It’s a Celebration!

By Morgan Clark

November 7th, 2020 was an historic day for many people, including me. It was the day that a woman, a BLACK woman, was elected as the next Vice President of The United States. Kamala Harris has made history, not only by being a woman in the office, but being a woman of color elected by America. That statement alone feels so powerful to me. When I sat down and analyzed her win and what it means, it moved me to tears. America has not always been kind to people who look like Kamala Harris or who are darker than she is. Just a few months ago we were in the streets protesting to arrest the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor, which is not the first unarmed black woman who has been killed by the police. During slavery, we were not even considered humans. We were forced to breed children instead of creating them. Children were taken from mothers and mothers were forced to breastfeed children that weren’t theirs. After emancipation, slaves were considered freed, but still faced oppression. During the 1800s women were not even able to vote. Many women fought against that law until the 19th amendment was passed. Women were able to vote, they just had to be white. Even during the fight for women’s rights Black women were over looked. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act was passed in the 60s that Black women were able to vote. This was also the time of the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans were advocating for the end of Jim Crow laws and equality. When it came to the important decisions the Black women were pushed aside, even though they were putting in as much work as their male counter-part. Even those in our communities have pushed us aside and tried to silence us. And although America has made progress in treating Black women better there is still a lot of work to be done.

So, you can see why having a Black woman in the Office moves a Black woman like me to tears. America has always tried to put women in a corner. Overlooking and overshadowing us, especially those of us with color. We are told that we are not capable of leadership roles because we are too emotional. And when they are in leadership positions, some play safe so they won’t come off as a b*tch. For black women, we are considered angry when we speak up in the work field. We must be the best versions of ourselves and live up to other people’s standards to get some of the same opportunities that those more privileged and sometimes even less qualified than us get handed. And that’s exactly what Kamala Harris did. She fought and worked hard and got all the way to the top. Her becoming the first Black Vice President in America sends a message to others out there. It tells young women that there is room for us at the table. It tells young Black girls that they are worthy and capable, no matter what she looks like. It tells me that there is some hope in America and the progression we have made over the past few years. Today I celebrate all Black women in America and let them know that I do see you.

Pink Ribbon

Morgan with her Mother

By Morgan Clark

I still remember the day my mother told us she had breast cancer. It was like any other day: my dad was upstairs fixing something, like always, and I was sitting in the living room watching Netflix. My mom walked into the house, I greeted her but she didn’t respond. That was uncommon, we were a household big on greeting one another when entering the house. I was getting upset because she was clearly ignoring me, but that all change when I saw her face. I asked her what was wrong but she didn’t answer. I got so concerned that I yelled out to my father to come downstairs and speak to my mom. He came down with a grumble but was instantly concerned when he saw her face, just like I had been. It was that day I learned my mother had breast cancer. It was one of the hardest years for our family. Cancer is a beast that can consume a person and their family. Even though it was a hard year, we made it through and persevered. In that year I began to see my mother as a warrior. To fight that beast with such poise was very honorable of her. She didn’t let Cancer defeat her spirit which gave us strength. There were days that were really tough for her, but she continued to push through it.

Luckily for my mother, she knew how to check herself for any lumps in her breast. As we get older, we must learn how to self-check ourselves. We also need to know at what age one needs to get a mammogram, and if you need to check early because of family history. Now that breast cancer is a part of my life, I have learned quite a few things about my family history. For instance, I learned that my great-aunt also had breast cancer. Meaning, this is possibly a disease that runs in my family. It is very important to know your family history in regards to health, that knowledge could save your life.

I also learned that the most common form of breast cancer is TNBC or Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Which is one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer because it grows quickly and comes back even after treatment. And although breast cancer effects white women the same as black women, black women have a higher death rate. According to the CDC, death rates for black women are 40% higher than white women. Black women are also more often diagnosed at a younger age than white women.

It’s important that women, especially black women, know all of this and more about breast cancer. These stats can help save one’s life. Knowing these things now, emphasizes to me that my health is an important thing to keep an eye on, even at a young age. So, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I advise you to learn these facts about it, and then continue to expand your knowledge. You never know when that knowledge might save your life.

