Lexx Mills ’13, gender and women’s studies, is the grant writing, fundraising and sponsorship intern at UMBC’s Women’s Center.
Last summer, I received an email from UMBC’s Honors College announcing an internship opportunity at the Women’s Center. I jumped at the chance to gain some practical grant writing experience and to work for an organization whose mission aligned with both my studies and my personal values.
I didn’t have the slightest clue about grant writing, but I was eager to learn and enthusiastic about making a meaningful contribution to the Center. However, despite my painstaking searches, there just didn’t seem to be a lot of grants for organizations and projects like ours. I was beginning to feel discouraged. Then Jess Myers, director of the Women’s Center, encouraged me to apply for a BreakingGround grant for an event we were planning called Take Back the Night (TBTN). (Read Jess’s reflection on launching UMBC’s TBTN here).
TBTN is an event that serves to cultivate safe communities that are supportive of sexual assault survivors and enhance awareness about sexual assault and other forms interpersonal violence. According to the Take Back the Night Foundation, 1 out of 6 American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, and one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Sexual assault also impacts men and members of the LGBTQ community. We live in a culture that promotes sexual violence, blames and/or fails to support sexual assault survivors, and encourages silence on these issues. As long as the aforementioned conditions persist, individuals will continue to be subjected to sexual violence and abuse at significant rates. Acts of sexual and domestic violence happen everywhere, and UMBC is no exception.
When I read the grant application, certain terms stood out to me: “civic engagement,”“intentional and powerful,”“boundary-busting,” “coalition builders,” “social transformation,” and “community.” I knew that all of these concepts related closely to our TBTN mission. We have the power to ensure that our community is a space where sexual and domestic violence are discussed openly, and where we take an active stand against them.
Many of us have an idea of what social change and activism is, but we’re not exactly sure how to go about it, we don’t have the time, or maybe we think activists are these special people who have a unique passion. But any one of us can do something about an issue we care about. Civic agency is about owning our personal power and realizing that change has to start with us. We are the change that we’re waiting for.
Through my time at the Women’s Center this past year and my experience in writing this grant and working on the TBTN event, I have gained a greater sense of myself as a feminist, an activist and a social change agent. I hope you will come out and support Take Back the Night on Tuesday, April 30th, and that you too will begin to see yourself as an agent of change.
Contact the author, Lexx Mills, at firstname.lastname@example.org.