East Carolina University will host a cancer survivor and “sexuality activist” on Wednesday in the Black Box Theatre at 6 p.m. in the Main Campus Student Center.
Ericka Hart, graduate from Widener University with a masters of education in sexuality, has taught sexuality education to college students and adults all over the country for 10 years, according to her website.
In 2014, she was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer and realized that her sexual identity was not taken into consideration during her treatment. Taking these realizations and her education she began speaking and writing about sexuality education, according to her website.
Her work was made well known when she went to the 2016 Afropunk Fest, topless, revealing her double mastectomy scars. After Afropunk Fest, she was the main topic in many different written and digital works.
Shaun Simon, associate director of the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, was first introduced to Hart when she had the opportunity to meet her in 2015 at the Creating Change conference, one of the largest LGBT conferences in the country.
“We met at a Racial Justice Institute at that conference, and after that I continued to follow her career with her work at Afropunk and her continuous education on Instagram for free,” Simon said. “As well as her modeling activism work around ability and disability with the onus of sexuality and those things being talked about in no relation to one another.”
As a breast cancer survivor and a sexuality educator, Simon said Hart talks about sexual health and wellness from a queer and anti-racist perspective.
“In today’s society sex is political, when we have these conversations, sometimes they don't involve non-binary, trans or LGBT individuals in general, so by including them we can talk with them about maintaining a healthy sexual relationship from the LGBTQ point of view,” Simon said.
Kaitlin Brown, a junior psychology major, is the Student Activities Board (SAB) Initiatives Chair and handles setting up events like this on campus. With the help of her committee, she handles the many tasks that are needed to schedule an educational speaker at ECU.
Hart was already scheduled to come and speak to the ECU Ledonia Wright Cultural Center (LWCC), and they reached out to SAB to collaborate for this event, according to Brown.
“After they mentioned her name to me, I looked her up and I really like the message that she brings and how empowering she is of normalizing her double mastectomy scars,” Brown said.
Simon said Hart uses her knowledge of sexuality and black queer activism to teach mainly college students about human sexuality. In particular, she discusses the interactions that disability, race, gender and chronic illness have with human sexuality.
“We are trying to fight those ‘isms,’ if you are talking about racism or homophobia, how does that impact your sexual relationship,” Simon said. “For example, access to abortion options or birth control, it all feeds into your ability to make decisions about your own body, which is a key component when having a healthy sexual relationship.”
Hart has said in various publications that she hopes through her teachings female, black, queer or trans voices will be heard.
“It’s also important for people to see survivors outside of marketing awareness campaigns,” Hart said in an NBC news article about New York’s largest LGBTQ fashion runway show. “See us beyond our disability or chronic illness, I want people to see and celebrate my blackness and queerness and as it informs what I see for myself.”
Since February is Sexual Responsibility Month, Hart’s workshop will be one of the many events happening through the rest of the week as a part of LWCC Pleasure Principle. Simon said Pleasure Principle will be running through the entire month of February with educational events about safe sexual relationships.
“I think having conversations around consent on a college campus is something that continuously needs to happen,” Simon said. “We are talking about sex in a society that somewhat hides it and what a healthy sexual relationship looks like, and that was the idea behind Pleasure Principal.”
Working with the various offices on campus, such as the Student Health Center, Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, Human Health and Performance, the LGBTQ Center and many more, has allowed the LWCC to begin these conversations about sexual relationships, according to Simon.
For more information about Ericka Hart, visit her website or the event’s OrgSync page. Information on the rest of the events for Pleasure Principle can be found on the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center’s Twitter page.