Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even if it is something as simple as drafting questions for a survey, it is always good to get input from those who have done similar projects before you. They could catch things that you may be missing that would make your efforts that much easier.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amber Wynne.
Amber Wynne she is a junior health science policy administration major, criminal justice minor, attending the illustrious Hampton University in Hampton, VA. As a health science student, her passion for activism extends into the healthcare and social organizing fields. Amber currently serves on PERIOD’s Board of Directors and Youth Advisory Council.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I firmly believe that everyone has the birthright to thrive in every aspect of their life, and have the full autonomy to do so. If there are impediments in their ability to thrive, it is not the job of those who are oppressed by the system to fix the system. Making a difference is about using your privilege and position in power to help those who may not have a seat at the table. Making a difference is about leaving a legacy for those to follow and prosper long after you have completed the work.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
I currently have the honor of serving on PERIOD’s Youth Advisory Council and on the Board of Directors. In both capacities my goal is to uplift, advocate and organize through the framework of reproductive justice to achieve true equity for every version of the menstruating individual. Whether that’s reviewing micro-grant applications to ensure we are centering the voices of BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and youth-led organizations, or reviewing strategic planning that will help PERIOD provide seats for other youth activists to have a seat at the table. PERIOD and I have hopes of centering the voices of those most affected so that we can change the way the world views menstruation.
On a personal note, I hope to use my experience as an HBCU student in conjunction with organizations like PERIOD and No More Secrets, Inc. to help create menstrual equity projects at other HBCUs. Achieving menstrual equity on HBCU campuses is difficult because often these campuses are conservative and more traditional. With over 100 HBCUs in the nation, I would like to be a part of the conversation to see period poverty eradicated on HBCU campuses nationwide.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
I think most menstruation activists have a similar start. I remember in high school always carrying a pack of pads on me just in case. Beyond that, what catalyzed my passion for menstrual justice was my experience attending my HBCU. I remember going into the women’s restroom and seeing the menstrual product dispenser being broken. I quickly realized that menstrual products were not easily accessible at all on my campus not only for women but for LGBTQ+ students who menstruate as well. In 2019 I created “The Period Project’’ at Hampton University with the goal of establishing period pantries within every dorm, academic building and a gender-neutral location for LGBTQ+ students. I began petitioning my university’s student body to see what the community needed. After a year of collecting data, in the Fall of 2020 I officially presented legislation through Student Government with the help of No More Secrets, Inc. to have period pantries established on campus. I am proud to announce that “The Period Project’’ will be fully functioning in the Fall of 2021.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
That trigger for me was the fact that over 75% of the students I surveyed had to pay for transportation to acquire menstrual products because they were not available on campus. In total, it would cost students over 20 dollars just to get one pack of pads. That in and of itself is unacceptable. These products need to be made readily accessible. Menstruation is not a choice. We don’t get to dictate when our flow comes, or how many products it will take for us to manage it. The last thing we need as college students is to pull out what little extra money we have to cover a car ride to a local store. This alone became a huge catalyst for my work.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I would not be here today without the help of Ms. Lynette at No More Secrets, Inc. Without her, the period pantry would still be an idea. Ms. Lynette has the goal of eradicating period poverty nationwide, but she also has a passion for targeting this issue at HBCUs specifically. She created the first menstrual hub at Lincoln University this March, and Hampton will be the second HBCU to have such an impactful resource this upcoming Fall. I am beyond elated to work with No More Secrets, Inc. to help other HBCUs like Hampton to achieve menstrual equity.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- LISTEN! There are so many amazing youth activists that can testify and organize around the issue of menstrual equity. Their stories and experiences are valid and should be heard.
- Center the voices of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals. Remember it is not the job of those who are oppressed by the system to fix the system.
- Lastly, menstrual equity is a concern that is local! Too often we forget that there are people in need in our own backyards. If we want to eradicate period poverty nationwide, we need to start in our own neighborhoods.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
- Rome was not built in one day. The project is not going to get up and leave. Pace yourself. I used to get so wrapped up in my work that I would try to get it all done in one sitting. I constantly have to remind myself that the work will get done, and that this is all a part of the process.
- Rest. You can not help the movement if you have burnout. Self-preservation is key!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even if it is something as simple as drafting questions for a survey, it is always good to get input from those who have done similar projects before you. They could catch things that you may be missing that would make your efforts that much easier.
- You can’t do it all on your own. It is important to build a solid team around individuals who are also passionate about the cause. I am extremely protective of my work, but I have had to learn that everyone brings something different to the table and their skills may help make my work more impactful.
- Always center the voices of those who are most oppressed. I remember sitting with multiple student groups to get their input on what the students needed. Because of all of those meetings, I was able to get direct insight rather than having to guess and I was able to meet every need.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Remember that there is always someone else who has it worse off than you…. Let that sink in. We are all deserving of love, we are all deserving of equity and we are all deserving of the ability to thrive in our everyday lives. Whether that’s petitioning your university to get free menstrual products or calling your representatives to address your concerns, there is no act too small to make a difference.
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This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!