I Claim Me

Harley Khaang

Harley Khaang is a UMBC returning women student and an intern at the Women’s Center. She is currently a junior and an INDS student, focusing on earning her degree in Communications Strategy.




My first day of school was Groundhog Day. I hadn’t stepped foot on a campus in decades, but there I was sitting in my remedial math class at 7 am (it was an 8 am class), shaking. Sure, it was February 2nd and brutally cold, as it should be, but as much as the blustery wind was affecting me, I was shaking mostly from fear and the overwhelming feeling that I had possibly gotten myself in over my head. It was a moment … I had a moment.

I got through the day, then I got through the semester. And despite the fear and the doubt, I managed to complete 4 more, graduate with an Associates in Arts and Sciences, and transfer to UMBC. During the 5 semesters at CCBC I noticed something interesting emerge: As education became more important to me and I was getting ready to transfer to UMBC as an undergrad, I began to notice resentment coming from several friends and family members. Just a short time before these people were supportive of my decision to go back to school, yet now they looked at me with contempt. Growing up I was taught that getting an education was the best thing you can do for yourself. So why was I losing support from friends and family? I was hurt, but what’s more, I was confused. Was I supposed to apologize for getting a degree, or stand up for myself and tell them to bug  off?  I didn’t know what to do. Why couldn’t I just earn my degree in peace? Why couldn’t they just understand and give me their support like they had been doing? I felt torn, truly torn.


As I was nearing graduation in 2017, I was also dealing with big changes in my life: I moved, dealt with health issues, and was accepted to UMBC. As if that wasn’t enough, I was dealing with never ending issues with phone companies, cable companies, my apartment management, to name a few. I had almost always avoided confrontations throughout my life. I let a lot of people walk over me because I didn’t want to face them and “start trouble”. I lost a lot of money because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of haggling with companies who had over charged me. I let a lot of things slide that I should never have let side, all because I didn’t want to be confrontational. Now, I was forced to take a crash course in Standing Up for Myself 101.

As I began to find my bearings I realized that maybe there was a reason for all the “confronting.” I realized that I wasn’t being confrontational, I was demanding what was wrong be made right. For the first time in my life I was standing up for myself. I was being my own advocate; I was finding my voice. Then I came across a brilliant article, and that tiny impetus to apologize for coming back to school disappeared quicker than I could say “poof”.

I received a newsletter from brainpickings with the tagline “Adrienne Rich on Why an Education Is Something You Claim, Not Something You Get.” My heart skipped a beat. In the piece, written by Maria Popova, I read that Adrienne Rich “delivered a convocation speech to a group of women at Douglass College titled Claiming an Education”. In that speech, Rich states: “One of the dictionary definitions of the verb ‘to claim’ is: to take as the rightful owner; to assert in the face of possible contradiction. ‘To receive’ is to come into possession of: to act as receptacle or container for; to accept as authoritative or true. The difference is between acting and being acted-upon, and for women it can literally mean the difference between life and death.”

I was at CCBC for 5 semesters before graduating. Out of the 5, I worked full time for 4 while attending school full time. It was exhausting to say the least. There were many things I had to “put on the back burner,” there were things I had to learn to live without, there were compromises I had to make, and there was not a single part of my life where a corner or two were not cut. I realize now, women like myself who go back to school later in life, often make our choices based on pacifying everyone around us. That act of keeping everyone happy can often keep us from achieving our education goals. I look back at those times I felt the need to apologize for “neglecting” my duties to my family by going, yet again, for another degree, and know that coming back to school was not an easy choice to make, but one I would make over again. The women I have met at UMBC, and especially at the Women’s Center, know exactly what I am talking about. We have had many passing discussions regarding this issue.  


Returning women students (undergraduate students 25 years and older) have a full plate and then some. In trying to balance work and family life, most of us have put ourselves last, minimizing our needs. Many of us who are returning women students are constantly on the go, working to find time for everything on our list of things to accomplish, all the while fighting money issues and guilt that we are not accomplishing enough. Many of us feel we are doing this alone, but that isn’t true. There is camaraderie to be shared with the Returning Women Students here at the Women’s Center. There is sisterhood among us who understand and feel the pain so common, and at times, deeply rooted in our psyche.

