Celebrating International Women’s Day!

Written by Nanami “AVALØN” Hirata

Just two months ago, our nation’s capital was over-flooded as half a million people crowded Independence Avenue to march for issues that affect women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault (Women’s March on Washington Facebook page). Many GW students also participated in the March, including me and other sisters from Pi Chapter. And although the March itself felt empowering and motivational, I was afraid that the momentum of the Women’s March would stop there– that millions of people around the world had rallied for this campaign that was blasted across social media, but that this energy would die down in the following weeks. However, my Facebook feed told me otherwise.

On the morning of March 8th, a notification  reminded me that it was “International Women’s Day.” After a little research and asking around, I found out that this international campaign was a day  dedicated to calling for a more inclusive gender equal world and celebrating the numerous ways in which women have achieved social, political, economic, and cultural success. In D.C., many businesses closed their doors for the day as female employees participated in “A Day Without a Woman.” I saw some of my professors, friends, and sisters, sending encouraging messages on this day, and I was reminded to appreciate all the strides women have made throughout history and to celebrate the important accomplishments of the women closest to me.

Inspired by this renewed energy, I decided to interview one sister I admire particularly for her dedication to feminist values. She has taught me and my line sisters the importance of our sorority’s values and how it connects deeply to female empowerment. And most importantly, she has been a role model as a strong leader, inspiring me and the women around her that we are capable of great things.

 

Please allow me to introduce our beautiful alumna, Ashley “Sakarya” DaCosta!!

 


 

Nanami: What does it mean to be a woman, in your opinion? What is the most rewarding thing about being a woman?

Ashley: This question is interesting because in my eyes it’s akin to asking, “What does it mean to be human?” There is no monolithic experience as a woman, as there are so many intersectionalities to our gender. As a Caribbean-Black, heterosexual, cisgender, American young woman, I can only truly speak about my experiences and what it means to me to live as a woman. So rather than speak on my personal experiences, I’ll focus on the role of women in society throughout time and how it impacts my identity today.

Being a woman is really remarkable in my eyes. Not only are we beautiful, intelligent, and downright magical, we’re also strong, daring, sacrificing, and soft all at the same time. Women are activists, constantly at the forefronts of change and progression throughout history. We’re the backbones of society, the keepers of tradition, the teachers of life. Self-starters, innovators, caretakers, leaders. And of course this is not to say any of this is limited to women, obviously, but just think–while our schooling has highlighted and focused on male achievement, particularly white male achievement in this country, where would any society be without women? There’s a reason why many microfinance charities focus on empowering women in impoverished communities/nations because we are the foundation of the family, the foundation of societies. Also think–everyone loves food so much, but ultimately who was responsible for the development of cultural cuisines, passing down knowledge of how to create dishes, passing down culture from generation to generation?

This is something I think about quite often actually, especially in our political environment today with leadership embodying ideas that women are less than and woman are to be controlled. I am filled with indignation everyday when I read stories about the attack on Planned Parenthood or hijabi women facing discrimination as our society loves to police and scrutinize women at every turn. But then I remember the strides made by past generations, the sacrifice and hard work of women, black women. I see my own mother work so hard and overcome anything and everything in her life and I feel emboldened. I feel so empowered through this revelation and no misogynistic or racist ideal will bring me down. I tell myself, while toxic masculinity and parochial values can be a threat to my existence, simultaneously I remember am free to express myself in many ways men cannot, for they fear ridicule as their masculinity is often rooted in sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. I remember how multi-faceted and interesting I can easily be as I am not bound to the same strict societal rules of expression as men. I remember all these things and I feel so strong, sure, and proud in my identity as a woman.

 

Nanami: How has Sigma Psi Zeta helped you grow as a woman and in general?

Ashley: Being a sister of Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc. has been both challenging and rewarding. Coming from a culture that is very different from most Asian cultures, I was met with new challenges when I was first initiated into the sorority, particularly regarding communication. I quickly learned throughout my time as an undergraduate sister how vital good communication skills are to your success in just about anything you do in life and I have continuously worked to be able to adapt my communication style as needed when interacting with people of all backgrounds so I can be better understood and better lead.

 

Nanami: Who is a female figure you look up to and why?

Ashley: I have never really had intense admiration for any public figure, but I have deep respect for any woman in any field making strides to better our greater community. To name a few, I think public figures such as Laverne Cox, bell hooks, Elizabeth Warren, Joy Reid, Michelle Obama, and Oprah are exceptional in who they are as people and the work they do to help others.

The only true female figure I really aspire to be like is my mother. It sounds corny and cliche, but if I sat you down and told you her life story you would find her just as incredible as I do. I don’ know how she does it…shoulders so much responsibility, looks after so many people, is so giving and generous, strong and capable, just….a warrior in many ways. If I can grow to be as successful as my mom as been, I will have lived a very fruitful and satisfying life.

 

Nanami: Finally, what do you think about International Women’s Day?

Ashley: International Women’s Day is a great initiative and it needs more recognition on a local level particularly at companies. For example, during Black History Month, my mom’s company did recognize it by highlighting the achievements of black employees, but my company did not do anything for it. I think all large companies should recognizeinitiatives such as this. Actually the company I work for is a minority and woman owned business, so it is a shame that nothing is done for International Women’s Day.

I’m so honored to be featured for this month’s blog post! Thank you so much baby for interviewing me 🙂

 


 

Inspired by this post? Want to make a change and actively participate in female empowerment?

Join Sigma Psi Zeta in our two upcoming events:

 

You Can’t Grab This! Women’s Self Defense Workshop

Friday, March 31st at 8:30-10 PM

Join “Fit to Fight” instructor, Angela Meyer for an evening of Women’s Self Defense. This will be a safe, fun, challenging and transformative experience, in an all female environment. This workshop will expand your physical, emotional and mental limits, while teaching you basic techniques and skills that will build your confidence and strength as a woman in DC.

 

Take Back the Night Rally

Tuesday, April 4th at 7:30PM

Come join us in this rally, speak-out, performance, and candlelight vigil as we call for an end to sexual violence and gender-based violence of all forms. We will have members of the GW community and local DC-based non profit organizations speaking on this issue. All proceeds we fundraise will be donated to local organizations that combat sexual violence.

Rush starts today!

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Hi everyone! Welcome back to the George Washington University. We wish all of you had a fantastic summer and are prepared for a spectacular year. Keep an eye out for Sigma events!

Rush is starting today, and whether you are just DYING to come rush or you’re still a little iffy about rushing, just come out to events!

Our first Rush event is our General Information Meeting (GIM I), and we’re throwing it way back to our childhood memories. At our first GIM, not only will you be meeting the sisters, learning about what it means to be a Sigma and what kind of sorority Sigma Psi Zeta is, you’ll be enjoying a wide array of free and delicious childhood snacks.

But that’s not all. For the next two weeks, we’ve organized a variety of different rush events for you to enjoy, to meet our lovely Sigma sisters, and learn more about our sisterhood. From complimentary bubble teas, to crafting your own dorm decoration and getting career advices from our sisters, not only will you be having fun and learning about Sigmas, you’ll be getting a taste of what’s it like to be part of our eternal SYZterhood.

Everything is absolutely free, non-binding and most importantly, it will be memorable. Rush is a great way for you to understand the ideals of Sigma, what we stand for, and who we are. Come and create your own Sigma memories. Persuaded? Come out to meet our Sigma sisters, we are all excited to meet you!

Take Back the Night: There is Always Light in the Darkness

Written by Michelle “Sidereal” Xiao

While promoting our philanthropy event Take Back the Night (TBTN) as part of our Domestic Violence Awareness campaign in the fall of 2015, I was greeted with strong enthusiasm, support, as well as curiosity from my fellow friends. The question that I encountered the most was “What exactly is Take Back the Night?” I took it as a sign to do more research about the history and the significance behind this internationally well-known campaign.

What is Take Back the Night?

Take Back the Night (TBTN) is an internationally-held rally intended to protest directly against sexual assault and other forms of violence against women. Since 1975, TBTN events have been held on college campuses, often in the form of candle light vigils, to honor the survivors of sexual assault and to educate participants about issues related to sexual violence. Take Back the Night enables women participants to publicly express their anger towards sexual violence in the society and create a safe environment for survivors to share their stories and heal the wounds.

History of Take Back the Night

A woman walks alone down a dark, deserted street. With every shadow she sees and every sound she hears, her pounding heart flutters and leaps in her chest. She hurries her pace as she sees her destination draw closer. She is almost there. She reaches the front door, goes inside, collects herself, and moves on. The lock she secures helps her to forget-at least for tonight-the gripping fear that momentarily enveloped her. “

www.takebackthenight.org

The origin of Take Back the Night may lie in 1877 when women protested the fear and violence they experienced in the nighttime streets of London. Others believe that the first TBTN rally occurred in 1976 when women protesters lit candles and took to the moonlit streets of Belgium to denounce the violence against women. While the origins of Take Back the Night may be disputed, its impact is undeniable. Although not all women experienced sexual assault, we are all potential victims and witnesses. Since very young, we are told not to walk alone and go out after dark, to avoid strangers, and to avoid dangerous areas of town. Yet, unfortunate things still happen on innocent women, and dark night becomes an insuperable fear to many. These nighttime TBTN events purposed to change darkness from a time of fear and predation to one of safety. Since its inception, thousands of marches and rallies bearing the name Take Back the Night have taken place worldwide. Today, marches are held in not only in numerous cities in the United States, but in Canada, Latin America, India, and Europe.

Sigma Psi Zeta Take Back the Night

Sigmas and the sisters of Kappa Phi Lambda co-hosted a Take Back the Night event in Fall of 2015.

Ever since 1994, Sigma Psi Zeta sorority has upheld our national philanthropy of combating the violence against women, and has been an active leader in organizing various philanthropic events on campus to raise awareness on domestic violence against women. Every year, we organize Take Back the Night candle light vigil to unite women on campus and encourage feminists and survivors to reclaim agency over their stories by sharing them and then acting on that empowerment by taking to the streets.

This year, our Take Back the Night event will be held on April 4th (Tuesday) at 7:30PM at Kogan Plaza. We will feature GW Sirens, the Feminist Student Union, A/PI DVRP, My Sister’s Place & more. Come light up the dark together with us!

A New Year, A New President, A New Class

2017 marks a series of dramatic changes. It hasn’t even been a full month and Sigmas have already been busy with a new president (for the US and for GW), the Women’s March on Washington, and the beginning of a new cycle for Sigma Psi Zeta classes! The Alpha Alpha class marks the beginning of a new generation of Sigma sisters that will take us into a new era of sisterhood, so come out to Rush and be a part of this historic moment!

Here at GW, the Pi Chapter of Sigma Psi Zeta holds Rush every semester, which consists of 2-3 weeks of various activities, to introduce new girls to the sorority and prepare for recruitment of a new class of sisters. We began yesterday with our first event which was a GIM or “General Interest Meeting.” All events are free and non-binding.

Blog 3Last night, we started off with our first event, Let Loose, which featured our lovely Performance Chairs, Natalia and Renea. Together, Rushees and SYZters learned a new stroll choreographed by our Performance Chairs and had a blast goofing off and looking great! During the event, we got some great tips from our Performance Chairs, including “Don’t look dead” and “Mess up with swag.” Meanwhile, we learned what it means to be a Sigma and the history of our organization!

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Strolling is a multicultural Greek tradition that originated with African-American collegiate organizations in 1920s and has evolved and grown to include all members of the Multicultural Greek Community. Here at GW, you can find Sigmas strolling at many of the events we hold and participate in including the MGC Block Party, Asia Night, MGC Showcase, and PDPSi and LPC’s Annual Cook Off! Check out some videos of our strolls on our YouTube page!

Interested in learning more about Sigma Psi Zeta?  Our next Rush event will be Thursday at 6pm in the Sigma Psi Zeta House, located at 2206 F St. across from the Smith Center next to the Catholic Center and &Pizza! We will be giving each other henna tattoos in honor of traditional Indian bridal ceremonies!

Sister Spotlight: Tiffany “cantabiLé” Chai

This week’s Sister Spotlight features our very own Tiffany “cantabiLé” Chai! Tiffany has worked hard representing Sigma Psi Zeta on campus by being Vice President of MGC (the Multi-Cultural Greek Council) her Junior year as well as serving as President her senior year! She was Vice President of Sigma for a year and is one of our most active sisters – a part of District K as a choreographer, Hawaii Club, and more! With her last semester as a GW undergraduate is coming to a close we wanted to put the “spotlight” on Tiffany~ We are so grateful for all of her hard work and care that she puts into our sisterhood. Learn more about her love for Japanese Culture and why she decided to join a sorority her freshman year!

Question 1: What has been the most challenging and rewarding part about being MGC President this past year? You are very active both in Sigma and the MGC Community, what do you enjoy most about being part of these organizations?

The hardest thing about being MGC president was working with the MGC community, the Greek Community, and the administration. Being pulled three ways while being in my last semester of undergrad made me really stressed and tired. Though it was rewarding in the end to see the MGC community work together. It was also great to be able to say hi to people you know when you’re walking to class :D.

I love how Sigma gave me a home away from home. The sisters are super supportive and we love to bring each other up. We’re so diverse to the point that I learn basically something new everyday. The MGC community is great because it’s full of great people who come out to events you put on. I love to see Sigma and MGC interact because they are both organizations I care about so much.

Question 2: What do you plan to do with your degree, Bachelors in Accountancy with your minor in Computer Science? How do you balance your heavy academic load along with all of your extracurricular activities?

I would love to be able to go into forensic accounting. My background in Accountancy and computer science allows for that. Actually, I don’t really know how I balance everything. I sleep a lot later than usual though (and it’s very bad for my skin). But I don’t regret taking on so many positions and responsibilities because I like pushing myself to see what I really can do.

Question 3: K-pop dancing — when did your interest in K-pop first spark and when did you start dancing? Share with us a little bit more about your experience as District K’s choreographer.

I used to not like K-pop a lot because I was influenced a lot by Taiwanese pop and J-pop. My friend in middle school basically made me listen to K-pop with her everyday in school, so I got very much into it afterwards. So funny story about dancing, I never really liked dancing pop before because I used to do ballet (then quit and did volleyball). I used to like classical things rather than pop. I got into dancing in District K because the founders of District K asked me to help out. One event led to another and voila, became a choreographer. I love District K because of all the friends I made, and I was able to find a litto from District K! Although it’s really tiring, I really do enjoy myself.

Question 4: Can you describe your love for Cosplay and interest in Japanese culture and anime/music?

Ooh, well, one of my aunts is Japanese, making my cousin half Japanese and half Taiwanese. I used to hang with him a lot, but not that I don’t really go back to Japan a lot, I haven’t seen him a lot. I was influenced by them to basically have an appreciation of Japanese Culture. I tried to learn Japanese as a child, but, that didn’t work out. I started getting into anime when I started to watch Miyaziki films like Spirited Away, Totoro, and Kiki. I loved the drawings and it was just so beautiful. From there, I started to basically watch anime (mostly for the artwork). I used to be the type that didn’t watch anime unless the drawings were pretty, but now, I’ve been basically reading manga that sparks my interest. I started getting into Cosplay when my friends got me to go to an anime convention with them after high school. I was so intrigued by how people could transform themselves into anime/cartoon/game characters that I wanted to try doing it myself. It’s hard, but I made some great friends because of Cosplaying. For Japanese music, well, I guess it was from watching anime and liking the theme songs of the anime.

Question 5: Why did you initially join Sigma and how do you feel it has impacted and/or changed you and how do you feel that you have impacted Sigma these past couple years?

Well, I was about to transfer to UMCP because I didn’t really enjoy my first semester in GWU. My older sister told me to go rush, cause maybe I’ll find a reason to stay. So I did. I rushed the first sorority I saw (didn’t really know what I had gotten into), got in, and never regretted my decision. Sigma has made me a lot more confident in myself. I used to be really shy and I hated to be in front of people, but joining sigma allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and take risks. As well, I gained many great friends and sisters who are all so very supporting of me.