The Fear

My name is Akanksha Ray. I am a feminist… but I’m not sure if the label is enough. I believe in gender equality… but I’m not entirely clear about what that looks like. This summer, as part of the Moxie program at Duke and as an intern at Legal Momentum, I’m excited to put my words to action and hope this action deepens my understanding of feminism at work today.

To imagine that I’ll be spending eight weeks in New York pouring over feminist literature and working on issues that embody the plight of feminism is scary, but strangely titillating. I don’t know if I’m qualified to do this work — in fact, I am pretty sure that I am not. But then, who ever starts out qualified?

The work that I’m doing excites me so much because it’s quite unique; as part of the National Judicial Education Program, I’ll be doing policy work within the legal system at Legal Momentum: the oldest advocacy group for women in the United States. Wow! It’s definitely nerve-wracking to think I’ll be working somewhere so important, but so exciting to think I’ll be surrounded by so much experience and knowledge.

Countless questions have been running through my mind about what my summer at Legal Momentum will be like: what exactly am I going to be doing? I know I’m working on a virtual curriculum that educates court professionals and advocates of domestic abuse victims on how to fight these cases fairly in court. But what does that mean? And how effective will I really be in this advocacy and curriculum development? It’s a less direct way to affect an issue, I think — which makes me nervous. Am I going to encounter situations where I feel uncomfortable? Or maybe I’ll feel too comfortable and won’t really be faced with enough opportunities for growth.

I am not sure what the answers to my questions are. But I do know that this summer will be a uniquely new experience. As I look forward to the next 8 weeks, I remember something my mom once said to me: “It scares me a lot, but the fear is what makes it so exciting.”

I am excited to come out with a more clearly molded concept of women’s empowerment– and how it applies to me.

I am eager to learn what it’s like to have a very regular office job– a very rewarding one.

I am ready to go forth on this stimulating, new journey– fear and all.

i came with an answer and left with questions

Coming to Duke as a freshman, I thought I had the answers. I knew I wanted make a difference in the world and had a very concrete mindset on how I was going to do it. I was going to study neuroscience and become a doctor, simple as that! I had never considered that there would be other ways that I could be a good global citizen. Soon, this very narrow path I had set out for myself would be shaken. Turns out I’m actually pretty bad at chemistry and biology. On top of that, I’m not even that interested.  I soon realized that the only answer I came to Duke with, that I was going to be a doctor, was false. I had come in with such a fixed mindset of success. Under that definition, I had failed. I realized that in having such a concrete mindset, my path was quick to shatter.

I spent my second semester trying to re-evaluate my path and how I was going to use it to make a difference in this world. So I started from ground-zero and enrolled in classes in majors I had never even heard of. I realized that not only did I know nothing about the world, I didn’t even know how many different lenses you could view the world through.  I soon found myself immersed in Global Health, Psychology, and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist studies. And for the first time, I felt passion in what I was studying. Maybe I could use these fields of study to make a difference in the world.  I came out of freshman year reeling. For the first time, I felt that I didn’t have any answers.  And for the first time, I knew that it was that I didn’t need to.

As a sophomore, I came in with questions. How am I going to make a difference in the world? What am I interested in? This flexibility allowed me to merge the paths of passion and my desire to one day make an impact. I declared my majors in Global Health and Psychology with a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. I did this thinking that following the path that I am most passionate about will result in me being able to achieve the most good. This path has resulted in so much information, but more than that, never ending questions. What does making a difference in the world mean?  Why should I make a difference? Very light stuff.

So that’s where I’m at right now, on this path filled with questions. I came to Duke confident with answers, when in fact, I didn’t even know, what quite I was answering. I have learned that to limit myself to the confines of black and white answers to black and white questions, I will have done myself a disservice and not taken advantaged of everything Duke has to offer. The questions that have patterned my endeavors at Duke are “How will I make a difference in the world” and “What is my responsibility as a global citizen to make a difference?”.

These questions have lead me here, having the honor to be a part of the Moxie 2018 Project with DukeEngage and working with Girls for Gender Equity. I am so thrilled and honored that my path has led me to such an amazing opportunity. If I have learned anything, it’s that I need to come into it with questions.

So here we go.

How can I be the best intern possible for Girls for Gender Equity?

Do I see myself working in the non-profit world?

Am I interested in public policy?

Or do I want to be a lawyer?

Or both?

Who can I learn from this summer? From Girls for Gender Equity, to the Moxie Project, to the bounds of New York City.

What can I learn from the city itself this summer?

How does this work align with my passions?

How does this work align with being an actor of good in this world?

How can I be my best self?

I will attempt to answer these questions this summer, and hopefully have more questions than answers.


A Summer of Growth

Good Evening everyone! Or.. Goodmorning? Well, I am sitting at my dining room table and it is currently 2:37 AM. For some reason, my thoughts flow a lot better in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping… like my mother, who I can hear snoring from her room. Yeah, bad habit, I know.

But, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Destiny Mulero and I am a rising sophomore planning to major in Public Policy with a minor in either Sociology or Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist studies. I am from Boston, Massachusetts and I actually lived in Queens, New York for 8 years of my childhood. I have two lovely mothers and a big family from Puerto Rico who always considered me the “baby.” So, going to North Carolina for college was a huge transition and attending Duke has been–or at least I thought it would be–a new milestone into adulthood.

This summer I am very excited to be working with Girls for Gender Equity! In high school, while participating in community service, it did not exactly feel as though I had a team with me. Some students participated because they wanted to fulfill requirements. Some simply wanted something to add to their resume. Even at Duke, I enrolled in Sociology 218 where I learned about how societal norms, language, and nearly everything that has been embedded into our daily lives perpetuate the patriarchy. But, half of the class consisted of unengaged students who claimed to just want “an easy A.” I’m guilty too. I found myself so hyper focused on passing my classes and adjusting to the college life that I lost touch with service and activism. At GGE, however, I am grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with partnered organizations that have a common goal to fight for education reform and to create platforms that allow young girls of color to speak, autonomously, on social justice. Through planning activities for the Dignity in Schools Week of Action, a two-day, national event that advocates to end school pushout, I am ready for a summer full of learning that will discipline me and challenge my ways of thinking. To be honest, I think I am already learning some things. Let me tell you a little story…

In November 2016, Massachusetts voted against expanding charter schools. Since 5th grade, my friends and I attended Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School (APR) so none of us really understood why so many people were opposed to the ballot. I mean, we liked our teachers and most of us turned out great! Even out of Dignity in Schools’ six demands, Demand 6 did not settle well with me at first: “Invest in public education, not privatization and charter schools.” I’ve always been told that charter schools are supposed to advance education and invest in students’ lives in ways public schools don’t. So, I never got the chance to understand this view. But, as I read further, I came across something called the “zero tolerance policy” which brought back vivid memories of my time at APR.

I remember when I started mentoring in the middle school. At our first meeting, I asked my mentee to focus on her homework and her response was that she would fail anyway. Initially, I thought she simply lacked confidence. But, as we continued to meet, I noticed that she complained a lot about how she was always being sent to the office and how she would be put on the detention list for uniform infractions. At the time, I didn’t identify an issue in this because I lived through it, my classmates lived through it, and I thought these rigid rules and punishments were normal. But, I specifically remember my mentee say that she liked to joke around, in class, because it made her forget about her teachers, grades, and detention. So, I’m starting to realize that these strict policies and the societal barriers that play into them had a large impact in my mentee’s academic performance and how she viewed herself in the world. However, I did not make this realization until Dignity in Schools defined the “zero tolerance policy” for me.

That’s how I know working with GGE is going to be an unforgettable experience. Already, I am seeing the flaws in different kinds of education policies and reflecting on past experiences that I have yet to confront.

As ecstatic as I am, I am extremely nervous too. Like I mentioned in the beginning, I thought going to Duke would be a milestone into adulthood. But, really it has been a bubble from reality. Working at GGE will be my very first, real internship. I know I am going to make mistakes, but I don’t want to disappoint my boss. Also, people have been working there for so long! What if I am not knowledgeable enough to be effective in helping GGE achieve their goals?

Additionally, this summer I really have to budget my stipend and learn how to cook. 1. I’ve never cooked a real meal before. 2. How can I possibly budget my spending money if I couldn’t even budget my food points last semester??? I won’t have upperclassmen to sponsor me this time and Marketplace definitely won’t be there to save me so I really have to figure that out. But, I know that by the end of the summer, I will mature more as an adult and gain qualities that I do not obtain now. With that, I can’t wait to bond with my Moxie squad and apply what I learn, this summer, to my future career, my next 3 years in college, and my life afterwards.

