Remembering Aretha Franklin 

By Zaquoya Rogers 

Aretha Franklin is a household name and trailblazer of the 60s. In 1987, she became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Born on March 25 in Memphis Tennessee, Franklin lived with her father, who is a well-known pastor and gospel singer, and her sisters. They toured the gospel circuit singing and befriended celebrities such as Sam Cooke, Clara Wade, and even got signed by John Hammond to Columbia. After the tour came a series of hits such as “Today I Sing The Blues”, “Without the one you love” and many more. However, during her stardom and fame she dealt with many issues such as domestic violence and other personal tragedies, but Franklin was still able to make hits and progress as the superstar that she is. Aretha Franklin, created 41 studio albums and 6 live albums in all. Later in her career, Franklin created her own record label named, World Class Records and created it exclusively for gospel music. Aretha is a survivor, superstar, successful black woman, and most of all… a QUEEN.

Long Live Marielle Franco, the Queer, Afro-Latina Politician, Feminist, and Human Rights Activist

By: Korrien Hopkins

The proudly feminist Afro-Latina politician was a revolutionary public servant and activist. Unbothered by the status quo of politics, Franco quickly rose in political popularity. When elected in 2016, she won the fifth-highest vote count among council members. As a member of the far-left Socialism and Liberty party, Franco ran on a campaign that advocated for the rights of poor Brazilian communities, feminists, and the LGBTQ communities. She led an unapologetic march to freedom, justice, and equity for all Brazilians and continued that mission once in office.

Franco grew up in Maré, a slum in northern Rio de Janeiro. At the age of 11 she began working to help support her family. She gave birth to her first and only child when she was 19-years-old. She then worked as a pre-school teacher, making minimum wage and raising her daughter without the father’s help.

In 2000, after her friend died from a stray bullet, she began working in human right activism. Then, in 2001, she enrolled at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Janeiro on a scholarship while she continued to work. She earned a degree in social sciences then went on to earn her masters degree in public administration from the Fluminese Federal University.

Her career in politics began in 2007. She began working as a consultant for state representative Marcelo Freixo. She coordinated the state legislature’s Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship. She also worked for civil society organizations, including the Brazil Foundation and the Maré Center for Solidarity Studies and Action. In 2016, she ran for a seat on the Rio de Janeiro city council in the municipal elections. With over 46,500 votes, Franco was one of 51 people elected, receiving the fifth highest vote total out of more than 1,500 candidates. When elected she continued to work hard. She fought tirelessly to empower black Brazilians and other marginalized communities and fought against police brutality. As a queer woman, she supported LGBTQ communities and women’s rights, and was a strong advocate for impoverished Brazilian citizens.

Franco dedicated her life fighting to make her community and the world a better place for those who’ve yet to find peace and equity in it.

On March 14, 2018, Franco spoke out on Twitter against the police violence in Rio de Janeiro: “Another homicide of a young man that could be credited to the police. Matheus Melo was leaving church when he was killed. How many others will have to die for this war to end?” she wrote. The next day, Franco attended a round-table discussion titled “Young Black Women Moving Power Structures”. Leaving the event, Franco and her driver were shot and killed on March 14, in a targeted assassination. This unleashed a wave of anger across Brazil, and provoked urgent debate on the country’s racism, violence, and impunity. As pressure grows on the authorities in Brazil to find her murderers, and open discussion on the global issues of hate crimes rise, supporters continue to  fight on her behalf. An open letter by international activists, writers, journalists, film-makers, politicians, and actors has called for an investigation of her murder by an independent commission.

Though Franco is gone, her work has forever changed her country and will continue to influence activists and revolutionaries around the world. As a black, bisexual feminist who was able to reach government official status, Franco’s death is not in vain. Her memory should continue to serve as an example of why serving others is so important. Her name and legacy will continue to motivate us to continue fighting for a greater world.

The Contributions of Florence Nightingale

By Dasha Matthews

Florence Nightingale was born May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy. She was an English social reformer and statistician and is credited with being the founder of modern nursing. She was born into a rich upper-class family and was known to have a very serious demeanor but was very charming to those who met her.

Nightingale’s most famous contribution occurred during the Crimean War. On October 21 of 1854, Nightingale and a staff she trained, were sent to care for wounded soldiers at the Ottoman Empire. During her first winter serving as a nurse the death toll for soldiers was at an all time high. After the arrival of Nightingale and her staff of 34 volunteer nurses, there was a significant decline in the death rate of soldiers. Nightingale believed that the majority of deaths came from poor nutrition, lack of supplies, stale air, and overworked soldiers. When she returned home she collected data and evidence which she then presented before the Royal Commission in hopes to resolve these issues. Her experience while serving as a nurse during the war later influenced her career, as she became a strong advocate for sanitary living conditions for soldiers. Nightingale gained the nickname “The Lady with the Lamp” from her hard work and dedication. The Times wrote, “She is a “ministering angel” without any exaggeration in these hospitals, and as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired for the night and silence and darkness have settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds.”

