anthology Writers Room is a university-community literary arts program engaged in creative placemaking and art for social justice. writersroomdrexel.org
anthology 5 2018-2019
writers room 2018-2019
Notes to Self
ÂŠ 2019 All rights remain with authors and artists. Cover design by Isabella Akhtarshenas Cover photo by Brenda Bailey
Introduction I don’t remember exactly how it starts. We’re in the studio in MacAlister —me, Isabella, Wenrick—crowded around my desk. !e light is low. On the gray walls, corkboards are covered in handwritten dra"s and photo prints. In the back library string lights emit a so" glow behind half-drawn curtains. Sounds in the hall dri" back from the open chalkboard doors, a standing invitation to come inside. I watch both of them sketch lines on paper. Rachel says a house is one of the first things we draw when we’re kids. Box foundation. Two-line triangle roof. I remember Isabella adding a tiny rectangle on her roof. “It’s the chimney that lets you know it’s not just any building. It’s a home.” I can’t stop thinking about that. What makes a place feel like home? If you ask me, I’ll tell you about the time Matt and Devin visited Patricia’s neighborhood in Logan. Matt got lost at first and had to ride his longboard up Broad Street to meet them at the right Burger King, but the other two waited. !ey all went together to see what’s no longer there and remember what once was. Weeks later, all three kept writing about that day, like the trip couldn’t stop talking back to them. On an unseasonably warm Tuesday evening in February, a group of strangers visiting from Vermont walked into the Lindy House with us. !ey sat around the long table, interspersed with the regulars, listened and wrote. By the end of workshop, the room buzzed with conversation like we were old friends, not strangers meeting for the first time.
In April, six of us spent a Friday morning doing event set up in Ryan Hall. It was a lot of furniture-moving— arranging tables, pulling up chairs. Making space. !e next morning it rained. People filled the room. We asked each other, What thresholds do we cross to live together? !e sun returned in the a"ernoon. As people le", energy flowed out into the street, everyone still holding the fullness of the room, carrying it with them to the next place. We have a lot of these moments at Writers Room when seemingly mundane interaction feels transcendent. To me, that’s home: that moment of connection that lingers well a"er it’s over. !ese shared experiences reverberate. In our every day lives. In the pages of this book. Lauren Lowe, ’17 Alumni Writing Fellow May 2019
Table of Contents PART 1: Memories + Artifacts Incubate, Fabricate, Resuscitate: Alicia DeSimone View from the Park Bench: Linda Moran A Letter to Garcia: Earl Hackett !e Giants: Carin Spotted Eagle Academy of Natural Sciences Field Notes I Am Still Discovering !ings: Karen Smith Encounter: Earl Hackett Two Haiku: Earl Hackett I Exited the Speedline: Elizabeth Kimball (At 17,18): Earl Hackett What was your favorite hangout? a group writing (At 17, 18) Music, Dream, Fear: Chanda Rice Artie Brown: Old Black Gangster: Chanda Rice Rhubarb Summer: Athena Dixon Drawings by Briyanna Hymms Fine Dining: Briyanna Hymms Mirror: Briyanna Hymms Snackwire Recipes: Kelly Bergh and Frances Canupp !e World on Wheels: Willa Deitch Autumn Leaves: Carin Spotted Eagle !e First Time I Met You: Deâ€™Wayne Drummond A Letter to My Sister: Ren P. Spring Time: Victoria Huggins Peurifoy Memories from the Street: Victoria Huggins Peurifoy Brindlebass: William Roman What I Know Now: a group writing
2 4 6 7 8 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 20 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 37 38 40 42 46 48
On Home Home: Calvin Kiniale Food: Anonymous Feeling Part of a Community: Mabedi Sennanyana
54 55 56
Use the Word Jawn in a Sentence Home (Senses): Serena Agusto-Cox Obstacle and Solution: Anonymous !e Main Obstacle I See: Matthew Brooks Not Really Understood: Anonymous Obstacles and Possible Solutions: Rebecca Arthur and Amy Gottsegen Between Me and My Community Stands Impatience: Calvin Kiniale A Reply for Calvin: Anonymous Obstacle and Solution: Rosalyn Cliett and HN Lee Home is the Pause: Serena Agusto-Cox Home (Senses): Shakiya Smith Felt a Part of a Community: Barbara Dale !resholds and Continuums (Home Symposium Images)
57 58 58 59 59 60 62 63 64 64 65 65 66
PART 2: TRIPOD PORTRAITS OF COMMUNITY SELF PORTRAITS OTHER PORTRAITS WAYS OF SEEING THOSE WE’VE KNOWN WHERE WE’VE BEEN CITIES WE’VE WALKED WHAT WE SAW
74 102 122 128 142 158 172 196
PART 3: Listening + Performance Orange Juice: Husnaa Hashim Are You Doing Okay: Ho June Rhee How Do We Listen to Something? Shan Zeng She Approached on a Still Nite: Emanuel McGill If I Close My Eyes: Mai !uong !e Soundscape: Cheryl Mobley-Stimpson Stairs to Nowhere: P. Steve I Love the Sounds of Home: Linh Tran
202 205 206 207 208 208 209 209
Duck: Kenny Zhou
6 Lyric Essays: Sounds Listening Speaks: Jen Jolles Goin’ !rough It: Caroline !ompson Two Kinds of Love to Share: Troy Fluks Penn Valley: Cole Sweetman Jump: Alexis Srogota Evolution of Sounds in my Life: Jewel Mathew I Am Sudanese: Saraa Fadl ICA Workshop Photographs
221 222 225 229 232 234 238 242
Othello Folio: Reflections What Othello Can Teach Us All: Paula Marantz Cohen 247 Portrayals of Female Subordination in Shakespeare’s Othello: Sharee Devose 249 !e Takeaway from Othello: Spoorthi Dingari 251 Reflection: Paula Lee 253 Final Reflection: Kelsey Bray 254 Strawberry Spotted Handkerchief: Kaley Nhu 255 Response to the Statement “Iago is the master of us all”: Jo Darken 256 Final Reflection: Kaylin Markart 257 Reflection: Jean Wrice 259 Dear Othello [the class]: Ethan Hermann 260 Othello: Carol Richardson McCullough 262 Contributors 264 Acknowledgements 272
PART 1: Memories + Artifacts
I write about the things that confuse me and that o"en makes me sound like a selfish writer because I confuse me. I’m suspended in a cask of sticky time where some days I float and some days I sink. Self sabotage on the horizon, I peer into my psyche: Quite the fixer-upper you got here. I forage my deepest corners to unearth the last seeds of my confidence. Never been much of a green thumb. But water and sunlight and love won’t do. No, I’ll press that confidence into a petri dish, grow something brave, and spread it thick like shellac over my broken parts. As it dries, hope peeks over my horizon and I glance inward once more: Love what you’ve done with the place.
Alicia DeSimone 3
the Par k m o
!e hustle and bustle of passersby; I sit, watch and wonder, what’s on their mind? Age isn’t a factor, it doesn’t matter who. I’m inquiring in my head, what’s on their mind? !e woman in the grass playing with her son; Is her to-do list complete? What’s on her mind? !e older gentleman looking up to the sky; Is he missing his wife? What’s on his mind? !e girl with her head buried in her books; Friends, drama, boys, homework; what’s on her mind? !e boy sitting across the path staring at me; Is he watching me and wondering what’s on her mind? If I were to ask them, would they tell me the truth? Would they make up a story or tell me what’s exactly on their mind? If he were to ask me, I’d tell him no lies. Life, love, dreams and worries, these are the things always on my mind.
Linda Moran 5
A Letter to Garcia Elbert Hubbard wrote an essay in 1899 expressing the value of individual initiative and the carrying out of diﬃcult assignments. It was a variation of a real-world event. When the war broke out between Spain and the United States (the Spanish American War) in 1898, US President William McKinley wanted to get a message to the leader of the insurgences, a General Garcia, who was somewhere in the vast mountains of Cuba. A young lieutenant volunteered to deliver the message and took a small open boat to Cuba. Four days later he landed on the coast of Cuba and disappeared into the jungles. !ree weeks later when he reappeared, he had delivered the message. When he took the assignment, he didn’t ask where on the island, but acted promptly and overcame all kinds of obstacles to achieve his objective. “A Message to Garcia” was placed in the Marine Corp Professional Reading List, because it highlighted that when charged to do something important, don’t complain or hedge, just get it done, NO MATTER WHAT. I’m here to deliver a message for you. It comes from some of the best motivational speakers and thinkers of today and yesterday; from Napoleon Hill of !ink and Grow Rich to Darren Hardy, publisher of “Success Magazine.” I’m part of the Boomer generation (born between 1940 and 1963) and I survived the American Industrial Age, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War, and transitioned into the Information Age. I even have my own page: hackettglobalmarketing.com. You probably heard of P.T.S.D. (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental health condition caused by being in combat). I developed P.S.D. I call it Persistence, Sustained Determination to complete whatever task in front of me. It’s part of that military mindset I still have. My battle is the enemy within. I call it A.I. (not artificial intelligence) but apathy and indiﬀerence that people accept as the norm of the day. Most people say they have no time, but the problem is, we do. We are distracted by email, social media, streaming services and a 24-hour news cycle that is available at our fingertips. Universal truths don’t change but the current culture did.
Earl Hackett 6
The Giants When women wake up !e whole world awakens… As I am, so is a Nation. !e courage “Remember” !e Giants my Girl…your world my Mom…your global consciousness my Wife…your love for the Planet my Love for Family: !e GIANTS Your Love for Peace! Inspired 1:35 AM in India 1996
Carin Spotted Eagle 7
Academy of Natural Sciences Field Notes A page from field journal for first trip to Peru Between 1929 and 1933 ornithologist, Melbourne Armstrong Carriker, Jr. (1879â€”1965), traveled through Peru collecting thousands of bird specimens for the Academy. !e Archives holds four volumes of his field notebooks from these trips and an additional four from trips to Bolivia.
ANS Archives Coll 054 Ornithology Department records Melbourne Armstrong Carriker field notebook for first Peruvian Expedition, November 1929 to May 1930.
Pag e d i a r s f ro m y fo r the Joseph L ye a r s 1 8 e i d y â€™s f 7 1 -1 8 i e l d trip 88
uch re m r e w ls te urna than la als. o j s â€™ l y rn a Leid inform field jou tional e mor century observa nd u t 20 h covered rips aro t y l !e llecting as wel e. or co delphia n Europ i a Phil cations a as v
I am still discovering things I am still discovering things. I recognize that time is just time. I am faced with the challenge of not being able to beat time but work within it. I discover that by the end of the day, wanting more. And to accept what it is. Learning to accept one’s challenges (weaknesses) which are really strengths because it’s all about balance. One would be very lopsided without weaknesses. I am still discovering things as far as places. Where do I see myself next? What does that place look like? How will my weaknesses survive or thrive there? I am still discovering that. Almost 60 years old, I feel I have more questions than answers. Time has only answered a small fraction. More will be revealed or not... Is that a challenge? Maybe or not... Discovering isn’t a bad word or a thing to be afraid of. Discovery, Re-Discovery, Recovery are all about growth. !at’s one thing I have learned with this thing called Time. Growth/change is very much a part of it.
Karen Smith 10
Encounter I met Vernice “Fly Girl” Armour at the Philadelphia International Airport. She was the guest speaker for MED Week. (!at’s Minority Enterprise Development Week.) I identified with her right away because I was also a former military oﬃcer (US Army, Quartermaster). She came out in a flight suit because she was a Marine pilot. She flew attack helicopters and was the “first female engaged in combat” for the United States military. She was also the first female on the Nashville motorcycle squad. Plus she played on the National Women’s Football league. As a motivational speaker she was dynamic and held the audience’s attention. Glad we took a photo because it was real. Fly Girl Armour and Chappie James survived the heat of actual battle and are in the history books. I met them both and now they are both a part of my past. Yea, it’s been a blast to meet real heroes. It beats talking to zeroes.
Earl Hackett 11
Redemption Redemption is the starting word. I donâ€™t know what to really do. Maybe fake it, until I make it.
Frog !e scorpion looked at frog. !e frog carefully looked back, then jumped. Frog knew what heâ€™d do.
Earl Hackett 12
I Exited the Speedline and looked around at the 8th and Market station. !is was my stop: the El stop to where I had my first job out of college at 7th and Chestnut. Now, 20 years later, I couldn’t remember what to do next. I’d come from the other direction, east, (then I lived in West Philly), across the Ben Franklin Bridge and out of the suburbs. 8th and Market is where, if you’re from New Jersey, you can transfer to the rest of Philly on SEPTA. I couldn’t remember what to do. Was this a stop with diﬀerent sides to pick the right one, or did you go down and then get on the right train. Was there a token machine. What had I read about those cards. !e SEPTA sales oﬃce, buy those packs of tokens, little plastic bags. I’d leave work with my work pal, a huge and witty black man named Darryl. Another funny white guy, skinny, named John. We’d stop and buy our tokens. !is station, I think. I took my boy and took the passageway. Low ceiling, those cold thick walls with rivets, dampness and old pee air. Go back the other way. !e inverse of memory, where you climb down in, don’t find what you thought you could dig up, and climb back out, facing westbound.
Elizabeth Kimball 13
(At 17, 18)
Earl Hackett 15
When I was seventeen I hung out a lot at Abbotsford Projects. My buddy, Geech, and myself, we would go there and chase girls. We would run around like crazy.
What was your Uni Café just around the block from school. . . We would hang out and get penne pizza slices and chat and laugh. It’s a diﬀerent store now, but I can still see the old sign.
. . . essentially in my room. I would read, write, and talk on the phone for hours.
favorite hangout? My friendâ€™s apartment house. We ordered out, looked at movies, confided in one another, listened to and shared poetry.
Porchâ€”read, take in the sights/ sounds of the neighborhood, swing, call friends, listen to music sometimes w/ my siblings, eat snacks! 17
(At 17, 18) Music, Fear, Dream
Chanda Rice 19
Song: Superfly by Curtis Mayfield Now I called Mr. Brown and told him what Dickey had told me to say. He asked if I could catch a cab down to his job. I pulled out my best outfit which was black pony skin. I had pony pants, shoes, and a long pony trench coat. I caught a cab to Local Union 107 down on Front and Spring Garden Streets. Little did I know that I was stepping into a world that I was dying to get into. He brought me up to his oďŹƒce which was plush. He could see I needed help. My face was so swollen that I wore a napkin on the side of it. He introduced himself and told me that we would be going out to dinner.
Artie Brown: Old Black Gangster
Now this was going to become our special place, Ponzio’s out Brooklawn, New Jersey. Our waitress was named Sunny and she had a big blonde bouﬀant hairdo. She reminded me of Flo, the waitress on Alice. One night I met Joe Frazier. He was there with a white girl and they were acting like they were something. Artie told me over dinner that he was not going to do anything for nobody who was in jail but, if I ever needed him, not to hesitate to call and he sent me home with a slice of strawberry shortcake (my fave)! I did call him. !at was a"er the accident. Artie got me a lawyer, took me out to Dekalb Pike, and put me in the hospital out there. Only thing is, those nuns wouldn’t let me smoke cigarettes. I stayed in traction for almost two months with them turning me on that damn wheel.
When I got out, Artie took me to the lawyer’s and I picked up my money. I walked with $10,000 a"er settlement. Now the first thing I did when we came back through White Marsh was stop at the jewelers and I brought my baby and me two pairs of diamond earrings. Two carats for me and one carat for her. !en I went to the market at the end of the shopping strip and dropped $1,000 on food. Artie really fed my desire to dress. I had to go to John Wanamaker’s to pick out a dress for every dinner. And down the street from where I lived was the Cinderella Outlet so I’d walk down there to get my daughter Danyell all kinds of dresses. It was mandatory that you got dressed for dinner. !en I began to meet his friends. We all would have dinner together. Philip Testa, Lou Batone, Ricabini, Artie, Danyell and me. (I was in the building that day they tried to kill Phil from the Expressway). !ese were the most gracious guys on Earth, even though we knew the other side. !ey were like my first husband. Never bringing home any of that. !ey took turns throwing her across the table saying, “Look at my cute little yellow baby” and she would laugh. I kept her so pretty! 22
See my mistake was I gave her things, not me. I was 17 and I thought I could live out my lifeâ€™s dream.
Rhubarb Summer Cisco was the cousin who would pop up years later asking to use my name and degrees for his newly opened group home. He’d say it didn’t matter my Master’s degree was in Creative Writing. All that mattered was that I had letters behind my name. He was the cousin whose name was whispered at the tail ends of trouble and whose face appeared only at family reunions years apart. He was the rakish one, along with his brothers and sisters. I’m not quite sure how, one pre-teen year, I ended up spending long days with him and our other cousins. It was the summer I was introduced to rhubarb, the last summer I’d taste that bitter. Cisco’s house was white, one-story, and a maze of rooms. !e kitchen was tiled with a massive refrigerator along the main wall. From the picture window above the sink you could see a jungle of unkempt garden, likely the pride and joy of an elderly homeowner before the house was let for rent. Now, it was a sea of tall grass and weeds spilling over the slatted boxes and dividers. What was yet to be picked over by the gaggle of us throughout the summer was fodder for the animals living in the shallow woods across the street. !ose who could make it across the two-lane road finished oﬀ tomatoes, peppers, and the remaining leafy messes not yet rotting. !e one thing we never le" for scavengers was rhubarb. One of those first long days, Sabrina, another cousin bolder than I, stuck a stalk into my hand and dashed the ruby end with salt. She told me to bite it enough to break the fibers and suck the salt and the juice into my mouth. It was sour and I gagged. But looking at the faces of my cousins, barely holding in their laughter between suctions of their own stalks, I bit down again and found a touch of sweetness to hold onto. Our parents never understood why we were so enamored. !ey questioned us about the taste and wondered if it was a way to get high they’d yet to discover. !ey wanted to know which one of us was brave enough to first snap the red flesh between our teeth and oﬀer it to the others. Cisco.
He was the ring leader who led the charge up the hill to the country store set against the horizon. Who, for the summer, seemed so far from the person I thought he was. I am ashamed now to admit the sheltered life I lived allowed me to be wary of him, to see his boyish acts as proof I should stay far away, to label him as trouble like everyone else. We caught fireflies that summer as all children do. !e group of us slowly stalking through the grass with cupped hands, sticks of rhubarb bouncing against our chests, never falling away from our tongues. !e only sounds a bevy of crickets and frogs and the whoosh of tires on the road. In the comfort of that backyard, we never had to go in when the streetlights came on. Instead, we sat on the sun warmed and splintered steps of the back porch until the mosquitos drove us into the brightly lit kitchen. When the summer neared its end, I tried to carry it into the coming fall. Rhubarb from the store was never the same. Uniformly cut and bedded in green foam, suďŹ€ocated by plastic wrap, it was never as good. It could never smell like freshly disturbed earth or slick through my fingers a"er being rinsed by a garden hose. It could never be jagged at the ends or too thin or too thick. !at summer, Cisco, Sabrina, and the rest of us decimated the garden, pulling every stalk of rhubarb from the ground and grinding it between our teeth until it fanned out like paintbrushes. We never chewed, never swallowed, never consumed. Instead, we sucked the bitter from the roots until everything was honey.
Athena Dixon 25
Drawings by Briyanna Hymms 26
!ese illustrations were created for the May First Tuesday workshop, "!ese Seeds: people, plants, + poems" with !e Head & the Hand and Philly Urban Ecologists. 27
Fine Dining With its designated rooms came the inability to blend. !e goldenrod formal dining room, we never used, full of neverused china sets and never –hardly-ever– sat on formal dining room seats. We leave it because the previous owner said that’s what it was used for. But wouldn’t a grand piano look lovely in it? With its trapezoidal out-jutted wall? You always thought one of us could pick up on the piano naturally. But didn’t you see that I could do other things? NEVERMIND Everything just sat there, gathering dust, the sticky film residue we addressed when we needed to. !ere’s the plexiglass-feel crystal chandelier we cleaned, maybe five years or so in between the “thanksgiving meals” and fruits piled high to ripen on trays. Pa would kneel on that large dining room table, hand Sey and me the crystal dodecahedrons so mah could dunk em in soapy water. !is memory comes in halfway through writing. !is would go on for hours. Something about sprucing up the shrine-esque entity to keep up the face value. I only remember this one time, when Sey and I were small and Bear was smaller. Now, he was a raucous toddler on wheels at the bouncing stage. We kept a rack of khmer karaoke dvds in the dining room at this point. He used to bumper car into them. He thought it was funny. Having to clean up a"er him, we didn’t agree. Another instance was Christmas; for a Buddhist family, we did Christmas like no other: we stuck an artificial tree in the corner of the formal dining room. Albeit it was the only piece of Christmas adherence we stuck anywhere, but when we passed the lights and smiled, it was enough. Recycled it every year, but hey, it still works for our purposes. But before the arthritis and the age, pa used to put up Christmas lights all over the outside of the house. I don’t have any pictures 28
to prove it (to my chagrin). But I have proof of them being a tradition; there’s an abundance of multicolored string lights that have been re-boxed, and spiked light orbs, yards and yards that needed detangling. I remember him explaining his strategy for one year’s decor: simplified Christmas trees (triangles) to line the lower story windows multicolored with a spiked light orb at the top point as the would-be star, and white icicle lights to line the roof edges. I was charged with holding the ladder. A thing I still do, but now I’m also allowed up the ladder. I dream about putting up Christmas lights for him one day. !is story wanders out of the dining room and into the cold autumn air but as far as thoughts go, mine serpentine. !e room is now a warm yellow, goldenrod I said, like the flower. But before it was a dark magenta. Mah really likes flowers. But not nearly enough to garden. So she settled for artificial flowers. All over the house. Which brings me to the giant arrangement in the center of the large dining room table. Light pink roses, arranged in Italian ice scoop form, held up by marbles that reminded me of the orbs from Pokémon 2000 the movie. !en some years later, she revamped it, adding tall flowers, larkspur maybe? Definitely birds of paradise. Some calla lilies. I remember it was like a florist sneezed on the whole house and now we had flower arrangements in every room. Except the florist was mah, and I’m not complaining since I got to choose my flowers. Don’t get me started on the curtains though. I know there’s not much plot around this story. I’m just taking you on a roundabout of my dining room. You’d walk around in a circle around the grand dining table. Admire the armoires. Peak at the baby pictures and the the graduation portraits. But mostly you’d note how bright the room was. Everything there told a story. If you ask mah about something, she’d have the story ready to shuﬄe out like an expert dealer. Maybe there was a place for and everything had its place, but I’ve never belonged more to anything than these stories. All things considered, I lived for short moments like these.
Briyanna Hymms 29
Mirror Today I donned a cape of strength I didn’t know what for I just knew I had to be brave Something was tickling the air around me As if to say Something’s coming Something’s coming Water rushed around my feet Bare in the cold Toes turning blue black But I couldn’t feel the freeze Eyes open Looking up !e sun was setting All around me were eyes Upturned and glowing Glowering in their hollows Waiting for something Was it the same something !at was coming for me? Or were they waiting to see everything unfold Watchers in the trees Nothing looked more alive !an the eyes I felt the need to hide But I knew I had to face something
Looking down !e water was at my navel And my feet were no longer visible Or feelingâ€” Were they ever? Across the water Angry ripples made their way towards me !is is it !e thing I had to face I pictured scales and thick hide Fins sharp and jagged Eyes depthless Rows of thin puncturing teeth Sinewed torpedo style for accuracy Twenty-five feet in length at least All 365 pounds rushing at me But all that momentum All that buildup Just to stop before me Splash me in the face And say from beneath the surface: Face me when you wake up
Briyanna Hymms 31
!ese recipe cards were created with !e Head & !e Hand to be distributed from their vending machines, like the one that has been outside Writers Room this year. Illustrations by Taylor Miles.
The World on Wheels Around the corner from Shake Shack Sandwiched between embellished Masonry work and modern Red brick is a row of Mobile Culinary Delights. A one way menu Where choice seems to be endless Jimmy sells his whole family there: His sister, wife, son, daughter Even himself-he’s sold as “fat.” Others are nameless, but owners Call customers by name. “Hey Rich” a woman in uniform greets the lady behind the counter. She smiles at me, and questions the intention of my moving pen. One has a panda asking for tips, others have rainbows of La Croix cans and ATM machines carved into its side: Mobile money. Everywhere, in each one, Chips Dangle From Clips. Important questions are asked: Salt? Pepper? Ketchup? America. College towns. On wheels. Temporary permanence. Choices, days even, determined, dictated by Boiled, baked or fried. It’s oﬀered to you simply In five minutes or less.
Willa Deitch 34
Autumn Leaves Your Leaves !ey hint change: Red, Yellow, Gold A season's close To the weathers chill; Autumn Leaves Speak! !e leaves eﬀervescent with a time that has come A full cycle has come and gone… Splendor as the colors may seem !is event happens at this time each year. Autumn Leave Speak: CHANGE! Rust, Red, Gold, Bronze, Heather, Yellow !ese my friends are distinct symbols of Change. My Sister and Brother…of a peace between seasons: My sweet fragrant Blossom… CHANGE! Autumn Leaves Speak… it Yells to All with Sight: CHANGE! Don’t be afraid !is time has gone and come again. CHANGE! We transform… Inspired 10-26-95 at 16:50
Carin Spotted Eagle 36
The first time I met you !e first time I met you It could not have been true I was down in South Philly about to blow a major fuse. I’m so pissed oﬀ in the lobby waiting for this meeting to start. I hope it will start real soon On the agenda of this meeting It said issue and concerns… I couldn’t wait to sing this unhappy tune! !is mature foxy lady with a gavel in hand… She call the meet to order like she had a plan. I couldn’t wait until finish so I jumped out my seat I felt a sonic boom Made me weak in the feet. I heard this lady say “Sir, put your comments in the parking lot,” so I felt the room was play-trick-on-me I guess that all folks! I was the end of a cartoon.
De’Wayne Drummond 37
to My Sister
Ren P. 39
Sprin g me Ti
Spring has sprung and she has definitely arrived with her floral plumes and her blue sky. Rain clouds visit sometimes, but then they go away and if you leave the eďŹ€ervescence of a beautiful day the memory of it makes you smile.
I love the spring and the spring loves me as the warm Sun radiates all over me. How come, I wonder, why spring can't stay like this all the time. !e question is there, but I don't think I would like spring to stay forever because I love the fall too; with her yellow, orange, and gold floral colors and the winter with the snowflakes and all the troubles it brings, but then there is summer with her hot steamy attitude. Right now, let me enjoy this timejust let me enjoy this timeâ€Ś Spring time
Victoria Huggins Peurifoy 41
Memories from the Street I grew up in West Philadelphia in the University City sector. When I got married, we moved to Mount Airy in Philadelphia. We sold that house and moved to Knox Street in Germantown which is where I have lived for over 30 years. All of the homes are structurally the same. However, there are three diﬀerent sectors to this block. One sector has semi-detached homes—that's it up oﬀ the street. Across the street there are also semi-detached homes but they have no front yards and they sit lower to the street. !e other sector has row homes that are also same size and length of the other homes that share the block. One detail that I would notice, that no one else might, is a fact that there are few to no trees on the block anymore. Back in the early 80’s, there was a tree at every other house that gave oﬀ wonderful shade during the summer. But as time passed, the trees decayed, rotted, and died. Most had to be removed for safety sake. Most families did not want to replace the trees because the roots of the trees had caused many plumping issues. !e pipes were made of clay, and the roots of the trees would burrow their way into the pipes and crack them. I selected these images because it diﬀerentiates these homes from the other homes. One picture (right) shows the row homes on the block. !e second picture (next page) shows the homes that sit up oﬀ the street. !ere is a huge Christmas tree that sits in my sector of the block. It is in the middle of the lawn of one of my neighbors. When it was first planted, it was very small, but now it is taller than the house itself. When it snows, that Christmas tree is so beautiful. I think I want to send the picture with row homes to my favorite uncle, who lives down South. Many Southerners love their ranch homes and individually designed facades. Philadelphia and its neighborhoods are unique in their own right. I would just want to share that with them. I am sure that the first thing that would turn them oﬀ is the fact that there are steps. !e second thing they wouldn’t like is, the homes are close together, and no land surrounds the home. I think I’m going to write my cousin a postcard to see if might want to visit. 42
!e memory I have about Knox Street is the camaraderie of the neighbors. !e neighborhood is like an old country town, where everyone knows your name. I miss watching our children grow, taking up the space on steps, and hearing them shout their gleeful laughs of joy, I miss the annual block parties that we used to have when the children were younger, because it was a time of fun, dancing, cheering, competitions, food, and love. When I first purchased my home, there were so many measurements that I had to take such as the floor space, doorways, and windows. One measurement that was important was the doorway. I am at my home contemplating buying new furniture for the living room. It is early evening. Homework is done, dinner is completed, dishes are done, and half an hour TV shows are watched. I can focus on the doorway. It is early spring. !e light is coming from the front door that is wide open. It is early evening light just before it gets dark. !e temperature is comfortable is probably about 75 degrees. !e aroma of Miss Carterâ€™s famous fish is coming up the street through the screens in the window and the door in front of which I am standing. When I first came to the door of course, I just looked outside to see what neighbors were mingling around sitting on their porches enjoying the early evening air. But then I take the tape measure and begin measuring the front door.
Everyone else in the house is doing their own thing except my shadow. !e only person that's close by me is my young son who is peeping to see what I'm doing. I have to measure that door to make sure that whatever sofa I purchase can fit through. I just heard one of those darn motorcycles rumbling down the street making all of that noiseâ€”for no reason. I see the young girls across the way still jumping Double Dutch, as usual, they are having a ball. As I return to my door mission and am looking at the door, I see the beauty of its oak wood. To the le" of the door is the panel that holds the hinges. To the right of the door is the leaded glass inner door of the vestibule. Below the door is a recently refurbished floor made of clay block tiles. !e tile has its own shade of tan and beige. Some blocks are light and others are dark in color. What I had not noticed was my neighbor was calling me from across the street. !e storm door was closed and the screen had not been replaced by the glass enclosure. I could not hear her. My mission is broken now, because my neighbor walks over and wants me to come out and play. !is door will have to wait. Chit chatting is more important. I can measure the door tomorrow.
Victoria Huggins Peurifoy 45
Brindlebass Four little rods, a pretty pink princess harpoon rod (with sparkles, of course), and one crummy plastic water bottle with dental floss wrapped around it are held in our hands. It is 7AM, and we wait together, at the curbside, for the brindlebass. Six little hooks gleam, oﬀering prizes: four worms, a marshmallow, and one lousy piece of corn, because my Dad says that’s what really attracts the big ones. I stare at the woodlice scurrying in and out of the cracks between the pavement. !e seconds waiting for the bass’ arrival feel like hours. Six little bobbers dangle against our rods. Guess whose is a plain old piece of Styrofoam threaded through floss? It’s running late. Someone wonders if maybe the ‘bass has finally croaked it. Another argues we would have gotten a sign. !e girl with the harpoon rod sniﬄes and tells them to stop fighting. I check my watch, pretending to ignore them. A low bellow shakes the ground, six tiny heads turn upward, and the brindlebass descends from the clouds like a zeppelin. Mouth open, eyes vacant, mottled brown scales, the heads of kids peeking out like gophers where teeth should be: there is no mistaking it. Together we cast our rods, six bobbers li"ing six lines up into the air. !e brindlebass accepts our oﬀerings. It inhales, six hooks now lodged into its’ lower lip. We reel ourselves inside. 46
Moist. Cold. Salty. Full of plaque, too. !at is the inside of the brindlebass mouth. !e moment we’re in, we get to work, cleaning out the lobsters, tires, potato chip bags that have wedged themselves into the gums. By the time we finish, the bass has descended, and we spill out of the mouth, right in front of the school. !e bass has something in its eyes: gratitude? Indiﬀerence? Love? Apathy? I can’t tell as it swims back into the clouds. Sometimes I wonder if it actually notices when we clean its mouth, or if it just travels the same routes out of instinct. But for now, I have to head to school.
William Roman 47
What I Know Now
That I Didnâ€™t Then (To 17-year-old Self)
I know a lot more about anxiety and how the world works. I treat myself, my emotions, and my time diﬀerently because I know that sometimes your brain spins out and I think things are much more important or drastic than they really are. I learned that the world is a lot more and (simultaneously) less forgiving than I had thought. !ings work out and things go wrong, but in the end it’ll all be okay. Don’t take things too seriously! Have fun and be good and make friends. Nick Vonk I’m not so much older than you now. Everything feels diﬀerent to me know, but I don’t know if I’ve “grown up” from you as much as I’ve just…changed. I don’t know what right I have to tell you anything. But I do hope you are cherishing your unguarded heart. Amy Gottsegen !at I deserve to surround myself with people who respect me. !ere’s a diﬀerence between someone saying they love you or even touching you in a “loving” way and actually loving you. Love is an action, not a feeling. !e feeling does not make up for or equate to the action or lack thereof. Love is respect, acceptance, listening. True love, that is. It’s not your fault you didn’t know better, but you know now that this lesson is extremely important and should never be overlooked. Love must come from within in order to truly be experienced throughout. We know now to choose true love. Abby Wagner Life is too short to be playing around. Cherish your loved ones De’Wayne Drummond
Honestly, teenage me… it’s not that big a deal! All of it. Life is so much easier than you make it out to be, and pain isn’t such a terrible thing. It helps you grow. A little failure, a little rejection— they sting for a bit, but don’t end the world. So don’t hide from your life—live it. Try things, scary things, terrifying things, and you’ll live to tell the tale—a much better tale than hiding in your room. Steven Stampone 1) Not to take people seriously. 2) What’s for you is for you. 3) Art and life usually imitate each other. Brenda Bailey Take every opportunity you can to learn or do something new, even if it may seem scary. You never know who you might meet, and it’ll be something you probably won’t be able to do again. Mallika Kodavatiganti I just say what I knew that still applies. I knew that I would still be single. I didn’t know that we would be this boring. I knew I still had some bold le" in me. I didn’t know that I would be so far away emotionally from my mom. I knew that life still goes on and my worst moments I won’t always be stuck in. I knew my big sister would run away again and never come back. I didn’t know that I would still be alive. I knew that sooner or later I’d be on my own. I know I would love myself more than others could. Dejah Jade
From our 2018-2019 HOME Symposium series Together with neighborhood and university partners, Writers Room is embarking on a community-led design process for a writers house. In addition to providing space for public programming, the goal is to catalyze other intergenerational houses nearby, creating a network of homeowners and student tenants whose shared interest in writing/storytelling forms the foundation for meaningful cohabitation.
Home Home smells like grass and cow dung Home sounds like chicken Home sounds like silence Home sounds like Renee Home looks like my tired mum Home tastes like fresh tomatoes Home tastes like honey Home feels like home Home feels like rest Home smells like curry chickpeas Home feels like not home until I leave Home feels cold Home smells fresh Home looks cloudy Home looks refined
Calvin Kiniale 54
Food Everyone needs food. !e neighborhoods and communities of West Philadelphia are notorious food deserts. Civic and community members have worked tirelessly to get aﬀordable grocery stores but the many challenges have delayed this. One idea I think [that] both divides people and brings them together is food.
!ink of how cheap avocados and wheat bread used to be before it was gentrified.
!is is a major issue! !e idea that I get oﬀ the top of my head is top-down regulation. It is diﬃcult to control development otherwise. Developers are going to develop where they will get a profit, and people are going to move where they want. !e change really has to come from regulation and how our government protects everyone, not just the interests of one segment of the population. I suppose that change comes from being civically involved and building our democracy to what it should be and how it should work! Grassroots eﬀorts can do a lot of good, but I think there needs to be a balance between bottom-up and top-down support.
Feeling Part of a Community Feeling part of a community: When people pronounced my name correctly - at least tried to make an eďŹ€ort to! When I met Helma and she invited me into her home. Volunteering at MANNA. Mentoring and tutoring elementary school students in rural areas. When I had a heartfelt one-to-one with refugees at a refugee camp. Not part of a community: Couldn't understand jokes or Philly/ American lingo!
Mabedi Sennanyana 56
Home Home smells like fresh bread rising in the oven and fresh cut grass outside and the so" scent of sunflowers in a vase on the table. Home looks like the bright blues, violets, and greens of a butterfly garden, the colorful spines of hardcover books on the library shelves, or the orange and whites of the swimming koi in the tiny garden pond. Home tastes like the mix of sugar in the bitter coﬀee of morning, held tight in my hands as the sunrise crests over the horizon and pinks the backdrop of woods. It's the careful mix of tension and harmony. Home feels like a warm fleece blanket curled under my arms and an open book on my lap as I read in the subdued light, creating a cocoon.
Obstacle and Solution Mistrust based on stereotypes Listen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; “!e Danger of a Single Story”
The Main Obstacle I See !e main obstacle I see in the way of the community that I would like to live in is selfishness. Too many people are only interested in their own lives, and they don't care about others. !at’s not to say that there is a person on the planet that is completely unselfish, but there are those who are selfish to the point where it starts to prevent those around them from succeeding. And that leads to misunderstandings and a cycle of hatred, and that is why the community I desire can’t exist.
Not Really Understood As a Queer Person of Color, it's not really understood when you grow up in a religious background. So for the past years, I’ve really struggled with the disconnect from the LGBT community because there are times where I feel disconnected in a way… because I’m constantly lying to the people closest to me. I don't belong. I feel like although I’m an activist for these many diﬀerent things, I can't really be one for this community because the person I am closest with is my Mom.
Obstacles and Possible Solutions
Racial Barriers Bias Acceptance … fear of acceptance Empathy … fear of empathy Fear Time Fear of togetherness
Dear Rebecca, I feel you. I FEEL YOU! So I’m gonna group all your points but “time” into psychological/ historical barriers. I think they can all be overcome with time and attention. ...I do my reading for class on the porch now so that I can talk to my neighbors when they get come from work. And when we talk, we feel all the things you listed - they see me while I see them Black and Latino and Asian. But when we talk, we feel our fears loosen their hold on us. Now time. To give time to this project requires a sacrifice. So, is it worth it to you?
Rebecca Arthur and Amy Gottsegen 61
Between Me and My Community Stands Impatience Between me and my community stands impatience I love Kuka (grandpa) dearly but every time the story starts I zone oﬀ. I’d rather be somewhere else than listen to his stories and histories told and retold I’d rather be somewhere else than listen to his dreams, past, gone with all that Was grand, the good old days I just want my independence I just want my freedom I just want to live my own life without being bothered, or feeling responsible for anyone if I don’t have to But what if I have to be responsible for them? How can I care for others, if I cannot care for the ones who ought to mean the world to me? Maybe things started to change this summer, When I had the patience to sit and listen, For one more minute.
Calvin Kiniale 62
A Reply for Calvin
See these stories of time past as part of your personal story. It's so much bigger than you. You are the culmination of all these previous generations. It is a responsibility to carry forth these memories and build on this collective identity. !ereâ€™s so much beauty and power in the mundane. Document these stories in a way you see fit. If you zone oďŹ€, record the tales. Have patience.
Obstacle and Solution RC: Neighbors who don't speak, communicate with each other, a lot of them don't clean their front porch, steps, pavements. HNL: I think the issue here is that we are afraid of what others think of us, and we are afraid of voicing our opinions. !e first step to overcoming this is to drop that thinking. We all need to socialize, and we like communicating, and we want others to like us. So, if we like them, then they will like us. It all starts by changing our own perceptions. Creating an online community group chat, where everyone can voice their opinions quickly and eďŹƒciently is a way. If there are issues that are uncomfortable, we can send anonymous details.
Rosalyn Cliett and HN Lee
Home is the Pause Home is the pause in the lines of a new stanza, it blankets you against unexpected winds that blow in. Itâ€™s the coziness of the familiar lines in a poem you memorized as a child in school that provides you strength in trying times. !e warmth of the sun in a stanza born from imagination that keeps out the chill of writerâ€™s block and of disappointed readers. Home is a fully realized poem infused with ancestors whispering the truth amidst the darkness and uncertainty.
Serena Agusto-Cox 64
Home Home smells like cleaning products and the newest Febreze because my mom really likes to clean—and loves trying out new Febrezes. Home sounds like K-pop and my nephew laughing. Because that’s what type of music I’m into now and my nephew finds everything hilarious. Home looks like the inside of my room where I spend all my time. Home feels like the carpet beneath my sock clad feet. Home tastes like the pizza I eat almost every day.
Felt a part of a community I lived in a Quaker intentional community for a year in Germantown, Philadelphia. It was structured and facilitated by the Quaker Voluntary Service. We were seven young people trying to find a way to live thoughtfully in the world a"er college. We worked in non-profits during the day and came home at night to cook and discuss and organize. We fought and played with larger structures of Quakers looking on with interest and investment. Attending Quaker meetings--silence en masse--was an opportunity to breathe and hope and struggle collectively. It gave space for God to speak through people.
Barbara Dale 65
PART 2: TRIPOD 73
PORTRAITS OF COMMUNITY TEAM SUPER KYLE HOWEY VICTORIA HUGGINS PEURIFOY DAHMERE TOWN
INTRODUCTION It is the year 2019, and Team Super has been busy. In the fall, they were scattered—taking classes, venturing overseas, or keeping the streets of Philadelphia safe at night. !e Writers Room headquarters was also constantly evolving. Despite this, TRIPOD remained on our heroes’ minds. In winter, they were able to reunite and determine an ambitious new premise for their project. Since last year was more of an introspective experiment, writing and responding to the pictures, this year, with the strength and experience they’ve gained, Team Super is turning their lens outward. Portraits began with the idea of photographing and interviewing people around the city of Philadelphia, similar to the photoblog Humans of New York, which shows New York City through a lens of random citizens. Team Super adopted this idea of creating portraits, in a way that portrays both the city of Philadelphia and an open conversation about community. !e triumphant trio returned this year aiming to learn what it’s like to be interviewers, wielding the true power of the camera and the pen. In this way, they hoped to serve as a channel for average people’s stories and opinions, shaping a lucid and interrelated collection of their ideas about community. In addition, every place these heroes 74
decided to visit they would try to conduct three interviews â€“ as is the three-legged nature of the TRIPOD initiative. And so, they went hunting, in the dead of winter. Armed with nothing but Canon cameras and their Writers Room helmets. !e season was cold and unrelenting, fighting their progress like a hoard of evil villains. Planning missions was surprisingly more diďŹƒcult this time around, since each member resides in a diďŹ€erent part of the city and their free time outside of workshops (superhero training) tended to be slim. A large part of the mission this year meant having to adapt to enemies like communication, distance, and time. And adapt they did, as writers and interviewers, always having to think ahead and keep the conversation going. But in the end, as they always do, Team Super overcame all odds, learned what they could along the way, and worked hard to make something really special. While the people they met are only a very small percentage of the greater community that is Philadelphia, their words and range of experiences represent the wonderful diversity of what it means to be a part of a community in general. One might realize that a community is not only what defines them, but what comes to shape them as well. 75
N ATIO T S EET R T S 30th
!e first location Team Super visits as a group is 30th Street Station. Not only is it a great starting point because it is one of Philadelphia history, but if there were ever a wonderful range and diversity of people, it would be found here. !ough none of them are experienced interviewers by any means, our heroes soon find themselves adapting to the role. It is here they experience their first practice in the art of randomly seeking and starting conversations. None of them know what to expect out of the people they approachâ€”nor does any stranger really know what to expect out of them either. Some people respectfully refuse. Some not so respectfully. But these are the risks of an experiment in trust, delving into vulnerabilities and seeing what will happen. As Victoria leads and guides each discussion, the team becomes more and more attuned with the confidence and responsibility it takes to make their project happen. Team Super recognizes both the limitations and the powers they have as interviewers, in seeking out those willing to be a part of the narrative portrait.
!is young woman and her friend are the first people we encounter of the day. Rebecca is very gracious to oﬀer us some of their time, as they await a train to Washington D.C.: Who are you? I am junior in high school, interested in politics. Currently, I’m preparing to go to college. What’s happening today? I am heading to Washington DC to lobby for environmental protections. Where are you from? Exton, Pennsylvania. How do you see Philadelphia as community? I look at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and see people who come from all around the world for the special care needs of their children. To which community do you most relate? !e community of women. We are sisters to each other. And there are also many great men who support our causes. What’s the best part about your community? It is a community of caring for one another.
Interview with Rebecca Schwartz
Interview with Jeanette Woods 80
!is woman stands at the center of the station. When we introduce ourselves to her, she is very kind and willing to participate, even though she only has minutes until her departure: Jeanette Woods lives in Fernwood, in the northwest part of Philadelphia. She is originally from Sicklerville, New Jersey. We met her in the 30th Street train station, on her way to New York City to visit a good friend. Jeanette explained to us that Philadelphia, as community, represents a lot of little communities that don't necessarily come together as one. !e best part about her specific community is that she knows all her neighbors and that they help each other and look out for one another. She most relates to North Philly because she has many relatives who live there. Some people get a negative impression about it though because it can be a complex area, but you can't really generalize about the place or the people. She says that when it comes to diversity, Philadelphia has so much to oďŹ€er. !ere are so many ethnic backgrounds, separated by race, income, class, and culture. So many little neighborhoods that should be explored. And it is a problem when we choose not to venture out of our own.
Interview with Christian Davis
!is man sits patiently and calmly on a bench in the station. He is very kind and welcoming to us, if a little hesitant at first because of our camera. Others slunk away or le" when we closed in, but he stays and eagerly answers all of our questions: 82
Who are you? A husband and father of three boys. And what’s happening for you today? Heading back home, Northern Virginia. I’ve been in training this last week for FEMA. Have you ever been in Philadelphia long enough to know about the community here? Not really. I come about once a quarter for training. How does that help you see Philadelphia? What’s your perception of it? It’s busy [chuckles]. And, you know, coming from the suburbs— it’s a big change. But I love coming here. I have a great time whenever do. Always with other people to spend some time with, to go out to dinner with. !ings like that. What does it mean for you to be a part of your community? I think, as we raise our kids, it’s about having friends around us in our neighborhood. And you know what they say: “It takes a village.” Especially with the great school system that we have, everything’s focused around our boys. What’s the best part of your community? For you? Hmm. !at’s a hard one. I think, since we’ve been there for about ten years, it’s about knowing everybody. Everyone knowing your name. How did you feel when we walked up on you? [Smiles] Uh… I was a little apprehensive at first. You know, it’s a big city. You never really know who’s approaching you, or what for. And I used to be a police oﬃcer, so… that’s something that’s hard to put away, once it’s in you. 83
Weeks pass since the interviews at 30th Street. Team Super now finds itself locked in a tense battle between both Father Time and the winter chill for even one good day to visit their next location. Soon enough, their enemies weaken and a morning aligns where they are able to make their way down to Center City. !e courtyard here in city hall is a beautiful place, a crossroads for many people in their day to day routines. Amidst the disorderly winds there is an air of business, swi"ness, and reserve. Not too many citizens seem willing to stop and talk, even for a few minutes of their time, but our heroes are never discouraged. !ey have developed more of an acuteness for reading peopleâ€™s behavior, a better sense of eďŹƒciency in terms of the interviews, and more of a commitment to premises of their mission. It because of this Team Super ends up having one of their best and most productive days this morning.
ITY HALL CENTER CITY â€“ C
w it Interview 86
Williams h t i Fa
!is young woman is a violinist and musician. She is playing beautiful music with her violin when we meet her under one of the entrances to the center court. We wait until she is finished before making our approach: Who are you? I’m a violinist. A musician. What’s happening for you today? I’m going to be getting on a plane to New Orleans. Just hanging out with some friends. But it’s warmer, so I also get to street perform down there. What part of the city are you from? North Philly. And how do you see Philadelphia as a community? Sometimes I feel like it’s really separated, but then a lot of the time I feel like it’s so small that we all know each other no matter how separated. What’s the best part of your community? I live in southwest Philadelphia, so the intersection between west and southwest, around Baltimore Ave., is probably the best part. !e division between? Yeah. !at walk down when you’re in University City and you walk down Baltimore Ave. and you feel at home on a nice day. To which community do you most relate? Probably southwest because I’ve spent so much time there in high school—in the developing years, hanging out with my friends. I think West Philly, in general, is one of the nicest parts of the city. It’s got, like, greenery. It’s a lot more diverse. And what does it mean to you to be a part of that particular community? I think to me it means comfort and home. I think that home is like the community and not necessarily the house. I’ve had a lot of homes within that community. But the community within itself is kind of my home. 87
When we approach this man, standing under one of the entrances to the courtyard, he is wearing a strange headset device in his ears: What is that? I think it’s kind of like wearing a fanny pack or something, you know. It just looks dorky. I call it a sound collar. It’s got the earbuds, and then it’s got the speakers, so you can do either or. It’s good for riding a bike or just walking around the house. And you don’t have to blast the music because you can hear it— right here [points to where it is around his neck]. Who are you? Just a resident of Philadelphia. A father. Runner. Involved in the tech and innovation scene. Maybe that’s it. What’s happening today for you? I’m actually waiting for my friend, who’s running for city council. To get on the ballot she needs a thousand signatures, so we’re dropping some oﬀ here, at the commissioner’s oﬃce. What section of the city are you from? East Kensington. How do you see Philadelphia as a community? Uh… complicated and evolving. What’s the best part of this community? Of my community? !e mass transit. I really feel like that’s the best, you know? To which community do you most relate, within the city? I would say the tech and innovation scene. And what does it mean for you to be a part of that community? To tell the world that Philadelphia is a great place to start, stay, and grow—with your business. 88
Interview with Jeffrey Friedman
!is gentleman is sitting casually in front of the municipal building, across from City Hall, with two other young men. He was very kind to help us with an interview:
Interview with Olaitan Fafiade
We meet Olaitan Fafiade. He tells us his name is Nigerianâ€”quite an unusual name to usâ€”but he allows us to call him "O." When we ask him who he is, he indicates that he is a black Christian man from Columbus, Ohioâ€”a new husband of two years, come July 2019. He is a teacher, and today he is waiting with students who are waiting to meet with supervisors for a teach-to-work program. O is from the Yeadon section of Philadelphia. He indicates that Philadelphians will always come together for sports. It seems to be the common ground for city residents. However, for him, everything else is divisive. !e best part of his community is that he gets to speak with the elders, and he loves how they impart wisdom. !e community he most relates to is his AfricanAmerican community, and to be a part of that community means to be an example for future generations. We ask him what his name means and he tells us: "God's wealth never ends." What a beautiful name, and a wonderful way to end the interview. 91
WEST PHILLY â€“ MALCOLM X PARK
Today, Team Super travels to Malcolm X Park, at 52nd and Pine Street in West Philadelphia. It is mid-morning, mid-week, and the area is mostly bare. !e air is quaint and quiet here. Our heroes are not sure how many interviewees they will be able to find. It is a struggle through more rejections than usual, but they always power through. Even when the tripod is missing a leg, the picture still takes. On this last day of their mission, Team Super makes it a pleasant day and still happens to meet some interesting folks. 93
Interview with Chris Lakey We meet this man walking through the park this morning, with his beautiful dog, Rita. He is very calm and humble in oďŹ€ering us his time:
Who are you? A pretty down-to-earth person. Realist. What’s happening for you today? Just getting ready for work. Other than that, it’s looking like a good day. Every day’s a good day. You know, can’t complain. What part of the city are you originally from? Right here. West Philly. And how do you see Philadelphia as a community? [thinks] Depends on what part of Philadelphia you’re talking about. But West Philly overall is a pretty great area, I’m not gonna lie. You know, I’m from here. It’s a very diverse area. As opposed to like North Philly. South Philly, I feel like is very segregated. But overall, Philadelphia is a good city though. I love my city. And what’s the best part of the community? West Philly? !e parks, honestly. Yeah, there’s a lot of parks around here. Do you have a favorite one? Clark Park, I guess. Played there as a kid. Basketball, football, stuﬀ of that nature. To which community would you say you most relate? Aside from here? [thinks] I haven’t really thought about that question before. I really don’t know, to be honest [chuckles]. Well, what does it mean to you to be a part of even this community? West Philly? Honor. It’s an honor. Anything else you’d like to add to this conversation? [thinks] I feel like there should be a lot more boys and girls clubs around here, aside from the YMCA. And not just here, but throughout the whole city, honestly. Because growing up, when I was a teenager and a kid, you had that. And you know, it feels like nowadays it’s not that big anymore. I don’t know if it’s not just Philly, but throughout the whole country. You know? But, I don’t see a lot of them. Keep the kids oﬀ the streets, you know? 95
Interview with Alexander Jefferson
!is man is sitting on a bench in the park, relaxing while his wife and daughter are playing over at the playground. He kindly shares some of his morning with us:
Who are you? [thinks] Self. Son of Kevin and Tanya. Simplest terms I can put it. I am an entity of creation. One who steers his own ship. So what’s happening for you today? Me and my lady are just spending some time here at the park with our baby. Separated a little bit. You know, she can get some time with her. !en I can get some time with her. And then we come back and congregate, spend some time together. What section of the city are you from? I’m from West Philly. I grew up in Jersey. Moved when I was seven, from West Philly. My whole family’s from West Philly. My mom grew up in West Park. My great-grandparents lived over on 57th and Pine. My grandmother grew up on 39th and Olive. How do you see Philadelphia as a community? Honestly, I see it like tight-knit but at the same time, segregated. It’s very geographical, you know? People usually stay in their little five-block radius. Or travel down to somewhere in a ten-block radius. Or if they gotta go downtown. But for the most part, comfortability is within a five-block radius, you know? I notice that people don’t really move outside of their little section. Or if they, do they feel kinda uncomfortable. If you’re from the city, at least. So what’s the best part of your community? Accessibility. Availability. And when you say accessibility, you mean… To anything! Like, when I grew up in Jersey, I couldn’t just walk out my house and be like “Hey y’all! Let’s go hang out!” I couldn’t just walk down to the store because my mom needs something. Now, I can go down the street, get anything I need. Whenever I want. Or see anybody. You know? It’s just cool. It’s cool to me.
Which part of West Philly would you most relate to? In the 50’s. Probably like 50th to 59th. [pauses] I don’t know if you guys consider southwest part of West Philly too. What does it mean for you to be a part of this community? A lot of my family lives here. I live on 50th, and I can walk to 59th and see my cousin, or hop on the L or the broad street line to go see my niece and nephew down in South Philly. It’s like you said—community. I really feel like this is my community. Anything you would like to add to the conversation? [immediately] We need more supermarkets! We need more real supermarkets. And more availability to fresh fruit or fresh vegetables, like yo – there’s a supermarket over on 40th street, a supermarket on 57th, but like, if you don’t know how to, like, put together a meal… Like, most people don’t even know how to put together meals! And that’s something I feel like we need to have more of in this community. People need to learn how to cook? Not learn how to cook, but learn how to cook healthy. Not even the whole vegan thing. You know? Like, you don’t always have to use canola oil! Use peanut oil. You don’t always have to fry chicken—bake it! You don’t always have to smother our stuﬀ in gravy… But that’s like all we see or all we have. You go to Philadelphia Avenue where the biggest Whole Foods in the country is and there’s all this availability to organic stuﬀ. And I can’t even make it down there, nine times out of ten! So it needs to be more available to the community? Yeah, I think Philadelphia’s technically considered a “food desert.” X amount of supermarkets have to be available in like a one-mile or two-mile distance and it doesn’t meet that criteria. So yeah, that’s my thing. More availability to fresh foods.
