Located on the bottom floor of the Commons, the Women’s Center is one of UMBC’s hidden treasures on campus. It is the only center dedicated specifically to women in the University System of Maryland, which includes 12 public colleges and universities, and it is one of two women’s centers in all of the colleges in Maryland.
UMBC graduate student and Special Projects coordinator of the Women’s Center, Amelia Meman, said, “We are unique because we are tasked to do incredibly difficult work. Originally, we were created to assist women who were returning to school. Now we’ve broadened what it means by talking about intersectional feminism. We also cover LGBTQ+ issues, issues of race, ethnicity, documentation, as well as sexual violence. We are a place where all of these marginalized communities that do exist on campus can feel supported and at home even when it doesn’t always feel very comfortable or hospitable at UMBC or in the world.”
The center is home to several student organizations and provides numerous sources for students on campus including identity-related discussion groups like the Women of Color Coalition, and Between Women and Spectrum, which is a group for trans and non-binary identifying students.
These groups provide various ways for UMBC students in marginalized communities to interact and grow a community together. They also provide round table series and other events that focus on raising awareness on different issues in the community.
Briscoe Turner, a freshman psychology major who is a member of the Women of Color Coalition, said, “I think the coalition is important because it provides women of color a source of support and empowerment. You are around people who truly understand the challenges you face everyday.”
Along with support and awareness groups, the Women’s Center hosts two major events during the school year. This week marks the Women’s Center Fifth Annual Critical Social Justice (CSJ) program. This year, the Women’s Center focused the week’s events around building individual and collective resistance and resilience through the theme of “Rise.” They will be discussing the need for activism as well as providing tools that allow the campus community to be resilient in social justice work.
Chalking for Change is the first event of the week. Taking place on academic row, the center invites people to come out and answer the question, “What do you rise for?”
Other events of the week include a panel discussion about the idea of resistance and resilience as well as a public art display of The Monument Quilt, which is an on-going collection of stories from survivors of rape. The quilt will be displayed on Erickson Lawn on Thursday Oct. 26. A quilt-making workshop will also be held in the Albin O. Kuhn Library that Thursday.
The CSJ Keynote speaker, Adrienne Keene of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, writes about cultural appropriation and stereotypes of Native peoples in pop culture on her blog ‘Native Appropriations.’ She will speak at campus on Tuesday, Oct. 24.
Meman said, “Given the political atmosphere we’re in today, I hope we, the Women’s Center, can be a voice for the people who are are negatively impacted by the atmosphere. We want CSJ and the Women’s center to be a space where you can feel empowered.”