We have been there. We know; we understand. We got your back.


Since that cold Groundhog Day in 2015, I have realized, that for many of us returning women students, the recurring theme is self advocacy. We have a duty to ourselves to claim what is rightfully ours, in this case, our education. What I have come to realize in the past 3 years, and with the help of the recent discovery of Adrienne Rich’s amazing speech, is that self care = self advocacy. We have to be our own heroes because, most times, we will not be given what we want or deserve, even if we’ve earned the right to it. No one will give you what’s rightfully yours, you need to claim it. And at times, the process of claiming it means demanding it. I claim my education. I claim myself and my well being above all. I claim me. I hope you will claim yourself.  


For more information and further reading: 

Self-Advocacy: A Women’s Catch-22

Adrienne Rich On Why An Education Is Something You Claim, Not Something You Get

Stepping Up to the Plate

Time, money, leisure and guilt – the gendered challenges of higher education for mature-age students

More on the Returning Women Students Program in the Women’s Center to include our scholarship program (deadline is March 30th!!) 




What are Pop Culture Pop Ups?! The Golden Globes: Black Out and Oprah

Sydney Phillips

A blog post written by student staff member, Sydney.


It’s official! The Women’s Center has a new ongoing event starting this spring semester. What is it you ask?

Pop Culture Pop Ups!

You’re probably wondering, “What the heck is a Pop Culture Pop Up?” Well, that’s what I’m here to explain.

If you frequent the Women’s Center you know that it is often a space for spontaneous discussion with others regarding shared interests (about life, events,  and school to include the awesome, the good, the bad, and the frustrating – and more!). The energy and critical dialogue that comes from these conversations are what make the Women’s Center the Women’s Center and we wanted to nourish more of these moments by carving out time for more intentional dialogue surrounding both fun and serious topics that come up in our daily lives. Hence, the pop up of these Pop Culture Pop Ups.

We envision these pop ups will create a space for anyone who is on campus and wants to discuss an event, movement, hashtag (and more!) that has gotten huge attention or gone viral to come to the Women’s Center and have a brave space to discuss their feelings, reactions, and ideas linked to the topic. Of course, we’ll make sure to talk about how these pop culture moments intersect with gender and women’s issues, feminism, and social justice. Yet, unlike many of the other events that we hold in the Women’s Center, there won’t be a planned agenda, prepared questions, or a panel of experts and practitioners to guide the conversation.

Essentially, our plan is to take the conversations we notice people are often having on social media and make them into IRL conversations! We may do a bit of background research or read an article that shows up on our Facebook, but this is really a space for raw, immediate reactions to what it happening in a fun and thoughtful way with other people on want to engage in a conversation around the same topic.  That’s why our Pop Ups won’t come with a “save the date.” While they will be held on Wednesdays at free hour, they will be spur of the moment decisions (get it, Pop Ups?) in reaction to an event. This means we we could decide to have one the Sunday before or Tuesday night so check our social media for updates!

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Some of you may still be confused about what it is we’d talk about or what is considered pop culture, and the ambiguity is kind of the beauty of it (it can really be anything), but it may help to have an example.

A Pop Up we would have loved to have, but unfortunately weren’t able to because of winter break was all things Golden Globes. From the second I heard about #TimesUp and the #whywewearblack Black Out/ Protest, I was hooked and invested. This is something I wanted to discuss and dissect with others. Who was involved in the decision? Did everyone wear black? What is the point? These would all be questions that would definitely come up in a Pop Up.

