The UNC Greensboro Women’s and Gender Studies Program organizes and hosts their Annual Research Symposium each Spring. I am honored to have co-organized, presented at and gave opening remarks at this year’s conference. Conference attendees keep asking me to post those remarks…So here they are:
In a time when a national figurehead can say or tweet pretty much whatever he likes without recourse, today I encourage you all to say what needs to be said. But I do so with this one thought in mind—to think of how something is heard rather than how you mean it. If I learned anything during my time in this program, it is that words hold enormous impacting power. We must be mindful of the way we express our disdain or desire for change in a way that does more than make noise, in a way that recognizes in order to be heard, we must think of the party or persons we are addressing and how they are receiving the message we want to send. If we can not reach them, we can not teach them. And often times, we unconsciously do further harms, fueling ever-expanding divisions.
The scope of anyone’s work that comes to this space is rooted in matters of our hearts, the things that shake us to our cores and fuel our passion for change. Change begins with me. It begins with you. It begins with us. We must find ways to navigate the darkness without being the darkness. Not only do multiple layers of oppression intersect within our individual lived experiences—our lives intersect. We must create ways of speaking to the issues that break our hearts while mindful not to repeat cycles of violence with our own words and actions. A quote that means a great deal to me at this time says this—your mind will tell me what it thinks, and your heart will tell me what it feels. Today, let us share from our hearts.
I want to thank each person in attendance today—the presenters and all the behind the scenes folks who helped us bring this day together to continue the work we do by holding a space each year for diverse voices to come together, intersect, entangle and collectively dismantle. You are each important, unique, gifted and valuable. Here today, you are all seen and heard. At the end of the day, that is all of our hearts’ deepest longings.
Thank you for being present with us today. The world needs our collective action—a coming together across borders, divisions, varied lived experiences, distrusts and misunderstandings. Today is not only about being seen and heard, but a chance for us to collectively heal in a shared moment together. Even if for a moment, today is ours.