Zitkala-Ša

By Mia Lukic

“Gertrude Kasebier Photo of Zitkala Sa, Sioux Indian and activist” by National Museum of American History is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Zitkala-Ša was an empowering activist who fought for native rights and played a role in the fight for suffrage. She was born on February 22, 1876 on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota. At only eight years old Zitkala-Ša was taken from her home and placed in White’s Indiana Manual Labor Institute, a residential school that, like many others across the country, forced assimilation on native children. Here, Zitkala-Ša was given the name Gertrude Simmons, her beautiful and meaningful long hair was chopped off and her personal beliefs dismissed as she was forced to pray as a Quaker.

The school impacted Zitkala-Ša greatly, in positive and negative ways. She loved school and learning, especially learning to play music and she went on to become a music teacher at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Carlisle was an assimilation school like Zitkala-Ša had attended herself, a place where native children were taken to after being ripped away from their homes and forced to accept and act in ways that were favorable to the white teachers. The founder of Carlisle is quoted to have said “kill the Indian in him, and save the man”, in reference to what they did at the school.

The assimilation attempts and disconnect from her culture and heritage left her feeling stuck in a limbo between worlds. She tried multiple times to return to the reservation she was from, but was too upset by both the personal separation the school had made and the state of the reservation after years of white settlers occupying the land and the negative results of those actions.

A talented writer, Zitkala-Ša started writing for magazines about her experiences and her heritage. She wrote out against assimilation and boarding schools that tore children away from their families and communities. She even wrote down many stories from her tribe and culture to share with the white communities as means to humanize and share the rich cultures native people have, in an attempt to slow the push for assimilation. Zitkala-Ša even wrote the first native written opera, based on a sacred Sioux dance that was illegal in the eyes of the United States Government. The opera was a piece of art that expressed her feeling of being caught between two worlds, and her desire to connect the two.

She eventually went on to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Society of American Indians where she fought hard for native rights, against assimilation, and lobbied for American citizenship. She argued that as the original people of America, indigenous people had a right to be citizens and be represented in government with the right to vote. Zitkala-Ša moved to Washington DC and fought for what she believed in even after the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act passed. While this act granted citizenship it did not prevent states from deciding who had a right to vote and who did not. Zitkala-Ša devoted her entire life to fighting for native rights and was incredibly passionate about suffrage, creating voting registration drives and working to make voting accessible for all natives. She died in 1928 and the last state granted natives the right to vote thirty-four years later in 1962. Even then, much like the Jim Crow laws that were used against Black voters, natives faced literacy tests and taxes and general discouragement.

Zitkala-Ša was a driven and passionate woman who fought for native rights and the right to vote for all. Her role in the suffrage movement is not nearly as covered by the media nor textbooks but it was and is incredibly important and powerful.

Sources

https://www.history.com/news/native-american-voting-rights-citizenship

https://www.nps.gov/people/zitkala-sa.htm

 

 

Rising Gardens: Freedom Garden Fridays in February

By Mia Lukic

Rising Gardens is a new program for the Women’s Center, and is a part of the One Billion Rising Movement. Rising Gardens aims to connect the power of a garden to a multitude of social issues. Encouraging people to grow gardens is not only a way to start a conversation about certain issues, but to combat them.

“Gardens remind us of our enduring connection to life, to each other and to Earth, which compels us to do everything in our power to protect and nurture life and all that is sacred without doing harm. The cultivation of plant life is also a means for survival. Growing food in a garden organically – be it your own indoor garden or a community garden – allows you to feed yourself and your community. It provides autonomy and underscores the need for food security in a world where so many are denied these essential resources” (One Billion Rising).

Over the next three months we will highlight three major social issues and how they correlate to gardens, while growing our very own freedom gardens. Freedom gardens is a play on the term “victory gardens”, referring to gardens grown during World War II. The renaming comes from the association between victory gardens and anti-Asian sentiment, as a lot of Japansese-American farmland was seized by white farmers during this time (Freedom Gardens). Our freedom gardens will be grown in our homes, using household items and food scraps.

