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Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2022

Now more than ever, screens and technology connect us with romantic partners, friends and family, co-workers, and strangers alike. For too long, harassment, cyberbullying, sexual abuse, and exploitation have come to be expected as typical and unavoidable behaviors online. 

Last year, the national Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) campaign uplifted the message that “We Can Build Safe Online Spaces,” calling on audiences to practice digital consent, intervene when we see harmful content and behaviors, and promote online communities that value safety and respect. This April, the SAAM 2022 campaign continues to build on this vision with a call to action: “Building Safe Online Spaces Together.” 

We know that we can build and are building online communities centered on respect, inclusion, and safety — where harassment, assault, and abuse are taken seriously. Not only do we believe that together we can build a safer online world, but we also believe that these values, skills, and actions will create communities that thrive online and offline. 

Together we can make a difference to build inclusive, safe, and respectful online spaces. We invite you to join us this April in making respect the norm everywhere, taking action to promote the safety of others, and showing survivors they are believed and supported. 

Women’s History Month 2022

The 2022 Women’s History theme, “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” is both a tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during this ongoing pandemic and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history.

Women as healers harken back to ancient times. Healing is the personal experience of transcending suffering and transforming it to wholeness. The gift of hope spreads light to the lives of others and reflects a belief in the unlimited possibilities of this and future generations. Together, healing and hope are essential fuels for our dreams and our recovery.

This year, in particular, we are reminded of the importance of healers and caregivers who are helping to promote and sustain hope for the future. WCGL encourages community members to honor local women who bring and have historically brought these priceless gifts to their families, workplaces, and neighborhoods, sometimes at great sacrifice. These are the women who, as counselors and clerics, artists and teachers, doctors, nurses, mothers, and grandmothers listen, ease suffering, restore dignity, and make decisions for our general as well as our personal welfare.

Women have long advocated for compassionate treatments and new directions in public health and in women’s mental and physical health. Women have also historically led the way in mending divisions, healing wounds, and finding peaceful solutions. This timeless work, in so many ways and in addition to so many other tasks, has helped countless individuals in our communities recover and follow their dreams.

The 2022 theme proudly honors those who, in both public and private life, provide healing and promote hope for the betterment of all.

6 Black Women Making History Now

We’ve talked about incredible Black women from the past, now let’s talk about some Black women making history now.

Victoria Pannell

Activist

At 12, Pannell was named the national leader of a 47-city wide organization known as Youth Move. She was then focused on younger voting rights, teaching finances earlier, helping the elderly learn new technology, and helping to end childhood obesity. Pannell helped organize a nationwide student walkout to end gun violence in schools. She’s also founded a completely youth-run organization, Tools for Change, that works to provide young people with anything they need. Pannell’s latest cause has been human trafficking, about which she even delivered a TED Talk. She continues her activism as a current student at Duke University.

Raquel Willis

Author & Activist

A Black transgender activist, Willis uses her voice to elevate the dignity of marginalized people, particularly Black transgender people. She founded Black Trans Circles in 2018 to develop Black trans leadership in the South and Midwest. Willis spoke at the 2017 Women’s March in DC and, in 2020, was named one of Forbes’ Top 30 Under 30. She continues working on specific community initiatives and writing in Essence, Out, and other publications to spread her message.

Allyson Felix

Olympic Medalist & Activist

A track and field sprinter, Felix was named among Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020. And it’s no wonder, as she’s the only female athlete with six Olympic gold medals. Felix’s inspiration doesn’t end there, as she’s become an activist in support of maternal rights. Several years ago, she took on her sponsor, Nike, who threatened to drop her during her pregnancy. After a harrowing delivery experience, Felix realized if she could be in a life-threatening situation with great health care, what could other women, less well-off, especially of color be facing? She’s since been fighting for the rights of mothers everywhere and has partnered with Better Starts for All.

