Release party for 'UNherD' celebrates legacy of women in social activism
On Friday, the legacy of Rutgers women involved in social activism was celebrated at the release party for UNherD. The project featured portrait photographs of 24 current students who are involved in social activism.
UNherD was organized and created by School of Arts and Sciences seniors Monica Torres and Jeremy Berkowitz and Isabella Sehringer, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
The 24 portraits were each accompanied by a poem written by the person in the photographs. Berkowitz said that the poems are meant to represent each woman's identity in some way. The exhibit is accompanied by a 12-minute video created by Sehringer, which was screened at the event and is also available on YouTube.
Torres said that UNherD was inspired by last year's political events and the subsequent activism that took place on campus — she, Berkowitz and Sehringer began working on the project on a weekly basis since last semester
“Each week we would get together and we would brainstorm, 'How are we gonna pay homage to these really dope women?'” Torres said. “It was a way for us to archive this history of student activism because you see across universities that student activism is only talked about by the university when it benefits them — when it's an anniversary year, or they can profit off it. But other than that these histories are tucked away.”
Torres said that in addition to highlighting Rutgers' history of activism, UNherD was meant to provoke reflection on the role the University has played in social oppression, and on the social issues New Brunswick still faces.
Torres said that she has personally organized and participated in political activism with about half of the 24 women featured in UNherD. She said that she chose these 24 women because they apply what they have learned in their classes to effect change in the real world, and by doing so truly embodies the University's professed values.
The women profiled in UNherD are involved in a wide variety of groups that are each socially engaged.
These groups include undocuRutgers, an on-campus group that provides resources and support for undocumented students, United Students Against Sweatshops, a national group that fights for workers' rights and New Entry, a support program for women who are returning home and trying to assimilate back into society after a period of incarceration.
The women themselves represent a diverse array of identities. Berkowitz said that these identities often go unheard, hence the title of the project.
“The approach was, we just wanted to capture their essence,” Berkowitz said. “We wanted them to feel comfortable, we wanted them to feel like it was their space. We wanted to give them space to be heard. We thought that the voices of these women were important, and the voices of activists of the past and activists of the future to come are also important too.”
Torres said that by highlighting the activism of current Rutgers women, the project is paying homage to Rutgers' long history of activism and its future activism. To signify this, the exhibit included an extra blank canvas.
“There's an empty canvas because we didn't want to limit it to just these 24 women,” Torres said. “You could see yourself in that canvas. Anybody could see themselves in that canvas. I want young women to see this and be like, 'Wow, I can make the most out of my college experience.'”
Max Marcus is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. He is a correspondent for The Daily Targum.