Sunday, September 28, 2008

North Carolina here we come!

With Virginia in the books, it's onward to North Carolina as we continue to promote civic engagement through our Get Out HER Vote campaign and our upcoming Second Annual Women of Color conference at Bennett College -- right here in Greensboro, NC!

But first we must send a huge thank-you to George Mason University, Hollins University, Virginia Tech, University of Virgina, College of William and Mary, and Old Dominion University for welcoming us in to your campus, classrooms and groups during our trip. Being back on campus (or "grounds" for those of you at UVA), interacting with students, faculty and administration, brought us back to our time as activists on our campuses. Simply put, it is where we love to be and we couldn't have been happier to share our first travel experience with all of you.

Thanks for the memories!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What's a little rain?

Our visit to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia was met with a little inclement weather. Well, maybe not so little. More like a nor'easter. But what's a little rain to a feminist? Did you honestly think we were going to let a few rain drops stop us? Ha!

Norfolk has been a hotbed of activity for voter registration this year but, unfortunately, not everything has gone as smoothly as we would like. Students at Old Dominion University (and those at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, as well) have been given inaccurate information from area election officials about their rights to register on campus. Ranging from threats of revoked financial aid to losing your eligibility to be claimed as a dependent on your parents' tax returns, students have been repeatedly discouraged from registering to vote.

With falsehoods such as these we knew that we had to come and set the record straight: yes, you can register to vote where you go to school; no, you will not lose your financial aid or dependent IRS status or receive any other penalty for registering. It's scary to think that there are still people who wish to use scare tactics and inaccurate information to suppress voter participation.

Not to be denied are the students of Vaughan Frederick's "Introduction to Women's Studies" class. Energized, informed and just a tad upset with the election officials, Vaughan's students are making sure their peers know their rights and register to vote on campus. In fact, of the three classes that Professor Frederick teaches, all 120 are registered to vote! After watching our DVD, "What's at Stake in '08" one student exclaimed, "I'm ready to vote!" Now that's what we like to hear!

Our trip was also featured in the school newspaper, Mace and Crown, and highlighted our Get Out HER Vote campaign and the importance of registration, education and mobilization among young women and people of color. We encouraged students to take action on their campus by joining FMLA and promoting feminist activism on campus. With strong support from the Women's Center, Women Studies Department, and professors like Vaughan Frederick, students at ODU are realizing their power, taking ownership of their voice and exercising it to raise the social conscience of their campus!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Swarthmore FMLA continues to be fabulous

Yesterday Emily K. and Emily P. had a great meeting with the Swarthmore College FMLA. Here's FMLA co-president (and former FMF intern!) Urooj Khan on everything her group has been up to.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

(William and) Mary's Enthusiastic Feminists

Was Queen Mary II a feminist? (Warning: I was never much of a history buff and came from the business school -- not the history department). I only ask because I'm curious how a school with the name of a Queen could produce so many amazing feminists and not be a feminist herself?!

Patrice and I met with the fabulous members of FMLA at College of William and Mary for a two-day visit to promote Get Out HER Vote on campus. FMLA hosted a voter registration drive to make sure every last student was registered and informed about the upcoming election. The response was great and, like so many students we've met with so far, most were already registered but eager to learn more about FMLA, pick up a copy of Ms. magazine or grab an absentee ballott application if they were planning to remain registered out of state.

Check out what some of the FMLA members had to say about the voter reg drive:

Adding to the list of feminists on campus, is Sarah Rojas, a student blogger and member of William and Mary's Student Assembly. It was clear after speaking with Sarah for just five minutes that the Student Assembly had mastered voter registration on campus. After creating a simplified online voter registration form that converted into a PDF (that was then quickly printed out on their portable printers), the Student Assembly collaborated with multicultural groups and Greek life by hosting events (such as "Rush the Vote") and nightly tabling until midnight at the library. The result: so far they have registered 2,000 students!

