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

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.”

pipeline-r4

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!

Looking Back on the Baltimore Uprising

Last October for CSJ: Baltimore 365, Women’s Center student staff members created displays for our Vines, Rhymes, and Headlines discussion/exhibit that explored media coverage and social media engagement surrounding the Baltimore Uprising. One year after the uprising, we’re looking back at some of the images and tweets that captured this important moment in our history. Continue reading

Productive Discomfort

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

One thing I think we need to see and hear more of is people feeling uncomfortable. While there is a time and a place for the principle of “safe space” it has now become somewhat of a crutch to not have to face challenging issues. I will acknowledge that my introduction to this idea was through this concept of Brave Space (that is hyperlinked, so please check the article out). Last year’s theme for Critical Social Justice introduced this topic to the UMBC community and offered a social justice lens and I hope to take this a little further and throw a little Jewish spin on it as well.

In Judaism we have these things called Torah, Mishnah, and Talmud. Everything talked about in these three books is not always cut and dry. One of the things the Talmud specifically is known for is the debate that occurs between the different rabbis. Even several thousand years ago the rabbis knew that in order to grow you must be challenged. I remember talking with a colleague about studying texts and they said they missed the buzz of a Beit Midrash, a room where people study and struggle with text. Then, I wondered why have we become so content with making everyone pacified, instead of asking someone to acknowledge their bigotry and evolve. Continue reading