February is Black History Month and we are focusing on the connection between food and racial equity.

Leah Penniman is an amazing woman who founded Soul Fire Farm, a nonprofit organic farm devoted to training the new generation of farmers of color. She details why “food sovereignty is central in the fight for racial justice” in her book Farming While Black. A striking line from the book is spoken by a young black man stating “Look, you’re either going to die from the gun or you are going to die from bad food” (Penniman). Leah explains that a Black person in America is more likely to die from lack of access to good food than any type of violence, despite violence being the most covered by the media.  “If you look at diabetes, kidney failure and heart disease—those are all inextricably linked to what types of food a person has access to. And the last time I looked, those are the leading causes of death”(Penniman). She says this by no means to diminish the murders of Black and Brown people, but rather to bring attention to both, and the connections between them.

Penniman also rejects the popular term “food desert” and instead prefers the term “food apartheid”, explaining that a desert is natural but nothing about what is happening in these scenarios is natural. Decades of redlining and zoning have made it harder for people of color to have access to certain neighborhoods and by default, quality food.

“The existence and persistence of community gardens in food deserts and low-income neighborhoods is a testament to the resilience of the Black and Brown communities who cultivate them” (One Billion Rising). Many people are trying to combat this inaccessibility with community gardens or personal gardens like freedom gardens.

My garden consists of spring onions, romaine lettuce, celery, and a pineapple. Some nonedible plants include three cacti (Spike, Pickle, and Sunny) and a bamboo aptly named Boo. (I figured it was cruel to name the plants I planned on eating soon). My spring onions are about two months old, and have been living and growing in my window since I purchased them at Walmart. They just keep regrowing their tops and getting cut as I need them. My celery and romaine lettuce are showing slow but steady growth and are only about a week old. Unfortunately, most likely due to the snow and freezing conditions my pineapple seems to be dying, I have moved it to the kitchen and there is little left to do but keep an eye on it. All of my plants are currently in jars I repurposed from anything like olives or even candles, and all of the plants themselves are just the roots of food I had purchased and normally would throw away. So far, this process has shown me how easy it is to repurpose food scraps and how not unlike flowers many vegetables are. We keep flowers in a vase without a second thought, why not celery? I have not bought spring onions in months, simply cutting what I need off the ones on my window sill. While I couldn’t feed myself entirely with my freedom garden, it is an easy way to keep vegetables and herbs in the house at all times. Once my lettuce and celery (hopefully) grow I will be able to make a small salad or snack with them and enjoy both the benefits of healthy food and the satisfaction of having grown something from seemingly nothing. I am very happy to see the greenery everyday if nothing else, they add life and color to every room. Check out our Instagram @umkcwomenc every Friday to watch their growth each week!

Sources:

https://www.onebillionrising.org/about/campaign/

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/06/9838931/gardening-during-coronavirus-freedom-garden-movement

https://www.vogue.com/article/soul-fire-farm-leah-penniman-why-food-sovereignty-is-central-in-the-fight-for-racial-justice

 

Dating During a Pandemic

Two people, both alike in swiping right,

In the time of Corona, where we lay our scene…

One would imagine dating during the time of a global pandemic would decrease significantly. Instead, dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, and OkCupid are reporting substantial increases in usage. (Fast Company) What’s more, people seem to be more open to conversations and creating emotional connections than before. Researchers say that when meeting up immediately is no longer safe, people are taking their time getting to know one another, and working towards meaningful relationships as opposed to flings. (The Atlantic)

We’ve published blogs talking about the dangers women are facing having to shelter in place in houses where they experience domestic violence, and the increase in violence against women in the pandemic. You can read more about what the UN labeled “The Shadow Pandemic” here.

What about the concerns of newly budding relationships?

One love is an organization devoted to educating young people on love and relationships. They recently released 10 signs of an unhealthy relationship and explain what these signs can look like during a global pandemic. They stress that “While everyone does unhealthy things sometimes, we can all learn to love better by recognizing unhealthy signs and shifting to healthy behaviors. If you are seeing unhealthy signs in your relationship, it’s important to not ignore them and understand they can escalate to abuse. If you think you are in a dangerous situation, trust your gut and get help.” (one love)

The ten signs are listed below and the full infographic can be found here.

  1. Intensity: When someone expresses very extreme feelings and over-the top behavior that feels overwhelming.

Expecting you to respond quickly to text/calls, expecting to spend all day together because you are home, relationships escalating faster than normal, self isolating together after a short time.

  1. Manipulation: When someone tries to control your decisions, actions or emotions.

Using shelter in place to control where you are, pressuring you to meet in person despite social distancing guidelines.

  1. Sabotage: When someone purposely ruins your reputation, achievements, or success.

Withholding WiFi, transportation, or money, not respecting communicated boundaries like work from home time, carelessly exposing you COVID19.

  1. Guilting: When someone makes you feel responsible for their actions or makes you feel like it’s your job to keep them happy.

Making you feel bad for having conversations about boundaries, expecting you to be okay sending or receiving explicit photos/messages due to lack of physical contact.

  1. Deflecting Responsibility: When someone repeatedly makes excuses for their unhealthy behavior.

Using the pandemic as an excuse for their unhealthy actions and behaviors like yelling or anything else on this list.

  1. Possessiveness: When someone is jealous to a point where they try to control who you spend time with and what you do.

Demanding you share your location at all times, looking through your phone, demanding to know who you’re talking to throughout the day.

  1. Isolation: When someone keeps you away from friends, family, or other people.

Pressuring you to quarantine with them instead of family/friends, expecting you to stay on the phone with them all day or for long stretches of time and limiting your interaction with others.

  1. Belittling: When someone does and says things to make you feel bad about yourself.

Putting you down for your work habits, snacking, physical appearance, or level of concern for COVID19.

  1. Volatility: When someone has a really strong, unpredictable reaction that makes you feel scared, confused or intimidated.

Lashing out and having extreme reactions to things out of their control like the WiFi not working, not being about to go out, etc.

  1. Betrayal: When someone is disloyal or acts in an intentionally dishonest way.

Exposing you or others to COVID19 knowingly or due to a lack of precautions, lying about breaking safety “bubbles” and symptoms of COVID19.

It is important to keep these red flags in mind when starting a new relationship, and even when evaluating existing ones. Abuse does not have to be physical to be real, and it is never excusable. If you are experiencing domestic violence contact the domestic violence hotline at 816-995-1000.

As always you can contact the Women’s Center at 816.235.1638 or umkc-womens-center@umkc.edu and we would be more than happy to assist you and/or direct you towards further help in whatever situation you are in.

Sources

https://www.fastcompany.com/90492617/how-covid-19-killed-hookup-culture-and-saved-romance

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/12/what-pandemic-has-done-dating/617502/

https://www.joinonelove.org/

 

Reflecting on the Semester

By Mia Lukic

I cannot believe the Fall 2020 semester is already ending. No one could have predicted the circumstances of this semester and it held many surprises for everyone. One of the positive surprises I got was when I received my email that I had been awarded work study. I knew immediately that I wanted to join the Women’s Center staff after taking a class with Dr. Bethman, our director. It was the first post I applied to and I was so incredibly happy to have been accepted. Because of my late work study, I started a month or two later than most of the other staff but they all welcomed me quickly and I started contributing to the programs and events, as well as my blog and social media postings.

I loved working on programs like Words of Wisdom Wednesdays where I shared quotes from women on our Instagram, White Ribbon Day where I collaborated with UMKC RISE to raise awareness for gender-based violence, and Transgender Day of Remembrance where I created graphics of information to share regarding the Transgender community.

These blogs have been a great opportunity to learn a lot about a variety of topics during my research and preparation. I have really loved sharing what I found and am excited to dive into new topics next semester. It has also served as a way to start important conversations with my parents, new devoted Women’s Center blog readers. (Hi Mom and Dad!)

I learned a lot about social media as it switched from casual, personal use to a sizable part of my job. One thing I did not expect to encounter were : Twitter Trolls. I had heard of these creatures before, but never experienced them until this semester. It was difficult at first, but I think it made me a better person and feminist, learning not to second guess myself just because someone didn’t agree with me.

I loved working with this amazing group of people and will miss those not returning next semester, but know they are on their way to doing great things! I look forward to working on more programs next semester like the new and improved V-day and even a program that combines issues surrounding the environment, women, and food insecurity into one.

I plan on taking the winter break to force myself to take time for myself and devote at least the time I would be writing these blogs to self care and I hope you find time to do the same. Until January!

The Shadow Pandemic

By Mia Lukic

November 30th was White Ribbon Day, a part of the United Nations ongoing 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence which runs from the 25th of November to the 10th of December. This was a day to show solidarity with those who have experienced gender-based violence through signing a white ribbon and sharing the message on social media. Gender based violence is defined as “harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. It is rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms” (UNHCR) and is considered “a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection issue” by the United Nations Refugee Agency.

While the COVID 19 pandemic changed the circumstances of the event, it also has had a detrimental impact on gender-based violence worldwide. Even before the pandemic, 1 in 3 women experienced physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner (UN Women). The numbers are only increasing due to a multitude of COVID caused changes. The factors include: security, health, and money worries, cramped living conditions, isolation with abusers, movement restrictions, and deserted public places (UN Women)

Statistically, less than 40% of women who experience violence seek help, and during the pandemic calls to helplines in certain countries increased by 5 times (UN Women). What does that mean about the number of cases?

The United Nations has deemed this the Shadow Pandemic. The Coronavirus is without question one of the most difficult things the world has experienced in past years, and the increase in violence against women seems to be a symptom left out of the fact sheets.

PPE or Personal Protective Equipment, takes on a whole new meaning. The CDC recommends wearing a mask and social distancing, but a mask cannot protect from violence, and distance from abusers can be impossible during stay at home orders. So how do we combat this Shadow Pandemic?

The UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said:

 

“I would like to call on your government to make visible at the highest level your commitment to addressing violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19 by issuing a short statement on social media, in the form of a video message or a short text at the highest possible level, ideally at the level of Head of State/Government, highlighting:

  • Tangible actions undertaken to address violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19;
  • Future planning policies and actions to implement in this context;
  • Your Government’s commitment to raise awareness on the issue at the national and international levels.” (UN Women)

UN Women stresses the importance of the following during this Shadow Pandemic.

FUND

  • Prioritize funding for a minimum package of essential services and include violence against women prevention in COVID-19 fiscal stimulus packages.
  • Make urgent and flexible funding available for women’s rights organizations working at the nexus of COVID-19 and addressing violence against women

PREVENT

  • Declare national zero tolerance policy for violence against women and girls with a concrete action plan in place
  • Launch a COVID-19 behavior change social mobilization campaign

RESPOND

  • Undertake explicit measures so that services for survivors of violence are maintained as essential
  • Ensure continuum of adequate criminal justice system response.

COLLECT

  • Collect data for improvement of services and programs” (UN Women)

Whether you are calling your representatives to demand they address the Shadow Pandemic, checking in on your loved ones, or fighting your own battle, know you are not alone. For hotline numbers and resources in our area check out the link below:

Domestic and Sexual Violence Resources

Learning Social Action: #Buy Black

By Mia Lukic

This fall semester UMKC offered a class entitled “Social Action” that followed the teachings of Change! A Student Guide to Social Action by Scott Myers-Lipton. The students broke out into groups and spent the semester not only learning about social issues but actively trying to address them in any capacity they could. Group topics ranged from mental health, food insecurity, indigenous rights, and much more. One group in particular focused on buying black.

UMKC Undergraduate students Devyn Eason, Hannah Pham, Lanisha Stevens, and Leah Taylor explained that they wanted to support local black businesses, through both monetary means and awareness.

The concept of buying black is nothing new, it was pushed by leaders like Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to stimulate the economies of African American communities for years. Recently it was revived in many ways and given the name and subsequent hashtag #BuyBlack.

The students decided to dedicate their semester researching the issue and thinking of ways to help. Hannah Pham explains “Black businesses aren’t receiving a lot of support, although they contribute a lot to our economy. We as citizens within our community cannot support businesses that we may not be aware of.”