By removing the hassle of wondering what your dormitory address is or risking the chance of letting the registration form getting lost in your book bag, their form offered a drop down menu of campus residences that automatically filled in the physical address and even delivered the form to the registrar for you! How easy is that! And to top it off they even provided an option for students to check if they were interested in becoming a poll worker!

Not to let all that hard work go to waste, the are making sure they mobilize students to the polls and plan to use cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses captured through the online form to remind students to go to the polls. Perfect grassroots organizing 101!

FMLA is planning to continue the discussion about women's informed voting through a panel discussion with ESSENCE: Women of Color and others later this fall. It's so important that we don't stop with simply getting students registered. We must make sure that they are informed about the issues and getting to the polls on Election Day.

And it doesn't stop there! We must continue this discussion and channel the energy that we have seen at colleges like William and Mary nationwide into action even after November 4. And what better way to do that then attend the Women of Color conference?! FMLA, ESSENCE, Sarah and so many others will join us on November 14 and 15 at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, NC to continue to organize and take action on the many issues addressed in this election. Whoever wins, whoever loses, it is still up to us to develop an action plan and make sure our voices are being heard on the local, state and national level. What are you waiting for? Register now!

So despite what the history books may say, Queen Mary II had to be a feminist, right? Just look at these amazing activists and leaders today! Besides, most history books were written by men anyways. ;)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

From the Road: Creative Activism and GOHV

Hey there everyone, it's Val Vilott, a National Campus Organizer at FMF. I'm currently on the road in Ohio this week with my colleague Danielle Geong. All the organizers are out in the field right now, actually - Danielle and I are a few days into a trip as a part of our Get Out Her Vote Campaign that includes Cleveland State, Oberlin, Bowling Green, Toledo, Kent State, Case Western and more!

The most encouraging part of these travels thus far has been to see that so many students are really thinking outside of the box. The importance of creative activism is something that I can't emphasize enough - it really is what can set your efforts and initiatives on campuses apart. Especially in the midst of the election-year fray, voter-related events on campuses are not particularly unique, and unfortunately can start to blend into the background.

It seems that what makes or breaks events or campaigns on campus is their ability bring something new or fresh to the conversation that resonates with students and tune them back in to the civic engagement efforts. Voter registration tables are really important, but dynamic and exciting programming is what truly gets a campus community fired up. So how do you do it?

As a student organizer, I always wanted my events to be successful and interesting, but it's certainly not as easy as it sounds. From my experiences and talking with students over the past couple days, here's a few tips to get your brainstorming started:
  • Examine what is already being done around the election on campus, and determine what gaps exist. You don't want to develop programming that doesn't meet a need on your campus!
  • While you're looking at what's already in the works, see what opportunities there are for collaboration with other groups. Consider turning several scattered events into a cohesive series of events, so that you can publicize together and build momentum together. Example: Do a "Spotlight On:" Election Series - the Multicultural Students Organization event can address voting among minorities, the Economics Club/Department can highlight and explain economic issues in this election, and your group could have an event to focus on women's issues and what's at stake this November.
  • Remember to be in tune to current issues on your campus and community - pay attention to other initiatives or referenda that might be on the ballot that could affect your school!
  • Encourage people to think past voter-registration. Registration is obviously key, but getting those who are registered out to the polls can sometimes be an even larger task. Organize election-day trips to the polls, contact your county or municipal elections board about working at the polls, and make sure that there is a polling place on campus.
Finally, before Danielle and I run off to meet with some more students, I just want to remind you all that the campus team is always interested in hearing from you all - what's working, what isn't, and what we can do to support your efforts on campus. Feel free to contact us if you want to bounce ideas off of someone, are running into problems, or just want to introduce yourself. We look forward to hearing about the great things being done on your campus!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hollins Feminists Rock!

If only every feminist could attend Hollins University. This peaceful campus inspires you to discover your own voice, follow your passions and supports you with a community of faculty, staff and students every step of the way. The talented women of FMLA organized two days of brunches, lunches, meetings, and events to promote Get Out HER Vote and feminist activism across the beautifully nestled campus in Roanoke, Virginia.