CONCLUSION Our heroes find themselves at the end of their journey. !e experience unfolds until it ends, but the story always continues. If there were ever more time, Team Super would have loved to visit many more places. To have interviewed many more faces. It’s diﬃcult choosing only a few out of all of the various landmarks and communities that make up the city of Philadelphia. But perhaps the team’s work has given you a glimpse into what it means to be a part of your community. !ey hope you have learned something more about the relationship between portraiture and narrative, and the hidden relationships between people you might not immediately recognize.
Every day I wonder why we are alive. !ey try to control my mind and blind my eyes. In the whitest robes to hide in disguise. But these eyes... these eyes will never be blind. It will see everything to send to my mind. My mind don’t tell lies. My eyes see what they see. I was born to fight. I must lead like King. I’m happy I’m alive.
Yusha Johnson 103
Dear Matthew, I hope that this letter finds you well and that you’re enjoying your last few days at home before you have to head oﬀ to college. For pretty much all your life you’ve lived in suburban areas, so you don’t need me to tell you that moving to the city is going to be the most powerful culture shock that you’ve ever experienced. Assuming our experiences are roughly the same if not identical, you’re going to hate the city at first, but it’ll start to grow on you a"er a while. Now! Pay attention to what I’m about to say next because it’s extremely important. Do not wait for the city to come to you, go to the city. I’ll repeat it one more time because I know you have a thick skull just like I do. Do not wait for the city to come to you, go to the city. I didn’t start seeing the city for what it actually is until well into my junior year when I started co-op. Prior to that, I rarely ventured outside of the bubble that is Drexel University, even though the few times when I did venture out I absolutely loved it. It was only when it came out of necessity that I started to see what I had been missing out on, and even then I’d only just scratched the surface.
Now, with all that said, the other piece of advice that I want to give you is this. Go outside. I know it sounds simple, but I mean it. All our lives you and I have loved nature and the great outdoors, but we’ve always preferred to be indoors because that is our nature and it will probably never change. But all the places that we have lived in our lives have been far more isolated than where you’ll be living soon. At home we can’t just walk down the block and be at the store in a few minutes or go on a twenty minute walk and be in a completely diﬀerent environment. Our backyard full of trees and green grass is truly something special, and while I don’t know about you, I know I could walk around it a million times and find something new every single time. Unfortunately the city doesn’t possess the nature that our backyards have all had, but it has something else to compensate for that. People. On your first day in the city, go out and find a nice bench to sit on where you can see people passing by and also watch the cars on the street, and just stay there for an hour or so. It’s the same as the backyard, you could sit there a million times and find something new every single time. And as a fellow writer, I’m sure you know that we sometimes need something to help scratch that creative itch that’s always in our brains. And what better to use to scratch that itch than the world around us. Make the most of your time in the city while you can, because while I’m still here at the time I’m writing this, I know that neither of us will be living in this city forever. Best wishes, Your other
Matthew Brooks 105
My legs are very dear to me, that's why I call them friend !ey are very Strong even though, !ey are showing signs of weakness... But they are still strong. When I was a little girl, I was so skinny and petite. My mother couldn't imagine me ever wearing heels And when she did, she would just laugh. Because the image in her mind, was the image of a neighbor. Who would get dressed up, every Sunday to go to Church? She would be dressed to the nines, but those skinny little legs in those heels Were a sight to see, as she wobbled down the street to church. A very funny sight to see. But as I grew into a teenager, and began to develop into a young lady !ey began to fill out... some, But their greatest feat was a"er the birth of my first son, Shawn Who was 9 pounds, 9 oz at birth, and le" me with 10 pounds Not only on my legs, but on my entire body, !ose ten pounds were distributed well... (Smile). And my new legs and I went everywhere, and we did everything. We played tennis two and three times a day, we went skating regularly. We danced in dance recitals, at parties, and in clubs, and they even danced in a dance company, â€œJuba Contemporary Dance Co.â€? Where they flourished to be at the peak of their condition. My Legs took me on long walks, talking and spending time with God. And that was before cell phones, so if I saw someone coming I would pretend to sing until the coast was clear. My Legs took me on hikes, and traveled the diďŹ€erent parts of the U.S. My Legs climbed many steps, ran races, played games and rode bikes.
My Legs were in great condition and strong and wanted to be seen. !ey wanted to show oﬀ their beauty and what they had accomplish over the years. So I dressed them up, in cut oﬀ jeans...Daisy Dukes !e kind we cheerleaders wore, to rehearse in, I showed them oﬀ in mini skirts And, OH Yea!... !ey Could Really Rock Some Heels, and !ey Did. My legs are very dear to me, that's why I call them friends. !ey are very Strong even though, !ey are showing signs of weakness... But they are still strong.
Roz Cliett 107
McIntosh comes from my caretaker. My mom dated her son then somehow I was alive and kicking in her stomach. His family thought I was his but came to find out he’s not the father. My mom was also living with them at the time and for some reason his mother, my caretaker, felt my mom was unfit so my mom signed those papers. When I was born my mom decided to give me their last name, why I don’t know, so on paper my name is Dejah Leatta McIntosh. But what it’s supposed to be is Dejah Jade Tyler, which has a better ring to it. But my stage name is Dejah Jade. It was meant for me. My mom wanted her girls to have middle names starting with J because her middle name starts with a J. So I guess that’s the story of my two middle names and two last names. 109
So much love to be felt by a girl like me. I must be in love with myself, I see I can't fall in love with me. I've already had self-love for me, you must be selfish. My love for people is my weakness because I love to help. Loving people can sometimes give me self-doubt. My love for people can sometimes hurt, I can't love less until you lose my worth. Loving people can be my weakness because I love to help, but I also love myself. My love for men is not so bright. !ey have a way of dulling my light, so I donâ€™t try to fight. Can I ever feel the love for boys who continue to use girls as toys? Lucky that Iâ€™m a real girl in a girl world, where they just want to act as if they're chasing hearts but are just playing in panties. My love for men is so dull, but yet it's never forever. Only I can get through the weather.
Dejah Jade 111
Tell me why you peeping at me Looking at me like I was going to do something to you. I was laying under the mango tree when you came and took me I was minding my own business when you came Took me from my land, brought me here to develop this land I was made to leave family and friends behind. Now with regentrification as they say today but is was urban renewal in my day moving into my hood with your gated communities. Peeping out at me like I going to do something to you. You came and got me from under the mango tree I was resting in the cool of the day So why you peeping at me?
Brenda Bailey 112
As I stare into the sky I never thought that u would bring this pain Poisoned by the loved u bought to me a name Had a smile while down Cuz u never gave me up And I know that u know U was my first materialistic love U captured my heart U could even make me cry And although I went away !e love for u would never die And I love that Cuz I knew it wasn’t lust Day in day out a road with u I could trust Some days I just couldn’t make a way N u knew that But u would be there And now I’m here Giving u my all !at thing !at thing What is u Ur too good to be an item but I can always feel your presence !e way u put a smile on my face as if u was presents It is undeniably true that I love u But I can’t I can’t because you’re an unreachable goal Momma told me you’re not God and family first But as I went away I could feel the thirst It’s true you’re not God but you're passion N it’s crazy u even have a title – Dear Basketball
I try my hardest not to control how others view me. Iâ€™ll rather people accept me for who I choose to be, not who they want me to be. I tend to put myself out there with the way I dress and the way I carry myself but donâ€™t want to be seen. I make these choices for myself. To express how I feel without saying too much. !is may never change.
Mark Dawkins 115
One day my children, and my children’s children will thumb through photo albums of my coming of age. And on a photo dated November _ , they will be stopped in their tracks by my stoic face, eyes staring them dead. But this intensity will fade fast when they gaze upon the crown on my head. !e tapestry of red on the brain behind the empire. And they will know that I too took some leaps of faith. !ere was no magic to it. I just did it because I wanted to see how it would turn out. I remember that fateful Wednesday a"ernoon on Max’s barber station. I pulled out my iPhone with a picture of Konshens with dark brown hair. I wanted to be like him. But Max wanted me to attempt the unthinkable. I stepped out of the parlor four hours later to throngs of Philly folk eager to catch the evening’s summer heat. “Who is that blonde guy?” the eyes on the streets seemed to inquire. “Who is that blonde guy?” the man in the mirror inquired that very night when I got home. !us began the six months of blonde to red to pink to red again and finally back to my roots. A journey that exposed a diﬀerent me. A journey that made a NYC stranger stop to compliment me and suggest a pizzeria. A journey that made the star of a movie stop and inquire about my zodiac sign. Strange times indeed. !is had been a rebirth and re-education of the ideal that had seen me to this day thus far. !e things that scared me for their extremity and serendipity had sometimes been a source of joy and contentment down the road. I hope my children and my children’s children see that.
Calvin Kiniale 117
I. !ese are the hands that Played jacks (jax) on the porch stoop in the summertime in Lexington, Virginia Made mudpies a"er rainfalls cooled the heat down so we could go back outside to play jump rope to the rhythm of Little Sally Anne Sittin’ in the Sand Learned to make letters, form words, write down answers and questions: thoughts and ruminations Popped popcorn, squeezed lemons, quenched thirst with drinks I made— lemonade, later topped oﬀ with gin. !ese hands Learned to plait hair—first a doll’s, then a child’s Held books to read and study Changed diapers, built block towers, Cupped my own breasts to position one child, then another, for feeding. !ey Tried playing the piano, but didn’t give it their all even though they had a long finger-span Graded papers, wrote lesson plans Flipped calendar pages Organized photographs Washed dishes, cooked meals Guided material on a sewing machine to fashion clothing. !ese hands, on the ends of long arms, opened Wide, to welcome you in And hold you close. !en, in time, they opened up again To let you go. !is is the hand that holds the pen To tell the story. !is is my hand that writes. 118
II. Skin once so", supple Dried from detergents and winterâ€™s cold Nails that were manicured, long and polished Look naked and plain now, cut down to near-nub Veins like the River Niger, plump and prominent Blueish trails against brown sugar skin Strange knob on the thumb jointâ€” A solitary freckle, tiny wrist, long finger-span All support a mighty pen To capture and release.
Carol Richardson McCullough 119
I Sometimes Sometimes hiding hiding but, but, more more o"en o"en than than not, not, trying trying toto make make watching watching looklook discreet. discreet. Watching. Watching. Looking Looking out,out, taking taking in. in. Taking Taking of.of. Mental Mental notes, notes, that that is. is. Mental Mental notes notes ofof others others and and pictures picturesof ofme. me.Watching Watchingmyself. myself.Selfie. Selfie.InInthe thepassenger passengerseat seat ofofSam’s Sam’scar, car,swimming swimmingininan anXXL XXLjacket. jacket.Red Redscarf scarfwrapped, wrapped, paprika. paprika. Red Red eyeshadow eyeshadow smudged, smudged, brick. brick. Smiling Smiling behind behind bouquet of flowers from Sam. Gi" paired with mace spray, just in case. Happy Valentine’s in case. Happy Day.Valentine’s Day. II !ings !ings le" le" under under wraps—layers wraps—layers made made ofof turtlenecks, turtlenecks, widewideleg leg jeans, jeans, draped draped scarves. scarves. Preserving Preserving my my parts parts in in oversized oversized clothing. clothing. Keeping Keeping secret secret behind behind fringefringe bangs, bangs, a shag a shag maintained for “style” but mostly for easy creeping. My second skinskin is much is much looser, looser, flowing flowing around around andand swaying swaying behind. behind. It’sIt’s farfar less less fleshy fleshy but but just just asas knotted knotted inin itsits threading. threading. Heavy Heavy boots boots help help toto avoid avoid floating floating too too far. far. Gold Gold adornments adornments from from anan auntie auntie in Syria in Syria remind remind meme of home. of home. !ere !ere areare changes changes with withthe theseasons seasonsand andwith withwhich whichparts partslook lookbest. best.Last Lastspring spring highlighted highlightedcollarbones. collarbones.!e !efall fallfound foundmy mywaist waistor orthe thespace space before before cherished cherished love love handles. handles. It’ll It’ll still still be be loose loose in in the the summer, summer, my mysweaty sweatysecond secondskin, skin,but butsalt salthelps helpspreserve preservemeat meatso soI’ll I’llbe be cured in the sun. cured in the sun. III !e !e one one place place I feel I feel most most free free toto bebe me me is is gray. gray. ItsIts lighting lighting isisdim dimbut butadjustable. adjustable.!e !espace spaceisisfilled filledwith withwooden woodendesks desks and and swiveling swiveling chairs. chairs. Metal Metal shelves shelves are are lined lined with with books books in in its its library, library, which which is is tucked tucked behind behind aa velvet velvet curtain curtain inin the the back. back. Writers WritersRoom. Room.Open Opentotoall. all.!ere’s !ere’sno noshortage shortageofofthings thingsfor for me to do there: I listen, write, read, get work done for classes. Avoid Avoid work work forfor classes. classes. Sometimes Sometimes I go I go in just in just to to focus focus onon breathing. breathing. I drink I drink coﬀee coﬀee with with Lauren Lauren and and joke joke with with Jen. Jen. I I learn learn a a little little bit bit more more about about Kirsten. Kirsten. Dejah Dejah tells tells me me about about her her day day while while Keyssha Keyssha shares shares her her philosophies. philosophies. I get I get schooled schooled byby and and hug hug Rachel, Rachel, because because I’mI’m past past being being “past “past that. that. ” If” If I’m I’mlucky, lucky,I Ihear hearNorman’s Norman’sstories. stories.I Ithink thinkWriters WritersRoom—the Room—the space, space,the thework, work,the thepeople—is people—iswhat whatmakes makesme mefeel feelwhole. whole. NotNot "whole" "whole" in the in the sense sense that that it completes it completes me,me, it doesn’t it doesn’t always always have have to be to be so deep. so deep. What What I mean I mean is that is that it never it never reduces reduces meme to atopart—it a part—it sees sees mymy layers layers andand recognizes recognizes meme as as a body a body of moving of moving pieces. pieces. Pieces Pieces I’veI’ve learned learned to to bebe proud proudof. of.Writers WritersRoom Roomisiswhere whereI Ifeel feelmost mostfree freebecause becauseit’s it’s allowed me to beallowed all of me. me to be all of me.
LOWELL, THE SUN We are standing on Locust Walk. Right beside the well-manicured lawn that is every dogâ€™s paradise. I am on a treasure hunt with Lowell, Dejah, and Rebecca. And this time I capture the treasure that is Lowell taking in the sun. Absorbing its healing rays a"er an especially rough winter. He faces up, eyes shut, suspended in that receiving stance. !e stance that trees behind him adopt now as they await a full bloom. Even the stairs leading up to the building in the background seem to be taking that stance, ready to receive throngs of eager residents basking in the glory of this winter sun. Lowell is one with all these.
Calvin Kiniale 123
MAIN W IT H
Y S H S
We’re in Main, a ridiculous building that seems stitched together by a manic quilter over the course of a century—some arches here, some shaggy carpet there. We’re in the main atrium; parchment colored bricks and wood paneling fill the background. A light warms near her face, which is turned down and barely containing a grin. A"erwards, we will go to the fire escape. Kesha will tell me she’s afraid of heights, but she’ll venture out onto it anyhow.
Amy Gottsegen 124
COLORS Our colors speak volumes. !e contrast between us screams. She is not black as I am black. She o"en drapes her black with more black. I match mine with blue, blondes, and reds. But her black fits her black, clothes her persona and espouses her personality. Her black is a juxtaposition of how bright she makes me feel. But is that not how life is? A tale of two cities; best of times, worst of times; much radiance from the dark she adorns.
Calvin Kiniale 125
FRIENDLY FRED On any given day on the streets of Center City Philadelphia one might find all sorts of street entertainers--homeless and sometimes drug addicted and many times quite talented and some even gi"ed. Such is the personage of one aﬀectionately known to many as “Friendly Fred.” He is a tall, thin African American male with grey beard and temples, always mismatched, elaborately dressed and adorned in what must be his favorite color: red. He may have two or three diﬀerent clothing styles going on at the same time, which would make one wonder if his elevator goes to the top floor. He’s lively and energetic and always has his boombox blasting while he displays his considerable talent through various and sundry gyrations. He’s well-decorated with bells, whistles, and feathers, all exploding into sound (word?) frenzy. It’s quite a show and one can marvel at his agility. He really knows how to bust a move. He seems to think that he’s a throwback to Michael Jackson, and one could imagine him as MJ at 70. Well you can imagine my surprise when I picked up the Milestone Newspaper and saw they had a featured article and photo of Friendly Fred; musician and retired astrophysicist!
Patricia Burton 126
IF HE HAD A BALL Where I'm from there are many less fortunate people lagging around. Many of these people go unnoticed although they are begging for attention. A person that really seems to have nothing but an upli"ing personality comes to the park every day with the same clothes sometimes watching, running, or playing with himself on the court if he had a ball. He seemed to be in his own world. !e first thing I noticed was that this person was really down bad until the ball rolled his way and he asked to shoot it. He made it, I gave it back and he made another. He then turned to walk away, but something in me wouldnâ€™t let him. I told him to shoot until he missed. He didnâ€™t. I was surprised he had skill. But why he couldnâ€™t channel it for others to see in his success? It made me wonder how many other things would he be good at.
Mark Dawkins 127
S E E
TWO VIEWS OF MANUEL ÁLVAREZ BRAVO’S “UMBRAL THRESHOLD” Do you ever get an itch on the heel of your foot? It’s a funny sensation because it’s diﬀerent than an itch on, say, the so" flesh of a shoulder blade. No, an itch on the weathered and travelled skin of a heel cannot be easily quelled—it feels less and demands more. Our heroine knows this. She stands in the threshold, scratching at her own itch with a practiced shimmy of her tough heels. Look closely and you’ll see fine hairs bristling from her calves—hardly inviting. You’ll have to ask to come inside, and even then she might send you back out in the rain.
“She won’t let you in so easily…” She’s had enough, she’s reached her threshold, so turn around now (‘cause you’re not welcome anymore). I think about what’s wet, the puddle her feet pitter-patter through and try to figure out what it is. She’s gotten out of the bath and couldn’t be bothered to dry oﬀ completely. She laughed so hard, the belly kind of laugh, where she no longer had control of the tears from her eyes or the other fluids gushing from her body. She’s spilled her wine. Maybe she’s had a miscarriage. Either way, she’s reached her threshold and she won’t let you in so easily, but she might talk to you from the other side of a closed door.
Natasha Hajo 129
In the back of the muse is buildings and people walking past dead trees waiting to grow again. !en thereâ€™s my muse who is not supposed to be in this timeline. !e black bomber with the white hood spray-painted in a retro way with her hair parted to the side and to hold the look she wore three hair clips in her hair and cool icy chain. Over the hoodie is a sweater dress with some fishnets with rhinestones. You can tell that she feels like sheâ€™s in another era. It gives me a feel of too cool for school. She makes the picture look less boring and more of color. Rebecca and Calvin was with me. We were at Penn walk. What it holds for me is that awesome eras of fashion never die. Just evolve.
Dejah Jade 131
An aerial shot of the city of Philadelphia: skyscrapers towering alongside each other, surrounded by a myriad of smaller buildings, and those buildings surrounded by a myriad of even smaller buildings. !e bridges that separate the two cities within the city, both with their own unique environments. !e massive winding lane of water that slashes across the middle, as it flows, acting as the median of two parts of a greater whole. !en there are the small neighborhoods around the two separated parts; thereâ€™s a sharp contrast between the neighborhoods and the two greater cities, but that contrast isnâ€™t as sharp in some areas as it is in others. Most of the time it smells like gasoline and cheap fried food, but on occasion it can smell like fresh cut grass and sunflowers. It feels rough in so many places, and smooth in so few. !e sound can be abhorrent at times, and other times it can be rather pleasant. What you see may be frightening or comforting sometimes, but most of the time you wonâ€™t be able to see anything at all. !e taste can be good or bad, bitter or sweet, like black and white, like yin and yang, like the two cities, two sides of the same body of water.
Matthew Brooks 132
Standing in the doorway of a old dusty wood shop up in the mountains. Light rain falling down all over but the sky is blue and the sun is out. Just a few small clouds are about. Two campers walking down the dirt and gravel road going to the main house, passing by rabbits and baby chickens. Warm summer breeze swirling through the back door smelling like the cows and compost. A barn cat shaking its paw from stepping the wet grass while trying to catch a bird hopping from tree to tree.
Lowell Ingram 133
!is photo was taken somewhere where there was water and trees, there’s a waterfall and sharp rocks at the bottom. I think the person who took this photo was thinking safe but not really. !e person wearing the black hat reminds me of the wicked witch of the west from the 1939 Wizard of Oz. !e person who took the picture of this woman may’ve been drunk or disturbed. !is photo is a slick curvy woman who reminds me of Jennifer Lopez as Selena. I don’t know much about her but this woman’s body is flexible and her dress is red. !is photo is a pair of twins who remind me of the twins from !e Shining. I never saw that movie but the audience would either get scared and aroused. !is photo represents Dracula from however long ago the movie came out. I think what happened a decade before was the person who took this picture was in the presence of evil. Or something is amiss. !is photo was taken in a beautiful city where nothing bad happens in the dark or so they say, this should be Gotham City. I think the person who took that picture was thinking it’s easy to get lost in a big city, these streets are dangerous because of psycho/wackos. And-when is the Batman going to show up?
Jordan McCullough 135
TWO VIEWS OF CARRIE MAE WEEMS’ “UNTITLED” !ey look like they’re missing someone. A newly distant married couple, and he’s tired of trying to reach her. Angel hadn’t said more than five words since that morning. Her lips curled into a sneer everytime Ron tried to speak to her. To her it feels like interrogation and she doesn’t understand why she’s on trial. A mourning wife, the loss of her youth, of her soul reimagined. He’s heard that this pain is the worst, but he wasn’t prepared for how it might aﬀect them. Potato vodka dinners and quiet Saturday mornings in diﬀerent rooms. We know their loss because their focus is dispersed, but sometimes anything but silence hurts worse.
Jasmine James 136
!e energy is coming from the light—the overhead lamp helps, but the “energy” of light lies in both of their faces. !ere’s something really beautiful, maybe even tender, about this photo. I think it’s the way they’re both unassuming, unbothered, choosing to share a space at the table for the sake of sharing space alone. It might be the way he’s holding his face, reading about the tyranny of turkey, or simply his forearm. It could also be her posture, statuesque, like “the thinker,” but infinite times more elegant. Maybe it’s how they’re both dressed in black. !ere is something about smoking cigarettes indoors that I’ve always romanticized—the way it makes time stagger and makes me think about the world slowly and feel like it’s good again. !is picture makes me feel that same way because of what’s happening in it—real love, in the so" kitchen light.
THE WORLD IS COMPLETELY ILLEGIBLE TO ME
Lay cut snatch tangle tizzy hang weep wave wish slipper soothe hush grab glittering wuthering orangutan orange man meek missing switch swatch kill kill kill zip swish trinket stippling stronger have-not hark hamper meander mischief menace marble bazaar betterment mint matches Anglican toucan mangle sip roll weenie brick put poutine oval total business binocular bangles briefly honor humble wispy crackle in spacious upward wandering rush seep slither stumble pinch prefer meteorological methods invention amply applied and awfully arranged over and over and over.
Amy Gottsegen 137
!e bandannas that are tied to my backpack used to just be knick-knacks that I like to carry around with me wherever I go, but I’ve had them for such a long time now that they started to represent aspects of me that I originally did not intend for them to. I acquired three of them all together several years ago at the Hot Topic in the mall back home that my brother and I have been going to for years. It’s become an unspoken practice for us to always go to this place and acquire something. Shirts, buttons, bracelets… Of all the things there the bandannas caught my eye, but I to this day still don’t know why. Much later when I was in college, I acquired the fourth one from one of my best friends. He recalled the bandannas on my backpack and asked me if I wanted it. Now I wear it as a representation of myself and as a representation of the friendship which links us.
As time dragged on I started to add a trait that I identify with to each of them, but I decided that each bandanna can only have five traits and I made them this way because my hands are tools that play a major role in everything I do, especially my writing, and each of them only have five digits. !ey act as a constant reminder to just be myself, but also to not be afraid to change, as I didnâ€™t just start oďŹ€ possessing every trait that I currently have. At the beginning, I had none, and it was only as time passed and I continued to grow that I began to acquire more. !ese bandannas have gone from being knick knacks that I obtained because of their appearance, to tokens that act as tangible representations of some of the traits I have. And as time goes on and I acquire more traits, Iâ€™ll also acquire more bandannas that will stick with me wherever I go.
Matthew Brooks 139
What happens when dreams tumble like cardboard houses? Gunshots replace hope. How can you gather all your dreams, squeeze them tightly to your breast and hope? Winter ends with Spring. We've been waiting thirty-five years for Spring to come. Weeds and ivy grow now where hopscotch and jump rope and stick ball were king. Dreams unattended fester, ooze and scab over fight to stay alive. New dreams like scattered seeds need fertile soil. Laughter brings life. Flowers bloom.
Patricia Burton 141
THOSE WEâ€™VE KNOWN
On my eighth birthday I had a party and the community came out to help me celebrate. Ms. Briggie had made me a dress with a crinoline under it. I loved the way the slip made the dress sit out, it was a green print with tiny flowers in bright colors; the neighbors, and kids they all loved the dress; I could tell by the way they looked at me and some just looked with their mouths open and others said the dress was nice. But it was my day and I looked good. My parents had the terrace decorated with balloons and streamers. We played double dutch, Life, and even had a dance contest. We danced to the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Martha and the Vandellas: all my favorites. We twisted, jerked, and sloped all day long. My uncle was a chef and he had brought home ribs, burgers, and hot dogs. My mother made me a three-layer chocolate birthday cake, Aunt Eva prepared potato salad, and deviled eggs and Aunt Mary made the greens. It was a beautiful fall day. !e sun was shining, and the birds were singing. !e community came out and we had a great time. Essie played the drums for me and we did the dances of Africa. !ey talked about that party for years. It was a memorable birthday. Soon a"er the families began to move out of the terrace. !e life I had come to love came to an end. Coal was no longer safe for heating homes and the landlord was not inclined to change the heating system to oil. I had always had my aunts next door--however, we all moved out in diďŹ€erent directions. I no longer could just run out of the back door and visit or get a piece of cake or have dinner when we were having something I did not want. Life was quite diďŹ€erent for everyone. Urban renewal had come between a close family. We kept in touch via telephone and we did visit, but not everyone was always there. We became a holiday family, getting together for major events. But there always seemed to be someone missing for one reason or another. Like regentrification, urban renewal came and changed the landscape of the community. Families were separated and the village became one person and their immediate family. Big Mama was on one side of town and Auntie was on another side. !e neighborhood changed-the children no longer had a neighborâ€™s house to go and eat, and the parents no longer had a reliable eye in the community to watch out for the children. !e days of running through the terrace are gone, but the memories are here forever. From time to time I see people from the neighborhood, and we talk like we never moved. When I visit the parking lot where the terrace was I can smell the fresh-cut grass and see the little girl looking up at the sky from under the clothesline.
Brenda Bailey 143
!e first layer of self, being our body, I am mindful of taking care of it, that means exercise and eating right, both of which I have fallen oﬀ, not good. Keeping it clean, doing some pampering, which includes nails, hair, teeth and conditioning the body with lotion to so"en the skin, smooth out wrinkles, and being a woman of color also using lotion to prevent dry skin that causes white crackly skin, they call ash or ashy. I love smelly good products, fragrances that fill the air, and follow me everywhere I go. All that's important to me. Because too many times I've seen people just quit on life and give up on themselves. Usually older people. And that was something I didn't understand, until I was stationed at my Mother’s house, and I began to watch my mother start to go through that process. God allowed me to see it and understand. My Mother was married to my Father for 49 years, then he died. It is now 8 years since. And all her children are gone, still close enough, but preoccupied with their lives and family. And when you've lived your life for others, their approval, their acceptance, or espousal, you lose a big part of you, which you don't even realize, until all is gone. You lose your identity. Causing you to feel like you have no purpose in life and feeling lost. And now you're older, And the older you get, what used to be natural and easy, has now become work. Now deviation begins, the act of departing from an established course of your life or an accepted standard. And they don't put as much into their personal hygiene, or the way they dress, how they smell, or how they look. !ey figure what's the use, mainly because they don't have someone in their life to share it with… Of course I didn't leave her like that, we did a complete makeover, and I watch the life spring back in her... A"er understanding how deviation works, and having an early bout with it myself, Yea! you see, like most of us we dressed to impress others, in school, in the workplace, and even in church, or to get someone’s attention, usually a male friend or a female friend that you had some interest in. In my case it was a male friend that I was seeing. Knowing he was coming over, I would dress in something sexy, put on my cool Jazz music with a chilled glass of wine, something I really enjoyed doing, but my focus was on him. And when that relationship ended. !e 144
feeling that I loved so much seemed to have ended, and like most silly women I was going through the “who am I phase.” !en I noticed I had this sexy garment that I never got a chance to wear, but then I said why bother, what’s the use. !at’s when God interrupted my thoughts and said, “Do it for yourself, learn to love yourself…” and just as I was giving it some thought. !en He said, “Enjoy your womanhood.” So that night I went through the whole ritual of getting washed, and dressed in that sexy garment, put on my makeup and my smelly good, did my hair. Had a glass of wine and listened to my jazz music, because Gospel and Jazz really minister to my soul and it moves throughout my being and I danced around that room feeling AMAZING and SEXY! You see, that night I found out, it really wasn't about him. It was something I loved to do, that ministered to me. And it supplied me with the OK TO BE. !at night I learned how to enjoy my womanhood... Sweet! So between the experience with my mother and my own expression of an awakening of self, I vowed to keep her alive in colors, and cleanliness even when I don't feel like it. And I don't dress her to impress any one, I dress her to match the weather, or the occasion. I learned to love me and to treat this temple with the respect it deserves. I like to dress with integrity, with a dash of sexiness. I put jewelry on my ears, around my neck and bracelets on my wrist to adorn her properly, as the woman God has made her to be. And Yes...she older now, and I had allowed the attack on my body along with the pain, to try and bury me. But, as I wrote this piece from memory, while playing my Jazz, there was a resurrection...THANK YOU GOD.
Roz Cliett 146
FALLEN Passing Faces I remember From past lives. It's better if I don’t know why Because before I let my heart be filled with lies. Having my brain tell me the Truth but not wanting it to be true. Passing faces I remember I once loved But was I really in love or filling my heart with lies made me believe that’s what I was feeling inside. Now I just pass you by as I look and stare remembering the many lives and moments we've shared knowing that this time we won't share a single memory or a single journey. !inking in my head oh I wish you could remember me but we’re better oﬀ just passing each other in the street not remembering cause I if I did I would've took a chance but this time fate has the upper hand. Now I'm just passing faces knowing in my heart that it was just a face that I once loved once again was it ever really love. I used to see your face so clear now your face slowly disappears if only I could remember
Dejah Jade 147
It’s been said my family lost a matriarch, too. What I don’t know is when the loss happened, or how. As the youngest, I was always chasing the long shadows of an older brother, older cousins, aunts, uncles... and Nana. All I could see of her was that long, stretched out silhouette, signaling an ending. And when we were gathered--seven of us--on the square of AstroTurf, sitting in cracking folding chairs, I couldn’t help looking around that peaceful graveyard, stippled with leaves’ shadows and the light between them-couldn't help searching for flesh. Something I could touch. Someone's hugs to feel myself wrapped in. Something more than impressions in light. When my eyes returned to the people on that patch of fake plasticky grass, they found my aunt with her face dampened in pain. “We have to stick together,” she said. “She was the glue holding us all together. Now we have to do that.” I felt the vertigo of falling tears sting my eyes, too--my eyes that could never quite spot that matriarch.
Amy Gottsegen 149
!ere was a wooden trunk that I loved to explore in Grandmom Leila’s room. It was a large, brown heavy trunk with elaborate designs carved into the top and sides. I was mesmerized by its many textures and would delight in poking my fingers into all the nooks and crannies within the design and could almost feel the movement of the various animals that adorned its surface. !ere were birds, turtles, bears, fish and lots of flowers. It was always placed in the same spot at the foot of her bed. One would’ve had to have special permission to even be in her room, but that didn’t stop me and my cousin Mildred from sneaking in there at every opportunity to examine the contents. Inside were family items, i.e. photos, letters, linen and other relics she had brought with her on her journey North. But I nor my cousin were not the least bit interested in those items. We went straight to the item that gave us the most joy: her pink flannel long johns! !ey seemed so enormous to inquisitive four- and six-year olds, so we made quick use of them. De"ly, so as not to stretch them or dirty them up, each one of us would climb into a leg and hop around and all the way across the room. Even though we knew we were treading in forbidden territory we just couldn’t contain our glee and our laughter and rambunctious scuﬄings overpowered our sense of reasoning. Suddenly, the door flew open and there stood Leila… her large buxom frame filling up the whole room. It was too late to run for cover because she was on us “like white on rice.” You would think that we would know how to avoid the inevitable wrath that was coming our way, but the follies of youth gave way to reason and we were caught once again… red-handed.
Patricia Burton 150
I wake up everyday feeling a sense of relief I can go to a safe place But when I am constantly reminded of the gun that killed my father And the gun that kill my brother I just can’t breathe I just can’t see myself waking up to a society Where teachers are guards and students are inmates It’s funny because I might have the power to change my grades By working--but I don’t have the power to change the mindset Of how a teacher looks at me I say more guns more violence More ammo more shots More deaths no future I am black And I refuse to be in a school where teachers are armed I am emotionally triggered by the power Of the majority skin Where in this world If I am praised on a pedestal I am diﬀerent And if I am fought On a platform I can change
Each summer, during the night a"er school was out, my sister and I were sent from Philadelphia to South Carolina where we resided on my maternal grandparent’s tobacco farm, where we worked, bonded with our kinfolk, and became accustomed to the southern way of life. During the middle of August, my mother would come for several weeks. My sister and I missed her very much and anticipated her arrival. When she arrived, I got the surprise of my life. My special pal, Jimmy, emerged from my grandfather’s car. We simultaneously screamed with joy and dashed towards each other. Upon contact we tightly embraced, something we never would have done in Philadelphia, for embracing there went against the macho code. It was a “Kodak moment,” one of the best presents I’ve ever received. Jimmy, who was two years older than me, was my next door neighbor and best friend. While I was dark tall and skinny and introverted, he was almond-skinned, exceptionally short, well-proportioned, rounded faced, loquacious, bug-eyed and large-headed. In fact his nickname was Head Quarters; his peers declared that his head was the headquarters for all the heads in the world. Our inseparable union begun in infancy, survived the stick-ball, snow man, skating, marbles, and cops-and-robbers periods. When my mother surprised me was by bringing Jimmy to South Carolina, Jimmy was 14 and I was 12. Culturally we were Philadelphia children of the Doo Wop and Rock and Roll era, an era that found our gang huddled around transistor radios enjoying the sounds of the Platters, 152
and Chuck Berry, harmonizing under corner street lights and dancing in in cellars lit by dim red lights, many of us were into Jazz, especially Jimmy. He was a Jazz enthusiast, a rarity for someone his age. Jimmy and I would o"en spend hours sitting on the worn-out couch in the miniature living room of his house intently listening to jazz emanating from the 78 records on the ancient turntables of yesteryear. He introduced me to what was to become my favorite music. He enthusiastically explained to me the diďŹ€erences between swing, Be-Bop, Big Band and straight-ahead Jazz; he shared anecdotes in regards to Ellington, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Max Roach. Jimmy was also humorous; he constantly told jokes and folk tales, especially those that had unsavory language. While I was not able to be outside a"er eight p.m., Jimmy was able to roam the streets up until eleven. He was a street wise young man who always told me about the happenings in that world that were alien to me. He taught me the latest dances, the rudiments of boxing. He was an animal lover who especially loved horses. During the spring 1954, he arranged for us to purchase a pony apiece and sell pony rides throughout the lower streets of the North side of West Philadelphia. We were like brothers. He introduced me to aďŹ„uent neighborhoods that harbored manicured lawns, detached houses and garages--neighborhoods that I had only envisioned on television or the movies. He also took me to various neighborhoods to visit his relatives who treated me like family. I had learned a lot from Jimmy. His visit to South Carolina gave me a chance to repay his mentoring by showing him how to maneuver in a new environment, one of diďŹ€erent sights, sounds, feelings, tastes, smells. We saw and heard the crowing rooster that awakened us at dawn and--throughout the day--snorting mules, baying goats, barking dogs, chirping birds and the melodic mooing of cows in the pasture and fluttering bands of chattering formation-locked fowl flying under clear blue skies and above endless miles of wooded area. When my grandmother cooked on her wood-heated stove, the aroma of fresh vegetable, fowl and meat--all of which 154
was home grown and raised--escaped through the screen door adjacent the kitchen and into the atmosphere, mingling with the smells of the animals and fumes of raw tobacco cured by heated oil stoves in the barn directly in front of my grandparents’ home. In addition to having our taste buds tantalized by the taste of my grandmother’s cooking, they were also tantalized by our freedom to eat grapes, melons, watermelon, apples, and sugar cane at will. I remember that we were once the victims of an unexpected storm, a storm that drenched and pummeled our bodies without mercy, causing us to gallop across the red clay South Carolina road that lead to my grandparents’ home. Conversely we felt the scorching sun which drew streams of sweat from our bodies. And there were the constant biting of insects: bees, wasps, and yellow jackets. I showed Jimmy how to feed the goats, cow, mules and chicks, how to chop wood, and use a hoe sickle and rake. I also showed him how to hitch our two mules to a wagon, shuck corn, and how to take the goats out to pasture. From my great uncle Charlie, he heard Uncle Remus stories and he was able to meet a host of relatives on both sides of my family. A"er a day of preparing tobacco for the market in a barnlike structure called a pack house, my cousin, Delores (who was four years older than me and who was raised by my grandparents), my sister, Gwendolyn, Jimmy and I would go to my grandfather’s older brother's house--the original home of my grandfather’s family--which was located down the road from the pack house. !e house, structured in shotgun fashion, only had two rooms. Five had been destroyed by a hurricane in the mid-twenties. !e house, which was also occupied by my uncle’s wife, Mrs. Maddie, was a quaint establishment. !e northern wall embraced a portrait of my great grandfather, his wife, six daughters, and five sons. !e opposite wall was pasted with old newspapers that had turned brown. !ere were instruments: tuba and bugle, snare and bass drums and piano. !ose instruments were played by members of the Cusack band during the early 20’s and mid 30’s. Uncle Charlie would prompt 155
us in the manner in which the instruments were to be played as well as tell us traditional African American folk tradition stories. Jimmy’s two-week visit to South Carolina that summer introduced him to a diﬀerent lifestyle. For instance, in Philadelphia we shopped at the corner stores but in the South we retrieved our food from the fields or smoke house. In South Carolina our daily clothing consisted of short pants and a straw hat, however in Philadelphia we were completely dressed each day. On Saturdays we would go the largest town in the area, Pamlico, which housed four tobacco warehouses where hundreds of seasonal workers were employed. Jimmy and I would go to a shack-like barbershop. While our barbershop back home was spacious and oﬀered a variety of haircuts, the colored barbershop in town was a shack and oﬀered one style haircut (the German Brush) which le" a lot of hair on the top of one’s head. In Pamlico we were compelled to sit in the balcony section of the movies while the white folk sat downstairs. Maybe because no white people--outside of merchants--lived in our neighborhood, we could sit where wanted when we went to the movies back home. During our visit to town we would remain on the black side of town--which was separated from the white side of town by railroad tracks. !ere we would watch--from- the outside--the dancers in the juke joints whose music of choice was the blues, as opposed to Jimmy’s beloved Jazz, and whose dances were foreign to our dances. !at setting was diﬀerent from the teeming marketing areas of Philadelphia, specifically Lancaster Avenue, the shopping section of our area in West Philadelphia. On Sundays we went to the Trinity AME church that was found in the early 1900s by my paternal grandfather. Jimmy, who was not required to go to church in Philadelphia, got to experience a rather primitive worship service. Wherein Philadelphia was a maze of endless concrete highrises, row homes, and boisterous crowds, where we were was 156
sedate. And while blacks and whites were theoretically equal in Philadelphia, segregation was the rule in South Carolina. In the city which was our home we sold pony rides throughout the neighborhoods, but in South Carolina we rode the two mules my grandparents owned. !roughout our treks in West Philadelphia neighborhoods, Jimmy would o"en visit his relatives. Likewise he met many of my relatives that summer. Each day we visited my grandfatherâ€™s sister who live a half-of-a-mile away. !ere we hung out with my two female cousins and their brother. Additionally, he met some of my relatives in town and church. I will never forget the time I spent with Jimmy in South Carolina during the summer of 1954.
Norman Cain 157
WHERE WEâ€™VE BEEN
My place of solitude lies between two rooms, my bedroom and my home oﬃce. My place of solitude is quiet, and I can hear everything. I can hear people walking by and talking outside. I can hear my brother playing his music in the basement of the house. You can hear the birds chirping, and communicating with each other. In the quiet you can hear floorboards creak and the house settling-And quiet even has a sound, you can hear soundwaves, and a faint ringing in the air. When you get very quiet, things seem to get louder. In the quiet, thoughts seem to be louder, as I listen to the thoughts that quietly creep through my mind, I begin writing, because some of those thoughts carry answers to the problems you ponder in your heart and mind. Others carry knowledge and great ideas. A lot of times people don’t think God sees, knows, or care… but He does learn to listen.
Roz Cliett 159
!is past March, my mom and I went back to Hatfield, the town where I spent the first fourteen years of my life. We entered town, passing the shopping center that used to have our favorite Italian place and our go-to grocery store, both of which have since gotten a face-li" and some new construction. We didn’t move far and still found ourselves in this part of town sometimes. But once we pulled onto Roosevelt Blvd., the memories hit me like rain drops--hitting me repeatedly and all at once. !e rain drops kept coming for the length of the road. When I stepped out of the car on the corner of Roosevelt and S. Girard Terrace, I immediately looked up at the water tower that had been a fixture in my childhood. It looked diﬀerent now. !e shape was the same, but it had gotten a new coat of paint--an upgrade from the fading white which began to give way to the steely gray beneath it--it said “Experience Hatfield,” but Experience was in curly red letters, and there was an American flag up there next to it. I remember it just saying HATFIELD in big fading letters, not the sharp blue ones that are up there now, but the star on top was still just like I remember it. Walking down my street alone from the corner made me feel like a latchkey kid again, heading home a"er school. I didn’t think I felt connected to the condo on S. Girard Terrace until I started thinking about that time in my life again--for the first time in a while. I started really thinking about that home underneath the big ugly water tower and I couldn’t stop. !e thoughts kind of hit me in a reverse order. I remember taking my last nap on the floor of my now empty bedroom of 13 years on the hot July a"ernoon we moved out. I remember that my old grey cat fell asleep curled around my head and the caterwaul she let out when my dad and I tried to drive to the new house with her. !en I remembered all of the holidays and family dinners we spent slowly outgrowing Grandma’s condo 160
directly adjacent to ours. I remembered playing with my cousins in the little yard between Grandma’s unit and Joanne’s unit, the one with the cracked front stoop. I remembered fetching kickballs from pricker-bushes and darting into the street to get the ball before my cousin Anthony made it back to home plate, and playing in the basement when it was too cold to be outside when we would inevitably break that one damn light bulb the hung from the ceiling. I remembered the little stretch of trees my cousin Sydney and I transformed into a forest kingdom with a little imagination, some climbable branches, pine needles, and tree sap on our hands and clothes.
Today I took photos of the house my family and I moved into in 2012. Standing across the street and squatting in my yard taking photos, I couldn’t help but grapple with the feeling that passersby saw me as a peeping tom or a nosy creep with a camera. I made the conscious decision to not put my hood up so as not to frighten anyone into calling the police. It was oﬀputting to say the least. I’ve lived in this house with my parents and my grandma, on and oﬀ, for almost eight years now. We moved from 122 S Girard Terrace in July of 2012, and I moved into my freshman dorm, 223 N 34th St, in September of 16. So on and oﬀ means a summer here, or a weekend there, living in a house I am supposed to call home. When I took photos on a street I haven’t lived on for almost a decade, I felt like the current inhabitants were invading my space, somehow violating my memory with their plastic Playskool cars in the backyard and their unknown vehicles in the front drive. I wanted someone to come out and ask me why I was there with a camera so I could tell them that I used to live there, that it used to be mine. But when I was outside of what my parents and grandma currently call home, I was anxiously awaiting a call from a neighbor to scram before the cops come. What does that say about where I call home? Does home have to be somewhere you feel comfortable? I don’t think home can be a street I used to live on and trees I used to climb in, and it doesn’t feel a lot like this house on 162
Pheasant Hill road is my capital-H-Home, so what then? Is my Home tethered to the people that moved with me from my last Home to this new house? Is my Home the scattered memories I have from diﬀerent places I’ve laid my head? My mom would shudder at the thought that her house isn’t Home for me anymore, and I can still hear her correct me when I slipped up and called my first apartment in Philly “home” in my second year of college. !is is starting to make more sense to me, but it didn’t used to. I think my new Home is Philadelphia--more specifically, the part of the city west of the Schuylkill and up to about 35th and Spring Garden street. It’s growing though, and has been since I first moved into 223 N. 34th street; it used to just be my dorm building, more specifically the 6th floor of that building. But ever since I walked from Drexel’s Mandell theater to the Dornsife Center on 35th and Spring Garden Street as part of a second line parade for the Big Read in my bright white Chuck Taylor shoes, I felt love for a city that I was just getting acquainted with. I can still feel the percussion of the West Powelton Drummers’ drums popping in my chest, I can still see the waves of people that joined our parade as it passed, and hear the laughter of kids weaving in and out of the paraders. the staccato of the drums and the smooth Darla funk--all of it reminds me of the anxiety and excitement I felt on that day, the anxiety of being in a new place surrounded by new people, and the excitement of realizing that I might’ve found my people. I was right, I would find my people there, and in the two years that followed that day I have made relationships and connections with my community and the people in it that make all the diﬀerence between my life then and now. !inking back on that day, I can see now that those first steps I took toward the Dornsife Center in 2016 were some of the first steps I had taken toward a life that I finally starting building for myself. I’ve finally started feeling like I’m home again.
Devin Welsh 163
ON THE MOVE Words are more than letters smashed together and despite the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me,” words can hurt. Words evoke many emotions, they can be happy, comforting, or angry. !ere are words out there that make people feel like they’ve been slapped in the face when it’s uttered out loud. I don’t have a word that angers me, but I do have one that causes my stomach to get queasy, followed by a rush of uncertainty when it’s brought to my attention. When you’ve moved as much as I have (and I didn’t realize I moved that much until I had it mapped out in front of me), you find it hard to lay your roots down when you’re not sure that you’ll be allowed to grow from those roots. With each move, I tried to not get too attached to my current place of residence. Around the fourth move, I’m pretty sure when I used the word home, it lacked the emotional attachment that most people have when they use it. “Home is where the heart is.” A popular saying, my heart isn’t in the apartments, the complex in Park Springs, or either of the houses on wheels we had in Georgia. Houses that I was 92% sure were going to roll away with my family in the middle of the night during one of my good sleeps. However, my heart is with the woman that wore the afro wig to my Halloween hippie costume because I was too embarrassed to wear it myself. !e woman that stayed up until 3am on the weekends playing Ben 10 games on the Wii because her daughter “Just had to beat all the games!” My heart is with the only thing in my life that was a constant. My mom’s better than home, she’s a safe space. !ere are times when we moved that I had to find others outside of my mom to help me adjust to an environment. While mom was a continuous presence, I always looked for an anchor. !e first place I remember living in is a random set of apartments in Philadelphia. I was three at the time, so I don’t remember all that much. It was at this time I found my first 164
anchor. It was a boy whose name I’ve long forgotten, but he used to wear an orange shirt. I’m no fashion guru but that shirt was ugly by three-year-old standards. I let it slide because he made me laugh. At my age though, what didn’t? He didn’t last long and was soon forgotten. !e second place I lived was the one I had the most memories from. My favorite being when my mom was a bus driver, she would pick my sister and I up, then we would all drive around. I don’t think she was allowed to do that, but I’m glad she did. I met Joanne when I was six. My mom had signed both my sister and me up for a program that assigned kids pseudo big brothers and sisters. I wasn’t supposed to meet Joanne until I was 7, but I was impatient and jealous that my sister got her big sister first. I somehow convinced the program to let me meet Joanne early. !e day I met her, I basically demanded that she take me to Rita’s so I could get to know her. !ere I was sitting in the car with this smoothie in a cup so big that I struggled to hold it with both two hands, firing question a"er question. She got mom’s stamp of approval. !e woman my sister was paired up with did not. Next, was North Carolina, my least favorite of our moves. Most likely because I was still bitter I had to leave Park Springs. Perhaps it could have been that we lived with my Aunt and cousins, who I didn’t like. I can’t recall any happy memories of our time here. !ere was no anchor. !ere was Kevin, that friendship went up in flames during the case of the missing Cooking Mama DS game. I’m glad we only stayed for a year. When I get asked where I’m from, I say Georgia. I think it’s because it was the last place we stayed in. To me, moving to Georgia was like moving to another country. In Georgia, there’s only hot rain that makes you appreciate swimming. My anchor was a little old lady named Mrs. Golden, my math teacher. !e move was still fresh when I met her, I was acting out. I was tired of meeting new people, restarting the cycle of being 165
introduced to family members that I would only see during family reunions then try to avoid at those same reunions. In my first act of rebellion, I decided that I wasn’t going to do my homework. !e perfect act of revenge. It backfired. I think if she could, Mrs. Golden might have hit me with her cane. I got detention and she told me that I was going to fail if I didn’t start doing my homework. She said I would stay back with her while all my classmates would move on to 4th grade. !e thought of staying with her for another year was enough to terrify me into doing any work I was given from then on. Mrs. Golden and I started oﬀ rocky; we evolved. I moved three times within Philly. I only had an anchor for the second move. First, I was living with my Aunt because she lived closer to my new school than my grandparents, which is where my mom and sister were. I was at my aunt’s during the weekday and at my grandparents’ on the weekend. I think my mom just wanted me to already know someone when I started school because my cousin attended the same one. She was three years younger and I never saw her except on the walk to and from school. I switched schools and le" my aunt’s house during Christmas break. I was discovering my love for writing during this. Mom was a poet, she swears up and down that I get my creativity from her. I gave her a journal once--I’ve never seen her use it for anything other than writing grocery lists. I don’t use my notebooks properly either, must run in the family. My grandparents’ house was okay. I had to share a room, but I had been doing that all my life. 6th grade, I met my anchor or--should I say--anchors. Four of them: Amirah K, Amirah D, Lorelai, and Koren. !ey came trickling in at diﬀerent times, but they stayed. !e final move is where I’m currently living. It was the first time I would get my own room. It took a while, but it was definitely worth the wait. !ere were times where I was scared that 166
my mom would say we’re moving again. She never did, the thought still lingered in the back of my mind from time to time. My issues with calling somewhere home spilled over into my decision of picking a college. One of my determining factors, when I chose a college to apply to, was that it had to feel like home. Like math, not exactly my greatest area of expertise, I of course struggled. !is would be the first time that I was in charge of where I would be moving. !at’s a pretty big deal to me. I have doubts that I won’t pick the right place to live, and it’s eating away at me that I won’t have the one thing that has gotten me through all the previous moves. Mom was there for that process, adding her 2¢, sending me memes to make me feel better. Some of them didn’t make sense but the thought counts. !e thing is, even though I tell myself not to get attached, I still do. Every single time, there’s just a lack of emotional connection that I want to stay attached. As fast as I let people in, I’m faster with letting them go. I do have a home, maybe I just don’t call it home. It’s just a word, as I said before words are powerful. !e impact on people, but they do not control us. I don’t need that label to make me happy. I have Mom for that. We don’t stay up to play games on the weekend anymore, we don’t have the energy for that anymore. We’ve moved onto lying in her bed, watching tv shows like Flash, !e Good Doctor or World of Dance. If I’m lucky she lets me sneak in some anime. If she’s lucky I’ll let her trick me into watching Chicago Fire or P.D. If I’m in the mood, I’ll burst into her room blasting BTS from my laptop. She never turns me away.
Shakiya Smith 167
I almost cried. We had lost control. !e only words out of my mouth were, “Hii ni ujinga—!is is bulls—t!” Mama stared at me dead in my teary eyes. Our collective heart sunk. I evaded her eyes as I refocused my attention on the angry mobs that were being beamed on our generator powered SONY television. !eir hearts had sunk too to the deepest trenches of hell and erupted in a violent display of plunder. !e eﬀect still took hold even 30 kilometers from the nearest hotbed of terror, Bungoma. Grandma’s compound, Jombix’s castle on the hill had been a haven, until now. Would the blue metal doors protect us when the apoplectic countrymen arrived? Jombix gulped, for fear or for pleasure; his guy had ‘won’ anyway. Darkness descended early that night as the plumes of dark smoke ascended to the heavens. !e perpetrators of the violence convened to cement their claim to power. !ey convened to egg on their diehard henchmen to curb the cockroaches who threatened their hold on the presidency. A text broke the silence in our living room. Operations in my school were suspended indefinitely. I knew some of my friends would not be back. !ey would be taught to hate me now for not being Luo like them, Kikuyu like them, or Luhya like them-or they would be dead. Murdered by neighbors with whom they had lived and broken bread at the same altar. I cried and my 10-year-old tears dropped into my stomach. I did not want my young cousins to see what I saw. !at the purple ink on Mama’s pinky to show she had voted didn’t matter. I did not want them to know what I thought of the red couches we sat on. Would they conceal our blood if the violence finally hit home? I did not want them to know of the calculus I computed in my mind about our incomplete attic. Would it be a safe hiding spot? Miles away, screams knifed through the cold tropical air: Pursuer and the Pursued in a marathon of and for their lives.
Calvin Kiniale 168
MEDITATION ON POWER In the land of the not so free and the home of the former slaves. I honestly don’t get how the traits we inherit ultimately determine how we will be treated in this heteropatriarchic-driven society !ere is no telling of why things like homophobia, xenophobia, racism, classism, or things such as sexism could derive from a country that was built on this God-given land. However, I could tell you that the common denominator of these interconnected systems is power. Overall Power at its root is to have the ability to shi" an atmosphere or circumstances by the energy positive or negative that we put out. Power can also be described as the privilege or ability to control circumstances based on your status or identity in society. Power in today’s society is labeled. We need to be aware that when we have power we have privilege. When you look at the people that are in leadership they have power. !e law will ultimately dictate who will lead. But the laws will dictate what is considered social normalities. And who and what controls it. But it is up to you and whether you will feed in to this man-made system for your own personal gain. We need to change the system. Or as the late great Dr. Martin Luther King as he speaks about capitalism says: Capitalism doesn’t permit even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich being conscious, and all others are to be poor at some level. !at’s the way the system works. And since we know the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system. We need to be aware of our own inner power. We need to be aware of our privilege and how it can negatively aﬀect the people who aren’t of our specific community. You don’t want to be that Feminist who goes up against that young black man and woman-Or even that cis-abled-bodied gender who makes decisions disregarding queer disabled rights Because believe it or not We all fall under a system of discrimination but nothing makes this right 170
I know that might be a littler hard Because like money in a capitalist society--power is worshipped. Power like love is one of the most addictive drugs because when we can get hold of it it’s addictive. We want more and more of it in fear that if we don’t have it. We won’t have this numb or that control of our inner and outer selves and others. But the biggest flaw of power is deception. It’s easy to have so much fun in a fantasy to where you don’t wanna face your reality But how much of it are you taking with you to the end? And--no matter how much power you think you don’t have Remember !ere is nobody that is over God the universe or even nature. We hold a gun which is within us, because like the yin and yan everything is everything. Everything reflects. Because We all are one. So I’m telling You, love ya brother even if you can’t understand how a male could marry a male, or why people can kneel down to pray to a God, or even why drug dealers turn to the quickest way they can to make money for survival But I’m asking you to try so that we all can live in peace. And please, don’t use your power to put others down. Don’t use your power to control the circumstances of others. Don’t use your power to instill fear so that you can live in comfortability. Power is dangerous and intoxicating. Power is also the ability to control circumstances. And if you take control you win--but do we really win? --when our competitor isn’t our enemy?
CITIES WEâ€™VE WALKED 173
NEW ORLEANS I spent the summer of 2016 in a musical loop. !e butterflies in my brain hummed out Jon Bellion’s immigrant incessantly—I’m back in New York on British ecstasy, and I feel like an immigrant in America. I craved that ecstasy and sought it on the run in New Orleans. For if America had a Venice or a Paris, NOLA would be it. I ventured onto Bourbon street to forget. !e daiquiris in the day got me to the naughty night. I joined comrades, whose names I could not commit to memory to hull beads at babes with bare breasts. I came to let go of my inhibitions and forget that the world thought me a decent man. Jackson Street let me lay down my rational mind for illusion and delusion. I marveled at the Jedi mind tricks connived by magicians who were eager to squeeze every dollar out of my already thinned out pockets. I let myself fall prey to the rows of palm readers who foretold tales of fortune and bliss. My life dedicated to science and the pursuit of all that was logical be damned. When reality attempted to resurface, I drowned it out at the Mississippi River. I watched my sorrows wash down the current and numbed my trouble mind with the sounds of Jazz music that filled every corner of my myopic existence. In my flight from reality I put life in pause. Abandoned my Apple watch without a care for the passage of time. But life revolved on pace. !e music stopped and the crowds shuﬄed back to their homes to make way for yet another escape. Perhaps then I was a mere journeyman, a sojourner in this land of dreams. I had been oﬀered a reprieve. And this is all it was, a reprieve. Ephemeral gulp of air before I dove back into the thick of things. I am back in Philly on NOLA ecstasy, and just like Jon Bellion, I feel like an immigrant in America. But immigrants get the work done.
Calvin Kiniale 174
HUDSON YARDS I just took a tour of Hudson Yards and I want to show you what it is not. Do you see these mountains of cement staking their claim on Manhattan? And do you hear the sirens and chants from the riots going on outside your apartment? “Treat us equally,” they say. !e avid activist bellows from your Apple TV in an attempt to rival the good Dr. King, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [and women] are created equal...” !en remember 1984. Recall that marvelous advertisement from Apple that awakened your 10-year-old self. It was a proclamation to stray from the beaten path. To be diﬀerent. Apple was the answer to George Orwell’s 1984. Yet here we are. Equal. !e same. A rallying cry of our existence. Bogged down by the same gadgets. Spending our lives in apartments that appear packaged right out of the maquiladoras of Mexico where your Nike shoes are manufactured in bulk for a dollar. We have slashed our roots brother, torn down our foundations. And now our future hangs in the balance. So stare down on this photo and remember to forget it, because it represents our past. Our future is on Hudson Yards, where each Highrise stands resolutely independent. Truly diﬀerent.
Calvin Kiniale 175
NYC A century has passed and nothing has changed as I walk along these same streets. I wonder if anything will ever change or will it be the same when I next return. My elders tell me that things are diﬀerent now, perhaps better even. But I dread the very thought of time walking with me in lock step. I’ll be forced to witness change, I’ll be forced to change, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Why can’t I be time, eternal like you? ...No, my mind is eternal just as your image is, but my body can’t stay with you. My entire existence can never be a snapshot, a moment frozen in time with a black and white lens to look through… so simple yet so free… I envy you.
Matthew Brooks 177
REFLECTOR REFRACTOR LANCASTER Pay attention, because cameras use both reflection and refraction to make the images you see, and it’s easy to confuse the two: We meet at Writers Room that day. We end up talking about the MOVE house; Brenda recounts staring out her apartment window into their backyard to see chickens and women in strange clothes. We flip through the Women’s Mobile Museum photo book; Brenda slips it into her bag, asking “Will you let Rachel know I have it?” (I forget to do this.) Walking up 33rd St, I ask Brenda if she would hang out on the university campuses as a kid. She sighs, “All the time.” When I ask if she always felt welcome, she shakes her head no. She tells me a story of a party at Penn she attended as a high schooler, where someone began telling her about a Shakespearean play but was quickly cut oﬀ by his friend: “She won’t get that stuﬀ.” Brenda makes a point of studying Shakespeare, eventually attaining a Masters degree. I am grinning wide at this point in our walk. We pass a cluster of birds singing from a dry thicket. I spend a long time trying to capture a photo of them, but the images come out blurry and chaotic. Further up Lancaster Avenue and we’re passing so many of the things this city is known for: Murals. Wheelie kids. Buildings half built. Buildings half torn down. !e neighborhood. We pass what used to be a bank, and Brenda tells me that it was the only African-American owned bank around. When the news spread that it was going under, people flocked there to take out their money. She supposes it’s all in TD Bank now. Brenda points to a building on 38th and Lancaster-- there used to be a doctor’s oﬃce there. He knew all of his patients very well, 178
and would o"en give them medicine even if they didn’t have the money to pay for them right away. One day, though, they found that he had been keeping fetuses in the oﬃce’s freezer, and the doctor was arrested and imprisoned. Looking at her characteristic half-smile, I couldn’t tell how Brenda felt about this man. We turn on Powelton Avenue, and walk in the shadow of a sprawling hospital complex. I tell Brenda I could never bring myself to like Saunders Park-- something about being next to an emergency room always felt wrong to me. She gazes out over the park: “It’s nice, though, for the people in the hospital to have a park to look out at.” I fear that too o"en I make things into a mirror-my neighborhood, my relationships, my writings. I too easily forget the violence of gentrification, selfishness, narcissism. At times, I think the only way is to avoid my reflection altogether. I learned today, though, that behind the lens, cameras contain a mirror. So the image you see refracts through the lens, but it has to be reflected, too. You can’t take photographs without both lens and mirror. Our final stop is a small garden, tucked into a crevice of Holly Street. It is shaded by magnolia trees, and the sides are lined with all sizes and shapes of cracked, mismatched mirrors. Everywhere I look, I see both Brenda’s reflection and mine, doubly and triply crisscrossing this improbable space, and my improbable fortune to share it with her.
Amy Gottsegen 179
BARTRAM’S GARDEN When arriving at the Bartram’s garden it looked quite interesting, that’s a word I could use to describe it. We hopped out the car to see tons of old falling-apart buildings filled with trash and giant cranes shuﬄing around. Fenced oﬀ areas packed from rim to rim of diﬀerent trash cans waiting to be used. Graﬃti painted the walls around us, and some walls weren't touched at all, just a solid red and the pink that covered it. But through all this, there was a newly paved trail with newly planted trees along it. !e opening and the middle of a trail that took us to two beautiful areas of the gardens. We went to the le" first, which lacked some eye-food, but was filled with brain-food. Lots of knowledge and history throughout it. Old dusty cobblestone and rails, rusty crane parts, old docks filled with water, an obelisk that has been moved all around, and more. But we turned around and made our way to the other side of the tour. !is side was magical for me, it was as if I was walking through a forest of nostalgia, seeing old buildings and trees, it all looked so familiar. It turned out that it really was familiar, I had walked those paths with old friends of mine many years beforehand. Everyone scattered instantly, drawn like magnets to whatever was interesting to them. Taking pictures of beautiful scenery and just observing the garden’s shnazzyness. We had been so engulfed in it all that we lost track of time. It turned out that we couldn't even finish the tour; it got too late and people needed to leave. It was a shame with a bit of luck we had to leave. Cuz in the moment we wanted to see more, but now we’ll get the chance to come back and see it again when we finish the tour.
Lowell Nottage 182
LOGAN RISES Barely one generation ago on February 14, 1986, an entire community was laid to rubble and forgotten. Over 1,000 families were displaced, laying waste to 35 acres of land being neglected and o"en unattended to for well over 30 years. Like the proverbial â€œdream deferredâ€? it has festered over and rotted while scabs remain at the edges as a painful reminder. No one speaks of the trauma that happened here in Logan when a gas explosion at a home exposed the monumental damage that had already been occurring for several decades while families paid mortgages, children played basketball, jump rope and hopscotch, while teens graduated and went to prom and mothers planted gardens and gossiped on open porches, as the sound of laughter permeated the air like sweet gardenias. All the while, danger lurked just beneath their feet.
Sometimes you would run around the corner to get a water ice from Phil’s at 11th and Loudon Street. He and his wife Sylvia always had a joke to tell and an extra scoop sometimes. I still don’t know how they fit all that stuﬀ into their tiny store. !ey sold everything! Now a sturdy little tree stump gives tribute to the space that was. In the beginning there were three bakeries, a live in-ground fish market, a butcher shop, two grocery stores, and a vegetable stand. It was a thriving little business district right at the corner of 11th and Loudon. But it was the smell of freshly baked bread that brings the fondest memories, hitchhiking on warm breezes finding its way into the nooks and crannies that created neighborhood. Women opened windows wider and stiﬀ-necked old men craned forward trying to lean into the smell. A"er the explosion, the businesses began closing one by one until only one bakery remained through the 90’s. But the houses went first...all 987 of them were demolished because faulty engineering during the 40’s allowed major housing construction over a filled-in creek bed. !e houses were originally built for the influx of Jewish, Polish, Ukrainian, and other families who were settling in Philadelphia. !ey remained till the late 70’s, early 80’s and more blacks, Asian, and Spanish families moved in. At one time, Logan was known as the “United Nations of Philadelphia.” Folks moved in, built up pride in their neighborhood and remained in their homes. As years passed, folks started to notice more and more structural damages. Leaning porches, shi"ing walls and foundations. !ey fixed what they could and those that could leave, did...but the rest. Where could they go? !is was their home. All of Logan was not aﬀected by the devastation. !e areas west of 11th Street suﬀered no damage to their homes, but the demoralizing eﬀect on the entire community continues to this very day.
Patricia Burton 185
ECHOES OF LOGA N
“It was clean and there were lots of trees--that made an impression on me when I was little. !at and the smell of the fresh baked bread.” “!en I wonder what they think of us. ‘Look at them– they live like animals.’ We have the same hopes and dreams as everybody else.” “!is here used to be Phil’s Candy Store; I still remember his name, Phil Silverman.” “!ey have a plan for Logan--for 2035. We’ve been waiting for spring for 35 years already.” I made sure to jot down these quotes down as Pat gave Matt and me an oral history of Logan as we walked through just a part of the 35-acre wasteland--a wasteland that used to be home to over a thousand people. !is is Logan a"er being forgotten for nearly 35 years.
Devin Welsh 187
I can imagine the place Patricia is describing to me. I can imagine what it once was. !e lush green grass, the little kids playing in the street. !e parents sitting in their chairs on the porch, smiling and laughing with their neighbors. !e aroma of fresh pastries traveling through the open door of the bakery on the corner. !e small candy shop on the block. I can imagine what this place once was. A thriving community full of youthful dreams and aging wisdom guiding those dreams to their destination. But when I open my eyes, I see a barren wasteland, le" to rot under the sunâ€™s burning shine and the moonâ€™s pale light. I can see it. !e cracked road, half black and half white. !e sides lined with unwanted items of those who have passed through. !e remnants of the basketball hoop nailed to light pole. !e mangled trees and dead grass. !is is the reality that I am living in. !e sight tugs at my heart for some reason. I have never seen or heard of this place before, but the instant I laid eyes on it I felt nothing but raw emotion course through
me. A feeling of shock that steadily turned into an overbearing sadness the longer I looked. I can feel what used to be here. !e hundreds upon hundreds of houses that sat next to each other, all wiped away in an instant. I can feel the beginnings of anger burning in the back of my mind as the thought of all the families having to find new homes washes over me. But that anger turns to numbness when I see the childrenâ€™s book at my feet and the easy-bake oven on the opposite side of the road. Childhoods and memories still exist in this place, despite what its desolate appearance is trying to tell me about it. !e hollow and empty mask that it wears from a distance deters those from coming too close, but the face behind the mask speaks to me. !e people who lived here during its golden years still remember what it once was, and perhaps some day it will return to that.
Matthew Brooks 189
THE CARRIAGE HOUSE Today we captured moments of change, the beginning steps of a project GreenBuild will embark on for years to come. A project of converting the old mansion named Vicky B located on Palm St. Philadelphia into a green eďŹƒcient apartment. But throughout this journey, this will be a training ground for the students of GreenBuild, preparing them for their vocational interests. Itâ€™s been 30 years since man stepped foot inside this mansion and carriage house, giving the mansion no help to fight mother nature's brutal forces. Trash now lives in this old beauty, along with the rodents of the neighborhood. Holes, cracks, and rot is the current look for Vicky B, but soon to be revived into the beautiful mansion it deserves to be.
To be a stronghold, a sight for a better future, and a home for the neighborhood around it. GreenBuild will remember this day through these pictures, and will look back when weâ€™ve completed this journey in awe. GreenBuild is making a change for the people of this neighborhood. People may walk by in a few years and ponder how this old wreck of a mansion turned into the final product that it will be. Perhaps a"er they see the change they will continue to better the neighborhood around them, and maybe even tag along on the YouthBuild Philadelphia journey. !ey will hopefully spread the word that the youth is making a change, and help continue this process. It takes action to start a project, and GreenBuild is taking action for a brighter and greener future.
Lowell Nottage 191
!ere is a hole in the roof at the old carriage house my team is rebuilding in West Philly. I took the picture because I feel as though something we see as ugly and terrible actually can be precious if we view it in a diďŹ€erent way. So when I took the picture, I took it in a way that the hole in the roof is viewed as an art piece instead of just a hole in a roof. I wanted to make people question themselves on how you could turn something that is supposed to be viewed as a mess into an art piece. Even though the hole lets in rain, snow, wind, and even hail sometimes. Itâ€™s also the whole that lets in our sunlight.
Yusha Johnson 192
As we observed the old carriage house, a lot came into my thoughts: !e old carriage house is located in a rundown neighborhood. !e old carriage house is beat down itself with trash in front of it. But inside the trash were plants growing and it reminded me of growth. It showed me how we could make something beautiful even if itâ€™s in a rough place. I like that me and my GreenBuild team will bring the carriage house back to life with all green power. Not only will we bring it back to life. We will also take away damage from the earth.
Yusha Johnson 193
IN TRANS IT
!ese strangers, from diďŹ€erent points of origin, are riding on the subway, brought together as they travel forward moving down the tracks. Most snagged a seat. However, three stand: a man and two women. Half spend the time engrossed in reading books or newspapers while others seem captured by something sighted in the walls, a poster or another person. GraďŹƒti fills unpostered space, covering and marking territory. Some gaze up; some look down. One woman leans back, extending her legs with feet crossed at the ankles, enjoying a moment of relaxation as the train journeys onward and a stream of sunlight beams through the window, warming her legs. !ey all are united in place for these few moments. At the next stop the scene will change as new passengers join the group when others move on.
Carol Richardson McCullough 194
WHAT WE SAW
I saw my parents in that photo in the corner Patricia saw her parents in that same photograph and Devin saw himself in Patricia’s seeing Mabedi saw “just” a couple Dejah saw infidelity, saw a man (like usual), cheating on his quintessential wife, saw “the woman is always alone” Tash saw this is both true and not, saw sharing space in silence, saw through smoke all the way to love, instead Jordan saw a city Jordan zoomed past us, saw Gotham ... saw nothing but in its concrete form Brenda helped us see, like a sudden torchlight in the fog of day, saw the need for bags of candy returning small favors, the need for voice to fill the studio with joy, serenity, and song— steadfast, keeping us in rhythm We all saw Lowell bouncing in the wind Roz saw the seashore, the need to change direction Rebecca noticed gesture, Shakiya saw subtle diﬀerences—neither of them fooled by twins Shakiya saw dissonance in identical faces, but Devin saw !e Shining and so avoided that photo Shakiya saw lines, lineages, trajectories: futures here, and out there too Roz saw embers from the bright fire of memory Jasmine found inspiration—a snippet of a story— and that every story is defined as much by the details it includes as by those it doesn’t Lauren saw that Jasmine ought to write more Rachel saw it all, and first Lauren sees and sews, fixes and frowns, opens doors and doors and doors Roz said she sees better with the glasses she lost You wait and see, I say, we may all yet be found 197
Mabedi saw a little boy who just lost his crush to his jock-bestfriend ... saw surface Amy saw two shadows of the young boy in his adult years ... saw depth Isn’t it amazing how we see diﬀerent things, like a woman pushing against the glass? Rachel saw something in my goofy bright white chucks and invited me into this family Mom-mom saw something special when she looked through her viewfinder Kyle saw himself and Victoria as passengers – siblings on diﬀerent paths to the same end: I saw how we always find ourselves side by side: in the studio in the car, in class, and on this adventure—her confidence—notes in hand, heart on sleeve, voice full—I saw us grow together, partners for life. Amy saw her ideas scatter, felt the craziest itch known to man, eyes deep: she sees and sees and does, and maybe needs to play in puddles We saw Norman’s eyes too, ever-dancing like his lines Tash saw him and Mark, wondered at the space between, and her wonder became a new space Devin saw it was safe to place his hat on the counter— saw writer’s block in two musicians, saw what we all saw but pieced it together ... saw connection Dejah saw Yusha rapping his favorite song Keyssh saw music lyrics could capture her best mind best—Keyssh, who sees through all our defenses I saw a woman trying to escape her darkness to enter the light (oh wait—that was me!) Matthew saw time walking in a city, saw his moment to go first had come, and we all saw the change he saw Carol saw that her right and le" snaps were diﬀerent Calvin saw that standing would let others see him, he saw Hudson Yards and what it wasn’t Kyle saw Dahmere less this year, but when he did, saw him in daylight I saw Kyle typing away at his computer with his headphones listening to the unknown 198
!e room saw all of our pictures, heard the tap-tapping of our pencils, our snaps ... heard us We all saw how precious life is Dejah saw pain, and Patricia—her mother’s Devin saw “creative constipation” We saw Dahmere in concentration, embracing life a"er graduation, learning to adapt outside his comfort zone, even though you can tell he has a particular mind Amy saw how anyone can be forced out into the rain And I saw sweetness, a tableful of beauty Jordan saw a dark knight, and Carol how to push through it I saw us look at the city and see wilderness We looked at a clock to see how time had, does, may yet change us all—and asked how do we want to be changed? Lauren reminded me writing doesn’t need to be perfect I told Dejah not every bad thing has to stay bad I saw a table of people writing / writing about pictures / pictures that seem black and white / still I saw people sitting and writing color / writing about the emotion that has drawn them together / drawn from them by this thing / this thing we call art Roz saw delight, because (she says) we all give her life We see it too, can show it to one another, hold it in our hands like a photograph or a poem or another person’s truth We all saw how life happens—in the most mundane moments, we all saw how connected we are And we saw that none of these things is so very hard to see —here in this room we are making
PART 3: Listening + Performance
Orange Juice Let it matter what we call a thing. - Solmaz Sharif We will take organic oranges Picked from trees Tended to on southern soil On stolen, Native land !at grew despite this We will take organic oranges Watered with rain and nurtured with cow dung fertilizer !e most sanctified of unions !e turning of something dead into something alive We will take organic oranges Photosynthesis running through the veins of trees We will call these veins branches Call the blood our â€œorange juiceâ€? Dripping upwards towards the sun, defying gravity We will take organic oranges Reaching high into the treetops for the so"est, ripest fruit We will find A creek Lay across the rocky bank and place the oranges in our laps Cut them open and squeeze the juice directly into our mouths Swallowing seeds, and all Because we are fierce like that We will take organic oranges Maybe also carrying them in baskets back to cottage Placing them in juicer machine and listening as technology crushes the life out of them !is ainâ€™t no Sunny D shit !is be that richness !is be that richness that can fuel any morning of the rebellion Vitamin C and naturally occurring sugars line our bellies Cause our fear to run away We will wash it down And out of us 202
In your memory because We are a commodity that canâ€™t aďŹ€ord pay for itself And you made sure to get in those punches despite Before placing the bottle on counter Looking clerk in the eye and walking away You were 15 years young. 13 days a"er Rodney King. In South Los Angeles Before the riots: Latasha Harlins You were a daughter Could have been mother Just another Black girl with post-secondary ambitions not worth living out I know you squabbled before she shot you down Bullet through the back of head. Money clutched in palm of hand (soil). Palm of - the jury Suggested 16-30 years in prison !e judge Settled on a $500 fine, 5 years probation, and 400 hours community service You were not done justice And I know You are dancing in the garden of Angels Parallel to that of the racists. Just picking your oranges. Placing them into baskets And looking the racists in the eye A"er We have taken organic oranges We will collect the seeds from juicer machine and go outside sticking them into Earth; !ere will be more where that came from For every orange is the same until a label is put on it 12ouncesunpasteurizedorganicpreservativefreecoldpressedwholefoods for $6 is not 20ouncespasteurizedfromconcentratewithhighfructosecornsyrupandartificialcolorminutemaid
for $1.99 203
What is the etymology of a tongue, An orange, An entity But a vessel for a Black girlâ€™s body? To be split Open To be planted as seed. To be ground up by the machine. Like that which goes unwatered and untucked into Earth And still manages to grow
Husnaa Hashim 204
Are you doing okay Are you doing okay, they ask me. I’m fine, I respond, but I know that I’m not. I’m fine, but not really. I am doing great, but horribly at the same time. I want to be alone, but I want to be with people at the same time. I am internally screaming, the words desperately climbing up my throat and rushing towards the mouth to shout to the world that I am NOT okay. But, they always seem to fall, short. !ey fall down once again, scathing my throat and causing an echo that only I can hear and feel. Can they not listen to my subtle sighs? Can they not listen to my uneasy tapping against the desk when I talk to them? Can they not listen to my silence? Or am I simply selfish… to expect people to not only hear, but listen to my sorrow echoes within. So they ask me again, hey, how are you? I sigh, look at them with woeful eyes, and say: Hey! I’m doing good, how are you?
Ho June Rhee 205
How do we listen to something? Do we listen only using our ears? !e soundwaves traverse through the air, to the eardrums through the greasy or dry, dark tunnels, our own great canyon. Or, do we listen with our whole body? If the sound is a vibration, doesn’t it also travel through our every single bone and every single pore? We would like to think that we can hear somebody from afar, if we shout across the street to the little girl that has forgotten to pack her lunchbox, if we put the music from our favorite guitarist into a metal box, if we call our loved ones, trusting somehow that invisible signal somehow sends our hearts and souls to the other end of the earth. “But maybe not,” I thought to myself on my single bed, holding my cell phone, with my partner’s voice coming through my headphone. I heard what he said, but somehow the words just weren’t quite right. So close but yet so far.
Shan Zeng 206
She Approached on a Still Nite She approached on a still nite, spotted me during mid-flight Her flesh, cold like steel, yet it feels nice Got me feeling sourly bout a real life Emotions transcends into pain that you can't kill right No matter how many pills you down with all your might With the realization that you will never gonna get right Damaged goods, soon to expire without any shelf life She said that she knows what it's like To live in a world so sunny and bright But never seems nice So take my hand and allow me to indulge in my appetite Once bitten and you'll know the joys of the a"erlife No pain, no love, nor hurt I guess that's why it's called the gi" and the curse !ru the shadows, she found her lost boy To be eternally betrothed with only lust for her I admit, I entertain the jester Gainin' forever for exchange for the pains Gainin' her for exchange of what course thru my veins See this is an immortal love, someone I can't get old what Someone I can wake up every night and be with cold with From dusk to dawn we dance in the twilight But this ain't no movie story... !is is actual, which makes it fantastical She proceeded to tell me she was the victim of Lady Bathory And centuries she sailed the nite so lonely Only if there was someone who understands her like I feel her unbeatin heart And not play the slayer and stake it apart Now my new love needs some Tru Blood sustain herself So I oblige her request And there it is I took my last undying breath As the lights began to get dim I know this is not a dream I know this is not for pretend I just hope I let the right one in Emanuel Mcgill 207
If I close my eyes If I close my eyes and think of the word “Nepal,” a lot of sounds come vividly into my head, and my heart. I heard the sound of the Tibetan children where I worked. !ey were laughing under the extremely hot sun; they were screaming to each other to pass the ball; they were calling out my name and put some bread in my pocket. I heard the sound of the traﬃc jam on my way to the school; it made me think of the chaos that I love so much of Nepal. !e chaos seen in the unpaved roads; in the voice of the vendors; on the road; in the prayers of the pilgrims who walked around Stupa. !ey were singing mantra, with this peaceful melody “Om mani pema om” that could so vividly sooth my heart whenever. I tried to hear them, by thinking about them. !ese imaginary sounds are beautiful.
The Soundscape !e soundscape is too piercing as it reminds of the death, hurt, pain, loss—it triggers a real desire to retreat and never return. !e sirens, the resulting images conjured up of children, mothers, and fathers of siblings le" incomplete and toddlers le" with one less parent. !e unimaginable grief that envelops hearts, and (something) and causes those le" behind to forever deal with trauma and disbelief, with unenviable moments of (something), with hopelessness and helplessness, with thoughts of… It’s called senseless violence… this scene happens far too o"en… too many onlookers have become numb…
Cheryl Mobley-Stimpson 208
Stairs To Nowhere I have an exploitative relationship with an area near Somerset and Frankford. It’s a couple side streets with stairways leading to raised vacant lots, once stairways to the houses that used to be there. It’s a striking area because of the decay and the unusual stair setup. I showed a dozen of my hipster friends this place when they were visiting from L.A. from Chicago, New York, Baltimore etc. I know a few others I have in this category too. I haven’t bothered lately though, not out of a socio-political virtue, just a bit of laziness. Also, I’ve seen it too o"en. I kind of want to refresh it in my mind sometime soon though. !e memory is a little hazy.
I Love the Sounds of Home I love the sounds of home, and there is no particular reason why I love it, I guess it’s just because it is home. I love how noisy it is outside of my window every morning. !e car horns, the yelling of parents, the greetings of people, everything blends so well together. But inside the house, it is empty. My family never really wakes up early, and we will have slow morning whenever we can. I love it how I have my own quiet bubble while the society and people are still rushing and moving outside, it is pure serendipity.
Linh Tran 209
Duck (Spotlight on JESSE, a very disheveled young man in a t-shirt and shorts, sitting in a chair, stage right. He’s staring blank faced at something on stage le#. Lights out.) (Spotlight on !e Duck, standing on a coﬀee table, stage le#. Plastic, hunting prop, taxidermied, hell, it can be a real duck if it’s a trained one. Do those exist? !e Duck stares back at Jesse. Lights out.) (Spotlights on both of them. Staring at each other.) (Lights up. Behind Jesse are DAVE and MIKE, Jesse’s roommates. !ey’re staring at Jesse staring at !e Duck.) DAVE Is... is he... staring at the duck again? MIKE I think so. (a beat) How long do you think they’ve been at it this time? DAVE I don’t know, five minutes? Ten? An hour? MIKE !ink he’ll be done soon, or?.... DAVE Maybe? !ink we should interrupt them? Or... MIKE He’s only more annoying to deal with then. Like he thinks we don’t know what he’s been doing for the last hour. DAVE Maybe we should just leave them alone. MIKE What, you scared the duck’s gonna peck at you or something? DAVE No. Yes. Maybe. I’m kinda just worried about him. MIKE Well I’m not. (A long beat.) 210
DAVE God- JESSE. Come on man, snap out of it. We’re really worried about you. (Dave snaps his fingers in front of Jesse’s face. Nothing.) MIKE Jesse, this is gettin’ real old real fast. Come on. (Mike gets in front of him, lightly slaps his face.) JESSE Wuh? (He’s still trying to stare at !e Duck.) MIKE Jesse, come on, get up. JESSE Yeah, hold on. (Jesse limply waves them oﬀ.) (!ey’re between Jesse and !e Duck now, a bit upstage as to not interrupt their eye contact.) MIKE Why the fuck did you get the duck? DAVE I don’t know, I thought it’d be funny. MIKE What’s funny about a duck? DAVE I don’t know, it’s a duck. It’s funny. (a beat) I guess it’s funny. MIKE Well when you’re strung out, apparently it’s fucking mindblowing. DAVE Well, animals are-- fascinating? I guess? I mean, they’re interesting. Right? MIKE Interesting enough to stare at a duck for hours a week? Where did you even get it from? DAVE A guy in an alley. (A beat.) 211
MIKE What? DAVE A guy in an alley. (Mike moves his hand in a “keep going” motion.) DAVE In Chinatown. MIKE Right, that totally clears things up. DAVE What? You asked where I got it from, that’s where I got it from. MIKE A guy. In an alley. In Chinatown. Was selling ducks. DAVE Yeah. And quails and chickens and rabbits too. You know, for... eating. And I thought maybe it’d be a funny idea to buy one. But I told the guy not to kill the duck, and he gave me this weird look about it, maybe because of the language barrier? And— MIKE Alright, stop. (Mike walks over to Jesse, waves his hands in front of him. He doesn’t move. He walks over to !e Duck, kneels down, waves his hand in front of it. !e Duck doesn’t move. He looks back and forth between Jesse and !e Duck.) DAVE !is is freaking me out. MIKE !is is pissing me oﬀ. DAVE Why do you think he keeps staring at it? MIKE How the hell should I know? DAVE He keeps doing it, there must be some reason. MIKE Whatever it is, it’s a poor excuse to just stare at a duck all day. DAVE Do you think the duck... knows? 212
MIKE Knows what? It’s a duck. DAVE But like, what if it... knows. MIKE Yeah? (to Jesse) Yo, Jesse. (Mike covers !e Duck’s eyes.) JESSE Huh? (Jesse blinks, rubs his eyes. He speaks as if he’s just come out of a stupor. Because he has.) MIKE Jesse. JESSE What? MIKE What does the duck know? JESSE !e Duck? It knows, man. DAVE See? MIKE Shut up. (to Jesse) Quit bein’ an asshole, staring at the duck. It’s a fuckin’ duck. Who gives a shit? DAVE What if it’s more than a duck? JESSE It’s more than a duck. It’s !e Duck. MIKE Yeah? What’s it have, hypnosis or something? How do you just sit there starin’ at it for hours at a time? JESSE It just... knows, man. (Mike throws up his hands in frustration, walks away from !e Duck.) MIKE Unbelievable. (He points at Jesse.) 213
MIKE Don’t go back to looking at it. JESSE I won’t. It’s fine dude, relax. MIKE Relax? How am I supposed to relax if you’re just being useless all day? We can’t even talk to you when you’re like this. JESSE Just chill ou— MIKE No! I’m not gonna just “chill out,” okay? Do you know how shitty you’ve been since you started staring at that duck? It’s amazing we haven’t kicked you out yet. You’ve been late on rent for the last two months, you haven’t done anything around the house, hell, look at yourself, you haven’t even taken any care of your own damn self. All you do is stare at that fucking duck. (to Dave) Back me up here. DAVE Jesse, man, you’ve uh... You haven’t really been yourself lately. JESSE What’re you talking about guys? I’m fine. DAVE Well, not really. You’ve just been—staring. At... (He looks to !e Duck, tries to avoid its gaze.) DAVE (whispers) !e Duck. JESSE Guys, I’m fine. I can stop staring at !e Duck whenever I want. MIKE !en how come you keep doing it? JESSE ‘Cause... you know. It’s more fun to. MIKE What, just sitting in the living room staring at a duck is fun? Go outside, do something. Be a productive member of society. And quit staring at that duck! JESSE All right, fine. MIKE Fine. 214
(Mike looks to Dave.) DAVE Uh... fine? MIKE And we’re going to get rid of the duck. JESSE Yeahhh.... Tomorrow. We can get rid of !e Duck tomorrow. (Jesse stares back into !e Duck’s eyes.) JESSE Tomorrow, I swear. MIKE Oh no. No, no, no, we’re getting rid of that fucking thing today. JESSE Tomorrow. MIKE Today! DAVE Jesse, I think we should get rid of !e Duck today. JESSE Yeah yeah, hang on. DAVE (to Mike) Maybe one more day wouldn’t hurt? JESSE Yeah, one more day. MIKE Quit enabling him! (to Jesse) Dude, you’ve got a serious duck problem, alright? We’re worried. JESSE It’s fine. I told you, I can quit whenever I want. MIKE !en fucking quit now! JESSE I don’t want to. MIKE And that’s the fucking problem! We’re getting rid of that thing today, whether you want to or not. DAVE Maybe we shouldn’t make him quit cold turkey? 215
MIKE It’s not a turkey it’s a FUCKING DUCK. DAVE It’s just an expression. JESSE Hey man, I don’t harsh your guys’s vibe. Don’t harsh mine, alright? MIKE Harsh your vibe? Who talks like that anymore? DAVE Duck addicts? MIKE Shut up! DAVE Mike, if he just wants to stare at !e Duck, why not let him? It’s not like he’s hurting anyone. MIKE What? DAVE I mean, he could be doing worse. MIKE !at’s not the point. DAVE Yeah, but it makes him feel good, what’s wrong with that? He’s been having a pretty hard time lately. What’s wrong with letting him have !e Duck? He was in a rough spot and now... he’s more relaxed, he’s not as tensed up as he used to be, he’s... happier? And he’s not getting all up in his head anymore. I think !e Duck’s really been helping him out. Maybe people who stare at ducks all day aren’t bad, they just have problems and that’s their way of dealing with them. Maybe duck addicts are just people who are in a tough situation and it’s just a temporary fix for them while they get back on their feet, and then they’ll go back to normal once they find themselves in a better place. (A beat.) MIKE Get the fuck out of here with that bullshit. (to Jesse) Jesse, we’re getting rid of !e Duck. Now. (Mike reaches for !e Duck. Jesse scrambles out of his chair, grabs Mike by the legs.) 216
MIKE Jesse, what the fuck—? JESSE Hey man, I really need this right now, okay? Don’t do this to me. MIKE It’s for your own good. JESSE !is won’t help—I promise I’ll get better. I promise! MIKE We’re trying to help you—seriously, Jesse, let go. JESSE Just one more day. !at’s all I’m askin’ for. What’s wrong with just one more? MIKE I’m not feeding your duck habit. DAVE Actually, I feed !e Duck. MIKE Dave! DAVE What? It just eats bread and stuﬀ. MIKE !at’s not what I meant. (to Jesse) Get up. JESSE !e Duck is all I got right now. Please. MIKE Jesse— JESSE Come on, man. I just— I just— (truly, sadly, very pathetically desperate) I just need this. (Mike looks at him apprehensively. He looks to !e Duck, then Dave.) DAVE We’ll get rid of it tomorrow morning? (Mike nods.) MIKE Tomorrow. (to Jesse) We’re getting rid of !e Duck tomorrow. !en we’re getting you some help. Now let go of me. (Jesse nods vigorously, lets go of Mike.) 217
JESSE !ank you guys. I’ll get better, I promise. MIKE Alright man. JESSE I mean it! MIKE Yeah. (to Dave) Come on. (Mike and Dave exit stage le#. Dave takes a look back at !e Duck as he walks past it, Mike slaps his shoulder.) (Lights down, except for the spotlight on the table. Jesse kneels directly in front of !e Duck, staring at it.) (Lights out.) END OF PLAY On Process: Duck, like many great ideas, started as a random thought that came from an inebriated friend with zero context or explanation. From a guy on a couch looking at what’s revealed to be a duck, it spun into a very obvious analogy for addiction. With the direction and focus his writing tends to take, he’s glad it managed to stay on track while keeping the ridiculousness of a duck being onstage the entire time. —KZ
6 Lyric Essays: Sounds
I went to my first Writers Room workshop in the spring term of my senior year of college. Following the 2015 CoAS Distinguished Lecture with Candy Chang, I sat on an uncomfortable stool on an early spring morning in Ryan Hall with a bunch of strangers and wrote about what we wanted to do before we die. Pretty standard WR fare for a first meeting with a bunch of people you don't really know. !e responses spanned the gamut--swimming with whales, going to Johannesburg, having a family--nothing felt oﬀ limits or banal. I wrote: "Before I Die I want to reconcile." !at didn't happen. Perhaps it never will. But I le" that workshop having learned things I didn't know before. Sometimes I wonder about how many times I probably zip-zapped by the people in that workshop--on the street, in crowded hallways between classes, lost in whatever soundtrack constitutes the static of the everyday. In that workshop, we came face to face in a way that felt overwhelmingly significant. Implicitly we asked one another to really listen to what we were saying. !rough the completion of a simple sentence we told stories of our fears, our victories, our desires, ourselves. Since then, I've become a much better listener. !ese days, it feels like a mode I tend to occupy more than any other. As I've become a teacher, this feels especially so. When I made the decision to theme my ENGL 102 course on music, sound, and noise, I made the epigraph (I'm a sucker for epigraphs) to my syllabus a lyric from Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," -- you know it; I'm sure: 'Dearly Beloved, we have gathered here today/To get through this thing called life'. I want my students to take the risks I am afraid to. I am privileged to know and teach these people, I cannot wait to see who they become and that is in part why I asked them to write a lyric essay as their final paper. As a teacher, almost everything seems secondary to my desire that my students know that not only is their voice unique, it is heard, respected, honored. In a world in which we are seemingly consistently sonically assailed: text messages, traﬃc, breath, the news, it felt important. A utopian vision in the college classroom of 2019. I am grateful to Kyle, Calvin, and Lauren for the time they spent with my 102 students, walking them through a fantastic lyric essay workshop and helping to mine the sounds in their lives to produce what you will have the pleasure of reading here. Indeed as Barthes suggests (emphasis his), "We must repeat, listening speaks."
Jen Jolles, ‘15/’17 221
Goin’ Through It !e student that I am, !e athlete that I have become, !e person that I like to think I have made myself into, Could not be without him. !e trials and tribulations that my father and I have endured are like no other. !rough the worst of the worst and the best of the best, that man has stayed steadfast in his love and support for me. We lean on each other for advice and helping each other through diﬀerent situations regardless of our age diﬀerence. He is the first person that comes to mind when I think about someone who has inspired me to be great. I am great because he raised me to be. !e overthinker that I am, !e confidence-lacking woman I have become, !e Caroline that I do not always like so much, Has been and continues to be because of her. My trials and tribulations stem from the trauma that I endured from my mother at a young age to now. !e worst of the worst times were made even less bearable when she tried to strip me of everything I had. !e best of the best times were made to seem less important because she was not in the spotlight. I cannot lean on her for anything because everything comes with a cost. She is the first person to come to mind when I think about someone who made me think that I was not worth anything. I am strong because if I did not get strength from myself, she might have killed me. He tells me that I am beautiful, She tells me that I need more makeup to cover the acne I cannot prevent. He tells me my time will come, She questions whether it will happen or not. He makes the drive, She worries there will be too much traﬃc. He got me to the tournaments and helped me get recruited, She only showed up when the newspaper was taking a picture. I grew up with divorced parents. At the age of twelve, I was put into a position that would haunt me for the rest of my life and would aﬀect every single thing that ever happened to me from then on. A position where I had to make a choice and suﬀer the consequences for it. 222
!e choices were a) mom or b) dad. I chose b. I still remember the day I chose. It was one of the most nerve wracking days of my life. My mom and I had gotten into our 428th fight about whatever she felt like fighting about at the time and my brain decided I was done. I was done with the screaming and getting pushed down staircases and watching my sisters’ scared, tear-filled eyes as they watched me battle the monster. It made me feel embarrassed. I dialed my father’s number and the rest was history. !e sound of my heavy breathing packing his Landrover with everything I immediately needed and the panicked rushing around of my dad going in and out of the house he was technically banned from still triggers anxiety within me when thinking about it. His engine revving as we pulled away from the house and the woman that were beginning to destroy me still lingers in my mind. !at is not the end, though. !ere still is yet to be an end. She came home, saw that her enemy was gone, and went nuts. My phone must have rang a billion times before I finally gained the courage to face what I had done. I tried to ignore it, but the tone would not stop. “How could you do this?” “You’ll never make it without me.” “You are such an ungrateful, spoiled brat.” “Why did God give me you?” “I regret ever having you.” !ese are things that I have been told over and over again year a"er year to this current day. Words that when spoken into the air become bombs to self worth. I do not think I have ever been the same since they have been said. Cusick says that music and sound can be used as weapons of torture, and I agree with this wholeheartedly. Except instead of being used in an actual war, my mother employs sounds of verbal abuse and screaming as her forms of torture. I find myself being tormented by the mind games she plays. !ese sounds did not stop until I made the move. !e move to be in a place of serenity- a place where I could be myself and grow into the woman I so desperately wanted to be. !e first thing I noticed about his home was the silence. !e beautiful, 223
desperately needed silence. Silence sometimes has a negative connotation about it, but a"er spending years in a house where my ears were pierced day in and day out, I felt relieved. Bellot agrees with this, as she recognizes that silence is more important than sound. !e silence allowed me to figure out my plan going forward- how I was going to forget the hardships I had been facing and create a new me. A"er enjoying the silence, it was time to make my own music. My music came in the form of my laughter, my excitedness, and my calm breathing. No longer were the days where I would hide in my room and try to escape the madness that was my mother. I started to become a better athlete, a better student, and a better human being overall. Knowing that I could come home to a person who did not scold and insult me the moment I would walk through the door gave me the freedom to try new things and not fear the consequences. I could make the decisions I wanted to make. All because I had a man who supported me no matter what and made sure that the only sounds surrounding me were ones of motivation and encouragement. And I did it. I did it for him. I did it for myself. I did it to make up for the time I lost as a child. Now, one may not even recognize that I was once a victim of sounds. A victim of being pushed around by screaming and insults. I am able to store away the times of brokenness and create times of happiness for myself and those around me. I create my own music and sounds and only let people in my life that will not squash the positive nature of them. From my childhood, I recognize the power of being a person who supports others and only spews sounds of positivity and genuine concern for others. !is helped me land a soccer scholarship to the school of my dreams and help others land theirs. !is helped me create a new group of friends in college who I cannot imagine my life without. !is helps me to continue to create an amazing life. I thank sounds for putting me in the worst of times. If they did not, I may not be as strong as I am today and would not recognize just how important it is to take care of myself and escape situations that could destroy me. I will forever only produce sounds that support healthy life in hopes that I save a child from wondering if they are enough.
Caroline Thompson 224
Two Kinds of Love to Share: The Golden Garden State Paradise’s Gifts on the Senses Breathe in. !ere’s the heavy fragrance of saltwater all around you. !e sun is bright, as is the outlook of the foreseeable future. !e heat warms your body, but while you cross over the bridge, it warms your heart. Breathe out. Feel your worries dissipate and leave your being. Life begins anew once you cross the bridge, and for your stay it will be only enjoyment and relief from life’s usual burdens. Seaside Heights, the place I visit every year on vacation, keeps me going regardless of the time of year. !e bridge from Tom’s River serves as my rainbow bridge into a land I so long for every year, even though I know it will always be there for me. Open your eyes. See the waves lap at the shore and the rocks at each end of the bridge. Watch the road behind you melt away as you hit the middle of the bridge, all while seeing nothing but your dreams in front of you. Watch the boats speed past, eating at the water like a child at the giraﬀe ice cream truck. Sit down on the beach and see everyone around you loving life in every way, choosing to do the same for yourself as well. I could sit on the beach for hours, soaking in the warmth, feeling the cool kiss of the Atlantic, listening to everyone love the world and believing everything is perfect just for a little bit. Reach out and feel. Touch the sand. On the dunes, so so" as it falls through your fingers and flies away in the gentle ocean breeze. Walk towards the ocean and feel the sand give way just a little bit with every step, as if clouds are being placed upon each of your steps, letting you feel nothing but a so" resistance. !e sand changes to a hard mixture, but still lets you sink in to the earth. Feel the cold nip of the water at your toes. It may be a shock in the heat of the sun, but it is a welcome one. Stand, right where the water meets the shore, and now close your eyes. Paradise welcomes you. Everything around you fades away as you feel content and secure. 225
I let myself stand here until my urges to move further in or return to my chair move me. Either choice continues to soothe my mind and soul. !ere are no wrong choices, as you are always in control of what you want to do. Take a moment to listen. !e seagulls call from above, almost like sirens, but to an actual paradise and place of happiness. Listen to the so" crashes and rushes of water over the shells and sand. !e water comes in, stays to cleanse what it covers, then retreats once again. Let yourself be washed of worry. Go to the boardwalk and listen the bustle. It is a good kind of busy, as you listen to game stalls advertise themselves and urge those lucky winners to “pick a prize, any prize.” Listen to the rides and screams of joy from those of all ages as they continue to soak in the good life. Nightfall is here and the air is cool. Everyone stays to enjoy a little more before they return to their houses or rooms. !e boardwalk is full of life. I love going into the arcades, listening to the explosion of video games, claw machines, and ticket dispensers. Everywhere is a high score or some tantalizing prize that you may never obtain, but that isn’t the point. Savor the taste of life. !e boardwalk is home to many flavors for any pallet. You stop into !ree Brothers from Italy and grab a slice of their cheese pizza. Never before have you seen a single slice take up two entire paper plates. It is authentic Italian, made from those continue to keep Jersey’s heritage alive. !e so", yet crunchy crust gives way to a just cheesy enough layer, complimented only by the so", almost sweet taste of the tomato sauce. Stop by Steaks Unlimited and grab a cheesesteak and tart lemonade. Hot, made however you want, delectable, and always a welcome addition to a night’s activities. !e lemonade you sip is made fresh, so tart it becomes almost sweet. Nothing aids in continuing the taste of Seaside like a sip of lemonade as you peruse the boardwalk. !e only place I love more than the boardwalk eats is Bum Rodger’s Crab house. In tradition, visiting Bum’s is an almost nightly, guaranteed weekly occurrence for whoever wants to go. Within easy walking distance, nothing stops any of us from going at any time of day or night and having some good food and drink. Enjoy life. 226
You’re safe here. Seaside is a place to do whatever you want to do. Take recommendations, but never follow. Seaside is what you make it. No matter what, worries wash away. Work might be looming when you return, but it isn’t there with you in seaside. Troubles and sadness are washed away in the ocean and purified from your soul in the golden sun. Take everything in and feel the so" embrace of love upon each of your senses. Take time to appreciate everything around you and bring nothing but smiles and positive thoughts. No matter the point in my life, Seaside is always there. I can always count on Seaside to liberate me of any darkness. Loving life is just a byproduct of being there. I wrote this piece in an attempt to appeal to each of the senses. I wrote in a 3rd person style, with a short anecdote about my time in Seaside. Everyone needs a little time to relax, and in the wake of finals and grading, I think we both deserve that. Even if it is just a mental escape, a picture of the warm summer might help continue to get through everything.
John F. Fluks Jr. A man who helped make the person I am today. My grandfather from my dad’s side, he passed away July 2013. !is will not be a sad remembrance, but instead, a chance for me to reflect on who I have become in his wake, while also talking about what we had. Frank Sinatra. Plain and simple, one of the greatest artists to ever live. My love for Sinatra was self-founded, but only reinforced by my father’s side of the family’s love for him. I’ll never forget my Uncle’s face when he heard I liked Sinatra as well. !e so" and loving melody of “My Way” was played at his viewing and has become an anthem for me. Living life how I see fit, with nothing swaying me from feeling fulfilled in life. Every time I hear the song, I take time to reflect on everything I have done so far. It allows me to think about whether I have made my grandfather proud or not. I always want to be someone who can be admired or looked to for inspiration and allowing to look at myself in such a way helps with that. Seaside was such a beautiful place with him. !ere was always an adventure to be had, with my only regret being I was too young to 227
fully enjoy and understand all of it. Stories of our late nights playing cornhole or walking around a"er a night at Bumâ€™s or just relaxing at the beach. When I was younger, he used to build big pits in the sand, breaking his back just to give my little sister and I something to play in. He would build and pat down a staircase down into it, a bench to sit on inside of it, and sometimes get it close enough to the ocean that the tide would come spilling in. A huge part of why Seaside means so much to me is all the memories that we created there as a family. To let them go would be to let a piece of myself go. I find myself thinking about him o"en still, mainly wishing he could see the man Iâ€™ve become and the one Iâ€™m on the track to be. I wish I could know if he likes who I am now. I miss him a lot, but I am thankful for the impact he had on who I am. I just wanted to keep this part short, as it is hard to work into the style of the essay. I chose to write in a conversational style, as I feel stories and feelings like this are best conveyed when the writer is personable and open. It was hard to write this second part, but it allowed me to commit to the rare act of opening up and letting myself be true to me. I wanted to write this second part to give a peak into who I am without the confines of a traditional essay.
Troy Fluks 228
Penn Valley Although my time at Penn Valley elementary was brief, a couple of triggers bring me back to that chapter of my life. !e first of which is the “Clean Up” song: clean up, clean up everybody do your share. It is strange to think that such a generic rhythm about simply cleaning up can cause such an emotional response , but as the Cyprus Primary School points out, music in school is essential in, “assist[ing] students’ progressive entry into the world of sounds, develop their musical sensitivity through the understanding and use of sound patterns, which are an essential element to the development of their inner emotional and innate musical abilities…” Every time I hear that tune I remember a time when I was building a castle out of colored cardboard blocks. !e teacher began humming it as a little warning. I knew what that meant, and what was going to follow, so I took precautionary action by grabbing a foam sword. When she finally started singing the song I knew my castle was in danger of being torn down, but I was simply too attached to it. I decided to ignore her tune. Because of my rebelliousness, another kid thought he was in the right and came over to knock down my structure. I did not agree with his stance and took the opportunity to assert my dominance by throwing down my sword and fighting him like a boy: by biting right into his arm. Woodlynde I attended the Woodlynde school for roughly five years a"er my parents discovered I had a learning diﬀerence. Initially, it was hard to understand what made me diﬀerent as there were no obvious signs. However, the longer I stayed in Penn Valley the more I noticed my peers excelling at academics while my ability to learn seemed to have halted. On my first day of school one of the very first things I did—besides get oﬀ the school bus—was cry. It was a new environment for me and I was laughably unprepared. But something that took my attention away from the situation and ultimately become one of my fondest memories was the word ring. !e very concept of the word ring was laughable to me even then. It was exactly as it sounds, a ring with flashcards 229
used to help struggling students to read. !e song we had for it was sung so much that I hated it at the time: “Word ring, word ring, where is your word ring? It will help you learn, read and succeed.” But it did in fact get my mind oﬀ of the scary new environment. Despite us only using the word ring within the third grade, I remember it so fondly because it did help me to read. I went from mixing up my B’s and D’s to being able to read and write at an exceptional level. What makes this song such an important one is that it defined the moment when my education really took oﬀ. I remember a day when our teacher promised that if we all got our words done within a short timeframe, we would be allowed to play on the smart board all a"ernoon. It was my turn, and Mrs. Brown was not going to take it easy on me. !e first word I got was “actor,” I nailed it, then came “bag” and then “duck.” I continued to get them right. Once we reached the a"ernoon our whole class was singing the word ring song as proof of our victory. Shipley Upon arriving at Shipley in the seventh grade I did not know what to expect. Like Woodlynde, it was a new and scary experience for which I was woefully underprepared. !e kids were much smarter, and they were tightly knit as most of them had attended the academy since elementary school. I struggled to find my place within the food chain and eventually found myself at the bottom. A role that I actually embraced. I saw that my educational needs far outweighed that of my social status. Fast forward a few years and I have made friends, but I am still struggling to figure out who I truly am. I am like that of TwoFace, the Batman villain. I have two conflicting personalities that struggle against each other to establish dominance of my psyche. In 9th grade I was prescribed Adderall, a drug that has academically allowed me to flourish while inhibiting my sociability. While on the stimulant my focus was unwavering. Previously I was unable to work in a noisy room, then all of the sudden I could tune out whatever I wanted. !e issue was that I was lonely with only my Woodlynde friends to truly support me. I liked my actual personality much more as it was more carefree and dare I say awesome(r). 230
Honestly, there were some dark times. One of the major side eﬀects of Adderall is depression. But through the assistance of music and parental support I was able to survive and sort of flourish. !e song that hit me the deepest was “Fortress” by Illenium. !e lyrics really spoke to my situation and mental state. I remember laying in bed staring up the ceiling in a dark room. !e only light was coming from the outside and I really wanted to go out and do stuﬀ with friends. But I was unable to, due to this overwhelming need to complete my homework. I remember crying, the tears sliding down my face as I thought to myself, “God what is wrong with me?” and then I put this song on. It talks about how my heart is a fortress and I always have this sort of armor on, which I felt like I did. It was an armor made of Adderall and social anxiety that was extremely hard to shed. !is moment is especially vivid within my memory because it is when I decided to stop taking Adderall during the school day. I did not care about my grades, nor did I care what people thought of me. I just wanted to be happy. A rather fleeting feeling that I had never really gotten the chance to revel in.
Cole Sweetman 231
Jump !e tracks look so intriguing. What would happen? Enticed. Feet touching the edge of the yellow line. Toes over the edge. Hanging in the air. I could just jump. Time goes on for an eternity. I see no further. !e train speeds by and the trance ends. !e void lets go of its grip. L’appel du vide was first coined by the French to designate the intrusive thoughts, or desires to engage in destructive behaviors during everyday life. More specifically, it’s that feeling you get when you have a sudden urge to jump in front of a bus or out of a window, just because the opportunity presents itself. L’appel du vide translates directly into “the call of the void.” To this day, this phenomenon still perplexes many. Twelve years old. Gazing over New York City from the top of the empire state building. One hundred and two stories up. Almost thirteen hundred feet in the sky. I could see everything. I glanced down the steep plunge to the roads. Suddenly, I felt this urge to jump. I became intrigued by the thought of what would happen. Where would I land? Would there be blood? !e wind blowing through my hair felt like the cold kiss of death. Darkness surrounded me. It was disturbing to realize I was capable of thinking such dark thoughts regardless of the fact that I was having a rather wholesome day. I quickly backed away and shook the temptations out of my head. What is it that we are truly afraid of? Spiders? Clowns? Heights? Darkness? Dying? No. We don’t fear those things. We fear what those things might cause. !e unknowing. !e emptiness. !e Void. !ere are two current theories about the call of the void. !e first theory is that humans are programmed to selfsabotage and the other is that this feeling is our bodies’ way of appreciating life. Both of these theories state that the call of the void is caused by the unconscious mind. It is important to know that there is no correlation between the call of the void and mentally ill or suicidal people. !is is because suicide is o"en premeditated and is not an impulsive act. Every once in a while, the void still calls to me. Whether it’s when I’m looking out the window from the top of a building, waiting for the subway to go home, or if I’m driving around 232
my hometown. When I feel the void, it’s like this dark and mysterious curiosity that is longing for me. What would happen if I jumped? What if I drive into that giant dogwood tree next to that windy road by my house? Sometimes I let myself sink into those disturbing thoughts for a while before I finally snap myself out of it. I will never actually act on those thoughts; they are just very intriguing. !ose thoughts come with the wind. !e cold, dark, mysterious wind. !ey also go with the wind. Maybe they are the wind. !e void consumes everything until you're nothing but bones. Unable to do anything except cower in fear. !e unknowing knows us. But we don’t know the unknown. Forever is never safe. Even bones aren't forever. !e call of the void is frightening yet intriguing because it is all about the unknown. Its name is literally saying that the unknown is calling you. !e unknown is both fascinating and alarming. Having the ability to do something that has an unknown outcome is astonishing to everyone. !e call of the void to reaches out for everyone. Whether it be something ominous like jumping oﬀ a cliﬀ or something less jeopardizing like starting a new job. In both scenarios, there is an unknown. !e void. Above all else. !e city goes on for miles. Horizon. Come closer. Only feet away from the edge. Closer. !e edge is underneath now. Heartbeat racing. Gasping for air. Jump. Do you feel it? !e pull? It’s always there.
Alexis Srogota 233
Evolution of Sounds in my Life Raised in the Middle East I was raised in Kuwait, a Middle Eastern country, for the entirety of my childhood. Since it has been a while since I have le" that country, just as the field of Psychology states, memories started to decay as time went by. However, the memories that I still have are somehow connected to sounds. Since I lived in an Islamic state, mosques were to be found on every other block. !ere were speakers set outside of each mosque and those speakers were used five times a day to pray out loud by the leader of the mosque. My house was directly in front of one, so that acted as an alarm for me to wake up each day. However, the only problem with that was that it happened at 5 AM, which is not an ideal time for a middle schooler to wake up. !e reciter of this “Alarm” had a very deep voice, yet very melodic and he also sounded as if he was in his old age. !e contents of the prayer are still not known to me, as it is in Arabic. An incident that I specifically remember happened in seventh grade during my term finals and my national exams. I remember studying until 2 AM and went to bed really tired and exhausted. However, I did not remind or warn myself about the 5 AM prayer-alarm-routine that happened every day. Literally two and a half hours into sleep, I was woken by my “alarm”. I could not go back to sleep that day because the stress for the exam started to cloud around me, thus explains my inability to go to bed. Since I was extremely exhausted, I remember passing out in the middle of my exam. However, I got a very good grade on that exam, which is something that surprises me till date. At the same time, I believe I was gi"ed that grade because of the work I put in and also the struggles I went through. Moving to the United States I moved to the United States in 2014, when I was 13 years old. !is moving was one of the most unexpected events that happened in my life. I knew paperwork where getting processed for this move to happen, but I never expected things to happen so fast. !is is ironic because it took 12 years since filling to get the visa, but when an individual has many memories and life 234
commitments tied up to a place, a move could definitely feel like an extremely fast change. !e sound that I have tied up to this event is the voice of my father informing me about the move: "Jewel, we are moving to the US in 4 months, tomorrow we are coming to your school to get the transfer certificate," he said, in a medium-deep voice. !is was one of the moments in my life when the entire universe felt like it took a brief pause. I was not ready for a change, I was not ready to leave my friends and start a new journey. Another sound related event that is tied up to this event is the diﬀerence in accent. People sounded very diﬀerent from where I came. !e language spoken was the same but the expression of those words was diﬀerent. American expression of certain words is very relaxed, without much stress to certain alphabets like the R’s and the T’s, whereas the accent that I was exposed to in my childhood, stressed every single R’s, T’s and etc. I remember the moment when I was wonderstruck when I heard the visa oﬃcer at the airport speak to us. !is is the moment when I learned that the people in American movies do not sound weird, but there are actual people in this world that sound like this. High School High School was the beginning of a whole another phase in my schooling life. !e first scene I saw as I walked into my school were two kids fighting and cursing each other out. I remember telling myself, "Whelp, seems like I am at the right place." I said that to myself because my cousins warned me that my high school was a known hub for many fights. !ey warned me to stay out of it. However, at the same time, there were a group of kids and teachers who were extremely nice to each other. !ey were even nice to me, someone whom they do not know. Since I have been raised in the middle east where the majority of the population are Arabs, the Arabs do not typically treat others in a respectful fashion at first sight. !ey are o"en unexplainably rude to others until they get to know the person !e voice of my ELL teacher is the voice that I associate with this chapter of my life. He told me "You are new here... You would 235
see and hear things that may oﬀend you, but always stay out of the way of the bad guys." !at statement by him literally scared me because being an immigrant, who is not accustomed to the standards of others in this country, it is nearly impossible to stay out of the way of the bullies. However, nothing happened to me during those years. I only had to fear those bullies when I was in the regular leveled classes because they were usually found in those classes, but as I moved up levels throughout my academic career at High School, the fear began to depart from me because now I did not have to deal with many of them on a day to day basis, also I grew as a person and was able to adapt fairly quickly. Meeting my best buddies at Drexel I met Vijay on the first day of my college life. I walked up to him saying “Hi, my name is Jewel. I was in math with you too.” He responded, “Yes, I noticed you too.” Since then started the memories I had with my current group of friends. Although it was not that long ago, this day of meeting him usually comes to my mind. !is memory usually hits me, whenever I become thankful for the group of people I met here. I never made friendships in my life quickly, I made sure the people I hung out with were trustable. However, at a certain point, those friendships came to an end, but this was diﬀerent. I have a strong feeling that this is a friendship for a lifetime. !is is mainly because we were ready to accept each other as who we are, rather than adapting to a norm to fit in. No friendships in my life lasted very long because they were like parasites in my life, they wanted me to change to their ways for their benefit than mine. However, I am a bit more confident about this friendship because I never felt more secure, knowing that I have a group of people who could support me in the most down times of my life is one of the greatest blessings Finale Knowingly or unknowingly, many of the memories that we have in our lives could be somehow related to sound. If a certain sound brings back a certain event, that is probably because that specific sound is tied up to that specific event. I talked about 4 very diﬀerent moments in my life and each phase had a 236
sound-related tool that helped me recall the past with details. Attali, the author of “Noise”, made a claim on his paper related to this. He mentioned in chapter 1 “Listening” of his piece that “Nothing essential happens in the absence of noise.” He states that every memory that is significant in our lives would have some kind of sound tied up to it. !e ties up sound may not be realized at the occurrence of the event, but it will hit the day of reminiscing. Even the smallest detail about that event could be tracked down by the tied up sound. Reference Attali, Jacques. Noise. Chapter 1 “Listening.” University of Minnesota Press, 1985.
Jewel Mathew 237
I Am Sudanese Hurry Up and Get Married! You ever get excited for those questions? !e questions that your parents and their friends ask you when you finally graduate high school? Anxiety pierces through my body as I rush to my room. I stand in front of my mirror and look at myself. What do I say? What will impress them? Do I have my reasons? I don’t really know what I’m talking about but here goes nothing…. Listen here missy! You are becoming an adult! !erefore, people are going to ask you questions whether you like it or not. So now it’s your time to figure this out. What do you want to do when you’re older? Why? What colleges are you looking at? Why? I made sure I asked all the questions that I would expect them to ask me with long, thoughtful answers. I was ready. I go to a community event and my mom’s friends greet me. When I finish greeting them, I turn to walk away but they stop me. Wait come here, I want to ask you some questions! TODAY IS THE DAY MISSY! Take a deep breath think about your answers. You practiced all day. You sound smart. YOU GOT THIS! Show them how awesome you are! Show them that you plan to be a smart woman who wants to change the world! A woman your parents will be proud to call their daughter. You’re becoming a grown woman Saraa! You’re finally going to college! “!ank you auntie!” Here goes nothing. All that practice in front of the mirror better be worth it. So when are you getting married? Have you been searching for 238
a husband? Are you kidding me? All that practice was for nothing. !ey don’t want to know if I go to college or not. !ey don’t want to know if I want to change the world. !ey want to know when I’ll be tied down to a man and start a family. I guess that doesn’t matter to them. I’m just a girl that has to oblige to societal/cultural norms. “Ew, marriage? I didn’t even start college! Why marriage?” At this point I just want to roll my eyes and walk away. !is conversation isn’t even worth it THANK YOU, NEXT! My daughter is a doctor! In every Sudanese song, there is that one line that has to do with somebody’s daughter: My daughter is better than yours because she’s a doctor. !is is what Sudanese mothers talk about every day. Every Sudanese mother wants her daughter to be a doctor. Parents become picky of who can marry her. No man is worthy of her because of her career. I’ve heard stories of girls who are doctors and they end up with a smart, rich guy. Everybody shows her oﬀ because she’s smart and saves people. My dad told me that I should become a doctor. My mom told me that it was his dream but because of his situation at the time He couldn’t do it She told me that everyone would love me if you became a doctor. You’ll have a lot of money and you would live in a big house and have a fancy car. I told them that it seems like a fun life to live But 8 years of school sounds dreadful. What about being president? What about becoming someone like Malala? I would personally value someone like her over a doctor But what do I know? I just started college. 239
Plus being doctor is just sitting there taking blood pressure And prescribing. See, that was my idea of being a doctor Until I watched Grey’s Anatomy. Let’s just say it changed my mind. I know that it isn’t realistic but some things are truthful. No, I don’t want to be a surgeon but I do want to work in the hospital. I’m mad that they win. My life has been based on doing the opposite of what my parents want !ey win this round. For now. Now my parents tell everybody that I want to be a doctor WHAT IF I CHANGE MY MIND? I can’t do it now because everybody in Philly and Sudan knows. !is is what happens when I tell my parents what they want to hear. I didn’t even go through college yet I didn’t even finish my general education courses Everybody needs to calm down I need time. I need space. Everything’s happening all at once BREATHE! Let’s get through freshman year first. It’s the Western Chick! I can’t wait until I go to Sudan. I get excited every time even though I’ve been going every summer. A few months before the day that we travel to Sudan is the time I challenge myself with the language. I tell my mom to just talk to me in Arabic, to tell me funny slang words to use over there. When I have conversations with my American friends, I replay them in Arabic in my head. I’m not kidding, it’s that deep! I need to prepare myself and show my family that just because I was born and raised in America Doesn’t mean I lost my culture, my heritage. Even a"er all that hard work, I still suck compared to the people who were born and raised in Sudan. Imagine walking into your relative’s house and hearing 240
!e Westerns have arrived or !e Americans finally want to come back. No matter how hard I try to fit in with my family, my Americanness comes back to haunt me. Every time there’s a wedding, they look at me diﬀerent Like I’m sort of this celebrity or A list kind of girl Because of my clothes, the fact that I can actually do makeup correctly, and simply Being American. Best part is when my song comes on and I start singing along and everyone turns to me !ey look at me like I just cursed out everyone there How do you know this song? I think that they forget I’m still Sudanese whose mother puts on songs everyday while cleaning the house. Even worse, is when I start dancing in the middle of our little circle People are cheering me on, and put on a show when I’m done they ask me, Where did you learn how to dance like that? Watching my mom dance in the kitchen? Watching you guys dancing? Watching the mothers in the Sudanese community back home dancing? Maybe all of the above. People are annoying Now that I think about it, Do I really want to go through all that again? Hmm, I kind of want to change my mind. I want to go somewhere else this summer.
Saraa Fadl 241
ICA Workshop Photographs
Othello Folio !is section contains reflections on this yearâ€™s Side-by-Side class on Othello, taught by Dean Paula Marantz Cohen. !e symbols: and respectively, indicate where paragraphs or sections have been le" out for the clarity and conciseness of this folio.
What Othello Can Teach Us All* For many years, I avoided teaching Othello. I believed that the play, riddled with ethnic slurs and slights, was too much of a land mine and risked distracting students from Shakespeare’s genius. In recent years, however, Othello has become one of my favorite plays to teach. I’ve come to see that the uncomfortable elements don’t reduce but support the author’s greatness. I can think of no better way for members of our polarized society to achieve a more compassionate view of each other, and of history more generally, than by reading this play with care and attention. I was reinforced in this belief recently while teaching Othello in a Side-by-Side course, in which Drexel University students learn alongside community members from West Philadelphia. I was curious how the group would react to a play in which a black man is both the central character and the dupe of a malevolent white man in a racist society. My younger students were shocked. !e older community members—predominantly African-American women—were not. !ey had experienced a racist culture firsthand, growing up in America in the 1950s and ’60s, and they were able to separate racism from other aspects of the play. !ough they knew how diﬃcult it must have been for a black man in the Venetian society Shakespeare depicts, they understood that the other characters were also struggling with unfairness and limitations. Iago, the great villain, is propelled not by racism (though he invokes racist ideas at intervals) but by bitterness at being passed over for promotion. Othello had promoted the young and stylish Cassio as his lieutenant instead. Iago bemoans that seniority no longer means anything: “ ’Tis the curse of service, / Preferment goes by letter and aﬀection, / And not by old gradation, where each second / Stood heir to the first,” (1.1.34-37). Cassio had the right pedigree and appearance but had never proven himself in battle. My older students understood Iago’s resentment. !ey saw Brabantio, irate at his daughter for running away with a Moor, as a bigot—but also as a father, like any other. 247
!ey too were parents and had experienced the frustration of having children act against their wishes. We discussed how Shakespeare dramatized the ways in which racism can distort the viewpoint of both victim and victimizer. Othello’s extreme language and emotion, and his paranoia and jealousy, are, at least in part, byproducts of his outsider status. At one point, Iago convinces Othello of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness by arguing that it was “unnatural” for her to be attracted to him in the first place. Othello accepts this argument, an indication of his “low self-esteem,” my students noted. Similarly, Desdemona’s father could not imagine that Othello would fall in love with—and be loved by— his daughter. !us can prejudices blind us to what’s happening in front of our eyes. But prejudices are not always so clear-cut. What we see about other people is almost always partial, the result of a complicated network of preconceptions. !e unpolished Iago was invisible to Othello as a potential lieutenant for his troops just as Othello, a black man, was invisible to Brabantio as a potential suitor to his daughter. Othello is a cautionary tale. It prompts us to check our reflexive feelings and to be fairer and more generous toward those whom we might dismiss or pigeonhole. It also encourages us to be more forgiving of others’ trespasses. I wish more people had the benefit of reading Shakespeare to learn about the limitations, complexities and veiled injustices of life. We would be a better nation for it. *!is piece previously appeared in !e Wall Street Journal.
Paula Marantz Cohen 248
Portrayals of Female Subordination in Shakespeare’s Othello !roughout most of Othello, Emilia and Desdemona appear to be equally subordinate in their positioning as women in a patriarchal, Shakespeare-era Venice. By the end of the play, however, the women prove to be diﬀerent examples of female subordination within the patriarchal culture. Firstly, Emilia, who is married to Iago, is outwardly dutiful to her husband, although she at times speaks against him. What is more interesting, though, is her philosophy—it might be reduced to “an eye for an eye”—by which she governs her conduct: she says that if a woman's husband falls short in his duty, the wife is justified in finding fulfillment elsewhere, and her conduct will be his doing. She expresses this openly to Desdemona’s surprise in a striking speech, which she ends with: “!en let them use us well; else let them know, / !e ills we do, their ills instruct us so.” !is stance conveys that Emilia is not completely subservient to Iago, as she has her own mind. Moreover, Emilia’s idea of deciding what is to be considered appropriate conduct depending on marital circumstances seems like a radical idea for her time; yet it may have been the sentiment of more women than would have been expected. Contrary to Emilia, Desdemona is unwavering in her obedience to her husband throughout their marriage, even despite Othello’s eventual accusations of adultery. Even a"er he has committed the act that kills her, she is loyal and tries to protect him by not placing the blame of her death on Othello. She does not even show anger toward him when he admits his intention to kill her; she expresses fear, regret, confusion, and the desire to pray again, but she never sways from her duty to her husband. In fact, Desdemona turns out to be the extreme opposite of the expectation that her father and husband came to have of her as one who would deceive, lie on a whim, and abandon her role as wife to Othello. In one scene, when she is newly faced with Emilia’s philosophy, Desdemona exclaims, “Beshrew me if I would do such a wrong / For the whole world!” She cannot think of doing something so unacceptable as 249
sinning against her husband and God. !e ultimate diﬀerence in the two women’s roles as female subordinates is unanticipated since Emilia at first appears to be like Desdemona—loyal without question, especially in her securing Desdemona’s handkerchief for Iago, aiding in his schemes. However—unlike Desdemona, whose faithfulness facilitates her death—it turns out that Emilia is, in a way, selfserving like her husband, which she deems necessary at times for a woman’s livelihood and, so to speak, a woman’s survival.
Sharee DeVose 250
The Takeaway from Othello
One of the aspects of Othello that stuck with me the most was the relationship between Emilia and Desdemona. It felt like two women that reached out to each other when they had no one else to form a real connection with. Even though they came from such diﬀerent backgrounds, they managed to form such an authentic relationship. !e way I saw it, Desdemona was the only person that mattered enough to Emilia for her to finally speak out against Iago. !ey had a special connection, born out of the societal pressures of having to be a perfect wife in an imperfect relationship. Emilia could be described as a sort of protective mother-figure to Desdemona, especially when she is readying Desdemona for bed on what would become her last night. In Act 4 Scene 3, Emilia says, “I would you had never seen him,” (4.3.18). Emilia then goes on to attempt to comfort Desdemona but teach her about the real world at the same time before she bids her goodnight. She wants to open Desdemona’s eyes to how imperfect the real world is, but the gentleness with which she treats Desdemona throughout the scene portrays just how much Emilia cares. As Desdemona’s relationship with Othello soured, it was Emilia that stood by her side. Granted, Emilia was also involved in turning Othello away from Desdemona. However, she was more of an unwilling participant in Iago’s plan, simply because she was his wife. Her love for Desdemona becomes more evident when she risks her own well-being to preserve Desdemona’s good name. Even a"er Othello and Iago threaten Emilia, she continues to defend Desdemona and says, “Nay, lay thee down and roar, / For thou hast killed the sweetest innocent / !at e’er did li" up eye,” (5.2.204-206). It is painfully clear how much Emilia cares for Desdemona in this moment. She essentially says that Desdemona is one of the best people she has known. Emilia may have talked back to Iago at times throughout the play, but ultimately, she was still an obedient wife. Until that moment, Emilia’s actions were to look out for herself and make sure she was safe. Even stealing the handkerchief was an example of her protecting herself, because she was able to escape Iago’s wrath that would have come with her failure by giving him the handkerchief. !e fact that she was able to finally cross that line and help give Iago what he deserved, but 251
only a"er Desdemona was harmed, shows that Desdemona had a huge impact on Emilia’s life. It was truly tragic that neither of them survived the events of the play. An aspect of the play that I would not have easily realized without the format of the class is the more subtle eﬀect that racism had on Othello. Othello being the only black character surrounded by those who look down on him obviously had a substantial impact on how he interacted with others around him. It may have even played a part in why he was so susceptible to Iago’s trickery. While he was physically very strong, being the only black man in his position must have led to some insecurity. !at insecurity could have led him to believe Iago so easily because he was expecting people to choose the handsome, white man over him. I do not think I would have realized the extent of the influence his race had on the decisions Othello made without additional discussions or supplemental readings that emphasized just that. Instead, I feel that I would have been more focused on how Desdemona was brutalized and wrongly accused throughout the play. Overall, there were topics brought up during discussions that made me look at the play in a diﬀerent light. One big point that really struck me was the observation about how dichotomy between black as evil and white as good is so ingrained in our speech. We look at situations as being black and white, with maybe a gray area in between. !at discussion led me to go back and read parts of the play again, and I was surprised to see that I was able to understand the play diﬀerently. Aspects about Othello’s personality that I had not considered before became much clearer. Realizing how ingrained racism is in our society made me much more sympathetic to Othello’s character. He was a victim as well. While I realized that during the first read-through, it was so much more significant how much of a victim of the times he was. What is so striking, however, is how easily his story could fit into modern day. Shakespeare’s handling of sexism and racism stood out to me most while reading Othello. He handled such diﬃcult topics so de"ly. It would have been interesting to have seen Othello performed in the 1600s knowing what I know now and seen how the audience reacted. Reading this play reinforced the idea that Shakespeare really was ahead of his time. !e fact that the themes from a play that he wrote in the 1600s are still relevant today says a lot about how revolutionary of a thinker Shakespeare was.
Spoorthi Dingari 252
Reflection !e close reading of Othello was very insightful into Shakespeare’s life and times. It stayed true to his own story in which his mother married his father who was of a lower class than she was. It put into perspective the parallels between modern times and Shakespeare’s times in terms of race and gender; white people were the majority and women were considered subservient. While things are changing, these concepts are still deeply rooted in our society.
Reading then coming in for discussion put everyone on an even playing field, without any spoilers, and allowed everyone to form their own opinions. However, I really appreciated the side-by-side format of discussion because I was able to form a theory during the class that I was not able to at home. We were discussing the characteristics of Emilia and Desdemona and a"er hearing the responses of other people, I came up with a theory: Emilia is a strong woman, stuck in a diﬃcult situation, just trying to protect herself from her plotting husband. She possibly loved her husband in the beginning, but Iago has grown cold and conniving. In the scene where she finds the handkerchief and gives it to Iago, she is playing naïve so as to not face repercussions from him for withholding the token of her mistress. However, Emilia and Desdemona are good friends and Emilia knows deep down that she is now complicit in the destruction of Desdemona through Iago’s plot that has been implanted in Othello. !is love for her friend and guilt for not putting a stop to the plot and helping her husband drives Emilia to confront Iago. !rough the encounter with Iago, Emilia finally can rid the guilt from herself, albeit too late. She brings the evilness of Iago’s plot to light for Desdemona and Othello. She died doing the right thing and must be happy to no longer live in fear of her nefarious husband. . .
Paula Lee 253
If there is one thing I have learned about Shakespeare, it is that he does not write without purpose. (Prior to this, I was prone to believe that sometimes people just “look too hard” or stretch to find meaning where it is not present. I no longer think that's true with Shakespeare). . . I would hesitate to call Shakespeare “progressive” because I think the idea of “progressiveness,” or society progressing towards a better state, is an Enlightenment idea. However, I do think Shakespeare was an incredibly empathetic man. Before this class, I never really realized just how well he understood all of society’s unfairness and prejudices against women and minorities alike. He clearly had more understanding than anyone would expect at first glance, or just reading the plays on their own. One thing I found extremely surprising was how relevant Othello still is. In modern society, there is still an inherent “white = good” and “black = bad” mentality and a lot of subconscious racism (and conscious, too). !ere is a video of an older white woman clutching her purse and dragging it closer when a young black man walked by. Reading Othello made me realize that as much as society has changed, a lot remains the same. You can even see this with other authors too, such as the Brontës. Many people had an intimate understanding of how society worked. . . !ey may not have been as liberal as we are today, but that does not mean they do not understand that everyone is equal and deserves to be treated as such.
Kelsey Bray 254
Strawberry-Spotted Handkerchief In the “Epistemology and Tragedy: A Reading of Othello,” Stanley Cavell speaks about marital conventions in society. Consummating a marriage signifies a sanctified union. Staining the wedding sheets was pure evidence of a woman’s purity. !us, Othello translates this idea by attaching great importance to the strawberry-spotted handkerchief given to Desdemona; it represents the priceless act of sexual consummation— “a gi" of the gods.” !roughout “Othello’s Handkerchief,” Lynda E. Boose also speaks about the symbolic importance of a girl’s virginity, especially during the Elizabethan era. She relates this essence with Desdemona’s handkerchief, for not only does it represent her fidelity and love for Othello, but it also serves as an emblem of their consummated marriage and her sexual devotion to him. It is evidence that she is still in Othello’s “possession.” Both Boose and Cavell point out the use of the handkerchief to represent the image and metaphor of marital consummation and maiden blood. !ey also demonstrate that without the handkerchief, there is no longer “emblematic proof of the marital blood pledge,” in Othello’s eyes. With the misplacement of the napkin, Othello loses sight of Desdemona’s character, which is foreshadowed by the myth of the handkerchief: “If she lost it … [the] eye should hold her loathly” (3.1.53-54). Moreover, Cavell and Boose mention the irony behind the punishment of adultery: stoning. Stoning was a frequent sentence to the unfaithful. While Othello chooses to best preserve the nature of her body through asphyxiation, he conjures an image of Desdemona being stoned. He wants to be the “one who will give her a stone heart for her stone body” (Cavell). !is sounds almost blasphemous. It is as if he plays a “godly” role in both blaming her and determining her fate; he even manages to think of her murder as a sacrifice. Both Cavell and Boose describe how he takes up the “role of justicer” to presumably protect their reputations—especially his own, since he is inordinately concerned with his stature. In addition to this logic, Othello has a duty to protect others from Desdemona because evil will resonate as she lives. Personally, I thought that it was absurd how the sanctity of marriage is easily broken due to a lack of communication. Nevertheless, Othello presents a hauntingly beautiful story of victims of the tortures of love.
Kaley Nhu 255
Response to the statement “Iago is the master of us all” On reading the statement that “Iago is the master of us all” out of context, I took it to mean he wants to be exactly that and does a pretty good job of it for a while. On my second reading I realized (or at least concluded) that it is meant in a particular respect: he is a master of observation of even small details about people. He uses the knowledge thus obtained to control them to his advantage. People who crave control are motivated to pick up on small clues because they can be put together to form a picture of how and who a person is, useful information for manipulating them. Such attention to another’s circumstances and state of mind could easily be interpreted as springing from concern for their welfare. Maybe this figured into Othello’s high opinion of Iago. [Regarding perception, and the modern day translations of Othello’s themes of discrimination] . . . Day is regarded as white; night as black. Some people have light skin and some people have medium skin and some people have dark skin. It is a bit of a jump to conclude that people-colored skin is so easily identified with day and night. I would think that in a country of dark-skinned people a light-skinned person could easily be seen as inferior, or just plain bad. In fact I have a little personal experience of this from my time in the civil rights movement in 1964. Interacting mostly with black people I started perceiving white people as pinched and pasty-looking. (!is perception was probably intensified by the awareness that some of those pinched and pasty-looking people were murderously hateful to civil rights workers.) I think the perception of white skin as being better is a perception resulting from the power white people have.
Jo Darken 256
Final Reflection Widely renowned during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, William Shakespeare essentially revolutionized the English language, contributing extensively through his collection of poetry and playwriting as well as the various contributions made to the English vocabulary. As one of Shakespeare’s rather fascinating yet unfortunate tragedies, Othello takes place in the latter part of the sixteenth century during the Elizabethan Era, beginning in Venice only to later move to the city of Cyprus. !e play explores and primarily revolves around the themes of racism, betrayal, love, and forgiveness—most of which manage to intertwine themselves with one another throughout the duration of the play.
!rough various images of black and white and the motif of light and darkness, all of which are frequently referenced through the play, Othello himself seems to have internalized this prejudice. By emphasizing this idea that light represents purity and truth, and that darkness o"en personifies fear, treachery, and the unknown, the reader subconsciously begins to relate symbols to diﬀerent meanings and suggestions within the text. Examples of such include: “an old black ram/ Is tupping your white ewe” and “O, the more angel she/And you the blacker devil” (1.1.85-86; 4.2.134). Despite being a highly regarded general within the Venetian army, Othello continuously appears as an outsider in the eyes of the Venetian society. In fact, prejudiced characters use terms such as “the Moor,” "barbary horse," “an old black ram,” and "thick lips" to dehumanize Othello and therefore make him appear less deserving of respect. However, racial prejudice is not the only act of discrimination experienced by characters throughout the play. Misogyny, or the hatred of women, also plays a significant role. Othello features the struggles of two distinct women during the Elizabethan era: Desdemona and Emilia, both of whom fall prey to their male counterparts. Despite her absolute devotion and love for Othello, Desdemona is unable to identify the insinuation of struggle and ultimately defend herself against her husband’s false claims, ultimately leading to her death. As for Emilia, although she is faithful to Desdemona, she also demonstrates great loyalty to that of her husband, Iago, even going as far as to betray her friend by giving 257
her husband the very object that will ultimately seal Desdemona’s fate. In addition to this, a lack of representation of women strengthens the portrayal of female suﬀering, a direct correlation to their position within the social hierarchy. Not only has an in-depth analysis of the text helped me to place the play into a wider context, but also to make vital modern day connections that unfortunately still remain relevant in today’s society. Firstly, while interracial marriages have since become more widely accepted, it fails to gain the support of a large group of individuals. Secondly, racism remains a prominent issue. In recent years, this very matter continues to spark nationwide debates and protests regarding a racial divide in attitudes towards the police, specifically the high-profile killings of unarmed African Americans. Unfortunately, prejudice on the basis of race and xenophobic beliefs, in other words defined by Merriam-Webster as the “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign,” continues to poison the promise of equality within America, not just for the African American community but for other minority groups as well. Lastly, as for domestic violence, despite its various forms including but not limited to: physical, psychological, verbal, sexual, and even economic abuse, instances of abuse may be particularly diﬃcult to spot. As society becomes increasingly aware of the scope of the domestic violence problem and the extent to which it can and does impact an individual's mental and physical health, crippling eﬀects continue to be felt for many years to come, not only by the individual but also surrounding family, friends, and any children that may be involved. While not entirely visible from the surface, it is these very problems that continue to hinder progress and discourage growth. In a broader context, however, as this trite-as-ever quote suggests, “keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” In an unforgiving and increasingly more material-based society filled with cruel, manipulative, and selfish individuals, value comes with the continuous desire for material possessions, the yearning for constant satisfaction a byproduct of human nature itself. Shakespeare indirectly conveys this very idea. In some cases within Othello, an atmosphere of sheer terror and bloodshed can cause a character to descend into a world of chaos, ultimately meeting a bleak end. For others, however, a future of rebirth and promise lies ahead, similar to that of mankind and its condescending nature.
Kaylin Markart 258
Reflection I have always wanted to write a paper on the belief that many plots for novels, plays, poems, movies etc. are taken from the Bible, especially the Old Testament. Characters from the play portray many of the famous figures we meet in scripture. !e race issue is replaced by the seven deadly sins. !ese issues exist today as they did then hidden by the diﬀerent names. Lust is the “me too” situation of many social ills. I steal your car, your wife, your child because I think I deserve these things more than you do. When I read Othello and other Shakespearean plays as a student at Girl’s High School our teacher concentrated on exposing us to the great writers in literature, noticing the iambic pentameter in the verses of Othello. !ere were no “teachable moments.” Actually, no discussion on the fact that Desdemona was white and Othello was black, a Moor. We delved into the history and the architecture of the Moors. !at was wonderful. I went to the art museum and the library because the culture was fascinating and exciting to me. In 1961, there was a movie released, El Cid, and I confess even though the Moors were the villains, they had me at the drums and the horses.
I like Desdemona and still am fascinated by romantic illusions and stories of adventure. As an experienced adult, I experienced Othello diﬀerently in 2019 than I did in 1956. !at handkerchief can be added to a long list of trivia that have reportedly started wars. I believe that insecure people like Iago have contributed to broken marriages, friendships, singing groups and corporations. Iago wasn’t the only insecure man in Othello. Othello, the great general, and Rodrico: both pawns of Iago. !e women were strong and loyal even when they were being frivolous or flirtatious. As an adult, I ask myself many questions about the times I believed someone’s gossip about a person loved or admired. But, of course, this was drama and just like my soaps, there has to be DRAMA.
Jean Wrice 259
Dear Othello [the class], I chose this Honors class because I love reading Shakespeare. I had seen a live performance of As You Like It by the age of nine. I had read six Shakespeare plays in high school, with each one compounding my love for Shakespeare as both a storyteller and playwright. Hell, I even re-wrote Romeo & Juliet in full. I had read Shakespeare in three separate years of high school—freshman, sophomore, and senior year—and with each passing encounter, I found myself being able to dive deeper into the socio-political context behind its making.
I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that we discussed Shakespeare—his life and his beginnings—before reading Othello. Discussing the story [Cinthio] of the inspiration behind Othello with the societal and racial context of the time period brought about a greater understanding of the importance of the play, and moved the whole class towards thinking critically about the world in which Othello took place before we even opened the book. Reading Othello individually challenged me to not only think critically 100% of the time, but the weekly responses and thought-provoking questions also helped my writing about Shakespeare and fictional analysis vastly improve. I noticed a distinct diﬀerence in quality between my writings from the earlier acts to the latter stages of Othello, and the work has transferred to my English class and my writing for !e Triangle as well. Another big benefit to reading Othello individually is that each person came into class ready to discuss their opinions that had been free of distortion. Each person had their individual piece to bring to the class puzzle, and it was only there were our opinions challenged and questioned and discussed. Our discussions exposed me to so many diﬀerent schools of thought about the play, alerted me to things I might’ve missed, and allowed me to expand my understanding of Othello as a whole. I found myself bridging the gaps between some of my analyses and other people’s syntheses, forming an even greater 260
argument with the other members of the class. It was an enriching 50 minutes each week, and to have it smack-dab in the middle of my schedule was like a breath of literary fresh air. It got me energized for the rest of the week to come. !e final comment I can make on the class is about the fellow community members who joined us college students each day. !ey made that class special. People like Ruth, Gene, Joe, and Carol provided insights that transcended any possible understanding on my end. !ey didn’t just hypothesize about race discrimination and the blatant racism, they lived through it. !ey fought in the Civil Rights Movement, they lived during a time—not too long ago—in which this systematic oppression was still at the forefront of society. !ey had knowledge, wisdom, a willingness to share about their personal experiences and a willingness to pass on what they’ve learned to us—the next generation. !e truths and words they instilled into me resonated deeply with my already sound beliefs on race and gender, and I found myself wanting to do right by them day in and day out. Without the community members, we still would’ve had a fantastic class with a lot of good discussion, but in many instances those members were the ones who would take the discussion forward and bring about points that we students hadn’t even considered. !is diﬀerent side of thinking brought around a whole other understanding of Othello. I was able to take away so much more from not only my readings, but also from the ways they thought about Shakespeare and his plays. Sincerely, Ethan Hermann
Ethan Hermann 261
Othello William Shakespeare is truly worthy of all the hype he has gotten throughout the ages. It is striking how deeply themes explored in Othello, written in 1622, resonate today. I appreciated the pace of our reading and the many opportunities for examination and discussion. We had time to reflect without the rapid-fire, racing-through-one-play-to-geton-to-the-next style I encountered as an undergrad eons ago. To tackle the complex Elizabethan language and come away with solid understanding takes time, o"en in short supply with an already loaded full-time schedule. During this class I was able to read closely and spend time reflecting and gathering my thoughts. Concentrating on one play enabled the class to dig deeply, to mine the gold and then set it out to sparkle and illuminate the times. Comments from seasoned citizens who have lived through the chaos within our community and in our country helped highlight the timelessness of themes Shakespeare explored, while the scholarly depth of the honors students enhanced our understanding. I enjoyed the Side-by-Side format, as I see great value in having two ends of the generational spectrum meet each other at a midpoint, to talk about literature, to talk about life, and to learn from each other's perspectives. I remember being in a 400-level class the summer before my senior year and having two older women in class with me. At the time it seemed odd, and they looked slightly out of place amidst a roomful of college kids. !is was years and years ago, as my antiquated observation attests. !ey were probably working on a Master’s degree, or completing graduate hours to maintain teaching certification. Perhaps a"er their children grew up and moved out and their husbands died or moved on they finally had the chance to take a breath and pursue the degree of their dreams. I don’t know. I just remember thinking it seemed odd to see them there. But the Side-by-Side format welcomes the sage voices of community “seniors” who can o"en add insight to local history however it might pertain to the subject matter. I can imagine, however, the few honors students who might protest about community members hijacking or monopolizing the discussion, vowing to never take that type of class again. I, myself, like the format for its 262
benefit of intergenerational exchange of ideas. Plus, it brings together people, o"en from diﬀerent walks of life, who might not ever have had the chance to move beyond the preconceived stereotypes and misbeliefs that were at the very heart of Othello’s troubles and Shakespeare’s examination. Othello was a good selection. I give it two thumbs up. Its themes of racism, sexism, militarism, jealousy, insecurity, and injured merit are timeless. People are still prejudiced. !ey still make snap judgements about one another colored by implicit biases they o"en don’t even know exist. Men (some men) are still trash; women (most women) are still expected to maintain virginity while men whore around them like flies to sweet sugar. Nothing is new under the sun… Was that the Bible? Or Shakespeare?
Carol McCullough 263
ANTHOLOGY 5 CONTRIBUTORS Serena Agusto-Cox, who was nominated for the Pushcart Prize, has poems in Dime Show Review, Beginnings Magazine, LYNX, Muse Apprentice Guild, Pedestal Magazine, and others. !ree poems appear in Love_Is_Love : An Anthology for LBTQIA+ Teens, proceeds of which are donated to !e Trevor Project. An essay also appears in H.L. Hix’s Made Priceless, as does a Q&A on book marketing through blogs in Midge Raymond’s Everyday Book Marketing. Brenda Bailey is part of the Writers Room community. !is is her second year with Tripod. She is, according to Kyle Howey, steadfast and necessary. We love it when she sings. Kelly Bergh graduated from Drexel University in 2019 with her Masters in Publishing. She enjoys reading and hates cooking. Kelsey Bray was a member of Dean Paul Marantz Cohen’s SideBy-Side Othello class. Matthew Brooks is a senior English major (BA ’19) and a member of Writers Room. Creative writing has always been his passion, but being a part of TRIPOD has given him a chance to explore more self-reflective writing. Patricia Burton is a member of Writers Room and a TRIPOD participant. She is currently excavating histories of Philadelphia and working on her fiction. Her soaps are the bomb. Norman Cain was born in 1942 and raised on Olive Street in West Philadelphia. He graduated in 1964 from Bluefield State College in West Virginia where he majored in social science and minored in English. A retired social worker, teacher, father of five and grandfather of seven, he is active in several writing groups, including the Best Day of My Life So Far at the Germantown Senior Center. !is year he has been a member of the Canon TRIPOD group.
Frances Canupp is pursuing her Masters in Publishing. She likes cooking and hates doing the dishes. Rosalyn Cliett is a life coach and a native resident of Philadelphia who loves to write and do anything creative. Her main goal is to enlighten people, which she’s able to do in her writings and share time. Writers Room has enabled her to, so she calls it, "Food for !ought." Paula Marantz Cohen is the Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the author of ten books and numerous essays on literature, film, and culture. Her most recent novel is Suzanne Davis Gets a Life and the YA novel, Beatrice Bunson’s Guide to Romeo and Juliet. Barbara Dale is a cooperative living believer and practitioner. We miss her now that she’s moved to DC and look forward to her visits back to Philly and Writers Room. Mark Dawkins is an alum from Paul Robeson High School (Class of ’18). He used to be a boxer, but has never been knocked out, because you only get KO’d when you’re not paying attention. And he is always paying attention. He was part of the Canon TRIPOD project. Willa Deitch teaches Language Arts at YouthBuild Philadelphia. She has been a supporter of the TRIPOD project, and a wonderful workshop leader (thank you!) and enthusiastic participant. Alicia DeSimone is a recent Drexel grad (BS Photography ’19) living and working in Philadelphia. When she’s not assisting photographers or managing a food truck, she’s writing poetry, shooting still life photographs, and hunting down the best milkshakes. She is honored and excited to have worked with her fellow writers and picture-makers on another beautiful anthology! Sharee DeVose was a member of Dean Paul Marantz Cohen’s Side-By-Side Othello class.
Spoorthi Dingari was a member of Dean Paul Marantz Cohen’s Side-By-Side Othello class. Athena Dixon, a writer and editor originally from Northeast Ohio, is the founder of Linden Avenue Literary Journal. Her poetry and creative non-fiction has appeared in various publications online and in print. De’Wayne Drummond is President of the Mantua Civic Association and a member of Writers Room. Saraa Fadl is a Liberty Scholar at Drexel majoring in Biology (BS ’23) on a pre-med track. Some facts about her: she was born in Chicago, IL and raised in Philadelphia, PA. She’s Sudanese and bilingual, so she speaks Arabic and English. Soccer is definitely in her blood. Troy Fluks is a freshman on an accelerated Public Health/premed major. His current hobbies include fencing and gaming. He also works at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Cozara. Amy Gottsegen is a poet, a Drexel Computer Science undergrad (BS ‘19), and a community activist. !is is her first year working with the TRIPOD project. She is fun on a trampoline, and a good friend. Natasha Hajo is a senior at Drexel majoring in English and minoring in Writing and Philosophy. She has been involved with Writers Room since her sophomore year and is a writer-inresidence for the Canon TRIPOD project. Ethan Hermann was a member of Dean Paul Marantz Cohen’s Side-By-Side Othello class. Kyle Howey is a senior English major at Drexel with passions for writing, art, and music. He has been a part of Team Super since the first year of the Canon TRIPOD project, and is very proud and grateful to be spending his final year at Writers Room, doing what he loves. He would like to thank his team, Victoria and Dahmere, for all the fun and adventures, and everyone else at Writers Room for making these adventures happen. And although he is both sad and excited to graduate this summer, Kyle knows he always has a room here in Drexel. 266
Husnaa Hashim was the 2017-2018 Youth Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, and author of the poetry collection Honey Sequence (from !e Head & the Hand). She is a first year student at the University of Pennsylvania from West Philadelphia by way of Gaithersburg, Maryland. Husnaa has been writing and publishing since the age of ten. She has competed with the Philly Youth Poetry Movement at the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival, placed first in the Free Library Teen Poetry Slam,and performed at the Muslim Congress Conference, the Black Muslim Psychology Conference, and many other venues Briyanna Hymms is a Drexel alum (BS Biology ’18) and is exploring career choices. She is working as a lab tech, but is secretly a poet, painter, gardener and amateur banana bread baker. Her writing evokes feelings and her art creates connections. She shares her creativity with loved ones and leaves a trail of paper cranes wherever she goes. Dejah Jade is a photographer and aspiring fashion designer. She currently lives in West Philadelphia and will be graduating from Robeson High School in June as a member of the Class of 2019. She always make clothes that she would wear and hopes to attend Drexel for fashion design, to continue making new clothes that reflect her personal philosophies. Jasmine James is a Drexel alum (BA English ‘18) born and raised in Philly. Although she always wants to call this place home, she also appreciates traveling and documenting her experiences through writing. Currently, she’s serving as an ArtistYear fellow at Robeson High School. She aspires to dedicate her life towards helping others improve their writing skills, harness their creativity and find the courage to highlight their true voice. Yusha Johnson is Canon Tripod writer-in-residence and a 2019 graduate of YouthBuild’s GreenBuild Vocation Track. In addition to his burgeoning interest in photography, he paints and can write a mean poem. Jen Jolles is a fan of breakfast sandwiches, long runs and even longer bike rides. !ey, like their writing, are a perpetual work in progress. 267
From involvement with several social justice organizations like Philadelphia Student Union, Keyssh combines her love of creativity and color through fashion, activism, poetry, and her love for the arts. Keyssh not only advocates for justice and equality, but she is also a big believer in spiritual and emotional wellness. Robeson High School Class of ’19. Elizabeth Kimball is a member of Drexel’s Department of English and Philosophy. Her research interests include college writing, public and community writing, and civic and engaged learning. She serves as co-chair of the executive board of the Philadelphia Area Council of Writing Program Administrators. Calvin Kiniale is a student studying Health Sciences at Drexel University (BS ’19). He uses his writing to find connections with his community and to explore versatile themes about living as he pursues a life in medicine. Mallika Kodavatiganti is a pre-junior Biological Sciences major at Drexel. HN Lee took part in the 2018-2019 Home symposium series. Paula Lee was a member of Dean Paul Marantz Cohen’s Side-BySide Othello class. Kaylin Markart was a member of Dean Paul Marantz Cohen’s SideBy-Side Othello class. Jewel Mathew is a first-year Biological Sciences major at Drexel, currently on the Pre-Med track with a minor in Business Administration. He was raised in the Middle East. Moved to the United States at the age of 13. Free times are primarily spent with family, friends and his piano. He has been a pianist since the age of 11. Carol Richardson McCullough writes to give life to her fantasies, dreaming out loud on paper, to capture things that might otherwise slip away—remembering, exploring, processing, recording, sharing, and celebrating—because the world is filled with wonders too fantastic to ignore. She is an Afrolachian poet and memoirist at heart, a native West Virginian now residing in Philly, re-writing her life's story. 268
Jordan McCullough was born in Washington, DC and has lived in Philadelphia for two decades. He is a graduate of Philadelphia Academy Charter High School and the Mural Arts Philadelphia Art Education Program. He is an avid movie fan who enjoys drawing and writing every day. Frequently he sits in on workshops and Writers Room events, lending his unique voice. Creativity is key to his world. Emanuel Mcgill is a Philadelphian poet who has been educating and entertaining people for years through various poetry and arts events in Philadelphia and other cities. As of now, he’s working on new material. Cheryl Mobley-Stimpson participated in Kirsten Kaschock’s First Listen workshop with One Book, One Philadelphia. Linda Moran is in the Drexel University General Studies program with a Minor in Business Management. Her anticipated graduation is ’22. She’s a mother of four and works at the University. She enjoys the beach and everything about nature. Taking creative writing (WRIT 225) has helped her to channel the “inner writer” which she never knew was there. Lowell Nottage is Canon TRIPOD writer-in-residence and a 2019 graduate of YouthBuild’s GreenBuild Vocation Track. An avid hiker, skateboarder, and glassblower, he hopes to further his solar knowledge and make the Earth a healthier place to live. P. Steve is a member of the Writers Room community of writers. Ren P. is a first year student at Drexel, born and raised in Lancaster County, PA. Victoria Huggins Peurifoy is a retired federal employee. She is a poet, spoken-word artist, author, ghostwriter, photographer, facilitator, student, mother of four, and a grandmother of eight. A native of West Philadelphia, she currently resides in Germantown. !is is her second year as a member of the Canon Tripod project. Chanda Rice is known to her friends as Muffy. She was born in 1961 on the train from New York to Philadelphia and was raised in North Philly by her maternal grandmother. Not only is a survivor, she is an overcomer, and by God’s grace she is here to deliver her story. She is a resident of Mantua. 269
Not much is known about William Roman, beyond his love for dinosaurs and the museums that house them. He started writing when he was ten, and continues to write on and oﬀ as he sees fit. With regards to writing, he advises aspiring authors to create the story only they can. Ho June Rhee is a Middlebury College student who participated in Kirsten Kaschock’s First Listen workshop with One Book, One Philadelphia. Mabedi Sennanyana was the first Writers Room studio co-op student and has taken part in WR workshops as well as the Writers Room Home symposium series. Karen Smith is a member of the Writers Room community of writers. Shakiya Smith is an aspiring self-published author. A"er graduating from Robeson High School this June with the Class of ’19, she plans to pursue a degree in English and Creative Writing. Shakiya uses her love for kpop, anime, and superheroes to create universes because she likes to write what she wants to read. Carin Spotted Eagle !e Oldest Butterfly (Creek Nation) spends time in Indian and First Nations Reservations. Carin Spotted Eagle began writing poetry in 1989 and has accumulated 797 typed poems. She has written a series of eight children’s stories and four additional manuscripts. She writes for several blogs and has produced Mr. Jolly & His Posse in the Last DNA. “!e Giants” originally appeared in GIVE FREEDOM WINGS © 2005, and is used here by permission of the author. Steven Stampone is a member of the Writers Room community. Alexis Srogota is a Biology major (BS ’23). Reads to escape the world and then writes to create herself a better reality. She calls all dogs nuggets. Cole Sweetman is a first year Film major (BS ’22) with a minor in Entertainment & Arts Management. He is very passionate about film and the copyright system, and hopes to become a director a"er he graduates. 270
Caroline !ompson is an undergraduate Nursing student who plans to graduate from Drexel in ‘23. She is also a member of Drexel's varsity women's soccer team. She believes in utilizing one's past to create a better future, something reflected in her writing. Mai !uong is a Middlebury College student who participated in Kirsten Kaschock’s First Listen workshop with One Book, One Philadelphia. Linh Tran is a Middlebury College student who participated in Kirsten Kaschock’s First Listen workshop with One Book, One Philadelphia. Dahmere Town is an alum from Paul Robeson High School (Class of ’18). He’s a visual artist with a special talent for drawing superheroes, perhaps because he’s secretly one himself. He was a member of the Canon TRIPOD project. Nick Vonk is a sophomore Screenwriting/Playwriting major at Drexel. He doesn’t always know what to write, but he does it anyway. He loves the Writers Room community and can’t wait to get to know all of the members better. Abby Wagner is a Drexel senior currently dabbling in agriculture, healing arts, music, and mindfulness. Jean Wrice was a member of Dean Paul Marantz Cohen’s SideBy-Side Othello class. Devin Welsh has been a part of the Writers Room crew since his first week on campus. Telling stories through pictures and words is becoming a passion of his. He’s an English major (BA ’20) and was a member of the Canon TRIPOD project. Shan Zeng is a Middlebury College student who participated in Kirsten Kaschock’s First Listen workshop with One Book, One Philadelphia. Kenny Zhuo is a junior Screenwriting/Playwriting major (BS ’20) with a concentration in playwriting. He is a Philadelphia native who focuses on characters he grew up around and surrounds himself with on a day to day basis. 271
PHOTO CREDITS Rebecca Arthur: 52, 142 Matthew Brooks: 104, 186 Keyssh Datts: 110, 134, 137 Mark Dawkins: 194 Willa Deitch: 35 Alicia DeSimone: 2 Amy Gottsegen: 124, 148, 180 Natasha Hajo: 114, 153, 158, 245 (bottom) Kyle Howey: 76, 79, 81, 82, 84, 86, 89, 90, 100 Dejah Jade: 116, 128, 130, 220, 244, 245 (top) Yusha Johnson: 192 Calvin Kiniale: 123 Lauren Lowe: 1, 66-71, 119, 120, 145, 196, 200 Jordan McCullough: 245 (middle) Lowell Nottage: 72, 102, 183 (top), 190, 193 Victoria Huggins Peurifoy: 40, 43, 44 Ashley Riddick: 108 Shakiya Smith: 132, 172, 176 Dahmere Town: 92, 94, 96, 242 Devin Welsh: 138, 140, 161, 183 (bottom), 184, 188 Photos by TRIPOD writers-in-residence were shot on Canon EOS 6D cameras.
Valerie Fox Kirsten Kaschock Lauren Lowe ’17 Rachel Wenrick
Isabella Akhtarshenas ’19
Bill Rees ’94
Fieldwork Titling Gothic FB Wide Cokiv Sans Cowboyslang
Typewritten pieces created on a Royal KMM from the Philadelphia Public Typewriter Program. Canon Solutions America is proud to be a part of the TRIPOD at Writers Room program for the second straight year and we thank Drexel University for making the collaboration possible. We would especially like to thank all of the students, faculty, staﬀ, community members, and everyone at Paul Robeson High School and YouthBuild Philadelphia who supported this great vision and helped make it a success.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS !is book would not have been possible without the help of Ann Alexander, Ayana Allen-Handy, Shivanthi Anandan, Jeﬀ Andricola, Sara Aykit ’19, Kelly Bergh ’19, Brian Blake, Jen Britton, Ingrid Broadnax, Cricket Brosius, Kathryn Christopher, Paula Marantz Cohen, Dominique Coleman-Williams, Susan Conway, Willa Deitch, Francis Daulerio, Ryan Debold, Ryan DeVito ’02, Athena Dixon, Margo Drakos, Dan Driscoll, De’Wayne Drummond, Kevin Egan, Nic Esposito, Elana Evans, Billy Ezell, Adam Feldman, John Fry, Jerry Fuller, Marissa Gabriel ’19, Linda Gallant, Heather Gayatgay, Emily Geschke, Richard Gordon, Becca Graham, Kylie Gray, Patrick Grossi, Husnaa Hashim, Zoe Heller, Kelly Hopkins, Briyanna Hymms ’18, Diane Holliday, George Jenkins, Jen Jolles ’15/’17, Alina Josan ’15, Uk Jung ’08, Nancy Katz, Jennifer Johnson Kebea, Lucy Kerman, Liz Kimball, John Kirby, Scott Knowles, Jillian Kruse, Roger Kurtz, Orrin Leeb, Cindy Leesman ’83, Melinda Lewis, Michelle Lloyd-Miah, Gina Lovasi, Melissa Mansfield, Yvonne Michael, Lisa Miller, Ramyani Mitra, Gwen Morris, Brenna McBride, Janel McCloskey, D.S. Nicholas, Eliza Nobles ’19, Meg Onli, Jenna Paiano, Katie Regetta, Rosalind Remer, Cyndi Reed Rickards, Carol Richardson McCullough, Heather Riley, Micha Sabag, Subir Sahu, Sarah Saxton, Rachel Schade, Terri Schmitt, Maria Schultheis, Mabedi Sennanyana, Amina Simmons, Sarah Steltz, Brittanie Sterner ’15, Emily Storz, Cyrille Taillandier, Jane Taylor, Mouy Tiaw, Nancy Trainer, Katy Travaline, Jessica Tsang, David Unruh, Jennifer Vess, Kathleen Volk Miller, Scott Warnock, Amy Weaver, Helma Weeks, Joan Weiner, Amy Wen, Patty West, Christine Witkowski, Patrice Worthy ’12, Katie Zamulinsky, and Andrew Zitcer. Special thanks to everyone at Canon Solutions America and Canon USA who make TRIPOD possible. It was exciting to see how this innovative program evolved in Year 2. We look forward to continued co-creation for years to come. Numerous works in this book were started during our year-long series, HOME Symposium, a year-long programming series supported by TD Charitable Foundation.
Writers Room is a university-community literary arts program engaged in creative placemaking and art for social justice. We are a diverse intergenerational collective of students/alumni, faculty/staďŹ€, and neighborhood residents whose work demonstrates a desire for collaborative opportunities in our joint communities. writersroomdrexel.org
anthology Writers Room is a university-community literary arts program engaged in creative placemaking and art for social justice. writersroomdrexel.org
anthology 5 2018-2019
writers room 2018-2019
Our annual collection of work from the 2018-2019 season at Writers Room, featuring writing and photography from TRIPOD: Conversations with P...
Published on Jun 4, 2019
Our annual collection of work from the 2018-2019 season at Writers Room, featuring writing and photography from TRIPOD: Conversations with P...