Like many, I’m sure, quarantine drove my mom and me to watching lots of new shows and movies on Netflix, regardless of whether they are good or not. Our most recent binge has been the new show, Indian Matchmaking. When I first saw the title, I thought it might be a little degrading, maybe even making fun of a cultural ritual. But after a family friend, who herself had an arranged marriage, recommended it to us, we decided to give it a try.
For my family, the show is both interesting and funny. My mom is Indian and we understand many of the cultural phenomena that the show illustrates: the slightly overbearing Indian mothers, the way people are so quick to judge each other based on their superficial “biodatas,” etc. At its heart, Indian Matchmaking is reality TV. However, given our current political backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, paired with my participation in the Moxie Project program, the show points to so many microaggressions that have been kneaded into my Indian heritage throughout time.
The biodata is a great snapshot of the aspects that are supposed to be valued when searching for a life partner. It includes general information that you might find on any online dating site – a picture, your occupation, your hobbies and interests. But it continues to prod deeper into your personal life and physical appearance including your religion, caste, family’s background and occupations, and sometimes even labels the shade of your skin tone. Watching these biodatas on the Netflix special wasn’t really surprising to me. Rather, I am now able to recognize that these superficial markers are used to define and perpetuate classist views and the idea of a family’s “respectability.”
Social justice definitely isn’t the show’s main goal, but it attempts to show many viewpoints surrounding the matchmaking process. For example, one young man discusses his father’s criminal history and how it created a complex father-son relationship. It is understandable that he wouldn’t want to put his family background on display, in addition to the fact that it is a difficult subject for him to talk about. The traditional matchmaking process puts an emphasis on his family background; but it is one that he doesn’t believe is representative of who he really is.
In addition to the various negative implications associated with establishing a family’s respectability, the information in the biodata enforces classist biases. Many biodatas include a description of skin tone from “fair” to “wheatish” to “dark.” Back in the day these descriptions were used to distinguish the working from the upper class. In 2020 it seems crazy to include such a blatantly discriminatory factor on a dating profile. This is not to say that we don’t make similarly discriminatory decisions in American culture; it just seems more shocking when it’s written down on paper or when a lighter complexion is listed as a necessary factor for a future life partner.
Finally, it was fascinating to watch how mothers interacted with their children and to see what men expected of their future wives. One of the men expected his future wife to conform to stereotypical gender roles. Meanwhile his own mother was essentially the matriarch of his family. Despite all of the lengths women go to make their biodata attractive (academically and otherwise) they are still wanted as homemakers and caregivers.
All of this is not to say that dating in Western cultures is any better. Really, we’re just more discreet about our problematic dating practices. That said, it’s interesting to look at it in a format where people get it all out on the table, even before meeting someone and it makes me look at American dating culture in new ways, as well.
Honestly, I never used to be a fan of writing. It was a weak skill set of mine, and no matter how much I tried, I could never get my words to flow off the tongue like a soothing flurry of hot summer wind. The combination of being unable to craft beautifully descriptive sentences and growing up in a family where writing skills were not prized led me to never make an effort to practice the art of authorship. Luckily though, throughout the summer, I was forced to step up to writing, in which I was about as unsuccessful as a table lamp. The result? Probably not mind blowing linguistic artistry, but rather a much deeper understanding of the power of words.
In my department at Sanctuary, I’ve watched my team string together words in order to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in support for our cause. Through the Moxie program, I’ve read novels – just collections of words – that rallied the nation behind movements, such as the cry for reproductive justice. I’ve watched Sanctuary lawyers fight for the freedom of bound women using just words. Words are powerful, and if we learn to harness them just right, we can make positive change.
But who decides what is positive change?
The problem with governance and deciding between right and wrong is that the choice isn’t very black and white. Morality can generally be held as a set standard. Certain things are good, some are bad, and these delineations are widely accepted. Killing is bad, and helping your neighbor is good. However, issues in agreement come in when we start to look into how to achieve the outcomes. It is impossible to definitively say that one policy option is better than another. Even if we look into statistical analyses and try to scientifically select the best policies based on proven success, how do we define the standards for success? The subjectivity of governance makes it very difficult to create legislation that could keep an entire population happy. Throughout the summer, I, myself, pendulumed between phases of loving anarchism and then believing the government’s ability to achieve justice, as is clear in my blogs.
