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Northwestern Women’s Center presents annual symposium March 9

Webinar will explore the theme mutual aid and community engagement

activist scholars Kelly Hayes and Dean Spade
Activist-scholars Kelly Hayes and Dean Spade converse in the opening plenary session of the Women's Center's March 9 annual symposium

What does it mean to be there for one another? What does being there look like when we can’t share a physical space? What will communities of care look like as we enter post-pandemic life?

These are among the questions being explored as the Women’s Center at Northwestern University continues its 2020-2021 programming on the theme of mutual aid and community engagement.

A highlight of the year is the annual symposium, which will be held as a webinar Tuesday, March 9 from 1 to 4 p.m. The program is free and open to the public. Reservations and more information are available on the Women’s Center website.

The symposium will feature a conversation on mutual aid between trans activist, educator and author Dean Spade and Native American journalist and community organizer Kelly Hayes. Spade has described mutual aid as “survival work when done alongside social movement demands for transformative change.” Hayes is the 2018 recipient of the Chicago Freedom School’s Champion of Justice Award and the founder of the direct action collective Lifted Voices.

Women’s Center Director Sekile Nzinga will open the symposium with remarks on the history of mutual aid. 

“We are looking forward to bringing our year-long programming theme into deeper focus with the symposium,” Nzinga said. “Spade and Hayes will discuss the critical significance of mutual aid efforts before, during and after crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, that have helped to sustain so many in our communities.”

Read more about Nzinga’s vision and plans for the Women’s Center here.

Rounding out the symposium are a panel discussion with Northwestern students and Evanston community organizers working to advance mutual aid and community engagement efforts on and around campus and closing remarks from Paola Zamperini, associate professor of gender and sexuality studies and Chinese literature and culture.

About the featured guest speakers:

Spade is an associate professor at Seattle University School of Law and the author of the book “Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the next)” published in 2020 by Verso Press. Spade’s previous work includes the book “Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law” (second edition published by Duke University Press in 2015) and the documentary film “Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back!”

Hayes is a community organizer, host of Truthout’s podcast “Movement Memos,” and a contributing writer at Truthout. Her writing has been featured in Teen Vogue, Bustle, NBC Think and the anthology “The Solidarity Struggle: How People of Color Succeed and Fail at Showing Up for Each Other in the Fight for Freedom.” 

Related events:

International Women’s Day Celebration
Monday, March 8, 4 p.m.
RSVP online

This hour-long celebration of International Women’s Day is free and open to the public. This year’s Shujaa Award winner will be announced. The Shujaa, a word that means “s/hero” in KiSwahili, honors a member of Northwestern staff whose service to the work of gender justice, equity and inclusion demonstrates courage, tenacity and an ethic of care.

Conversations with Mutual Aid Organizations
Ongoing through March
@nuwomenscenter Facebook page

The Women’s Center will stream a series of live video interviews with Chicagoland mutual aid organizations. The videos will be archived on the Center’s website and Facebook page. The 30-minute videos will feature conversations between Center staff and community leaders from Farm, Food, Familias, Brave Space Alliance (sponsored by Gender and Sexuality Studies), Rogers Park Community Response Team, Chicago Abortion Fund, Assata’s Daughters (sponsored by The Graduate School and Graduate Women of Color) and Chicago Community Bond Fond (sponsored by One Book). 

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