WHM: Angela Davis

For Women’s History Month, we’ll be sharing weekly blog posts from Lily Lou, one of our student interns. She will be highlighting a notable and inspiring woman in each post.


Angela Davis


Born: January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama

Occupation(s): Activist, Educator, Scholar, and Writer

Awesome Quote: “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”

Why should you know about her? Angela Davis is best known for being an activist who focuses on prison abolition, gender equity, and civil rights. Her first book, Women, Race, and Class, was one of the first to focus on intersectional feminism and she is especially known for her activism in the 1970s. She ran for US vice president on the Communist Party ticket in 1980 and 1984, encouraging more African Americans to join the Party. Her activism started as a graduate student: she was politically active in groups including the Black Panthers and the Che-Lumumba Club, an all-black branch of the Communist Party. She also co-founded Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex, especially addressing the disproportionately high number of minorities in prisons. In 1969, she taught at the University of California, Los Angeles despite facing controversy from the University’s administration because of her involvement in the Communist Party. She later taught courses on the history of consciousness and chaired the feminist studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz before retiring in 2008. She has written five books including Angela Davis: An Autobiography, Women, Race, and Class and Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday.

Brief Biography: Angela Davis grew up in Birmingham, Alabama with two brothers and a sister. Her mother was a part of the NAACP and worked as an elementary school teacher. Her father owned a service station. Davis attended a segregated black elementary school and middle school. In high school, Davis set up interracial study groups, which were frequently broken up by police. As a high school junior, Davis moved to New York as part of a program that placed black students from segregated schools in the South in progressive, schools in the North.

In 1961, she went to Brandeis University, where she graduated with honors (magna cum laude) and earned a B.A. in French literature. In 1963, she was studying abroad in France, when she found out about the Ku Klux Klan bombing a Birmingham church, killing four girls she knew. This attack inspired her to return to the U.S. and become more politically active in fighting for civil rights. After graduating, Davis joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later the Black Panther Party.

After studying philosophy for two years at the University of Frankfurt in Germany, she went to University of California at San Diego in 1968 to pursue a master’s degree. She later earned her Ph.D. from Humboldt University in Berlin.

From 1969 to 1970, Davis was an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of California at Los Angeles, but because she was part of the Communist Party, many administrators opposed her teaching.

In the 1970s she began pushing for changes in the prison system. Davis was arrested in 1970 after a prison abolitionist, Jonathan Jackson, tried to free prisoners on trial using guns registered in her name. In a court room, four people, including one judge, were killed during the incident, but Davis was acquitted on all charges. The incident, however, led to more opposition against her teaching in California colleges. However, in 1977, Davis became a lecturer in women’s and ethnic studies at San Francisco State University in 1977.

She also ran as vice president for the Communist Party in the U.S. elections of 1980 and 1984. As the candidate, she wanted to make the Communist Party more accessible to the African American community. In 1984, she began teaching the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz and Women’s and Gender Studies at Syracuse University, eventually becoming the chair of the feminist studies department. She retired in 2008, but continues to advise students and occasionally teaches classes at UC Santa Cruz.

Call for Nominations: University Awards for the Advancement of Women

Call for Nominations
2017 University Awards for the Advancement of Women

On behalf of the Offices of the Chancellor and the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, the Carolina Women’s Center is pleased to announce the call for nominations for the 2017 University Awards for the Advancement of Women.  This award recognizes contributions by people of all genders to the advancement of women at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Each year, four individuals–one faculty member, one staff member, and two students–are selected to receive the award. The faculty and staff recipients each receive $5000. In 2016, the award for a student split into two awards: one for an undergraduate student, and one for a graduate or professional student or postdoctoral scholar. Each student recipient receives $2500. Awardees are honored in a ceremony during the Carolina Women’s Center’s annual Gender Week Celebration in the spring.

Please submit nominations for individuals who have contributed in one or more of the following ways:

•    Elevated the status of women on campus in sustainable ways;
•    Helped to improve campus policies affecting women;
•    Promoted and advanced the recruitment, retention, and upward mobility of women;
•    Participated in and assisted in the establishment of professional development opportunities for women; and/or
•    Participated in and assisted in the establishment of academic mentoring for women.

In no more than 750 words, please address directly how the nominee meets one or more of the award’s criteria, using specific examples to support the nomination. Nominations may also include letters of support from other individuals or groups

**There are a number of other awards for which nominees might also be eligible and/or better candidates. Please see the list of awards and links on the Carolina Women’s Center’s Awards Page.

