Critical Social Justice: Rise Photo Recap

Women's Center at UMBC

The fifth annual Critical Social Justice explored opportunities for building individual and collective resistance and resilience. Events throughout the week, the theme of Rise, challenged us to think about how we can do better, do more, and persist in doing it when it comes to working towards positive social change and activism. Take a look back at some of highlights from throughout the week and catch up on anything you missed!

Leading up to the week, we were SUPER PUMPED for Critical Social Justice to get started – and so was the rest of UMBC!


You can see many of the other “I rise for…”


We kicked of CSJ on Monday with Chalking for Change on Academic Row before CSJ 101.


While people were writing what they rise for outside, CSJ 101 was taking place directly inside where students, faculty, and staff were encouraged to learn about Resistance and Resilience in…

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Critical Social Justice: Rise (A CSJ 101 Round-Up)

Critical Social Justice: Rise is here and we kicked off the week today as we always do with each Critical Social Justice (this is our 5th annual!) with CSJ 101. As the kick-off to the week, CSJ 101, creates the foundation for the issues and themes we’ll explore during Critical Social Justice.

CSJ RISE - save the date - square - RGB

This year’s Critical Social Justice theme is Rise.  As we discussed in CSJ 101, to us, Rise is the call to cultivate individual and collective resistance and resilience within social justice issues and movements. We hope that CSJ events throughout the week will challenge us to think about the importance of both resistance and resilience by examining how we can do better, do more, and persist in doing it. During this particular cultural moment in our world, how do we rise to meet both opportunities and challenges in an effort to work toward a vision of inclusive excellence—whether it’s in the classroom, online, or in our communities?

To get folks excited for Critical Social Justice, leading up to the start of the week, we asked UMBC community members what they rise for and here is (a sampling) how they responded:

Messages from above photos include: “Those who are silenced in our society,” “violence against women,” “Women in STEAM,” “radical empathy,” “all students to succeed academically,” “reproductive health and justice,” “Islamophobia and religious oppression,”  “the folks that don’t think they can,” “those who are too scared to speak out,” “those who are learning to find their voice,” and “social justice.” 

At today’s CSJ 101, we took that founding question and explored not just what we rise for but why we do it, why it matters, and what we do to cultivate resiliency in our movements to create positive social change. Led by co-facilitators, Amelia Meman from the Women’s Center, and Dr. Julie Murphy from Psychology, participants sat together in groups and shared with each other how resistance and resilience takes shape in their lives.

Over the course of the event, Julie and Amelia deconstructed Rise by parsing out what participants were rising for, and how they planned to manage that. The conversation began with Amelia discussing how the metaphor for Rise helps her deepen the theme: the sun rises every morning without fail, and sheds light on both the glaring problems and the glorious beauty of the world. We are bid, every morning, to rise and find solutions or to celebrate. The issues we find, as well as the blessings can be new, but they can also be ancient.

Just so, Julie discussed the lessons we can learn from Dr. Adrienne Keene, our keynote lecturer, as well as the history of activism in the Native American community. As a people that has been actively fighting for their rights and for power, social justice activists can learn a lot from the collective and individual resistance, as well as the resilience of indigenous peoples.

To get the ball rolling, groups first began with a discussion of “resistance.” They answered questions like What do you rise for? What are you most passionate about? From these questions and the ensuing discussion, the following points were raised:

  • Despite the very wide range of topics that we covered, as well as the diversity in experiences, everyone who was gathered in UC 310, was present because they wanted take the next step in creating social change. Many brought up the recent political climate and news stories, as impetus for attending this event.
  • Activism isn’t just showing up to a rally with a sign. In fact, it has to be such much more than that! Activism is often a life calling and woven into the fabric our academic endeavors and careers. For some, survival is engaging in resistance and activism.
  • Resistance is also about accessibility and inviting others into the movement. Creating tools that are readily available to others is important to help others participate in positive social change.
  • Individual actions contribute to collective actions and change. Both the individual and community are essential.

After talking about resistance, we transitioned into talking about “resilience.” The group discussed their answers to questions like How do you continue rising? How do you stay engaged? How do you take care of yourself/others?

  • Julie shared her family’s post-2016 election activity. She and her family were passionate about resistance and had many issues that they cared about. Julie noted that everyone in her family noted that they would have to quit jobs/school/everything in order to fulfill the work that they wanted to be done. Rather than doing so, Julie and Family made a list of everything they cared about and strategized the things they could do individually and the things they could do as a family. Rather than burn out by doing too many things, Julie and Family chose reproductive rights and justice as the issue that they would work on together as a family.
  • One participant provided the insight that resilience and activism can be about understanding resources and getting people connected to them. Amelia piggybacked off of this statement and added that as a social worker, we understand that we don’t have to do everything, because we can’t possibly do everything. Social workers can only do what we have competency in and what we feel comfortable doing–and everything else can be helping people get connected.
  •  Similarly, another participant brought up that she used her unique talents, strengths, and skills to help where she could: as a Greek folk dancer, she decided to visit a predominantly Greek senior living facility and perform. The seniors there were excited to take part and were able to feel more connected and active. That was what this student could do and offer. We all can benefit the causes we care about by highlighting our strengths no matter how big or small they may be.

