Over the past year, acts of resistance and resilience have electrified our country and world. Immediate images that flash through our minds include the water protectors at Standing Rock, the millions around the world who participated in the Women’s March, those who rushed to the airports to volunteer translation and legal assistance to immigrants and refugees in the immediate aftermath of the travel ban.
As these images of mass protests and large-scale actions capture our attention, we also recognize the power of everyday acts of resistance. Social justice movements have been infused with a renewed sense of urgency, and for an ever-growing number of people, there is the will to be counted, to find voice, and to rise up.
While many are new to the struggle, the struggle itself is not new. We’re reminded by those who have long been active in these movements that the fight for justice is neither in its first breaths nor last gasps.
For the fifth annual Critical Social Justice, we’ll explore opportunities for building individual and collective resistance and resilience. Events throughout the week will challenge us to think about how we can do better, do more, and persist in doing it. How do we rise to meet the challenges of this particular cultural moment to work toward a vision of inclusive excellence—whether it’s in the classroom, online, or in our communities?
We’re excited to announce that our keynote speaker will be Native scholar and activist Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation), who writes about cultural appropriation and stereotypes of Native peoples in pop culture on her blog Native Appropriations. Keene examines the way Indigenous peoples are using new media to challenge racism, present authentic counter-narratives, and create innovative spaces for art and activism. The keynote lecture and reception will be held on Tuesday, October 24th at 6pm in the UC Ballroom.
Critical Social Justice: Rise will be held on October 23rd through 27th, 2017. Follow our blog, Facebook, and Twitter (#csjrise) for updates on scheduled events and other news. For more information about the Critical Social Justice initiative, or if you’re organizing a related event that week that might be included on the CSJ calendar, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Critical Social Justice is a Women’s Center initiative with The Mosaic: Center for Culture and Diversity.
This reflection by Women’s Center staff member Daniel Willey has been cross-posted from the Women’s Center community blog.
Trigger warning for suicide mention; resources at the bottom of the post
My community experienced a tragedy early this October, and the ripples from the impact are still cascading across campus and beyond. I woke up that morning to several messages from friends and coworkers telling me what I already knew: a dear friend had passed from suicide.
This friend was a very private person whose spouse has also asked for privacy. In order to respect their wishes, this blog post isn’t about her. That said, I’m incredibly sad about her passing and I miss her every day and I certainly don’t want anybody to forget her. Ever. She was insatiably curious and incredibly smart. She cared deeply for her community and the students she encountered. And now she’s gone.
My friend was a trans woman and she was active in the community of queer and trans students on campus. Her death had an enormous impact on that community, and we continue to be impacted by it for many reasons. Many, and in fact most, of us in the queer and trans community live with mental illness, neurodiversity, or both, and to see it overtake someone who tried so hard for so long is discouraging at best. Mostly, it’s frightening. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey Report on health and health care, 41% of trans people attempt suicide in their lifetime. In the face of all of this, it’s been so hard for my community to see the light.
But also in the face of all of this, I’ve seen some incredible coming together. We are a community who has had to learn how to take care of each other. It can be difficult because sometimes we can’t even take care of ourselves, but when shit really hits the fan I know I have people I can be with. There are people with whom I can cry and talk frankly about how fucking bad it feels. And then we hold each other and support one another and even though we’re all having a hard time, we’re doing it together. Continue reading
The Women’s Center was bursting with excitement as Critical Social Justice quickly crept around the corner. All of our hard work and extra hours were finally coming to fruition and we were excited to share that with the rest of UMBC!
On Monday, we kicked off CSJ with a panel discussion featuring some of UMBC’s finest faculty. Dr. Kate Drabinski, Dr. Kimberly Moffitt, and Dr. Thania Muñoz Davaslioglu joined us for CSJ 101 to lay down the foundations of our theme.
As expected, Leah blew us away with her wisdom and experience as an disabled femme of color. She was real, funny, and painfully relatable. In her multifaceted speech, she spoke a lot about how she’s had to learn to listen to her body, create spaces where she and her community can be present and validated, and how we can celebrate the lives of the community members we’ve lost. If you missed it you can watch the video of the lecture below!