Lizzo

Singer-Songwriter

TIME’s 2019 Entertainer of the Year, Lizzo has performed on a worldwide tour, won three Grammys in 2020, and reached many other milestones. Recently, she’s hosted meditation sessions on her social media accounts, to help her fans find a little bit of peace during such a trying time, and selected hospitals around the country at which to provide all staff with meals as they fight on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lizzo also activates her huge fan base, encouraging her fans to donate to causes like the Australian wildfires and pandemic relief.

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett

Dr. Corbett has also been leading vaccine efforts at the National Institute of Health (NIH), and her charismatic and empathetic nature is hoped to be a beacon of trust among the Black community, as skepticism of the vaccine can be widespread. 

Lisa Borders

President and CEO of Time’s Up

Time’s Up — and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund — were launched in January 2018, after reports of abuse and harassment by powerful men in the entertainment industry sparked a reckoning there. The Legal Defense Fund, which is administered by the National Women’s Law Center, has raised more than $22 million to help pay for legal fees for cases involving sexual harassment and work-related retaliation, according to the NWLC.

Feminism & Valentines Day

What is feminism?

Feminism is believing in the equality of rights for women on the grounds that they should be equal to men, in every environment – social, political, and economic. The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing is a feminist organization, where we empower each other in the best way possible.

What is a feminist Valentine’s Day?

For feminists, Valentine’s Day has some problems. It encourages and enhances damaging gender stereotypes. It celebrates the kind of consumerism that can elevate material things over emotions. It can make people who do not have an intimate partner feel alone and inferior. And for people trapped in violent or abusive relationships it can be a stark reminder of everything that hurts their lives.

But Valentines Day, the 14th of February, doesn’t have to be celebrated in the traditional way. A feminist approach is seeing the 14th of February as a day filled with women’s empowerment, self love, and love for the people close to you and even for people in the wider world. Regardless of this day, you should always do what makes you happy, whether that means ignoring Valentine’s Day or celebrating it.

With so much at stake for women and girls, what we really need this Valentine’s Day is support for gender equity. Raise your voice for pay equity, harassment, women in STEM, and more.

For fun, share our feminist valentines (below) on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

How can we celebrate this Valentine’s day in a feminist way?

  • Do something to celebrate yourself – something you really enjoy.
  • Celebrate the people close to you in the way you know they would most appreciate – by spending time with them.
  • Fight for women’s rights and become more involved with the power of women’s voices. Join the our advocacy program here 
  • Donate to support our counseling services and support women and survivors when they need it most.
  • View or download and enjoy these backgrounds:

21 Black American Women You Should Know

In honor of Black History Month 2022, we wanted to share a few Black women who have made history that you might not know about..

Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) represented Texas in the US House of Representatives from 1972-78 and was the first Black congresswoman from the Deep South. In 1976, she became the first Black women to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) was the vice-chairperson of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, as well as a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which organized the Freedom Summer voter registration drives.

Angela Davis (1944-) is a Black feminist activist and academic, known for her affiliation with the Communist Party. She is a professor at the University of California – Ssanta Cruz and is an author of over ten books on class, feminism, race, and the US prison system.

Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) Congress is more diverse now than it’s ever been. However, when Chisholm was attempting to shatter the glass ceiling, the same couldn’t be said. During the racially contentious period in the late ’60s, she became the first Black woman elected to Congress. She represented New York’s 12th District from 1969 to 1983, and in 1972, she became the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Her campaign slogan: “Unbought and Unbossed” rings even louder today. Senator Kamala Harris recently paid tribute to Chisholm in her presidential campaign announcement by using a similar logo to Chisholm’s.

Carol Moseley Braun (1947-) was elected in 1992 to represent Illinois in the US Senate. She was the first Black women elected to the US Senate, the first Black US Senator from the Democratic Party, the first woman to defeat an incumbent US Senator in an election, and the first female US Senator from Illinois.

Claudette Colvin (1939-)

Before Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, there was a brave 15-year-old who chose not to sit at the back of the bus. That young girl was Colvin. Touting her constitutional rights to remain seated near the middle of the vehicle, Colvin challenged the driver and was subsequently arrested. She was the first woman to be detained for her resistance. However, her story isn’t nearly as well-known as Parks’.

