Our Team Scheme Team
Co-Editor: Alice Wilder
facebook.com/UNCSiren twitter.com/uncsiren firstname.lastname@example.org uncsiren.com
Co-Editor: Amanda Kubic Art Director: Lisa Dzera Feminist Community Engagement: Callie Wallace Feminist Community Engagement: Liv Linn
Design & Photography
About The Siren Our Mission The Siren is a student-produced publication at UNC-Chapel Hill that promotes a feminist perspective on issues surrounding gender, identity, sexuality, and human rights. We provide readers resources for discovering, developing, and challenging their self-identities and life philosophies by exposing the daily world to the glaring examination of feminist critique. In this way, we aim to address the challenges of inequality not only globally and nationally, but particularly within the UNC-CH community.
Why “The Siren”? In Greek mythology, the Sirens were enchanted creatures sporting the head of a woman and the body of a bird. With their irresistible songs, the Sirens lured sea mariners toward land and rocky graves. We learn in “The Odyssey” that the Sirens’ songs, while deadly, were also full of wisdom. Hearing this, the hero Odysseus decides to try his fate by tying himself to the mast of his ship, but not before having his sailors put wax in their ears to protect them. Courage and restraint enable Odysseus to hear and learn from the Sirens’ songs. He is then empowered to change his destiny. He makes it past the islands safely. We at The Siren want to help change our future for the better as well. At first our message, like that of the Sirens,’ may evoke fear. The terms feminism, racial equality, women’s rights, gender equality, gay rights, and civil rights may cause many people to turn a deaf ear, like Odysseus’ sailors. But if you take the time to read our stories, you’ll find our songs full of wisdom and experience. We wish you good reading and hope our songs might inspire you as well.
Table of Contents 04 07 08 11 12 16 19 20 22 24 27 28 31 32 34 36 39 40 43 44
Tia Holmes Sierra Atwater Womyn of WXYC Christina Townsend Dakota Powell Mars Ee Ivana Chan Kimber Thomas Tanya Jisa Christi Hurt Sarah Molina Women in Comedy Terri Phoenix Kelsea McLain Anne Feng June Beshea Cecilia Polanco Shilpa Kancharla Anisha Padma Dr. Tanya Shields
13 23 41
Dear Reader, Welcome to the Fall 2015 issue of The Siren. Our previous issue focused on the core problems we see at UNC-Chapel Hill and across North Carolina: racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, classism, and a continued disregard for the voices of young people. In this issue, we aim to shine a light on those who are making moves to transform our home into a more just place. We asked our community to tell us who in their lives exudes love, who they look up to, and who they know does the hard, unglamorous work. You, the UNC community, came through. You shared stories of friends who make each day easier for you, professors who help you survive, activists who practice radical self care, and much more. We chose this theme because it is important for us to be moving towards a better world, not just away from an oppressive one. We do this work because we know that a better world is possible. The people profiled in this issue are just a small sample of all those in our community who are taking part in creating that better world. Thank you to our writers, editors, photographers, and designers for working so hard on this issue. Thank you to our alumni for their support; they are still are core part of the Siren, and we are grateful for their continued love and support. Love, Amanda and Alice
Tia Holmes STORY & PHOTOS BY ELLIE RODRIGUEZ
Tia Holmes is a first-year from Cary, North Carolina. Holmes has Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, which means that she has mixed muscle tone; some parts of her muscles are loose while others are tight.
Most people like Tia are born with cerebral palsy (CP), or develop it very soon after birth. CP can affect people in different ways. ome people have problems with motor function, while others have difficulty with communication. While attending The National Youth Inclusion Summit at age twelve, Holmes helped create the “I Am Norm” campaign. Tia, an intended computer science major, has continued to advocate for people with disabilities on campus since arriving at UNC.
Ellie Rodriguez: What are you most passionate about? Tia Holmes: I’m really passionate about the inclusion of all people but especially people with disabilities. We all got together in Washington DC [for the inclusion summit] and basically spent the entire weekend trying to form a campaign or an idea or a message to spread across a nation having to do with disabilities. The result of that weekend was our campaign, “I Am Norm.” “I Am Norm” is basically a play off of ‘I am normal,’ but we write a name tag that says “hi, I am norm.” Disability is something that makes people different, but we’re all different—no matter if it’s eye color or hair color or where you’re from. Different is the norm. ER: What are you doing now on Chapel Hill’s campus? TH: I’m currently part of Advocates for Carolina, which is the inclusion advocacy group at Chapel Hill. I would just like to continue to spread awareness and educate people about disability, identity, what it means to be disabled, and I hope to change the perception of people who don’t have a lot of experience or exposure to people with disabilities. I would really like to continue making Chapel Hill a more diverse and openminded campus. I want to make it less awkward and scary to approach someone who walks or talks or looks differently than you.
teachers on how to inclusively teach. They are teaching people what inclusion is and then giving them resources on how they can implement an inclusive environment into the classroom. ER: What has been your greatest difficulty? TH: Personally, my disability is something that isn’t able to be hidden and people definitely judge me instantly whenever they meet me or see me on the bus. People definitely stare. People underestimate me and what I can do, what my abilities are. Sometimes it gets to me. I start to have a doubt or I get really angry at people. But then I realize that the only way to overcome people having these negative stereotypes is doing this inclusion work and advocating and teaching people what disability is so that it’s something people aren’t afraid of. People are just not sure how to approach people with obvious physical disabilities. I think that with inclusive advocacy we can start to overcome that and change people’s perceptions. ER: What are your goals for increasing advocacy and education about people with disabilities? What type of world, ideally, do you want to see? TH: I think a big part of it for me is that I want my children to not feel ashamed, but when they have friends over I want to live in a world where having a mom or a dad with a very obvious disability isn’t scary. [She doesn’t want her kids’ friends to say] “Ooh I can’t go over to their house because I don’t know what to say.” I want it to be a more normal part of our everyday life. I think diversity is a huge thing that we need to work on in the U.S. A lot of our schools and churches and programs are very one sided, not being diverse. I think that inclusion and the idea that we can all get along and we can all have common interests, that’s what I want my children to grow up on. ER: Can you speak to your experience with the difficulties you’ve encountered as both a woman and a woman with disabilities?
ER: How do you plan to continue your efforts? TH: I want to work with organizations who helped fund the conference. The big one that I work with now is Kids Included Together, which is a really great group out in California that trains
TH: I definitely feel the difficulties of being a woman but not in regard to being disabled. I see it mainly in my major. Most of the people I graduate with will be male. There are definitely stigmas about [being a woman in the computer
sciences]. I haven’t seen it that much in terms of disability but, okay so women with physical disabilities are sometimes seen as less or weaker than men with disabilities. A man in a wheelchair who’s wheeling himself around, people are like “oh wow he is very strong, wheeling himself around. Oh he must be really fit and really strong.” And then you see a girl in a wheelchair. I definitely think that people would say that the woman is less physically strong in terms of the wheelchair. Women in computer sciences is definitely a growing field, but it needs a lot more exposure. People just don’t know that it’s an issue. And they don’t know how many great women are making amazing impacts and breaking ground in science and math. The people that we hear about are typically men, but there are so many people who are women who have made significant discoveries or come up with amazing theories. ER: How do you imagine our world changing to be more understanding and inclusive? TH: I really think that technology is something that will impact—well it already has impacted—the world. I think that we can do a lot of great things for the environment, for medicine, for people with disabilities, with technology. Technology is a huge field that you can really make an impact. I really want to use technology to make a difference in someone else’s life. Tech is something that I had to learn at a much younger age. I had to learn because it was the only way for me to keep up in class and write full-length essays. Even though it was hard learning the tech so early, it definitely paid off. Tech allows people with various disabilities to be able to interact with the world in a way that would not have been imaginable 20 years ago. People who aren’t able to speak can now use a voice box or now move a mouse with their brain. It’s just amazing how far technology has come and how big of an impact it has had on, not only people with disabilities, but like everyone. Technology is something that’s for everyone.