At the same time as CSJ 101, other CSJ volunteers and staff were outside on Academic Row at Chalking For Change asking passersby that same foundational question and encouraging them to share “Why I Rise.”

Messages from above photos include: “respect and tolerance,” “human rights,” “get beyond ‘book learning,'” “black women,” “the deaf community,” “Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Mike Brown,” “for the full inclusion of immigrants and refugees,” for the full inclusion of LGBTQ + women in public office,” “more mental health resources for POC and LGBTQ POC,” and “social justice + love.” 

From the conversations at both CSJ 101 and Chalking for Change, it is evident that what motivates community members to rise up for social justice and social change is diverse and varied. It could even feel overwhelming to think of all the work that awaits us. Yet, as discussed at CSJ 101, individual actions contribute to the actions of the community. Our individual passion and work influences the passion and work of the collective. We are not alone. Together we are better. Together we can make a difference on our campus, in our neighborhood, and throughout the country and our world.

So, why do you rise? 

We invite you to join us for the rest of this week’s Critical Social Justice: Rise events. Contribute to the conversation or follow along on social media using #CSJrise.

For more Chalking For Change photos and videos, follow the Women’s Center Facebook page. 

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.”


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!

What You Need to Know: Baltimore & Residential Segregation (A New Student Book Experience Pre-CSJ Event!)

Get ready for Critical Social Justice: Home with our “What You Need to Know” series.

Last year’s Critical Social Justice: Baltimore 365 was dedicated to understanding the historic and current day complexities and realities of Baltimore City. In the wake of the Baltimore Uprising, the CSJ planning team felt (and still does feel) deeply committed to creating more opportunities for our campus community to connect with and understand Baltimore. This year’s CSJ theme of Home allows for the conversation and learning about Baltimore to continue.

How does a legacy of residential segregation impact the creation and/or destruction of “home” in Baltimore? 

What does it mean to “be home” for residents of Baltimore City? 

Which Baltimore neighborhoods are perceived as homes? And, which ones are perceived as less than? How does race, gender, and socioeconomic status show up in our responses? 

How does policing in Baltimore and the recent release of the Department of Justice report impact the reality of home? 

This year, all incoming first-year and transfer students were asked to read Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City by Antero Pietila which tells the story of how racial segregation came to be and what its impact is through the story of Baltimore. Mr. Pietila will be visiting campus to explore some of the questions above (and more) at this year’s New Student Book Experience event on Thursday, October 13th. This is a great way to kick-off Critical Social Justice: Home and we hope to see many of you there!


For more details about the New Student Book Experience “Meet the Author” event, visit the event post on myUMBC. 


What You Need to Know While Walking in Baltimore (a CSJ Walking Tour Sneak Peak)

A guest post from Dr. Kate Drabinski

As someone who doesn’t own a car, I travel my bike and foot, bus and train, the occasional ride thrown in by a generous driver. Truth is, even if I had a car, I’d still travel without one, because that’s how you get a sense of where you live. Walking and biking in Baltimore has helped me understand how neighborhoods are organized, segregated, and cut off from each other by streets, transit systems, and urban planning policies. Cities look like they do not by accident or as the result of a series of individual choices, but because of planning decisions and the choices that follow. Even when we “choose” where to live, work, and play, our choices are circumscribed by stories space tells us about whether or not “we” belong. In a car you don’t have to see that, but walking or on bike, you become intimately familiar with the changes that take place as you get from here to there.

MLK Blvd separates and isolates the west side of Baltimore from downtown.  Read more at the Baltimore Brew by clicking on the image.

The separation of West Baltimore from the downtown area is particularly striking to me, the two sides of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard like two different worlds. UMBC’s downtown shuttle drops students, faculty, and staff on the east side of that divide, but both sides are integral to our lived sense of the city, belonging, and who are our neighbors. This walking tour will take us along MLK and both east and west as we learn about the history of this stripe that has made all the difference for difference.

To learn more about the neighborhoods we’ll be visiting during the walking tour, check out these resources:

To learn more about Baltimore be sure to check out the kick-off to #CSJ365, Baltimore 101: Why Baltimore Matters on Monday, October 19th at 12pm.

Tickets for the #CSJ365 walking tour are going fast! If you want to join us on Friday, October 23rd, pick up your free ticket at the Commons CIC desk asap!