Campus Action Corner

(From The Campus Lantern – March 27, 2014)

As I have stated in previous installments of “Campus Action Corner,” I am currently taking part in an internship called Campus Action through Planned Parenthood of Southern New England with another Eastern student, Deanna Jimenez. As interns, our jobs are to be voices for reproductive justice on Eastern’s campus. Reproductive justice mixes reproductive rights with social justice – we advocate for freedom in reproduction and reproductive health for every social class, gender, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, etc.

First off, I would like to plug an event that Campus Action is hosting along with the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the History Club. On Monday, March 31st, we will be holding a National Women’s History Month Panel from 1-3PM in the Johnson Room in the Smith Library. Panelists include Eastern Connecticut State University professors and a representative from Planned Parenthood. Topics being covered include the history of women and feminism, reproductive justice, and sexism. After the panel discussion, the audience will also have the opportunity to take part in a Q+A session with the panelists. There will also be lots of free Cafémantic food. It’s going to be an enlightening, enjoyable event and we hope to see you all there!

With the end of March in mind, there are a few dates in April to keep on your radar that pertain to reproductive justice. To start with, April is GYT (Get Yourself Tested) Month and STD Awareness Month. The GYT campaign is co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood and MTV, and aims to encourage young folks to push against the negative stigma of STD testing. According to GYT’s official website, http://www.itsyoursexlife.com/gyt, the campaign “is about knowing yourself, and knowing your status, while carving your own path in life.” Campus Action is going to be collaborating with the Black Student Union (BSU) to hold an event in which free STD-testing will be available for Eastern students. The tentative date for the event is Thursday, April 10th, so mark your calendars!

National Volunteer Week is April 6-12. According to Points of Light, an organization that is dedicated to volunteer service, the purpose of the week is to inspire, recognize and encourage people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. National Volunteer Week is “about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals.” There are many volunteer opportunities here at Eastern; be sure to contact the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) to volunteer at some point during this week!

World Health Day 2014 is on Monday, April 7th. According to the World Health Organization’s website, the theme of World Health Day this year is protection against vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue. Common vectors that transmit such diseases are mosquitoes, sandflies, and ticks. You can easily be protected against vector-borne diseases by “sleeping under a bed-net, wearing a long-sleeved shirt and trousers and using insect repellent” (http://www.who.int).

April 15-21 is National Minority Cancer Awareness Week. The week was established on April 8, 1987 by the U.S. House of Representatives Joint Resolution 119. It was explained in the Congressional Record that “[w]hile cancer affects men and women of every age, race, ethnic background, and economic class, the disease has a disproportionately severe impact on minorities and the economically disadvantaged.” The goal of National Minority Cancer Awareness Week is to increase awareness of prevention and treatment among populations that are at greater risk of developing cancer (www.socialworkers.org).

April is also National Minority Health Month. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health (OMH), during the month of April, awareness will be raised “about the health disparities that continue to affect racial and ethnic minorities.” The 2014 theme of National Minority Health Month is “Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity.” This theme “is a call to action, a charge for all of us to unite towards a common goal of improving the health of our communities” (www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov).

In addition, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the purpose of the campaign is to “raise awareness about sexual violence and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent it.” During April, SAAM encourages young folks to use their unique voice to discuss how everyone can impact our future and prevent sexual violence. To learn more about SAAM, their official blog can be found at http://www.nsvrc.org/blogs/saam. For a campus reference, Starsheemar Byrum of Eastern Connecticut State University’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) can be contacted at any time at her email, byrums@easternct.edu, to talk about sexual violence and abuse.

Deanna and I will be on campus this year putting on different events centered on reproductive justice. For each event, we are going to be collaborating with a student club on campus, the National Organization for Women (NOW). NOW meetings are Mondays at 6PM in the Student Center in room 107. We’re excited to work together with everyone on campus for the remainder of the semester, and we look forward to hopefully seeing you at NOW meetings and Campus Action events! Feel free to email us at ecsucampusaction@gmail.com for more information.

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F*cking Awesome Women Wednesday: Gloria Steinem

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I know that Gloria Steinem is a feminism activist who co-founded Ms. magazine, but other than that I’m not too familiar with what other f*cking awesome accomplishments she’s made. So, I decided to write about her for FAWW to learn more. Enjoy!

Gloria Steinem is a world-renowned writer, lecturer, editor, and feminist activist. She was born on March 25, 1934 (Happy belated birthday, Gloria!) in Toledo, Ohio. Since Gloria’s father worked as an antique dealer, the family took many trips around the United States in a trailer during her youth. Her mother worked as a journalist and teacher before she suffered from severe depression, which led to a mental breakdown. Gloria’s parents divorced when she was a child. She spent much of her youth struggling financially and caring for her mother.