Annie Lee Cooper (1910 – 2010)

The Selma, Alabama, native played a crucial part in the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Movement. But it wasn’t until Oprah played her in the 2014 Oscar-nominated film, Selma, that people really took notice of Cooper’s activism. She is lauded for punching Alabama Sheriff Jim Clark in the face, but she really deserves to be celebrated for fighting to restore and protect voting rights.

 Dorothy Height (1912 – 2010)

Hailed the “godmother of the women’s movement,” Height used her background in education and social work to advance women’s rights. She was a leader in the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and the president of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) for more than 40 years. She was also among the few women present at the 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Bessie Coleman (1892 -1926)

Despite being the first licensed Black pilot in the world, Coleman wasn’t recognized as a pioneer in aviation until after her death. Though history has favored Amelia Earhart or the Wright brothers, Coleman—who went to flight school in France in 1919—paved the way for a new generation of diverse fliers like the Tuskegee airmen, Blackbirds, and Flying Hobos.

Ethel Waters (1896 – 1977)

Waters first entered the entertainment business in the 1920s as a blues singer, but she made history for her work in television. In addition to becoming the first African American to star in her own TV show in 1939, The Ethel Waters Show, she was nominated for her first Emmy in 1962.

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 – 2000)

Today, Brooks is considered to be one of the most revered poets of the 20th century. She was the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for Annie Allenand she served as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, becoming the first Black woman to hold that position. She was also the poet laureate of the State of Illinois, and many of her works reflected the political and social landscape of the 1960s, including the civil rights movement and the economic climate.

Alice Coachman (1923 – 2014)

Growing up in Albany, Georgia, the soon-to-be track star got an early start running on dirt roads and jumping over makeshift hurdles. She became the first African American woman from any country to win an Olympic Gold Medal at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. She set the record for the high jump at the Games, leaping to 5 feet and 6 1/8 inches. Throughout her athletic career, she won 34 national titles—10 of which were in the high jump. She was officially inducted into the National Track-and-Field Hall of Fame in 1975 and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame

Jane Bolin (1908 – 2007)

A pioneer in law, Jane Bolin was the first Black woman to attend Yale Law School in 1931. In 1939, she became the first Black female judge in the United States, where she served for 10 years. One of her significant contributions throughout her career was working with private employers to hire people based on their skills, as opposed to discriminating against them because of their race. She also served on the boards of the NAACP, Child Welfare League of America, and the Neighborhood Children’s Center.

Maria P. Williams (1866 – 1932)

Thanks to the early accomplishments of Williams, as the first Black woman to produce, write, and act in her own movie in 1923, The Flames of Wrath, we have female directors and producers like Oprah, Ava DuVernay, and Shonda Rhimes. Beyond film, the former Kansas City teacher was also an activist, and detailed her leadership skills in the book she authored, My Work and Public Sentiment in 1916.

Marsha P. Johnson (1945 – 1992)

Before the Netflix documentary brought Johnson’s story to life with the documentary, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson by David France, many people were unfamiliar with the influential role she had on drag and queer culture. Johnson, a Black transwoman and activist, was at the forefront of the LGBTQ movement. In addition to being the co-founder of STAR, an organization that housed homeless queer youth, Johnson also fought for equality through the Gay Liberation Front.

Minnie Riperton (1947 – 1979)

Mariah Carey is heralded for her whistle register, which is the highest the human voice is capable of reaching. But Riperton perfected the singing technique years before and was best known for her five-octave vocal range. The whistling can be heard on her biggest hit to date, “Lovin’ You.” The infectious ballad was originally created as an ode to her daughter, Maya Rudolph, of Bridesmaids and Saturday Night Live fame. However, before she could become a household name, she died in 1979 at the age of 31 from breast cancer.

Mae Jemison (1956 – )

Mae Jemison wasn’t just the first African American woman who orbited into space aboard the shuttle Endeavour. She’s also a physician, teacher, a Peace Corps volunteer, and president of tech company, the Jemison Group. She continues to work towards the advancement of young women of color getting more involved in technology, engineering, and math careers.

Rose Marie McCoy (1922 – 2015)

McCoy’s name may not be instantly recognizable, but she wrote and produced some of the biggest pop songs in the 1950s. In an industry dominated by white males, McCoy was able to make her mark through her pen, even if she couldn’t through her own voice. Her songs, “After All” and “Gabbin’ Blues” never quite took off on the charts, but she was courted by music labels to write for other artists, including hit singles for Big Maybelle, Elvis Presley, and Big Joe Turner. So now when you hear Presley’s “Trying to Get You,” you’ll remember the name of the African American woman who wrote it.

Ella Baker (1903-1986)

Baker was an essential activist during the civil rights movement. She was a field secretary and branch director for the NAACP and also co-founded an organization that raised money to fight Jim Crow Laws. Additionally, Baker was a key organizer for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). But what was perhaps her biggest contribution to the movement was the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which prioritized nonviolent protest, assisted in organizing the 1961 Freedom Rides, and aided in registering Black voters. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights exists today to carry on her legacy

Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951)

After being diagnosed with cervical cancer at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951, a sample of Lacks’s cancer cells were taken without her consent by a researcher. And though she succumbed to the disease at the age of 31 that same year, her cells would go on to advance medical research for years to come, as they had the unique ability to double every 20-24 hours. “They have been used to test the effects of radiation and poisons, to study the human genome, to learn more about how viruses work, and played a crucial role in the development of the polio vaccine,” Johns Hopkins said.

In 2017, Oprah starred in and executive produced HBO’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, adapted from the book by Rebecca Skloot.

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895)

Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first Black female doctor in the United States. After attending the prestigious Massachusetts private school West-Newton English and Classical School, she worked as a nurse for eight years until applying to medical school in 1860 at the New England Female Medical College. She was accepted and would go on to graduate four years later. Though little is known of her career, PBS reported that she worked as a physician for the Freedman’s Bureau for the State of Virginia. She later practiced in Boston’s predominantly Black neighborhood at the time, Beacon Hill, and published A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts.

Self-Advocacy and the Health of Black Women

Amid a pandemic that has disproportionately killed Black and brown individuals, and a national reckoning over racism, people are now forced to pay attention to the shocking realities of racial inequities that damage the health of people of color in America.

Systems of discrimination and inequality generally intervene in women’s access and quality of care and medical assistance. Oftentimes, judgements of morality get in the way of women receiving healthcare, especially when it comes to reproductive healthcare and healthcare for plus-sized women. Systems of medicine are also guilty of actively marginalizing women by dismissing their symptoms. 

I speak from personal experience in saying that for Black women, there’s something deeply unsettling about being in a doctor’s office. There’s an elusive discomfort that’s difficult to describe, yet somehow we know it’s unique to us. For some, it makes us question whether we should even go to the doctor at all. And though it may be true that everyone feels some level of discomfort in these spaces, the difference is this: being a Black woman puts us at a disadvantage in every arena of life —and at this point, many of us have come to accept it —  but this is one place where we truly can’t afford it. This is the one place where it can mean life or death.

Equity is a central issue in healthcare as inequalities reveal the larger aspects of power, oppression, and discrimination that ground our understanding of circumstances like poverty, disadvantage, oppression, and poor health.

Developing skills in listening to and working with local communities would require significant changes in the quality and distribution of healthcare. That said, a general commitment to human rights may not provide the kind of equity gains that are necessary in women’s health. Rather, a commitment to eliminating specific inequities, including gender inequities, should be a central theme in healthcare ethics. Attention to the intersections of gender and race within the medical field has the potential to deliver direct health benefits to Black women. 

Even with this action plan however, Black women are still vulnerable in a doctor’s office, so what can she do to advocate for herself in a system that doesn’t pay attention to her?

Here are three questions a Black women should have in her back pocket to ensure that you’re getting the best care:

1. Have you had the proper informed consent conversation with your healthcare provider?

You have the right to ask questions, discuss details about the suggested treatment and viable treatment alternatives, all while feeling comfortable enough doing so, in a judgement-free setting.

2. Are my health concerns being fully addressed?

You should be able to leave your doctor’s office with the confidence knowing that your health concerns are being investigated appropriately.

3. Am I my own biggest advocate?

Your care relies heavily on how you express your symptoms and listen to your instinct. There is no medical textbook or doctor in the world who is going to understand how you experience your own symptoms better than you. Intuitively, if something feels ‘off’ to you, it probably is, and it is time for doctors to listen.

Remember that when it comes to healthcare providers, you have options. If you’re being repeatedly dismissed by your doctor, or have been prescribed medications to mask your symptoms — rather than get to the root cause —  it may be time to explore different avenues.

The system is flawed, but with knowledge comes power. As a Black woman, it’s important to understand how we’re feeling and communicate our symptoms as clearly and accurately as possible. Listening to our instinct is critical — don’t be afraid to ask questions, push further and seek out all of your options. In a system stacked against us, being our own advocate is the most effective tool we have to receive the care we deserve.

— Rachael Bailey, Intern

Combating The Gender Wage Gap

Contrary to popular belief, much of what the news and media sources portray in the plight of American women is false. These faux facts have been repeated so often that it is easy to conform to these beliefs. When it comes to the 23 more cents that men make, over half of the American male population refer to it as “fake news.” No matter how many times economists attempt to refute the gender wage gap, the proof is always in the pudding:

Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns – while doing the same work.  

No matter how you cut it, women’s earnings are typically behind those of men as it takes a woman almost 16 months to earn what a man earns in just 12 months.

Several factors contribute to the wage gap, the largest being occupational segregation and unconscious gender discrimination. Occupational segregation is rooted in stereotypes of “women’s work” vs. “men’s work”, unconsciously steering women into certain fields that often tend to pay less. And though gender discrimination in the workforce is illegal, it still happens right under our noses.

While the overall gender wage gap is an important representation of how women make less money in wages than men across the country, we must consider the specific influential factors. And when examining these factors, it is important to recognize that race and ethnicity also play a role in this economic inequity because: equal pay is crucial for all women. 

Black women typically make 61 cents for every dollar their white male counterpart makes. 

The larger pay gap that women of color experience is a grand example of intersectionality. As women, they face the same structural barriers and gender-based discrimination. As people of color, however, they face additional barriers that further their pay gap. This is because women of color frequently work in lower-paying jobs, work fewer hours, and experience more substantial caregiving burdens. For example, women of color are more likely to work in lower-level and lower-paying roles in comparison to white women, even with high levels of education. 

It is a common misconception that the differences in career opportunities and wages are a result of “women’s choices.” This statement only furthers the structural realities that limit women’s abilities to compete with men in the labor force. While one could argue that women of color choose to work in service-sector occupations, that are often lower-paying, it is hard to disregard the fact that women of color often enter the workforce with significantly different barriers than white women. 

While Black women have pushed the needle of diverse representation in fields like STEM and medical professions, they have also faced extensive occupational segregation that narrows their job options to those with lower pay. In contrast to the perceptions held about the work ethic and values of white women, Black women are subject to the unfair expectations and biased assumptions about their place in the workforce. Even as they do work to break the glass ceiling, Black women constantly face stereotypes and resistance in not seeming professional enough for the traditional, societal image of success. 

So how can we combat race and gender biases? What can we do to reform equal pay?

If there are an endless number of factors contributing to the pay gap for women of color across the country, there are just as many opportunities to change the status quo. It only takes a single person to start a shift in the culture of bias that allows the continuation of the wage gap. 

If you want to push for change in the workplace, advocating for change in your environment is the place to start. Speaking up in situations of injustice is an example of how white people can use their privilege as an ally in the workforce. And because national change starts at the local policy level, it is also important to support these changes that help ease the accessibility of things like paid leave and affordable child care for working women. 

As always, education is a necessary tool to better our understanding of the world around us. Researching the race and gender biases within the workforce allows for a better acknowledgment of Black women’s experiences.   

Unfortunately, the narrative of men’s societal contributions as doctors and soldiers but women through the supervision of the home and children is embedded into the very foundations of America. These stories of female ineptitude do not romanticize femininity, they only promote sexism and bigotry. American women are among the most informed and strong-willed human beings in the world. To continue the story of their manipulation into domestic roles is divorced from reality and demeaning. 

One could blame it on sexism and racism, which are both deeply rooted in our culture or the patriarchal mindset that places women in the backseat. But contrary to popular belief, working women of all races and ethnicities are superheroes and they most definitely deserve your support. 

— Rachael Bailey, Intern

This Lockdown is a Mental Health Crisis in the Making

During this unprecedented and peculiar time of COVID-19 and sheltering-in-place, I have seen more than a few people talking about settling into this space to read, meditate, sing, dance and remember how to find sacredness in the simplest of things. They talk about the world slowing down; humanity healing.

The kinds of practices that the so-called “positivity movement” suggest may not be helpful to everyone–at least not in the form we typically find them on Google or YouTube. Many of us need much more careful guidance.

I believe in much of this sentiment. It is important to uplift ourselves and each other during this difficult time. There is value in making the most of this unusual moment.

But, and as often happens in life, our obsession with staying positive–both individually and culturally–means that we do not create space for the complex, real, raw human experience. We fail to create the space for people to feel safe in speaking their struggles. This failure has the potential to silence and shame those who are suffering alone, inside their homes. This will make them feel that there is something wrong with them because of their inability to emotionally cope.

I believe we need to stop romanticizing this lockdown, because, quite simply, it is a mental health crisis in the making. Here are some things I would like us all to have in our minds during this time, so maybe we can hold space for both ourselves and each other in a more complete and loving way.

First, being safe and secure in your home is a privilege. Many people in our community are still working to make ends meet and are struggling to buy food. Some people cannot buy food because by the time their benefits come in people have stockpiled everything first.

Second, many of us, knowingly or unknowingly, are coping with childhood trauma. In effective trauma work, the last thing we ever want to do is unleash a tidal wave of old emotions all at one time. The already overloaded nervous system cannot handle it. To feel it all at once would be too much.

And that is exactly what is happening to many people right now.

Add to this that our health is under threat. Add to this that some of us are losing loved ones. Add to this that there are clearly other unknown political agendas at play. Add to this the fact that many people are under enormous financial pressure. Add to this that many people with children are now unable to access any personal space at all. Add to this that many people are unable to get out into nature and are being suffocated by four walls around the clock.

Many people are going to be feeling agitated, angry, depressed, anxious, and afraid. Many people will be feeling confused, trapped, and alone.

I want you to know that if you feel these things, regardless of your history, there is nothing wrong with you and it is not shameful. This situation is overwhelming. It is traumatic in and of its own right and re-traumatizing for those of with unhealthy histories.

We will learn much during this time. Some of us will learn to be quieter or to need less. Many of us will get precious hours with our loved ones that will be treasured and remembered forever. But most of us will also suffer. Some will end up in serious emotional crisis because of it. Not everyone will have access to the help they both need and deserve.

Let us understand that each of our experiences will differ greatly, and be equally valid. It is okay if you are enjoying your time away from work. It is okay if you feel completely panicked by your sudden loss of income. It is okay if you are enjoying singing along to old music whilst spring cleaning your home. It is okay if you feel all of these things or sit somewhere in between. It is okay if how you feel seems to swing back and forth from day to day or even moment to moment.

No one is failing. We are all doing our best.

So let us please hold one another softly in the harsh reality of this unprecedented moment. Because if we can do that above all else, humanity really will heal.

The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing is still serving the community in this time of uncertainty. Please feel free to reach out to us via email, Facebook, or phone call if you have any questions.

Melina Brann, Executive Director

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