Honoring stories/Consuming tragedy: Covering Take Back The Night as a photographer

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Amelia Meman, ’15, is the program coordinator in the Women’s Center. She has worked in the Women’s Center as an intern, a student staff member, a volunteer, a part-time coordinator, and now as a full-time staff member. Throughout this tenure, Amelia has attended every Take Back the Night (and is looking forward to attending many more).

Among the fraught ethical tensions that anyone negotiates in their lives, there is one that the Women’s Center constantly must work through:

Are we honoring stories of trauma or are we passively consuming tragedy?

This is a conflict that comes up most often when we begin planning and setting up for our sexual violence-related events. We have to ask ourselves during Take Back the Night (TBTN): is this an event that is empowering for survivors and victims? Or is it spotlighting stories that are shocking and uncomfortable for an eager audience? Are we listeners observing moments of healing or are we spectators in awe of what trauma can be?

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Now, we realize that we can’t control how participants are taking in the material we offer, but we can try like hell to build a context to our event that encourages folks to act as witnesses to a difficult and powerful process. Hence this blogpost.

Take Back the Night is an emotional and incredible event. As a staff member and an alumna, I have been to every TBTN since it was renewed in 2014, and every year, I am aware of the way the survivor speak out shifts the gravity in the room. I know there are tears and tense muscles and people holding one another–partially because I’ve been in that same position. I know that in the march that follows the speak out, I yell so so loud with this big chorus of powerful people and it is the closest I come to righteousness. The catharsis of shifting the emotional weight in my heart to my lungs and into the night air, it’s a feeling that you don’t soon forget.

That said, I’ve also been behind the camera for many of my TBTN’s and I know, as an artist, what lengths we can go to in order to get that shot that distills the moment as if the chant could echo through whatever gelatin or pixel displaying utility you’re using. Get that shot. Capture that moment. Frame it. Click. Shutter. Stop.

I get it.

But just as the Women’s Center frets about building a moment of witnessing rather than consumption, we must also ask our photographers and our artists to consider how they’re documenting this world.

As we get ready for another Take Back the Night, we meet and Jess is beleaguered: “Just please don’t be that guy running and hanging off of light posts with a camera in my face,” referring to the antics of some eager photojournalists who took the 2018 Take Back the Night march by storm. People with cameras ran in and out and through and about the march, and it led us as organizers to question whether or not this was the sort of event we wanted to organize.

Were we getting people together simply for the right Instagram grid?

Were those who were brave enough to tell their stories being minimized to the portrait of tears and traumatization?

Did these folks weaving and mending their way through the march even know what it was that brought us all together and why our voices were high with urgency?

Are we staging tragedy for people to consume? Are survivor stories a tragic movie montage–to feel things that we aren’t typically used to feeling?

There’s a responsibility here, as a narrator or a creator, to honor the folks whose stories we are trying to enliven. We teeter on that tension I spoke of earlier, between exploitation and empowerment. So as we move into another TBTN and another year of difficult publicly told truths, I hope that we can learn how to honor and respect the stories that are shared among us.

 

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Some simple questions for all of the photographers out there, looking to document things like Take Back the Night and other important movements in our world:

Why are you taking pictures?

Where are you posting them?

If you had to write a caption, what would it say?

Who are you taking a picture of? Are they in a state you would want to be captured in?

Do you understand what this event is about and the goals?

How can you ensure that your creative work builds off of organizer goals?

Did you ask to take the picture? If you didn’t, should you?

Ultimately, this issue is one of exploitative objectification versus humanizing empowerment/embodiment. Viewing real human conflict, sadness, trauma does things to us. It might help us through our own shit. It might provoke a piece of ourselves we’ve never been in touch with. Either way, let’s make sure that in our reception, we are viewing, listening, etc. from a place of equal footing, rather than from the top down. Reach out, not down to the folks who have different experiences from you, and if you plan on taking their picture–hold up your mirror first.

