I have been accepted into a one-year graduate studies program at the University for Peace, for the 2014 Masters of Art Program in Gender and Peacebuilding. The program focuses on human rights, social justice, and conflict resolution with an explicit gender analysis, examining both how female-identified and -bodied individuals are affected by human rights abuses, and how they play a unique and crucial role in post-conflict resolution and redevelopment. The University for Peace is located in Costa Rica, a country uniquely qualified to host such an institution, as it demilitarized in 1948, and is home to the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, the Hague of the western hemisphere. Much of my work with Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Sandy focused on internal community building, focusing on anti-oppression, anti-racism, and challenging patriarchy. Moving forward I’m looking to ground this work with a more developed understanding of the international and historical precedents of a human rights framework and law in order to continue in scalable and intentional ways.
During Occupy Wall Street, in the days leading up to the raid, the community was reaching a boiling point. The encampment at Zuccotti Park had a clear east/west divide that was in no small part defined by race and class. This came to a head in what was labeled less than tactfully, “the hijacked General Assembly” in which several occupiers from the west side, primarily young men of color, took position on the stairs before the night’s facilitators arrived to begin the GA. They held the space to air much-needed grievances against the “professional organizers,” many college educated and white (like myself) who spent most of their time at 60 Wall Street, rather than in the camp, or on the front lines of actions. This was followed by a Spokes Council in which a much-debated women’s group (one with an explicit no-trans policy) was denied admittance to the council. Gender, race, and class oppressions were actively being recreated within a beautiful community, and we had only just begun to acknowledge it, let alone do anything about it. The NYPD raid on November 15th allowed for addressing of the “immediate needs” to take precedence over this much more difficult deeply-rooted work. We never got back to it, the effects of which would never be undone. In Occupy Sandy, sexism actively manifested within the organizing. Administrative tasks tended to be delegated to female-identified organizers, while male-identified organizers went out into the field. There were attempts to address this, but often only on a very small scale.
When even the most intentional, radically-minded communities fail to act in anti-oppressive ways, how can we be surprised when the rest of the world is incapable or uninterested? I have been heartened by the responses to efforts like #YesAllWomen, @EverydaySexism, and ending street harassment, but there is so much more work to do. Following the shooting a few weeks ago, I was surprised, pleasantly, that the conversation was not solely about guns. Guns are not the root of the problem. Men who hate women are the problem. A society that devalues, degrades, and dehumanizes women is the problem. Raising boys to be “real men” is the problem. The system of patriarchy is the problem and men must take an active role in acknowledging how we are privileged by it, and then work with our sisters to dismantle it. It is from this starting point that I aim to do my work.
In November of last year I left New York City after over twelve years. Since then I have been living with two of my closest friends in Minneapolis, and have been bartending since January to save for tuition, travel, cost of living for a year abroad, and other related expenses. Based on my current financial situation, the University for Peace were gracious in offering me a 30% waiver. Tuition, after the waiver, is $14,400 plus an estimated $1,000 for books. Additionally, the university has granted me the ability to make monthly installment payments, rather than the typical two-lump sums. Thus far I have paid $6,400.
Much is still unknown in regards to monthly living costs and day-to-day expenses. I have begun looking into housing through Craigslist because the school’s facilitated process does not initiate until the end of June. It is estimated that rent (including utilities) will range from $300-$500 a month. I intend to be on the lower end of that range. In total I think it is reasonable to expect that my 10+ months in Costa Rica will cost between $5000- $7000.
That means I have an outstanding balance of up to $14,200. I will be working through the first week of August and currently have about $4,000 saved (from which tuition will continue to be paid.)
I am asking for help to make up the difference. I am ineligible and uninterested in taking on more institutional debt in order to go to graduate school and will not be able to make it through this next year, this next adventure, without the support of my loved ones.
It is my hope, which I ask with great humility and respect for the weight of the ask, to crowd-source $7,000-$12,000. I do not believe in charity and I am not asking for donations. I am asking for micro-loans. It is my absolute intention to repay every dollar that is given to me through this effort. And should an opportunity present itself in the future, I intend to repay the kindness.
With sincerity I thank you for even just reading this, for your time, your consideration, and your support, in whatever form it may take.
With love and rage, your friend and comrade,
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- Christine Weihe
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