April Says Goodbye to UMKC and the Women’s Center!

By April Brown

Welcome to the end of the semester everyone!! Congratulations! You (pretty much) made it through 2020. Despite all the challenges, the turmoil, and the overwhelming uncertainty, you have accomplished another semester and another year on this crazy journey! I can’t speak for everyone, but I know for me, this semester has been one of the hardest semesters of my entire college career. Online classes, zoom meetings, and very high security in the library really made things hard to navigate, and made school hard to enjoy. Which is why I had to spend a lot of this semester learning how to find joy in the things I did have, instead of sadness in the things I didn’t have. Working at the Women’s Center has been one of the bright spots for me. Interning as the blog editor for the Women’s Center was a last minute decision for me. One of my professors approached me with the opportunity and I took the chance that it might provide me some normalcy, or at least a distractions from all of the things that weren’t so great. What I got was so much more than a distraction.

The Women’s Center on UMKC’s campus has been a vital part of my last semester here at UMKC. It provided me not only with relationships that I would have missed out on, but also with valuable learning experiences that both expanded on who I was and, in some cases, changed who I was all together. The staff that worked along side me are some of the most passionate, intelligent, funny, and big hearted people I have every met. It was truly a pleasure to work so closely with them, even if we never got to see each other face to face! Our directors Arzie and Brenda were wonderful! It was never a dull moment in the office with Arzie, she kept us cheerful and optimistic even when things seemed to only be getting worse. Brenda was always there to make us laugh and to help us with whatever we needed and I couldn’t have appreciated that support any more!

Throughout the semester I mostly just edited the blogs and got them posted on here for everyone to read. And this would have been enough. I mean I was getting to edit, write, and learn how to be a leader doing this one job. All valuable and important skills I will need as I go out into the world to find a career. But that isn’t all I did. I also got to work on events that the Women’s Center hosted such as the I can, We can – Day of Action in October which we put on with the help of RISE. This event raised awareness of gender-based violence and encouraged and spread strength in unity in the community. In planning and executing this event I learned about the bleakest parts of reality, and then I saw some of the brightest lights emerge from it. Seeing people come together and protect and support one another through something as gruesome as domestic violence is the kind of thing that makes you believe in humanity again. I was very proud to be a part of the event. I also got to help my fellow staff members with events such as Walk A Mile, and Grow Your Resilience!

This internship has been one of the reasons I got through this year. My time here has come to an end, and I will be graduating in just a week’s time, but what a ride it has been! I don’t really know what my next step is from here but knowing that the choice is and always will be mine makes me hopeful for the future. I look forward to watching the Women’s Center grow and expand, and I will definitely be popping in and out to check on the other staff members and see what other great treats they have planned for the coming semester!

 

 

Walked a Mile Alone, to Stand Up Together!

By April Brown

We kicked off Domestic Violence Awareness Month on Tuesday October 6th, 2020 which marked the annual UMKC sector of Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, the international men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence. In spite of its binary name, UMKC encourages any and everyone to participate in this march to end gender based violence against all people. It’s an inclusive and fun way to shed light on some very dark issues that plague our society, especially on college campuses.

This day is usually a rowdy one, characterized by large groups of friends and allies, high heeled shoes, and picket signs that call for peace and love above all else. Together with most of the other student organizations, the women’s center would lead a march around campus that cultivated a crowd so large it would demand everyone’s attention. The acceptance, tolerance, and love would be tangible as the group walked by.

This year the event had to be done a little differently. With COVID an ever present risk, the Women’s Center wasn’t even sure we would be able to put on this event. I mean, it is an event about togetherness, and about standing in solidarity. We were pressed to find a way to make the same impact with this event, while remaining isolated, distanced, and safe. Being unable to gather on campus made it especially difficult for Emma, Abbie, and Morgan, the staff members responsible for the Walk A Mile event this year, as they couldn’t even put their heads (physically) together to try and figure out a new way to pull this off.

