CGI U 2013 at Washington University in St. Louis

My Name is Strong: A community anti-violence initiative and awareness campaign

"My Name is Strong" group

Jay Celin, Caroline Fish and Ambar Plasencia, graduate students at the Brown School

Caroline Fish, Jay Celin, and Ambar Plasencia are all first-year graduate students at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis where they discovered a common passion: Violence prevention.

“Gender-based violence is a serious, public health issue,” Fish says, “and an issue we all had some passion about. So when the call went out for applications to Clinton Global Initiative University, we jumped on it.”

Fish brought the idea to Celin and Plasencia one morning about an empowerment campaign for survivors and friends impacted by gender-based violence. The idea was for a movement that focuses not on violence alone but on the strength communities have to overcome violence. Together, they shaped that original vision into what would become known as “My Name is Strong: A Community Anti-Violence Initiative and Awareness Campaign.”

The idea is to turn a single room in St. Louis into an overpowering art exhibit of human strength and courage. Beginning with a social media campaign, the project is asking for stories, artwork, photographs, and other creative expressions by all individuals impacted by gender-based violence — not just the survivors themselves.

“Most projects surrounding gender-based violence tend to focus on the stories of survivors,” Fish says. “But it also greatly impacts their friends and family. We want them to stand up and say something, too.”

The group already has a Facebook page, and is starting to see submissions from throughout the country. Individuals can mail artwork in anonymously. The works will then be featured on the page, and collectively in a St. Louis art gallery as a call to action against violence issues globally.

As for CGI U on the WUSTL campus, Fish looks forward to the momentum the project will gain. “I’m really looking forward to collective energy that comes with people getting together and sharing ideas,” she says. “It’s an awesome forum for the project because we need to get word out.”