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Hollywood showed up in black this year at the Golden Globes.       Photo Credits: Getty/WireImage

If you watched the show, or saw any of the coverage after the fact, you’d know that almost everyone did indeed wear black, but you also would have seen the backlash about why this form of protest just wasn’t good enough. Wearing black isn’t that hard-especially for men, said some while others said that a better idea would be to protest the event all together. Not only did the dress-code come under fire, but so did the men (and some women) who showed up wearing black and the Times Up pin. What about the actors and actresses that are wearing black but work with Woody Allen or other stars that are being held accountable? What does wearing black do when you’re still silent about sexual violence and believing survivors in your daily life as well as career? I know these questions flew around my head and basically everyone’s on the internet. I wish we could have had a Pop-Up to really reflect on how we were feeling post black-out. I still don’t know how I feel about the whole thing. I love the men and women who came out to support, I love that a lot of them made donations and brought activists as their dates, and I love that we’re finally TALKING ABOUT IT…. but I also ask, is it enough? This is why Pop Ups are important. They’ll come together fast, bring us together about current issues, and let us digest these potentially confusing emotions and reactions.


While the Blackout is something that could take up a whole Pop Up on its own there was another highlight of the night that we would have LOVED to talk about. You guessed it folks — OPRAH!

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Me listening to Oprah’s speech!

Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement (the first Black woman to do so) and delivered a speech that BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN. She discussed growing up and representation in the media, people who took a chance on her and how that led to success in her career, her value of the press and the pursuit of the truth, the sexual violence in the entertainment industry and beyond, and the women who are speaking up.

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It was moving, brought tears to my eyes, had me fist-pumping, and cheering her on (I encourage you to watch it here). I wish I would have had the chance to see how others felt in person rather than on Facebook and tumblr, especially with so many mixed feelings surrounding the activism at the Golden Globes. Not only could we have discussed this epic speech, but we could also unpack the public’s call for a presidential run and what that really means. Should Oprah run? Some say HELL YEAH, others think she’s just another billionaire and we should support other Black women who are already in politics, while others are saying no more to celebrity presidents. There’s a lot more to unpack here in terms of politics, who we support, and how the institution (both Hollywood and politics) may be changing.

Discussions about how we feel in the present as well as how we move forward in the future about this moments in time are important to have and that’s why the Women’s Center will be bringing you these Pop Culture Pop Up moments.

To stay informed about when Pop-Ups will happen make sure to follow us on myUMBC, Facebook and Twitter. Also follow us on Snapchat (@womencenterumbc) where we will be posting more about daily happenings in the Women’s Center.

If there’s something that comes up over the next semester you want to talk about, be sure to let the Women’s Center staff know (you can also use the hashtag #WCPopUp). It just may become the next Pop Culture Pop-Up! 


For more on the Blackout:

On why it’s about more than a dress

On what it means for designers

For more on Times Up:

On the Time’s Up Movement

On how #METOO and Time’s Up relate

For more on Oprah’s Speech:

On Black women being the “clean up” crew for America- and why that’s a problem

On the “missed point” of the speech

Women’s Center 25 Then vs. Now: The Clothesline Project

WC 25 Logo - PurpleThe Women’s Center at UMBC turns 25 this year! We’re excited to share our important milestone with UMBC’s 50th Anniversary and will be celebrating throughout the year with the rest of campus! We were inspired by Special Collections archival project Archives Gold: 50 Objects for UMBC’s 50th and decided to do our own digging into the Women’s Center archives. Over the course of the year, we’ll be sharing 25 “Then vs Now” archives to celebrate the origin and evolution of the Women’s Center at UMBC.

This week we’re featuring the history of The Clothesline Project at UMBC. 

The Clothesline project is still fresh in our minds with April, which is Sexual Assualt Awareness Month, not being in the too distant past. The Women’s Center had a calendar full of events, including a full-day display of The Clothesline Project

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Assistant Director Megan Tagle Adams at this year’s Clothesline Project.

So what has the Clothesline Project looked like in past years?


The Clothesline Project in 2013


The Clothesline Project during V-day in  2001.


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Editorial in the Retriever Weekly, fall of 2000


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The Clothesline Project at UMBC gives voices to the experiences of survivors, victims, family, and friends who have been affected by violence. Through the years, The Women’s Center has provided materials for those who identify as survivors to decorate t-shirts that are then added to the project display. This is a national campaign created to address the stories of survivors and the violence that exists all around us, metaphorically ‘airing dirty laundry’. The clothesline is also a historical means through which women discussed domestic violence with other women, signaling the need for help with specific codes on the laundry lines. Traditionally there are specific colors indicating different kinds of survivor’s stories, but The Women’s Center has given space for survivors to use any colors available to add to the project.

What are the memories you have of the Women’s Center over the years that are meaningful to you? What does the Women’s Center mean to you today? Share your memories and pictures with us in the comment section below!

Stay up-to-date with our 25th anniversary on social media using #UMBCWC25. Share your Women’s Center experiences and memories with the UMBC community using #UMBCWC25 AND #UMBC50!

Take Back The Night 2017 Roundup!

On April 13th 2017, UMBC hosted Take Back the Night. The night began with an introduction by the emcees and march leaders, Kayla and Sarah, and Women’s Center staff member, Amelia.

After the introduction was the survivor speak-out. The speak-out is the heart of Take Back the Night. This is the point in the night where survivors are encouraged to come up and share their story with the crowd before the march throughout campus. As a survivor, sharing your story at TBTN allows you to publicly acknowledge your experience with a crowd that believes you and supports you.

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

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Photo credit: Amelia Meman

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Photo credit: Amelia Meman

We then moved on to the march portion of the night where we got loud and chanted in support of victims of sexual violence.

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

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Photo credit: Amelia Meman

After the march, community members got together for some craftivism! This portion of the program is intended to provide space for reflection, creative expression, and community building.

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

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Photo credit: Jaedon Huie

Thank you so much to everyone for a powerful and moving evening. Thank you to every survivor for sharing their story, to every ally who supported the survivors and a special thank you to all the volunteers who made TBTN possible!

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Photo Credit: Amelia Meman

If you weren’t able to make it, here are some resources:


Photo credit: Amelia Meman

What You Need to Know About Take Back The Night & Craftivism

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its fifth consecutive Take Back The Night (TBTN) on Thursday, April 13th. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of questions about what Take Back the Night exactly is, why it looks the way it does, and how students can get involved. To help get those questions answered this year, we’ve doing a “What You Need to Know” series focused on TBTN so stay tuned for more posts over the next couple of weeks. This is the fifth post in the series and it focuses on the last part of Take Back the Night which is craftivism and community building.

Hearing and sharing survivors’ stories of sexual violence can be empowering, challenging, and emotional. We know that people process their feelings in different ways, and so following survivor speak out and march, the event continues with Craftivism on Main Street. This portion of the program is intended to provide space for reflection, creative expression, and community building.

When the marchers return to Main Street, there will be tables set up with art supplies for anyone wishing to contribute to one of the community craft projects we’ll have available: the FORCE Monument Quilt, the Clothesline Project, and the Dear Survivor scrapbook. We also encourage attendees to check out the resource tables to learn more about various campus and community organizations and services.

A volunteer from FORCE will be present to assist anyone interested in making a quilt square for the Monument Quilt. The Monument Quilt is a crowd-sourced collection of testimonials from survivors of sexual violence, as well as their allies. This national project will eventually blanket the National Mall with the phrase Not Alone. The quilt is a way to demand public space to heal, and create a new culture where survivors are publicly supported, rather than publicly shamed.


A community member works on a Monument Quilt square.

All are welcome to add a page to our Dear Survivor scrapbook, which features messages of hope, healing, and solidarity from survivors and allies who have attended TBTN in past years. The scrapbook can be found in the Women’s Center lounge.


The Dear Survivor scrapbook offers messages of healing and solidarity.

Materials for the Clothesline Project will be available for survivors who would like to give voice to their experience by decorating a shirt that will be displayed during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every April, these shirts are hung shoulder-to-shoulder on a clothesline on Main Street to give public testimony to the problems of sexual and gender-based violence. Please note that while allies are invited to participate in the Monument Quilt and Dear Survivor scrapbook, the Clothesline Project is intended for those who identify as survivors.


