Performing Pregnancy As A Black Woman

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A reflection by Women’s center staff member, Kayla Smith.

 

Full disclosure: I’m a Beyonce stan. I support pretty much everything she does. There are very few things Beyonce can do that I wouldn’t damn near worship. Needless to say when she released pictures from her maternity shoot I was ready to bow down.

 

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Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement on Instagram

I scrolled through her website looking at all the maternity pictures in awe. The symbolism of a black woman evoking the Virgin Mary and the goddess Venus was not lost on me as I looked through the pictures feeling overjoyed for her and hopeful for my own future. She looked regal and glowed  with pride. This pregnancy announcement was radically different from her first, and was shrouded in much less mystery. I was reminded that in 2015 Beyonce suffered a miscarriage and I was so happy that she could announce another pregnancy with confidence. I even lamented to my boyfriend hoping that I would be as beautiful as Beyonce whenever I decide to have kids.

 

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Beyonce as the Goddess Venus, pictured with a bust of Nefertiti.

To my surprise, outside of the BeyHive bubble, not everyone responded to the maternity shoot in the same way I did. Comment threads are filled with comments that call the maternity shoot “tacky,” “extra,” and “self absorbed.” Articles were written criticizing not just the image, but Beyonce and the announcement itself. Continue reading

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Slaying on the Weekly: Black History Month + Women’s History Month

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

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

Sadly, today is the last day of Black History Month. Thank you for join us on our Slaying on the Weekly’s this past month. But our time together doesn’t stop now! We will be sure to continue to provide you resources, news and feel good take away tokens. There is still so much to learn!

March Awesomeness + UMBC Happenings

March is Women’s History Month!!! We are so excited to roll out some excited news, resources and UMBC events going on this month!

Be sure to check out the Women’s Center’s Women’s History Calendar. There are great events and opportunities this month! Hope to see you some of the events!

Loretta Ross is coming!! Join us on March 8th at 6pm for educator and activist  Loretta Ross’ keynote about “Women’s Rights as Human Rights”.  This is also the same day as the Women’s Strike. Are you participating? Stop by the Keynote to learn while you strike!

What is Elect Her? Elect Her is the only program in the country that encourages and trains college women to run for student government and future political office. Join us for the Elect Her workshop on March 11th! I’ll be there, be sure to register online!

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The 2016 Women’s History Month Zine cover photo. Artist: Shira Devorah

Resistance and Activism

Amelia Meman, the Women’s Center Special Projects Coordinator, wanted to pass along a resistance calendar. The calendar is a compilation of events and protests from the US and Canada. Check out the events, spread the word!

What are we striking for? Why should I care? What does striking look like for me, someone who cannot afford to miss work? Unladylike has a few resources to share with you!

 

 

Enjoy this Black History Salute Spotify Playlist! Happy Black History Month and Happy Women’s History Month!! See you next week!

 

My Women’s History Month Playlist

A playlist brought to you by Women’s Center staff member, MJ Jalloh Jamboria

As we approach the end of Women’s History Month, I wanted to share a playlist I made for a Women’s History Month Empowerment Program. The playlist features some throwbacks, a few current jams, Beyoncé (more than once) and I throw in Kelis’ “Milkshake” just for fun!

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Get up and dance like this kid

Check it out on Spotify or YouTube below!

 

Women’s History Month CWIT Spotlight: Natacha Ngea

March is Women’s History Month!

Three  years ago Women’s History Month’s national theme was “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” The theme honored generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields. At UMBC we honored this theme by partnering with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) to feature some of their amazing students participating in technology in the engineering and information technology fields. While the theme for Women’s History Month changes every year, we have come to love the tradition in spotlighting the stories of UMBC’s CWIT women. So with that, we are honored to bring you the 3rd Annual CWIT Showcase in honor of Women’s History Month.

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Natacha Ngea
Computer Engineering
CWIT  Scholar & Newcombe Scholar

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Meet Natacha Ngea! A CWIT Scholar and computer engineering major.

Describe what sparked your interest STEM and the journey to choosing your major.

