VISIBILITY issue 01
CREATORS & CHANGEMAKERS OF THE SWARTHMORE INTERCULTURAL CENTER
Swarthmore College Intercultural Center 500 College Avenue Swarthmore, PA 19081 USA (610) 328-7353 SPRING 2016 VISIBILITY MAGAZINE ISSUE 01
Cover Art: “The Unveiling” “To become a fully realized person necessitates a calculated stripping away: parsing bad habits from the person you want to be, others’ beliefs about you from who you know yourself to be, perceived inevitability from belief in possibility. This piece depicts an individual overcoming the things that hold them back. The sludge represents intellectual and emotional darkness—doubt, fear, deprecation, numbness, timidity— imposed by both the self and the outside world. Only by intentionally casting aside the darkness can the individual rise above it, shining and resolute, and reach for infinity.” -Yona Yurwit
Acknowledgements Thank you to all of our incredible contributors for offering a piece of yourselves to be included in this project--we are all overwhelmed by the talent and realness that you all have shared with us. Thank you to the entirety of the IC Team for your unending support, as well as the IC Collective at large for being a source of inspiration and motivation in all things we do on campus. Additionally, we are grateful for all of the advice solicited from our friends at the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, McCabe Library, Alumni Relations, and Swarthmore Communications. Finally, the world’s biggest thank you to Mo Lotif, a supporter, mentor, and visionary. VISIBILITY wouldn’t have been possible without you.
Mo’s patch for the 2016 Our Interwoven Struggles quilt 3
‘Zine Team Editor-in-Chief Jasmine Rashid
Jasmine Rashid, class of 2018, is a Strategy Consultant for the IC Team from Long Island, New York. She really enjoys watchings dogs do dogs things, and will apparently never actually submit her Sophomore Plan. But it will be fine, she thinks.
Creative Director Christine Lee
Christine Lee, class of 2018, is the Creative & Technology Team Graphic Designer from Seoul, South Korea and likes bread. She is a Political Science and Asian Studies double major. Sometimes she waits for the void to take her, but then realizes she hasn’t eaten Essies yet.
Outreach Coordinator Vivek Ramanan Vivek Ramanan, class of 2018, is the Creative & Technology Social Media Coordinator for the IC Team from San Jose, California. He is a Biology and Computer Science major, with an interest in Asian Studies and cultural arts. He’s also really good at making himself sound like he’s put together. P.S. He is lying.
Letter from the Editor “Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” - bell hooks While filling out my application to join the Intercultural Center (IC) Team at the end of my first year at Swarthmore, I was prompted by a question that read along the lines of “What do you envision contributing to the IC and greater campus community?” I realized that a priority for our work should be to ensure that Swarthmore students, especially those of marginalized identities, are recognized not only for the challenges we face, but for the beautiful work and insights we have to offer. Art opens up the possibility for humanity to be examined at its core. Even for those of us who do not consider ourselves “artists” in the traditional sense of the word, we are all creators in our own right. The name VISIBILITY Magazine is very intentional. Above all else, our hope for this platform is to create a space for people to share what they would like friends and strangers alike to know about their experiences and visions. VISIBILITY is centered in the Intercultural Center, but our list of contributors includes the communities encompassed by the Black Cultural Center, the Women’s Resource Center, the Interfaith Center, and the International Students Office. The nature of this work is collaborative, and it is amazing to see where parallels can be drawn amongst a multiplicity of experiences. All work is uncensored. What this means is that within this publication, you will see art reflecting on a range of realities, from the honest frustrations of being minoritized at an institution such as Swarthmore, to the priceless empowerment of sharing experiences and growth with the amazing people that one may connect with here. Producing this zine will be a part of the IC Team’s fabric moving forward, in order to archive narratives of how art and experiences may be progressed or reproduced each year. I am very fortunate that others saw the potential of a project like this, and I hope that as you make your way through through the pages of this work, you enjoy experiencing these pieces as much as we enjoyed curating them. Thank you for being a part of this process; your viewership is deeply appreciated. Gratefully, Jasmine
