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BC Student Rallies for Women's Rights

Carolyn McQueen, a senior at BC, is using her life experiences to help end violence against women. She- with the help of a few fellow students- has organized Berea's first ever Take Back The Night Rally, an event to draw attention to the problem of domestic violence and sexual assault. BCnow sat down with McQueen to get to know her a little better, and to find out just what makes her tick.

Carolyn McQueen also works for the Women Studies department.

BCnow: You’re graduating this Spring, congratulations! What do you plan to do after leaving Berea?

McQueen:I plan to work in the field as a victim and survivor's advocate and advocacy programs coordinator, working with women and families in the areas of domestic violence and sexual assault. I would like to stay in the Appalachian region, but there is so much pain, suffering, and need in this area of social dysfunction. Wherever the path leads me after graduation, I know there will be women and families to be served. Some day I hope to own and operate a Women’s/Family ‘Safe Place’ Shelter.

BCnow: You're organizing Berea's first Take Back The Night Rally. What is it, and why does Berea College need one?

McQueen: Take Back the Night is a community-wide event that began in Germany and came to the United States in 1978, to bring about an awareness of the victimization of women through domestic violence and sexual assault. It began and continues today in an effort to end violence against women. Since March is Women’s History Month and also Sexual Violence Awareness Month, it is an excellent time to actively support and bring this important message to the BC campus, as well as to Berea and the surrounding area communities. Sadly, no community is free of violence and from the many forms of abuse that an abuser utilizes in their "power and control’ relationships. Berea College is a great medium to orchestrate an awareness, educational, and social-change message such as Take Back the Night. A serious societal concern should be realized when one becomes aware of the frightening statistics on sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse; it is perhaps even in our own lives and in the lives of our family and friends. Only a few short years ago, these topics were thought to be taboo and personal and no one got involved. I am so thankful that today we can organize and hold events such as this to bring an awareness of the seriousness of these problems and to educate the community about the many support services and assistance that are available. Working together, I believe with all my heart that we can make social change happen!

BCnow: I’m sure that organizing Berea’s first TBTN rally must be exhausting and hard work. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in putting this together?

McQueen: This has been such a rewarding and very positive experience for me. I really believe that the time is right and the right people are here right now to get actively involved and are committed to this effort! I was so encouraged and further energized in my realization of the BC community’s commitment at the initial organizational meeting. There were 13 individuals in attendance from several organizations & departments on campus, along with a few students who got involved all on their own! That is an awesome turn-out and was all the message I needed to know that the devotion is here and people really do care about ending the violence and making this world a better and happier place for everyone to live in! The only ‘challenges’ I have had is finding enough hours in the day to keep up with my classes too, but we are all in that boat. The energy I get from the weekly meetings, as everyone keeps coming, or sending an e-mail, to do their part and share their excitement is really most of what I need to keep me keeping on, along with the strength within me that comes from the Lord! I have always loved to organize and when it is something I feel passionate about it is a challenge that is easily undertaken!

BCnow: Alright, opposite of that, what’s the best experience or memory you’ve had of working on this project?

McQueen: The best memory of working on this project has to be that first night and the great turn-out from so many areas of our BC community!

BCnow: Have you had any setbacks in putting this together?

McQueen: There have been no set-backs other than having to change the format of the project that CELTS (Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service) is facilitating. We had initially planned to do the Clothesline Project which is an important part of TBTN events. When we learned during that first week that CFS (Child and Family Studies) students have done this project as an annual event and have it planned for April, we changed direction and decided on doing survivor-created quilt squares. These will be sewn together in a quilt to be displayed the night of the rally, and hopefully to be hung somewhere on campus afterwards. We are hopeful that this will become an annual event for BC and that the two events can be coordinated in the future, and I believe that will happen.

BCnow: Why are you personally invested in this project? Is there any particular reason that you wanted to do this? If so, would you mind telling us what it is?

McQueen: I am personally invested in this project because I am committed to doing all I can do to end violence against women and children. Having experienced abuse in many forms in my lifetime, both as a child and as an adult, I have an understanding on a personal level. As an advocate I believe my personal experience will allow me a more in-depth understanding, empathy, and patience in my future work with survivors of abuse. There are so many resources available to assist women and families in need, but we have to bring an awareness of these to them and to the community and educate them on the dynamics of abuse. I am passionate about community awareness and the importance of it. I believe it is the ‘key’ to bringing about social change in our world. My Women’s Studies, Appalachian, and Sociology classes, over the past four years, have taught me so much about the many dimensions relating to the work I will go into when I leave Berea. Application is easier if the interconnecting aspects of people’s lives are realized and then addressed on a personal level in the work we do to help them.

BCnow: Thanks so much, and good luck!

Berea College's first Take Back The Night Rally will be held on Tuesday, March 21, in front of Union Church. The musical performance will begin at 5:30 pm, and the opening speakers will take the stage at 6 pm. The march from Union Church to the Municipal Bldg. at will get underway at 6:45, followed by an Open-Mic Speak-Out for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence and their family & friends. A Candle-Light Vigil will also be held after the parade at the program site at approximately 7:30 p.m.

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