This is where words come in. The perfect leader would campaign, advertise, speak, and write in such a way that she would create an inner motivation for every single citizen to believe in her policies. A unanimous passion and drive to achieve the vision of the governing group or individual would lead to a greater success rate of policies. This is true even in a smaller, corporate setting. Overarching inner passion driven by powerful words can lead to larger impacts.
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.
Now 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.
Being a very short person doesn’t have all that many benefits, and I say this as a very short person myself. I can never see anything at concerts. I can’t reach anything above the fourth shelf at the grocery store. I sit dangerously close to the steering wheel. And, I get swept off my feet or patted on the head frequently without warrant. Needless to say, modern day America is not built for people under 5 foot. So when I found an activity in college that celebrated my smallness (the shorter the better!), I was happy to learn more.
I am a coxswain for the Duke Men’s Rowing team. If you don’t know anything about rowing (I didn’t either before this year), the coxswain steers the boat, motivates and focuses the team, and keeps track of the boat’s pace on the water. Over the past seven months I have learned so much from rowing about leadership and sportsmanship, and I have also learned more about the broader rowing community.
One aspect that I find particularly interesting is the significance of women’s rowing in collegiate athletics and Title IX on college campuses. I always thought of rowing as a very Northeastern sport and had no idea that women’s rowing was such a big deal nationwide.
To understand why women’s rowing is so important, we have to take it back to Title IX. Passed by Congress in 1972, Title IX legislation was a critical step for women’s education advancement and campus safety. It “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance.” This law meant that universities that receive federal funding, grants, etc. could no longer dissuade women from studying traditionally male subjects, like medicine, and that administration would have to create systems for preventing and reporting sexual assault on campus. But Title IX doesn’t end in the classroom; it also applies to college athletic departments.
Even though so many resources have been poured into women’s rowing, I still had never heard much hype about it before. As the National Women’s Law Center says, “Title IX has partially opened doors for women.” Women’s collegiate athletics are larger than they ever have been, but female athletes receive far less opportunities and recruitment dollars than their male counterparts. Plus, Title IX was supposed to address campus sexual assault, but we know that this is still a critical issue for college-age students. Colleges and universities still have a long way to go in terms of creating true gender equality in both athletics and campuses on the whole.
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.
Most 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.
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.
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 enforcement 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.
In the middle of a pandemic and amidst the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, social media platforms are hotspots for activism and advocacy. As I scroll through my Instagram feed, I see my peers attending protests and marches as well as re-posting graphics about racist and anti-racist behaviors, petitions for social justice, and calls for mask-wearing in public as many states open up. Along with individuals, organizations and companies are also stepping up on social media platforms to call out past injustices and make commitments to more diverse futures. To learn more about this current movement, I sat down with Kylee Roberts, a communications associate at The Lower Eastside Girls Club who is in charge of LEGC’s social media platforms:
What is your role at Girl’s Club and what drew you to the mission?
I’m the Communications and Development Associate and I’ve been working at Girls Club for about a year now. I had been following Girls Club for about two years before I started working there. So I think the first thing that struck me was that this was a community center for girls and for empowering the next generation of leaders at a center that was very close to where I grew up…By the time I heard about it I had almost graduated from college. Also just seeing all of the opportunities and the people they were able to connect to…they met Michelle Obama a little before I got there.
The girls are able to be exposed to so many amazing opportunities and people. It’s something I wish I had when I was younger and something I am so happy that it exists for girls now. Now that the world is so much more overtly messed up, I think this is the perfect place for a lot of girls in New York City.
Can you tell me a little bit about your educational background?
I always wanted to be a journalist…so I was a Journalism major when I got to Ithaca College. There were a couple of schools around the country, including ours, that were trying to vote out their white leadership, specifically because they were not representing their students of color well. They were not giving them the resources that students of color need, especially at predominantly white schools. Expensive private schools, at that.
Although people say that New York is a melting pot, I went to schools in the city in predominantly white neighborhoods when I was younger and I think that shapes my home friends, too. So when I got to college I was not truly informed of my identity. It wasn’t something that I claimed, being a black woman. It wasn’t something anyone had taught me to be proud of, honestly.
Getting into the politics was a huge thing. From being a journalism major I realized that, especially in the projects we were allowed to do, you couldn’t be a biased reporter. And I started to want to do reports on all of the protests that were going on on our campus. I would get a little more criticism from my professors because I was obviously leaning towards a specific side. So I decided that I wanted to be a part of the movement and help in certain ways. I changed my major to Communications Management and Design.
