Healing My Community

Daniel Willey 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

Critical Social Justice: Home Round-Up

The spirit of the fourth annual Critical Social Justice aims to create space and learning opportunities to consider the ways we can challenge, explore, and redefine the concept of “home” based upon our individual and collective histories as well as our intersecting identities. Take a look back at some of highlights from throughout the week and catch up on anything you missed with the linked videos for the events!

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!

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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.

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Dr. Moffitt left us with an amazing message as we ended the event. There is still so much space to grow and become better.

You can watch a recording of the event on our Facebook pageas well as check out our CSJ 101 round-up on Storify!

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Before the keynote event on Tuesday, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha sat with a few students to discuss mental health and accessibility issues at UMBC, as well what can be done to create space for more people on campus!

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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!

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Women’s Center student staff members Michael and Mari shared their favorite moments from the keynote.

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.

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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!

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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.

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On the last day of Critical Social Justice, Dr. Kate Drabinski led the Baltimore Walking Tour through downtown Baltimore.

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At Research Park, Dr. Kate gave an extensive history of the area.

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Thanks again to all of our campus partners and everyone who participated in making the 4th annual Critical Social Justice a success!

Home: Paying Attention to Standing Rock

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.

Later in the week, I saw an infograph created by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture that outlined the scary realities of “Sexual Assault on the Pipeline.”

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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!

Critical Interactions and Authentic Engagement

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.

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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.

The Price of Home

A blog reflection by Joe Levin-Manning, Graduate Coordinator for LGBTQ Programs

In our society today there are numerous people without the tangible home that we label as homeless or home-challenged; but have we thought about those that are lacking home security/stability? Many vulnerable groups are on the verge or edge of losing the homes they have currently. These people include (but aren’t limited to) the LGBTQ community, lower income persons/families, and immigrants. These groups are often the subject of discrimination just because they exist.
Home is usually defined as a place a person goes for shelter, for safety, and for a sense of normalcy. Home is something we think of as both a literal and a figurative place in our society. But what truly makes a home a home? How is it decided who gets a home and who doesn’t? How do you get to keep a home that you may have created or earned for yourself?
For many LGBTQ individuals, myself included, you worry what will happen when you come out to someone. Whether that person is a family member, a friend, a colleague, or a boss. It is a nerve-wracking experience that can have dire consequences. For those that are unaware, there are many intangible things on the line in addition to all of the tangible one. It goes beyond the loss of a place to call home, which is a traumatic experience in its own right. You start to lose your self of self.
For many of us, so much of who we are is made up or defined by our homes. Your parents/families are the first to give you a set of values to believe in. At home is when you are taught to feel safe and comfortable. The security that you feel at home is supposed to make you feel strong and confident. However, these things are only true if you feel that you belong there. Even if you are living in a home you may not feel at home if you are not able to be truly and completely yourself. In those situations, is that really a home? Is this a place that you are meant to be? Many are forced to say yes because you need the physical, financial, and practical support that is associated with it. Like many others, I did not know how I could or would afford to finish college without the support of my “family”. In this situation, you are forced to hide who you are or to be someone other than yourself.
For some, coming out is a story of acceptance, love, and familial warmth. For others, coming out is a story of pain, longing, loss, and hope. The pain of rejection that stings to the very depth of your soul. The longing for an idea of how things could have been if you were born any other way. The loss of the future you thought you had or the stability and support you need. The hope you force yourself to believe in until you finally find the place you were meant to be full of love, laughter, and support. The journey and the struggles that one faces along this path will be different from the next person but all have one thing in common. They all shape us to be something more than we thought or imagined and it is the price we paid for our sense of home today.
(“Family” – the person you are related to by blood or law. Not to be confused with family – those that you chose to be members of your support network.)
Joe Levin-Manning
Graduate Coordinator for LGBTQ Programs
levinmaj@umbc.edu

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.

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For more information on the event visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/178408295941101/

What You Need To Know About Disability Justice

Get ready for Critical Social Justice: Home with our “What You Need to Know” series. The keynote lecture with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, titled “Body/ Land/ Home: Disability Justice, Healing Justice and Femme of Color Brilliance,” will be held on Tuesday, October 25th at 6PM in the University Center Ballroom (event details here).

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by Auroura Levine Morales, Patty Berne and Micah Bazant

Disability justice is the continuation and expansion of disability rights, a movement that sought equal rights and access for disabled people, but was often constrained by its focus on mostly white and male individuals. Disability justice uses an intersectional lens to bring a more nuanced and active approach to the movement. By challenging assumptions about ability and embracing all kinds of bodies, the disability justice framework looks beyond the commonality of disability to incorporate other identities. 

Many people continue to be marginalized within conversations and activism around disability, despite its existence across all communities and populations; to counter these troubling hierarchies, disability justice centers the experiences and needs of queer people and people of color. Emphasizing the interconnectedness of oppression and people, disability justice demands the same integrated approach between all movements for liberation. 

“Disability exists in every sector of society: in immigrant communities, in prisons, in religious and spiritual communities, among veterans and homeless folks, among children and elders and everyone in between, so every movement has to advance disability justice, and vice versa. A movement that sees some people as disposable or able to be sacrificed is not disability justice.” – Nomy Lamm, This Is Disability Justice

More than just a theory, disability justice is a movement-building practice that calls upon people to actively protest, perform, and speak out against oppression and injustices globally.

Want to learn more about disability justice?