I have always been interested in Science and Technology. My favorite classes were biology, chemistry and Mathematics. I still remember how excited I was to perform experiments with test tubes. In my country of origin, Cameroon, you specialize in high school and your admittance in College depends on what you graduate in. I was placed in Modern Languages. It never felt right. When I got the opportunity to come to the US, I decided to use that chance to finally do what I always wanted to do. In order to do so, though, I needed to pay my way to school and fill the gap I had in technology so I had so I enrolled in a professional certificate at Howard Community College (HCC). My first class was a computer repairs class. I loved it. I wanted to know how computers work. My professor knew so much on the topic that I asked him what was his background was in. He told me he was a mechanical engineer. That is when I started thinking about getting a degree in engineering. After meeting with my advisor, I took some tests and I enrolled in a second degree in engineering. After physics I, I knew mechanical engineering was not the right fit for me but I found out there was a computer engineering program. I read the curriculum and I was sold. In the meantime, I was invited to join the STEM community at HCC. Through this program, I grew more and more confident. I also joined the Computer/Network support team as an intern. I discovered that I liked troubleshooting and taking things apart. I learned a lot there. I am a visual learner and English is not my first language so being able to relate a concept I learned in class with an application I encountered through my internship was great. After an A.A.S in Computer Support Technology and an A.A in Computer Science, I transferred to UMBC in fall 2014 to pursue a degree in Computer Engineering and I also work for DoIT as a network technician. Continue reading

Women’s History Month CWIT Spotlight: Rachel Cohen

March is Women’s History Month!

Three  years ago Women’s History Month’s national theme was “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” The theme honored generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields. At UMBC we honored this theme by partnering with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) to feature some of their amazing students participating in technology in the engineering and information technology fields. While the theme for Women’s History Month changes every year, we have come to love the tradition in spotlighting the stories of UMBC’s CWIT women. So with that, we are honored to bring you the 3rd Annual CWIT Showcase in honor of Women’s History Month.

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Rachel Cohen
Computer Science
CWIT  Scholar

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Meet Rachel Cohen! A CWIT Scholar and computer science major.

Describe what sparked your interest STEM and the journey to choosing your major.

When I first decided to attend UMBC as a freshman, I originally declared my major as biochemistry. In high school, I had always excelled in my science and math classes and knew that I wanted to major in something that would allow me to hone in on those skills. After taking the gateway biology and chemistry courses, I came to the realization that I wasn’t exceedingly passionate about what I was studying, so I decided to switch my major to computer science. Having no prior experience in the subject, I was a bit hesitant to make such a drastic switch. I knew that computer science was a prevalent field with a great number of job opportunities, so I knew that if I were able to develop the skills needed to get the computer science degree, I would have a successful future ahead of me. Since switching to computer science after freshman year, I haven’t looked back! Continue reading

CWIT Spotlight: Elyse Hill

March is Women’s History Month!

Three  years ago Women’s History Month’s national theme was “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” The theme honored generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields. At UMBC we honored this theme by partnering with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) to feature some of their amazing students participating in technology in the engineering and information technology fields. While the theme for Women’s History Month changes every year, we have come to love the tradition in spotlighting the stories of UMBC’s CWIT women. So with that, we are honored to bring you the 3rd Annual CWIT Showcase in honor of Women’s History Month.

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Elyse Hill
Mechanical Engineering
CWIT  Scholar

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Meet Elyse Hill! A CWIT Scholar and mechanical engineering major.

Describe what sparked your interest STEM and the journey to choosing your major.

My interest in STEM was sparked in middle school by my mother. I had a heavy interest in architecture at the time and my mom suggested to me that I should look into pursuing the math and science behind the architecture. That led me to look into engineering, which I found to be a very broad field. In the summer of my 10th grade year, I went to an Exploring Engineering camp at the University of Maryland, College Park where I was exposed to the many disciplines in engineering that UMD had to offer. After coming to UMBC, I decided on mechanical engineering because I found that it was the most versatile of the engineering programs we offer here.

Tell us about an internship, research experience or project that you are proud of.

Last summer, I studied abroad in Lille, France at the Catholic University of Lille. There, many other students and myself engaged in culture classes, french classes, and discipline-specific classes (I took a solar energy course) while getting to experience French and European culture. I was very proud of this experience because I got to successfully apply the language I studied in high school while immersing myself in a foreign culture. The day I was the proudest was the day I wandered around the city of Brussels all by myself with only my map and a language I barely spoke as my tools.

Who are your role models in the engineering or IT field? How have their stories influenced your educational or career goals.

I have many role models in my major, the most impactful of which have beenUMBC’s  Dr. Maria Sanchez and Dr. Anne Spence. Recently, I’ve developed an interest in the field of engineering education, something both Dr. Spence and Dr. Sanchez do research in and hold a passion for. When I discussed this field with each of them, they expressed to me their own opinion on the subject and how it is a rising field of great importance. Since hearing their explanations, I have been more motivated to consider the field as a research topic for graduate school. Thanks to an email from Dr. Spence, I found out about an REU focused on engineering education that I applied for and got accepted to for this summer. In addition to their advice, just them being women in engineering is influential to me, and motivates me to become a college professor who inspires students, just as they have inspired me.

Continue reading

Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives: A Reflection on Activism and Social Media

This reflection by Women’s Center Director, Jess Myers, was written for and originally shared on the ACPA’s Standing Committee for Women blog. It has been republished on our site with their permission. For more on ACPA SCW, check out their website.

 

When the Women’s Center at UMBC at celebrated its 20th anniversary, the staff wanted to make a commemorative quilt. Each student organization and department the Women’s Center partnered with over the years made a square that was patched together into a quilt that was unique to the history of the Women’s Center. We indulged in this practice to honor America’s rich history of quilting and patchwork. For centuries, quilts have told stories and were uniquely linked to their creators, who most often were women. The process of quilting encouraged women to share their stories and build community with other women. This felt like an appropriate nod at history as we celebrated our own. With this experience, I’ve especially enjoyed this year’s Women’s History Month theme of Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.

As our country has evolved so has the medium for telling our narratives. We now rely on various social media platforms to share our stories as we Instagram brunch with friends, share the latest viral blog on Facebook, and tweet our experiences throughout the day. What was once threaded and woven is now tweeted, liked, and hashtagged. And, while there may not be a beautiful quilt at the end of the day, many student activists of today are nonetheless weaving together an important story that will impact the future of women’s history. This is the story of the campus sexual assault movement happening now on college campuses.

Over the past year, I have been a part of a study with three other student affairs professionals exploring the strategies employed by activists involved in the movement to address sexual violence prevention and response on college campuses. Through observing online forums and the 23 interviews of both current students and recent graduates, a powerful story of activism unfolded. Our findings are rich and extend well beyond our original research question, but as I contemplate this year’s Women’s History Month theme, I am compelled to share the ways in which the participants used social media as a tool to weave together their stories and experiences as a medium to demand change on campuses and within our nation that support survivors of sexual assault and condemn sexual violence within our institutions of higher education. Participants in our study described using social media in several intentional ways, two of which I’ll explore here: to connect with other activists and as a tool for reducing power dynamics present in other spaces.

Sharing Their Stories with Others: Social Media as a Connection to Other Activists

Activists described the power of social media in helping them connect to other survivors and activists which supported a shift in momentum related to addressing sexual violence. By connecting with other activists, their story was no longer one of isolation but one that weaved into a greater context of support and validation. Several participants highlighted the power of solidarity when sexual violence related hashtags trended on Twitter such as Wagatwe Wanjuki’s #survivorprivilege which provided a forum to express their experiences. Moreover, one participant, Lynn*, captured the importance of this solidarity between and among activists from a variety of places. She said,

“There’s just a wonderful solidarity of knowing that you’re not alone… And when you see, as painful as it is to find other people who have been through what you’ve been through, there is an incredible level of empowerment that comes from knowing that somebody else has that experience, and that you’re not crazy.”

Creating New Spaces to Share Their Story: Social Media as a Tool for Reducing Power Dynamics

Closely related to the connection and solidarity activists felt from shared spaces online, some activists also identified the importance of online spaces as environments where power dynamics were reduced allowing their story to be told and heard. Some LGBTQ activists used online space because they did not have to out themselves in face-to-face settings. Other activists identified the importance of using social media as a forum where a variety of perspectives might be shared and validated, especially those that are historically marginalized. Vee, a participant who identifies as a queer woman of color, explained Twitter as community in which “I can breathe a sigh of relief, where I can get the validation I need.” When sexual assault stories highlighted by mainstream media often tell only the narrative of young, cisgnedered white women, the need for this counterspace online becomes even more important in ensuring all voices and stories are woven into the movement. Peter, another participant in our study, highlights this point:

“And if we’re talking about at risk communities, marginalized communities, communities that have been historically marginalized are not welcomed into the same spaces and so to a lot of people the only thing that they have access to and the only way that they are able to participate is through social media because of that anonymity that’s allowed that isn’t allowed for if you put your name to it.”

There is a power in hearing women’s stories. While remembering and recounting tales of our ancestors’ sacrifices and dedication is important, there is also great power in the stories being woven now. The story for these survivors and activists is still a work in progress, but during this Women’s History Month, I celebrate their efforts. Unlike a quilt which must be fully completed for the story to be told, social media is allowing me learn from activists across the country in real-time about their experiences, needs, and challenges. Their stories are already being woven into my practice as a student affairs professional and I am all the better professional for it. This will be a story not only tweeted, blogged, and hashtagged, but one that will be woven into the fabric of our national history.

*Although many survivors in the current campus sexual assault movement are choosing to publicly use their names and identities in their activist work and/or with media outlets our study uses pseudonyms to ensure confidentiality for all of our participants.