In 1857, the Nightingale Fund was established to train nurses as a form of recognition for Nightingale’s work during the war. Nightingale used the £45,000 from the fund to open Nightingale Training School at St. Thomas’ Hospital. The school is now known as Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery. Nightingale died on August 13, 1910 at the age of 90 years old.

  

Upcoming Event: Denim Drive

By Megan Schwindler

The UMKC Women’s Center is asking for donations of gently used denim to be used as the canvas for artwork for others to witness during UMKC Denim Day in April. We’re collecting denim from April 9-20. Drop off locations include the UMKC Women’s Center, Miller Nichols Library, Oak Street Residence Hall Lobby, and the Office of Student Involvement.

What is Denim Day USA?

It is a rape prevention education campaign where community members, elected officials, businesses, and students are asked to make a social statement with their wardrobe by wearing jeans as a visible protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault.

Denim Day stems from the 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision that overturned a rape conviction because they believed that because the victim wore tight jeans she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. Enraged by the verdict, the women in the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans to work. This action motivated the California Senate and Assembly to do the same. It then spread nationally, and wearing jeans on Denim Day became an international symbol of protest against the destructive attitudes and myths surrounding sexual assault.

For more information on the case you can visit The New York Times’ coverage or visit the Peace Over Violence website.

For more information concerning the denim drive and event, contact: hehkw4@mail.umkc.edu or 816-235-1638.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal

By Tatiahna Turner

Born September 21, 1965, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is known as an American politician and activist. She currently serves as the U.S. Representative from Washington’s seventh congressional district. She is the first Indian-American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jayapal was born in Chennai, India and was raised in Indonesia and Singapore. She immigrated to the United States in 1982, at the age of 16 to attend college. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and her master’s degree from Northwestern University.

After the September 11 attacks, Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone as an advocacy group for immigrants. Hate Free Zone registered new American citizens to vote and lobbied on immigration reform and related issues. The group successfully sued the Bush Administration’s Immigration and Naturalization Services to prevent the deportation of over 4,000 Somalis across the country. The name of the group was changed from Hate Free Zone to OneAmerica in 2008. In May of 2012, Jayapal stepped down from her leadership position in the group and in 2013 was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change.”

Jayapal also served on the Mayoral Advisory Committee that negotiated Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, and co-chaired the Mayor’s police chief search committee, which resulted in the unanimous selection of the city’s first woman police chief. After State Senator Adam Kline announced his retirement, Jayapal entered the race to succeed him. She went on the win in the race for Senator against Democrat Louis Watanabe in November of 2014.

In January of 2016, Jayapal announced her candidacy for Congress in Washington’s seventh congressional district. In April of 2016, she received an endorsement from Bernie Sanders, and on August 2, 2016, Jayapal finished first in the top-two primary, alongside state representative Brady Walkinshaw. In the end, Jayapal won the election with 56 percent of the vote.

Upcoming Event: The March For Our Lives Kansas City

About the author: M.M. Barron is a creative writing major and first-year student at UMKC. She graduated from Paseo Academy of Fine & Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri in 2017. She participates frequently in events at the Women’s Center and meetings with Pride Alliance. This is her first post for the UMKC Women’s Center blog.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of UMKC or the UMKC Women’s Center.

The March For Our Lives Kansas City – 12 p.m. March 24, 2018, at Theis Park, 533 Emmanuel Cleaver II Blvd.

“We are marching so that those who have lost their lives to gun violence aren’t forgotten. We are marching to get legislators to support gun-regulation bills. We are marching to inform and empower our community to support our lives with their votes. We are marching for our lives.” – Student Committee’s Mission Statement for the March For Our Lives Kansas City 2018.

The March for Our Lives Kansas City starts at 12 p.m. on March 24. The first three hours of the event will contain speeches, poems, music, and dance. The UMKC Conservatory Dancers will be performing a piece at the rally. The event will also feature a performance by The Greeting Committee, a band from Kansas City, performing their song “Hands Down.” All acts auditioned and were selected by the student committee organizing the march, of which I am a member. PeaceWorksKC will be speaking at the event as well.

100 volunteers from the grassroots organization Moms Demand Action will be assisting at the event, plus many student volunteers. Organizers encourage people to bring picnics or snack and a blanket to sit on. There will also be booths throughout the event with information about voter registration, gun policy in Kansas and Missouri, how to contact your legislators, and other pertinent topics. After the program at the park, there will be a memorial march to the Plaza area and back to the park to honor the victims of gun violence.

