really love my introduction from last year and want to share it again (I’m a big fan of also not recreating the wheel!). You’ll find me on here most often blogging through my UMBC Women Who Rocks series and other Women’s Center confessions I like to make public. Basically and most importantly, I love my job… I’m looking forward to a year full of challenges, successes, and learning opportunities!