Table of Contents Cover Artist Statement...............................................................2 Acknowledgements....................................................................3 ‘Zine Team Bios ...........................................................................4 Letter from the Editor.................................................................5 Table of Contents........................................................................6 VISIBILITY ZINE CONTENTS: Reflections on Solitude.............................................................8 Mo Lotif What it means to be seen........................................................9 Jada Smack ‘19 Through-the-lens....................................................................10 Kyung Chan Min ‘18 A Year’s Worth of Work.........................................................18 Christine Lee ‘18 Exploring Multi Identity..........................................................19 Meghan Kelly ‘18 Being Biracial..........................................................................20 Tiauna Lewis ‘19 “What Your Face Says About You”..........................................22 Celine Anderson ‘19 armed & dangerous................................................................26 Xavier Lee ‘17 The Americans........................................................................30 Jasmine Rashid ‘18 A tribute to my immigrant mother...........................................35 Natasha Nogueira ‘18 Untitled..................................................................................36 Soumba Traore ‘18 Language in Diaspora..............................................................37 Tiauna Lewis ‘19
instructions for building Palestine revolutions.......................38 George Abraham ‘17 gap | year................................................................................40 Eojin Choi ‘19 You Wouldn’t Be So Ugly If You Would Just Become a Biblical Figure........................................42 Marissa Cohen ‘17 Shadow...................................................................................43 Fae Montgomery ‘17 Bells........................................................................................44 Vivek Ramanan ‘18 home......................................................................................47 Lydia Koku ‘18 And Then Grief Became the Winter........................................48 Julian Randall ‘16 Brazil......................................................................................49 Maria Isabel Barros Guinle ‘19 #interculturalcenter................................................................50 Julian Turner ‘18
The Intercultural Center...........................................................55 7
Mo Lotif 8
What it means to be seen Jada Smack
This body of mine, with glass curves shaped like the hour, yet not translucent and not for all to see. With broad lips and brown eyes in the same cocoa tone effortlessly expressed across entire my body. This skin of mine is dark and deep. And for this I am not visible. Being seen is for the privileged, while the rest of us are denied visibility. Unworthy of the recognition the ivory receive, yet susceptible to awkward glances and envious remarks. For my yearlong tan, seems to be the butt of every joke and my pride filled response assumed an overreaction. But what really is the reason behind this oppression? Iâ€™d like to believe it is because the oppressed have an opaque characteristic that is unattainable to the oppressor. The translucent are see through and easy to mimic, yet the opaque harbors a mystic so rich and intense that it strikes fear into the souls of the oppressor. So the privilege of being seen is merely a tragic flaw of the oppressor and so instead of recognizing difference the translucent have chosen to turn their heads. Instead of looking at the opaque, the translucent have decided to chastise what they are unable to profile. And so I will love this black body and praise my ability to make them see without looking, and have them envy my beauty.
THROUGH-THE-LENS Kyung Chan Min
Street photography serves as a mirror for me. As a first-generation Korean-American immigrant, I have found the United States to be bewildering, contradictory, beautiful, and mesmerizing. Through these photographs, I try to make sense of what I perceive through the lens.
A Yearâ€™s Worth of Work Christine Lee
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Exploring Multi Identity Meghan Kelly
The DiscoSwat brochure rests on the coffee table, accompanied by other college admissions materials and student diversity event listings. I sit a bit confused, wondering why I’m getting so much material designed for students of color. I casually ask my dad about it, and he says in his relaxed tone, “Oh, it must be because you’re Asian.” To be clear, I did and do identify racially as Asian. When the mail arrived full of information about diversity events, though, it took me a second to associate my racial identification of Asian with my invitations to POC events. Even to this day, I question to what extent I am a person of color. I was adopted from China at four months old by two amazing parents whose love knows no bounds. I appreciate them every day. It also just so happens that my parents are white. I was socialized in a white family, and I have benefitted from white privilege in ways that I recognize and in ways that I am still learning. For a while I thought of myself as “officially” Asian but somehow kind of white. I continue to process why I felt this way, but I suspect it’s due to a mixture of things, including the fact that I was raised in a white suburb and had mostly white friends. The few Asian children I knew were adopted by white families as well. Since coming to college, I have felt conflicted at times about what my multi narrative—my Asian racial identity mixed with my white cultural background—means. I ask myself: Do I belong in POC spaces? How do I interact in them? Can I find a comfortable place in the Asian community even though I was not raised with Chinese cultures and values? I am grateful to have the space to consider these thoughts in Multi, a campus group for students who identify as multi (multiethnic, multiracial, multicultural, transnational, transracial, multireligious, and more). I am happy that we have given ourselves the time to explore and build together, in spite of the workload and pressures of the institution.
Supported by my adoptive family and my close friends,
(re)claiming my multi identity has become a source of personal empowerment.
I am not done exploring; perhaps I never will be. But I feel fortunate to be able to continue doing so here and now.
Being Biracial TiAUna Lewis
They sayin I bleached my skin like all the good ones did Parents mixed white and black blood Mixed girl Your incomprehensible shade of gray The beauty in being biracial for me, is written in a completely different language wrapped in tree bark with deep roots sprawled because they don’t know where they’re going either.
Someone got upset with me when I said I wanted to know where in Africa my ancestors came from. As if not feeling like I belong is the only thing I should be concerned with and I think about these things when people hand me twist ice cream cones out of a drive thru window, when I get to check more than one box on census information best of both worlds, right?
My identity has only ever been halves separated by a wall I assumed I should be building for some time black and white bodies couldn’t live in the same area let alone in the same person my blood is two sides to an argument neither side can find reason for
The conflicting identities make patchwork of my insides I decided to braid my hair say, I’m getting closer to my roots or my roots are too silky to hold these braids in.
I learn French and Arabic searching for a word in another language that feels more like belonging, But a marginalized colonizer is what my whiteness makes me My mixed race does nothing but betray other people. Generations from now my children’s children and their children will look at my picture and say their blackness came from me or their whiteness came from me. I am nothing but a reason for somebody’s abnormal genealogy. You’d think I’d be used to that by now.
"What Your Face Says About You" CELINE ANDERSON In 2013, Cosmopolitan published an article called, “What Your Facial Features are Saying.” The article began: “Hot off the heels of a study that revealed whether you’re a fling or wife-y material, we wanted to know more about what our eyes, nose, mouth, etc., are telling the world” and featured pictures of traits and what they may indicate about peoples’ personalities. I wondered if this article is asking the wrong question. Perhaps instead of: What do our faces say to the world? We should be asking: What does the world say about our faces? I sat down with six women and photographed their features in isolation. We talked about selfies, make-up, family, the Kardashians. I framed the pictures with images of the sky, something that, for me, immediately evokes memories of girlhood and a carefree state. In listening to everyone’s different experiences, I’ve found that what people say to us about our “eyes, nose, mouth, etc.,” and where we choose to go from there can be a revealing and useful tool for self discovery and self acceptance.
armed & dangerous Xavier Gerard Lee Response At night at Swarthmore, where the campus is relatively poorly lit, it’s rare for people to say hello to me. As we are approaching one another, my face shrouded by a hoodie or hidden in the darkness, students look at me, squinting their eyes in order to attempt to identify me, but in finding that it is too dark – and that I am too dark to be seen – they look away. There is a certain terror I see in their expressions, for they cannot recognize me as Xavier, as fellow student. They see in me a black male figure, and all the roles similar figures play in the American imagination. Black men have become symbols of violence in our culture. We are seen as dangerous in our very existence, and must bear the weight of the burden of the epidermalization of contempt which is the immediate response of those whose paths we cross. This fact incensed me to no end during my first year at Swarthmore, having never experienced this form of fear before. I did not see myself as scary because I knew that I was a good one. The clothes I wore, the way I walked and the words I used revealed immediately that I posed no threat, although
the assumptions that someone’s hostility can be boiled down to outward appearances is obviously dubious. Yet still, it continues to be a menace to the lives of several million, for it is has been the justification for countless murders, all in the name of self-defense. The notion of Black men representing violence is an issue of American sensibilities. Our culture is saturated with images which present Black men as
"Black men have become symbols of violence" violent, as villainous, as ravenous. The understood virtues of white people represent a stark contrast to the character assassination of Black men. In presenting the Black man as dangerous, you present, consequentially, since blacks and whites, oddly, represent opposites, that the White man is defensive. The Black man represent sexual hunger, is, as Fanon writes, biological while the White man, conversely, represents worldliness and society. When applied to white women, through the white male imagination, which, unfortunately, is also our own, we see white women as unnaturally
and unjustly chaste and Black women, conversely, as disgustingly lascivious. The Black man’s power and his danger are in his phallus, while the Black women’s fury and scorn lie in her perpetual dissatisfactions with her male counterpart. It is all bullshit, it is all absurd, yet we continue, all of us, to live this lie, a lie we try to make true. 3 ½ minutes Ten Bullets, a recent documentary on the murder of Jordan Davis, discusses the issues of the perception of Black men as threats. The word perception is crucial to this dialogue, for in our abilities to perceive and understand one another (à la Foucault) lie the inherent desire for the dominant group to exert their will over the subaltern. Jordan Davis, a seventeen-year old black boy living with his mother in Florida, was killed because he was perceived to be a threat to the life of Michael Dunn, a typical white man of typical sensibilities. The film presents itself as relatively straightforward in its desired intent; it focuses on the people who knew Jordan in order to build from their memory an image of the bright young man who fell prey to the vicious snares of a society built on the notions of Black cultural and existential inferiority. Michael Dunn, who can be described as nothing more than average in every way possible, is the type of person who when given the possession of a firearm because of his Second Amendment rights and the right to defend himself
because of an ambiguous law, is able to commit atrocities against black people on the grounds of his own fears. In providing the spectator with Dunn’s personal lamentations and gripings through recorded jail phone calls, the filmmakers present a manifestation of the white conscience which so many of us bear, which is the justification for the deaths of hundreds. The film’s amalgamation of various forms of audio media create a web of thoughts on the issue of Stand-Your-Ground laws. One voice among them rings disgustingly clear – The issue is not about actual threat, but perceived threat. Perception is ambiguous, is subjective. I can perceive something which is not there, can find evidence to prove that I was justified in being alarmed. In an ideal, colorless world, these laws could function properly to provide people with the legal grounds to protect themselves with deadly force if necessary. But we do not live in such a world, and never will. When you grow up in a nation which feeds you content which tells you that Black music is violent and destructive, is Entartete kunst, that the diversification of television by Black actors and artists is “the blacks taking over,” that Black culture propagates internalized violence and racial regression, then the Black man, as a product of his degenerate culture, is but a manifestation of all ills which spills from America’s most hated ethnic group. In doing so, we paint
Black teenagers as violent thugs who want nothing more than to rape white women and kill white men. We take from them all of the sensibilities which we afford to white children and makes beasts from boys. Every interaction a person has with a Black man will be conducted through the lens of their potential violence. The Black man will be watched and observed to see if he meets the mold which you are taught to find. Those who fail the examination are dismissed as other others. They cannot be understood with this particular set of lens, are outside of the possibilities of the narrow American imagination. Thus they are given new identities – good kid, intelligent, white.
Those who pass the test, who meet the criteria, are comforting, for in passing the examination, they prove that the test itself is not a farce. And of course if you create a large enough net with small enough holes, you will succeed, no matter what, in catching something – or someone. Jordan Davis was just loud enough, and just disrespectful enough, and just dangerous looking enough to warrant the perception of him as menace, as threat in Michael Dunn’s American imagination. As he says himself, and as his attorney reiterates in the closing remarks, Michael Dunn is not racist. Or better yet, he does not embody the archetype
of American racism to which we have grown accustomed. He does not masquerade around in sheets, burning crosses and calling himself a wizard or a dragon. He has not shaven his head and tattooed over his heart those swirling Sanskrit arms which are now synonymous, in the West at least, with twentieth-century industrial horror. He is not a racist, has not adopted the identity of racist as a means of describing his worldview, his politics, but he is racist in his understanding of
"Every interaction a person has with a black man will be conducted through the lens of their potential violence." his own protection coming at the necessary cost of the lives of one person, and potentially three more Black boys, all of which had the duty to live just as Dunn did. He is racist in his understanding of his being on trial for murder as being a fluke, as being a testament to America’s undeserving devotion towards the prioritization of a race of inferior people in a traditionally white country. He is racist in his equivalence of black music’s historical discussions and glorifications of aggression with the illusion of the Black man as violence incarnate. Michael Dunn is racist and it is his denial of the reality of his internalized racism,
much of which is not necessarily his fault, which puts the nail in his psychological coffin. I don’t like guns. I do not even like seeing them on police officers in holsters, or, as of recently during a train ride home from school, in their hands, looking far grander and far more lethal than is likely necessary for the situation. The comfort of these ordinary officers with these guns – assault rifles the likes of which I have only seen in terrible movies and in violent video games – is the disturbing nature of our society. The police must now arm themselves to be at an advantage to the society, which is now heavily armed, too. Our preoccupation with armament has led to the necessity of a hyperarmed paramilitary corps you can reach, if you dare, by dialing 911. Depending on where you live, that force will be at your home in minutes, ready to shoot. Unlike so many millions, I do not like the idea of needing a gun to protect myself. The notion of “judged by 12 over carried by six” prioritizes the murder of others over the murder of the self, instead
of addressing the issue of murder as a social phenomenon. Standyour-ground laws propose violence as a response to violence and allow individuals to put justice in their own hands. Yet, above all, standyour-ground laws assume that human beings exist without biases, that our culture is not ruled by a set list of types and molds through which Americans see the world at a great and alienating distance. They assume that average Americans are capable of thinking rationally about the world around them while allowing a media culture which perpetuates the dehumanization of those so often caught in the racist crosshairs. Michael Dunn was convicted for the murder of Jordan Davis by a jury of his peers. He will enjoy the rest of his days on Earth in the confinement of a cell for the premeditated murder of a young Black man who he perceived to be a threat to his own life, a life he believed, implicitly, to matter more than that of Jordan Davis. And although this case resulted in a sense of triumphant justice, the jury’s verdict will not revive Jordan, nor will it make the wounds which his death has left in parents’ hearts sting any less.w
Photo by Jasmine Rashid ‘18
THE AMERICANS I created this portrait series as a personal reflection on multiculturalism and citizenship in a country that has always been preoccupied with binary identification. The idea began with my own diasporic experience, in which I have come to know my father’s homeland only through visual culture; distanced by physical space and literacy. From there, I shot with three individuals, in their personal settings, allowing each subject to ascertain nuanced systems of representation in order to document the multiplicity of lived experiences. Here, you’ll find one individual who has consistently been denied a credible Afro-Latino identity, as a result of those around him not understanding the different meanings of constructed “race” versus “ethnicity.” Another is one who often nostalgically longs to be elsewhere; with the place she calls home positioned on the other side of the world and loved ones remaining internationally distanced. Our final subject has been externally identified as a noncitizen – encountering the simplified and unwelcomed stereotypes that accompany this position –despite living in America for the majority of his life. While the stories documented in the images are individual accounts, the experiences aim for universality for those of us who have ever been othered and politicized by the constraints of American society. Existing as a multicultural subject is beautifully and uniquely laden in unending complexity, as we attempt to portray our authentic selves to the outside world while simultaneously coming into new understandings of who we are internally.
Natasha Nogueira 35
Language in Diaspora TiAUna Lewis Language can bend and change like a magician bends silver spoons backwards. I am a diasporic person without a language that feels like a celebration Or a flag that wraps me in warmth I have no culture to grip onto because I am made up of dust And ancestral betrayal Sometimes I wonder in what direction my Black ancestors spoke. I wonder if they used present tense as much as I do or if they braided their fingers in the grip of the future. I wonder if my ancestors had a word for searching, speak, home. I wonder where they found home. Iâ€™ve got family shipped to the North or maybe they escaped there. I wonder if they ever found sanctuary where they slept at night. Their word for lost must have been less sorrowful than mine Because they always found something to sing about. They could split their language open and raise hymns until the air escaping their lips burned the sky. Iâ€™m sure they had fire in their bellies that whole time and with every word they caused a chemical change in the air they exhaled in waves and sometimes I think I breathe with them.
George GeorgeAbraham Abraham instructions for building Palestinian revolutions for my future daughter Descendent of rocks and scraped Knuckles / Child of shattering dawn, and crystalline Twilight / Child who had the bible belt bruised out of her Genome / Daughter of olive tree and pomegranate root: When they point at you like their next anthropology project, and ask “so what are you really?” correct them. not dead. Palestinian. Do not let that word linger on your tongue like your amnesia for all things holy; You may be descendant from Christ’s lineage, but trust me; millions of God’s chosen people are erasing your history as we speak; Do not let this bloodline drown like your ancestor’s ghosts under siege; Remember, English was always your second language; Arabic was scripture before tongues came out of Jesus’ closet of a throat; Remember how they’ll label your throat, “colonization’s aftermath” your birth, “repopulation;” your ecosystem, “willingly endangered,” your laughter, “venomous,” Remember that sunken treasure is never beautiful unless it’s drowning; when they mispronounce your name, correct them. tell them, i named you hawa, translated “wind” or “love” for the way they label your heartbeat impermanent as your home; heartbeat, improper; heartbeat, unbounded; heartbeat, Hades to the river Styx embedded into your circulatory system; tell them i named you al youm, translated “today” because even that is not guaranteed;
tell them, i named you Khadija, translated “Palestinian girl who died in the fire” for this land that wore her ribcage like a bulletproof vest; for the nothome soil that became stone sanctuary all too quickly; tell them, i named you hayat, translated “life” because even the most beautiful things need contradiction; or amal, translated “hope” because even the most beautiful things need contradiction; you are stone riot and frozen elegy, rubble, and phoenix, house built on stone and sand, jerico before the walls came tumbling; david born into golliath’s palms; they will remember the way your father’s fist became well acquainted with Zion’s jawline, and you: the hairline fracture; the hawa that set the system ablaze; they will remember the way your venom killed the world so softly; how everyone three generations before you was named “aftermath” but you? you were amal, you were Khadija before the eulogy got her, you were hayat even though the world told you otherwise. your existence is the biggest revolution this world will ever witness. my daughter; they will remember your name, and the way you refused your own cremation, and reclaimed this lineage that reeks of ash and blood, and this ghosttown of a homeland that was never yours never ours to begin with.
Mongolia + Uzbekistan + Myanmar + India 40
You Wouldnâ€™t Be so Ugly If You Would Just Become a Biblical Figure Marissa Cohen
If you are really looking to cure all that ugliness you should just become a biblical figure. You are unattractive for a woman, but you are just below average for someone born before the invention of modern hygiene. Quit complaining, rewind time, and do something semiÂŹ-magical seeming. Be revered as a person of large importance in the Judeo-Christian scriptures. You are so, so lazy. Janice. Biblical figures are remembered throughout history as pretty white people with cherub-like faces that almost always lean to one side. Being a pretty white person can get you anywhere in this world, regardless of which direction your face almost always leans. Maybe you do not wish to look like a fat baby angel. Surely you must admit that supernatural childhood obesity is preferable to how you look now, Janice. You will not look sort of like a painting. You will be a painting. Because you will be prominent in biblical times when photography was not invented. Lucky for you. As you morph into the type of deity that would be loved and adored by hordes of people for centuries to come, stay true to yourself. Be the real you as long as the real you can succeed in gaining an adoring following of human sheep. Cult followings are the ultimate confidence boosters, especially when they are from biblical times and therefore too stupid to see right through you. Jesus turned water into wine. You should easily turn into a somewhat decent-looking biblical figure. Put a little effort into your showmanship, Janice, for once in your physically disgusting life. No offense. Becoming a biblical figure is really not that hard. If you have the energy to drag your grotesque body out of bed each morning, looking the way you do, then you can certainly manage to gather a medium-sized following in the biblical era. It takes a lot of confidence to show up in public with those flabby cheeks, those dry rat eyes. I commend you, Janice. Now put that same confidence to something greater than thou. Become a biblical figure.
SHADOW Fae Montgomery
This painting is the cover art from an in-progress graphic novel, Shadow, by Fae Montgomery. The graphic novel explores the power of collective human belief in shaping creation and questions the afterlife. It follows a former goddess of death and shadows as she wakes to a world that has moved beyond her time. Horrified that the afterlife she ruled no longer exists, she embarks upon a quest to find the lost souls she once tended. To increase diversity in literary representation, the main characters of Shadow are queer and/or minority figures.
I remember fidgeting with excitement, behind rows of talking children and proud mothers, attempting to hide my bright blue and red costume with golden embroidery, with my small hands. My feet were shaking, the sounds of bells tinkling in the small classroom. This was my kindergarten talent show – the first time I danced in public. When my name was called (the pronunciation was another story), I eagerly ran up to the front of the room to do what I loved at hat age: dance. I moved to lilting tunes of Jathiswaram, a combination of rhythmic movements set to a 7 beat cycle, and beamed with joy after I finished. But I was too innocent to understand the subtle glances between children, whispers between parents, and odd looks from the teachers. I am a male Bharatanatyam dancer. On performance days, I paint my face with makeup and thick eyeliner, wear brightly colored costumes and golden jewelry, and dance to traditional South Indian music. Until middle school, all I knew was that the music and rhythm Indian dance called to me. For my 12th birthday, instead of asking for an Xbox like all my friends, I asked to do my Arangetram, a two hour dance debut performance in India. All I knew was dance. Bharatanatyam took all my time after school, which was spent
listening to the traditional music and understanding the complicated rhythms. Summers were spent perfecting hand gestures (mudras), increasing physical stamina, learning new techniques from visiting dancers, and stamping my feet on wooden floors to prerecorded music until the bottom of my feet had callouses. As I grew up, I slowly became aware that many people, including my grandparents and close relatives, had advised my parents that “boys don’t dance, get him into something normal.” It was never said to my face, but I was encouraged to join other “manly” activities. Even though my parents continued to support and encourage me, the comments began to stick. Unconsciously, the seed was planted: men do not wear jewelry, wear makeup, and dance. By the time I reached the end of middle school, I was embarrassed by the art form. I refused to tell my friends about my dance, and never allowed them to visit my house where they would see my four foot tall dance picture in our living room. I was ashamed, scared and I succumbed to a belief that I had created and now believed - men don’t dance. Boys played sports, obsessed over video games, but didn’t do Indian Classical dance. So I separated my American life from my Indian one, letting my other activities and
school work take precedence over dance. I stored all my bells away and took down. The picture in my living room. Then in the summer of 2011, in a spur of the moment decision, I decided to take classes from a renowned male dance teacher in India. For four weeks, in the blistering humidity of Chennai, I danced for four hours everyday until I came home exhausted. It was here where I began interacting with other male dancers for the first time: my teacher and another professional dancer learning with him. Both of them, despite every stereotype that I had heard, were completely in love with performing and creating dance. So why was my experience so different? I left India with this question and and it was only when I entered Swarthmore that I began to ask more complex questions. Why is it that my grandparents and relatives would rather have me play drums than dance, even though there are male professional dancers? Why wasnâ€™t I supported?
To find answers, I looked at the historical background of Bharatanatyam. Bharatanatyam is over 2000 years old and performed by men and women alike for worship. Colonial powers outlawed Bharatanatyam as an tribal, religious, and sexualized act. In the mid 1900s, the cultural revivalism period included Bharatanatyam, which exploded into the artistic forefront. The dance form was popularized by male teachers, previously educated in music as well, thereby able to teach new students. At this point, the male teachers commonly taught daughters or wives of the elite, spreading the artform predominantly to women such as Rukmini Devi Arundale, who is credited with danceâ€™s growth to international fame. Today, male and female professional dancers are still active throughout India in Bharatanatyam, struggling with historical connotations left by colonialism but widely respected. And then thereâ€™s me struggling with my own perceptions of what
it means for me to dance. When I learned dance, I was the only boy growing up dance schools of more than 100 young girls, with female teachers my entire life until I went to India. Part of perpetuating the stereotype that men didn’t dance was also the lack of role models, which promotes less boys seeing dance as something they could join. To this day, there’s a certain negative connotation to being a male dancer in both India and America. Perhaps its due to colonialism, the revival of Bharatanatyam, the cultural connotations of Bharatanatyam as a feminine act, or the gender norms. Or what I’m beginning to think is that it is an incomprehensible mix of different elements including the revival, the cultural connotations, the gender norms, and more. Essentially, there was no answer for my question. And with this knowledge, I found that I no longer felt the need to apologize for my dance, knowing that the issues and stereotypes that I had imbibed as a child weren’t my fault. They weren’t even my relatives and grandparents fault – the fault at hand was history and as much as I wish, I can’t change that. Finally, I saw Bharatanatyam not as an artform that was predominantly feminine; instead, it was one that molded itself to each particular dancer and their strengths.
Today, my resume officially has “16 years of experience in Bharatanatyam” and “11 years of experience in Mridangam and world percussion” on it. While I’m quite certain these won’t get me a job, it gives me a little reminder about the strength and grounding that my creative passions gave me. Music and dance are dynamic concepts and dependent on social issues, history, culture and norms. By learning about the combination of these different elements behind those stereotypes that I faced, I can come to three conclusions. One, gender norms are highly destructive and damaging to people, especially children. Whether it’s in career options or body types, it needs to be recognized as a serious issue to be combated. Second, cultures are constantly moving and changing in new places. The history of how Indian culture changed, affecting elements including dance as it moved to western countries, isn’t a unique story but rather one similarly found in all world cultures. And third, it can be hard to find an answer to why something happened to you. For me, I instead found relief in going forward, remembering that what made me fall in love with Bharatanatyam was putting my bells on and escaping all the stereotypes, history, and judgments. And I felt free.
home. i. compromise I do not speak my father’s language. I am constantly grasping to keep pieces of my mother’s Trinidad with me. You ask me where I am from and the first parts of me to fall are always my eyes, who have learned how to shame silently. How to disappear inside a moment that cuts. I breathe slow to balance the stutter and listen to my pulse when it whispers pick one, even if it’s the wrong one this time and it always is and this is how you teach a transnational body to recoil from itself. Sometimes you ghost the voice and watch as the blood runs free from the lip, a quivering river. Sometimes I dream up alternative autobiographies in which my dad and mum migrate from the same country and I rest cozily with the colonizer’s tongue. In which the most difficult choice I must make is never my own: this time I am black girl. this time I am clipped wings, or, whoever makes you comfortable. ii. devaluing in every ending, I leave myself to bleed belly empty, hands trembling, an unjust labour that I misname ‘self-love.’ maybe multi-ethnicity is a war between phantom limbs, each dream unmasking yet another exit wound. iii. acceptance The secret is I have crossed three continents, each introduced to me as ‘home.’ This blackness, flexible with the colonized tongue you condemn as being unable to claim. As if I am not child of the Diaspora. As if these oceans have not linked hands to haul me freely across them. As if my body is not liaison, powerful with ancestral blood that welcomes me home. even if you won’t.
Lydia Koku 47
Julian Randall This poem first appeared in the Madison Review, Fall 2015.
And Then Grief Became the Winter and February became a parade of tight throats and all the bottles went from brown to empty while the wind slaked its thirst for exposed skin and the sky gave birth to whiteness again until we just started figuring the sun was a myth because weâ€™d seen so many bright things rising and falling again without our eyesâ€™ consent that surely this was just another name we had not forgotten yet and February was a broken mirror was a mass of bodies was the white noise of everywhere was fists in pockets and everything brown suddenly emptying and I had too many hands debatably too many names and everywhere was slaking its thirst for exposed skin and everybody was fragile like glass and the room had been emptying for as long as any of us could re member and I started playing at Prometheus kept smuggling different names with me all of them brown fit to slake my thirst or remind me what the sun tasted like
Maria isabel barros guinle 49
#interculturalcenter Julian Turner
A series of photos from the IC Team Photographer
The Mission “The Intercultural Center (IC) strives to build community among and between students of color, LGBTQIA , low-income , international, and first generation college students at Swarthmore, while also paying careful attention to their unique intellectual, cultural, social, and personal concerns.” Dion W. Lewis, Interim Director Mohammed (Mo) Lotif, Assistant Director
The Team Sam Mori Kat Galvis Rodríguez Louis Lainé Salman Safir
Ben Xie Christine Lee Vivek Ramanan Julian Turner
Joelle Bueno Jasmine Rashid Cesar Cruz Benítez Maria Castaneda Daniel Orr
The Collective ABLLE (Achieving Black and Latino Leaders of Excellence) AMENA (Arab, Middle Eastern, and North African Cultural Society) ARCS (Anti-Racism Coalition of Swarthmore) Colors (Queer Students of Color) DESHI (South Asian Students Organization) ENLACE (LatinX Students Organization) HAN (Korean Students Organization) HAPA (Racially mixed students with Asian Ancestry) i20 (International Students Organization) Kizuna (Japanese Students Organization) MSA (Muslim Students Association) MULTI (Transracial students with Multicultural upbringing) PersuAsian (Queer and Trans Asian Community) QSA (Queer Straight Alliance) QSN (Questbridge Scholars Network) SAO (Swarthmore Asian Organization) SCS (Swarthmore Chinese Society) SISA (Swarthmore Indigenous Students Association) SOLIS (Swarthmore Organization for Low Income Students) SQU (Swarthmore Queer Union) WOCKA (Women of Color Kick Ass)
VIS IBIL ITY
“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural...
Published on Apr 29, 2016
“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural...