Mapping A Movement: Edwith and Laken Ride a Feminist Batmobile Through North Carolina

By Edwith Theogene

Mapping A Movement is a series of Feminist Campus Trip Diaries. Our organizers travel the nation to help feminist student leaders on college campuses – these are the tales of their adventures.

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Edwith and Intern Laken spent some time last month organizing and connecting with young feminists in North Carolina! They spent four days there exploring as many campuses as possible, checking out a massive local reproductive health institute, and soaking up some free swag on the way.

This is their trip diary.

Wednesday, 10/2: Everything Was Cats and Nothing Hurt

Edwith: I received an early morning call from super shuttle saying that my shuttle would be by to pick me up in 15 minutes. It was early. My mood was that of a black and white French Film.

Laken: The Supershuttle hadn’t shown up to get me as it should already have. I call and they tell me the shuttle is scheduled to pick me up the same day I am coming back.

Edwith: It was an organizing Faux Pas but this was the start of our great adventure.

Laken: I call a taxi and it gets to the airport 15 minutes after Edwith. Crisis averted.

Edwith: She texted me to let me know that she would be taking a taxi to make the flight and said “the world is falling apart”.

Laken: At the airport, I purchased mini hot dogs wrapped in pretzel dough from Annie’s pretzels (they were delicious) and I began to realize how terribly I was going to eat on this trip. A man with a Southern accent sat next to me on the crowded plane and asked a million questions, dashing any hopes of a nap.

Edwith: We arrived at RDU Airport. It was such a lovely day!  I think my backpack was too big because as I walked off the plane a couple inquired if “I did lots of learnin’.” We picked up our rental, which we christened with a “This is what a feminist looks like” sticker.

Laken: They offered us a mini van; we said hell no. A Chrysler something then appeared, hereafter known as the “Batmobile.”

Rental Car aka Batmobile

Edwith: After an Hour long drive we arrived at our home away from home in Greensboro, NC. We stayed with Rebecca, a local community organizer who has worked with NOW and NARAL and is an all-around awesome person and feminist badass! It was a 1970’s themed home and we were surrounded by awesome furballs.

Laken: There we found an amazing feminist Rebecca, gracious Southernesque hospitality, and 4 crazy cool cats.

Edwith: Everyday was caturday.

Edwith: Rebecca told us that North Carolina Is known for amazing BBQ and suggested a place – “Stameys” – since it was close to our next stop. We went and gobbled up some delicious hot damn.

Laken: Our first typical Southern experience: BBQ food. It was good and really quite cheap. Afterward, we headed to Bennett College, parked in a gravel field, and tried desperately to find the Global Learning Center – for our first classroom presentation!

Edwith: After a photo session around campus, we did a classroom presentation at Bennett College for Professor Jennifer Ash’s Class. They were very receptive and passionate to get involved; students asked a lot of questions and made some great points as to how necessary a Feminist Presence on college and universities are.

When We first arrived in Bennett

Laken: The building was quite new and fancy, and there was beautiful art all around. This class was tiny, only 8 people at first – part of the magic of a private, historically black, all-women’s college. We introduced ourselves and I explained my internship and encouraged the students to look to the Feminist Career Center if they are nearing graduation and are looking for a job. We showeed the inspirational and informative video, “We Always Resist,” and students asked questions and told us about some of their concerns on campus.

Edwith: We then went on a mission for coffee. We got lost on North Carolina A&T University but were overjoy by finding a Starbucks. Coffee and brownies FTW!

Coffee and Brownie Break at NCA&T

Laken: A&T University is another HBCU, a public one. Starbucks, my international beacon of hope, is open and busy in their student union and I decide to get a cookie; I save the rest of and pull out the next day to Edwith’s comment that I’m the kind of person that “saves everything.” (Always ready for the zombies.)

Edwith: The coffee stop was short, since we had a meeting afterward with Bennett’s Africana Women’s Studies Department. Dr. Valerie A Johnson, the Director, told us about their upcoming tenth anniversary and staff showed strong support for not only bringing back their FMLA but also for creating a Women’s Resource Center in an attempt to create a safe community space for students. They are looking to grow their Women’s Studies department, and the plan of action is to find student leaders who would lead the initiative. The two strongest leaders would have the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. for our National Young Feminist Leadership Conference! Which, I mean. Who could pass that up.

Laken: I loved the late-hour dedication and Professor Ash’s tiny feminist-in-training wearing one of our “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” stickers!

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Edwith: Afterwards we met our House Peeps for Dinner. They took us out to this awesome place in Greensboro known for its eclectic food called Krafted.

Laken: An amazing locally-owned taco house!

Edwith: So yummy. Laken and I will definitely try to come back for their Mason Jar of Bacon.

Wednesday, 10/3: Chicken and Waffles

Edwith: We started the day with an amazing coffee / breakfast meeting with (wait for it… yet another all-women’s college) Salem College FMLA’s eboard members at Krankies, this super artsy and funky local coffee and art shop. It reminded Laken and I of the art scenes we left back in our respective homes.

Laken: Krankies, the coffee shop we met at in downtown Greensboro was very cool, reminded me of Portland, and had a delicious chai coffee cake. My back is killing me for some reason, walking, bending over or any other use of my back is making me feel like I’m suddenly 110 years old. Edwith takes a picture with a “This is What Feminism Looks Like” sticker on the Krankies hours board outside. The stickers begin to show up everywhere.

Edwith: Salem College’s FMLA are a truly awesome bunch. They’re all very different and unique in their own ways but they are so supportive and open. We were able to not only bring about a vision and get creative but also come up with an awesome game plan, ideas, and goals for the year. I see great things in their future!

Laken: This group wanted to implement a trans-policy without upsetting the alumni balance or putting themselves in danger of any negative repercussions. They decided knowledge and awareness and other unofficial forms of campaigning would be the wisest. I suggest they try to get their student government to pass a resolution to encourage the administration and others to open the door for discussion.

Edwith: Next we headed back to Bennett, where we presented in front of Professor Cristina Dominguez’s Women and Violence course. The students gladly welcomed us into their class and wanted to hear more about the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Laken: This group was very engaged and asked many questions. In fact, 2 of the students in this class were attending the Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute on Saturday!

Edwith: We watched Sister Song’s “We Always Resist: Trust Black Women” with this group, too, and it led to a truly motivating and passionate discussion: the students even suggested that re-organizing an FMLA on campus could be their class project! Later on, we discussed how Reproductive Justice starkly affects minority groups.

Edwith: Later on, we had an impromptu meeting at North Carolina A&T where we met with Women’s Studies Assistant Chair, Dr Temeka Carter. She welcomed us into the office and was interested in learning more about FMF. She created a black feminist curriculum, which we talked about, and we discussed how creating an FMLA on campus would help empower and grow interest in that program.  

Laken:  Dr. Carter explained that her students are very conservative and many have never meditated or done yoga, which blows my northwestern mind. Sounds like the exposure she is offering is very needed! Dr. Temeka had a lot of engaging things to say, and Edwith had many connections to suggest, and the meeting ran long, so I puledl out a bag of potato chips purchased the day before for a no-time-for-lunch-emergency-sustence situation like this.

Edwith: Dr. Carter is truly amazing with such vision! Laken and I were truly in awe. We had such a great discussion we almost missed our next class presentation. We basically had to make a run for it for our next presentation! Note to self: I am not a cute runner.

Laken: We headed back to Bennett College and again presented the documentary, this time in front of Dr. Cristina Dominiguez’s Intro to Women’s Studies Course. Another classroom presentation with the same materials and topics, although this was a class of 30, mixed with Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors – huge compared to our previous classes. This building was more historic and thus had terrible air-conditioning.

Edwith: We literally ran into the class. This was a great opportunity to even introduce the students to organizing: we lead a rousing discussion and many students were truly motivated. Most awesome experience ever! We discussed how civic engagement and involvement is not only important but necessary because whether we like it or not, these decisions affect us and are being made without us. The student response and discussion was off the charts!

Laken: Later on, after much meandering, we decided to get dinner.

Edwith: Dinner was at Dames Chicken and Waffles. I think this was heaven. My ticket to this surreal out of body experience was my plate. Although Laken was not fond of the idea, I’m pretty sure she now is a believer.

Laken: Wow, have I been missing out! Deeeeeeelicious.

Laken: At home, Cory showed us some fascinating and adorable cats to follow on Instagram after I reveaedl my obsession with similar accounts like bunnymama and catsofinstagram. Bedtime every night was early. Leaving the house was becoming increasingly exhausting. Who knew traveling could be so tiring?

Thursday, October 4: Into the Triangle

Laken: We get up, pack our things and leave our new kitty friends behind to head onto Raleigh and the triangle (some odd, local way to describe the area because of the proximity of three colleges there).

Edwith: Our first stop was North Carolina State University. Dr. Simons-Rudolph took us on tour of the Women’s Resource Center and introduced us to faculty and staff. She also works in the Women’s Studies Department. Their school is majority male but has the largest Women’s Center in the southeast.

Laken: The campus was HUGE: 70,000 students! Parking was a tiny battle but we made it, and Dr. Simons-Rudolph’s talk made me miss my large public school’s Women’s Center.

Edwith: And then: lunch! On our Way to Duke we stopped at this interesting place, the Mad Hatter. We chose it because of the name.

Laken: The cafe provided locally-grown food and unfried vegetables. I kept telling Edwith I needed more vegetables, so I got my fix! We vowed to come back later.

Edwith: We thought this would be a healthy venture… but there were cupcakes everywhere.

Laken: They had so many desserts.

Edwith: We got to Duke after finishing our meal, and oh my gosh, Duke University is huge! We had to park on the other end of campus because of an Alumni Event. It was a great: we took an impromptu “I’m Lost” tour of the beautiful and monstrous campus.

Laken: The campus is insanely beautiful and the Women’s Resource Center is in an amazing building that is also a residence hall.

Edwith: We met with the Baldwin Scholars Director and also sat down Laura Micham, the Merle Hoffman Director at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture. She legit was like a walking Wikipedia, and it was super awesome.

Laken: Laura Micham fought alongside Ellie in another time and I am so so inspired by her dedication to preserving the work of feminists, abortion providers, and the importance of keeping the history in mind while looking forward.

Edwith: At this point I realized I was allergic to Durham and kept sneezing through the meeting. It was funny how she would drop some knowledge I would sneeze, apologize, and she would say bless you im sorry and not skip a beat. Eventually we made way to our new home in Cary, North Carolina where we stayed with Beth, Director of Women NC. New casa = Pumpkin errythang. Thank you, Trader Joe’s, and god bless pumpkin ice cream.

Laken: Our wonderful new host, the incredible Beth, made dinner for us and chatted with us about Women NC. She reignited some passion in me to continue the fight for women’s rights. She is such a big supporter of young feminists, and she runs her non-profit program 40 hours a week as a volunteer! She’s Simply The Best.

Friday, October 5: Goin’ To Chapel Hill and We’re Gonna Get Educated

Edwith: We spent the day at the amazing North Carolina Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute. This was at IPAS in Chapel Hill and was very successful! 30 students attended from at least 14 different institutions attended from all over North Carolina. Generational Alliance, IPAS, and Women NC United also presented.

Laken: The big day! The Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute in Chapel Hill consisted of 30 students attended from at least 14 different institutions. Kaori and Rachel, the student activists that organized the event, blew me away with their professionalism and the accomplishments of this amazing group of student leaders they were able to turn out.

UNC-Ashville Student Leaders at the Institute along with Rachel Coleman Co-Organizer of Event

Edwith: This was a completely student run and organized event sprung from the vision, hard work, and efforts of Rachel Coleman from UNC-Ashville and Kaori Sueyoshi from UNC-Chapel Hill. They were childhood friends who remained active in the Feminist Movement throughout their college experience.

Laken: I learned there that I do my best work when I hand out all the stickers I possibly can, several times.

Laken:We went back to the amazingly beautiful Duke for a late-night meeting after the conference with the Women’s Center Director. She and an intern are working on a femcamp that we were very interested in! And Edwith was able to make more connections between NC folks. That’s what a great organizer does!

Edwith: Kim Mcrae, Program Director of Duke University’s Women Center, gave us some great Duke Swag!

Laken: After a long day, we find a BBQ place of the freeway, which turns out to be a very hopping bar that is showing Florida state (I think) playing football against some other school. Following the 3rd quarter of the game, everyone gets up in a big circle and sings the school’s anthem. At this point, Edwith is in Florida Heaven and I realize I’m kind of glad I’m not a fan(atic). A man at the table next to us makes eye contact and says in a Southern drawl, “You think we are a cult, don’t you?” Truth be told, I do.

Saturday, October 6: Eating Your Peanuts As They Runneth Over

Edwith: We started the weekend right: Celebratory Brunch for an event well done with Ryane Ridenour of Generational Alliance and Student Leader and Co-Organizer of Institute Kaori Sueyoshi!

Laken: Beth made us breakfast even though she was going out to eat (so nice!) and I impressed her with my knowledge. (The bread we had is called “lavash” in Farsi.)

Edwith: We still had time to kill so Laken and I went to Sara P. Duke Gardens. Kaori suggested it and told us it would be the most beautiful place we have ever seen. She was right! It was tres gorg! Laken and I ran around planning imaginary weddings and having nature-inspired photo shoots. Epicness!

yeah Im bout that life

Laken: BEAUTIFUL. The Duke Gardens almost make me wish I had gone into debt to the tune of $200,000 to go to school there. Almost.

Laken: Eventually, we had no choice and had to leave the gardens. We headed back to the airport to go home, and since the Batmobile didn’t have a USB port we listened to the radio for the entire trip and heard “Holy Grail” by Justin Timberlake approximately 1 billion times. We got to the RDU airport without trouble and I got so many peanuts on the plane somehow. All the peanuts!

Edwith: Peanuts for Days!

Laken: When I got home, I realized I’d lost my charger at some point. A sign of a good trip. Right?

To keep up with our organizers while they’re traveling, follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

By Edwith Theogene

Edwith is an intersectional social justice activist and advocate passionate about issues that impact women and communities of color. She is a Washington D.C. based South Florida Native who loves people, quotes, coffee, and pop culture, especially 90’s tv shows.

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