On Wednesday, the Women’s Center held a social justice activism workshop where students practiced skills for planning projects and taking action.
Later that afternoon, Student Life’s Mosaic Center hosted Shelter the Storm, a panel discussion focused on LGBTQ homelessness. In case you missed it, you can watch the recording of the event here.
On Thursday, Women’s Center staff shared posters they’d researched and created for an exhibit at our Who Get’s a Home in College? event, which centered on diversity and inclusion in higher education. In recognition of the Women’s Center’s 25th anniversary, student staff did archival research to explore how the Center’s history has shaped its role on campus today. See the posters, zine, and Prezi here!
We were joined by our panelists Dr. Nicole Cousin-Gossett (Sociology), Dr. Danyelle Ireland (CWIT), and Dr. Santiago Solis (Towson University), who spoke about institutional accountability regarding diversity and inclusion.
On the last day of Critical Social Justice, Dr. Kate Drabinski led the Baltimore Walking Tour through downtown Baltimore.
Thanks again to all of our campus partners and everyone who participated in making the 4th annual Critical Social Justice a success!
A reflection written by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers
As Critical Social Justice: Home comes to an end today, I can’t help but to think about what is happening at Standing Rock right now where over 100 police with military equipment are advancing on a resistance camp established by Native American water protectors in the path of the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline (details). My week starting off with me tuning into Democracy Now! to hear reports from water protectors who were arrested over the weekend at a peaceful march after they were confronted by police in riot gear, carrying assault rifles (details).
Then at the CSJ keynote event, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha opened her talk by acknowledging the Susquehannock and Lenape people, whose land UMBC stands on or is nearby. She went on to say that except for the Piscataway, Maryland does not recognize any Nations because, as with many mid Atlantic states, Native people were displaced onto Oklahoma Indian Territory or other places of displacement during colonization in the 1700s. When I lived in Colorado, speakers at events would often start with this land acknowledgment, in fact, some professors even named it in their course syllabi. It has been a long time since I’ve been in a space where this critical history has been acknowledge.
As we spent the whole week exploring and navigating the complexities of home, I can’t stop thinking about Standing Rock, the water protectors, and what the pipeline will do to the homes and communities of Native American and Indigenous people, specifically the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. We would be remiss if we did not name their cause, efforts, and fight for home this week.
In social justice circles, you’ll often hear people say, “Do the work.” This is a call for us to learn about issues, do self-reflection, and appropriately lend our voice and action to the cause. While I’m still learning about this evolving issue, I wanted to at least share the information I’ve been accessing and provide some resources for where we can keep learning about this critical issue happening right now. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list! As you explore resources, be sure to check out coverage and resources directly created by Native American voices and those that amplify their voices.
Once again, this is not an exhaustive list. Use this short list to get started and keep clicking on the links for more information and resources!
Tonight our partners in Student Affairs are hosting Critical Interactions, an interactive program where students will join INTERACT Program peer facilitators to explore how they each make meaning of ‘home.’
But what is INTERACT?
A collaboration between the Division of Student Affairs and the Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication Department, INTERACT aims to provide first-year residential students with specific training in intercultural communication and authenticity.
As a university focused on innovation and ground-breaking research, it is the hope of this collaborative to enhance incoming students’ confidence and competence in diversity and inclusion in order to prepare them for their time at UMBC and beyond.
Critical Interactions will be held tonight (Oct. 24th) from 7:30-9pm in University Center 310.
For a full list of Critical Social Justice: Home events, click here.
A blog reflection by Joe Levin-Manning, Graduate Coordinator for LGBTQ Programs
This piece was written as we look forward to Critical Social Justice: Home next week. Student Life’s Mosaic: Center for Culture and Diversity will be hosting a roundtable discussion about the struggles of homelessness as it affects the LGBTQ community in many different facets.
If you would like to send questions in advance or submit your own story to be shared during the event please visit: tinyurl.com/shelterfromthestormstories.