The impact of buying black is best understood by considering a single dollar. That single dollar can be put into the community when someone buys an ice cream from a black owned shop. That owner could use it to buy a blouse at another black owned shop, that then gives change to someone using the dollar and they go on to buy something else somewhere else. However, according to The Undefeated, “In the black community, a dollar only circulates for six hours. Compare that to some Asian communities, where the same dollar can circulate for up to a month. When you look at it that way, it’s no wonder why we’re not getting ahead like we should.”

A shocking point they focus on is that most black owned businesses do not even have employees. Most are owner owned and operated and some have volunteers staffing the business.

BLNDED Media reports that “According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners (SBO), which is conducted every five years, over 90 percent of Latino and black firms do not have even one employee other than the owners. One new trend is the proportion of owner-only firms reaching a high of close to 98 percent for the sub-group of African American female-led businesses.” Furthermore, black female owned firms are losing revenue as the years pass. A Forbes article published that “American Express found that the gap is widening between the average revenue for businesses owned by women of color and those owned by non-minority women. For women of color, average revenue dropped from $84,000 in 2007 to $66,400 in 2018, while for non-minority businesses, revenue rose from $181,000 to $212,300.” This trend can spell disaster for women of color who own a business and who may be struggling already with the pandemic.

So what did the students choose to do? Apart from almost weekly presentations to the class, they created a list of local black businesses people can support, are visiting them personally, and vlogging their visits!

A fun, modern way of promoting the retention of the dollar in the community!

Two local Black and female owned businesses they wanted to shoutout include:

Matches Boutique on the Plaza (https://matchesboutique.com/)

UnLESHed+ (https://www.shopunleshed.com/)

To get into contact and keep up with the group email : ls2df@mail.umkc.edu

Friday the 13th and Femininity

By Mia Lukic

Today, Friday the 13th is associated with bad luck and all things spooky, due to the Christian religion and cinematic industry. Many people believe it is a scary day and many choices are made surrounding it. Winston Churchill never sat in row 13 on planes, in theaters, etc. Many buildings skip floor 13 and go from 12 to 14. In Scotland, gate 13 does not exist in any airport, it goes 12, 12B, 14 (Jay).

Friday’s negative association stems from the Christian teachings that it was the day of the week Eve offered the forbidden fruit to Adam. It is taught that Adam was kicked out of Paradise on Friday, and the day Jesus was killed, is known as “Good Friday”.

Thirteen was the number of people Christians teach Jesus had at The Last Supper, including himself and twelve apostles. After that supper, Jesus was allegedly killed and some people avoid having dinner parties with thirteen people to this day, afraid that the first to stand up from the table will die. (Lawson)

But did you know that before more patriarchal religions, Friday the 13th had positive and feminine associations?

The word Friday ultimately comes from the Latin ‘dies Veneris’ which translates to “Day of Venus” the Roman goddess equivalent of the Greek Aphrodite, goddess of love and femininity. (Schilling)

While Veneris matches some languages like the French “vendredi”, Friday is a day of the week in English evolved more recently from the Old English term Frīġedæġ, or ‘Day of the Frige’, dedicated to the German goddess Frigg, also associated with Venus.(Schilling)

Thirteen may not seem like an important number at first glance, but it is the average number of times people who menstruate have their period in a year. A period happens roughly every 28 days, and that comes out to 13 cycles over 12 months or 364 days.

Before we, as a society, acknowledged that non binary people, transgender men, and other people who do not identify as a woman, may also have a menstrual cycle, periods were solely associated with cisgender women.

So Friday and 13 were powerfully woman focused and when combined made for a day of female celebration.

But patriarchy ruins the party again.

Why is it that these long standing traditions and associations had to be dismantled and given evil and negative connotations?

Vincent Schilling, a Mohawk Native part of the Iroquois Confederacy, and contributor to Indian Country Today states, “Once again I am reminded what the patriarchy has done historically, and how they have done everything in their power to wipe women from history”. (Schilling)

November 13 2020 was our last Friday the 13th and August 13th 2021 will be our next. Will you celebrate with horror movies and treading lightly? Or will you take the day to celebrate femininity?

