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UVM hosts feminist leaders

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Students and community members filled the Ira Allen Chapel on Wednesday night to hear the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington speak.

Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland visited college campuses during March, which is Women’s History Month, encouraging students to become actively involved in political justice and intersectionality.

“Being at a college campus is probably the most important work we can do because we know that students are the next generation of leaders,” Mallory said. “To get to this group of people is how we move the social justice efforts we’re fighting for forward.”

Mallory is a longtime activist in the fight for social rights, but Bland worked full-time in fashion and was not engaged in activism until the organization of the Women’s March.

“They were a really good duo,” junior Annie McAneny said. “One of them was very clearly a super powerful person who was willing to teach someone who was previously so ignorant. I think it was a really important thing for a bunch of white kids at UVM to see that balance.”

Sharing personal stories with the audience, Mallory talked about her son’s father, a black man, who was killed and how she fears her son may have the same fate. Bland was pregnant when they started planning the march and continued working even when she went into labor, Bland said. She emphasized how she would never have to worry about her white daughter for the same reasons Mallory did for her son.

Using these stories to emphasize the importance of involvement, Mallory and Bland answered a question many eager young people have: how to get involved.

“I know a lot of people showed up for the Muslim community when the Muslim ban came out,” Bland said. “That should be an everyday practice until all of us are free, because until all of us are receiving justice, none of us are.”

More opportunities for involvement are coming up, including the 2018 election season. Mallory noted that, no matter who they’re voting for, people need to know their elected officials.

“We’ve already seen what happened with Trumpcare not even getting to a vote,” Mallory said. “These things are happening because people are engaged, so we need to stay politically and actively engaged from a grassroots level. That’s what has to happen to shake this country up.”

Students can become involved in politics by staying informed, continuing to protest, doing service work and running for positions, Bland explained.

“We are not going to achieve gender equality in leadership if people aren’t running for positions,” Bland said. “You don’t have to wait.”

Mallory noted the name of the room she sat in before the talk, the Martin Luther King Jr. Room in Billings.

“Dr. King was 39 years old when he died,” she said. “He was a very young man, which means the moment when he knew he wanted to be a leader started while he was young.”

Mallory and Bland are acting on the importance of reaching out to young people who have the ability to influence their peers and ignite social change.

Sophomore Mehanna Borostyan, a UPB committee member, said the evening was a total success.

“I think it was definitely inspiring, and I hope students will take action after this,” Borostyan said.

Junior Chris Petrillo, UPB committee member and incoming SGA president, was inspired by the conversation.

“I can’t say I was really educated before this event, but I’m definitely motivated to have that educational aspect now,” Petrillo said.

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