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. 


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.


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!


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.



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!


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!


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!





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.


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!


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.


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



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


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: 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. 


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.)


 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 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