Take Back the Night (4/16)

takebackthenightUMBC’s 2015 Take Back the Night will take place on Thursday, April 16 from 6-9 p.m. on Commons Mainstreet.

Events and activities include a Community Resource Fair (begins at 6pm), The Clothesline Project, The Survivor Speak Out Forum (begins at 6:30pm), March Against Sexual Violence, FORCE Monument Quilt Making Opportunity and other art activism projects.

The Resource Fair will include representatives from off-campus organizations: Hollaback Baltimore, FORCE, and HopeWorks

Visit http://www.takebackthenight.org for more information.

This event is co-sponsored by: The Women’s Center, UHS Health Education, and the Voices Against Violence Program

Non-Traditional but Together

Carrie Cleveland ’16, Social Work, is a member of UMBC’s Returning Women’s Mentoring Group.

Carrie ClevelandYesterday someone told me I was invisible.

My first thought was that the word invisible was the best adjective to describe me as a member of this campus community. My second thought was just how sad that would have made me feel a year ago, before I helped form a network of people like me.

So what makes me invisible? If you were to line me up with one hundred other students who were a representative sample of UMBC’s student population, I doubt I would stand out, because what makes me different is not especially apparent: my age.  The beautiful thing about being surrounded by a wonderful group of traditional-aged students (18-25 years old) is that no one realizes just how old I am.  Most students guess that I am older than they are, but not by much.  When I say I am 37 and I have three daughters, the reaction is almost always the same: “I thought you were like 25!”

Now, as wonderfully flattering as that may be to hear, it just speaks to my invisibility.  Unless we have a conversation, you may not realize just what it took for me to be sitting next to you in class.  Today is the perfect example of my challenges.  My daughter spiked a fever overnight and I have a group assignment that requires me to be on campus.  My husband is working in Iowa. My daughter’s normal day care center will not take her because of her fever. My backup care provider had a death in her family and is travelling to Virginia. My babysitter is out of town, and my family all lives in New Jersey.  So I am sitting here debating how to get to campus, and not only do I have my child to think about, I have three other people’s grades to think about.  I have done my due diligence, emailed everyone, including my professor, and am trying to get their feedback about what they are all comfortable with as I decide what to do.  I still have to get two other kids awake, fed, and on the bus and maybe take a shower.

In this moment, it all seems impossible.  In this moment, I am writing this blog post instead of doing any of those other things I SHOULD be doing.

This is why the Returning Women’s Mentoring Group, which I helped to launch with other returning women and the UMBC Women’s Center, is so important to me.  These women get it.  We are all dealing with full time jobs, partners, kids, mortgages, and so many other responsibilities that complicate our experiences as students.  It is hard when you have to miss a kid’s basketball game to finish a paper, or have to figure out how to be at work and take a final exam at the same time.

But we are not helpless by any stretch. All of us are making a conscious decision to invest in our education and to make sacrifices to do so.  We are at UMBC to do something for ourselves, and we’re stronger together.

Finding and building this group of women on campus changed my life.  When one of us graduates, I feel like we all do.  I get such a sense of pride and inspiration when one of us walks across that stage because I understand just what it took for her to get there. To me, these women are the very best part of UMBC and when we join together, we become a bit more visible.  As we look forward to 2015-2016, I am excited to see the new women who will join us on our journey, and I am even more excited that it will be my turn to walk across that stage.

Contact the author, Carrie Cleveland, at ccleve2@umbc.edu.

Policing Bodies & Beings: The Politics of Black Womanhood (2/20)

Policing Black Bodies FlyerJoin the Women’s Center for Policing Bodies and Beings: The Politics of Black Womanhood, a roundtable discussion on body politics, respectability politics and the experiences of Black Women on Thursday, February 20, 2014 from 4-5pm in the Women’s Center.

See flyer for more information.

New Women of Color Student Group

Megan Tagle Adams is coordinator at UMBC’s Women’s Center.

Megan Tagle AdamsWhen I’m trying to explain the importance of ethnic and racial diversity, one of my more illustrative anecdotes describes a time when I took a picture with a stranger because we had the same ethnic background. It happened while I was going to graduate school in an overwhelmingly white, rural college town. I was downtown one night when a young woman approached me, confirmed her suspicion that I was Filipina, and excitedly told me that she was Filipina, too. She decided to commemorate the discovery of our shared ethnic heritage with a blurry photo and a brief hug; after a few moments of small talk she was gone and I never saw her again. My white companions that night thought the encounter was ridiculous and baffling, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to understand the need she likely felt to bond with someone in that way. Or to empathize with the relief and familiarity that I felt upon seeing a woman who looked like my mother, like my sister, like me—a desire I didn’t even fully realize I’d held so strongly.

The comfort and connection I felt that day and still remember so vividly was a response to the sense of isolation I’d felt stirring the past couple of years after I left a university in California where commitment to diversity was evident beyond just enrollment demographics. It was a response to the implicit and even explicit erasure I’d experienced as a woman of color academically and socially, and even within supposed social justice circles. And it was a response to my resentment and frustration at being positioned as a native informant or token brownish person whenever I made that particular aspect of my identity known. My experience has further convinced me of the importance of supporting conscious community building among women of color and promoting their voices and visibility. As such, one of my priorities as the new coordinator of the Women’s Center is to establish a new group for women of color undergraduate and graduate students.

WoC flyerThe response from the UMBC community thus far has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the launch of the new group, which I believe further speaks to the existing gap in student outreach and development. Diversity is consistently referenced as one of the university’s core values and strengths; this group is meant to complement the diverse student body with more intentional programming designed to respond to the interests and concerns expressed by underrepresented students.

First and foremost, this group will provide a safe and supportive space where women of color can participate in difficult dialogues about their perspectives and experiences. By thoughtfully addressing the myriad differences in identity among women of color, we will make intersectionality central in our work toward empowerment, education and social justice.

Ultimately, I hope that through facilitating consciousness-raising, networking, and leadership development, this group will also initiate campus-wide programming to advocate for meaningful reflection and critical engagement around race, gender, inequality, and activism. By making a concerted effort to attend to the needs of women of color and other marginalized students, the Women’s Center remains dedicated to creating an environment where all students are able to thrive both academically and personally.

Contact the author, Megan Tagle Adams, at megan@umbc.edu.