**To submit a nomination, please use the online form at:

A maximum of two additional supporting letters (suggested limit 250 words) are permitted but not required. These letters may be submitted via fax (919-843-5619), campus mail (Carolina Women’s Center, CB# 3302), or emailed pdf ( Please be sure to indicate in the cover sheet or subject line whose nomination the letter supports.

All faculty and staff nominees must be permanent, current employees.   No self-nominations or posthumous nominations will be accepted.  Carolina Women’s Center administrators and staff are not eligible for nomination.

The deadline for nominations is Monday, January 30, at 5:00 p.m. Please note that this is a shorter nomination window than usual.

Previous award winners are

(2016) Sheila Kannappan, Jackie Overton, Mary Shen, Leslie Gabriela Morales
(2015) Carmen Samuel-Hodge, Terri Phoenix, Maegan Clawges
(2014) Karen Booth, Donna Bickford, Audrey Rose Verde
(2013) Jenny Ting, Kelli Raker, Camille McGirt
(2012) Sherryl Kleinman, Bev Pearson, Allison Grady
(2011) Lillie Searles, Bob Pleasants, Caroline Fish
(2010) Laurie McNeil, Melinda Manning, Parastoo Hashemi
(2009) Etta Pisano, Aimee Krans, Annie Clark
(2008) Kay Lund, Cookie Newsom, Emily Joy Rothchild
(2007) Barbara Harris, Annette Madden, Emily Dunn,
(2006) Jan Boxill, Terri Houston, Matt Ezzell

Put on Your Air Mask First

As the semester is coming to an end and finals are around the corner, it’s important to focus on self-care as a parent and a student.  The end of the semester is when stress is at an all-time high, and self-care tends to take a backseat.  During stressful times, we ignore our needs and limits, but it is during these times that we need to practice self-care the most.  Self-care is the intentional action you take caring for your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.  Self-care can be challenging: it’s a last priority and usually comes after meeting everyone else’s needs.  The following exercise will help you find strategies for taking care of yourself and identifying stressors that drain your energy for parenting and school.

On a piece of paper, brainstorm and write down the characteristics of each of the following:

  • Good parent
  • Good student
  • Healthy person (an individual who is in a state of good physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being)

In your lists of characteristics, do you see any traits listed under multiple identities?  Do your lists overlap?  Looking at your lists, can anyone be all of these things, all of the time?

The short answer is no.  Trying to achieve all the characteristics of these multiple identities (which may or may not conflict with each other) adds to the stress that you are experiencing.  You may end up not getting enough sleep, skipping meals, and ignoring your needs as you try to be a good student and a good parent while being a healthy person.  One of the ways to practice self-care is to figure out how you cope with stress.

The majority of people can recognize major stressors (changing jobs, moving, and losing a loved one), but sometimes you may ignore daily stressors when you are focused on other things such as paper deadlines, tests, and children’s extracurricular activities.  To examine your sources of stress (i.e., habits, attitudes, events, kids), here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself:

  • How do you feel physically and emotionally when you are stressed?
  • How do you respond to it?
  • Do you explain stress as temporary? (“I have a lot of things going on right now,” even though you may not remember the number of hours you slept or the last time you ate)
  • Do you define stress as an integral part of your life? (“My life is always chaotic”) or an attribute of your personality? (“I’m always nervous”)

Now, make another list of characteristics.

  • Good enough parent
  • Good enough student

How do these differ from your original lists? Are they completely different, or do they have commonalities?

The purpose of this exercise is to understand that being good enough is alright: you are doing your best given the circumstances.  For instance, good enough can be equivalent to 85%.  It may not be the 100% you wanted, but you did well enough to pass.  Both student and parent roles are full-time and demanding.  These roles won’t always be compatible, and they can cause you to engage in unhealthy coping skills.  Unhealthy coping skills may temporarily reduce stress, but they can cause more damage in the long run. Examples include

  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Eating a lot of junk food
  • Zoning out in front of the television or laptop
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.