This year, for Take Back the Night, the Women’s Center is assigning press passes to photographers. We hope this is a way to hold artists and journalists accountable to our mission, and create a firmer understanding of the context that brings us all together. If you’re interested in acquiring a press pass, email us at womenscenter@umbc.edu.

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Further reading/viewing/listening:

7 with VII: Ethics in Photojournalism, Q&A with photojournalists Ron Haviv, Maciek Nabrdalik, Stefano De Luigi, Davide Monteleone, Ashley Gilbertson, Ed Kashi and Arthur Bondar

A Thousand Stakes: Photojournalism and Exploitation, Teresa Mathew

The Colonialism of Photojournalism, Clary Estes

Inspiration porn and the objectification of disability, Stella Young at TEDxSydney 2014

What You Need To Need Know: Take Back The Night & the Survivor Speak-Out 2019

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its 7th consecutive Take Back the Night on Thursday, April 18th. 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 we started the “What You Need to Know” series focused on TBTN last year and are continuing on the tradition, so stay tuned for more posts over the next week. This is an updated post to last year’s information focusing on the survivor speak-out.

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The survivor 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.

Kayla Smith, UMBC Class of 2017, started the speak out in previous years and cherished that moment as a time where she could share her experience with people who she knew wouldn’t judge her. She could look out into a crowd of people who wouldn’t tell her its her fault, ask what she was wearing, ask if she was drinking, or tell her that she was responsible for her assault. “Speaking out about my assault empowers me to talk about my experience with confidence.”

This year we want to focus on dispelling the myth of the “perfect victim” that often times dominates sexual violence discourse. There are a variety of stories and experiences that are shared during the speak- out. Some may share stories or healing while others are still angry, sad, or scared. Many stories may come from women-identified folks and/but male survivors are also invited to share their stories at the speak-out. All of our stories and experiences are valid. And, no matter where you are at in your experience as a survivor (i.e. your assault happened 10 years ago or just last week) or what your identities may be, you’re welcomed to share your story.   

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If you’re thinking about speaking at Take Back the Night, feel free to reach out to Women’s Center staff ahead of time if you feel like it would be helpful to talk to someone ahead of time about your story and how you may want to share it. Of course, we know many survivors may not plan on speaking at TBTN and then feel called to do so once the speak-out begins and that’s okay! If you feel uncomfortable sharing during the speak-out, that’s also 100% okay! There will be a chance to be recognized during the March at the Survivor Circle (which will be a new part of this year’s march – stay tuned for our updated What You Need to Know about the March post for more details!) or discuss your experience in a more intimate setting at We Believe You’s survivor discussion group post march.

It’s also totally okay if don’t feel ready to share your story at Take Back the Night – there’s many other ways you can share your story in less public ways throughout Sexual Assault Awareness Month (like making a t-shirt for the Clothesline Project or the other ways at TBTN we mentioned in the above paragraph) and Take Back the Night (counselors will be available throughout the event and there will be the self-care station). Survivors or anyone impacted by sexual violence can also always schedule a time to talk to Women’s Center staff – we’re quasi-confidential resources on campus and can link you to additional support and resources.

Here’s some helpful information about the speak-out we think is helpful for everyone to know whether they’re speaking or listening:

