Women As Leaders

As class registration begins this week, I noticed a course titled Women as Leaders. The course description includes leadership tactics and examples throughout politics. I wonder why there is a class on this topic, maybe because there are so few women leaders, or maybe to describe and explain the many obstacles women encounter to reach a place of power. Through my Dukeengage experience, my readings, our seminar and my work with my placement, I added the word “patriarchy” to my vocabulary. I can honestly say at our first seminar when the term “patriarchy” came up, I definitely had to take a good 10-minute google session to dive into this word, its meaning and roots. Now that I am nearing the end of our seminar sessions I had a moment to reflect on how the patriarchy affects the way we see gender, sexuality and intersectionality. I noticed that it even affects the way I see religion and how ideas that (may unintentionally) uphold patriarchal ideals encompass the teachings in the religion I practice, and the cultural norms of the race I identify as. As I continue to learn through my Dukeengage experience and through research outside of it, I wonder where all of this began.

After some digging I came across stories of Lilitha and Mary Magdalene. I learned about stories of women in the bible who decided to practice celibacy, baptize themselves (because men wouldn’t), or teach the “way only men can.” These stories are not included in the bible but claimed to have been removed by religious leaders. I couldn’t understand why. Instead of uplifting these women through stories, these women have been portrayed in demeaning ways. So, I  wondered into what other areas patriarchal ideas spilled and how that affects views and ideals of both women and men today. As my internship surrounds teen dating violence, I consider the ways in which patriarchal ideals influence intimate partner relationships and family dynamics and how much of it we attribute to tradition or culture.

How much tradition or culture is rooted in these ideas of a monolithic woman?

Woman: the baby producer, who serves her husband and takes care of everyone, OR…. provocative.

As I continue to see this view throughout music, dating, media, and politics. After our most recent seminar I began to actively question how  these views affect me and how I came to this place of not only accepting but subconsciously embracing some of these views as facts.

I thought I wasn’t affected by these ideals because I spent my entire life trying to battle these ideals placed on me, I failed to realize that it still affected me and continues to do so.

hair women GIF by Harmonie AupetitNow I plan to continue researching when documentation of these ideals began and how I can be more active in breaking these ideals down within myself and those around me. Starting with embracing all of the parts of me I have been trained to believe are not ideal.

The Mountain

After 7 hours, three abnormally large confederate flags and two glaring looks from Murphy natives, I finally made it to the mountains for my family getaway.

Happy Fun GIFMost of the time I feel the need to be political in my actions, including the artists I listen to, places I eat and conversations I have with my family. I believe that how I act in real time and who I support financially is important and political. With this constant awareness of my actions and conversations, I notice the need to also detach.

I rarely have a moment when forget the injustices and tragedies of the world I am living in. I make sure to keep myself as aware as I am emotionally capable, and I always wonder why others don’t approach issues of social justice and human rights like me. I question why my family never wants to speak on things or dig deeper into how practices we maintain could *most likely* be rooted in slavery. Or why issues of colorism aren’t contemplated or spoken about regularly. Last week I had a moment in between a webinar on voter suppression, my normal research on teen dating violence, and a very misguided, inaccurate and extremely disrespectful commercial on the Black Lives Matter movement created by the current president. In this moment I thought: wouldn’t it be great to not be aware right now? In that moment I knew none of this would just go away but I wondered how great it would’ve been to be blissfully ignorant for five minutes. After that, I no longer questioned my family or my friends who don’t have the emotional capacity to learn more about social injustices.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” -Audre Lorde

To be a member of a marginalized community and to be happy, to enjoy life is a fight, it is political in its own. Some of us become aware by choice (webinars and readings) and others are reminded daily, while some learn both ways or never learn at all. To be aware is a heavy burden because once you are aware you cannot just sit and do nothing. Once you are aware you must carry that awareness and so the moments of happiness, even me taking this trip into the mountains is a sign of political activism in itself and that is something I never considered.

high tatras dance GIF by mezitlab

Thus I am choosing to be aware through my experience AND research and most importantly to take moments to detach and care for myself as an act of political activism.

I Can’t Even Imagine

trigger warning: police brutality

When your’e really young attending a D.A.R.E class, you are told law enforcement is here to keep you safe and without police the world would experience increased violence without consequence. And then you see a student tased by an officer twice his size from the window of your biology class and you question how much truth there is to that teaching. I know that especially for black and brown communities there is rarely a positive connotation of  law enforcement, with its history of stop and frisk, racial profiling and sadly, brutality and murder. I fully support the idea of defunding the police to provide social services to black and brown communities and mandatory body cameras, increased screening, etc. I say this because I can’t imagine the United States fully removing police, mainly because even the candidate I was hoping to fully support in the upcoming election doesn’t seem to be supportive of this effort.

