UMBC’s 6th Critical Social Justice Week focuses on passion and pathways to have an impact

The UMBC Women’s Center has planned this year’s Critical Social Justice Week (CSJ) around the core idea that “a single light can’t illuminate a city or a nation, but it can ignite a movement that changes the world.”

CSJ: Ignite takes place October 22 26, 2018. The week’s programs have been designed both to tap into the passion people already feel for issues that matter to them and to provide pathways for people who haven’t been engaged in traditional forms of activism to see opportunities to have an impact.

“It’s about being able to share your strengths and skills for activism and social change, and being able to share the message with others,” says Jess Myers, director of UMBC’s Women’s Center.

Building connections, finding a niche

Now in its sixth year, CSJ continues to focus on broad themes of inclusion, equity, engagement, and community. This year’s events will also focus on building new connections and empowering people to explore new ways to do social justice work, whatever that looks like for them.

“It’s really about helping people feel comfortable doing activism and finding their own niche,” says Amelia Meman ’15, UMBC Women’s Center coordinator.

This year’s keynote speaker is Deanna Zandt, a media and technology expert, who will present her talk on Tuesday, October 23, 6:30 9 p.m. in Fine Arts 118. Zandt will focus on “how technology can move social justice forward, and what our roles may be in that effort.”

In response to the current campus conversation about sexual assault response and prevention, Myers says, Zandt will also explore what the university community “can do as a whole to make UMBC better.” Additionally, an introductory panel will precede her talk, featuring alumnae Yoo-Jin Kang ‘15, interdisciplinary studies, and Susie Hinz ‘14, gender and women’s studies, speaking about survivor activism.

Events for all

The technology focus of this year’s keynote reflects a goal of CSJ organizers to engage new participants, including more students in STEM programs. To move this vision forward, the Center for Women in Technology has joined CSJ as a core partner this year, and has planned the workshop “Women in Engineering and Igniting Change,” for Friday, October 26, 12 1 p.m. in ITE 456.

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) provided insight on programming that would be useful and engaging for graduate students, including a new graduate student panel scheduled for Thursday, October 25, 2:30 3:30 p.m. in ITE 456. GSA Vice President Adam Harvey, a physics Ph.D. student, will participate in a discussion on the interconnections of activism and research, and how graduate students whose research doesn’t connect with activism can also work toward “social change or supporting the campus community,” Myers explains.

Additional CSJ events include a Community Art Project (October 23, 11:30 a.m. 2:30 p.m., Academic Row), Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon (October 24, 3 5:30 p.m., Library 259), and knowledge exchange on social media and elections (October 25, 4 5 p.m., Women’s Center). Faculty and staff can attend a training session on Disability as Diversity on the Job (October 23, noon 1 p.m., Engineering 023), and a staff panel on October 25 will explore activism in the workplace (1 2 p.m., ITE 456). Kate Drabinski, senior lecturer in gender and women’s studies, will also reprise her popular CSJ Walking Tour on October 26 (meeting in the Women’s Center at noon).

Myers encourages all UMBC community members to view the full CSJ schedule for information on the events of most interest to them. “What I’m hoping is our participants will realize that their work does matter,” regardless of what issue they are focusing on or how they are approaching it, says Myers. “Our events are accessible for everyone, including those who are just beginning this journey.”

Featured image: UMBC students, faculty, and staff participate in group discussions during a CSJ 2017 workshop. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.