To combat unhealthy coping skills, write down one or more commitments you would like to make to practice self-care.  These commitments can start off as activities, behavioral changes, and/or cognitive changes that you would like to practice during finals.  Some examples of practicing self-care include:

  • Exercise for 30 minutes: You can burn away anger, tension, and frustration. It can reduce and prevent the effects of stress.
  • Put on some music and dance around.
  • Take an exercise class (Ram’s Head/SRC have great hour long group exercise classes such as aerobics and Zumba).
  • Have a study break with a friend or classmate.
  • Ask someone to check in with you regularly to boost your confidence as you are studying for finals.
  • Say “no”: know your limits and stick to them. It is important to distinguish the “shoulds” and “musts” in your life. (For instance, you may feel like your infant should be in the upper percentile, but your infant must be healthy.) Designate a “no” person if necessary.
  • Tell yourself that you are good enough when balancing parental and student responsibilities.

Self-care is individualized and personal, but we all need it.  It is important for us to keep self-care in mind, especially as the end of the semester is a time for possible burnout and hospitalization.  Self-care allows you to be the best version of yourself to be effective as a parent and a student.  Aaron Karmin, a licensed clinician, describes self-care with a great metaphor:

“A selfless person put others’ masks on, while they choke.  A selfish person puts their mask on and leaves everyone else to choke.  A person practicing self-preservation puts their mask on first and help those around them.”

Families in Unhealthy and Abusive Relationships

**Warning: This post discusses interpersonal violence (domestic, relationship, or family violence). The clip illustrating accusations is graphic. Please take care of yourself as you read this post. This link goes directly to the resources on- and off- campus.**

Last week, I discussed challenges and disagreements that are part of healthy relationships.  However, some responses to the challenges of parenting can go beyond the realm of healthy and unhealthy into the realm of abuse.  Relationships exist on a continuum from healthy to abusive with unhealthy relationships in the middle.

In an unhealthy relationship, one partner attempts to control the other person. For instance, one person tries to make most of the decisions about what y’all will do and where y’all will go.  Or, your partner may pressure you about sex and refuse to see how their actions are hurting you.  These relationships can include breaks in communication, pressure, dishonesty, and struggle for control.  Additionally, your partner might make you feel bad about yourself or like you should only spend time with them.  There are many other characteristics of an unhealthy relationship, including

  • Putting your partner’s needs first while neglecting your own most of the time
  • Feeling pressure to change yourself into the person your partner wants
  • Not enjoying and/or belittle your respective successes
  • Attempting to control and manipulate each other
  • Unequal control of resources

Some relationships may exhibit one or two unhealthy characteristics, but that does not necessarily mean that the relationship is abusive.  The best way to use this information is to recognize how these characteristics affect you and impact your relationship.  Partners can improve unhealthy aspects of their relationship to move towards a healthy one. Last week’s post gives some tips on how to redirect your relationship to a healthy one.

Abusive relationships are based on unequal power and control. Interpersonal violence (IPV) is when an individual exerts power and control over another individual or individuals with whom they are in a close relationship through physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, and psychological actions or threats.  That person makes all of the decisions about topics such as sexual activity, friend groups, and boundaries.  If you are in an abusive relationship, you may spend all of your time with your partner and feel like you cannot talk to other people, especially about how you feel in your relationship.  Abusive relationships can be characterized by accusations, isolation, gas lighting, and manipulation of one person by the other.  There are other ways in which abuse can exhibit itself.

Families are affected by abusive relationships, including children who witness and/or experience the abuse and violence.  Being a parent in an abusive relationship makes a difficult situation that much harder.  You may not only worry about your own safety, but you also worry for the safety and well-being of your children.  Often times, the abuser may use your children against you— not letting you see your children, abusing (or threatening to abuse) your child, and/or using your child to check up on you, for example.  The best thing to do in this difficult situation is to talk to your children and let them know that the abuser’s behavior is wrong.  Children can have long-lasting mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety, or they may grow up thinking IPV is normal and may attempt to mimic the behavior of the abusive relationship.

It is important to remember that abuse is never your fault.  The abuse falls on the abuser, and they are responsible for their behavior.  It is up to them to change their abusive behavior.  Even though you may love and want to help fix the behavior or fix the person, you don’t deserve to be abused or to carry the psychological burden of fixing someone.

Attempting to leave the abuser is hard, especially with children involved.  If you are ready to leave or not, here are some steps that you can take to ensure safety for you and your children:

  • Prepare a safety plan with your children: Arrange a safe place for your children (such as hiding in a closet or going to a neighbor’s house), and plan a code word so they know when to leave and where to get help.
  • Have a conversation with your children to let them know that it’s not their fault
  • Pack an emergency bag, including things like important documentation, formula, diapers, medicine. Keep the bag hidden or with someone you trust.

