The Center for the Education of Women will be welcoming award-winning actress Laverne Cox to the University of Michigan as the final event for the 2017 CEW Spectrum of Advocacy and Activism Symposium.
Cox is a transgender, African American actress and equal rights advocate who will be sharing her experiences through her talk “Ain’t I a Woman? My Journey to Womanhood” on Nov. 15.
“Laverne projects a combination of strength and vulnerability in her presentations while delivering an animated reflection on the transgender experience,” the invitation reads. “Her recollections of growing up in Mobile, Ala., moving to New York City, and finding the courage to step into womanhood illustrate the unique challenges faced by the transgender community.”
Many students on campus quickly made sure they had tickets for this upcoming presentation. However, members from communities that could benefit most from listening to Cox — Black women and Black transgender women — may not have the opportunity to attend the event because of a limited amount of tickets. The tickets for the live event at Rackham Auditorium, which can fit about 1,000 people, are sold out, and the live-streaming locations are also at full capacity. As a way to ensure that Black women and Black trans women can listen to Cox’s presentation, some students are giving away their tickets. One of these students is Public Health student Vikrant Garg, whose Facebook post offered tickets to members of those communities who were interested in attending the event.
“It’s important to see people who look like you creating social change because a lot of the time, especially for Black women and Black trans women, there aren’t many figures," Wheeler said. “The way that Black women are represented in the media is ultimately a negative image, so if we have activists who are working to change that image it should be accessible.”
Wheeler was pleasantly surprised to hear about Garg’s actions and talked about how, as a Black woman on campus, sometimes it’s hard to remember she has the support of other communities.
“I think that giving the tickets away is really nice and really thoughtful,” Wheeler said. “It’s a horrible thing that you don’t expect people to support you, but being Black on this campus, you don’t expect it because of the way that a lot people act and what a lot of people do — you just don’t expect people to care.”
Garg also pointed out the multiple obstacles that made it difficult to get tickets to the event, such as limited seating capacity and institutional inaccessibility.
“It really depended on who was able to get there and reserve at the right time. When you talk about institutional access, there are people who don’t have access to the University as a whole,” Garg said. “For instance, Black student involvement is less than 4 percent, so if you’re looking at institutional access, U of M is highly inaccessible to Black people as a whole, let alone people with multiple marginalized identities.”
In the future, Wheeler hopes the University can offer Black students a chance to access events like these slightly ahead of time.
“I think some people may not agree, but give access to Black students first,” Wheeler said. “There’s a roster of Black students, so I think that actually having a short window ahead of time can allow people to actually attend because this is too important.”