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

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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!

What You Need to Know about Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Get ready for Critical Social Justice: Home with our “What You Need to Know” series, starting with this primer on our keynote speaker Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Her lecture, 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). 

Based out of Toronto and Oakland, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer, disabled femme of color poet, performer, healer, and activist of Burgher/Tamil Sri Lankan and Irish/Roma ascent. Much of Leah’s work focuses on people and conversations that are often underrepresented, including disability justice, queer and trans people of color, and abuse survivors. In addition to her award-winning books of poetry, including Bodymap, Love Cake, and Consensual Genocide, she has also written a memoir titled Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home. 

“Stories create the world. Seeing stories that look like your own, that you’ve never read written down before, or that are stories you’ve never thought of before that change your whole idea of what is possible, are a big revolutionary deal.”

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art by Shira Devorah

Leah is also a co-founder and former director of Mangos With Chili, the longest-running performance art tour featuring queer and trans individuals in North America. She performs pieces with the disability justice collective Sins Invalid and is a co-director of the Toronto disability justice collective Performance/ Disability/Art.

“[I]t was so inculcated in me that disability is this shameful story. And you know, if there’s not queer people of color space, queer people of color won’t perform. If there’s not disability space that centers queer and trans people of color, sex workers, poor people, all of the above, elders, young people, we won’t know that there’s similar stories.” 

 

For more on Leah, check out:

  • Her blog, Brownstargirl
  • This video of her performance in Sins Invalid
  • Her interview with Bitch Magazine on disability, representation, and survivorhood

 

Critical Social Justice: Home Events!

Take a look at all the events lined up for Critical Social Justice: Home! (Click here for a PDF of the flyer.)

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 October 24th | Monday

Critical Social Justice 101: Foundations of Home – 12PM to 1PM in Commons 331 – A moderated panel discussion exploring a few of the many interpretations of how our theme of “home” relates to social justice. Panelists include: Dr. Kate Drabinski (Gender + Women’s Studies), Dr. Kimberly Moffitt (American Studies), and Dr. Thania Muñoz Davaslioglu (Modern Languages, Linguistics & Intercultural Communication).

Critical Interactions7:30PM to 9PM in University Center 310 – Peer facilitators and recent program participants will share their experiences with the INTERACT program, a Student Affairs initiative housed in Chesapeake Hall followed by a hands-on educational experience where attendees will craft, discuss and question what makes a home. Sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs.

October 25th | Tuesday

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha Keynote Lecture: “Body/ Land/ Home: Disability Justice, Healing Justice and Femme of Color Brilliance” – Doors open at 5:30PM, keynote begins at 6PM in the UC Ballroom – A meet-and-greet reception and book-signing will follow the keynote. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a disabled femme of color writer and performance artist whose award-winning work on disability, survivorhood, and transformative justice speaks to the many complexities inherent in navigating our way home. Facebook event

October 26th | Wednesday

Social Justice Activism Workshop – 12PM to 1PM in the Women’s Center – Learn practical skills for organizing activist projects, discuss strategies for navigating common challenges, and gain new insights into how you can create change on campus or in your community. Sponsored by the Women’s Center.

Shelter from the Storm: Mosaic Center Roundtable4PM to 5:30PM in Commons 329 – A roundtable discussion with students, alumni and community activists about the home challenges faced by LGBTQ youth. Intersectional perspectives of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion and socioeconomic class will be explored. Sponsored by Student Life’s Mosaic: Center for Culture and Diversity.

October 27th | Thursday

Who Gets a Home in College? 11:30AM to 12:30PM on Commons Main Street – Panelists will discuss how institutional barriers impact the ways marginalized students find (or don’t find) themselves at home on campus. Panelists include: Dr. Nicole Cousin-Gossett (Sociology, Anthropology & HAPP), Dr. Danyelle Ireland (Center for Women in Technology), and Dr. Santiago Solis (Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs/Diversity at Towson University). 11AM to 1PM – Exhibit in recognition of the Women’s Center’s 25th anniversary. Sponsored by the Women’s Center. 

October 28th | Friday

Walking Tour of a Baltimore Neighborhood 12PM to 3PM, meet in the Women’s Center – Join us for a 90-minute walking tour of a Baltimore neighborhood to learn about its history and present from a social justice lens. Led by Dr. Kate Drabinski. Free tickets available at the CIC desk during October.


More details and events will be announced leading up to CSJ: Home, so like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and use the hashtag #CSJhome to keep up-to-date with the latest news!

* All events are free and open to the public.

** Contact womens.center@umbc.edu if you need special accommodations. 

The Women’s Center and Student Life’s Mosaic Center appreciate the support of our Critical Social Justice: Home co-sponsors: Residential Life  |  College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences  |  Office of Institutional Advancement  |  Honors College  |  LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association  |  Women Involved in Learning and Leadership  |  Student Disability Services  |  Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Health Administration and Policy  |  Department of Media and Communication Studies |  Department of  Modern Languages, Linguistics & Intercultural Communication | Off-Campus Student Services | Language, Literacy, and Culture

Critical Social Justice: Home – October 24th-28th!

 

“i have the word home tattooed on my breastbone, and friends remind me why I got it. the truth of it, that home is there. but this is also about land and gentrification, colonialism that has blown and continues to blow me and my family all over the planet and puts me on someone else’s land where they did not ask me to be, race and class, banks and profit, the desire to stay in a magic queer brown city and the reality of push-out when our narrow slices of survival.  it is about all the ways as disabled and chronically ill folks, as black and brown and broke folks, we find to try and find some stable sweet place to live where we can just live.” – Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (homeplace)

There’s no place like home. Home is where the heart is. You can never go home again.

Home can be a place, a feeling, a concept. It can be comfortable or contentious, nurturing or toxic, constant or nonexistent. It can be somewhere we belong or somewhere we don’t.

CSJ Home - Multi CropAs a global community, we see the connection between social justice and home during this critical time when issues of migration, nationalism, and xenophobia dominate the news cycle.  In Baltimore city, the legacy of redlining and racial inequity has created divergent realities for its citizens depending upon whether one makes their home in the “White L” or the “Black Butterfly.” As we consider what it means to be at home in our communities, our identities, and even our own bodies, we reflect on the familiar feminist slogan “the personal is political” and we’re reminded that social justice calls for us to look beyond solely what’s happening “out there.”

In honor of UMBC’s 50th Anniversary, this year’s CSJ theme of Home recognizes UMBC as a home to many of us.  As we celebrate and contemplate UMBC as a home for learning, activism, and social change, we embrace the opportunity to invest ourselves in creating meaningful change here on campus in addition to taking our newly gained insights and knowledge with us back home, wherever that may be.

It is in this spirit that 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.

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CSJ: Home keynote speaker Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

We’re excited to announce that our keynote speaker will be Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, a queer disabled femme of color writer and performance artist whose work on disability, survivorhood, and transformative justice speaks to the many complexities inherent in navigating our way home. The keynote lecture and reception will be held on Tuesday, October 25th at 6pm in the UC Ballroom.

Critical Social Justice: Home will be held on October 24th through 28th, 2016. Follow the CSJ blog, Facebook, and Twitter 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 womens.center@umbc.edu.