Sierra Atwater 1. What is one of your proudest accomplishments and why?
The summer after my first year, I earned the opportunity to do research at Johns Hopkins University in the Chemical and Biomolecular engineering lab. Aside from this being a paid internship opportunity, most of my peers were rising juniors and seniors whereas I was simply a rising sophomore at the time. My research project focused on looking at different cytokines correlated with cancer cell motility and my only background on the subject material was the knowledge I had gained from Bio101, Chem 101 and Chem 102. That summer, I was able to learn how to do cutting edge research and really understand a quite intricate scientific topic. I was able to then go on and present that research at a conference later in the year. This was one of my proudest accomplishments because it really showed that I could do unimaginable things with hard work.
2. What is your personal mission statement?
â€œThe best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of othersâ€? -Mahatma Gandhi
3. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
In the future, I hope to be a researching physician in some form of pediatric specialty. I have lately been interested in pediatric oncology because of my immense involvement in an amazing organization on campus known as CPALS. Carolina Pediatric Attention Love and Support is a club at UNC as well as a hospital volunteer opportunity that aims to serve patients in the pediatric oncology and hematology clinic.
Womyn of WXYC B Y S H I L PA K A N C H A R L A
WXYC is UNC’s student-run radio station, known for its eclectic range of music and goal of diversifying the community’s music tastes. This semester, I was lucky enough to be hired as a new DJ. I’ve found the womyn in this community to be incredibly supportive, loving, and encouraging, and through these profiles I want to offer a voice to the female side of WXYC. Name: Viviane Feldman Year: Junior Major: Photojournalism Minors: French & Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies DJ since Fall 2014
Name: Olivia Branscum Year: Class of 2015 (Graduated last May) Majors: Philosophy & Studio Art DJ since Spring 2012
Name: Kat Kucera Year: Senior Major: Women’s and Gender Studies Minor: Comparative Literature DJ since Spring 2012 Name: Bridget Walsh Year: Class of 2015 (Graduated last May) Major: Journalism (Graphic Design Sequence) Minors: Studio Art, Music Music Director and DJ at WXYC Name: Kaia Marie Findlay Year: Sophomore Major: Environmental Studies DJ since Spring 2015 Shilpa Kancharla: Have you felt as if being a disc jockey is something done mostly by males? Olivia Branscum: In my opinion, this specific manner of caring about music feels distinctly and unavoidably masculine-oriented. In order for this ideal state of the field to come about, it’s important for individuals to actively demonstrate
that ways of loving music–emotional ways, disparate ways, confusing and idiosyncratic and personal ways—ways that are often described as “feminine”—are not only acceptable, but are indeed vital to the continued health and vibrancy of the DJ community. Kat Kucera: When I became music director last year I was only the second woman ever to hold the position and the first since the 80s. I don’t think that was a coincidence. There’s a sense that the people with the most encyclopedic knowledge, or the “authorities” on music, so to speak, are mostly men, and therefore the station’s sound has been historically curated by mostly men. SK: How has DJing for WXYC impacted your womynhood? Viviane Feldman: I got to develop really close relationships with other womyn-identifying people at the station and we bonded over this collective feeling that we were being underrepresented. I’ve learned that being a womyn is powerful, creative, innovative,
yet also feels marginalizing and sometimes disappointing. I’ve seen reviews of girl rock bands from the 90s and I only see men reviewing them saying basically that it’s all shit. I’m reading reviews from these dudes who, to me, have no idea what they’re talking about, or they’re trying to be exclusionary just to be exclusionary. That’s not what music is about. It’s about opening your eyes to other people’s deeper emotions, their expression of life and their thoughts. Bridget Walsh: Over the four years I’ve been a DJ, I’ve learned that approaching a kind of daunting music community with the mindset that it is impossible to know everyone, you should use the community around you to continue learning and growing. There is no perfect taste, and enthusiasm towards learning is infectious. I’ve learned that from a lot of people in WXYC and I hope that WXYC can continue moving in the direction of being an inclusive, mind-opening experience for the people out there ready to dig in. Kaia Marie Findlay: [Being a womyn] means
being really proud of my gender and all the things that I experience. I think WXYC has some really badass womyn, and they inspire me every day. I am also inspired when I explore the shelves and I run across music by Hazel Dickens and Elizabeth Cotten. I feel that they are important and meaningful to me, and I play them to help other people recognize that as well. Every womyn has a story, and our shelves at the station are chock full of them. SK: Do you believe the status quo of the station represents gender equally? BW: WXYC has made very noticeable moves to move towards a more equal representation of genders by hiring more womyn DJs, having womyn in management roles, making sure that womyn live DJ our events and parties, and having female artists perform at our events. I came into WXYC when a lot of things started moving in that direction–away from the dominating white male presence and more into a diverse community. Still got loads of work to do, but it’s going in a good direction. KF: The female DJs I know are so awesome that they totally hold their own. I also think WXYC does a good job of uplifting voices of both genders, so even if womyn are slightly underrepresented they are not ignored. SK: How does WXYC promote the celebration of womynhood and feminism? BW: [The WXYC Women’s Collective] is a place where womyn can share mixes, music, events, articles, etc. to foster being a womyn in a creative community.
KK: Womyn artists are represented, womyn of color are represented, and we don’t rely on large corporate labels to stock our new music playbox. On the whole, WXYC has made a great effort to push back against the idea of the stuck-up white, hetero, cis, male music snob on all fronts in recent years. SK: How would you encourage more womyn to get involved with WXYC? VF: As one of the promotions managers at WXYC, I am really trying to actively give a diverse and welcoming face to our community through social media and photography. I believe WXYC is inclusive, open, and ready to accept all viewpoints about music and the world around music. I want womyn at UNC to know that we at the station need what they have to bring to the table as far as musical taste and perspective on the industry! KK: WXYC is a community of people who are dedicated to creating a safe, inclusive space for people of all identities. Our management team is social-justice minded and it really comes through in our programming and events. This place has really been a huge part of my life and I am a different, more confident person for it. I would encourage womyn to email info@wxyc. org if they are interested in applying. Hiring happens at the beginning of each semester. KF: I would encourage other females, (or anyone for that matter), if they want to explore. I think DJing is a great way to expand one’s view about music. But DJing doesn’t only include exploring your music tastes—it helps you find your voice.
Christina Townsend Photo Credit: Lauren Cowart
1. What is one of your proudest accomplishments and why?
I am a firm believer that our proudest accomplishments often derive from our most difficult challenges. Mine came from a leadership experience I had this past year. As Carolina United Co-Director, I was responsible for bringing participants together from all backgrounds and experiences and creating a safe and inclusive space for our in-depth discussions on the meanings of diversity and leadership. Going into this position, I was aware, yet not fully aware, of how rewarding and demanding this new role was going to be. Heading an organization in college, particularly my junior year, challenged and stretched me in so many ways. There were times when I thought I wasn’t going to make it, but I am proud to say that because of an awesome support system I persevered and carried on the mission of Carolina United for another year. Being a part of the Carolina United family for three years and welcoming 73 new participants into the Carolina United family are accomplishments that I will always be proud of.
2. What is your personal mission statement?
Self care is my personal mission statement. When I go home at the end of the day, I want to be 100% satisfied with the person that I am becoming. For me, sometimes this means having meaningful, random conversations for an hour instead of doing homework or working out. Or if I have been working too hard, I make sure to stop and binge-watch Parks and Recreation for three hours while eating a loaf of bread. Ru Paul once said, “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?” My parents named me “Christina Joy Townsend” and if I embrace self-care in my life, I will be better able to bring “joy” to the lives of others. Also, it’s worth being said that when I am the best version of myself, I exude the joy and love that my friends and family have brought to my life. Spending time with friends and family is vastly important to my self-care routine as well.
3. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
This might be the worst question to ask a senior. However, although it’s hard to see what the future has in store, I am incredibly optimistic. My short-term goals involve running for Miss UNC 2015 and planning my service project, which is a two-part professional development initiative called Perfectly Suited. I plan on bringing my project to fruition in the spring semester whether or not I win, because I truly believe that my project will positively impact UNC students and allow me to continue giving back to my community before I graduate in May. My long-term goals are less clear as I search for jobs and try to figure out what I am doing after graduation. But I know that wherever I end up, I will continue to grow as an individual, be challenged, and embrace a new life while still holding on to my Tar Heel roots.
Dakota Powell is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill double majoring in public policy and womenâ€™s and gender studies. On campus, they are actively involved in Students United for Reproductive Justice. Dakota plans to graduate at the end of this semester, but, in the meantime, they are working on building a stronger drag community. Dakota and their fellow queens believe that they have built a drag family unlike any other in the Triangle right here on Franklin Street. These photos represent Dakotaâ€™s transformation into Lady Jane Scandal.
PHOTOS BY JESSICA PORTER
PHOTOS BY JESSICA PORTER
Lady Jane Scandal
Mars Ee: Root Sister STORY & PHOTOS BY ALICE WILDER
A conversation with Mars Ee who is, in their own words, â€œa queer femme in the south trying to dig into to their rootsâ€? through the formation of Root Sister: a shop selling herbal products such as tea, salves, and other medicines to heal and energize. They are also a birth worker, a support and resource for all aspects of parenthood: the decision, the pregnancy, nesting, the birth and/or greeting of the child, and early parenthood.
Alice Wilder: When did you begin to consider starting Root Sister? When did you make the leap between dreaming about it and deciding to really start that journey? Mars Ee: I guess the seed has been really growing for about a year now. In the recovery of some deep depression, I started to get a little obsessed with reframing questions around what “normal” meant for my own bodily and mental health needs, what my physical space consisted of, what I was ingesting, and a need to return to an opening, magickal spirituality. All of those questions eventually led me to a study of herbalism–the relationship between person and plant for healing purposes–which is where I am today. What a beautiful place to be. I started to put some of my book learning into practice by crafting salves for myself and family that upcoming fall, beginning with the Sister’s Hands salve for my anxiety/panic and some firstaid salve. I simultaneously had such good results/ felt such joy in the creating/ got such wonderful reactions from people when they saw them that I had the huge gut feeling to KEEP GOING. I didn’t quite know what that meant yet as far as Root Sister, but I did know that it felt so good to be creating and giving. I was also beginning to do real work as a birthworker and thinking about what I wanted my path to eventually look like on my own terms. Lots of dreaming and scheming and conversations later, I realized how well herbal medicine, birthwork, and community care worked together, how I had been almost subconsciously developing these skills alongside each other, and how it speaks directly to paths that my ancestors had led before me. It just all fit together so perfectly.
AW: How does Root Sister connect with your experience as a birthworker? ME: It’s all intertwined learning. I feel I must pay deep homage and love to the grannies who have come before me and I continue to learn from, who were witness to life’s beginnings and endings and tended to all kinds of maladies and experiences in between. I believe that to be my best birthworker, I must be available and honor life as a whole. Continuing to learn from and honor the plant medicine, the seasons, the spirits–it will only make me better equipped and stronger for myself and my work in all its capacities. I try to bring learning from both back home always, where they continue to grow together. AW: What drew you to the name Root Sister? ME: It’s a deeply grateful nod to and also reminder to myself to stay dedicated to my magickal practices of ancestral reverence and folk magick, as well as some personal commentary on gender and community relationship. Black root workers were, are, and will be important spiritual and practical roles in community health, particularly in the south. So Root Sister is quite literally me–a queer femme in the south trying to dig into their roots, both personally and in the larger community, gratefully with knowledge that is embedded in these bones and stones. I’m here next to you with my hands open and full.
It has been slow moving for a lot of reasons, but the summer after graduation–this past summer of 2015–I decided to take the leap into making this something I really put love and attention to and try to support myself with–if only slightly financially, then at least spiritually and emotionally. So this fall is Root Sister’s first “official”debut, but it’s been growing for a bit!
AW: Why are you pulled towards this kind of work? How does making one of your products make you feel? ME: I have known for a while I wanted to be involved in some kind of health. I flitted through ideas of social work, physician, etc. but I’ve always felt so far out of the industrial system, haha! Those structures of streamlining healing practices, chunking up our experiences to “relevant” pieces, standardizing certain bodies, dictating my available tools to increasingly invasive technologies...it just doesn’t feel right for me and the kind of work I want to do. Herbalism just kind of appeared to me. It’s becoming a skill for me to translate my deep love and care for folks into tangible things in a way that feels right.
I tend to make my crafts late at night, alone in my kitchen in silence, typically on the full or new moon…it’s such a blissful, calm time for me. All of my struggles with feeling powerful, creative, autonomous…they dissolve and I am there, stirring oils and light on my feet. The process has become so organic, so much fun in the trial and
error, the pages on pages of notebook scribblings for recipe ideas, notes to myself, things to do further research on...I highly recommend making medicines for yourself, ha! AW: What was the most surprising thing you learned from starting Root Sister? ME: That I can do this! How organic and easy this is growing, how much fun and expansive it is. How powerful my own magick is, and my growing intuition. That despite student loans, capitalism, respectability politics around health and post-grad life, I am still in charge of my life and how I want to live it. That I don’t have to wait until “down the road” to follow my passion. I’m also so wonderfully surprised by the amount of support I have received from my community across the country! I am so grateful and inspired to continue to serve them better–thank you all deeply! Buy products at http://rootsisterapothecary. bigcartel.com.
Ivana Chan 1. What is one of your proudest accomplishments and why?
Between the summer of 2014 and the fall of 2015, I worked as an active Co-Chair of Rethink: Psychiatric Illness. It was the first year for this young non-profit mental health awareness and advocacy organization without its original Co-Founders, Viviana Bonilla Lopez and Stephanie Nieves. The process of transitioning leadership roles meant taking on a wide variety of responsibilities that taught me valuable lessons about time management, social responsibility, conscientious language use, and more. Throughout the semester, I was organizing weekly meetings and monthly trainings, forming collaborations with other groups, getting interviewed as a Co-Chair of Rethink and creating spaces to talk about mental health awareness. On occasion, it felt like a full-time job. Although Rethink may not be the biggest organization on UNCâ€™s campus and my experience included its fair share of challenges, I am truly proud to have had the opportunity to learn more about leadership and mental health. While I used to think that leaving a â€œheelprintâ€? at UNC meant starting something exciting and new, I now believe that it can also mean maintaining, improving, and strengthening the many incredible organizations and structures that already exist.
2. What is your personal mission statement?
To promote open mindedness with a freshness of appreciation and curiosity by trying anything at least once and taking time to reflect on the experience.
3. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I dream of developing a language competency program that could be applied universally and integrated into schools, universities, business training programs, and more. The cruxes of many problems in the world seem to stem from miscommunication and careless use of language. With increasing globalization and opportunities for cross-cultural immersion, I imagine that providing access to educational programs on language sensitivities would promote conscientious thinking and awareness of critical social issues.
Kimber Thomas BY LIV LINN
Kimber Thomas is a native of Jackson, Mississippi. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Alcorn State University and her master’s degree in Afro-American Studies from UCLA. She previously worked as an oral historian for Jackson State University’s Margaret Walker Center and for the Southern Foodways Alliance. This past summer, Kimber completed a research project in Mound Bayou, MS, with the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance. Currently, she serves as a field scholar for the Southern Oral History Program at UNC.
Liv Linn: What work were you doing in Mound Bayou? Kimber Thomas: This summer, three Robertson scholars and I conducted a research project on the founders and early settlers of Mound Bayou, which is a historic black town located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. We wanted to find out where Mound Bayou’s early settlers came from, where they lived, worked, and worshipped once they arrived in Mound Bayou, and above all, what their roles were in helping Mound Bayou become of the most prosperous all-black towns in the nation. Through archival research, which included searching the town’s archives for maps, ordinance books, and obituaries, and genealogical research, which included searching Ancestry. com and the records of the U.S. Freedmen’s Bureau, the students and I uncovered a wealth of information about 50 of Mound Bayou’s earliest residents. LL: What drew you there, and what do you think is important about it—the town and/or your work? KT: One of my most inspiring undergraduate professors was born and raised in Mound Bayou, and I have always admired her pride for the place she called home. When the opportunity came up, I jumped on it because I knew it would allow me to experience Mound Bayou in all of its fullness. I think it’s extremely important to preserve the history and heritage of Mound Bayou, which is so rich and important, for future generations. LL: Tell me more about your work with black material culture. What is material culture, and why are you interested in it? KT: My own work focuses on the materiality of black life in the American South. I’ve always been so intrigued by the ways black people “makedo” with what they have in order to create new worlds for themselves. My dissertation will pair oral history with material objects to explore this further. I’m really, really excited about it. LL: What do you like about oral history? Can you talk about a memorable interview/story you’ve collected? KT: I’ve just always enjoyed talking to people and listening to their stories. Growing up in Mississippi, that was the way people talked to
you—through stories. My mother and my aunts —and my daddy too—are the best storytellers I know, and I try to channel their voices sometimes when I’m writing or working on creative projects. My most memorable oral history was with my grandmother earlier this year. It was so amazing to hear and see her tell her life story to me, and I feel so much closer to her after that interview. LL: What projects are you currently working on? KT: I’m currently working on a short essay about tea cakes for my “Writing Material Culture” seminar. Back in the day, black women in Mississippi would call tea cakes and fried bologna “the black man’s steak and gravy.” I’ve taken this idea and just run with it. The essay is written in the form of a love story; it’s about food, race, power, and relationships in the American South. LL: Who were some of your role models growing up, or who has most impacted your academics and career? KT: My first grade teacher, Imelda Brown, was one of the first people to introduce me to southern black culture. On Fridays, she would turn on James Brown or the Temptations in the classroom and let all of the students dance. I remember one day, she taught us all how to do the “mashed potato” and the twist. She also told me when I was 6 years old that I would be a writer. Her words have stayed with me throughout this journey. I’ve had several other teachers like her, but my other big role model is my mom. I’ve always admired the way that she handles things, and the way that she treats people. She raised my sister and I to be proud, and she also kept black culture around us a lot. We had a lot of art and films around the house growing up, and we often had dance-offs to this song by Junior Walker and the All-Stars called “Cleo’s Mood.” She and my teachers have most impacted my academic and professional work. LL: What’s an achievement of yours of which you are most proud? KT: Graduating summa cum laude from the best HBCU in the land, Alcorn State University! And being an auntie, too! (Although my niece is actually not my achievement!) Her name is Kaisen and she’s one. She loves chicken and grapefruit and we share kisses on FaceTime—a minimum of—twice a day.
Tanya Jisa: Benevolence Farm BY LISA DZERA
After being in prison for many years, assimilating to life on the outside and finding a job upon release is anything but easy. There’s the stigma with hiring previously incarcerated people. There’s the difficult task of talking about your relevant skills in an interview when you haven’t worked in the past few years. There’s the fact that, after being treated poorly and dehumanized in prison, it’s difficult to transition to life outside of prison. There’s the reality that many of these people went to prison because they were in an environment where breaking the law was necessary to put food on the table—and this environment will not be any different when they are released from prison.
That’s why Tanya Jisa started Benevolence Farm in Carrboro, North Carolina. Benevolence Farm helps previously incarcerated women adjust to life outside of prison in an environment that encourages personal and career growth. These
women live and work on a farm and learn the basics of running a business. Depending on their interests, they can focus on and explore different career paths, such as marketing, finance and customer relations. “They’re not criminals,” Tanya explains. “They’re women who have had really hard choices and done the best they could.” Tanya originally got the idea for starting Benevolence Farm when she read an article in the New York Times stating that about one in 100 U.S. citizens will be incarcerated at some point in their lives. Because there are many more programs that work with men who were once in prison than with women, Tanya wanted to create a program focusing on women. “I went to the farmers market,” she said, “and thought, ‘What if I started up a farm for women who were coming out of prison to help them get back on their feet?’” Tanya brought her idea to the community and
Photos Courtesy of Benevolence Farm received overwhelming support. She explained that there is a huge need for any services for women coming out of jail, especially related to housing and jobs. When women are released from prison, many are not able to find jobs, and those that do mostly find low-skill jobs that are not sustainable. “These are women who really want to turn it around,” Tanya explains. “They want to make a difference. They want to contribute in positive ways. They just don’t have the opportunity to do that. And so, we’re giving them that chance.” Eleven acres of land were donated for Benevolence Farm to use. With the financial support of the Snider Family Charitable Fund, Tanya purchased a three bedroom, two bathroom house on two acres directly adjacent to the original eleven acres. To decide which women will live and work at the farm, Tanya will bring currently incarcerated women to Benevolence Farm on a day pass and ensure that the program works for them. Then, on their release date, these women will be transported to Benevolence
Farm, where they will stay for at least six months or up to two years. This program is targeted at women who have been in prison for more time and thus need a longer period of time to get reestablished. Benevolence Farm’s first residents will move into the farm sometime next year. “One of my proudest accomplishments is founding Benevolence Farm,” Tanya explains. “It is not something I ever imagined doing, nor something I felt capable of accomplishing, and yet I stepped outside of my comfort zone SO many times on SO many levels and persisted, often against some pretty significant obstacles, both internal and external. External obstacles included the stigma of advocating for and serving formerly incarcerated women, securing funding for something that had never been done before, and operating in a community where some neighbors were significantly opposed to our presence.” To find ways to get involved, visit facebook.com/BenevolenceFarm or benevolencefarm.org.
Photo Credit: Sarah Muzzillo
Christi Hurt: Womenâ€™s Center BY SARAH MUZZILLO
Photo Credit: Lisa Dzera
Christi Hurt knew from a young age that she wanted to make the world a better place. Now serving as the director of the Carolina Women’s Center and Assistant Vice Chancellor/ Chief of Staff for Student Affairs, Hurt originally discovered her passions for feminism and women’s activism as a Girl Scout. The organization fostered her mentoring skills and taught her what it meant to help women. “What that [Girl Scouts] did was give me space to figure out what kind of community work I liked doing…it was very community involved, very much pick an issue and go work on it.” This determination to help others carried over into college. Hurt chose to attend UNC-Chapel Hill as a history major, and found herself in an introduction to women’s studies class. “Professor Barbara Harris said on the last day of class ‘take everything you’ve learned this semester and figure out a way to put it into practice, volunteer at a domestic violence shelter, serve on your local rape crisis center hotline,’” Hurt recalled. Hurt served as a volunteer at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center throughout her college career, and later as a staff member. After that, she worked at the Washington State Sexual Assault Coalition. These opportunities provided her with the tools to accomplish what she is most proud of: working as chair of UNC’s Title IX taskforce. “We really worked hard to hear people, hear their concerns, blend that with federal guidance, and intense media scrutiny, and a heated campus to figure out what would work best here at UNC,” Hurt said. The work is by no means done, however. “We still have lots of roads to cover in terms of prevention, and that, really at the end of the day, is what I’m focused on,” Hurt explained. UNC’s new Title IX policy requires both an annual review to improve the policy and a prevention taskforce.
“I’m really excited that folks are leading to figure out what’s currently happening at UNC, what could be happening at UNC, and to make up a strategic plan on how to prevent violence,” she said. Hurt believes that women face many challenges on UNC’s campus, from interpersonal violence to the pressure of embodying “effortless perfection.” “There’s this cultural and social pressure to be everything to everybody, and I don’t think we give students a chance to figure out who they truly are and what they truly want. As long as we keep trying to set up this expectation that people will graduate with all these majors and all of these minors and all of these GPA successes and all of these resume successes, we don’t give any space to the development of the whole person,” Hurt said. The ideal of having it all connects to issues surrounding affirmative consent, Hurt explained.
Photo Credit: Lisa Dzera “If people don’t have time to think about who they are and what they want, they can’t effectively communicate and have affirmative consent in anything because we’re all just along for the ride, and I want to create a space for people to do that more mindfully,” she said. Despite constant pressures to be perfect, Hurt encourages students to focus on themselves. “Take time to know who you are and don’t worry
about what other people think…do the thing that you know you want to do, because if you follow where your heart is pulling you, you never know where that magnetic pull will lead you.”
Christi: email@example.com Women’s Center: firstname.lastname@example.org Title IX Office: Equal Opportunity & Compliance Office Staff Main Phone: 919-966-3576
Photo Credit: Anisha Padma
1. What is one of your proudest accomplishments and why?
One of my proudest accomplishments was starting an arts education initiative (Art&Life) that provides free art history classes and field trips to local middle and high school students underexposed to the arts. The arts are a powerful catalyst for intellectual and emotional development and necessary for the creation of a more ethical world.
2. What is your personal mission statement? Create space for reflection.
3. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I hope to transform museums into spaces of integration and empowerment through object learning.
Not That Type of Funny Bone:
What it Means to be a Woman in Comedy
BY ELLIE RODRIGUEZ
Hannah Jones’ dream for women in comedy is to one day be able to go up on stage and pretend to masturbate as a woman actually would, rather than the typical fake male jerking off on stage. Jones is the treasurer of False Profits—an improv, standup and sketch comedy group on campus— as well as one of the directors of Instruction for the Disciples, its incubator team.
Women in mainstream comedy are becoming more noticeable. Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” was a huge summer hit, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the Golden Globes three times, and Mindy Kaling created her own critically acclaimed show after having written at least 22 episodes of the much beloved series, The Office. Still, as Jones pointed out in response to Amy Schumer’s Saturday Night Live monologue, “to say that now is an exciting time for women in comedy is like saying that the 1920s were an exciting time for women in politics.” In some of the most well-known and most highly viewed comedic
platforms, there is a gross underrepresentation of women writers, producers and comedians in general. Stephen Colbert’s late night show boasted only one female writer on a staff of 16, according to IMDB. Buzzfeed lauded Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show for having women fill less than a third of the positions on the show’s writing staff. “We all exist in a very heavily male-focused comedic climate… that’s just the reality,” said Jones. In her first practice as a profit, Jones made a joke about her vagina, “which a couple of [her castmates] took as license to make a lot more jokes about my vagina in a really terrible way.” A few months later, she finally decided to bring the circumstance up and explained that it wasn’t the appropriate thing to do. “When I did bring it up to them they were like ‘oh yeah, of course not. Of course we shouldn’t make jokes about an 18-year-old’s vagina in a work-performance environment.’ The fact is that until you bring that up that the world of male-centric comedy, they’re going to bring that up until you tell them not to,” Jones explained. Jane Curtin, the first female co-anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, mentioned in an
interview with Oprah that John Belushi said that “women are just fundamentally not funny.” Heather Wilson, also a director of instruction for the Disciples of False Profits, remembered that in high school a guy told her that she was funny but that “haha you know, most girls aren’t.” You could have gone your entire life without having seen a sitcom or a comedy on the silver screen; you could be new to standup or irrationally terrified of comedy clubs, but by talking to Jones and Wilson you recognize that these ladies are hilarious. “When giving people fliers for Fall Fest, a lot of people and especially young women would say, but I’m not funny. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that,” Wilson said. Both women went on to explain that defining funniness is more than just cutting up - it’s a tricky balance and one rooted mainly in self-confidence. The answer Wilson gave, intending to be funny and comforting was, “if you think you’re funny, I don’t want you trying out. Because the people who say they’re funny outwardly are the ones who bullied me in high school.”
Amy Schumer, in an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine, considers herself “one of the lucky women in this country who can look in the mirror” and like what she sees. “I remembered who I was and why I wrote the jokes and chose to say them out loud: because I thought they were funny. No, I knew they were funny… I wasn’t up there seeking approval. I was celebrating my work and myself. And once again, I was killing.” Jones explained that part of the glass ceiling thing with sexism across the board is that “women are affected a lot more internally by sexism than they are outwardly. I was sort of blessed and sort of cursed with a personality of just like being loud and bold and never questioning whether I was allowed to do something before doing it. You can ask my mom. It caused a lot of problems when I was five. But I’m lucky because I’ve never questioned myself in that way. I’ve always been like fuck yes I’m funny.” She said that when you have that attitude, people are willing to let you have it because you already claimed it as yours. Wilson added that being funny is ingenuity, silliness, and insightfulness. She thinks “it’s important that we reform what we think funny is. None of it is as scary as you think it’s going
to be. You do have a voice and something worth saying.” “It’s crucial that you constantly remind yourself that it is yours for the taking and that you should be willing and open to try anything. Once you get past that mental hurdle and the media ingraining those terrible rules and expectations, once you get past those internal struggles, you can do so many things,” Jones said. “Specifically right here, right now in Chapel Hill there are so many comedy communities that are [incredibly conscious] of women in comedy and the struggles we might face.” Both Jones and Wilson consider False Profits to be one of those communities. As of right now, three out of the seven Profits are women. One of the things Jones really appreciates is “they always make room for my obsession with sketches with mostly women. Not because I don’t think the men I work with are funny. Every show I always pitch a sketch, that’s always welcomed with open arms, and it always centers around two to three strong women characters… It’s one of the things that has made me most secure in the place of women in comedy. Obviously it’s not about seeing men fall and excluding men from comedy, but every so often just having three minutes on stage having just girls talking about girls stuff.” Wilson—who had been eating dinner for the last three hours—wholeheartedly agreed. “That’s been huge,” she added, “I think I need to get just a few more fries. But off the record I will take four more fries.” The strides women in comedy have made are undoubtedly important and have shown tremendous growth from the once all-toocommon standup joke: “are women even funny? You never see them doing standup!” Starting in January, Samantha Bee will have her own Late Night TV show, the first late night show ever to be hosted by a woman. Still, both Jones and Wilson agreed that there are standards for women in comedy that simply do not exist for men. Jones explained, “The fact is that one of the
biggest examples that persists in comedy is that whether or not you’re hot is still relevant to your comedy career. You can be the lesbian comic or the hot comic who everybody wants to fuck, but you have to maintain an agonizing self-awareness of what number you fall on from one to ten that you base your comedy on. [That way,] nobody thinks you’re too confident or too prudish.” Wilson added that that spectrum just doesn’t really exist within male comedy. Jones explained that Louis CK is allowed to talk about “fucking someone” and does it all the time, and it’s hilarious. Meanwhile Amy Schumer does the same thing and uses that to build her character as a slut or loose woman. Comedy is not only a platform to air out one’s issues with the world, but also a stage to create positive change and ways of thinking. Amy Poehler cofounded Smart Girls with Meredith Walker to help “young people cultivate their authentic selves.” Mindy Kaling was included in Time’s annual list of the one hundred most influential people. Jones said that it’s important to her and to her troupe to ask, “if we’re bringing up touchy topics, are we advancing these issues in the world or not? Whose side are we on? Consciousness is sort of like just kind of tiring and boring espesh [sic] when you’re in a situation where you just want to be writing hilarious things, but I think we’re all really proud of it.” Wilson explained that in her opinion, improv “leads to a more positive type of laughing” because of the principle of saying “yes, and” to as much as possible. Wilson added that although she loves standup because it “has a ton of potential for social commentary, and is an artful way of writing... it’s easier to make stand-up that’s in some way destructive of norms. In improv, being funny means building something kind of crazy. It’s just been a really powerful force in my life. I feel like I became a happier person, woman even, because of comedy.”