Recovering From Invisibility: #SayHerName

By Morgan Clark

I was recently asked “in what way police brutally has affected you the most?” After pondering on the question, I came up with this answer: There were three death that truly shook my core. The first one was Trayvon Martin; his death lifted the veil that was covering my eyes. Although I knew racism did exist, I didn’t understand how much of an influence it had on our society still. The second death which affected me was Mike Brown; his death was the one that radicalized me. I learned how the media can villainize black life. His death was also the start of the Black Lives Matter movement. The third one was Breonna Taylor because her story (like others) was so sad. Being close to my age, her death was very close to home. Not to mention she reminds me of so many black women in my own life.

Recently the court released the verdict of Breonna Taylor’s case. Yet again American’s justice system has failed us. And although it was not surprising that they did not convict her three killers, it still hurts to see that she does not get the justice that she rightfully deserves. As a black woman it truly infuriates me to see this happens yet again. Sometimes it’s hard to interact with others because of this. I had Drill the week they released the verdict in her case and was so upset that I didn’t want to be surrounded by very opinionated white men. It made me feel hopeless for the justice system when it comes to police brutality. No matter what, or how innocent the victim is, there will be no justice. The process leading up to the verdict didn’t help either. Seeing Breonna’s death being turned into a trend as if it was the next cool thing to be a part of was very upsetting. Black Twitter was in an uproar when they discovered that Breonna’s death was turned into a meme. A meme…a form of entertainment. Something that was so traumatic made into a joke. If that’s not a good example of how our society handles black women’s lives, then I don’t know what is. To see all this happening day by day has been discouraging to say the least.

So, it was reassuring to have the “Say Her Name: The Invisibility of Black Women” event on Wednesday September 30th, 2020. It was a virtual safe space facilitated by UMKC organizations like Multicultural Student affairs and the Women’s Center to listen to and speak on issues for Black Women in our society such as police brutality and societal standards that degrade or limit black women. Being met with the same emotions I have felt validated my feelings and experiences more than anyone will know. To have a panel of Black women from different professional fields and different age groups who were all outraged and upset showed that this is an issue. That it does affects us in ways that sometimes we can’t openly express to our white allies. It was an empowering event to be a part of and I am grateful for those who put it on, and participated, especially in times like this.

Intersectionality, Love, and Basketball

By Abbie Lewis

Being a woman is certainly no easy task. We must hold car keys between our fingers from the store to our car, carry pepper spray to go for a run, work our butts off at a job and still not get paid as much a man, and all the while be expected to “smile more”. As a woman, we’re used to our everyday injustices, but some women have it worse than others and experience intersectionality. Intersectionality is when more than one of your attributes contributes to your criticisms and injustices. For example, we experience harassment for being women but sometimes women experience it for not only their gender, but their gender and their race, or their gender and their social economic status, or race and sexual orientation. The combinations are endless and sometimes women experience bias from all the above.

The #SayHerName campaign was created in December of 2014 by the African American Policy Forum (AAPF), and Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies (CISPS), and its goal is to bring awareness to Black women and girls who have been victimized by racist police violence. A lot of the times, these poor women and girls’ sufferings, or even their deaths, get swept under the rug and never discussed. This campaign is to make sure that behavior ceases. The topic most known right now by this group is that of Breonna Taylor. For those of you who don’t know about Breonna, she was an emergency room technician in Louisville, Kentucky and was watching a movie in bed with her boyfriend when police busted into her home, claiming they were surveilling the apartment for a drug raid, and Breonna was shot 5 times, bleeding out and dying on the floor of her apartment. Breonna was a victim of intersectionality, doing nothing but trying to sleep in her own bed. She was murdered for being a Black woman who maybe didn’t live in the greatest part of town. Breonna is not the only victim of intersectionality in recent news, there are far more, a couple of examples being Jacob Blake and Sandra Bland. Many are rising up to take a stand and spread awareness, including the WNBA.

The WNBA has always had to fight to be recognized and respected in comparison to the much more widely known and followed NBA. They are no strangers to standing up for themselves as women and a lot of them as Black women. The WNBA has joined with the #SayHerName campaign and is using their platform to spread awareness and get people talking They are wearing shirts and jerseys with Breonna Taylor’s name on them along with ones that say Black Lives Matter. The WNBA ladies are also making sure that before their games, they hold a moment of silence for the victims along with a photo and video montage.  An article in the New York times dives deep into their cause and platform and interviews specific players with their thoughts on everything as well.

I know a lot of the time, we think that we’re just one person or we’re too insignificant to really create any change. This is not the case. Women everywhere share the same struggle and therefore can band together and fight for what is right and what we deserve. We can use our passions and talents just like the WNBA ladies have done. Let’s keep fighting and spreading awareness until they can’t ignore us any longer.

Maya Moore: The Evolution of a Hero

 

By Morgan Clark

Maya Moore in the Olympics

Growing up I was a big college basketball fan. I liked men and women basketball. I would sit and watch the ball games every chance I got with both of my parents. There were quite of few players and teams who left an impression on me, but one of the most impactful ones was Maya Moore, who played for the University of Connecticut. Moore was a powerhouse to watch on the court in her college years. Watching her break records at her school, and seeing her win two championships back to back, was an amazing experience! She was arguably one the best basketball players of her time. She was a hero that young basketball players like me looked up to. I am not into basketball as much as I was years ago, and because of that I hadn’t really been following along as closely. So, one could imagine my shock when I learned that Maya Moore willingly sat out for two seasons of her professional basketball career, after winning two Olympic gold medals and many other awards! This is a woman who lives and breathes basketball, who was also still in her prime! But then I discovered her reason and gained a whole new-found respect for her.

Maya visited the City Correctional Center in Jefferson City, Missouri in 2007. There she met Jonathan Irons. Jonathan is a an African-American man who she believed was wrongfully convicted for a crime.  At 18, Irons was prosecuted for burglary and assault. Even though there was no DNA, footprints, fingerprints, blood or any other evidence to place him at the crime, he was still sentenced to 50 years in prison. Maya believed this to be a blasphemous injustice and in 2019, Maya announced her hold on her career to help Jonathan. It took a lot of time but finally in July 2, 2020 Jonathan Irons walked out of prison a free man, and guess who was out there waiting for him…Maya Moore.

Maya has since gone on to become a prominent activist in her community. She even has started a website called Win with Justice. There one can find information on wrongful conviction, current news and legislation, and how people can get involved in their own community. Now, even though she has taken a lot of time off from basketball, and become a huge player on the team of activism, she has not given up on her love for the sport. She claims she is in no way ready for retirement from the WMBA. The Olympic medalist will return to the court.

Maya Moore with Jonathan Irons 

As I said before, young Morgan considered Maya Moore a hero, because of her athleticism and her domination on the court. But adult Morgan considers her a hero because her activism. For her to take two years off from her career and passion, to help Jonathan, is nothing but noble. Using her platform and resource to help a man who was wrongful convicted, and to start a movement to help others like Jonathan, is something I want to see during this time of racial injustices. I hope that she can set an example for many other celebrities who have the platform, income, and resources to help those who need it most.

Sojourner Truth: A Timeless Women’s Rights Activist

By Skye VanLanduyt

Sojourner Truth escaped from slavery and became a powerful civil and women’s rights activist during the nineteenth century. Truth’s famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” will always be one of my favorite woman authored pieces in multi-ethnic literature. Her language is controversial, provocative, and unforgettable. She delivered the speech in 1851 at a Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio.

Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman” speech is meant to be controversial. Her speech criticizes white privilege while calling attention to gender and racial disparity in America. In the second paragraph, Truth exclaims “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted into ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?” Her critique of men’s treatment toward women runs deeper than the issue of men seeing women as submissive. White women may not be treated fairly but black women are not seen by men as women at all. Truth’s writing reveals why it is important to take a step back and realize women’s experience is not entirely universal.

At the end of the same paragraph, Truth compares her worth to a man’s. She boldly exclaims, “I could work as much and eat as much as a man-when I could get it-and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?” I love this line because Truth is challenging her role as a woman comparably with a man. She declares women do not “need to be helped” and should be seen as equal to men because they are able to do the same work. But she also calls attention to racial disparity in a new way. Her assertion, “I could work as much and eat as much as a man” is a powerful punch against the barriers white men put up against her.

As powerful as Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman” speech is, there is a shroud of mystery behind the piece’s publication. Her original speech was transcribed by journalist and audience member, Marius Robinson. Truth and Robinson were “good friends” and reportedly “went over his transcription of her speech before he published it.” A second transcription was published by writer, Frances Gage in 1863 in the New York Independent, a women’s suffrage magazine. Some speculate discrepancies in Gage’s transcription. The phrase, “Ain’t I A Woman” is not found in Robinson’s earlier version of Truth’s speech, nor is there any southern dialect. Although Gage was a feminist, her choice to falsify Truth’s dialect and word choice is counterproductive to the purpose of Truth’s speech. The piece loses its powerful flare and provocative language because Gage’s intended audience is not black. New York’s readership in the 1800’s was predominately white. A powerful black woman’s voice speaking out against white privilege and supremacy would not have received praise before the abolition of slavery.

Despite controversy, Sojourner Truth’s speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” continues to reflect America’s history, present, and future. It is a reminder that while so much progress has been made in the fight for women’s equality, so much more still needs to be done.

A Black Female Rapper Is Changing The Narrative

By Skye VanLanduyt

During my last semester at Baker, I discovered Lizzo’s single, “Good As Hell” off her EP, Coconut Oil. I found it catchy, empowering, and fun to listen to during my 7 a.m. workouts. Between studying for exams, writing papers, and enjoying my remaining days as a college student I did not know the song released earlier in 2016, nor did I know her third studio album, Cuz I Love You would release on April 19, 2019.

After graduating from college, a friend asked “have you heard of Lizzo?” I shook my head not realizing she was the mastermind behind “Good As Hell.” It didn’t take long before I found myself falling in love with her spunky vibrato. Lizzo’s songs on her newest album, “Cuz I Love You” do more than promote single-woman hood. Her songs celebrate sexuality, black female power, and body image. In an interview with NPR, she says her intentions for writing this album come from wanting to be “body positive” and “help people find a positive place within themselves.”

I started listening to Lizzo because I liked how catchy and uplifting her lyrics were but now I appreciate her in a different way. Lizzo isn’t just a female rapper who encourages self-love and body-love through her music. On social media, she encourages her fans and followers to be intune with their mental well-being. A lot of young artists, especially in the music industry struggle with opening up to fans about their mental health. I love that Lizzo isn’t afraid to sit down and be emotionally honest. In June, she opened up about her struggle with depression and encouraged fans to start a conversation about coping strategies. This was inspiring, given so many Americans struggle with a mental health disorder. By being honest and willing to have tough conversations, Lizzo is creating a dialogue for men and women of all different backgrounds to unite in pursuit of self-love.

A couple of days ago, she posted a video on Instagram asking her fans, “not to be like her” but to” be like themselves.” I think it is refreshing to see an artist preach what they sing, especially when the message is so positive. I wish more people, including myself discovered Lizzo when her first EP came out in 2016.  I am thankful she is making her voice known in 2019 but it concerns me that it has taken her this long. Sure, we have other artists such as,  Cardi B, Beyoncé,  Camila Cabello, and Rihanna.  All have grown to be successful women in the music industry but there is something different about Lizzo.  She is consciously aware of the struggles she is up against as a black woman and she is not afraid to tear them down.  Her lyric, “I am a queen but I need no crown” is repeated countless times in her albums.  She is ready to break down the medium and encourage women they can love themselves and their bodies no matter what. I hope Lizzo and her music continues to inspire change in the music industry.

Celebrating Jedidah Isler, Ph.D.: A Woman in STEM

By Ann Varner

I stumbled upon an article titled “5 Powerful Women in STEM You Need to Know” (http://news.janegoodall.org/2018/03/08/5-powerful-women-stem-need-know/ ) and while reading it came across someone I found incredibly interesting and wanted to write about. Her name is Dr. Jedidah isler and she is the first African American woman to earn a PhD in Astrophysics from Yale.

According to jedidahislerphd.com, “Dr. Isler is an outspoken advocate of inclusion and empowerment in STEM fields and is the creator and host of “Vanguard: Conversations with Women of Color in STEM.”. Her non-profit organization, The STEM en Route to Change (SeRCH) Foundation, Inc., is dedicated to using STEM as a pathway for social justice and has developed a variety of initiatives including the #VanguardSTEM online platform and web series. Brief CV.”

In the STEM field women are vastly underrepresented, especially African American women. Women such as Dr. Isler are very much needed to advocate for inclusion and empowerment in the STEM field as well as represent themselves. Great work, Dr. Isler!

Photo credit: http://jedidahislerphd.com/about/

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Dorothy Cotton

By Caitlin Easter

“I’m tired of people saying, “And now we present her, who marched with Martin Luther King.”
Well, a lot of folk flew down there one weekend and marched, but I worked.”- Dorothy Cotton

Dorothy Cotton was very similar to other women in the fact that she never got the recognition
she deserved. Even today, the name Dorothy Cotton doesn’t ring a bell in the average American’s
imagination, because beyond the fact that she was black, she was also a women. Despite this, she was a
major champion of the civil rights movement and never allowed her gender to stop her from doing what
she wanted to do. She believed in the power of speech, and encouraged others to speak the truth with
her organizations. She was a major advocate for human rights education and leadership. She spoke at
workshops and with her Institute helped people to understand and shape themselves as leaders to
advance human rights. The Dorothy Cotton Institute was founded in 2007, and works to secure human
rights for everybody through education, interactive exhibits, and movements and campaigns. The
Institute works to develop Human Rights leaders, build a community for these leaders, and promote
practices that lead to justice and healing.

According to The Dorothy Cotton Institute, Ms. Dorothy Cotton was the Education Director at
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the director of The Citizenship Education Program, the
Vice President for Field Operations for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolence Social Change,
the Southeastern Regional Director of ACTION under the Carter Administration, the director of Student
Activities at Cornell University, a 2010 National Freedom Award Recipient, and the founder and
namesake of the Dorothy Cotton Institute. Ms. Cotton is now being recognized as a 2019 Honoree in the
National Women’s History Alliance following the theme of: “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace &
Nonviolence.”

Before her death on June 10, 2018, she was a strong and influential advocate for violence
reduction and humanitarian issues. She was a speaker, a teacher, a facilitator, a peaceful resister, and a
woman. Her name will always be tied to Dr. Martin Luther’s because of their strong bond and joint work,
but her impact will forever be so much more than that.

More information about Ms. Cotton and her institute can be found at:

https://www.dorothycottoninstitute.org/

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Rosa Parks

By: Brittany Soto

In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to focus my attention on Rosa Parks. Most people are familiar with who Rosa Parks is but to those who aren’t, she was a civil rights activist who was best known for courageously refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person during a time when segregation was legal. She was thrown in jail as a result of this incident, sparking the infamous Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott. Her vital role in this movement helped bring attention to the mistreatment of colored people and fought against racism and segregation. Her courage and leadership served, not only as an inspiration to people of color, but to ALL women. She was dubbed the second most popular historical figure to be talked about in schools according to a survey by American
students. (Wineburg, 2008).

Rosa Park’s courage and determination to challenge racism and segregation did not start with the bus incident. This is something that has been instilled in her since childhood. She was never afraid to speak up against the mistreatment of colored individuals by standing up against white children who
would try to harass or bully her. She was also the secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and continuously pushed to end segregation in schools and in public places. Despite the challenges she faced as being a fearless colored woman who was determined to fight for what was right, going as far as receiving daily death threats to her and her family, this never stopped her from fighting for peace and the rightful treatment of colored individuals. This just goes to show that doing what’s right isn’t always easy, but is necessary. Rosa Parks is now a legend and an
inspiration to women worldwide.