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.

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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. 

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What You Need to Know About the Baltimore Walking Tour with Dr. Kate Drabinski

Get ready for Critical Social Justice: Rise with our What You Need to Know series. Written by Marie Pessagno.

Three years ago, the idea to incorporate a walking tour of Baltimore during Critical Social Justice week came into fruition. Since its implementation, it has been an integral part of CSJ. You may be asking yourself: “Why it is important to include a walking tour of Baltimore? How could walking through Baltimore possibly have anything to do with Critical Social Justice?  These are both great questions to ask, and so to give a thorough answer, I met with Baltimore implant, history enthusiast, and walking tour guide… Dr. Kate Drabinski.

In talking to Dr. Kate, I was made aware of the fact that not all UMBC students are familiar with the city of Baltimore outside of Camden Yards or the Aquarium. Dr. Kate expressed to me that “In order to fully understand and comprehend the complexities that the city of Baltimore represents, it is important to physically experience it.” The walking tour is only one (of many) ways in which we as a community can bring UMBC to Baltimore.

Baltimore is a city that has been recently been the object of many news stories because of the politicized and highly publicized experiences of violence and police brutality.  This has most recently been seen during the unrest that occurred after the death of Freddie Gray.  There is an upcoming HBO special set to air November 20 that is centered on the years of economic disenfranchisement as seen through the eyes of activists, journalists, and community residents to better tell their stories in hopes to be understood.  

The systematic racism and segregationist efforts in Baltimore began in the early 1900’s and continue to occur today.  The walking tour helps to “enable students to broaden their view” of Baltimore outside of the classroom and to give a first-hand account of where and how history shaped the city.

From last year’s CSJ: Home Walking Tour!

Dr. Kate plans on bringing the walking tour to Pratt Street, which holds an immeasurable amount of history. She does this in order to shed some light on the “depth of conflict that has occurred on Pratt Street.” By bringing students to an actual location in which uprisings have occurred and wars have been fought, she hopes to broaden students view and help them to learn to “pay attention to the space that they occupy so that they can see the world differently in order to advance their understanding of their environment.” She also hopes to show the different lenses of the historical perspective of how the city was built, who it was built by, and ultimately, who was it built for. By offering these alternate lenses, Dr. Kate aims to show how spaces are “built towards and away from social justice.”

Following the walking tour, Charm City Connection is hosting an event to link UMBC students to organizations that do work in the Baltimore community. Check out the flyer here! This is a great way to extend your knowledge of the city and the many opportunities and resources that are available to help serve our local community and to help better the city.

 

What You Need to Know About Adrienne Keene

Get ready for Critical Social Justice: Rise with our “What You Need to Know” series, starting with this introduction to our keynote speaker, Dr. Adrienne Keene! Her lecture, titled “Native Appropriations and Indigenous Social Media” will be held on Tuesday, October 24th at 6 PM in the University Center Ballroom (event details here). Written by Women’s Center student staff member Samiksha Manjiani.

As you grow up, I promise to protect you. I promise to continue to fight as hard as I possibly can to ensure a future for you. To protect you water, your sacred land, and your sovereignty. Whatever your future gender identity or who you choose to love, I will make sure you can be who are meant to be.

— Adrienne Keene, “Dear little one on your Birthday”

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Our keynote speaker for CSJ: Rise is Adrienne Keene, a Native American activist, blogger, scholar, and writer. A member of the Cherokee Nation, Keene focuses on contemporary indigenous issues, and critically analyzes how the indigenous world is represented in popular culture. She often writes about cultural appropriation in fashion, music, and stereotyping in film and other media.

Adrienne is also an accomplished assistant professor for the American Studies Department at Brown University. She teaches courses on Indigenous Education, Native representations, and Native American Studies in general. In addition to teaching, she has a deep personal commitment towards empowering Native communities and privileging Native voices and perspectives in her research. Adrienne’s research focuses on educational outcomes for Native American students.

Adrienne’s blog, Native Appropriations, has achieved national and international recognition for its authentic and critical Native voice on contemporary indigenous issues. She uses her blog to challenge stereotypes and misrepresentations of Native Peoples.  Some hot topics include the Washington football team’s continued use of an ethnic slur for their team name, “hipster headdresses,” Halloween “Pocahottie” costumes, and Urban Outfitters’ appropriation of tribal art and culture.

Most recently, Adrienne has been actively raising awareness and advocating with other activists around Standing Rock, ND and the movement against the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline. As you may know, the current administration has given the final green light to continue building the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline, but the activism around this issue has not ended. In fact, it has incited more people to rise up. Check out her guest appearance on Buzzfeed podcast Another Round for more information. She is also in the process of writing new pieces about Standing Rock, so check out her Twitter @NativeApprops to stay updated!

For more about Adrienne, check out:

Her blog: Native Appropriations

Her interview with Brown University on Native Misrepresentation

Her blogpost on “Questions Natives have for White People and White Fragility:”

Her Buzzfeed video, “9 Questions Native Ameicans have for White People”

Her Buzzfeed video, “I’m Native, but I’m not”

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