For now, enjoy this visual representation of how I’m going to be 3 weeks in because I decided to blow my entire stipend on NYC pizza and souvenirs:


Who are you? Who am I?

Who are you? I am a woman. Who are you? I am African-American. Who are you? I am a millennial. Who are you? I am Catholic. Who are you? I am a Louisianan. Who are you? I am a Public Policy major with an Innovation and Entrepreneurship certificate. These are all great answers, but who am I?

I am Kaili Simien. Phew, finally got that out. All of those were answers I gave to my partner while performing an exercise at Duke Engage Academy; however, those labels cannot accurately describe who I am and everything I stand for.

Looking at all of those answers, you’re probably wondering why I chose to apply to the Moxie program. Looking at my resume, you’d probably think it was because I attended a single-gender school until college or the Women’s’ Studies class I took my freshman year or attending the Women’s March in Washington, DC.

All of those reasons did contribute to my choice of the Moxie program; however, it was more than that. Over the course of my young adult life, I have become more aware of the issues facing women and trying to find solutions for them.

You can’t fix all gender equity issues within one summer. This is a statement I have been reflecting on because it’s true. I am not expecting to go to New York City, intern with Brooklyn Defender Services, and fix all problems women face today. I can, however, make a difference in the lives of the people I do come in contact with.

How is a girl from a small town in Louisiana going to adjust to city life, while trying to change as much as she can? That’s something I’m still trying to figure out myself. In my town, you drive a car everywhere you need to go. New York City, on the other hand, is filled with public transportation I have never experienced.

You’ll be cooking meals for yourself during the week and for each other on the weekends.

As soon as I was told this I instantly said a prayer for whoever had to eat what I cooked. You’d think growing up in Louisiana I would have endless recipes of Cajun cuisine up my sleeve. And, I do. Do they always come out the way my mom cooks them? No. I think it’s some secret touch I haven’t developed yet.

All in all, I am excited to work with Brooklyn Defender Services. I am excited to see the issues this particular organization works with as well as how they are combatting them. I am excited to transition from rural, country life to urban, city life. I’ll keep y’all updated on how excited I am to cook for myself and others because at this moment, morale is running low.

Meet me in NY

Hi all! My name is Laura Noteware, and I am a rising Senior (scary) at Duke University studying Biology on a Pre-Med track.  I am from a large suburb outside of Philadelphia where I grew up going to an all-girls school for 13 years.  I grew up steeped in a feminist environment where my 51 classmates and I all were taught to push boundaries and reject limitations and roles society intended to force onto us.  At Duke, I realized that the implications of society’s norms were much more widespread than I had ever been exposed to.

Given the very strict course requirements for the medical track, I haven’t had an opportunity to explore these narratives so far in my courses at Duke.  Thankfully, I get to come to New York this summer and unpack these issues with the most diverse and interesting group of women I have met this far at Duke.  On top of the great academic side of the program, I am also lucky enough to be working at Choices Women’s Medical Center this summer where I hope to learn about the intersectionality between women’s rights and how to best provide comprehensive women’s medical care.

I think that the most important lessons I learn this summer will come from unexpected experiences and conversations with unique individuals.  That being said, one of my goals for the summer is to embrace more change and to lean into discomfort.  I grew up in a very homogenous area with people who looked, and thought, and acted like me.  However, these aren’t the people who will help me grow and develop my own thoughts and perspectives.

So, this summer I am excited to expand and engage in a meaningful, thoughtful, and incredible summer experience.  I can’t wait to see what New York has in store for me!

Old Advice

“When you go to college, do something that you can’t do in high school.”

This was a piece of advice that one of my high school teachers gave me towards the end of my senior year in high school. I had zero clue what they meant. My understanding was that college was school just like high school was school. 

season 3 wtf GIF by Ash vs Evil Dead

I hadn’t realized that college courses required more than rote memorization, but also active engagement with class materials and in discussions. The only difference I expected was a difference of course topics, So I signed up for classes in topics that my high school did not cover, thinking that everything would be relatively similar to high school. One of those classes was Gender and Sexuality in the Middle East and North Africa, which was listed under the Women’s Studies department.

You see, I had no intention of seriously pursuing Women’s Studies. I entered Duke thinking that I was going to study neuroscience. However, as someone who has always identified as a feminist, I thought it would be interesting to learn about feminism in an academic setting. I didn’t have any particular expectations, I was just doing something in college that I couldn’t in high school.

Fast-forward to today. I, Sally Tran, am a rising senior majoring in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (the Women’s Studies department was renamed) as well as Psychology. Neuroscience isn’t in the picture anymore, and my primary major wasn’t in the picture when I entered Duke.

sad nia long GIF by TV One

In those fourteen weeks of my first semester in the Gender and Sexuality in the Middle East and North Africa class, I learned about a different kind of feminism than the one I had understood before. From Jarrod Hayes’ Queer Nations: Marginal Sexualities in the Maghreb to Shahrnush Parsipur’s Women Without Men: A Novel of Modern Iran, I learned about third-world feminism. I learned about how different people at different periods of time in different places understood sex and virginity. I learned about the dangers of having the standards and expectations of today’s society bias my understanding of practices of the past. I was challenged to think differently.

And frankly, I wasn’t very good at critically analyzing texts from class and my own personal experiences. But challenging and changing the way I understand the world was eye-opening. I wanted to learn more about how my understanding of the world was limited, and that’s how I found myself investing in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies.

Image result for national domestic workers alliance

This summer, I’ll be working with the National Domestic Workers Alliance in New York towards gaining dignity and fairness for domestic workers in the US.

What does this mean?

I’ll be putting my efforts to show that the individuals who work with our families and our homes deserve basic labor rights because they do real, demanding, and quality work. In other words, I hope to challenge the way people understand domestic work and domestic workers.

Although I have some understanding of how race, class, and gender have played a role in today’s status of domestic workers, I can’t wait to gain more experiences that affect how I see the world. Perhaps… no, most likely, I’ll once again learn a different kind feminism than the one I currently understand.


While I’m in New York, I’ll think back.

Back to that old advice for new experiences.

kimberly j brown marnie piper GIF

A Quick Guide to Kathleen

“So, what are you doing this summer?”

A pictorial representation of a flabbergasted Kat

Since February this year, I have heard this question asked with increasing frequency as said season approached. Not only has it been directed at me, but I’ve overheard it being asked of my friends, in class, at the library, in the student union, at the neighboring table of the campus coffee shop while I finish writing up a lab on pulse wave velocity…and I could go on.  Such a simple question should have a simple answer, right?  But this question held more weight than 10 impending midterms.

Let me take a minute to introduce myself.  The paper version: I am a premed rising Junior majoring in Biomedical Engineering and minoring in Chemistry.  It sounds kind of daunting when I write it out, at least to me, I’ll admit.  But what isn’t on paper is that I cycled through wanting to minor in Music, Spanish, Visual Art, Biology, and Global Health, before settling on Chemistry…and to be honest I’m still not sure about it.  I love to create art in many forms-drawing, painting, sketching. And I am passionate about helping sick people, whether that is through direct care, or through coming up with new medical devices, technologies, and cures. In particular, I love working with children, whether that’s babysitting, working as a volunteer tutor at a local elementary school, or supervising a nursery.

Who else am I?  I grew up in the countryside near Baltimore, later moving to live near Raleigh.  I traveled all along the East Coast growing up.  I love the beach and the mountains.  I love animals (especially dogs).  My hobbies include reading, binge watching Sherlock and Harry Potter, re-watching my favorite Marvel Movies (or seeing new ones), watching cooking shows and youtube videos,  attempting to bake something from said youtube tutorials (usually only semi-successfully), drinking coffee, singing to Panic! At The Disco, and planning where I want to travel based on the latest HGTV House Hunters episodes.  But the real kicker is, I’ve never been to New York.


Now, back to the question about summer.  Before I knew I was accepted as a Moxie, this question plagued me.  Everyone else seemed to have summer internships, research positions, or classes lined up.  And I wanted so badly to be a part of the New York DukeEngage program.  When I found out I was accepted, I was ecstatic.  I could answer the question confidently and definitively.

But could I, really?

I remember when I was first deciding which DukeEngage program to apply for, the NYC one caught my attention because it focused on the issue of women’s empowerment and equality, which I have always been passionate about, particularly since coming to college.  Though many of those around me seem to think this isn’t much of an issue, I see the effects of gender inequality every day in the way my male friends speak, the way female students are objectified, the gross imbalance in the ratio of male to female students in my engineering classes…the list goes on.  As I read through the description of the NYC DukeEngage program, a deciding factor for why I chose it over others was the opportunity to intern at one of the listed  partnering organizations, and Sanctuary for Families particularly caught my eye.  Sanctuary’s mission to end human trafficking, stop gender violence, and help victims of domestic violence is essential in working toward gender equality and creating a healthier mindset in future generations, and I am honored and humbled to be able to work for such a worthy cause.

Now, the question, “What are you doing this summer?” is complicated for a new reason: I don’t know how to elaborate.  Though it no longer holds the stress of the unknown, beyond the short answer, I’m not completely sure what to say.  I don’t have a clear picture of what to expect this summer–and it excites me.   I can’t wait to arrive in New York, this whole new environment which I’ve never experienced, and find out how I can play a role in helping to end inequality and work toward improving society. I look forward to being a part of Sanctuary for Families’ mission.

NYC, here I come!


Rahteesha 2.1

I’m fresh out of freshmen year. And splashing my way into a thrilling summer in New York. I have been getting really nervous about being in such a big city ever since I accepted to my program. I come from a really small town with the bare minimum of sidewalks and the subways served sandwiches. I’m also nervous about managing me on my own money, meals, and transportation without my Dad, my food points, or Duke Vans on standby. After DukeEngage Academy, I’m less afraid of heading out into the great wide somewhere because I got to connect with my summer cohort, and I got reintroduced to some vital resources and strategies for budgeting and meal planning. With my fears subdued, I’m ready for a summer of service, self-care, and self-improvement through five goals.

My five goals for self-improvement are:

To be open to new ideas, perspectives, and opportunities.

To be consistent to establish routines for my daily and weekly obligations and needs.

To be authentic to build strong relationships with the ladies in my cohort.

To be creative to write more spoken word poems and blogs.

To be present to deeply engage with the people and potential around me.

By accomplishing and embracing these personal goals this summer, I will broaden my perspectives  in ways that will nourish even more growth in the fall and in my future.

Everything is fine…

Hey Y’all,
I’m Bianca, and this is the part where I am supposed to introduce myself.

Here we go! I am an upcoming Junior majoring in Psychology… I’m also Pre-Med, which means I love myself *note the sarcasm*.

Okay, to the main point of this all: I love people. All people, but specifically women. Women are so strong, we go through so much and are just so resilient. When picking something for the summer I wanted to do a program that didn’t necessarily just benefit me or my resume. I wanted to do something to help build bridges for women to have the resources and pathways they needed for success. After submitting my application for Duke Engage in NYC, I then got interviewed by Ada and Shannan, and they brought out pieces of my application that I thought would make me unqualified for this program i.e. my inexperience with nonprofits or my inexperience working with social justice, but somehow through my inexperience they picked me to work with this program and I couldn’t be more excited! 

I have always felt like social injustices were such an important aspect of my life for many reasons i.e. being a black woman and growing up in a small southern rural town, but with everything else on my plate, I kept pushing it to the back burner mostly out of fear of incompetence. I have grown up with this dual personality–one for home and one for the public. It wasn’t necessarily something my parents enforced as much as I did to be accepted in school and around town. I realized that with that I had neglected my beliefs and values. Upon arrival at Duke, I saw the route to a deeper understanding of what social justice meant and how I fit into that picture. This program has given me an avenue to explore feminism, to explore social justice through non-profits, and most of all to explore what it means to break barriers set up for girls of color.

There are many differences between rural Arkansas and New York City, but here are a couple things that I’ve noticed most:

1. I have no idea what Lower Eastside means… I’m from Southeast Arkansas we really only have towns.

2. I have no idea how to ride a subway or a city bus. Everyone drives in Arkansas.3. I love to cook, but the idea of surviving totally from my own cooking is SCARY.

4. I’ve never really lived in a city before which brings me to question will I even be able to sleep? (Because I can only sleep in total silence.) This is where I’ve really drawn a line: I love my sleep! So, I’ve already bought earplugs.

With all the things I don’t know, I am excited about the new city: new noises, new people, and new feelings. Oh, I almost forgot one more difference… life in the south is very slow. I walk like a snail, and word is that people in New York tend to walk “a mile a minute”. Will I be fine? Probably. Will I get pushed over? Probably. But like the title of this post says, everything is fine.