Although there is an understanding that in many cases of gender and domestic violence law enforcement is unsuccessful in fully assisting or protecting the victim, it is still difficult to picture what options look like outside of law enforcement. In my internship I learn about cases where the victim must forever live in hiding and even disconnect from all family in order to escape the perpetrator. This doesn’t sit right with me. In cases of gender violence or domestic abuse we often see the victim running in order to escape and being refused care or adequate resources which leaves them financially dependent on their abuser. I know that in adolescent cases, restorative justice and community involvement can edify both the victim and perpetrator for their adult lives. But, for cases where this isn’t applicable, my first instinct is not to allow the victim to continue running but to instead remove the perpetrator to ensure they don’t have access to the victim or the ability to begin another abusive relationship.

This leaves me in a place of confusion: not wanting to support the prison industrial complex, knowing that law I'm an Idealist GIFenforcement perpetuates racism and commits murder and also wanting perpetrators to have to change their life instead of victims. So as I continue to learn about new cases and research alternatives to law enforcement for specific situations, I am juggling these ideas and scenarios in my head. I am once again experiencing a grey moment. However, I am unsure if this grey moment is from my inability to imagine a world without law enforcement.

NOT sorry

I am learning that social justice work includes MANY moments of despair, and that’s very worrisome for someone who likes to answer questions with “how do I play a part in this.. what can I do?”. But this week I learned about a situation and I actually felt that I could get involved instantly with the issue–that was different, exciting really.

Excited Comedy Central GIF by Broad City

I had heard about voter discrimination but I hadn’t sat and dived deep into the specifics of it. Through my internship I had the amazing opportunity to sit in with social justice organizations in New York as some of their leaders and litigators shared their work fighting voter suppression, including its past and present manifestations. The speakers included representatives from Latinx and Asian American legal organizations. However the speakers spoke about issues that resonated with me, similar issues that are present in the black community and it really made me feel a sense of unity among the organizations.

Obviously we all encounter different discrimination and I know just how real anti-blackness is, but I felt unity, which is hard to come by a lot of the time. It was a revelation: there are issues affecting the most disenfranchised populations of the United States and I have allies in those areas too. Looking at the struggles and fights of other disenfranchised groups that don’t look like you is important to see how your issues intersect.  Even if they don’t, their fight is also my fight because we cannot call this land free if some of us are continuously oppressed. ~which is why I don’t understand such hard core celebration for the fourth but that’s for another blog~

Either way, ways to get involved with voter discrimination include:

  1. Making sure to vote on or before November 3rd 
  2. Talking to your friends and family about the importance of the census ( it will affect redistricting for the next 10 years!!) and voting
  3. Learning about voting rights for others
  4. Work on the election protection national hotline
  5. Volunteer as an election worker (especially because a lack of available poll workers due to COVID can be used as an excuse to promote voter suppression this fall)

Surprise! this blog became a slick way to provide voting information :))Sorry Not Sorry Wteq GIF by chescaleigh



Reflection can come in the quiet moments, or sometimes its forced upon you in the very loud ones. This week I have done a lot of reflection, within my internship but mostly outside of my internship. The current political climate forces me to have conversations and reflect on issues of racism and sexism that I have always known are present but have never been able to put a term to. I had the opportunity to speak with my mother and grandmother this week. Hearing about ideals towards women during their youth versus mine was engrossing. During my grandmother’s 20’s, women didn’t get their own apartments or go off to start life on their own; it wasn’t normalized and everyone would think of you as a “street woman.” My mother on the other hand always believed that women could do everything on their own. Contrastingly, my mother hadn’t encountered the direct colorism and racism that my siblings and I have encountered throughout our childhood.

While listening and reflecting, I think about the current fight in feminism and reproductive rights, how quickly things can change and how far women’s ideals and opportunities have come. During this time it’s hard to find hope, especially when you see blatant murders and acts of racism continuously protected despite generational fights against it. I believe hope will be found by choosing to ponder on the opportunities for change. The Supreme Court Justice ruling this week, protecting Louisiana clinics exemplified potential for change. I’m choosing to hold on to these moments while I continue focusing on a future of fighting for equality and basic human rights for women and people of color.