  • Any one can be a survivor of sexual violence. Any survivor regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation is welcomed to share their story at the speak-out. At the beginning of TBTN’s creation the speak out was only for women, but we welcome men and all others who may have differing gender identities to speak out. We wish for the speak out to be an inclusive space of healing and representation of different identities can help dispel the dangerous “perfect victim” narrative.
  • The survivor speak-out is intended to center the voices and experience of survivors of sexual violence. The speak-out is for allies to listen and survivors to break their silence. Thank you in advanced for respecting this request. Allies are also encouraged to attend the Women’s Center workshop on Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence on 4/11. 
  • Since TBTN functions as a public forum, normal reporting procedures look a bit different. If you choose to share your story, and want to go no further in the reporting process, we encourage you not to disclose any names or other specific identifying information, such as locations or familial relationships, as those details may prompt staff to follow up with you for reporting matters. Staff are available at the event for those who do want additional resources and want to report their experience through UMBC’s Title IX reporting process or police.
  • We ask that you try to limit your story to about 3 minutes. We know it may be hard to do so but we want to make sure as many survivors as possible can speak during the allotted speak out time which is one hour long. If you’d like to continue sharing your story, you may want to go to the We Believe You discussion group after the Take Back the Night march.
  • Speakers will have the option to identify their story as confidential by placing a sign marked “confidential” on the microphone. Speaking from the “confidential” microphone prohibits anyone from taking pictures, quotes, or recording of any kind.
  • Counselors-On-Call will be available throughout the evening. Any one needing additional support or simply needs to take a break are invited to visit the self-care station that will be set up in the Commuter Lounge.

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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 2019! 

What You Need To Need Know: Take Back The Night & Why We March

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its 6th consecutive Take Back the Night on Thursday, April 18th. 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 we started the “What You Need to Know” series focused on TBTN last year and are continuing on the tradition, so stay tuned for more posts over the next couple of weeks. This blog focuses on the evening’s campus march against sexual violence.

1,2,3,4 WE WON’T TAKE IT ANYMORE

 5,6,7,8 NO MORE VIOLENCE! NO MORE HATE!

As a survivor of sexual assault, the Take Back The Night march reminds me that I’m not alone.

Mariana De Matos Medeiros, ’16, and former student staff member at the Women’s Center, said “To me, having the opportunity to speak and march at TBTN last year reminded me that I am not alone and that I can stand in my power to speak about my experience. It took me 3 years to finally speak about my assault and one of the very first times was at TBTN last year. Seeing so many gathered to support allowed me to speak and speaking has allowed me to heal.

It can be easy to blame yourself, isolate yourself, and feel like you’re the only person struggling with your healing; However, the march lets you connect with people who support you and believe you.

Sarah Lilly, a 2016 and 2017 Take Back The Night student leader says “Marching is us showing that solidarity is a verb, and it brings me great pride to feel so supported by my local UMBC community and to see the unconditional support for everyone else in our community.”

In an open letter in her school’s newspaper, survivor and student activist, Angie Epifano, recounted the aftermath of her sexual assault, namely her experience with institutional betrayal. She ended the letter with, “Silence has the rusty taste of shame.” Due to rape culture, victim blaming, a lack of support for survivors, and more, it is understandable that many survivors do not disclose their experience and sexual assault is rarely spoke of in public.

Much like the Baltimore-based Monument Quilt is creating and demanding public space for survivors to heal, Take Back the Night demands for space in which we will not be shamed into silence. Activists like Angie, the Monument Quilt creators, and YOU during the march are creating a new culture where survivors are publicly supported, rather than publicly shamed. 

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Here’s some helpful information about the campus march against sexual violence to those attending Take Back the Night at UMBC: 

  • The survivor speak-out is intended to center the voices and experience of survivors (of all identities) of sexual violence. The speak-out is for allies to listen and survivors to break their silence but the march is for EVERYONE to GET LOUD! 
  • We encourage individuals and groups to make rally signs ahead of time. Signs are a great way to show your solidarity and support while also representing your student orgs, res hall communities, and frats/sororities.
  • We’ll line everyone up in the march in waves. Survivors wanting to march up front with other survivors are invited to line up first along with other community members needed to take an accessible route march. Everyone else will then line up as survivors begin to march towards the south exit of The Commons.
  • As we march, walk slowly and stay together. Try to avoid large gaps in the line.
  • This year we’re bringing back the Survivor Circle. As we make out way through the route we will stop midway through the march and hold our Survivor Circle.
    • The Survivor Circle is a chance for survivors who may or may not have shared their story during the speak out to be recognized, come together, and be surrounded in support and healing by those attending the march. This is an opportunity for those who identify as survivors to come together without having to speak out or share their story if they do not wish to do so.

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  • The march will end back on Main Street where the space will be ready for the evening’s resource fair and craftivism. As you’re heading back into The Commons, come all the way into Main Street so everyone else behind you can get into the space as well.
  • There will be one more chance to share your experience as a survivor post-march at a survivor discussion group led by the student organization We Believe You in the Women’s Center. (This event will be private and for survivors only).
  • Counselors-On-Call will be available throughout the evening. Any one needing additional support or simply needs to take a break are invited to visit the self-care station that will be set up in the Commuter Lounge.

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 2019! 

Supporting survivors past April

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This past April was our most powerful yet. In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Women’s Center coordinated the annual Take Back the Night event, which 265 UMBC community members attended (click here for a photo round-up). The Clothesline Project reached another 183 people, and 10 new shirts were created by survivors of interpersonal violence.

 

 

The Women’s Center’s mission to support survivors extends beyond April. This year, the Women’s Center has trained 103 students, faculty, and staff in our supporting survivors workshops. Jess and Megan have also devoted over 25 hours of 1-1 support meetings for survivors and those dedicated to supporting them.

As this school year ends, please help us continue cultivating a survivor-responsive campus. We are only $450 away from making our 25th Anniversary GiveCorps goal for the 2016-2017 school year!
Give today and help a survivor access the support they need. 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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! 

A 2014 Women’s Center Reflection

A Reflection by Women’s Center Director, Jess Myers.

As our world transitions into the winter holiday spirit, I am less than eager to celebrate this year. I am sad, angry, and feeling hopeless in the wake of grand jury decisions that are rooted in deep injustices and a system that does not work for all. When I look back on 2014, I’m tempted to just call it a wrap. Nothing positive to reflect on this year, folks… let’s pack it up and move on. Yet, the top lists of 2014 (here, here, and here) keep circulating through my social media feeds and I keep coming back to this reflection, digging for ways to find hope. I found it in re-reading the story of our new Women’s Center logo. Loyal. Constant. Strong and Resilient. Season to Season. Survival. Growth. In the face of injustice, the Women’s Center continues to grow its roots and extend its branches to keep doing the important work of growing intersectional feminism and cultivating critical social justice.


With this as inspiration, my list is easier to write. Here’s some of my favorite Women’s Center moments of 2014. What are yours?

Introducing our new Women’s Center logo to the UMBC Community
In January 2014, we rolled out our new logo. We wanted and needed a logo that would speak to the depth of all the Women’s Center is and can be for our UMBC community. We found it in the Wye Oak tree. What’s just as exciting is that conversations and brainstorming for the logo inspired us to revisit the mission statement of the Women’s Center. After a good run of almost 20 years, it’s about time we update it! We’ve spent a great deal of 2014 reflecting deeply on who we are and who we want to be and we’re excited to do another introduction of our new mission statement in 2015.


It was the inaugural year of Critical Social Justice

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With 17 events and 15 co-sponsors, Critical Social Justice was successfully launched despite the polar vortex and a campus snow day. The theme of Engaging in Difficult Dialogues was explored in various ways throughout the week and called us all to think about the meanings and challenges of social justice from many different angles and across different spaces. The keynote address was brilliantly delivered by Jay Smooth who provided important strategies for engaging in difficult dialogues (check out his How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist video) and the importance of using our privilege to help “carve out a space” for the underrepresented and people rendered invisible in our world (for more on that, check out this awesome video). Later in the year, Reina Gossett came to campus as part of the CSJ line up in the fall and highlighted the lives of trans activists, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson and challenged us to reconsider history knowing so many marginalized people’s experiences are “written outside the archives.”
Just as importantly, every time I talk about Critical Social Justice I feel called to name the fact that a student staff member was the person who first envisioned CSJ. Amelia Meman spent her first semester working in the Women’s Center crafting the idea with support and nuance from our Coordinator, Megan Tagle Adams, to get it to the important initiative it is today. Once again, I’m reminded that the work of social justice doesn’t have to be a waiting game. You don’t need to wait until you’re deemed a leader or figure head or have been cited as an expert. It’s everybody’s work and everybody’s job.

For more on CSJ 2014, explore #CSJ2014 on Twitter or check out the CSJ website. And, get excited for CSJ: Creating Brave Spaces coming to UMBC February 16-20, 2015!


The snow didn’t stop us from Taking Back the Night

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One of my favorite song lyrics sings “this year April had a blizzard just to show she does not care” and that repeated over and over in my head as I watched huge chunks of snow begin to fall outside at this year’s Take Back the Night. Only on this cold night in April, UMBC community members did in fact care so very much. Over 250 community members packed themselves on to Main Street and listened for almost two hours to over 20 students who shared their experiences of sexual assault at the Speak Out. They then marched throughout the Commons to help take back the night and spread awareness that rape and sexual assault are not UMBC values and must stop. So take that snow!


The launch of our new roundtable series

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This year we officially said good bye to our long standing film series and instead offered a new roundtable series. Our first three roundtables (in February, September, and November) explored the intersection of race and gender and provided thought-provoking conversations in addition to validation and supportive space for UMBC community members to share the personal ways race and gender influences their lived experiences. With our largest crowd edging over 60 participants, we’re looking forward to what the spring line-up of roundtables will bring!

Presenting at the National Women’s Studies Association’s annual conference

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While this favorite memory of 2014 may not directly impact everyone in our community, attending and presenting at NWSA was pretty awesome. First of all… bell hooks and Angela Davis were there and did not disappoint in their speaking of important truths and calls to put intersectional feminist into action. Three Women’s Center staff members also presented at NWSA. Student staff member, Amelia Meman, and our coordinator, Megan Tagle Adams, led two roundtable sessions addressing women of color voices at women’s, gender equity, and sexuality centers. They created important space to recognize the work of women of color working in women’s centers and the barriers they face as they navigate and disrupt the historic and present white-centrism of women’s centers. And, after spending almost a year researching, interviewing, coding, and writing, my research team finally did our first presentations together exploring the activist strategies that students use in their sexual assault activism work. We were able to share the ways these activists are specifically using social media as a tool to create awareness about sexual assault on their campuses and advocate for institutional and legislative changes. Overall, tons of learning to be had by all of us and we hope we’re better staff folks for the Women’s Center and UMBC community because of our learning experiences at this year’s NWSA conference.

Awesome Blog Posts and Staff Members

Fall 2014 Staff Photo
I don’t know about you, but I read every post on this little blog page of ours. We spend each staff meeting assigning writing deadlines to student staff members, and I’ll be honest, sometimes, I feel like writing is one of their least favorite assignments. Then, they post these amazing stories about their lives and important reflections about their experiences (I’m not kidding… read this and this and this  and this for starters). They allow themselves to become vulnerable and raw in their writings in a way that truly reflects the spirit and values of our Women’s Center community. Beyond their writing, our Women’s Center staff members show up to work each day with a fierce commitment to making the Women’s Center a better place. They challenge me to grow and push me to be brave. The Women’s Center wouldn’t be us without the important work our students do. I’m thankful for them.

Just as importantly, throughout 2014, our older (and newer) programs and groups continued to serve as cornerstones to the Women’s Center community. We now have a peer-to-peer mentoring program for returning women students and two of our Newcombe Scholars (Amy and Melissa) were featured on the Class of 2014 website. Rebuilding Manhood just wrapped up its 5th cohort experience. The Women of Color Coalition continued to gain momentum and participation. Between Women entered into its third year of providing important space for LGBTQ women’s voices. The Spectrum community met on a weekly basis to provide meaningful and revolutionary space for trans students to simply be them.

Newcombe Panelists - Oct 2014

Perhaps our country is indeed on a brink of a movement of change. If that’s the case, this year’s reflection leads me to believe the Women’s Center community and its members are ready to rise up and be counted in the fight for justice.