Women Who Lead: Activism Through an Intersectional Lens – Panelist Jasmine Ward

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

Use the link below to register

https://umsystem.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJElf-GtrjsuE9LhA5KFTTUrsV7LnbyIiRxM

The “Women Who Lead” panel discussion is this Thursday! Continuing our introduction of the panelists and all the amazing things they do, we would like you to meet our second panelist, Jasmine Ward! Jasmine is a third-year law student at the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law, and a KC native studying education law, and criminal defense. She is currently a Rule 719 Legal Intern for the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office, president of the Black Law Students’ Association, and vice-president of the Board of Barristers. As with our previous blog on the topic, we asked Jasmine some questions about her community involvement and advice to future leaders, 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?

Very long story short, I always think about my ancestors and my elders (including those who are still alive), who were fighting for things they weren’t sure would ever be realized, and who were doing so in much more dangerous situations (not to downplay the true dangers Black women and men face today). If they could do what they did, then I feel we can do anything.

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

I think having identities that intersect as mine do – being a Black woman – it makes you think about all the little things that mainstream media or politicians don’t consider, all the things that “fall through the cracks” per se. And thinking about those things as they relate to Black women has made me hyper-cognizant that issues and realities fall through the cracks for millions of people with intersectional identities – so I’m always striving to look between the lines when I consider a person or a community and their needs. More than that, I find ways to just ask communities about their “between the cracks” needs, because it’s preposterous to think I could know things about communities to which I don’t belong.

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

First and foremost, don’t doubt yourself. If you’re in a room, you belong there, and you can stand with the best of them. And don’t take on a role, just be yourself – I don’t think anyone who is considered a “leader” thinks of themselves that way; you don’t have to assume some personality or way of being, who you are is already effective enough!

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

My main focus right now is graduating and passing the bar, but I am working with the Diverse Student Coalition and UMKC to try to make some necessary additions to our discrimination policies. Further, the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA) at UMKC Law is currently planning our Fall session of Street Law, a program where BLSA students, Black law professors, and Black attorneys teach diverse high school students, basic legal concepts. This year, we’ll be teaching those classes via Zoom, instead of in the law school, but we think high school students will still get the same learning experience and ability to see Black academic and professional success modeled.

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

LinkedIn would be the best place!

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

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!

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.

 

The Women’s Center is Happy to Welcome Mia Lukic to Our Staff!

By Mia Lukic

Hi Friends!

My name is Mia Lukic, and this is my second year at UMKC. I am in the Six Year Law program and am majoring in Philosophy with a minor in French. I am a first generation American and first generation college student. My family came to the US from the former Yugoslavia and I was born a couple years later in Saint Louis, MO. I am fluent in BCS (Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian) and am working towards fluency in French. I think another language is the greatest gift you could be given or give yourself!

I decided to go into law because of my passion for human rights, and as we know, women’s rights are human rights! The Women’s Center aligns with my personal beliefs and morals and I think it is a great place to surround myself with likeminded individuals and to learn and grow as a woman, student, professional, and feminist. I am looking forward to working with the awesome staff at the Women’s Center and UMKC students to foster positive conversations and contribute to the wonderful programs and social media sites.

After UMKC, I aim to work for a nonprofit that focuses on women’s rights. While I have been met with many lawyers and advisors who say that after my first year of law school I will change to a more lucrative track, I know my purpose is to help people and fight for those who feel powerless. I acknowledge it will not always be easy, but I know I could not do anything else with my life while there are still people in the world facing grave injustices.

I hope to use my blog posts to educate people about some of the causes most dear to my heart and cannot wait to work on my first official post!

Kelsey Holloway Joins the Women’s Center as The New Social Media Manager!

Image previewBy Kelsey Holloway

Hello everyone! My name is Kelsey Holloway, I am currently a Junior here at UMKC and I am studying Public and Interpersonal Communications! I am originally from Kansas City, Missouri and I am so happy that I decided to stay here for college. After college I plan to go into Influencer/ Social Media Management so when I heard about this opportunity with the Women’s Center, I was very determined to reach for it!

            I have a lot of hobbies which range from spending way too much money on clothes, randomly moving halfway across the country, taking photos, and making YouTube videos. I would like to believe that I am the main character in my life and I feel like that’s the best way to view it. I have a very adventurous spirit and love to travel whenever I can; however, being a college student and living through a pandemic that is…… not happening.

            The Women’s Centers mission aligns with everything I believe in, and I love that I have this opportunity to be a part of it. As an intern here, I can’t wait to promote everything that the Women’s Center at UMKC stands for and what they do, not only for our school, but also for our community. I cannot wait to see where this semester goes, and I know that this will benefit my future career so much! It has only been one week so far and I have already learned so much! Not only about social media management, but also about women’s rights and different ways we can fight and advocate for them!

            I am so excited for this semester with the Women’s Center! I can’t wait to work with everyone at the Women’s Center on all our social media platforms so our students, and the public, can stay updated on everything we’re doing, and things that they can do during these times to stay motivated, healthy, and educated!

Welcome Morgan Clark to the Women’s Center Staff!

By Morgan Clark

Hey,

My name is Morgan Clark and I’m senior here at UMKC. I was born and raised and Kansas City. I transferred here two years ago after coming home from deployment. I was stationed in Qatar for about nine months in 2017. I am currently still in the service and have about a year left. I am majoring in Sociology. With this major I have a few options for careers. Right now, I want to work in HR for either the government or an eclectic company. I believe there needs to be more people who will speak out on the many issues in corporate America and I think being in HR is one way for me to do just that.

If I am not working or swamped with homework, I am finding new things to explore in Kansas City, especially restaurants. I love trying new food and KC has quite a few hidden gems. I also spend time walking the trails in KC with my dog Xena. Since we do not have any mountains, walking trails are the closest thing to hiking I can do. I try to stay active as much as I can, even now, during these times. I just enjoy trying new experiences, whether it’s going to a new park, or tasting new food!

I am excited to be a part of the Women’s Center. I never worked with a staff that was all women. This will be new for me and I’m excited. I also know that working here is just one of the many ways I can advocate for Women’s rights. I know that doing this will educate me on how to be a better womanist. Which I know there is always room for improvement there.

New Intern Abbie: More Than Just a Cat Lady

By Abbie Lewis

I’m so excited to be a part of the Women’s Center, to help advocate for women, and be a part of fun programs to celebrate women everywhere. As a woman living in today’s society it’s super important, now more than ever, to stand up for what you believe in and fight for your rights. I think that being an intern for the Women’s Center at UMKC is a great way to do just that. 

I’m a super outdoorsy girl who loves to travel, hike, and play with my pets! I have a blue heeler named Otis and a cat named Oprah. Reading is also a passion of mine, specifically rereading Harry Potter repeatedly until I can recite it word for word! I play tennis from time to time and you can catch me at the pool all summer when there’s not a pandemic happening. I’m into all kinds of music, currently jamming on the new Glass Animals album. If you haven’t heard it I suggest you go to Spotify right now and download it, it’s amazing!

I’m very excited to be a part of the Women’s Center and thanks for letting me share a little bit about myself with you all!

Welcome Jordan Tunks to the Women’s Center Family!

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By Jordan Tunks

Hello! My name is Jordan Tunks and I am a senior here at UMKC. I will be graduating in December 2020 with a Bachelor of Health Sciences. I came from a small town of about 5,000 people, so UMKC was a big transition for me. Coming to school in a big city has opened my eyes to how much more is out there and how much more is going on in the world. This has helped me grow as a person, and taught me that there is so much more to fight for!

As an intern at the Women’s Center I look forward to learning how to properly and effectively fight for women’s rights. I hope to be able to fight for those who do not know how to, or cannot, fight for themselves. By the completion of my internship I also hope to be able to educate those who would like to participate but do not know how or where to.

After graduation I plan to get a job helping kids and young adults develop healthy lifestyles. Learning how to educate and advocate for women’s rights will help me become a better mentor for young women.

Hey Stranger, I’m Brianna!

By Brianna Green

Hello fellow Roos! My name is Brianna Green! I am a transfer student and this is my first semester at UMKC. I am originally from the Chicago suburbs and I came out here to finish my Bachelor’s in Psychology! I also plan to move on to a Master’s in Psychology after I complete my current program. I want to specialize in human sexuality and sex trauma. I chose UMKC because of all the opportunities I saw here. I feel like this is the first step and best place to reach my academic and career goals. Kansas City has been great so far and I’m excited to call this place my new home.

Additionally, I am thrilled to be a part of the Women’s Center! Being here feels like a great way to connect with campus, as well as my fellow Roos. It’s also very important to me that I’m a part of a place that is still doing its best to offer services and support to students during these unpredictable times. Pandemic aside, I’m excited to be in a position that allows me to support and empower my college colleagues.

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.