Despite the challenges though, our staff members, along with the help of their co-sponsors, were able to come up with a program that adhered to the campuses restrictions and rules, but also provided an opportunity for the student organizations and other students and faculty to physically stand with victims of sexual and gender based violence. Though we couldn’t lead a mass group of people around campus, Emma and Abbie did find a way to make sure the walk could still happen on campus. With chalk outlines on the sidewalk, and printed out maps, participants could stop at the Women’s Center table in the quad, grab a T-shirt, a map, and shoes (if they wanted them), and take the mile long walk on their own. With requirements to stay six feet apart, and to keep your mask on the entire time, students and faculty were able to bring a friend or two and take the self guided march for equality. They were encouraged to snap selfies and pictures of themselves and the walk to post to social media to be sure the importance of their walk reached as many people as possible.

I was not working the event, so I decided to pay Abbie, Morgan, and Emma a visit while they sat at their table waiting for people to come by and start their own walk. I wanted to see how this walk would affect me, and others around me, now that it seemed to be such a quiet and singular thing. Would it have the same impact? Could it possibly raise any awareness this way?

After arming myself with a T-shirt and a map I started my trek through the course all on my own. I was surprised to find that I actually felt very powerfully about what I was doing, even being all by myself. The chalk arrows on the ground eventually gave way to statistics about rape, sexual assault, and gender violence. They were so moving I found myself stopping and just taking in the information. I was learning so much! I ambled through the first half of the walk, stopping often and looking around. People were looking at me too, my shirt like a flashlight in the dark. They were curious. I saw that people on their way to class, or lunch, or wherever they were headed would not only look at me but look at the ground too. They would stop and read the messages written there. They were learning as much as I was.

Then the statistics gave way to messages of support, encouragement, and empowerment towards the end of the walk. There were chalked instructions on how to handle someone who discloses having been hurt or assaulted, how to handle your own emotions if it happens to you, and simple messages like “Believe Survivors.” Needless to say this was a very powerful way to end the course. The mile came to an abrupt halt at the outside entrance to the Women’s Center. I stood there by myself for a minute, reflecting on what I had done, and knowing that no one really saw me do it, and there was no big production, but that I had learned and changed along the way anyway. I truly felt like an ally to and advocate for victims.

Later on in the day I did the walk again with a few friends, but we didn’t talk much throughout it. They, like me, were busy watching the ground, and learning about the realities of so many people in our community. I found that the quiet, solitary, introspective nature of the event was as powerful, if not more powerful, than the robust, celebratory atmosphere of previous years. For the first time since school started up again I felt connected to my campus, and to the other students here, especially as social media began to fill up with pictures of other people who had walked the same path I had that day. We had done it all on our own, but we had stood together with the victims of these heinous acts. We weren’t isolated in this act.

In all I think the event, though it was small, different, and difficult to pull off, was pretty successful. It accomplished exactly what it set out to do and that was to bring people together in the name of reform, justice, love, and peace, which is one hell of an accomplishment, especially now.

 

April Brown Joins the Women’s Center as the New Blog Editor!

By April Brown

Hello Everyone! Welcome to the 2020-2021 school year! My name is April Brown, I am 22 years old, and in my last semester of my undergraduate career at UMKC. I am majoring in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing as well as double minoring in Manuscript Editing and Print Culture and Writing. Writing has been my passion since I first learned to hold a pencil.  Artists are kind of bred in my family as my mother draws, my sisters paint and sketch respectively, and my brother is musically inclined. I found my home within the pages of a notebook. I used to feel inferior to my siblings because I was unable to create visual and auditory masterpieces the way they could, but in my senior year of high school it was pointed out to me by an English teacher that my ability to create was a combination of all things visual and auditory. I created whole worlds with my words.

I am excited to begin a new path after school, but I am also a little sad to know my time at UMKC is coming to an end. I can’t think of a better way to end it though, than by working for the UMKC Women’s Center. Not only does this opportunity open doors for me to start doing work that is extremely relevant for my career path and life choices, such as editing the blogs for the semester, but it also allows me to submerge myself in campus and community life with the events and programs we have planned this year! In a social climate such as the one we are living in now, there is no better time than now to become involved and learn more about the issues within your community.

There isn’t anything quite normal about this school year but I hope to use that uncertainty to shake up a few things in the name of progress, and the Women’s center is going to be a wonderful place to start such processes. I am beyond excited to start my new work with the Women’s Center, and with our community.