What role does social media play in activism and why is that important to the work of Girls Club?
Social media is good for Girls Club because a lot of people find us on social media. So the connections that we have through corporate sponsors, through influencers, they drive attention to us and that really helps to get more attention. It’s really just about getting as many people as possible to point to you for Where should I donate if I want to support young girls? Where should I donate if I want to help girls of color in underprivileged neighborhoods? Social media helps to open up your local network. Girls Club is a pretty hyper-local organization. Even though we do reach girls all over the city, we are only in one place. Yet we reach over 20,000 people online, which is crazy to think about.
With that, social media helps get messages across. It also exposes people to a lot of different ideas, as well. Movements are multifaceted and they include a lot of voices. It’s many people coming from many different places. Social media helps get all of those messages across and gives people a voice, in a way. I think people get overwhelmed by the amount of voices that there are. Like, Ugh everyone has an opinion now. But everyone always had an opinion. We’re just giving you the opportunity to say it now.
How has your job changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?
We have put on one event or fundraising campaign every month since the pandemic. So in March we had the Community Action Fund. That requires putting together messaging, getting photos, getting graphics, creating a whole new website. And then after that in April feeding into May, we started the Join the Girls Club Virtual Series of events which was when we tried to contact influencers again to try to spread our message and get people to donate [through giveaways]. And then I planned our Sips for Summer cocktail event. Instead of an in-person cocktail event, which is usually Cocktails for Camp, that turned into an online Zoom party. Then two weeks ago we had the Gala. That’s four different campaigns in the span of three and a half months!
Because everyone is pressed for cash right now, and everyone is trying to raise money because everyone is affected by this, I was doing more and more work. It wasn’t just posting on social media and doing PR, now we need to raise a certain amount of money. Now we need to do five events instead of two. That’s the financial aspect of the change.
Since the beginning of quarantine, do you find that Girls Club leadership or staff relies on you more because of your experience with digital platforms?
For sure. I was definitely more hands-on in a couple of ways that I wasn’t before.
The Girls Club social media platforms promote social change movements. How do you view this digital activism for other organizations and companies?
This is something I’ve thought about in the past when it comes to Pride. So you’re talking about companies like Gap who put a rainbow sticker on their window for a month and then they sell you overpriced non-eco-friendly shirts that are rainbow patterned saying that they support gay lives. But meanwhile they’re also supporting politicians who don’t support gay lives. It’s the same thing that has happened with Black Lives Matter. Especially pertaining to the current “wave” that’s happening, there definitely is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things.
I think Target donated $10 million or something like that. Later I saw a statistic that said that is the amount of money that people of color spend at Target in a day…and they only donated that much to organizations. Especially when it comes to rich people and these organizations, they’re putting out these large sums, but it’s only a droplet in the whole lake of money that they actually have. I don’t think that they understand how much impact they really could have if they really did the work. It’s not just throwing money at the problem or taking down a black-faced episode. It’s about calling out the police and making sure that they arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor. It’s about making sure that organizations like ours are getting the proper funding so that way this doesn’t happen in the future.
What about for individuals? Do you share social movements on your personal social media accounts?
I definitely do. I think it’s important. Especially a movement like Black Lives Matter pertains to me and what I really like about this…I don’t like calling it a “wave” because I think this time all of these protests are really going to do something because we’re coming at an intersection with an election. This time around, there was a huge calling for white people to say something. This time white people have been held more accountable to actively be anti-racist and actually do the work. That’s what’s gotten me more excited on social media now because I’m seeing more resources and I don’t have to do the work to create a document. Another white person, as they should, has done the proper work so that way I don’t have to sit here and think about all the ways that I am not equal to that person.
How long do you think this movement will stick around on social media?
It’s disappointing for me to even think that Oh wow! People still care! Early on during the protests my partner told me “I think stuff is really gonna change.” People always say that. Things are happening; a lot of that has to do with COVID. I was actually listening to a podcast the other day that was talking about the fact that people are home; they’re basically trapped at home. We basically have to make everyone sit in a corner and be alone in order to see that there is injustice happening in front of their faces.
I think there has to be a push through the summer because there is an important election coming up. Whether or not Kanye will be on the ballot, I don’t think it’ll make much of a difference. I’m hoping that people aren’t naive enough to think that if Biden wins that that means we’ve solved the issues. Trump is an issue but he’s not the issue. America’s not racist because Trump is president; Trump is president because America is racist. The voting, the action…everything needs to go through, past the inauguration next year. I don’t think people want to think about a world where we constantly have to fight, but that’s what happens when you put things off for so long. That’s also what’s happening with COVID…Not that racism is to people as people are to a pandemic, but there are some definite parallels there.
During this time of social isolation, what aspects of social media do you think are uniting versus dividing?
Uniting: I think people are finding their people online…I know that there have been a lot of great artistic collaborations online that have come from people finding specific communities on social media, which is amazing. I think great things come out of those partnerships.
What might become dividing is when people feel left out, when people feel lesser than when they don’t understand. I’m specifically thinking about white friends who have not been able to grasp what is happening and their inability to try to do the research and to try and listen to the struggles of BIPOC people. I think that’s a self-inflicted divide. It’s really up to the person to decide if they’re going to take the time to do the work. That’s really it: are you going to listen to me talk about how Black people have it worse in this country? Or are you going to crawl back into your bed and pretend like nothing is happening?
There’s also the divide on the people-of-color side, where I can’t spend my energy on knowing that you don’t actively support me when I’m out here fighting.
What is your favorite part about working at Girls Club?
I enjoy the people that I’ve met through Girls Club. My favorite favorite part is working with the Angel Alliance, which is the junior board of volunteers. They put on events throughout the year and they are also predominantly women from really cool fields. I’ve met a lot of them who I feel very connected to. I think it’s just really nice to have a community of women who care about an organization just as much as, if not more than, you do when you work there.
Thank you so much Kylee for sharing your insight on the role of social media during this time of progress and change. Check out Kylee’s Instagram @kylee.roberts and her podcast called Black Friend Collective. To see Kylee’s work and the digital activism efforts of the Girls Club, check-out @girlsclubny on Instagram.
Let me start with a story about a family friend of mine. Alex (I won’t use her real name for confidentiality reasons) was a pro-life activist—she opposed abortions and thought that it was an unacceptable reproductive option. Alongside several pro-life supporters, she never accepted women who had them, sometimes even openly shaming the ones who took part in the practice. She never took the time to understand why a woman would have to make the difficult choice to have an abortion. In her mind, only those with an ego large enough to believe they could control life and death went through with the procedure. That was until Alex found out that she was pregnant, despite taking birth control pills to avoid pregnancy. She did not have the money to start a family. She knew it was not the right time to have a child: not for her or the man she was with. And, Alex knew that if she brought a child into this world, it would not have a good life.
All of a sudden, the tables were turned. Alex finally understood why women had abortions. She understood how important it was for women to have the ability to choose what to do with their own bodies. Eventually, she decided to be “Pro-Choice” —believing that women should have the choice to choose what they do with their bodies—and this includes supporting the right to have an abortion. Today, she continues to advocate for a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. There is nothing wrong with women choosing to keep their unborn babies or not, and there is also nothing wrong with choosing to go through with an abortion.
Unfortunately, Alex’s story is not uncommon. Both men and women who were previously pro-life often are only able to understand the Pro-Choice stance after experiencing difficult moments in their life—such as a pregnancy they cannot support. And, shaming women for having abortions is not new. The truth is, abortion has been stigmatized by those who view it as an undesirable procedure for ages. Even this week, there were protesters outside of Choices, screaming into the ears of women who walked into the clinic.Week after week, we are plagued with fake bad reviews on Google and Yelp from Pro-Life radicals who believe that women are not intelligent enough to make their own choices.
I hope that one day, abortion rights will be secured for women so that they will always have the ability to choose how to live their own lives.
Is it better for schools to be co-ed or gender specific? I used to think co-ed schools could make better and more equal future citizens because students grow up with the opposite sex, and the hope would be to neutralize differences between genders. Co-ed environments also expose students to a wider and more diverse network of teachers and peers from a young age. Outside K-12 education, universities and the workforce are all gender-neutral. Therefore, allowing students to appreciate the intermingling of genders that they will face after high school may be beneficial and a better learning opportunity than only going to school with one sex. However, by prioritizing co-ed schools, we may miss out on an invaluable opportunity to achieve gender equality – focusing on boys.