TBTN attendees decorate T-shirts for the Clothesline Project.

For those who prefer a quieter space for reflection, there will be a self-care station set up in the commuter lounge available during the survivor speak out and the rest of the evening. There will be tissues, stress balls, coloring supplies, and other resources for self-care. The station also provides a more private space where attendees can speak with one of the counselors on call, if needed.


Tissues, coloring, and other self-care resources will be available in the self-care station during and after the speak out.

For more information about UMBC’s TBTN (check out Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too by searching the hashtag #UMBCTBTN):

What You Need To Need Know: Take Back The Night & Greek Week’s Partnership

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its 5th consecutive Take Back The Night (TBTN) on Thursday, April 13th. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of questions about what Take Back the Night exactly is, why it looks the way it does, and how students can get involved. To help get those questions answered this year, we’ve doing a “What You Need to Know” series focused on TBTN so stay tuned for more posts over the next couple of weeks. This is the fourth post in the series and it focuses on the Take Back the Night’s partnership with Greek Week.


UMBC’s Fraternity & Sorority Community has been involved with Take Back the Night since 2013 when TBTN returned to campus.  We know there are some questions about that involvement, and we’re hoping we can answer them here.

The History – Susan DuMont, Former Coordinator for Fraternities & Sororities, 2010-2015

I was on the Women’s Center Board when the conversation started about bringing TBTN back to UMBC, and I was really excited to be a part of the planning and figuring out what TBTN at UMBC could look like.

That spring when all of the chapters sat down to plan Greek Week, we realized that TBTN was in the middle of Greek Week.  I said that it was important to me that we not plan anything at the same time, so they could either have a Greek Week event earlier in the day or we could incorporate TBTN into Greek Week itself.  I explained what TBTN was, and the chapters decided that they wanted to actively support it.

For sorority members, TBTN is an important opportunity to support all of the survivors and for survivors to give voice to personal experiences with sexual assault.  Every year, including the first, a large number of sorority women have shared their stories from the microphone.  For the men in the community, TBTN was similarly an opportunity to support survivors, but it has also been a chance to witness and participate in a conversation that they are rarely so intimately included in.  Attending TBTN has allowed them to better grasp the magnitude of the prevalence and severity of sexual assault and how personal and important the issue is to their community.  In the second year of TBTN, two fraternity men also spoke as survivors.


Today – Cory Bosco, Coordinator for Fraternities & Sororities

Fraternities and sororities are organizations based on the concept of brotherhood and sisterhood – relationships that go much further than just friendship.  I have seen the expression of relief and gratefulness when survivors step away from the mic and are embraced by their sisters or their brothers.  Our chapters participate in TBTN because sexual assault affects this campus and our community, and our members want to be part of ending sexual violence.  We attend TBTN because we want to actively change the reality of sexual assault and show that UMBC’s Fraternity & Sorority community is here to be an ally.

Every year we revisit the conversation about whether TBTN should be included in Greek Week, and if so, how to include it in a way that is respectful to the event.  While Greek Week is a chance to celebrate the community and is a fun and competitive experience, it is also a chance to celebrate what the UMBC Fraternity & Sorority Community is about beyond the fun – and that includes a deep commitment to supporting each other as family and a commitment to social justice that is both historical and ongoing. 

There is a misconception that chapters are “required” to attend TBTN.  That is entirely false.  While it is part of Greek Week, chapters “max out” their Greek Week “opportunity” from the program by having a very, very small percentage of their chapter attend comparatively .  What you actually witness, though, is a huge turnout from the majority of chapters regardless of points earned.  The event is part of Greek Week because it is important to chapters, rather than being important to chapters because it is part of Greek Week. 


For more information about UMBC’s TBTN (check out Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too by searching the hashtag #UMBCTBTN):

Stay tuned for the next installment of what you need to know about TBTN 2017!