A Journey to Remember

By Shanakay Osbourne

The Spring 2020 semester has come to an end, so has my journey with the Women’s Center. I would like to share with you some of my most memorable experiences and what I have learned. As the graduate assistant at the Women’s Center, some of my responsibilities included supervising undergraduate student staff, serving as a liaison between student organizations and the Women’s Center, managing and assisting with programs and events, and assist with managing the front desk at the Women’s Center.

My favorite part of being a staff member with the Women’s Center is getting to work with such an amazing team. I enjoyed spending time with the staff during events, one-on-one meetings, and getting to know each individual. We helped to support each other in planning, setting up, and working tables at events, as wells as providing encouragement and great feedback to help each other. One of the events that I enjoyed managing was the Motivational Mondays. The program was a weekly virtual event that included social media posts of inspirational quotes that help promote positive thinking and mental health. The event also included a series of self-care activities. Motivational Mondays allowed me to express my creativity while helping others to stay motivated throughout the semester.

I have learned so much during my time at the Women’s Center. I learned how to better advocate, support, and educate for the cause of women’s equity here at UMKC and in our community. I also received additional knowledge about the different challenges that women encounter such as the gender pay gap between men and women, how much unpaid domestic work women contribute to, and the impact women have made throughout history. A professional skill that I learned was how to hire employees. This is a great skill that allowed me to be able to know what to look for when hiring an individual that will be a good fit for a job position.

The Women’s Center has given me the opportunity to grow, lead, and inspire others. With being a first-time UMKC student, the UMKC Women’s Center gave me my first tour of campus, help me to publish my first blog, and is my first graduate assistantship job! I am thankful and have been honored to be a part of the team. I look forward to seeing how the Women’s Center will continue to develop with helping to promote gender equality and helping individuals reach their fullest potential. To the Women’s Center staff, I want to say thank you for making this a wonderful first-year experience for me at UMKC!

Farewell to My Internship, But Not to the Women’s Center

By Allani Gordon

My time as the HerArt Project intern for the Women’s Center has been a defining and profound moment in my college experience. To be a part of a feminist organization, larger than anything I’ve ever been a part of before, and to work alongside so many brilliant women, has left an empowering impression on me.

When I walked into Brenda Bethman’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality class on my first day of freshman year, I had no inkling that this course would introduce me to an internship opportunity. I would’ve never expected I would be finishing my first year of college with experience at the Women’s Center under my belt. I’m so glad I can say that I have.

I’ve learned a lot of life-long skills and gained an immense amount of knowledge on women’s equity and women in the arts. I think I’ve learned even more about myself. Being much younger than everyone else at the center pushed me to evolve in order to perform at a professional level.

Despite the in-person aspects of my internship being cut short, I’m thankful for all the collaborative work I was able to do and help I was able to offer to my fellow interns with their on-campus events and programs. I’m proud of myself and the rest of the staff for being so resilient and adaptable to our online restrictions.

Brenda and Arzie have become supervisors-turned-mentors for me. I still have several years of college to go, but I know I can rely on them going forward. They’ll be around to offer me advice, give me guidance, or simply just have a good conversation with.

This will not be the last of my time at the Women’s Center. I won’t be an intern anymore, but I will continue to be a supportive member and advocate for everything the Women’s Center does.


So Long For Now, Women’s Center!

By Elise Wantling

This will be my final blog for the Women’s Center, and wow have we come a long way! I feel like my life has been such a whirlwind between now and when I started here last October. In that time we had the winter holidays, we put on a production of The Vagina Monologues, Coronavirus caused campus to shut down and everything to move online, I got married (barely!), we converted all our programming into online events, and now the semester is wrapping up and I’m about to graduate. It really has been a wild semester, and while it was not how I imagined my final semester of college would go, I think I’m quite pleased with the outcome.

I’ve really enjoyed being an intern here at the Women’s Center, and if you are reading this and considering an internship or work study position here, I definitely say go for it! Arzie and Brenda are both fabulous to work for and with. I also want to give a shout out to the Violence Prevention team; we work closely with them and not only are they doing great work but they’re also absolute pleasures to work with.

I want to thank all my fellow interns and work study students for being so wonderful to work with. We banded together in the face of extreme adversity and managed to overcome. We did it y’all! We survived!

I’m so proud of how hard everyone worked to get their programming put online. I think we did a really good job pulling everything off considering we had to change our programs last minute. I will look back at my time here fondly, as it is a great example of how humanity can make the best of any situation. Working at the Women’s Center was a really positive work experience and I am so glad I was brought on board. Thank you all for a wonderful semester!

Haley’s Experience at the Women’s Center

By Haley Dean

This semester, I was the event-planning intern for the Women’s Center. When I started applying to internships, I had no idea I would end up at here, but I am so glad I did! Throughout this semester, I have had so many amazing experiences here! I have grown to love the staff I work with, and will miss them all so much! I’m sad to see the end of the semester come so quickly, especially since I can’t physically be at UMKC to see it end. However, I am excited to graduate and move on from this chapter of my life.

This internship has taught me so many things. Learning about all the events we host, and why we do them, has taught me so much about women’s rights. I have been able to advance my leadership skills through planning/hosting/attending these events, which will be beneficial to me in my future career.

Overall, it was a great semester and I’m so thankful for everybody I’ve met and everything I’ve learned throughout my experience at the Women’s Center!

Thank You, Women’s Center

By Kyra Charles

I was shocked when Arzie Umali picked me as blog editor. I’d never worked in a position like this before, my only experience coming from my various writing classes. Six months have passed since that interview, and I’m so happy and grateful that she gave me a chance. My experiences at the Women’s Center have been enlightening, not just as a student, but as a feminist and a writer heading into the job market. I truly believe their patience, determination, and trust have given me strength I will use as I head out into the real world.

Of course, as blog editor, my first priorities were the blogs. I always encouraged the staff at the center to write about their passions and they delivered. Shanakay Williams shared her model of self-care. Maggie Pool gave insight into feminism in the film industry. Allani Gordon embraced the lives of the artists she interviewed. Elise Wantling opened up about their personal struggles as a non-binary individual. Adriana Suarez educated us on the big issues like the tampon tax. Sabrina Zavala and Haley Dean dove deep into the importance of our yearly events. I’ve watched the way these writers have grown and I’m proud of them all.

Outside of the blogs, I also took part in several projects around the Women’s Center. The first major thing I did this year was the Vagina Monologues. I got to interact with a kind and diverse group of performers every week, talking about why this project meant so much to us. At the center I advertised the heck out of it on our blog and social media.

Then there was the 100th anniversary of Women’s suffrage, and the Women’s Center committed to telling the story of how we got here. I collaborated with Elise and Allani to make our poster outside the office, complete with adorable arrows for our “map” by Allani. Elise’s research and all the trivia they shared with me was fascinating, from the importance of saying “suffrage fighter” instead of “suffragette” to the efforts of Lucretia Mott.

It’s inevitable that I bring up the way COVID-19 affected everything. Like everybody else, our daily routines were gone in a snap. We moved online, communicating once a week on Zoom and the rest of the week through email. Our creativity was put to the test as we tried to save our yearly events, and I’m glad to say we rose to the challenge. We put nearly all of our projects online and did everything we could to create the same feeling of comradery and dedication to women’s equity that we bring in everything we do. Watching the effort put into this from the staff was inspiring.

Because of everything I’ve listed here, I believe I’ve gained important experience that I can take with me for future jobs. As editor, I’ve gotten to see firsthand how each of our staff writes and how they’ve improved throughout the semester. I’m thankful with how patient they’ve been with me as I tried to communicate the best ways to improve. Our daily activities have taught me the importance of staying consistent with our message and collaborating to making things possible, even in times of hardship. It’s taught me how to bring passion into my work and always keep learning new things on the job. Overall, this semester has pushed me to give the best I can give and stay passionate about feminism and women’s equity. For that, I’d like to say thank you, Women’s Center.

Reflecting Back During My Time at The Women’s Center

By Sabrina Zavala

The end of my final semester at UMKC has arrived, and although it was not exactly how I planned it to be, it was definitely one to remember. Being the Gender Violence Prevention Intern at the Women’s Center has taught me a lot and I have learned so much from all the amazing women that I’ve worked with in the past five months. They’ve helped me gain more confidence in myself and in my work, and made being there more fun than I could’ve imagined. Although I couldn’t be there physically, I was still able to see everyone through zoom and work from home, and I feel like that need for adaptability will help me in future jobs.

Working from home was definitely different, but I was happy to know that we could continue planning and hosting big events for the university. In the past, I had volunteered and attended a few events that the Women’s Center hosted on campus and this semester I was able to see it from a different point of view. I organized events such as The Vagina Monologues and Denim Day. Both of those events were difficult to prepare for and stressful of course, but in the end, the results were worth all the hard work that was put into them.

Everything I have learned from the Women’s Center has given me experience and skills to use in the real world. Although I won’t walk across the stage on May 17th, I still thank the UMKC Women’s Center for giving me the privilege to intern for them. They’ve given me the best senior experiences on campus, and helped me go above and beyond as the Gender Violence Prevention Intern.

InterUrban ArtHouse’s Influence on the Creative Spirit of UMKC

By Allani Gordon

While the Who Does She Think She Is? Art Exhibition ended a couple of weeks ago, we still want to highlight our university’s relationship with our fellow collaborator, the InterUrban ArtHouse, beyond their participation in our annual art show.

Before the show even took place in the InterUrban ArtHouse, the space’s founder and artistic director Nicole Emanuel had already been showing her loyalty to UMKC’s creative community. Nicole served as one of the first featured artists for the Who Does She Think She Is? Art Exhibition, and has been showing her support for the event ever since. It’s extremely fitting that the all-female show now regularly takes place in InterUrban ArtHouse, as Nicole’s dedication to the local artist community is a symbol of the perseverance and resilience of all female artists.

Wolfe Brack, the InterUrban ArtHouse’s operations manager, also does great work alongside the Women’s Center for Who Does She Think She Is?. Wolfe has an established history with UMKC’s creative life, as his first solo show took place at the UMKC African American Culture House. With the help of our fellow Women’s Center member and HerArt Project founder, Arzie Umali, Wolfe was able to curate his show on our campus. Twenty years later and Wolfe still has a profound memory of the show’s influence on him as an artist. In my interview with Wolfe, he stated that “having that show at UMKC showed me that my art was valued and bolstered my confidence enough to keep showing it.” Wolfe continues to pay homage to UMKC as he collaborates and curates with the Women’s Center and the HerArt project.

It’s important to recognize the efforts of our local organizations and their involvement with UMKC. InterUrban ArtHouse is a non-profit organization that strives to help maintain and evolve creative life not just in Kansas City, but here on our campus too.

Meet the Artist: Lynn Norris

By Elise Wantling

Lynn Norris is one of our wonderful artists whose art was featured in our art exhibition co-hosted with InterUrban ArtHouse titled Who Does She Think She Is? I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn and learning a bit more about her and her art. Lynn is a three-dimensional artist who sews, weaves, and makes jewelry, pottery, and collages. Occasionally, she dabbles in two-dimensional art, which she describes as black and white doodles that “look like a machine just vomited parts up, and it is punctuated by faces and strange creatures that do not exist in real life”. Her work typically features lots of bright and bold color choices.

Lynn has always made art, but began using art as a form of therapy in 2004 at the KC Veterans Center, where she partook in an art therapy group on Friday mornings. Lynn is a survivor of military sexual trauma and copes with PTSD, and uses her art to help with this.

Lynn served in the US Navy from 1983-1987 and is a proud veteran. She was stationed at Pearl Harbor and Barber’s Point Naval Air base. She began by maintaining grounds and conducting VIP tours of the Arizona Memorial, then worked as a security guard at the ASWOC (Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Center). She eventually became a Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Petty officer and worked in the base photo lab.

Though she enjoyed art, she admits she wasn’t the best at drawing. She started collecting free magazines from the VA Center and noticed they would make great collage material, since they had the colorful and pretty photos. She was taking an abstract art class with a friend through the Raytown school district at the time, and consulted the art teacher, Dennis Helsel. He agreed with her that making collages might be easier for her than drawing. He helped her “figure out how to pull it off” as she says. The first two collages Lynn made were made of totally random clippings. For the third collage she decided she wanted to make one look like a stained glass window, and that was a jumping off point for her. She divided the clippings according to color, then did colored sections highlighted by a paint pen. She’s been using that technique ever since and has made many beautiful pieces inspired by stained glass windows.

One symptom of Lynn’s PTSD is that she has trouble feeling safe, and to deal with that she became obsessively organized and tidy. Her collages are a break from this. Instead of having strict order, she is able to incorporate randomness and chaos into her art. Just the colors are sorted, other than that there is no logic to her arrangements. She even chooses the titles of the pieces by clipping phrases from the magazines and then drawing them out of a hat. The collages have allowed Lynn to let go of her obsessive-compulsiveness and enjoy being in the moment. In her collages, Lynn has found some freedom while also being able to indulge her artistic side.

You can see Lynn’s work, and the work of many other talented artist, in our online tour of the Who Does She Think She Is? Art show. You can also check out more of Lynn’s work on her website, https://mankopowerudcuc.wixsite.com/lessdemented?fbclid=IwAR07lDkfdD9dWYOSnJyzJFqSjnMPpcMSHHS8E_AXJ_SxGrHwwoRob9oGOAI

Meet Us On The Street- What Is It?

By Haley Dean

If you have been attending UMKC for at least a year, I’m sure you have seen the chalking on the sidewalks that happens in April. Did you know that’s actually an international event? Meet Us On The Street is an international program for anti-street harassment. Participants everywhere spread the message about gender-based street harassment and why it needs to stop.

What is gender-based street harassment?
According to stopstreetharassment.org, gender-based street harassment defined is as follows:

“Gender-based street harassment is unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.”

If you’ve ever been catcalled, whistled at, groped, or stalked, you have experienced gender-based street harassment. Gender-based street harassment can make the streets feel unsafe for everybody who walks on them.

Why is the program in April?

Meet Us On The Street is held every year for a week in April, because April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. It is the perfect time to bring awareness to the issue.

How can YOU participate in Meet Us On The Street and help spread the word?

The Women’s Center participates in Meet Us On The Street every year. This year we will be holding it as an online campaign for the entire week of the 20th. Take a look at our social media during that week to see what we are doing to spread the word. We will be chalking and writing messages and posting our creations on our social media with the hashtag #StopStreetHarassment. You can join us in spreading the word, too! Make your own creations and post them with the hashtag, or share our posts on social media. The Meet Us On The Street official website has a list of ideas for messages if you need help creating one.

Women’s Center Update

On Friday, March 13, the UM System university announced that all classes will be taught online and all campus events canceled for the remainder of the semester.

This, unfortunately, applies to the UMKC Women’s Center as well and we are canceling all remaining events for the spring semester.  This breaks our hearts, but it’s necessary to prioritize community safety right now.

Additionally, while the Women’s Center remains open, but we are putting social distancing procedures into place, so please call or email ahead if you’re planning to visit. We’re also working on setting up a Zoom account, so stay turned for more information on that.