After arriving in the wee hours of the morning, we started our day with a brunch with Hollins faculty and staff and a visit to a first year seminar, "Women Health and Power":

Our trip coincided with Shelby Knox's visit to Hollins to discuss her call to action as shown in the documentary, The Education of Shelby Knox. Shelby (a total feminist) joined Patrice, me and Professors Jill Webber and Jen Boyle for a Get Out HER Vote Panel around women's informed voting. The audience was primed after hearing Shelby's impassioned speech and their enthusiasm continued as we discussed the many issues at stake in this election and the importance that we become critics in demanding we talk more about issues and less about lipstick and cleavage.

Hear some of the reactions from the exciting panel discussion:
Kat Allee, FMLA Treasurer:

Courtney Chenette, FMLA President:

Men are feminists, too! Hear what James had to say about the forum:

Shelby Knox, author, activist and FEMINIST:

Our trip would not have been possible without the endless energy, commitment and organizing skills of FMLA President, Courtney Chenette. It was because of her hard work that we were able to speak with so many students, faculty and administrators. A special thanks to Kat, Paige, Chelsea and all of the many wonderful feminists of FMLA and their faculty advisor, LeeRay Costa, who made our visit so special. To the members of the Black Student Alliance, Global Interest Alliance, Professors Julie Pfieffer and Catherine Leonard and Dr. Jeannine Stewart, thank you for your support of FMLA and feminist ideals.

We were sad to say goodbye to the Hollins family (and the adorable little cottage) and thank you for making us feel like just that -- a part of your family. We look forward to seeing you all again at the Women of Color Conference this November and, in the mean time, will be listening closely to hear of your many accomplishments sure to come!

P.S. Our camera skills continue to amaze:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Getting out HER vote with Patriots and Ninjas!

Day one of our three week travels for FMF's Get Out HER Vote campaign began at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Patrice and I met with one of our affiliated groups, the Pro-Choice Patriots, as well as a new outreach group, the Feminist Ninjas. Both were excited about GOHV, full of enthusiasm about the election and eager to begin a year full of feminist activism at GMU.

The entire campus of George Mason was blanketed with voter registration efforts -- including a campus-driven effort, Mason Votes. They even posted our PSA! We were hard pressed to find a student that was not already registered (which is a good thing!) and spoke with a reporter about FMFs campaign and our efforts to make sure young women and people of color are registered, educated and getting to the polls this election! Check out the article here.

A special thank you to the staff of the Women's and Gender Studies Center, Leah Perry, Dr. Saida Hodzic and Dr. Ingrid Sandole-Staroste for welcoming us with open arms into their classes and onto their comfy sofas as we spent the day criss-crossing campus.

Check out our video right before we spoke to Leah Perry's "Queer Theory" class:

After a very long first day, we recapped the highlights of our visit to GMU before hitting the road to Hollins University (note: we're still working out the kinks with the camera -- we're community organizers, not camera operators! :p):

Oh, and a little visit from our resident (unofficial) mascot, Cami (founding member of Camels for Choice):

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Campus Organizers Prep for the Road

Val, Patrice, Tania, Emily, and Danielle are packing up to head out. Over the next few weeks, they'll be visiting Feminist Majority Leadership Alliances (FMLAs) in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.

Here's the schedule thus far:

Sept 15 - 19: Virginia and Pennsylvania
Sept 22 - 26: Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio
Sept 29 - Oct 3 : North Carolina and Ohio
Oct 6 - 9: North Carolina and Ohio
Oct 13 - 24: Wisconsin

If your feminist group is not yet on their calendar and would like to meet up with them, be sure to let us know!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Interns Have Arrived!

FMF's fall interns are here and we are delighted to welcome Mary Werling as our Campus Team intern. Keep your eyes out for new postings by Mary, as well as the rest of the campus team.