When I grow up

When you’re a little kid everyone asks what you want to be when you grow up; you have to think about your future as an adult; it seems so magical when you’re young. You say you want to be a doctor or a chef, maybe a scientist or professional soccer player.

rachel cruze whatever GIF by Ramsey Solutions

Never did I think my future career goal would be fighting for the right to life and opportunities for black and brown people. That didn’t necessarily align with my idea of a magical adulthood where my peers and I have the opportunity to be “anything we want.”

This week I was afforded the opportunity to sit in on a webinar on the criminalization of girls of color. Through this webinar and the readings from the previous week, I thought about how the systems and laws created to protect underserved communities still seem to leave out people of color. One of my supervisors made the comment after the webinar, that the issue of criminalizing girls of color in court was an issue brought up MANY years ago and yet is still an issue people are recently learning about.

I see a lot of discussion on social media platforms about how systems created to oppress people of color cannot be the same ones to save them. It really brings into question if these systems maintaining the exclusion of black and brown people is the only solution for true inclusion of black and brown people. I can’t imagine the United States breaking down the systems they spent so long putting into place to create these disparities. So, it makes me wonder what the future holds for people of color. There are young children in immigration camps who already see that the United States is not a magical place. There are young black boys who already know their life is seen as expendable. As we expose the injustices and speak out against them, I wonder what the future generations will encounter if we break down these systems and more importantly what it will look like if we don’t.

The Grey

This week I sat in a seminar titled “Rights Now” with members of Legal Momentum and college aged peers to discuss the intersectionality of Black Women and voices during this time. I noticed that I often think in very black and white terms. For example, If we’re discussing economic inequalities leading to inadequate health outcomes for certain groups of people I see the answer as pouring funds into these areas. Simple as that.

Come On No GIF by What the FashionHowever, I’m learning that social issues occur in the grey. I’ve been able to learn about gender identity versus expression, and making spaces more inclusive for womxn. I’ve simultaneously looked at situations of social justice as multifaceted ones. I specifically looked at how  women’s rights movements sometimes exclusively benefitted high-middle income white women by not addressing the intersectionality of race, class, gender expression, etc. These experiences made me look at my work as a member of on campus organizations as well as my continued work within my internship differently. As I research information to assist victims of teen dating violence, I wonder if I consider the intersectionality of victims in my research to ensure that one specific person isn’t being represented and advocated for.

Love Is Love Gay GIF by INTO ACTIONCurrently I am struggling with being a part of organizations created for change but being minimally politically involved on my part. I have the opportunity to be a part of amazing organizations unafraid to speak out against injustices and show their political activism. I have always said that I don’t see myself as a political being because I have associated politics with choosing to be republican or democratic, but I am learning that being political means making sure the social change and inclusive environments I want to promote are possible. This shift made me see that my intentions and my actions could contradict each other, and I plan on spending time researching my actions towards political activism and what that means for my future work within issues of social injustice.

Big name, bigger voice

Hi, my name is Ladasia and I’m a rising senior studying Public Policy and Global Health. I identify as a Black Woman, sister, daughter, feminist, mental health advocate and Christian. My identity definitely shapes my walk through life and my goals. I grew up as one of the girls with the name teachers could never pronounce (I don’t think it’s that difficult) and learning not to take up space because of feeling that being black and having a “black sounding” name already drew too much attention. This experience meant never correcting people or allowing them to shorten me and my name. Learning to feel confident in taking space and using my voice to speak out against the social injustices I seen since my childhood is my life-long goal.

This summer I am working with Legal Momentum, a nonprofit organization for the legal education and advocacy of women’s rights. I’m specifically working on a project for their National Judicial Education Program where I will update a teen dating violence curriculum. I’m really excited because this information will be provided to judges and made accessible online for all. Working on this project will allow me to promote advocacy and awareness at a large-scale. This effort is important to me and my plan to dedicate my life to increasing outcomes of justice and equality for underserved communities, especially low-income, people of color.

Going into this internship I have questioned how the process of research translates to policy and what roles are needed to see policy change in matters of social justice. I am grateful to be learning about policy and research through my courses in school, but I believe real world insight is unmatchable. My biggest concern is about my capabilities since I don’t have experience working in social justice and this project is extremely important. But, I am learning that I cannot fear being a part of amazing projects when given the opportunity.

This summer I hope to gain insight into the work of nonprofit organizations and law environments promoting social justice. I also hope to gain some experience in social justice so I can better determine what type of graduate program to pursue.  I know what I want to spend my professional career doing broadly but I need to narrow it down soon. I am excited to learn with Legal Momentum.