Terri Phoenix 1. What is one of your proudest accomplishments and why?
There are many things of which I am proud. As a first generation student I am proud to have completed my bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. I am proud of my lifelong activism and advocacy work around LGBTQ youth and communities. I have been involved in speaking, presenting, and organizing around LGBTQ topics since 1989 as an undergraduate student (including service as Chair of the Board of Safe Schools NC for two years; Executive Committee of the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals for two years; Provost’s Committee on LGBTQ Life at UNC-Chapel Hill; Chair of the NC ACLU Transgender Advisory Board). I am proud of the accomplishments since I have been at the LGBTQ Center. Some of those include getting a UNC Design Standard that all new buildings and major renovations will include at least one gender non-specific bathroom; getting gender identity and gender expression added to the university non-discrimination statement; getting gender non-specific housing approved by the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees in 2012 (the Board of Governors passed a policy prohibiting its implementation but we did get it through to that level); the enormous growth in the Safe Zone program in the time since I’ve been here (from 684 active allies to 2,705 active allies); and being the recipient of the Margaret Barrett Award for Advocacy in 2011. I am proud to have received the 2015 University Award for the Advancement of Women. I am also very proud to be a parent to my five year old daughter, Duncan. I think being a parent is certainly the most demanding and challenging yet also rewarding undertaking.
2. What is your personal mission statement?
I really like the following passage by Ralph Waldo Emerson and I think it is probably the closest thing I have to a personal mission statement. “To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
3. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
Professionally, I want to continue providing education and training to organizations and people on how to be intentionally inclusive of and equitable to LGBTQ+ people and communities. I want to create a university and as much of the world as I can influence where people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions feel welcomed, included, safe, and affirmed. I also want to support the growth and development of others in doing LGBTQ advocacy. Personally, I want to be the best parent, partner, and friend to those whose lives I share. I want to succeed as defined by the quote I listed above.
Kelsea McLain BY JUSTINE SCHNITZLER
Every day Kelsea McLain makes the decision to fight for safe, judgement-free abortion access. McLain works in graduate office of the Sociology department at UNC while also serving on the board of the Carolina Abortion Fund. It is one thing to have the legal right to an abortion, and quite another to contend with intersecting factors that, in practice, restrict that choice— especially affording the procedure. “It can be scary to dedicate yourself to being radically pro choice” says McLain, “But it must happen. It’s been a long time coming.” She’s right. Much of the conversation around abortion puts advocates on the defensive, which McLain considers “really, really disappointing.” Americans looking for ‘champions’ of reproductive rights in politicians and government figures have, by and large, been asked to accept paltry excuses. What good is maintaining Roe v. Wade if this maintenance is in name only?
McLain considers the term “necessary evil” to be inherently harmful to reproductive rights activism—along with the popular notion that abortion is always a hard decision. The most common feeling reported by individuals
following their abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, is relief. Of course, one narrative does not define the abortion experience, and reports of relief don’t eliminate other sentiments. There is room for individuals to feel upset, angry, and even regretful— sometimes all at the same time. But to demand that abortion always requires self-loathing is wrong. Individuals who choose abortion possess a variety of opinions about their procedures—all of which belong to them alone. In reflecting on her own abortion experience, McLain says she wondered if she was “broken somehow,” because she was so sure in her choice. This is what our society has taught us—that no matter what, we deserve to feel bad for trusting our gut about our own reproductive health choices. While McLain says she was raised in a highly feminist household, the consequences of privilege in abortion health care were not immediately evident to her until she reflected on her relative financial stability in choosing to terminate her unwanted pregnancy. Her moral reasoning was sound: “It wasn’t a dramatic, or guilt-driven decision. All my options, including abortion, were valid for me.” As far as funding her choice, McLain quickly realized how desperately needed abortion funding services were. “I did receive assistance. I had no idea how I was going to pay
for my procedure. I was unemployed at the time, and my partner was not in a position to be able to contribute what he wanted to. I contemplated herbal methods, and tried a few—none of which were dangerous, thank goodness, but they were ineffective. Ultimately, I knew if worst came to worst, I could call my parents. Someone in my family would have the ability to help. Legal procedures should not be this inaccessible.” The dangers of attempting to induce an abortion alone are real. Prior to Roe v. Wade, historians and medical anthropologists alike estimate that around 5,000 Americans died yearly as a result of unsafe abortions, many of which were attempted at home. Eliminating the legality of abortion only endangers the lives of those who seek to end unwanted pregnancies. The Carolina Abortion Fund is 100% volunteerpowered. The CAF helps patients who are unable to pay for an abortion. Clinics that provide abortion services often refer patients to the CAF helpline. McLain notes that this method isn’t foolproof. There are often individuals who won’t even step foot in a clinic because they think they can’t afford it. McLain points out that one of the hardest aspects of working with CAF is turning away individuals when they have run out of funds—though there does exist an emergency fund, if needed. CAF strives to offer complete
assistance, with no judgment, and no stipulation of “priority” for one caller over another. CAF operates on a first come, first serve basis. So how do UNC students committed to reproductive healthcare access, bodily autonomy, and the maintenance of legal abortion fight the good fight? McLain says that students can assist with CAF by volunteering to work the helpline. CAF hopes to work more directly with students on college campuses in the coming year. McLain also works as a clinic escort at a local abortion clinic. This work isn’t easy. The nature of the picketing is often personal, and most comments are blatantly misogynistic. Still, against all of the scrutiny and anger directed toward clinic escorts, patients are often grateful to escorts for being supportive and kind in the onslaught of attack. More than anything, those seeking abortion are looking for dignity and privacy in their choices. There is a long road ahead for those of us seeking reproductive justice. How do we regain control of the narrative surrounding abortion? In regards to ending abortion stigma, McLain offers a few words of advice: “I would really like to see the voices of those typically left out of the conversation—like non-binary folks and gay women who have had abortions. And if you’ve never had an abortion, you must lift these voices up.”
Anne Feng BY E M I LY H AG S T RO M
Anne Feng is perhaps the most badass woman I know.
She’s a fast-talking biology major from Cary, NC, who can explain complex scientific processes in a way that even a five year old could understand. I remember requesting her help during a monstrous physics class I was taking at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. I tentatively knocked on her door, embarrassed that I couldn’t figure out yet
another problem. Anne was, as usual, sitting at her perfectly organized desk, diligently working on some science homework. She welcomed me in, looked at my book and somehow used a cookie metaphor to explain the problem—a cookie metaphor. This was my first glimpse of the incredible, humble intelligence that Anne possesses. Anne never puts her talent to waste. She’s a Buckley Public Service Scholar, so by the time she graduates, she will have completed 300 hours
of community service. Part of her service includes being a Supplemental Instruction Leader (an SI) for a biology course—a position that allows her to use as many metaphors as she wants. (She particularly enjoys using Lego metaphors.) As an SI, Anne helps facilitate conversation during lectures and gives tutorials each week for students who want to go over concepts in a smaller setting than the main lecture. Just recently, a student emailed Anne to tell her how much they appreciated her lectures. Anne is a much admired woman, and for good reason: she is amazing at what she does. Anne also volunteers for three hours each week at UNC Hospitals, spending time with Cystic Fibrosis patients. She says she has learned a lot from the experience, especially about interacting with patients. As she likes to say, “They deserve your best side.” When Anne goes to visit patients, she leaves behind whatever’s going on in her personal life and directs all of her attention toward bringing positive energy to those around her. According to Anne, this is often as simple as smiling and having a pleasant conversation with the patients she meets. Anne’s passion for helping patients along with her curiosity make her an amazing researcher. Anne started doing biology research as a high school junior; she continued working in labs when she got to Carolina. She is currently a Research Assistant at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. It seems that there is never a moment when Anne isn’t doing something to make the world a better place. She is the co-president of SUCCEED, an organization on campus dedicated to bringing free science experiments to kids at local middle schools. They repurpose leftover lab supplies and convert them into kits that students can use to demonstrate scientific processes. Anne is extremely passionate about this work, not only because it gets kids excited about science at an early age, but also because STEM education promotes medical literacy. An aspiring doctor, Anne wants everyone to have access to the tools they need to make informed medical decisions. One of the most important things Anne has learned in her experience working with a variety of patients is that she needs to gain their trust. As she says, “It’s my job to make sure they don’t
have to worry about their health.” Last spring break, Anne went to Panama with UNC Global Brigades, a student-led organization that works to implement sustainable healthcare, economic, and education programs in communities in need. As a volunteer, she was part of a brigade that worked to build trust with members of the Panama community. Anne spent time teaching about sanitation, specifically working with kids on how to brush their teeth and eat a balanced diet. She believes that no one should have to worry about getting sick all the time. Everyone should be able to focus on supporting themselves and doing what they love. That is why Anne wants to be a doctor. Though she is incredibly humble about it, Anne breaks glass ceilings. She is the only woman at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics to ever have been on the Science Bowl A Team (the top group of students). She spoke to me about how, in that position, she didn’t spend time worrying about her gender. She was just at the competition to have fun. Anne works well under pressure, and her confidence, along with her amazing intelligence, are what make her such a valuable teammate. At one point, Anne was sitting out during a round of the Science Bowl competition, and she saw one of her teammates becoming too stressed to compete effectively. She immediately got up and asked him to switch places with her. Anne does not doubt herself, especially in high pressure situations; rather, faith and courage are defining characteristics of her personality. The Science Bowl team ended up advancing to nationals, where they placed in the top six. Anne Feng—a Colonel Robinson Scholar, a cancer Research Assistant and basically my hero—understands the importance of self-care. She enjoys reading and baking in her spare time, and tries not to get too caught up in the ideals of prestige in academia. Anne spends a lot of time with her family, and whenever she gets stressed, she calls her mom. When Anne is confronted with decisions about her future, her mom always asks her, “Will that make you happy?” Anne remembers to follow her heart and doesn’t do things simply because they look good on paper, but because they are truly things she wants to do. She is my personal hero and a woman whom I know will do great things—on her own terms, in the context of her own dreams.
June Beshea BY AMANDA KUBIC
June Beshea, a senior chemistry and biology double major, is doing radical and meaningful work for Black women, transgender individuals, and people of color at UNC. June is president of The Rejects, a spoken word and service organization at UNC. They are also an organizer with the Real Silent Sam Coalition (RSS), a group of students, faculty,
and community members that recognizes and works against the legacy of white supremacy and the erasure of Black women on UNC’s campus. June also organized the “Say Her Name” vigil, an event held to honor the twenty three transgender women of color murdered in 2014 and 2015 at the hands of police. Amanda Kubic: June, talking about RSS or your poetry, what are you most proud of in your work or in your activism? June Beshea: I’m most proud, like on a broad level, of the Say Her Name Vigil. That was… I
PHOTOS BY ALICE WILDER
really…I mean that had to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. For sure. It wasn’t a fun thing to plan or even to have to go through, and I did it by myself, so it was absolutely awful. And like the day before, I was like “I’m not even going to go.” You know I was telling my partner, I was like “this is stupid I don’t…It’s not worth all the pain I’m going through.” And she was like “no, no, go, have fun!” I was like “sure, ok.” And once…once it started I was like “oh, that’s right. That’s why I did this.” Like, it was a hundred percent worth it. I think in a broader sense, though, I’m most proud of just the community that I’ve built here. That’s…that’s the biggest thing. It’s nice to go
around and have people be like “oh, hey June, is anything coming up?” or something like that. I’m always like “oh, yeah, things are… yeah things are coming up.” That’s nice. AK: What inspired you to get involved in Real Silent Sam or to write and perform poetry? What made you interested in it? JB: I started writing poetry in like second grade. I don’t know if you remember. They used to have these computers that like printed out in the classrooms in second grade but they had like… you pulled off the sides of the paper. Yeah, so we
used to like write poetry on the little computers and print them out and we thought that was the best thing ever. And I’m sure…I’ve seen the poetry. It’s absolute shit. It’s…it’s crap. But you know our teachers were like, “No this is great!” And just cause they said it was great you’re like “I’m an artist!” Like “I’m so amazing!” And I think that actually helped out a lot further on. I’m like, “No, my second grade teacher said I’m a good poet.” Like, no one can tell me differently at this point so… But that evolved into more of going into slam poetry just cause that’s where my community is. You know you find so many like queer, black, like gender-queer people, trans people there. And it was just like such a welcoming community to find myself, I think, was the biggest thing. But RSS was…I stumbled upon RSS. I don’t think there was any like motive besides I was just really fucking angry at that point. And I was like “who else is angry?” And they were like “those people over there are angry.” And I was like “I’m going to go with them.” And that was that. AK: That’s great. On a more personal level, what inspires you to do what you do? JB: I can’t stand to, like, watch people suffer and not have a voice or go through those types of things. And so for me, what inspires me is everyone around me. Just going through my daily life and seeing the injustices and things like that. That’s what inspires me. That’s… cheesy as hell but really that’s like…that’s kind of why I don’t stop. Cause then I’ll be like “aw stop.” And then I’ll get on Twitter and I’m like “Argh I can’t stop. Ugh!” But I have to go do something else.
sexist so I think…the Black Panther movement without sexism or homophobia, which…what is it really? But…yeah. That’s always weird though you’re like…you enjoy someone’s work and then you like read into it and you’re like “you guys were awful!” So, yeah. AK: Do you have any long-term goals or things that you want to accomplish in the future, either professionally or personally? JB: It’s like two diverging paths. That’s where I’m at right now. I want to get a Ph.D. in Africana Studies with a focus on womanism. That’s like, that would be…ah goals in life. Probably going to end up on a commune somewhere, um… harvesting beans. I’m going to guess that’s what’s actually going to happen… I’m planning that right now. My friends and I are like “let’s just move.” Like, we are looking for land. That’s where we’re at. AK: This question might be a little cheesy, but what is your personal mission statement? JB: Like a quote I live by? (shows tattoo on arm) “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.” Audre Lorde. So yeah. That’s…that’s easy. I just got that tatted on there like a week ago. AK: Perfect. And is there any information you want to share about things that are going to come up with RSS or with your poetry? Any work that you’re excited about that’s happening this year?
AK: Going off of that, is there a particular person, figure, or even movement that’s inspired or impacted you the most, and how?
JB: I’m always excited about everything. I’m hoping to do a black woman’s brunch. And I’m really excited about that. Also…this is the perfect time for that. I’m putting on a play. I’m putting on For Colored Girls. And it comes out March 3rd, but I could always use help if anybody wants to. Please help. Appreciate it.
JB: People I look up to…Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Theresa Davis—who’s a poet out of Atlanta. Amazing woman. So the normal two and then my own special one. And then movements…I’m a die hard Black Panther. But they’re like, extra
If you would like to contact June about The Real Silent Sam Coalition, The Rejects, or getting involved in working with the production of For Colored Girls, please email them at email@example.com.
Cecilia Polanco 1. What is one of your proudest accomplishments and why?
My proudest accomplishment is starting a food truck and catering company (So Good Pupusas) this past summer. Itâ€™s a way in which I can create change and I get to work closely with my family on social issues that are important to me.
2. What is your personal mission statement?
My personal mission statement is to spread peace, love, and happiness. To allow others to touch my life and to affect others in a positive way. To leave this place better than I found it and better for those that come after me.
3. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
In the future I hope to become a mother and instill the values that have brought me strength and success to the next generation and have them be engines of positivity as well.
