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Our Annual Theme

Mutual Aid
Community Engagement

With all that has changed in the thirty plus years the Women’s Center has been in operation on this campus, a deceptively simple mission maintains constancy throughout: The charge that the center should be there for those who need it—need its compassion, its community, its solidarity.   

With our 2020-2021 annual theme, Mutual Aid & Community Engagement, we ask this question of ourselves and of the communities we serve: What does it mean to be there for one another?   

What does it mean to “be there” when “there” is a physical space many cannot occupy?   

What does it mean when even as the obstacles grow so to do the exigencies that rally us to care for one another? In this moment, when aid and assurance are matters of survival, perhaps not uniquely, but more starkly than before—What does it mean to turn to one another, beyond social niceties and neighborliness, to offer not support within the bounds of custom, but to live in support of one another from afar and all the time?  

As scholar-activist Dean Spade succinctly puts it: “Survival work, when done alongside social movement demands for transformative change, is called mutual aid.” To engage one’s community, then, is not simply to hold opinions that want for the thriving of others, but to locate mutual accountability and modes of restoration amongst ourselves. Whether we are new to this concept or well-worn practitioners, considering mutual aid and community engagement asks us to question our relationships to our institutions and to one another in powerful ways. In the context of the university, this can mean challenging not only our disciplinary silos, but organizational structures that distract from the common needs and struggles of staff, faculty, and students. 

Over the course of the coming year, we hope you will join us in
taking these tough questions seriously. Our conceptions of, and even dreams for, what aid and community can or should mean will undoubtedly diverge. And yet we can work together secure in shared knowledge laid bare by the convergent crises that swirl around us: that the common cause of all those who seek social justice—to rebuild the world and build it better together—was never so much platitudinous or optimistic or extra-curricular, as it was and is, profoundly, essential.   

Past Themes