Healing herself, building just futures
UW-Green Bay junior Hannah Beauchamp-Pope talks racial justice, a year of turmoil and change in upcoming campus speaker series
Hannah Beauchamp-Pope led a protest by accident.
The UW-Green Bay junior said she was smack dab in the middle of a protest stretching down a main Appleton roadway last summer when she and her mother noticed the demonstrators were beginning to fray behind them.
“(It) kind of got quiet and we were about in the middle,” Beauchamp-Pope said. “So my mom’s like ‘Hannah, use your microphone, use your microphone.’”
Despite some hesitation, Beauchamp-Pope eventually did, and she remembers it vividly.
“I remember just like turning around and from the wall of the building, all the way through the street from the other wall like as far back as I could see it’s just like this massive group of people,” Beauchamp-Pope said. “We’re all talking to each other, chanting with each other. Honestly it was very empowering.”
Now Beauchamp-Pope is ready to speak and inspire a large crowd again, but in a slightly different setting this time. Beauchamp-Pope is one of this year’s speakers at the third annual TEDxUWGreen Bay speaker series.
The ticketed series is held on Oct. 21 at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts and is open to the public. She is joined by a slew of speakers covering topics such as lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of food insecurity, the changing ecological landscape caused by human impact and indigenous people’s generational resilience.
This year’s TEDxUW-Green Bay theme is resilience, something Beauchamp-Pope has dwelled on since the summer of 2020. The year was ravaged by a public health crisis, racial justice protests across the country and in Wisconsin, economic anxiety and a turbulent election spurred on by staunch political divisions.
Beauchamp-Pope was at the center of local protests throughout last summer. After becoming somewhat of a public figure due to the protests, interviews and her role as vice president of the UW-Green Bay’s Black Student Union, she said she needed a break from visibility.
“It was also a lot being kind of at the frontlines of all of these protests,” Beauchamp-Pope said. “It’s a lot of backlash and emotional weight.”
Beauchamp-Pope was and continues to be open about her mental health struggles. She said watching trauma unfold in front of her during the summer of 2020— including the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by former Minneapolis, MN police officer Derek Chauvin, a White man, and the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, left paralyzed by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey, a White man weighed heavy on her. (According to the Kenosha Police Department, Shesky did not face disciplinary action and has since returned to work. Both Shesky and Blake did not face charges related to the shooting.)
These visceral events, alongside the compounding pressures of public and online visibility as a young student throughout last year, took a toll on Beauchamp-Pope. She overdosed on campus and was hospitalized last year.
“I had to actually be honest with myself and look at my past trauma and how that is affecting me today,” Beauchamp-Pope said.
Moving forward, she said she is trying to be gentle and loving with herself, something baked into a resilience recipe she is working on.
Beauchamp-Pope said she uses the term “universal love” to help chart a course for how she sees the world and wants to heal and reshape the country. To her, universal love is having love for yourself, love for other humans, love for your community, love for the Earth and higher powers you may believe in.
“Universal love is kind of a funky idea,” Beauchamp-Pope said, “but the core takeaway is that in every single thing that we do in our actions, love should be at the forefront of our mind.”
Her TEDxUW-Green Bay talk will draw on personal experiences navigating healing in the wake of a hard year. Using these experiences, she will focus on how the country can heal too.
“In this country,” Beauchamp-Pope said, “all the problems that we have arise from hate and ignorance and the only way we can combat that is through love.”
Passion made personal
Beauchamp-Pope is using her organizing and public-speaking skills to address large-scale issues the country is facing. And with that, comes a lot of work.
The Green Bay native said she is used to being busy and has been throughout her entire time in the education system. She played sports in high school alongside civic engagements. Now, in addition to speaking at the TEDxUW-Green Bay conference, she is double-majoring in Democracy and Justice Studies with an emphasis in Criminal Justice Studies alongside a major in Psychology with an emphasis in mental health. She is also minoring in Sociology and Anthropology. Beauchamp-Pope is the college fellow for Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT), a Milwaukee-based nonprofit organization that encourages young people to get involved in electoral organizing, public policy and leadership roles.
Oh, and on top of all this, she is also UW-Green Bay’s fourth Newman Civic Fellow. As one of 213 nationally recognized students who work with the national coalition of higher education entities Campus Compact, she represents UW-Green Bay across the country on social justice and public policy issues.
“In this country all the problems that we have arise from hate and ignorance and the only way we can combat that is through love.”
– Hannah Beauchamp-Pope
The UW-Green Bay junior led a protest in downtown Green Bay in the summer of 2020, pictured here. Photo courtesy of Beauchamp-Pope
“It can be hard sometimes when I’m like ‘oh, I’ll do that later’,” Beauchamp-Pope said. “…And I’m like no, remember why are you doing this. What is driving you? You know, really fulfilling that dream that Martin was talking about, it’s kind of what I live by—is to fulfill that dream.”
Beauchamp-Pope said a long-term goal and vision of hers is to “dismantle American institutions and rebuild them so that they are built on love and education and not profit.”
One system she focuses her studies on is the U.S. prison system. Beauchamp-Pope’s passion for criminal justice reform and bold, radical change comes partly from personal experiences. Her biological father, a Black man, was imprisoned at Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI).
“I do think about that a lot,” Beauchamp-Pope said. “And how after he got out, what opportunities did he have and how did the world here view him?”
According to Wisconsin Department of Corrections end-of-month prison population reporting, nearly 60% of the 896 men imprisoned at GBCI were Black at the end of August. A 2020 report from the nonprofit, mass-incarceration education organization Prison Policy Initiative found that 6% of Wisconsin’s overall population is Black, but the population make up 38% of all people
in jails and prisons.
Beauchamp-Pope said her current studies provide an understanding of previous civil rights advocates in the state and nation and have also helped her envision how prisons and other institutions can be changed for the better.
“It’s all really powerful when you look back into the history of it,” Beauchamp- Pope said, “and you say ‘what can I do every second of the day to continue that for future generations.’”
John McCracken is the Editor of Green Bay City Pages. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jmcjmc451.