Congratulations to the 2021 Summer SWS Social Actions Initiative Award (SAIA) Winners!

Congratulations to the 2021 Summer SWS Social Actions Initiative Award (SAIA) Winners!

Lauren C. Garcia

Jessennya Hernandez

Bahar Aldanmaz

In 2016, SWS Council approved the Social Action Committee’s (SAC) proposal to support more direct social action of SWS members. The Social Actions Initiative Awards (SAIA) provide a way for the SAC to directly support and encourage the social activism of SWS members. Awards are given out twice per year on a competitive basis until funds run out. The social actions represented by this initiative are central to advancing the mission of SWS. Current SWS members can apply for funding up to $1,000 to support broadly defined social action initiatives (e.g., advocacy, public education, organizing, movement-building) that also support the mission of SWS. Special thanks go to the Social Actions Initiative Award Subcommittee: Kris De Welde (Chair), Kristy Kelly, Rosalind Kichler, Kira Escovar, and Heather Hlvaka.

Left to Right: Photos of Lauren C. Garcia, Jessennya Hernandez and Bahar Aldanmaz

Lauren C. Garcia (she/her) is a doctoral student at the University of Virginia and a Graduate Student Affiliate at the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP) at the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill. She completed her Master’s thesis at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2020 on the digital communication strategies of white supremacist groups, and the way platforms and algorithmic bias contribute to the spread of their ideas. In addition to her academic work, she is heavily involved in solidarity and mutual aid efforts in the city of Richmond, Virginia. She has worked alongside other students to create several community-centered projects, including a multi-organization annual winter drive, political education symposia, and the Race, Space, Place Initiative’s annual unConference. Her work has been published in The Chronicle of Higher Education and featured by WordPress Discover. Under the umbrella of the Race Space Place Initiative, Lauren proposed a collaborative learning community, called The WERKshop: A Collaborative Learning Community, by and for first-generation femme graduate students of color where participants can prioritize their research interests around race, queer theory, platforms, and digital communication.

Jessennya Hernandez (she/her) is a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department and teaches in the Gender and Women Studies Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a working class, first generation college graduate, and first generation born in the U.S. As an interdisciplinary scholar, her dissertation research explores how queer and feminist brown and Latinx artists and creatives in greater Los Angeles (LA) produce transnational counterspaces and alternative forms of knowledge through embodied political practices. Tending to the quotidian and everyday life, she focuses on how these networks of queer brown artists and creatives redefine their and their communities’ lives beyond survival and envision a transnational feminist future. As a scholar-activist, she, along with other brown and Black queer women and femmes, co-founded Feed The Block, a grassroots mutual aid collective based on abolitionist and transformative justice practice. The collective provides monthly food and meal distributions; collects and distributes funds to those in emergencies and facing housing insecurity; and distributes bus passes and gift cards to houseless folks. The Social Actions Initiative award will fund a political education workshop focused on training those in the community who want to work and organize as members in the mutual aid collective. The workshop centers critical texts and practices that inform the mutual aid tradition such as Black Radical Politics and Decolonization. Along with building the collective’s membership, the workshop will be established as a reoccurring series for the general community to engage, learn, and discuss these theories and practices together in a local and non-institutional setting. This financial support will help foster the community engagement and power that is necessary for building alternative, autonomous, and sustainable networks of knowing, acting, and living that counter structures of harm. If you would like to learn more about the grassroots mutual aid collective, Feed the Block, located in southern California, or donate to help support, please follow this link

Bahar Aldanmaz (she/her) is a Sociology Ph.D. student at Boston University as a Fulbright scholar. Bahar is interested in gender, sexualities, menstruation, inequalities, immigration, and how these intersect. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and Psychology from Koç University and an M.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. Bahar is also the co-founder of the We Need to Talk Association (Konuşmamız Gerek Derneği), the first and only organization in Turkey that addresses period poverty and the menstruation stigma, widespread problems in Turkey. Their goal is to “challenge period poverty and period stigma structurally.”  The We Need to Talk Association’s mission is to challenge period poverty and period stigma structurally. They have three target groups: seasonal agricultural workers, refugees, and children going to school in remote rural areas. They organize field projects and provide our target groups sanitary products that would last them for either an academic semester or a harvest season. As proposed by Bahar, the SAIA helped to fund “a virtual event on May 28, 2021 -Menstrual Hygiene Day… [as a] global gathering for stakeholders and beneficiaries. The goal of this event was to officially submit a manifesto/communique to UN Women/UNFPA with inputs from stakeholders working against period poverty and menstrual care beneficiaries. They hope with this event they will be able to increase the available funding opportunities for menstruation researchers, enhance the visibility of period poverty in policymakers’ agenda, and design a holistic action plan for menstrual care for all.

SWS will be honoring Lauren C. Garcia, Jessennya Hernandez, and Bahar Aldanmaz via a Virtual Awards Celebration scheduled to take place later this summer at a time to be announced. At that time, the Social Action Committee Chair, Kris De Welde will also highlight the next funding cycle deadline of October 1, 2021, that will then be accepting applications. If you are interested in making a gift to support the Social Actions Initiative Award, please contact Barret Katuna, Executive Officer, at, or make a gift via this form: or make a gift via this form: