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.

IMG_1550

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.

20170412_110026.jpg

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.

IMG_1546.jpg

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.

img_9483.jpg

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.

1-13.jpg

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.

1-15

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. 

1-16

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

CAM00271
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

1398280_10152079999381028_7823318424368192804_o
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

IMG_4137-edit

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

NWSA 2014
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.