Shilpa Kancharla B Y PA R I S A S H A H
Shilpa Kancharla is a DJ at WXYC, a research assistant at a physics lab, and a firm lover of science and learning. She recently gave me insight into her pursuits and her South Asian cultural heritage. Parisa Shah: How did you get involved in doing research or a physics lab? Do you feel as if women are intimidated by pursuing hard sciences?
Shilpa Kancharla: I emailed literally everyone on the UNC Physics & Astronomy Department website. Literally everyone. Not a single person was left behind. Getting into research is super competitive at this school, given its reputation
for being a highly-functioning research facility and all. I definitely do think women are intimidated by it. From my personal experience, men who I’ve come across have asked me why I’m pursuing such a male-dominated field. Once, a guy asked me what my major was and I told him I was studying applied mathematics, and he said “Wow, isn’t that a little hard? Shouldn’t you try something easier?” Whereas to my male friend who was studying BME (biomedical engineering) he said “Dude that sounds awesome!” I cannot conclude my gender was the variable that made the difference, but I can’t help but think it had some influence. PS: How do you think women can get more involved in research? SK: I would say stepping out of your comfort zone is the first step. Be willing to take risks. I encourage any women, or anyone I know for
PHOTOS BY ALICE WILDER
that matter, to get involved in research because I think it’s a great way to contribute to the society. People think the sciences are hard, and I definitely do agree...but at the end of the day, overcoming the obstacles presented in any field of science is what makes working so hard worthwhile. PS: What about physics interests you? SK: Physics interests me because I have a deep passion to learn how the world works, from a microscopic scale to a macroscopic spectrum. How can we explain what we experience? Physics is perhaps one of the only ways I know that can explain what goes on in my world. The fact that the ground exerts a force on me is mind blowing. How can something bereft of motion or life do that? Just the study of forces makes me force myself (no pun intended) to question the physical properties of the universe and why it does what it does. I would also have to say my father played
a large influence on my interests as well. When he was my age, he studied mathematics, physics, and mechanical engineering at his university in India. He grew up in a village all his life, and his passion to pursue what are supposedly “difficult” subjects makes me feel like I should be able to do so much more than him given the fact that I live in America and have so many resources around me. PS: How does being a female DJ affect the ways you perform? Is there a mold you feel as if you’re expected to fill? SK: When I first went to my DJ interview, I didn’t actually think I would be selected. When we think of a stereotypical DJ, we think of some dude in the sidelines at a nightclub playing Billboard’s Top 100 Singles. The guy is probably white and a cis hetero male as well–not always, but that’s typically what’s depicted in media. I had that in
mind when I went to the interest meeting and interview and I knew it was a crapshoot. I was told that only 15 or so DJs get accepted every semester, and at the interest meeting over a 100 people showed up and I heard that more than 150 people turned in applications this semester. I’m a nervous person by nature, so hearing that was a little nerve wracking. Nonetheless, I went into my interview, and I just told them how I felt about making playlists to share with everyone. And the interviewers were like “Hell yeah, she’s in.” Being a female does not invalidate my selection of music or opinions of music as some believe. I mean, what’s in selecting and playing music as long as you’ve got a passionate mind and soul? I’m just expected to play the music I like, and I think I’ve successfully lived up to that job description so far. PS: What kind of music do you play during your show? Any cultural influences? SK: I definitely try to play music by female artists as well as focus on world music. Growing up, I listened to a lot of Indian music, from classical to filmy jams. I remember having some of my non-South Asian friends in the car once, and a Bollywood song came on. They all were like, “What the hell is that? Play Miley Cyrus!” I’ve also had other girls tell me that they’d prefer if I was “less Indian, and more American.” I don’t know how I could’ve done that, given that my Indian immigrant status is an integral part of my identity. Listening to Indian music, or indulging in anything “too Indian” basically became a guilty pleasure that I could only experience when I was around my family or by myself. Upon arriving to UNC, I realized that it was more than okay to be different and explore what the world has to offer. I not only was more open about my Indian heritage, but I also began to learn about other cultures through music. I discovered groups like Sigur Ros from Iceland, Die Antwoord from South Africa, Tarkan from Turkey, Kageyama Hironobu from Japan, and so on. I’m still learning about more artists to this day. I’m enjoying this expansion, that’s for sure. I try to make eclectic mixes to play on the radio, and making the playlist itself is where all the fun is. PS: What are struggles you face as a woman of color at a primarily Caucasian institution? Do you ever feel marginalized?
SK: I think that women of color generally share
the struggle that they are not taken seriously. Every time you speak out against something that has offended you, you seem to get labeled as an angry ethnic woman who rambles on and on about how life just isn’t fair and how things aren’t your way. Somehow, I feel like I’m expected to quell my voice and allow white feminists to speak for my struggle. Though they may mean well, they do not know my struggle as a woman of color. I do not need people to speak for me, but rather support me in endeavors for being heard, as I think there is a fine line between the two. Sometimes I think trying to relate my experiences to other people can be hard, because my experiences, at least, have always been very different from other people’s. I’ve always had trouble relating to others, and I often feel a disconnect with many people, especially upon topics involving my ethnicity...cultural appropriation being one of the biggest ones! People are always like, “It’s not that big of a deal and you can’t tell people what to do.” In reality, history has been one group of people telling other people what to do, so I’m not sure how to respond to that remark. In summary, as a woman of color, I often struggle in getting my voice heard or just being understood in general because I feel that a lot of what I have to say can easily be marked off as trivial and uninteresting, simply because not a lot of people have experienced the same things as me.
Photo Credit: Dicle Kara
1. What is one of your proudest accomplishments and why?
I’m really excited that Monsoon (A UNC-based South Asian Affairs Platform) is up and running at UNC. Monsoon has been a labor of love for a couple years now and I wanted a space to voice my thoughts as a South Asian person. I wanted to discuss what it meant being a model minority on this campus as well as the feeling of cultural shame I had experienced in my earlier years. I was so glad to find a community of people who felt the same way. I’m glad that Monsoon has been a space for South Asian and South Asian diasporic folks to reminisce their own personal experiences as well as engage as a larger community.
2. What is your personal mission statement?
Question everything. Not in the sense that I’m always in a state of confusion, but that I’m challenging set norms and establishments. Why are they there?, Who set them?, etc.
3. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I really hope to bridge the gap between activism and academia in my “career” path.
Dr. Tanya Shields B Y C A L L I E WA L L A C E
The day I presented my feminist action project I cried Ugly cried Leave-the-room-to-get-my-shit-together cried I thought I was prepared to talk about the abusive relationship The one that went on for three long
I wasn’t I thought I would die of the embarrassment of being that girl who cried I couldn’t look at my classmates much less my professor whom I admire and respect Thought I would die if I looked up because I knew if I did there would be a race to see whose eyes could make it to the floor the fastest without having to face that girl Class ended and I was still alive Dr. Shields asked if she could give me a hug Told me that she was proud of how open I allowed myself to be Told me to forgive that girl because she was on her way to healing I shouldn’t have been surprised Dr. Shields creates feminist space where all voices are heard and met with appreciation for the courage it takes to be wrong to speak from experience to make yourself vulnerable As for that girl she continues to grow and I appreciate her a little more every day because Dr. Shields taught me that that girl is a person who is worth listening to who does not have to apologize for existing who is worth loving
Thank You! Thank you for reading this issue of The Siren. We hope reading the stories of these amazing people will inspire you, empower you, and invigorate you. If youâ€™d like to learn more about The Siren and ways to get involved in the future, visit uncsiren.com or facebook.com/UNCSiren. You can contact us with questions, comments, and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our previous issue focused on the core problems we see at UNC-Chapel Hill and across North Carolina: racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia...
Published on Dec 1, 2015
Our previous issue focused on the core problems we see at UNC-Chapel Hill and across North Carolina: racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia...