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AKWAABA An Empowering Student of Color Magazine at Connecticut College

Premier Issue Fall 2019


An Empowering Student of Color Magazine at Connecticut College

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Contents 4

Letter from Editor

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Statistics at Conn

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About Unity House

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Student of Color Spotlights

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International Experience

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The Double Life

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Voices from the Community

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Alumni Advice

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Credits

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Letter from The Editor “Akwaaba means ‘welcome’ in Twi”

My name is Bempa Ashia ‘20 and I am a computer science major with a minor in art. I am also a selected scholar at the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology. At Conn, I am the Genesis Program Coordinator, a choreographer for Eclipse, a Science Leader, and a recipient of the Garden of Dreams Inspire Scholarship under Madison Square Garden in NYC. For my art independent study, I wanted to create a student of color magazine that highlighted all the amazing things we are doing on campus. My thesis for this project is “At Connecticut College, there exists a disproportionate representation in media regarding students of color. This lack of representation is often hidden due to the promotion of a false sense of diversity on campus. This magazine is dedicated to highlighting Connecticut College students of color experiences while promoting much-needed empowerment and a sense of belonging.” I want current, past, and future students to feel a sense of welcoming when they see this magazine. Akwaaba means “welcome” in Twi (a Ghanaian language). My family is from Ghana, so to call this magazine Akwaaba means a lot to me. Within this magazine, I hope you witness strong leaders, creative artists, amazing scholars, and hard workers and feel a sense of inspiration. It feels great to be the founder of this magazine, and my hopes are for the magazine to continue after I graduate in May 2020. My intention for the magazine is to have an issue released at least once a year with updated content from students of color on the Connecticut College campus. I’d like to give thanks to Professor Andrea Wollensak who helped me with this process. Much love to the people of color at Conn!

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Daniel Mark ‘20 Melissa Avilez Lopez ‘23 Emmanuel Williamson ‘21 5


Shyanne Temple ‘20 Tiara Jennings ‘20 Isis Torres 6 ‘20

Photo by Nifemi Olugbemiga ‘20


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Statistics At Conn

Fall 2018 Connecticut College Full-Time Undergraduate Students Race unreported, 2.30%

American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.10% Asian, 8.70%

Black or African American, Non Hispanic, 4.70%

Hispanic or Latino, 9.30%

Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 0.10%

Two or more races, 4.00%

White, Non Hispanic, 70.70%

Out of 1,798 Students

Source: Office of the Registrar, IPEDS Fall Enrollment Survey 2018guidelines

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What comes to mind when you see these graphs? “I’m not surprised.” - Christian Salguero ‘21 “And I -oop.” - Nifemi Olugbemiga ‘20 “It makes me sad because my people haven’t had equal opportunities at this institution and they still don’t.” Shyanne Temple ‘20 “They said it was diverse and I can’t even put this into words.” - Sheniel Powell ‘22 “Do you know what more diversity could do for the school?” - Jennifer Rojas ‘20 “Disappointing.” - Jordyn Turin ‘21 “The college needs to do better.” - Daniel Mark ‘20

Fall 2018 Connecticut College Full-Time Faculty Members Race unreported, 0.00%

American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.60% Asian, 12.70%

Black or African American, Non Hispanic, 6.90%

Hispanic or Latino, 6.40%

Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 0.00%

Two or more races, 0.00%

White, Non Hispanic, 73.40%

Out of 173 Faculty Members

Source: Office of Institutional Research tallies using Common Data Set guidelines

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Photo10 by Vessel Day ‘21


Grant Gibson ‘22 11 ‘22 Daniel Varela


About unity house

What is Unity House? Race and Ethnicity Programs (REP) at Unity House is a multicultural center that contributes to the educational mission of the College by providing leadership and support in the College’s commitment to diversity and multiculturalism. REP is a part of the Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion. Their mission is to empower underrepresented college students through mentoring and culturally relevant programming. We support our students on their journey to academic and personal growth by providing holistic advising. To create an additional layer of support, we collaborate with various offices and departments to foster campus-wide awareness and open dialogues on diversity issues. Unity House history In 1970-71, Blackstone was turned into a predominantly black dorm and the Afro-American Center. On May 5, 1971, forty-four black students entered Fanning Hall and blockaded themselves inside using chairs and desks. Participants of the first Fanning Takeover wanted the college to uphold the promise made by President Charles Shain in 1967 of hiring a Black administrator and enrolling seventy-one Black students by the following September. President Shain issued a statement agreeing to the demands and promising amnesty to the students involved. By 1973, the dorm was put back into the lottery, but black students wanted to be sure that they would still be housed in groups of 12 or more in the dorms in the central area and that they would retain 21 of the 42 spaces in Blackstone.

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The Vinal Cottage became the new minority cultural center, and many students of color felt it was an asset that it was not in the middle of the campus. They needed to be able to get away, they said and be able to support each other. As the ‘70s and ‘80s unfolded, the student body became more racially diverse, but the progress was uneven. And some students still felt the need to pressure the administration for increased minority student enrollments and more courses in the curriculum to reflect traditionally underrepresented groups. Asian/Asian American students began to be admitted in greater numbers in addition to blacks and Latinos, and international students also increased in number. On May 1, 1986, fifty-four students staged a second Fanning Hall Takeover demanding that Connecticut College committed to improving educational opportunities for students of color. This resulted in the creation of the Minority Affairs Committee. During this time, Unity House played a very important role on campus, and its role expanded along with the number of students of color. In 1989, Unity House moved to the center of the campus and an Africana studies minor was created. In 2018, Unity House became known as Race and Ethnicity Programs at Unity House. The name change is designed to make a distinction between the programs they offer and the building in which they are offered in. While the name has changed, Race and Ethnicity Programs at Unity House acknowledge and honor the history of the courageous alumni who fought and advocated for this powerful space to exist on campus.


Unity House Family Meeting Fall 2018guideline

Student organizations Under Unity House

Connecticut College Asian Students in Action

(ASIA) promotes the learning and understanding of Asian/Asian American culture. ASIA brings political awareness to the college about issues that are pertinent to the Asian/Asian American community. Additionally, ASIA provides a supportive environment for students of Asian/Asian American descent and acts as a resource to students of both Asian and non-Asian background. ASIA also serves as a liaison to other clubs, committees and the administration in order to voice the needs and concerns for the College’s Asian and Asian-American students.

Eclipse

is an all inclusive, multicultural arts club dedicated to celebrating diversity on campus. Since 1975, Eclipse has been a Connecticut College tradition committed to acknowledging and appreciating all races and ethnicities, identities, and cultures on campus. Through our annual spring show, we use artistic expression including forms such as dance, singing, fashion, poetry, DJ-ing and more to establish community and promote inclusion. Eclipse is all-inclusive and invites all students passionate about performing and expression to join and participate!

M.E.Ch.A.

(Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) is a nationally recognized Mexican American student organization. The purpose of the group is to promote and represent the history, culture and issues of concern of Mexican Americans in the U.S. and on the Connecticut College campus.

Umoja

which means “unity” in Swahili, is the African/African-American students’ organization that serves as a support group for students of African descent and those interested in multicultural issues. Umoja provides interested students with the opportunity to engage with and speak about political and social issues facing the black community as well as be an active member of the College campus and the surrounding New London community.

Las Voces Unidas

at Connecticut College are here to celebrate their cultures. They are founded on a universal drive to incorporate intersectionality between all Latinx cultures and beyond on this campus. In a predominately white institution, we strive to create a space in which underrepresented students have a voice and be heard. They demonstrate unity, power, and respect in celebrating our cultures by heightening awareness of the membership and the Connecticut College Community of the cultural, social, political, and academic issues that concern people of Latin American and Hispanic descent within the United States and abroad.

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Photos by Andre Thomas ‘20

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Shay Quinn ‘20 Nouhalia Oudija ‘21


15 ‘20 Nifemi Olugbemiga


Student of color spotlights This section highlights a compilation of individuals whose engagement in the community positively influences student life on campus.

Photo by Yemi Kembi

Nifemi Olugbemiga ‘20

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Hometown: Chicago, IL Pronouns: She/Her/Hers Year: Senior, Class of 2020 Major: Africana Studies and Psychology Minor: Dance What clubs/orgs are you involved in on campus? I am one of the co-chairs of WOCC (Womxn of Color Collective). I am a choreographer for Eclipse and a member of Umoja. Any accomplishments you are proud of? WOCC is a club that has been here my four years but it was not sustained. Being a part of the group that initiated its return has been great because we have been able to do a lot of programming for womxn of color. It’s programming that I hadn’t been able to see from my freshmen to senior years so it’s great that I have been able to be a part of a group that provides that space for other womxn of color. What is your favorite thing about Conn? The people that I’ve met here. I’ve been fortunate enough to have made long life friends. These people made this space comfortable for me so I am very fortunate. Any moments of struggle being a POC at Conn? Freshman year, it felt like I was a visitor in someone’s home for a long time whereas now because of the friendships and the initiative to make our own space, I can consider that I’ve built myself a home out of a community that I cherish. Conn as a whole needs to do a better job of inviting students of color to feel comfortable in this space. I struggled with culture shock, imposter syndrome, microaggressions, and racist behaviors from others. Any empowering moments? I feel empowered when we collectively heal. I feel empowered after a ‘So, What’s Good?’ event, a place to connect as a collective and to understand that we’re all going through a similar struggle and we’re all thriving. These spaces weren’t built for us but here we are kicking ass. Recently, being inducted into the International Psychology Society, I felt accomplished to be in a space where there isn’t a lot of people that look like me.


Photo by Vessel Day ‘21

Emmanuel Williamson ‘21 Hometown: Chicago, IL Pronouns: He/Him/His Year: Junior, Class of 2021 Major: Economics and Architectural Studies Minor: Africana Studies What clubs/orgs are you involved in on campus? I am the co-chair of SAC. I am a student representative in the budgeting committee for the school. I am also in an investment club, Umoja, Men of Color Alliance, and Pre-Law Society. Any accomplishments you are proud of? Just saying in college is an accomplishment. Staying in school is probably my biggest accomplishment in terms of how I feel in what I’m trying to do for my community and what I’m trying to do for my family. But, also, trying to be somebody that could be used as a resource. What is your favorite thing about Conn? The people of color. Conn isn’t Conn without the people of color. As a web, we’re all interconnected and it’s my favorite part of being on campus. You don’t get to see that in the news and see it fully out there. Any moments of struggle being a POC at Conn? To be a student of color at Conn is to basically be in the middle of perfection and insanity. Being a POC at Conn, you’re not really getting the resources in terms of career and connections in terms of life after Conn. On the perfection piece, you see the other POC that’s grinding so it makes you want to work hard and look for more opportunities. Any empowering moments? I felt empowered after my fall semester of sophomore year. After getting a concussion, breaking my wrist and having to submit assignments late, I was really stressed out with school. I was not able to do so well in school. Due to the concussion, I legally was not supposed to do work but I still had to do work. But, the next semester I got straight A’s and Dean’s Honors. That gave me the empowerment to say that no matter what you’re going through you have to keep going, you have to keep grinding, and you have to perfect your craft. 17


Photo by Vessel Day ‘21

Ricardo Lombera ‘22

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Hometown: East Palo Alto, CA Pronouns: He/Him/His Year: Sophomore, Class of 2022 Major: Government and Sociology Minor: American Studies What clubs/orgs are you involved in on campus? I am involved with MEChA, Men of Color Association (MOCA), PRISM, and Roosevelt. With extracurriculars, it’s tied with what I liked to do like creating a safe space especially for people of color here. Any accomplishments you are proud of? Back in California, we had a big senior year award ceremony and I remember two specific scholarships that I won. I won the Fred Yamamoto Scholarship, the first time the award was given, which was awarded to a person of color who was trying to make a difference on campus. They highlighted my work for creating a mural, ‘And Still, I Rise’, and on it, I had predominately people of color which I painted with others. People told me not to do it because it would take three years to complete but I worked my butt off and it took three months. It really showcased students of color coming together and creating something beautiful. What is your favorite thing about Conn? The academics here. Professors are willing to help students out. Any moments of struggle being a POC at Conn? Being a student of color here at Conn really means being proud of yourself but sadly having to explain who you are and what you and your ancestors. I wish it wasn’t like that but it makes you a stronger person. Any empowering moments? Here at Conn, I’ve opened doors to my culture and to out there and to put the Mexican Flag in my dorm and to blast Spanish music. Inside and outside of the classroom, people here always take the opportunity to express their culture and that’s the type of empowerment I see at Conn. It means a lot because it shows we’re prominent in the community and we’re not going to be silenced.


Photo by Vessel Day ‘21

Melissa Avilez Lopez ‘23 Hometown: Lima, Peru Pronouns: She/Her/Hers Year: First-year, Class of 2023 Major: International Relations and Sociology Minor: Economics What clubs/orgs are you involved in on campus? I’m one of the first-year representatives on the executive board for the Womxn of Color Collective (WOCC) and the House Senator for Plant House. I also volunteer with Hearng Youth Voices in downtown New London which is a organization through Holleran Center. The organization supports minority high school students with improving the educational system of New London. I also take part in Las Voces Unidas and MEChA. Any accomplishments you are proud of? I am proud of being able to study here and open more doors for Peruvian students like myself. I am also proud of being able to help with the improvement of the student of color experience here at Conn. I am looking forward to all the things that we, as a community, will accomplish in the future. What is your favorite thing about Conn? The affinity groups on campus. You can really feel like you are with people who understand you. We are on this path together. Any moments of struggle being a POC at Conn? With completely changing my language from Spanish to English, I struggled with adjusting to my classes in the beginning. I really wanted to participate, but being in a class with upperclassmen, mostly white, I sometimes felt small there. I was scared of how people would perceive me. However, in the midst of imposter syndrome, I reminded myself: I’m here because I worked hard to be here. What does it mean to be a Woman of Color at Conn? Being a woman of color is being powerful, not because we are fearless, but because we keep going despite the fear. Back in Peru, I didn’t have the necessity to identify myself as such, but, now being a minority, it has allowed me to cherish my origin, empower myself, and take action. 19


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Photo by Cecilia Bole ‘18


Ericka Lagrange ‘20 Paloma Camarena ‘20 “Across Generations” for Eclipse 2019 21 Choreographed by MEChA


International Experience This piece, “As We Find a Place To Belong”, written by Ketsi Tsolo ‘22 (left side) and Jitu Dribssa ‘22 (right side) highlights their discovery of a close friendship and a second home at Conn College.

We’re ambitious high school students on a hill just outside Mbabane, eSwatini reflecting on how we can contribute to a more accurate representation of the continent of Africa. I am Ketsi from Lesotho, a small country right inside South Africa. We decided to harness our continental connections and create a single blog with contributors from as many African countries as possible. A girl by the name of Jitu from Ethiopia, who I know nothing about except that she was in a summer camp with my friend, Desire, years ago, is one of our contributors. We all communicate through WhatsApp and Jitu barely speaks! It turns out that she is engrossed in her high school experience miles away from Ethiopia in my neighboring country, South Africa. After a college selection process, I choose to attend Connecticut College because I loved the Connections program. A few months later, I am in a big circle of foreign faces playing an ice-breaker game as part of the International Students orientation and a tall girl with beautiful curly blonde hair introduces herself as Jitu from Ethiopia. Oh my God! Jitu from the WhatsApp group. What are the chances that we would end up in the same college? No matter how much we try, we cannot trace back our memories to the point we became close friends. However, we do remember what brought us together. While we felt connected to our International friends, we yearned to be part of the American community of people of color on campus. We went to Umoja but didn’t quite feel connected to other members when we left the meetings. We felt like all black people on campus knew each other and had more opportunities to connect. We thought that perhaps our foreignness was to blame for this disconnect. We were not cool enough. Indeed, people of color on campus generally knew each other better, but that was a result of the

great job done by Genesis in fostering a community for those eligible to partake in the program. Jitu and I spent many hours lamenting about how improved our lives would be if we knew more people of color, how much fun we would have dancing at concerts with them, and how empowered we would be knowing that we were at least recognized by people who look like us. To escape our reality, we retreated into our shell, our little world. Suddenly, we spent most of our awake hours together. I ate every meal with Jitu, I went to most campus events with Jitu, and I even took my favorite course thus far with Jitu. We laughed, danced, and screamed with anger at each other more than is healthy for newly found besties. Jitu became my life until she told me she wanted to transfer. Saying I was heartbroken is an understatement. I felt deeply unfavored. Why me? Just when I think I have found a home, it slips right through my fingers. When Jitu later explained to me the reason she decided to stay, my heart constricted. She said “you can get a similar education wherever you go but what makes the specific college experience you go through special is the unique connections you make that you would never get anywhere else. You were becoming the deepest connection I had here on campus and leaving you would never be worth it.” To all international students of color, know that you are seen and you are valued. Go out and bridge the gap between your reality and the space you wish to occupy on campus. For many of us, occupying this space involves first departing from the myopic lens we saw life through. Keep in mind that this space will never be the same as home but the connections you will make will be home. That is when you will accept that home has been divided into two, and you will, unfortunately, never find it in one place again.


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Photo by Nara Gaisina

Daniel Mark ‘20


Photo by Bempa Ashia ‘20

Vessel Day25 ‘21


Photo by Bempa Ashia ‘20

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Hector Ricardo Salazar ‘20

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The Double Life

Photo by Bempa Ashia ‘20

This section features Hector Ricardo Salazar ‘20 who serves as a student firefighter and an EMT for the Quaker Hill Fire Company.

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“General tone for a working structure fire… requesting manpower from available firefighters.” I hear the alert, my adrenaline kicks in, and I listen to the dispatcher’s voice over my pager. Without hesitation, I ignore my restless eyes and quickly jump out of bed to get in uniform. I sprint from my dorm across campus to student parking where my trusty ‘97 Chevy Lumina awaits for me. I drive to the Quaker Hill Fire Co. firehouse in time to catch the firetruck and other responders. This is the life of a volunteer firefighter. Growing up to parents of Latin-American descent on the south side of Chicago, it was instilled in me from a very young age that we were put on this Earth to serve others. To me, this means using my time and talents to help people and to serve the community. I can recall at age five when the Chicago Fire Department gave my preschool class a tour of Chicago Firehouse 127. One of the firefighters even let me wear his helmet. I remember feeling really cool. Who would have never thought that during my college career I would be wearing a helmet of my own. My older sister, Sarah Salazar, a Posse Scholar at DePauw University ‘17, nominated me for the Posse Leadership Scholarship. Through intensive interviews, I was given the opportunity to attend Connecticut College as a Posse Scholar. Coming from inner city Chicago to a predominantly white institute, like Conn, was a harsh transition for me. For one thing, I had culture shock due to the lack of diversity on campus which made it hard to relate to others. But, I found purpose at the Sprout Garden on campus during my first year at Conn. One of my co-workers, Emily Crocker ‘18, was a current volunteer at the firehouse who shared insight on her experience as being a student-firefighter.


“Being a college student is great, but taking part in something greater than myself provides me with a larger sense of purpose. ” - Salazar ‘20

Crocker took me under her wing and mentored me through the onboarding process. This was the start of my journey to becoming a student-firefighter. In the Fall of 2017, I took my first firefighter certification course to become a qualified interior firefighter— this was the foundation for becoming a firefighter. I attended the Firefighter I course at the East Putnam Fire Department, which is an hour away from campus. For four months, three days a week, I would travel to East Putnam, CT to tirelessly train. And I loved every minute of it! Upon successful completion of the training course, I received my firefighter I certificate. Now, I was officially a firefighter. That being said, this meant that I had more responsibilities and I was qualified to operate at emergency calls. I just started to gain more experience as a fireman. In the summer after my sophomore year, I had the opportunity to travel to Andahuaylas, Peru to attend archeology field school through the Institute for Field Research. In Peru, I was trained in archeology field methods from Peruvian archaeologist as well as Professor Danielle Kurin from UC Santa Barbara. After that, I studied away at Cape Cod, Massachusetts to attend the semester in environmental science at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL). Here, I was able to focus on my academic interests in terrestrial and aquatic ecology. I collaborated with scientists from MBL to complete research on microplastic pollution and distribution on the Atlantic coast. Upon returning to Connecticut College after my time away, I enrolled in an EMT course. This opened the door to the emergency medicine field that I had not previously experienced. I learned to administer basic life support and pre-hospital patient care. After four months of intensive training in emergency medicine, I earned my National EMT certification.

I was now a firefighter and an emergency medical technician. People often ask me how do I balance being both a student and a student Firefighter/EMT. While it’s challenging at times, it takes dedication and a great amount of time management. Many times, both being a student and a firefighter overlap. I often do my homework at the station or spend a few nights a week bunking at the firehouse. My days are spent between classes, academic work, and the firehouse. If there’s a call and I am available to respond, I go. Sometimes I do have to remind myself that I am a student first, so if I am in class I won’t respond to calls. It is also important to remember that I am not experiencing this alone; I often think about my fellow firefighters who work multiple jobs, support their families, and still make time to serve the community. It really is a balancing act, but I wouldn’t change anything about what I do. Being a college student is great, but taking part in something greater than myself provides me with a larger sense of purpose. As a senior, I am continuing to balance my majors in Environmental Science (ES) and Anthropology, being the Housefellow of Plant House, being a mechanic for the Spokespeople Bike Initiative, and being a Firefighter/EMT. I hope my story empowers other students of color to follow what interests them and to discover their passion. It’s important to remember that it takes time to find what you like. And, if you like something, put in the work and stick with it. Don’t ever let someone tell you what you can’t and can do. After graduation, I hope to get a job as a firefighter while I work towards a graduate degree related to ES and Archeology. I hope to start a career where I don’t have to pick between my interests and passions but blend them together. 29


30 by Cecilia Bole ‘18 Photo


Darriana Greer ‘21 “Across Waters” for Eclipse 2019 Choreographed by Darriana Greer31‘21


Voices from the community This section features poetry that highlights the intersectional identities that exists within students as they navigate spaces.

Difference

by Melissa Chow ‘22 Difference One of the concepts that I hate the most. Hate A strong word that I don’t usually use to express how I feel, But sometimes necessary. Most would describe me as this optimistic, easygoing, and quiet young woman. Others would say that I am confident, humble, and different. No matter what, the light that I view myself in and the perspective I have about myself is what is most important. Alopecia, an autoimmune hair condition that caused me to lose my hair at a young age has caused me to get questioned at the weirdest and most difficult times of my life. Hating having to live with this idea that society will not accept me and having to live everyday constantly thinking about how I can be as confident as a “normal” college student. Empowering others and empowering myself to love who I am and spread uniqueness in places where I do not always feel like I belong. Where hatred turns to love. “Asian-American(ness)”, an identity that I strongly uphold, has caused me to question my place in a society that is said not to be persistent on racial identities. That is where I disagree. Race has tremendously affected how I perceive myself, similar to how alopecia has. I have chosen to surround myself around amazing people who inspire me to share my culture. Not to educate, but to understand. To come to a realization that all that I have to offer to the world begins with where I am deeply rooted. So yes, race is important, belonging is important, but being true to you is what is truly meaningful. Difference One of the concepts that I love the most. Love A strong word to embrace the goodness of life, Always necessary.

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Tierra

by Juilo Herrera ‘20 I come from a land where the streets have an aroma of sazon. Mixed with the distinct scent of lime in corona it makes a potent elixir, that makes you yearn for the days on the island. I come from a land where the hymns and llantos of salsa and bachata echo through each building. I have an intimate relationship with the earth I walk on, the concrete and trees greet me in Spanish. It’s a land that once cradled the souls of those who went to war, with those of the same language, pride, and brutal past. The soil in the park I stroll, was fed with the blood they shed. I come from a land where the concept of family was expanded across city blocks. I saw nations blend into a culture of grit and struggle, and where living check to check was a privilege by chance. When you visit this land, don’t let its docile attitude deceive you. Listen and let yourself be humbled, to the stories of violence and neglect it suffered.

Escuchame

by Lorena De Leon ‘22 I speak of passion Of love for words that course through my veins Words that are swept into silence Pero en silencio Yo soy yo Nadie puede cambiar eso Yo soy el sangre de mis ancestros La fuerza de mis hermanas latinas Como mi pelo rizado which dress my shoulders My voz will coil through the depthless seas of silence And rise from the abyss Beautiful voices that beat like hearts Never forgotten Never unsaid

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The Room That’s Lonely Until The Weekend by Anonymous

I’m back in a space that brings old habits. Hatred. I find myself sad once again. Is it me? Is it the constant reminders that this place used to bring you such joy and it doesn’t anymore? I used to love it here, at Conn, but now I write this letter with teary eyes. “I’m fine.” I’m practicing for tomorrow when I get asked by my friends what happened last night. This room. This room is not friendly. This room is only friendly on the weekend with the loud music, the dancing, the colorful lights, and the drunken happiness. “I love it here and I love you guys.” I awake on Sunday mornings repeating the same old weekday sadness. I go about my day. I mean I’ve tried. From journals to counseling. But— it’s tiring. It’s January 20, 2019. 2019 was supposed to be my year. I was supposed to be happy. I was supposed to radiate so much self-love. I was not supposed to be writing this letter as I shed more tears. Why? 2019 is about growth. Loving my rolls and my thunder thighs and the fact that I don’t fit beauty standards. But, instead, I am here. In this same room. Once again. Hurting. “I’m fine.” People see me as this “strong” person. I’m not. I’m hurting. “It’s whatever.” My favorite phrase. It’s not whatever because those suppressed feelings come out eventually. I am alone. I joke to them that I will die alone but it no longer feels like a joke. It feels like reality. I question who would want to yearn for me? Who would send me a long letter letting me know why they love me? It seems as if the 6 billion people on this earth turn their heads away when they see me. I want to feel loved. I want to feel wanted. I don’t want to be alone. “Change it.” I’m really trying. Or am I just not trying enough. 2019 was supposed to be my year. And it’s really tough being in this room. The room that’s lonely until the weekend.

Blackout

by Jada Fitzpatrick ‘20 Emotion is a woman. Cold, a surge pushing toward a fire. A depression often dances in her. It is intense. Emotion-Dynamic, though loaded with contract of silence. Chilly. Of a woman. The woman, like a shadow-remaining just to establish the drama. She approaches, leaning in then collapsing. She looks like poetry. 34

Blackout

by Jada Fitzpatrick ‘20 Emotions. Physical. Speeding and slowing. Rolling in circles. People in a bind are beautiful dancers. She’s relentless and rolling in circles. Weary, but there’s some hope. Bits connect tenderly,but roughly in unison. She is close. She leaves. Emotion is an aftertaste closer to poetry.


Untitled

by Natasha Claudio ‘21 I wish they would just ask, How does it feel to be brown ?

How does it feel to be brown, you ask me, you ask me with your eyes ,

Since you all seem so eager to know I’ll just tell you.

you ask when you post Instagram stories that don’t affect your people but it lets people know that you’re woke enough.

How to be a brown stain on white cotton sheets, To be the ugly mark people want to remove. If you don’t mind, I’ll ask you the same, how does it feel to not be brown? How does it feel to be represented when you turn on the television, And not just be the one friend of color on a popular Netflix show?

How does it feel? At conn I’m an educated brown girl But on the street Just a brown girl Would u smile at me then

The girl with all the white friends the funny one . The black or brown best friend, you know the one,

Would I smile back ?

How does it feel to not have to worry whether people are going to think of you as ghetto when you wear sweatpants and a messy bun outside?

It’s The isolation that comes When you are the one brown stain On a white cotton sheet.

I never want to admit to myself how it feels,

How does it feel to be able to talk about race protected by brick walls and then get to move on when you close the textbook? I carry the microaggressions like jewelry on my neck. The microaggressions rest on the hoops on my ears. The ones with my name on them. Gold , you know the ones, the ones you can’t wear until they are trendy because god forbid we started the trend. How does it feel. I want to know. I want to know why when I was twelve, I wrote in my diary, “I wish I had blonde hair and blue eyes, and wasn’t so ugly”. none of the boys at school like me mom, I would say But no, mom, none of the boys at school looked like me.

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Another Elegy to Blackness by Tyla Alexander ‘20

This is what our dying looks like. Preprepared eulogies for me and my brothers and sisters Tucked away but easily accessible. I always make sure I carry you with me At the roots of my hair On the backs of my hands In the muscles that hold my neck upright. I keep a few dead names at the tip of my tongue so I’m always ready to sing life into them. I believe in the sun, the stars, the forever of sand and dirt and root. I believe we are misunderstood only at the other’s expense. They can’t stand to look into our brown faces and see everything They are not and yearn to be. We die every day but We are born and reborn each time. So we should look at the darkness of our feet and knees and stomach and neck and face And see the color that surrounds the distant moon, sun and stars And think of space as a place for our freedom and Music as our spaceship And redefine our blackness for ourselves. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Definition

by Genesis Cubilette ‘20 The ways that rushing relates to being is that we think identity has to do with doing. As if I’m not me when I’m asleep. As if a tree, isn’t one, after its roots pull from the ground. As if a bee stops being, once it has stung. Bodies versus cadavers. Old versus young. Progressing versus achieving. As if being and breathing, as if flesh and bone, as if our spirits home after decomposition, still isn’t enough body for this definition to be, alone.


24 St.

by Kiara Rivera ‘21 Connecticut College accepts its new students. Welcome Class of 2021. We’ve all heard it.

I come from 2019 touring hipster Barrio aesthetic obsessed they Eat culture like a starving vulture But my culture has never been dead No.

my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I am from…..I am from…

I come from history behind nine digits that belong to me, and only me. Entonces With no experience behind the wheel, I drive on a different lane, And watch everyone I love to ride the train. I get the urge to wave at them, but they don’t want me to get distracted.

I come from...

I.

I come from early sunsets for girls And dark nights for boys.

I come from selfishness. I come from skin lighteners. And hair lighteners. And hating my father’s features Until it’s featured in Vogue 2015. Until a white women wear it in style.

Go around the room say your names, your pronouns, and where you are from? My name is Kiara or Key-ah-rah whichever one,

I come from stay safe. Be safe. Text me when you get home. If not, I come from Tombstone street, Where your favorite flower is placed inside your favorite empty bottle. I come from colonization Translated to gentrification Form Hopscotch games on pavement Traced out with chalk lines of displacement Surrounded by the frames of segregation. carved out with sharpened discrimination From your apprehensive hesitation to ask But where are you really from? I come from 1999 WIC vouchers Given to immigrants with glares of disrespect Since when did grocery stores count as trespassing? Really tell me. Since when did Grocery Stores count as Trespassing. Don’t you know that Not everything can be milked from Las Madres breast.

I come from having Mujer bodies carrying more shame than pride, and having Mujer breath get taken away by fajas rather than by men. I come from Jesus verses turned lullabies. From the best English teachers; Arthur, Barney, and the cable kid from Whippo. From dancing because I can. From laughing because it’s louder than crying. I promise you. From broken dreams in broken English in a broken system. I come from them. Handmade from them. Hecha a mano from them. Tortillas de mano from them. La Raza for them. So, I just hope I can make it home before the sun sets.

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Photo 38 by Vessel Day ‘21


39 Men of Color Association ‘19-’20


Alumni Advice This section features Connecticut College alumni of color with words of guidance.

“At Conn, I majored in Government, double minored in sociology and dance, and was a PICA scholar. On-campus I was involved in the Genesis program and Eclipse as a dancer, choreographer, and president. Off-campus I interned for the New London Probation Office for three years, where I worked with people with substance abuse and mental health concerns. Now I’m currently a 6th-grade history teacher in Boston, MA, through Teach for America. One advice I’d give Conn students of color is to care less of people’s opinions of you. Many people at Conn will try to label you, confine you to, and exclude you from groups based on their perceptions and expectations. However, only you know your truth. Stay true to yourself and find your chosen family - those who support you, care for you, inspire you, and push you to be your absolute best - and don’t mind the rest.” - Joseline Urbina ‘19 “At Conn, I was a Posse scholar, and I double majored in Film Studies and Africana Studies. During my time at Conn, I participated in anything that was Black centered and or Umoja/Unity House activities. I applied and was accepted to Chapman University’s Documentary Master program, so I packed up everything and moved to Los Angeles, California. At Chapman, I directed and produced Eyes of a Survivor (@eyesofasurvivor), which is an experimental intake of Ojore Nuru Lutalo as he recounts the 22 years he spent in political isolation. I want to encourage people to be stubborn in your own goals and to be mindful of outside influences. I want young students to understand that they have resources and certain access to wealth at a PWI like Conn, which can be used and redistributed to bring actual change to marginalized communities of color. Keep going. Finish!” - Daryl A. Brown II ‘18


“At Conn, I was a Computer Science major, Sociology and Math minors. Currently, I work as a Cloud Technical Resident at Google. My first job on campus was in dining services for two years , like many other low-income international students without workstudy. I felt embarrassed to be a brown kid with a white cap and a black apron sweeping the floor and taking out the trash while . It took a lot of self-love and resilience for me to maintain my confidence in classes and extra-curricular activities as a low-income, Vietnamese, gay person. I was inspired by faculty, staff, and peers around me, especially those who come from minority groups. I encourage you all to find safe spaces and agency within any situation and persevere courageously toward your goals. At the same time, when given a platform, please use it to uplift your own and other communities. ” - Khánh Nghiêm ‘19 “At Conn, I majored in Psychology and was named a Helen Lehman Buttenweiser Scholar. I served as class Vice President, member of the Minority Student Steering Committee, Peer Counselor and worked in the Admissions Office as a Student Admissions Associate. In addition, I actively participated in UMOJA activities and started an acapella singing group that performed on and off campus. I currently work as a Legal Enforcement Attorney in the New York Fire Department’s Bureau of Legal Affairs’ Enforcement Unit. The pearl of wisdom that I want to share is that it is important that you always be authentic. Be true to who you are and don’t allow anyone to make you feel less than who you are. I’ve found meditation incredibly helpful. Get involved in campus life, while balancing academics. Seek out guidance and take advantage of mentors.” - Abayomi Ajaiyeoba Whint ‘89 “At Conn, I majored in Economics and Africana Studies. I was the treasurer of the Africana Studies Student Advisory Board, the treasurer/co-chair of Umoja, public relation for Eclipse, and an intern with Professor Andrea Baldwin for the Center for the Critical Study of Race and Ethnicity Squad Care Series. After Conn, I was unemployed for the first six months and volunteered at a women’s boxing gym. After, I became a receptionist at a community center. Recently, I started working at Pretty Hard Body in Harlem, NY which is a small beauty fitness boutique studio. I train sedentary women about strength and conditioning which creates habits of healthy lifestyle and choices. An advice I’d give is to seek every opportunity possible and if opportunity isn’t present create it for yourself. It’s okay to take time and figure out what you want to do. You owe yourself time to process.” - Tanaya Cardenales ‘18

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Photo by Nifemi Olugbemiga ‘20

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Daniel Mark ‘20 Bempa Ashia ‘20 Cheikh Gaye ‘19 43


CREDITS Photographers

Bempa Ashia ‘20: Pages 25-28 Cecilia Bole ‘18: Pages 1, 20-21, 30-31 Vessel Day ‘21: Pages 5, 10-11, 17, 19, 38-39, 42, 44-45 Nara Gaisina: Page: 24 Nifemi Olugbemiga ‘20: Pages 6-7, 42-43 Andre Thomas ‘20: Pages 14-15

Models

Daniel Mark ‘20: Pages 5, 24, 42 Emmanuel Williamson ‘21: Page 5 Melissa Avilez Lopez ‘23: Pages 5, 46 Shyanne Temple ‘20: Page 6 Tiara Jennings ‘20: Page 6-7 Isis Torres ‘20: Page 7 Grant Gibson ‘22: Page 10 Daniel Varela ‘20: Page 11 Shay Quinn ‘19: Page 14 Nouhalia Oudija ‘21: Page 14 Nifemi Olugbemiga ‘20: Page 15 Ericka Lagrange ‘20: Page 20 Paloma Camarena ‘20: Page 21 Bempa Ashia ‘20: Pages 42-43 Chiekh Gaye ‘19: Page 43 Vessel Day ‘21: Page 25 Darriana Greer ‘21: Page 31 Men of Color Alliance: Pages 38-39 Ari Vanegas-Farrara ‘23: Page 44 Sebastian Guerrero ‘22: Page 45 Jessica Reynoso ‘22: Pages 45, 47 Vanessa Giraldo ‘20: Page 45 Jennifer Rojas ‘20: Page 46 Sarah Lawler ‘21: Page 46 Kristen Lin: Page 47 Lisa Torres ‘22: Page 47 This was an independent study project in ART 335H with Professor Andrea Wollensak. This primer issue was created in Adobe InDesign and exported as PDF for print. Layout, grid and overall design created by Bempa Ashia ‘20. The typeface used to compose this priemer issue was ‘Lemon/Milk’, Athelas, Kohinoor Devanagari and Avenir Next. This magazine was printed at Copy Cats in color laser print in 2019. The type of paper used is 80# Gloss Text. First run of the premier issue consists of 100 copies. Thanks to: John McKnight, Kristi Kerr, Truth Hunter, Student Government Association for Identity-Based Fund, Andrea Wollensak, Annie Scott ‘84, Natasha Claudio ‘21, Jozette Moses ‘21, and everyone involved in this process!

Ari Vanegas-Farrara ‘23


Sebastian Guerrero ‘22 Jessica Reynoso ‘22

Vanessa Giraldo ‘20

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Photo by Vessel Day ‘21

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Jennifer Rojas ‘20 Melissa Avilez Lopez ‘23 Sarah Lawler ‘21 Jessica Reynoso ‘22 Kristen Lin Lisa Torres47 ‘22


Front Cover Photographer: Ceclia Bole ‘18 Back Cover: Kente Clothe from Ghana

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Akwaaba Magazine: An Empowering Student of Color Magazine at Connecticut College (Premier Issue)  

Akwaaba Magazine: An Empowering Student of Color Magazine at Connecticut College (Premier Issue)  

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