During her senior year of high school, Gloria moved to Washington, D.C. to live with her older sister. Soon after, she attended Smith College, studying government and political affairs. After graduating from college Phi Beta Kappa, Steinem studied in India for two years on a post-graduate fellowship. This experience helped her realize how high the standard of living is in the United States, and how much suffering there is in the world.

Steinem started her journalism career writing mostly female-oriented “fluff” articles on topics such as make-up and fashion. Her breakthrough as a journalist, however, was in May of 1963 when she wrote about her experience as working in expose as a Playboy Bunny. In her article, she talked about the hard word, unfair wages, and harsh conditions that the “Bunnies” endured on the job.

A few years later, in 1968, Gloria worked for New York magazine as a political columnist and feature article writer. In 1972, she co-founded Ms., a liberal feminist magazine. It was the first of its kind to discuss topics such as gender bias, sexual harassment, and political candidates’ stances on women’s issues. Steinem remained one of the magazine’s editors for fifteen years; today she serves as a consulting editor.

In 1971, Steinem was one of the activists who founded the National Women’s Political Caucus, a multi-partisan organization dedicated to increasing the participation of women in politics and getting women elected. She has also been involved with founding a countless number of other organizations, such as Women’s Action Alliance, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, and Choice USA. As an activist, Steinem has worked with issues such as race and sex inequality, abortion rights, equal pay for women, and domestic violence.

Gloria is a breast cancer survivor; she was diagnosed in the mid-1980s but overcame the disease.

Steinem has also published a number of best-selling books, including Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem and Moving Beyond Words.

Because of her work in activism, Steinem is one of the most famous women of second-wave feminism. She has been known to refer to feminism as simple “humanism” and, likewise, a “revolution.”

“If you say, I’m for equal pay, that’s a reform. But if you say, I’m a feminist, that’s a transformation of society.” – Gloria Steinem

“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” – Gloria Steinem

(I couldn’t choose just one quote this week; I loved both of these!)

Sources: 1, 2 & 3

F*cking Awesome Women Wednesday: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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When one of my friends informed me that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was an Eastern alumna, I knew exactly who I’d be writing about for my third installment of F*cking Awesome Women Wednesday. I was excited to learn more about Chimamanda – I hope you are too!

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on September 15, 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria. She was the fifth child born to Grace Ifeoma and James Nwoye Adichie, her Igbo parents. Her childhood home was in Nsukka, Nigeria – her house itself it was formerly occupied by the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe.

Chimamanda’s secondary education was completed at the University of Nigeria’s school. Her father worked as the first professor of statistics for the university. Her mother was the first female registrar at the university, as well. Chimamanda continued her studies at the university; for over a year she studied pharmacy and medicine there. While she attended the University of Nigeria, she also served as editor of The Compass, a magazine run by the university’s Catholic medical students.

When she was nineteen years old, Chimamanda decided to attend college in the United States. For two years, she studied communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia on a scholarship. However, she ended up transferring to Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, Connecticut and graduating summa cum laude with degrees in communication and political science in 2001. Afterwards, she received her master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

During her senior year at Eastern, Chimamanda started writing her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, which was eventually released in October 2003. Half of a Yellow Sun, her second novel, is set before and during the Biafran War, also known as the Nigerian Civil War. Chimamanda’s books have been published in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Nigeria.

During the 2005-2006 academic year, Chimamanda was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University. She also received her master’s degree in African Studies from Yale University in 2008. The Thing around Your Neck, Chimamanda’s collection of short-stories, was published in 2009.

Chimamanda has won almost twenty awards, most of them literary-based. She has won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in 2004, the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction in 2007, and 2013 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, among many other awards.

In April of 2013, Chimamanda delivered a TED Talk called “We Should All Be Feminists.” She touched upon issues that women in Africa and women throughout the world face each day. Beyoncé sampled a portion of the TED Talk in the song “Flawless” from her 2013 self-titled album. To watch the TED Talk, click here. To listen and watch the video for “Flawless,” click here.

Today, Chimamanda is married. She spends time in both Nigeria, where she teaches writing workshops, and in the United States.

“I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change, but in addition to being angry, I’m also hopeful because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, TED Talk: “We Should All Be Feminists”

Sources: 1 & 2

F*cking Awesome Women Wednesday: Mae C. Jemison

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In elementary school we were given the assignment to write a report on whoever we wanted. As I browsed through my school’s library, I was drawn to a book with an astronaut on the cover. When I looked at the title of the book and saw that I shared a first name with this woman, I knew I had to do my report on her. Now, a decade later, I’m brushing up on my Mae C. Jemison facts. I hope you enjoy this installment of F*cking Awesome Women Wednesday.

Mae C. Jemison is both a pioneer of the sciences and a dedicated philanthropist. She was born on October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama to Charlie Jemison and Dorothy (Green) Jemison. Her father was a roofer and carpenter and her mother an elementary school teacher. When she was only three years old, Jemison’s family moved to Chicago, Illinois, and that is where she now considers home.

Growing up, Jemison’s parents encouraged her to pursue both her education and personal talents. From an early age she was interested in reading books about science, specifically astronomy. She graduated from Morgan Park High School in 1973 and attended Stanford University on a National Achievement Scholarship. At Stamford, Jemison was involved in many clubs and extracurricular activities. She was head of the Black Student Union and participated in dance and theater productions. In 1977 she received her Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering.

After Stamford, Jemison attended Cornell University Medical College. During her time there she studied in Cuba and Kenya and worked at a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand. After getting her M.D. in 1981, Jemison interned at Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center, where she later worked as a general practitioner. In the early 1980s, she served as the Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia. She also taught and did medical research in the countries.

In October of 1985, Jemison decided to follow her childhood dreams. She applied to NASA’s astronaut training program; two years later, she was accepted. On June 4, 1987, Jemison became the first African-American woman to be admitted into the astronaut training program. After training for over a year, she officially became the first African-American female astronaut. Her job at NASA was “science mission specialist” – she was responsible for conducting crew-related scientific experiments on the space shuttle. On September 12, 1992, Jemison was the first African American woman to fly into space. She travelled on the Endeavour with six other astronauts on mission STS47.

Jemison has won numerous awards, including the 1988 Essence Science and Technology Award and the Ebony Black Achievement Award in 1992. She has also been a member of many impactful organizations – American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Center for the Prevention of Childhood Malnutrition, just to name a few. In 1998, a school in Detroit, Michigan was named after her.

After she decided to retire from being an astronaut, Jemison took up a job as a teaching fellow at Dartmouth. In addition, she established the Jemison Group, a company that researches, develops and markets advanced technologies.

“You have as much right as anyone else to be in this world and to be in any profession you want. … You don’t have to wait for permission.” – Mae C. Jemison

Source: 1

F*cking Awesome Women Wednesday: Nana Asma’u

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For my first installment of F*cking Awesome Women Wednesday, I chose to highlight a woman I had never heard of until a few days ago. I hope you enjoy learning about her as much as I did.

Nana Asma’u bint Shehu Usman dan Fodiyo, or simply “Nana Asma’u,” rooted the importance of education and created a sense of belonging in Nigerian women. She was born in 1793 to Usman dan Fodio. Her father was the founder of Sokoto Caliphate, an Islamic spiritual community in Northern Nigeria. Nana Asma’u acted as a sort of counselor to her brother when he took the leader role of Caliph. In fact, she outlived most of the founding generation of the Caliphate, which meant that she was of much importance to later rulers.

Being educated in Qur’anic studies herself, Nana Asma’u firmly believed in the value of universal education. She spoke four languages, and she had a positive reputation as a leading scholar. For much of her adult life, Nana Asma’u was responsible for the religious education of Muslim women. Around 1830, she formed a group of women teachers (jajis) whose main goal was to travel around and educate women of the Caliphate. They based their teachings on her writings. The jajis and the women they taught were known as yan-taru, or “those who congregate together, the sisterhood.”

Over a span of forty years, Nana Asma’u wrote over 60 works, many of which are poems written in Arabic, the Fula language and Hausa, all written in the Arabic script. Her poems of guidance became pertinent tools for the teaching of the founding principles of the Caliphate. Her father believed in a strong emphasis on women leaders and women’s rights within the community ideals of the Sunnah and Islamic law, and those same beliefs were apparent in Nana Asma’u’s writings. Nana Asma’u also witnessed many battles of the Fulani War of 1804-1808. She wrote about these experiences in her prose narrative Wakar Gewaye (“The Journey”).

Nana Asma’u died in 1864, and was buried near her father in the city of Sokoto in northwest Nigeria.

Today, many Islamic women’s organizations, schools, and meeting halls in Northern Nigeria are named after Nana Asma’u. The republishing and translation of her works has emphasized the literary value to her writing, and the overall importance of her teachings.

“Women, a warning. Leave not your homes without good reason. You may go out to get food or to seek education. In Islam, it is a religious duty to seek knowledge Women may leave their homes freely for this.” – Nana Asma’u, A Warning, II, 1856

Sources: 1 & 2