Women’s History Month began on March 1, and Ramapo kicked off its celebration with the opening proclamation on Thursday for Women’s HERstory Month. The month is commonly referred to such, which is fitting because this year’s national theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”
“This month, throughout the entire month, we’ll be celebrating all types of women and their stories. Women of color, white women, queer women, straight women, trans women, women in our communities, in our homes… and right here at Ramapo College of New Jersey,” said Marie-Danielle Attis, the assistant director of the Center of Student Involvement and coordinator of the Office of Violence Prevention. The opening proclamation involved several notable women at Ramapo and a guest speaker telling their diverse stories, with Attis opening the event.
President Cindy Jebb took to the podium first to tell her story and deliver the opening proclamation. She reflected on her undergraduate days at West Point and the women in her graduating class. About seven years ago, she and the other women from the class of ‘82 got together for a birthday party and the organizers had the attendees bring in black and white photos from their decade. Looking at those photos, Jebb said she remembered the faces and the laughter, but also remembered some of the difficulties she faced as a cadet.
“We men and women did not talk about anything related to gender,” she said. “It was a third rail of sorts. We were missing open, honest communications regarding gender relations.”
She spoke further about those experiences, saying, only 64 out of the 125 women from the class of ‘82 graduated and the army “lost a lot of awesome female officers.” She praised her classmates as well as the work the Women’s Center has done at Ramapo.
After Jebb delivered the opening proclamation, the celebration officially began, and the stories continued.
Genesis Siverio came up to the podium to speak and share an original poem she wrote. As the student women’s outreach coordinator for the Women’s Center, she said she was given “the opportunity to be the voice for women on campus.”
“Like many of you, I am someone with intersecting identities, but I spend a lot of time in the corners of rooms,” she said. “What I want to do this month especially is make women who feel like they’re on the outskirts of conversation to instead feel like their life and stories are appreciated.”
As a senior, she will graduate with degrees in literature and gender studies. She said she has dedicated herself to studying women’s stories, especially stories about queerness, the intersections of racism and sexism, as well as what it means to be a woman in society. She is also a poet and read a recent poem she wrote that helped her cope with grief after learning that her 24-year-old neighbor was killed by her boyfriend.
Associate Professor of Journalism Regina Clark was the final main speaker and spoke about her family’s stories and an example of her own experiences as a Black mother.
“It’s all about the story. I think that our stories help us to find connection and they help us get past the assumptions we sometimes make about each other,” Clark said.
She said her mother, May, was once a Ramapo student but also picked cotton growing up in the hot fields of South Carolina. Her grandmother, Ruth, had 12 children and moved to New Jersey later in life. She spoke about other family members and the stories she learned from them, explaining that sharing stories is a way to bring history to life.
She also read an essay from her upcoming essay collection “Processing the Trauma of Black Lives.” The piece was about the Tyre Nichols killing, what was going through her mind when she saw the news report and how she, as a Black mother, had a conversation with her 12-year-old son about what he saw on the news.
Alex Woods, coordinator for the Women’s Center and LGBTQ+ Services, also described some of the upcoming events for Women’s HERstory Month. Some highlights include a special Clued-In session in the Women’s Center on March 9 with Siverio, the Vagina Monologues on March 23 in the H-Wing Auditorium and the second annual Violence Prevention Symposium on March 28.
Featured photo by Matthew Wikfors