#MarchForOurLivesKC supports the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in their demands for background checks on all gun sales, and more restrictions or bans on semi-automatic guns and large-capacity clips. No civilian needs an AR-15 style weapon.

1. If you want to write to urge action in our country to reduce gun violence, please submit your letters to be displayed at the rally at Theis Park. Use this link.

2. If you would like to volunteer as an individual, or as a family, or as a group of friends, or if you represent an organization that would like to get involved and take on a task as needed by the March, then we want you! Please let us know through the form at this link.

3. The event can be found on social media.

Facebook: March For Our Lives – Greater Kansas City (Follow this link)

Instagram: mfolkansascity

Twitter: @mfolkansascity

The Legacy of Berta Càceres

By Korrien Hopkins

Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores was a Honduran activist of the Lenca people. 

She was born March 4, 1973 and grew up witnessing the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980’s. Her mother, Austra Bertha Flores Lopez, was a great role model for humanitarianism. She was a midwife and social activist who took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people. Austra Flores served as two-term mayor of their hometown of La Esperanza, as a congressional representative, and as a governor of the Department of Intibucá

With the great influence of her mother, Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, at the age of 19, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging. This organization fought for their territorial rights and to improve their livelihoods.

In 2006, community members from Rio Blanco came to COPINH asking for help. They had witnessed an influx of machinery and construction equipment coming into their town. They had no idea what the construction was for or who was behind the project and asked Cáceres to investigate. What they did know was that there was a threat against the Gualcarque river which was a place of spiritual importance to the Lenca people and viewed as sacred land.

Cáceres responded to this threat by filing complaints with government authorities, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and by appealing to businesses that were funding the dam to withdraw support. Those efforts proved unsuccessful, however, and in 2013 Cáceres organized a human blockade of the road to access the construction site. The blockade stayed in place for more than a year, and protests continued to take place thereafter. Criminal charges were filed against Cáceres, and she and other activists were routinely threatened with kidnap and murder. After one protest leader was killed in 2013, Sinohydro, the Chinese partner of the Honduran company building the Agua Zarca Dam, withdrew from the project, and the International Finance Corporation later withdrew its support. Cáceres was later murdered in her home due to a fatal gunshot wound.

Despite her tragic death, Cáceres continues to be a great inspiration to many. She was a prominent figure in a very strong movement. Looking at current events like the protest at Standing Rock, we can see the attacks against indigenous tribal lands continue to rise. The fight that indigenous people continually face is a reminder that Cáceres was one person who has moved thousands, a single life turned into countless calls for justice.

Berta no murió. Se multiplicó. Berta didn’t die. She multiplied.

 

Isabel González

By Tatiahna Turner

Isabel González was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. When the island came to be under ownership of the United States through the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898, González still resided on the island. One condition of the treaty was to transfer allegiance of the islanders to the United States. Under the Treaty of Paris, Puerto Rico was classified as “unincorporated territory” which meant that citizens of Puerto Rico did not have the protection from the United States Constitution that Americans did, including the right to United States citizenship. In short, the island belonged to the United States but was not a part of the United States. There were many factors that played a part in why the United States was not granting Puerto Ricans citizenship, one reason was the belief that the Puerto Rican population was considered to be racially and socially inferior to Americans. An 1899 letter published in the New York Times described Puerto Ricans as, “uneducated, simple-minded and harmless people who were only interested in wine, women, music and dancing.”

González’s fiancé, Juan Francisco Torres traveled to New York City in 1902, leaving her behind, pregnant and with another child from a previous marriage. He left with the intention of finding a job in a factory in Linoleumville, Staten Island. González was to join her fiancé there and they were to marry after he found a place to live. In August of 1902, González traveled from San Juan, Puerto Rico to New York. Normally the steamship she boarded would dock at the Port of New York, but during her travels the United States Treasury Department’s Immigration Commissioner, General F. P. Sargent issued new immigration guidelines that changed Puerto Ricans status to “aliens”. As a result, when González arrived on August 4, 1902 her and other passengers were taken to Ellis Island. González was detained upon arrival by the Immigration Commissioner as an “alien immigrant” with the intention of deporting her. When immigration officials learned of her pregnancy the Board of Special Inquiry opened a file on her.

The next day a hearing was held for González. Her uncle, Domingo Collazo, and her brother, Luis González joined her. During the hearing her family had to answer questions that vouched for her character and independence in a manner that would convince the court that she would not be a burden to the state’s welfare system. These attempts failed and her fiancé’s absence (due to work requirements) played a part in the court’s decision to stop González from being allowed to enter into the United States. After her loss, González appealed her case to the Supreme Court and focused on the issue that all Puerto Ricans were citizens of the United States, and as a result shouldn’t be detained, treated as aliens, or denied entry to the United States. The case, which became known as Gonzáles v. Williams, was argued in the U.S. Supreme Court on December 4 and 7 of 1903. González, who was out on bond, secretly married her fiancé and thus became “a citizen of this country through marriage” and acquired the right to remain stateside. She could have ended her appeal, but she instead decided to press her claim that all Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens. On January 4, 1904, the Court determined that under the immigration laws, González was not an alien, and therefore could not be denied entry into New York. The court, however declined to declare that she was a U.S. citizen. The question of the citizenship status of the inhabitants of the new island territories, and their situation remained confusing, ambiguous, and contested. Puerto Ricans came to be known as something in between: “noncitizen nationals.” However, in 1917 triggered by the efforts of Isabel González, Congress extended citizenship to Puerto Ricans.

Through her determination and perseverance, Isabel González helped pave the way for the rights of Puerto Ricans. She died on June 11, 1971 and is buried with her husband at Holy Cross Cemetery in New Jersey. Her legacy continues through her great-granddaughter, Belinda Torres-Mary, who actively pursues information regarding her great-grandmother’s history and immigration struggles.

Mona Hanna-Attisha and the Flint Water Crisis

By Dasha Matthews

Mona Hanna-Attisha is a first generation Iraqi immigrant, pediatrician, and public health advocate whose research exposed the Flint Water Crisis, revealing that children were being exposed to dangerous levels of lead in Flint, Michigan. Her research began after speaking with a friend who was a former employee for the Environmental Protection Agency in the Ground Water and Drinking Water Department. He told her that his team of Flint Water Study researchers found high levels of lead in Flint residents’ homes. After learning of this Dr. Hanna-Attisha began conducting her own research. Even though she was not provided the data she sought from the state of Michigan, she used hospital electronic medical records as data for her study.

On September 24, 2015, Dr. Hanna-Attisha revealed in a press conference at Hurley Medical Center that children’s lead levels doubled after the water was switched from the Detroit River to the Flint River in April of 2014. At the press conference she urged residents, particularly children, to stop drinking the water, to end Flint River as a water source as soon as possible, and urged the city of Flint to issue a health advisory. A day after Dr. Hanna-Attisha released her study, Flint issued a health advisory that suggested residents minimize exposure to Flint tap water. The water source was switched back to the Detroit river on October 16, 2015. Later, the city of Flint, the state of Michigan and the United States made emergency declarations.

Hanna-Attisha’s role in exposing the Flint Water Crisis has been broadcasted nationwide with appearances on CNN, The New York Times, and other media outlets. She also gave a TEDMED talk, entitled “Flint’s Fight for America’s Children” on November 1, 2016. She was also named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2016, stating, “Edwards and Hanna-Attisha were right, they were brave, and they were insistent. Flint is still a crime scene, but these two caring, tough researchers are the detectives who cracked the case.”

Ava DuVernay: Director, Producer, and Screenwriter

By: Korrien Hopkins

There’s something very important about films about black women and girls being made by black women. It’s a reflection as opposed to an interpretation.

Ava DuVernay is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor. DuVernay was born on August 24, 1972 in Long Beach, California. She was raised by her mother, Darlene, an educator, and her stepfather, Murray Maye. She grew up in Lynwood, California near Compton and graduated in 1990 from Saint Joseph High School in Lakewood. She attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and double majored in English Literature and African-American studies. During her summer vacations, she would travel to the childhood home of her stepfather, which was not far from Selma, Alabama. DuVernay said that these summers influenced the making of Selma and her successful career in film.

Prior to her filmmaking career, DuVernay worked as a publicist and marketer for 14 years. The award-winning firm she worked with provided strategy and execution for more than 120 film and television campaigns for acclaimed directors. These included directors such as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann, and Bill Condon. DuVernay is also the founder of ARRAY, a grassroots distribution and advocacy collective dedicated to strengthening films by people of color and women. DuVernay sits on the boards of both Sundance Institute and Film Independent and in 2017, DuVernay was named one of Fortune Magazine’s 50 Greatest World Leaders and TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay won the U.S. Directing Award Dramatic for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, and was the first African-American woman to win the award. For her work in Selma in 2014, DuVernay was the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award. With Selma, she was also the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. In 2017, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for her film 13th in 2016. DuVernay’s latest film premiered March 9, 2018. The groundbreaking fantasy film A Wrinkle in Time, had a budget exceeding 100 million dollars, making her the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of that size. DuVernay was the first of many, setting the bar high and opening the door for future women of color filmmakers like myself. She continues to inspire many and displays what it is to be a phenomenal woman of history by using her power to share stories of those like us.