Jack Myers, the author of The Future of Men: Masculinity in the Twenty-First Century, argues that the women’s movement cannot move forward without the active support of men who accept gender equality. Myers advocates for societal changes and a shift in how we view traditional male roles or “brotherhoods.” These harmful notions about a “real man” are largely entrenched in the minds of boys from birth. A “real man” can’t show emotion; he can’t cry or ask for help; he shouldn’t enter traditionally more “feminine” careers such as teaching or nursing. As Myers says,
“Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are tapping into what I’m calling a “Lean Out” generation of young, discouraged and angry men—men who are feeling abandoned by the thousands of years of history that defined what it meant to be a real man: to be strong; to be a provider; to be in authority; to be the ultimate decision maker; and to be economically, educationally, physically and politically dominant. A growing percentage of young men are being out-earned by young women, as women capture 60% of the higher education degrees required for success in today’s economy.”
These masculine goals create an environment where boys are left out at school, in the job market, and in relationships. For a male, feeling a loss of power or being unable to feel like a “real man” can lead to not only an unwillingness to support female movements, but also an attempt to regain control within relationships, through the use of violence or power imbalances. Domestic violence is rooted in displays of power and strength. Many times, the only acceptable “male” emotion is anger, depicted as violence – all other emotions detract from masculinity.
Single gender schools have the power to change difficult and harmful masculine ideals. Boys can be exposed to role models of responsible, competent and caring husbands, sons and fathers. They could be encouraged to take part in more “feminine” classes – such as art, dance, and cooking.
Gaming and online learning can be introduced to classes and physical education can be expanded. We need to allow boys to step out of the path towards becoming a hard, emotionless real man, and to explore their other interests and facets, making them more comfortable with showing signs of “femininity.”
By prioritizing and focusing on boys through single-gender school systems, there could be a very powerful shift in not only the treatment of women, but also in the support of women’s movements.
My brother and I joke that it was more fun to go to school than it was to stay home in the summers. Whenever we weren’t enrolled in camps, my mom had a full curriculum of Latin textbooks, math workbooks, and library-recommended summer reading lists planned for us. I was fortunate to grow up with a mother who was clued-in to the educational backslide that can happen during summer break. We always kept busy during the summertime.
This summer looks completely different for students and parents, alike. The work I’m doing at The Lower Eastside Girls Club (LEGC) reflects this major shift in summer programming.
Over the past week we have been working hard to pull together the COVID-19 protocol for LEGC. I delved into resources from other New York City businesses and restaurants, CDC summer camp guidelines, and YMCA child care practices to learn more about the safest ways to reopen the Girls Club. From cleaning and facilities work to symptom tracking and reporting, the leadership team had to think about every possible scenario that might arise during summer programming and come up with a plan. We created systematic protocols for entering the building for both Girls Club members and staff, purchased touchless water fountains and temperature scanners, and developed curriculum and schedules conducive to outdoor (and potentially virtual) engagement. Meanwhile, the research and recommendations change every minute.
Though it isn’t completely clear what a COVID age summer camp will look like, I know that educational initiatives, like LEGC, are crucial at a time like this…
In education the summer break backslide is called “summer learning loss.” Essentially, kids who are not academically engaged throughout the summers lose what they’ve learned during the school year. The Brookings Institution reports that “on average, students’ achievement scores decline over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school year learning.” Additionally, studies show that summer learning loss widens income-based reading achievement gaps. This difference is likely because “the flow of resources slows for students from disadvantaged backgrounds but not for students from advantaged backgrounds. Higher-income students tend to continue to have access to financial and human capital resources (such as parental education) over the summer, thereby facilitating learning.”
As you can imagine, educators aren’t just worried about summer learning loss this year. Curriculum plans took a major hit this past spring, with many students falling behind, even before summer vacation rolled around. Many parents stressed with healthcare crises, layoffs, and work-from-home schedules were unable to help their children with homework or were nervous to approach it without additional support. Also virtual learning wasn’t feasible for all students, especially if the family didn’t have reliable computer access or internet connection at home. The “COVID Slump,” as it’s named, presents itself as a looming issue in the fall.
So, summer camps are critical right now. Summer programming can bridge the gap between now and back-to-school season in the fall. Camps keep kids engaged during the current crisis, even if just to relieve stress during this time of high anxiety. Over the past four months of New York City’s shutdown, LEGC provided fresh produce, books, and arts and crafts materials to Girls Club members and families. They also came up with a plan to continue to work with members this summer, even if the building is shut down again. Re-opening has its risks, but students need accessible and affordable summer resources now more than ever.