The People’s City – Reclaiming Kansas City

Protestors at City Hall on October 4, 2020. // Photo by Jim Nimmo

By Emma Gilham

People mill around the statue of Lincoln. A burst of laughter here and there cuts through the murmur of conversation. Megaphones await their champions on concrete benches. Cars slow to read the signs and take in the city of tents that sits on green government grass. The People’s City has planted itself on the front lawn of City Hall in Jackson County Kansas City, until its demands are met.

After the assault on a Black womxn named Deja, outrage spread through the already rightfully angry Black Lives Matter movement of Kansas City. Video shows the young mother being forced to the ground by a police officer onto her pregnant midsection. The officer, Officer Newton, then places his knee on Deja’s back as he handcuffs her. It can only be described as gruesome to watch. After this incident, local organizers decided to stage an occupation protest at City Hall until their demands are met by the local government. Starting on October 2, the protest has seen some opposition to its continuance and demands. The list of demands are as follows:

  • Remove Police Chief Rick Smith from his position and Officer Newton from the force
  • Remove all officers who have killed Black victims from the force.
  • Divest 50% from the KCPD budget
  • Reinvest the KCPD budget into resources that support the black community including education, healthcare, and housing.

Mayor Lucas has said the removal of Rick Smith from his position would be “superficial”. Although Lucas is very well versed in the reforms he has passed, considered radical, he fails to capture what radical change actually is. According to Merriam-Webster, radical is defined as “a root part”. The removal of an incompetent leader is the critical first step in a long road to bringing racial equity to Kansas City. The Student Government Association panel discussion on “The future of policing in Kansas City: A Conversation with Mayor Quinton Lucas” brought up the very compelling point in that the culture of KCPD must shift from a fraternity-like environment, of protecting one’s own, before any real and lasting change can happen. This starts at the top with leadership. This position change would be a promise to doing better for the Black community.

While occupying the People’s City, I have been approached and asked “Why are you here?” or “What is your goal of being here?”- it is a fair question for anyone at the People’s City as an activist to answer. The goal is to uplift, cherish, and protect Black womxn, men, and children in Kansas City. It is to not allow ourselves to accept half measures and meaningless reforms. It is sticking around for the long haul, knowing the end game, and pursuing that until you have achieved it or you are incapable. It’s knowing that there cannot be another Deja, Cameron Lamb, Ryan Stokes, Breonna Hill, Terence Bridges, Donnie Sanders, or MR until we are angry again. KCPD’s reign of terror must be ended with urgency, and we will stay dedicated, fierce, and diligent to the movement until it does.

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.

New Times, Same Habits

By Jordan Tunks

The world we live in today is very new and different. Everyone is being impacted differently, and are experiencing new obstacles and barriers to overcome every day. One thing that we should be focused on while we are stuck inside and have limited access to gyms or recreation services is our physical health. Women tend to have lower iron compared to men because of pregnancy or heavy menstruation. Women lose a lot of blood during periods and childbirth, so it is important to replenish this mineral. Being low on iron can cause dizziness, weakness, and headaches. These can severely impact one’s daily lifestyle. Adding beans, dark leafy greens such as spinach or kale, nuts, or whole-grain bread can increase the iron intake and prevent the headaches and dizziness. Some easy ways to add these into your diet could be to add them into a smoothie, eat a salad every few meals, try a new bean soup, or trying a new trail mix.

Sometimes it is difficult to add these things to a diet and it takes time for a change to be made, so in this case a multi-vitamin can be added to the daily routine. These will increase iron and some other vitamins that can be hard to get in one day. Finding the right multivitamin for your body is also important and making sure it will work with your body and lifestyle. There are multi-vitamins specifically for women and these would be a beneficial addition to the daily lifestyle.

Nutrition is a big factor in one’s overall well-being and lifestyle. Making sure to still make time for at least 30 minuets of exercise each day is still very important. This can be achieved by daily walks, at home yoga, cleaning the house, or even doing yard. It is important to find a way that is enjoyable to you so it does not seem daunting and you will be more motivated to keep consistently doing it.

Physical Heath: How often to go to the Doctor, Gynecologist, and Breast Exams

By Brianna Green

If you did not know, September 30th is National Women’s Fitness and Health day. I’ve been talking a lot about the female anatomy, so I think it’s important to acknowledge when it’s time to get it checked out and how often to do so.

Although it’s debatable whether yearly visits to the doctor are actually necessary, it’s still suggested that you see your primary physician for a physical once a year. Afterall, as Dr. Earlexia M. Norwood was quoted in, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Although skipping a year might not hurt you it’s important to make sure that you’re doing everything to prevent illness, watching out for early signs of an issue, and having your vitals (like blood pressure) checked. It’s better to catch something small while it’s still not an issue and treatable than dealing with a mess later on. Plus, it’s reassuring to know you’re in good health (especially now).

Like the physical exam, it’s suggested to also see your gynecologist once a year. They can test you for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and preform pap tests (aka pap smears) to check for cervical cancer. Although, pap smears are not tested every year, but are suggested every 3 years starting around 21 years old. Gynecologists also preform breast exams to check for cancer.

However, they’re not the only ones who can perform breast exams. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), “Adult women of all ages are encouraged to preform breast self-exams at least once a month.” This self-exam should be performed a week after your period, while in the shower, in front of the mirror, and lying down. You should do these exams “with the pads/flats of your 3 middle fingers, check the entire breast and armpit area pressing down with light, medium, and firm pressure. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, hardened knot, or any other breast changes”. Also, make sure that you’re visibly checking your breasts in the mirror to see any discoloring, swelling, dimpling, and/or discharge from the nipples. Like I said before, it’s better to catch something small while it’s still not an issue and treatable than dealing with a mess later on. Please stay on top of your physical and mental health, especially right now in this abnormal world.

The “Perfect” Female Body

By Abbie Lewis

We’re all out here trying to get the perfect body, but what does that even mean? Ask a man what it is, you’ll get a different answer than if you’d asked a woman. Ask someone from Jamaica, you’ll get a different answer than someone from Finland. Ask someone from the 1950s, you’ll get a different answer than someone from the 2010s. So, with all these varying answers, how’s a girl supposed to know what she’s “supposed” to look like?

First, let me start off by saying that you can look however you want and however makes you feel good! Who cares what the media or that person you’re trying to impress says! You do whatever makes you happy. Happiness is the most important. If we go back in time, the “perfect” body, according to society, has changed so many times there’s no way anyone could keep up. In the 1800s, Queen Victoria brought us the widely known hourglass shape, with the help of corsets. In the 1920s though, forget the hourglass shape, boyish flapper style was what was in! The 1950s came around though and bam, right back to the hourglass figure thanks to Marilyn Monroe. Her appeal showed us that wide hips but thin waist was the ticket to stardom. Then the 1990s came and told us: no girl, you must be stick thin like Kate Moss to be pretty. Now in today’s media, if you don’t look like a Kardashian, well just what are you doing? As you can see, time goes on and society’s image of the perfect body changes rapidly.

Health and body image are often not paired together. Being healthy and happy is what we should all be focused on, however looking good usually takes the precedent in our minds thanks to the media and fads. While I know it’s easier said than done, try and

always remember that it doesn’t matter what you look like, if you are happy and healthy out there you’re doing good in the world!

COVID-19, Sex Toys and Sexual Dysfunction

By Brianna Green

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of discovery and change. People are using this time to educate themselves in social and political matters. Some are also using this time as a moment for self-reflection. Now that our world came to a stop and is now working on a slower pace, it’s easier to look inside and ask questions of “Are you happy?” “Are you satisfied?” “Where can I get a little spice in my life?”

I cannot answer those questions for everyone, but I can say that some women are reevaluating their current circumstances. Psychology Today says that an astonishing 40% of women feel sexual dysfunction. Thirty years ago, it used to be as high as 78%. Although it has gone down, how is it that almost half of the women population feels sexual dysfunction? Well, according to the Merck Manual, a medical education site, some of the causes of sexual dysfunction in women include depression and anxiety, varies forms of abuse, distractions (such as work, family, finances), and culture. To explore on that last point, a woman might feel guilty or shameful about their sexuality if they come from a society that restricts them (Merck Manual). Unfortunately, living in America is still living in a double bind; or a place where women only have two problematic choices to choose from: being a whore or being a prude.

However, in a time of discovery and change and mainly living behind our closed doors, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the rise in sex toy sales tells me that this is a good time for women to explore their sexuality and learn more about themselves. According to The New York Times sales have gone up dramatically, up to 200% back in April, for companies like We-Vibe and Womanizer. With sex toy sales through the roof, women are taking this time to find out how to be satisfied and what’s available for them to spice up their life. We should come out of this quarantine with a better understanding of our bodies and less shame in our sexuality.

Loving Someone with Depression

By Elise Wantling

I have struggled with depression on and off, (but mostly on) for the majority of the past decade. My partner has struggled with it for even longer than that, probably close to 15 years now. We have been part of each other’s lives for a little over two years as of writing, and together we have taken turns caring for one another when the depression brain takes over and things seem too hard to bear.

First, let me explain what depression is. Depression is a catch-all term for a couple different mood disorders. The most common type (according to Harvard Health) is major depression, also known as clinical depression, which would be classified as the “worst” type, that carries with it changes to your sleep patterns, lack of energy, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts and feelings. This can last for years before it goes away, if it ever does. There is also persistent depressive disorder/dysthymia, which is basically “depression lite”. It comes with most of the same symptoms as major depressive disorder, but they aren’t as intense or long lasting. It is characterized by a “low mood” lasting at least two years. The third kind is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which occurs during the fall and winter. I’d rank it as the “least bad” on the scale, as it usually isn’t as intense as major depression or PDD and only lasts a few months of the year.

There are other types of mood disorders or personality disorders that depression can fall into, but these three are the most common. Ryan, (my partner) and I both have standalone depression diagnosis (we both have clinical depression/MDD), but we both have other mental health issues as well (one of which is anxiety, which often comes alongside depression). We are both currently seeking treatment for our depression, taking meds and seeing our own therapists, but that isn’t always enough to keep the depression at bay. Depression can manifest in a number of ways, but for Ryan and me it manifests in a similar way. First, it starts with the gradual decline in energy. I’ll notice he sleeps more and seems less present during his waking hours. He wants to go out less and stay in more. When he sleeps, it’s restless and full of nightmares. He becomes disinterested in his hobbies, he stops helping around the house, his life starts to become a cycle of work and sleep with very little in between. It starts out slow, and gradually gets worse, and usually manages to escape detection until we reach a breaking point of either me or him getting frustrated with his lack of ability to function.

Then it usually hits us: the depression fairy visits and casts a nasty spell. This usually leads to a conversation about how he’s been feeling, which will reveal that emotionally he’s doing about as well as he is functionally (which is to say not doing well at all). We then draft a game plan: first, an appointment to get meds adjusted. Second, investigate therapy options if he isn’t already actively in therapy. Third, get back on a healthy eat/sleep/work schedule, making sure no meals are missed and that there is a healthy level of sleep being accomplished, not too little but also not too much. We check in daily on emotional levels, having candid conversations about suicidal thoughts or feelings and feelings of worthlessness or not being good enough. Little by little, together, we pull him out of the dark hole he has fallen into. Sometimes it takes just a few weeks, sometimes it takes a few months, but eventually he is able to wake up one day and tell me that everything is alright again.

It’s not always him that gives into the depression. Sometimes, just as often as it happens to him really, it happens to me. We’ve been lucky so far in that when one of us has needed to be carried for a bit the other has had the strength to do the carrying. In the beginning of our relationship I often worried what would happen if we both fell victim to depression at the same time. What I have learned is that love has given us the ability to rally when needed. Some days, even when I can’t manage to care much for myself, I find the strength and energy in me to care for him, and vice versa, he does that for me. I am by no means saying our love or our relationship has cured our depression. But I am saying it has made things more bearable. Through my relationship with Ryan I have found someone I can confide in and share my struggles with, who truly gets them and can relate. Someone who shares the feeling of triumph when after weeks of dragging yourself out of bed you finally wake up and find yourself excited to face a new day instead of dreading it. He reminds me to take my meds and takes me to my doctor appointments. He rejoices in my joy, and holds me in my sorrow, and I likewise am able to do that for him.

Loving someone with depression when you have depression isn’t easy. Some days it feels like the cycle of depression will never end. Other days, you feel like you’re free of it forever.  Just like every relationship, a relationship that is touched by depression still requires love, trust, and communication. It can be incredibly challenging, but also deeply fulfilling. Even with its’ challenges though, I wouldn’t trade my relationship for the world, and for those of you who can relate, I hope you can say the same.

Menstrual Products Drive

By Maggie Pool

For the first time ever, the Women’s Center is pairing up with Residential Life to implement a donation drive program into an annual activity called Wing Wars. Wing Wars happens every new school year and is a friendly competition between Johnson Hall, Oak Street Hall, and JP2 filled with a variety of events that earns each team points. In addition to the main Wing War happenings, there are events on campus residents can attend to gain points for their team. This is where the Women’s Center comes in. This year, the Women’s Center has decided to do a Menstrual Products Drive to raise awareness on the basic need for menstrual products. The drive will start November 5th and go through December 3rd. There will be a donation box placed in each residence hall and each product donated will generate a certain amount of points.

In 2019, an interview-conducted study was done in St. Louis, Missouri where an estimated 31,000 women 18 years or older are considered low-income. The study found out that 60% of its participants (109/183) skipped or ate a lighter meal in order to afford menstrual products over the past year (Kuhlmann, Bergquist, & Danjoint, 2019). Of those participants, 36% (40/111) skipped meals on a monthly basis. Similarly, 64% (117/182) did not have the money to purchase menstrual products at some point during the same year (Kuhlmann et al, 2019). ⅓ had to use toilet paper, rags, tissues, diapers, or paper towels as supplementary menstrual products (Kuhlmann et al, 2019). The study concluded that the solutions to these problems came down to three categories:

  1. Increase access to menstrual products
  2. Increase education in menstrual products
  3. Increasing access to safe public restrooms

Many schools across America are recognizing this is an issue and are taking action. For example, Brown University announced they would provide free tampons and pads across campus in men’s, women’s, and gender neutral bathrooms. Brown’s student body President, Viet Nguyen, said: “There’s been a lot of conversation about why pads and tampons are a necessity, not a luxury, but not a lot of action. We wanted to take it into our own hands” (Jones, 2016, p. 1). After Brown University announced their plan, New York City public schools announced they would provide free menstrual products in all sixth through twelfth grades schools (Jones 2016). Many schools followed after including Columbia University, University of Arizona, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and Emory College (Jones, 2016). Hashtag campaigns have furthered the awareness with campaigns like #TheHomelessPeriod and National Period Day (October 19th) and garnered global attention.

The Women’s Center provides free menstrual hygiene products (tampons and pads) for any student with no questions asked. These donations would go back into the hands of students who may be of low income, low access to resources, or too busy to buy menstrual products when they need them. Having this drive will also inform students that we are a resource to use when they are in need of a place to study, information on community resources, and a safe space. Our ultimate goal is to implement menstrual hygiene products in women’s and gender neutral bathrooms throughout campus.

Empowering Women Through Friendship Bridge

By  Adriana Suarez

Friendship Bridge is a nonprofit that “creates opportunities that empower woman in Guatemala.” I can see the great impact they have made because they show very cultured information in their reports and include many photos and stories of the woman that they have helped. Their 2018 Annual Report shows the impact they have made throughout the Guatemalan community, which includes a client continuum that places women in three categories: leaders, entrepreneurs, or dreamers. They also assist in loan products, plus services, and holding program around artisan, agriculture, health, and family planning.

Women supported in these programs aren’t just single women, but single mothers who do not have access to the correct resources. Their stories not only speak on how the programs have helped them individually, but also how the program’s support impacted their families and communities. Many of the women are artisans, and contribute to the community with businesses or by selling hand-woven products. It’s important these women are educated about loans so they aren’t tricked into any unwanted dent later on.

I support the organization because they help Hispanic cultured woman in Guatemala who are in need. I feel it’s very important that women’s organizations in other countries exist. According to their website, “59 percent of the population in Guatemala live in poverty and over 60 percent of indigenous Guatemalan women are illiterate.” The Friendship Bridge organization works primarily in the rural areas where the rate of poverty is highest and work to create a change with the women they work with. Friendship Bridge is supported by many organizations and sponsors such as Power Trust, The Green Fund, and Women’s Worldwide Web. Many more are listed on their website.

If you’re interested, you can find a way to give back to those women of need in Guatemala by visiting their page!

Period. The Movement

By Adriana Suarez

Period. The Movement is an organization founded in 2014, by two 16-year old high school students with a passion for periods. Their mission is to end period poverty and stigma through service, education, and advocacy. The organization is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a nationwide network of over 400 chapters serving local communities. The organization provides service through 3 subcategories: Pads & Tampons, Period Packs, and Menstrual Cups. The organization partners with companies such as TAMPAX Cup, AUNT flow, L’ORÉAL, and Nike to name a few.

The first time I had my period was in the fifth grade, in elementary school. This is a shocking fact because that is when most girls begin. Therefore, the bathrooms are not stocked with the products needed. My first period was thankfully in the privacy of my own home. Yet, the days I begin a new cycle are unexpected and can sneak up on me. Sometimes I would have to leave the bathroom to embarrassingly whisper to my friends (girls) asking them if they had anything in their bookbags for two reasons. The first being there would not be any kind of pad/tampon dispenser in the restrooms, or secondly, because there was a dispenser but it was either empty, or you had to pay a quarter which would not have just been laying around in my pocket.

I personally feel like it would be great to start a chapter here on campus to provide support for all women. It is important for young generations to continue being involved in this movement. It shows a passion for what we believe in. If they can do it, it is possible to start a campus wide movement. If it gains successes, there can be possibilities for other chapters to open up in the community, other universities and in middle and high schools in the area.