 

 

It’s Okay Not to be Okay Right Now.

By Mia Lukic

A global pandemic. Nationwide protests. An election. The everyday, mundane life annoyances. It is no surprise that most people are on edge and struggling right now. When will the pandemic end? When will we see our families and do the things we like again? Who will be the next president of the United States? Will we know immediately or will this take days, weeks, months? How will the choice impact my rights? The safety of our friends and families? The state of our environment?

A study conducted by CARAVAN and The Maple Counseling Center reported that 52% of people reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the 2020 presidential election. 64% when it comes to Gen Z and 57% when it comes to Millennials (healthline).

Not only that, but the Pandemic has been detrimental to mental health as well. A Total Brain survey announced today that 83% of women and 36% of men had experienced an increase in depressed moods. 53% of working women and 29% of men have experienced an increase in anxiety since February. The effects have been disastrous for everyone, including and especially women.

The CDC reports:

“Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.”

So what do we do when we feel like everything is awful and there’s little we can do?

Remember to put yourself first. Your mental health is important and self care is mandatory. Despite the world not pausing and deadlines and due dates persisting, find time to do what makes your heart happy. Go outside, draw, read, watch a show. Many websites suggest a social media cleanse or limiting news/politics.

Hopefully you can find time to pause and take care of yourself, and remember that you’re not alone in feeling this way. It is expected and okay to be frazzled, anxious, angry, or however else you are feeling. There are so many people that care and want to be with you through all of this. The UMKC Counseling Center has great resources and opportunities to speak with professionals, and know that 105 Haag Hall always has a listening ear and a helping hand.

 

Women Who Lead: Activism Through an Intersectional Lens – Panelist Mahreen Ansari

By Mia Lukic

Tune into the “Women Who Lead” Panel Discussion for an invigorating conversation with a panel of diverse group of local women leaders, Thursday November 5, 2020 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Use the link below to register

https://bit.ly/37Q8EMi

As the event gets closer, and even as the event passes we would like to highlight our panelist for their extraoridnary work in our community, and for their extraordinary work in this event! The first panelist we would like to highlight is Mahreen Ansari, a junior at UMKC pursuing her undergraduate degree. Mahreen is studying Political Science and International Studies with a Pre-Law emphasis. Vice President of both the Student Government Association and UMKC’s College Democrats chapter, Mahreen is passionate about climate justice and is a community organizer with Sunrise Movement Kansas City. Through her climate justice work with Sunrise Movement Kansas City, she hopes to create space within environmentalism for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and other traditionally excluded groups. We had a chance to sit down with Mahreen one on one and ask her some more in-depth questions about her work in the community. The following is that interview!

 

What motivates you to keep working towards justice in a time where the country is so divided, and many people choose to reject the realities of social issues and/or scientific fact?

For a long time, I always felt like “well someone has to do the work!” But with a global pandemic and the beginning of the uprisings this summer, I have felt so burnt out because I just have been doing and feeling a lot. So, I have shifted my thought process to “someone has to start it” and I’ve just been rolling with that. I feel like with that thought process it’s easier to recognize that work must be done and it’s important that all of us find ways to contribute to this rather than just taking it all on by ourselves. Being a part of different organizations that are dedicated to different aspects of the fight for social justice as well as having friends who are as committed to this fight as much as I am helps so much because you don’t feel alone. It’s important to recognize the importance in the work you do and having a support system for yourself. I know that, for many of us, we are living in shocking times where it feels like it can’t get any worse, but honestly, the people who came before us have survived this, and worse, and that resilience is something that we have inherited from our predecessors. I always try to think of my support system, my work, and my ancestors to keep myself motivated. I do want to remind everyone though that rest is necessary, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed for taking time for yourself.

How does your intersectional identity as a woman impact your outlook on the world and certain issues?

My femme identity gives me a broader outlook on the world, in the sense that I’m marginalized for it so it pushes me to want to build coalitions with people who are marginalized in the same or similar ways. It reminds me that all of these struggles are interconnected, and that the fight for social justice can only truly be won if we all work together. I also understand the how, where, and why women and femmes are marginalized in the ways we are because of that firsthand marginalization I experience from this identity, which helps me better recognize ways to battle it and advocate on my behalf.

What would you say to young female leaders who are just starting on their path to leadership?

I would encourage young women and femmes who are just starting on their path to leadership to stay true to who they are. We exist in a world where we’re encouraged to dilute our beliefs or practices to be more digestible for people, but that’s not why you exist. You should never have to dress a certain way to be taken seriously, or sound more polite when you speak so that people listen. We need to create and work on the world we want and that doesn’t happen through compromising who we are. Don’t be afraid to take up space in places dominated by men or masculine people because you have just as much, if not more, of a right to exist in those spaces. If you are criticized for how you react or interact within those male or masculine dominated spaces don’t let it phase you because the “criticism” that you’re facing has a large chance of being based off of negative biases.

Are there any programs/projects you are currently working on that you would like to mention?

I have two things I want to shout out. First, in my work as Vice President of Student Government Association at UMKC I have been working with the Office of Student Involvement and the Collegiate Panhellenic Council to bring in an outside organization to put together a workshop based around diversity and inclusion for students. It’ll give students the opportunity to engage in real introspection and critical reflection and explore the fluidity and ubiquity of race in American society. I’m so excited for this and I want to encourage all students to RSVP for it, the event is on RooGroups under “2020 Inclusive Student Leadership Retreat”. Second, I want to shoutout Sunrise Movement Kansas City, the climate justice organization that I organize with, for the amazing work they do. We’ve been working on pushing City Hall to pass a Green New Deal resolution for Kansas City that will not only push Kansas City to be a greener city but also to make sure that in that transition everyone in Kansas City is being accounted for and taken care of in it. I do a lot of the digital graphics for Sunrise Movement Kansas City which has pushed me to start my own series which explores a lot of race-related history and issues of Kansas City.

Where can people go to learn more about the work you do?

If you’re interested in joining or finding out more about Sunrise Movement Kansas City, you can check out our social media, all of our handles are @sunrisemvmtkc. If you’re interested in checking out the graphics I made about race-related history and issues in Kansas City, you can check out my personal Instagram @exotik.queen where I post my content.

 

Be sure to register to see Mahreen in the Women Who Lead Panel and keep checking in to learn about the other panelists!

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

By Mia Lukic

October marks both Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the month of Indigenous People’s Day on October 12th, 2020. The Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women reports that 4 out of 5 native women are affected by violence today. The National Institute of Justice released a study that said 55.5% of native women experience physical violence by an intimate partner. Native women are murdered at a rate 10 times the national average, and they go missing and/or are murdered at a higher rate than any other ethnic group, according to Native Women’s Society. The lack of communication between tribes, local, and federal law enforcement are often cited as the reason only around 12% of missing indigenous women are entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Person System.

Last month, Congress passed two bills, Savanna’s Act, and the Not Invisible Act, which are focused on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women, and they await the president’s signature. Harper’s Bazaar breaks them down to explain:

Savanna’s Act is named after Savanna LaFontaine, a native woman who was brutally murdered in 2017. This act requires that the Justice Department reports statistics on native people, create and train law enforcement on the protocol for missing and murdered indigenous people, and reach out to tribes and organizations focused on indigenous rights.

The Not Invisible Act demands that the Department of the Interior “designate an official within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to coordinate prevention efforts, grants, and programs related to missing Indians and the murder and human trafficking of Indians” (HB).

These bills are a good step towards justice and can only be attributed to the tireless work of activists who fought and continue to fight for indigenous women. The statistics of violence against indigenous women are horrendous, and for people to still have to fight for something to be done about it is disgraceful. Do not forget the indigenous woman during Violence Prevention Month, or any month. Take some time on the 12th to learn what land you are standing on, go to school on, work on, live on. The website https://native-land.ca/ will break down the tribes that lived on the land before you with a simple zip code input.