If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV, there are a lots of options for help. UNC has on- and off-campus resources for you.

  • Gender Violence Service Coordinator (GVSC): The coordinator is a confidential resource to all students who are experiencing or have experienced IPV either before or during their time at UNC. The GVSC has drop in hours, in addition to meeting by appointment. You can find more information here.
  • Safe at UNC: This is the university’s website dedicated to information and resources related to IPV, including interim protective measures like safe housing.
  • UNC LGBTQ Center: This organization provides great information and resources to the LGBTQ-identified students on campus. The GVSC has drop-in hours on Thursdays 3 – 5 pm in the center. Additionally, they offer online relationship modules that range from differentiating between healthy and unhealthy relationships and IPV.
  • Orange County Rape Crisis Center (OCRCC): They have a free and confidential hotline and resources for survivors of sexual violence. You can call them at 1-866-WE-LISTEN or visit them at
  • Compass Center for Women and Families: This organization offers a confidential hotline for survivors of domestic violence and families. The number is 919-929-7122.  They can also provide resources and information:
    • Crisis counseling (in office and in hotline)
    • Safety planning
    • Support and advocacy in civil and criminal domestic violence court
    • Support groups with free childcare
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline is another confidential and free hotline. The number is 1-800-799-7233

Healthy Relationships: Partners and Children

Although most Americans think of families as being comprised of 2 parents and children, there are many possible family structures. For this post, I am defining caregivers as the primary co-parents, caregivers, relatives, and/or friends who participate in childrearing.  For some families, children bring positive changes to the relationship such as a sense of gratification and joy, and they may feel a deeper connection to one another. However, parenting also brings challenges—such as exhaustion, spending less time together, and disagreements about how to raise children and parental styles.  Combined with the exhaustion of not getting enough sleep, parents may not have the energy to discuss and resolve problems when they arise.

In healthy relationships, partners can openly communicate, respect and support each other, and express their thoughts and feelings to one another, especially when voicing concerns. Another aspect of healthy relationships is establishing healthy boundaries. As a parent, you can think of a boundary as the line you draw to set limits for yourself and your children.  Sometimes, parents push past their limits to fix things for their children. For instance, your young child throws a tantrum because they are not getting what they want.  You give them what they want because you want them to stop throwing a tantrum, especially if your are in public. Setting boundaries means knowing what you value, believe, and where you stand as an individual and as a parent. This allows you to stick to your values without pushing past your limits as a caregiver and individual.  For instance, if you value respect, and your child is interrupting a conversation, let them know and hold them accountable.  You could ask your child to apologize, say “excuse me,” and then instruct them to wait for an invitation to the conversation.

To promote healthy relationships within the family, parents and other caregivers should talk to their children about what healthy relationships are.  The best place to start is with open communication. By openly communicating, caregivers and children create and sustain healthy relationships within the family structure.  The following tips for healthy relationship-building among family members operate underneath the umbrella of open communication and intertwine with each other:

  • Listen to each other: Active listening is a good communication skill to help understand other people’s point of view. For instance, you can stop what you are doing when a family member expresses themselves.  You can pay attention to their words and body language.
  • Express feelings: “I” statements are one way to express yourself without blaming yourself or others. Unless someone in your family is a mind reader, no one will really know how you feel if you don’t express yourself! Additionally, young children are learning how to express their feelings, so parents need to model healthy ways of expressing themselves and encouraging their children to do the same.  If your child does not want to get in their car seat, and they start screaming, you can say to them, “I understand that you don’t like the car seat, but I need to keep you safe.”  Infants and toddlers may not understand what you are saying, but they can hear your tone, and it sets the stage for expressing themselves in the future.
  • Accept changes: Instead of looking at life events on a timeline and feeling like everything is off-track, look at life events as a new normal for you and your family members. My previous blog post talked about parents wanting their children to be perfect. Children reach different milestones at different times so if it takes your child a little longer to reach a developmental milestone, it is completely normal.  For instance, if your toddler is not reading by age 2, understand that this does not mean your child will be a failure for the rest of their life.
  • Manage conflict: Disagreements are normal, and talking through them will help with open communication. Instead of insulting each other, whenever you and a family member are having a disagreement, take some time to yourself, and revisit the issue once everyone is calm and has had time to process. In the midst of a disagreement, you can ask yourself, “why am I upset?” and “how can I express myself to my partner?”
  • Take control of your relationships: Have an honest discussion about what’s going on in your life. For example, you can start a conversation about your new role as a parent, how you feel about that, and how you engage in these roles.

For more about healthy relationships, check out the LGBTQ Center‘s five part online module (link at the bottom).

Inspiration for Women's History Month: Brené Brown

From Saddleback College website.

From Saddleback College website.


Brené Brown

Born: November 1965 in San Antonio, Texas

Occupation: Licensed Social Worker, Scholar, Author, and Professor

Awesome Quote: “You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

Why should you know about her? Brené Brown is an academic who gained popularity through her research about vulnerability, courage, and shame. She explores these topics by interviewing individuals and facilitating focus groups about making connections based on our sense of empathy, belonging, and loving. She shares her research by appearing on TED talks and being a guest on different television shows to discuss her personal journey to understand herself and human life.  This research has changed her perception of her work life, love life, and parental life.  Contrary to Brown’s research expectations, Brown’s six years of research lead to a simple conclusion: individuals who have a strong sense of worth believe they are worthy of love and belonging, which influences their parenting style.  Having a sense of their own worthiness, parents take a step back from trying to control their children’s lives to avoid failure.  In mainstream society, parents’ goal is to raise the perfect child in order for that child to have a successful life.  In order to be successful, mainstream society dictates that the perfect child needs to be in a sport by five years old, be part of five different extracurricular activities in middle school, and accepted into an ivy league before they graduate high school.  Brown cautions against this ideology and states that the responsibilities of parents are to accept that their children are imperfect but to show them they are worthy of love and belonging.

Brief Biography: Brown studied social work all of her adult life. She received her bachelor’s in 1995, her master’s in 1996, and her Ph.D. in 2002.  She started her career as a research professor at the University of Houston School of Social Work.  She presented her research at Ted Talks with her first talk focusing on vulnerability and presented at another TED Talk discussing shame. The defining moment that led her to the TED Talk stage was in Minneapolis in 2007, when she was speaking to a crowd of 500 women about shame. Brown had a panic attack, closed her laptop, and started talking about shame.  She embraced the method of oral storytelling rather than formally presenting her research.  Additionally, she has never turned down a chance to present her work for 12 years.  Brown has published many articles and books, including the best seller Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, and Parent.  In 2013, she appeared on Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” to discuss the book about the 10 qualities wholehearted people have in common.  Brown is currently the CEO for the Daring Way, a certificate program for professionals to become facilitators of conversations on topics such as vulnerability, courage, and worthiness.  The Daring Way curriculum is designed to help individuals identify new decisions and practices that will help them to become a wholehearted person. The goal of the certificate program is to build resiliency skills and create daily habits that transforms the ways a person lives, loves, and parent.

Brown’s parenting style has definitely changed due to her research.  In today’s society, there are books that teach individuals how to parent their children and answer questions that are unanswerable by their loved ones.  According to these manuals, if you stick to certain rules and/or methods, then you can become a parenting expert, and your children will be perfect. They will be able to sleep through the night, make friends, have high self-esteem, and be safe.  Uncertainty can be a parent’s worst nightmare, and these parental handbooks can be a way for parents to ease that fear.  Shame is produced when uncertainty about their parenting lingers in their minds. These books can help take away that shame by getting rid of uncertainty.   These books promise to create parenting experts, masters of the one true childrearing practice.   Then, these rules and methods in the book become the only way to raise children through sheer popularity.

Brown challenges this notion by embracing being an imperfect parent.  Toni Morrison was her inspiration for challenging this.  Morrison brought awareness to the daily habit of parents.  When a child walks into a room, a parent is more likely to criticize them such as “pull your hair back” or “tie your shoes.”  Morrison changed her daily habits by making sure her children see her “I’m happy to see you” face rather than the critical face in response to her children changing their appearance.

In 2012, Brown created the Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto. Brown wrote the parenting manifesto to stop her from comparing her children to other children and to stop measuring their ability to be successful based on their accomplishments.  Brown uses the manifesto as a way to be vulnerable and to show that who you are and how you interact with the world are stronger predictors of children’s well-being than “knowing” how to parent.

Inspiration for Women's History Month: Melissa Harris Perry

From @MHarrisPerry, Via The Root.

From @MHarrisPerry, via The Root.

Born: October 1973 in Seattle, Washington

Occupation: Writer, Professor, Television Host, and Political Commentator

Awesome Quote: “Sisters are more than the sum of their relative disadvantages: they are active agents who craft meaning out of their circumstances and do so in complicated and diverse ways.”

Why should you know about her? Melissa Harris Perry is a Black woman occupying a political space traditionally held by white men. Using her professional venues, she raises awareness about issues around the Black community, specifically Black womanhood and motherhood. She educates individuals about Black women’s political and emotional responses to negative representations of race and gender as she faces them herself. In February 2012, Perry received her own program on MSNBC, “MHP,” after being a frequent contributor to the network.  This was a major milestone for her and the Black community because she primarily discussed issues impacting Black women, which isn’t a major theme for discussion at MSNBC (or anywhere else). She continued to host her own show until February 2016.  In fact, she recently left MSNBC because MSNBC wanted her to read news that they deemed important and not what the “MHP” show normally discusses.  Refusing to be the token Black woman on a predominantly white network, she maintained her professionalism and authenticity as she did not conform to what the network thought she should be, such as being a mammy, a token, or a tool.  She knows her worth and is a meaningful person who shows compassion towards her staff, her students, and American society by the topics she discusses and her friendly encounter with others.  You can read her letter about her departure from MSNBC here.

Brief Biography: Melissa Harris Perry was born in Seattle, WA but grew up in Virginia.  She graduated from Wake Forest University with a Bachelor’s degree in English and received a PhD in political science from Duke University.  She began her career as a faculty member, working at universities such as University of Chicago, Princeton University, and Tulane University.  Perry transitioned from faculty to public intellectual and has written award-winning academic books such as Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America and Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought.  In these books, she discusses the emotional and political context of the Black community and the consequences of negative stereotypes of Black women.

In addition to her many accomplishments as a Black woman in political and educational spheres, she is also a mother who had a nontraditional journey to motherhood.  Perry gave birth to her first daughter, but her second child was born via surrogacy. In 2008, she had her uterus removed after suffering from uterine fibroids (which disproportionately affects Black women).  She was devastated and wept for the children she would never have.  After marrying in 2010, Perry struggled with the loss of her ability to become pregnant as a way to extend her family.  She first learned of surrogacy via a friend and talked with a lawyer about her ethical concerns with surrogacy.  After researching and consulting with others, Perry and her husband begin the journey to surrogacy, which includes the creation of an embryo outside of the body in laboratory (IVF) as part of the process.

Perry retained her ovaries so they were able to use her eggs to create the embryos. Perry, the intended parent, created an embryo using Perry’s egg and her husband’s sperm to be inserted into the surrogate mother.  Any form of assisted reproduction is emotionally, physically, and financially demanding, but it helped grow Perry’s family.  On Valentine’s Day, her second child was born.  She took some time off to raise her children, but she created a monthly column in Essence magazine discussing her parenting lifestyle in addition to hosting a special on MSNBC about motherhood and politics.  She found a way to balance her work life and parental life. Even though it hasn’t been easy, she was able to reflect on her roles through the monthly columns as a Black mom and a Black professional.  She addresses many of her challenges, ranging from activist mothers to motherhood being a political act.  Perry used her platform to create exposure for the different kinds of mothers around the country, showing society that the personal is the political.

This biography relies on two key sources: MPH’s website and her essay “How We Made Our Miracle.”

Inspiration for Women's History Month: Wangari Maathai

PHOTO Wangari_Maathai (c) Patrick Wallet

(c) Patrick Wallet

Born: April 1960 in Kenya

Occupation: Environmental and Political Activist, known for the Green Belt Movement

Awesome Quote: “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”

Why should you know about her? Maathai’s Green Belt Movement planted more than 30 million trees in Africa and helped about 900,000 women. She overcame obstacles, politically and personally, to be an agent of change for her children, her peers, and all women.  Her activism started from a dream when she lived in rural Kenya as a child.  She would dream about running next to a stream that no longer existed, and that dream inspired her to create an environmental grassroots organization that transformed the lives on many women and children. Some people, including the Kenyan government, viewed her candidness and criticism as detrimental and unnecessary to Kenyan citizens, yet she pursued her passion and made a long-lasting impact on the world to her loved ones and her family.

Brief Biography: Wangari Maathai was born on April 1, 1940 in Nyeri, Kenya.  She won a scholarship to study biology at Mount St. Scholastica College in Kansas.  In 1971, after receiving her master’s degree in science, she earned her doctorate degree—becoming the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn it. It is important to note that this was a great accomplishment for a woman to pursue higher education.  In the 1970s, elite white women were the main women earning degrees.  Maathai was an African woman from a poor background and despite the odds, she was able to earn her degrees and set a precedent for African women. Maathai was part of the National Council of Women and was the chairman from 1981 to 1987.  It was in this position where she introduced the idea of planting trees to serve people.  This idea developed into a grassroots organization, the green belt movement, dedicated to planting trees in order to conserve the environment and improve quality of life.  This movement responds to the needs of Kenyan women who stated their streams were dried up, their food supply decreased, and they walked great distances to find firewood for food and supplies.  Maathai would pay poor women to plant trees to reforest Kenya.  The mission of the movement is to empower the community through environmental management (find more information here: This form of community empowerment is a different form of feminist activism to serve the needs of women and children. It was so effective and successful that in 2004, she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to environmental sustainability, democracy, and peace, which fueled her passion to continue to vocalize her dissent about the close connection between environmental degradation and poverty.  Her outspokenness was not well-received by everyone, including the then-president of Kenya.  He did not believe in her movement, calling it “subversive” and ordering the police to beat her unconscious during a protest where she was wrongfully arrested.  While her work life was in turmoil, her home life was in turmoil as well.  Her husband, Mwangi, whom she married in 1969, told her on a number of occasions that she was too strong-minded for a woman, and he stated that he was unable to control her.  She did not agree with her husband and divorced him in 1977.  The divorce was costly and with the lawyer fees and loss of her husband’s income, she found it difficult to support herself and her children on a low wage income.  Despite this, she was able to find an opportunity to work for the United Nations.  Unfortunately, she could not bring her children with her because it required a lot of traveling.  She made a tough decision about sending her children to her ex-husband so that she could get the job. She visited them frequently throughout the duration of the job.  She moved forward in home life and political life despite the challenges and continued to make an impact in her country.  In 2002, she was elected to parliament with 98% of the vote and was appointed Assistant Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, and Wildlife in Kenya by the president.  In 2011, Maathai died of cancer.  She is survived by three children and a granddaughter.

This biography relies on two key sources: Jeffrey Gettleman, “Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Laureate, Dies at 71.New York Times 26 Sept 2011 and “Wangari Maathai– Biographical.”

Inspiration for Women's History Month: J.K. Rowling

This month is Women’s History Month! For this month, I want to highlight some awesome women. Some were/are moms themselves, and you and your kids should know about them. These posts will be brief introductions into these women’s lives and are meant to be a source of inspiration: courageous women, through the face of adversity, stick with their passion and talents and are successful on their own terms. The purpose of these posts is to encourage you to think about your own abilities and talents and to inspire you to attain future career and family goals.  You define your own success, and it doesn’t always have to include riches and fame. Our first woman:

J.K. Rowling. Courtesy of Debra Hurford Brown and the Guardian

J.K. Rowling. Courtesy of Debra Hurford Brown and the Guardian.

J.K. Rowling

Born: July 1965, England

Occupation: Writer, known for the creation of the Harry Potter series

Brief Biography: J.K. Rowling was born in England, where she grew up with her two parents and younger sister. When she was younger, she wrote fantasy stories that she shared with her sister, laying the foundation for her career. In 1982, Rowling took the entrance exams for Oxford University but was not accepted. Instead of giving up, she graduated from the University of Exeter in 1986 and moved to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International (Fraser, 34).  On a delayed train in 1990, she thought of a story of a young boy attending a school for wizards—the birth of Harry Potter.  In 1992, she married and had her first child in 1993.  Shortly after, she separated from her husband and moved in with her sister, bringing her daughter along with her. She felt as if she was a failure because she was jobless and had a “failed” marriage while having a little girl depend on her. She used writing as a way to escape reality.  Rowling received welfare benefits, and she felt as if this was as poor as she could get, without being homeless.  In 1995, she finished the first manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  She submitted the book to 12 publishers, and all of them rejected her. Tenaciously, Rowling submitted the manuscript a year later to Bloomsbury publishing house, and they decided to publish it. Her hard work paid off: received so many awards, including “British Book Award” and “Children’s Book of the Year, that in 1998 a US publishing company bought the rights to publish the novel.  Her career took off, and she published six books in the series. Harry Potter is now worth about $15 billion dollars and is translated into 65 languages. She now uses her resources and talents to help different organizations.  She is the president of a charity, Gingerbread, and helps write children’s stories to help one parent households.

 Why should you know about her?  Rowling’s “rags to riches” story is one of the most notable of our time.  Her resilience during some of her darkest and poorest times allowed her to create one of the best, if not the best, book series during our time. Harry Potter has transformed her life and the lives of children around the world.  She was able to use her passion and talent to liberate herself from poverty.  Rowling had to balance single motherhood and her career. For instance, she took her infant child on walks to local cafes because that was the best way for her baby to sleep, and she carved out time to write her book while her baby slept peacefully. She understood the stigma surrounding single parenthood even as she became famous. Journalists often referred to her as the “Single Parent [who] Writes Amazing Children’s Book.”  On one of her first interviews, a journalist asked her why hadn’t she felt the need to find a job instead of staying at home, writing a book.  Instead of dealing with her frustrations in a hostile manner, she decided to become a patron of the Gingerbread organization.

Rowling remarried in December 2001, and the couple had their first child in March 2003 when she was writing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. She stopped writing the book to take care of him, understanding that balancing career goals and taking care of her family is hard work.  The scale of parenthood and career goals will not always be balanced; it is a complex process to balance and negotiate these roles.  One may take priority over another temporarily and that is not a bad thing. Rowling was able to find success in embracing parental life and career goals, and she became successful the way she saw fit.

Awesome Quote: “It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”


Fraser, Lindsey. Conversations with J.K. Rowling. London: Scholastic, 2001.

A Brief Parent’s Guide to Positive Body Image

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week, created by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), which raises awareness about eating disorders. NEDA has great resources for you to educate yourself about eating disorders and body image. This year, the theme is “3 minutes can save a life”—and they’ve created a three-minute confidential online screening you can use to determine if you or a loved one needs to seek professional help. Early intervention—recognizing the signs of an eating disorder before it reaches a medical crisis—can increase the likelihood for full recovery and can save a life. But how does this affect parents?

Critical consumptionAs parents, you create impressions about food and eating for your kids starting when they’re infants, based on the attitudes you’ve picked up since you were an infant. These attitudes can set the stage for how children feel later about food and eating. Children mimic their parent’s behavior. For instance, if parents have poor body image—if they comment that they are “too fat” or “not thin enough” or that their “nose is too big”—their children are more likely to imitate that behavior. These attitudes and behaviors are so pervasive that, according to NEDA, about 40 to 60% of elementary school girls, ages 6 to 12, are concerned about becoming too fat or gaining weight. Children can pick up harmful ideas about fatness and body image from home, school, and social media. They hear it from their classmates, family, and watching television. One way to counter these harmful messages is to model positive body talk.

In order to promote healthy body image for your children, you have to model positive body image. Positive body image is being content with the way you look and feeling good about your body. Feeling good about your body can be challenging– it  takes a lot of self-awareness to counter the messages you’ve received from infancy. You may not match what’s on social media, or your family members may criticize you (lovingly, of course), but you are proud of and accept your body. Instead of critiquing the parts of your body that you do not like, look at yourself as a whole and tell yourself, “I am beautiful” and “happiness isn’t size specific.”

To help you on that path, NEDA identifies 10 steps to positive body image. Try it for yourself and your kids! Here are a couple of the everyday recommendations that you can add to your parent toolkit.

NEDALanguage can have an impact on young children. Repeating words such as “fat” and “diet,” especially if you are referring to yourself or others with disgust, can have a harmful impression in your children. They can internalize those negative feelings and worry about gaining too much weight and their need to diet. Try to avoid that kind of language. Another way to promote positive body image with your language is to avoid categorizing food as “good” and “bad”; rather, describe foods as “sometimes” and “always” foods. For example, you can eat vegetables, fruits, and proteins all the time, and you eat other foods—like dessert and fries—sometimes. When you do eat “sometimes” food, eat it in small quantities and not as often as “always” food. Parents can teach their children to be comfortable with their bodies as they continue to develop. Telling your children that they are beautiful just the way they are and that they are beautiful inside and out are not just clichés. They are effective phrases that promote positive body images.

You can also teach them about how their bodies feel when they are hungry (grumbling stomach) or full (comfortable). This will give them the tools to take ownership over their bodies and to trust themselves to know when they are hungry or full.

Including children in making breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner can be effective. It creates autonomy to decide which foods they like, and you can teach them about the food groups. You can even take them grocery shopping so that they can be involved in choosing what food comes home. As they choose food, you can explain the importance of variety of foods and how certain foods can provide nutrients and vitamins.

UNC has a plethora of events for this week to bring awareness and to educate students about eating disorders. You can find more information about these events by visiting this website: