Volume 56 - Issue 2

Page 1

November 2023

The Magazine About Yale and New Haven

Cover Story


Mass Education

Delivery Fee

The Yale Prison Education Initiative brings prestige and power into nearby prisons—but not without a cost.

Volume 56, Issue 2

Doulas and midwives navigate a complicated network of care.

Kinks in the Movement

A writer braids together stories of New Haven's Black hair salons with her own.

Letter from the editors


Dear readers,

Editors-in-Chief Jabez Choi

This issue traces what it means to be free. What do we do under confines? How do we escape them? You’ll find that, in the face of restrictions, people are not stagnant beings. We fight, sing, write, organize, and disband, but we are never still.

Executive Editor Managing Editor

The search for liberation is located in this movement. Some find freedom through education, as Aanika Eragam explores in her cover story on the Yale Prison Education Initiative. Others find it in bodily autonomy, in giving birth how and where they want, as Maggie Grether reports. And Viola Clune shows us that within these movements there is continual growth, especially in places like Black hair salons that tie ever-changing generations together.

Verse Editors

Amal Biskin Senior Editors

Meg Buzbee Nicole Dirks Lazo Gitchos Ella Goldblum

And oftentimes, liberation flourishes in unlikely transgressions—rock music, motorcycling, vandalism. Freedom through games like Go that trace the diaspora, through social media videos that broadcast across oceans. Freedom to be beautiful and hot, to push against expectations for excellence. This desire for liberation does not exist in a vacuum. In New Haven and beyond, we hope for a world where people are free to exist without persecution or threat of violence. We hold in the light those whose freedom has been challenged, denied, or altogether silenced.

Yvonne Agyapong Connor Arakaki Lilly Chai Mia Cortés Castro

TNJ Love, The Managing Board

Copy Editors

Design Editors

Join our mailing list!

Matthew Hamel Makiko Harunari James Lowe Chaitanya Mehra Ben Mueller Sarah Nutman Peter Phleger Jeffrey Pollock

Adriane Quinlan Elizabeth Sledge Gabriel Snyder Fred Strebeigh Arya Sundaram Stuart Weinzimer Steven Weisman Suzanne Wittebort

*Donated twice. Thank you!


Chloe Nguyen John Nguyen Ingrid Rodríguez Vila Netanel Schwartz Etai Smotrich-Barr Anouk Yeh Iz Klemmer Adam Levine Victoria Siebor

Chris de Santis

Tashroom Ahsan Sarah Feng Alicia Gan Angela Huo Lily Lin

Cate Roser Jessica Sánchez Daniela Woldenberg Ashley Zheng


Web Design

Nithya Guthikonda Makda Assefa Ellie Park Serena Ulammandakh Nour Tantush

Members & Directors: Emily Bazelon • Haley Cohen Gilliland • Peter Cooper • Andy Court • Jonathan Dach • Susan Dominus • Kathrin Lassila • Elizabeth Sledge • Fred Strebeigh • Aliyya Swaby

Thank you to our donors

Neela Banerjee* Anson M. Beard James Carney Andrew Court Romy Drucker Jeffrey Foster David Gerber David Greenberg*

Jesse Goodman Zachary Groz Jasmine Wright

Podcast Editors Meg Buzbee Anya Razmi Grace Ellis Suraj Singareddy Chloe Nguyen Adam Winograd Creative Director

Check out our new podcast on our website!

Cleo Maloney

Associate Editors

Naina Agrawal-Hardin Kinnia Cheuk Viola Clune Grace Ellis Aanika Eragam Maggie Grether Samantha Liu

In the meantime, we hope to elevate these stories of rebellion, liberation, and joy. We, as Aanika writes, think about wholeness.

Abbey Kim Paola Santos Kylie Volavongsa


Advisors: Neela Banerjee • Richard Bradley • Susan Braudy • Lincoln Caplan • Jay Carney • Joshua Civin • Richard Conniff • Ruth Conniff • Elisha Cooper • David Greenberg • Daniel Kurtz-Phelan • Laura Pappano • Jennifer Pitts • Julia Preston • Lauren Rawbin • David Slifka • John Swansburg • Anya Kamenetz • Steven Weisman • Daniel Yergin

Friends: Nicole Allan • Margaret Bauer • Mark Badger and Laura Heymann • Anson M. Beard • Susan Braudy • Julia Calagiovanni • Elisha Cooper • Peter Cooper • Andy Court The Elizabethan Club • Leslie Dach • David Freeman and Judith Gingold • Paul Haigney and Tracey Roberts • Bob Lamm • James Liberman • Alka Mansukhani • Benjamin Mueller • Sophia Nguyen • Valerie Nierenberg • Morris Panner • Jennifer Pitts • R. Anthony Reese • Eric Rutkow • Lainie Rutkow • Laura Saavedra and David Buckley • Anne-Marie Slaughter • Elizabeth Sledge • Caroline Smith • Gabriel Snyder • Elizabeth Steig • John Jeremiah Sullivan • Daphne and David Sydney • Kristian and Margarita Whiteleather • Blake Townsend Wilson • Daniel Yergin • William Yuen




Mass Education cover story

The Yale Prison Education Initiative brings prestige and power into nearby prisons—but not without a cost. By Aanika Eragam


Delivery Fee Local doulas and midwives struggle to offer critical birth services among rising maternal mortality rates and shrinking care. By Maggie Grether


points of departure Christina Lee finds an unexpected community in New Haven's Go Club

Alina Vaidya Mahadevan explores life at Yale behind 6 First-year the camera. criticals

flash fiction

50 The God of Speed and Distant Messages By Cal Barton aside

51 Home Amidst Ink and Pulp By Tina Li

38 When the Paint Dries

photo essay

Where did all of Yale's graffiti go? By Tashroom Ahsan

41 By Ángela Pérez

42 Resisting Collapse

What is the cost of excellence? By Caleb Dunson



8 No Brakes

A writer rides the whirlwind of New Haven’s biking scene. By Josie Reich

Front Women 12 For four years in the seventies, the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band brought fiery feminism across the East Coast. By Sophia Liu

17 You Sat Low 53 A Distant Mentorship With Me

A student reflects on the criticisms, poetry, and teachings of Louise Glück. Tau Gallicum By Danya Blokh By Asher Hurowitz By Netanel Schwartz


44 The Age of Looking

13 Terminal E-O15 By Diya Naik

26 Kinks in the Movement A writer braids together the stories of New Haven's Black hair salons with her own. By Viola Clune November 2023

personal essays

A writer parses through hotness and beauty. By Suraj Singareddy

crossword: Superwoman House Tour Blondie,

by Adam Winograd, page 55.

image credits: Karen Pearson (TOP, FRONT, BACK); Nithya Guthikonda (BOTTOM)


Points of Departure

Across the Board At first, I thought I was on the wrong floor of the library. I had just gotten off a phone call with my parents. Their surprise at the existence of a Go Club in New Haven heightened my excitement to uncover its existence for myself. I had anticipated wooden Go tables sprawled out across an open floor in a small, closed-off section of the library. My parents teased that I would be out of place. Baduk—the Korean name for Go—is an old person’s game. Perhaps there would be rice crackers and dried squid, and I would have to be prepared to introduce myself in Korean. I was worried the elders might find my questions bothersome; the church elders I knew weren’t always fond of gameplay interruptions. But the prospect of meeting Korean American elders in New Haven excited me nonetheless. The Korean American Students at Yale newsletter introduced me to the New Haven Go Club. Hearing about the club prompted me to trace back the spaces I associate with Go. In celebration of Lunar New Year, the Korean American church in my hometown transforms its cafeteria into a hall brimming with Korean dishes and snacks, church members wearing hanboks, and a large spread of traditional games. Lining one side of the cafeteria, pairs of Korean elders play long, silent matches of Baduk against the backdrop of lively festivities. 4

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A similar sight awaits at the Korean sauna: in the recreational area, next to the chess boards, are Baduk boards with small bowls of black and white stones placed neatly next to them. For me, Baduk is an emblem of the diasporic Asian community, finding its way into churches on Long Island, saunas in New Jersey, and libraries in New Haven. It embodies the post-colonial, diasporic Korean experience in its very essence: a strategy game of conquest and capture, sacrifice and liberty, life and death. As I descended the New Haven Free Public Library stairs, I saw no elders or young Korean students. It was all white people. But the Go boards—with their sure grids and black and white stones— were unmistakable. Four people hunched around a long white folding table. And Quentin Bateux-Mocquard was one of them, just about to start his first match. Bateux-Mocquard, the club founder and a postdoctoral researcher at Yale, enjoys abstract games and logic: a reflection of his background in computer science. He first heard of Go as a boy through Hikaru no Go, a manga about a boy possessed by a Go player from Japan’s Heian period. But it wasn’t until 2015, when AlphaGo became the first Go computer program to defeat a professional player, that Bateux-Mocquard revisited Go as an adult. That technological feat intrigued Bateux-Mocquard. He began playing Go through local clubs across France. Bateux-Mocquard, with a smiley demeanor and an eagerness to teach, walked me through my first game of Go. I had never played before and found it funny that a white man in New Haven was the first one to teach me. I don’t have a talent for abstract strategy games and struggled to foresee obvious formations and predict Bateux-Mocquard’s moves. But Bateux-Mocquard is especially seasoned in teaching total beginners. He taught me all the basic components and strategies. The term “Atari,” for example, refers to when a stone or a group of stones can be captured on the next move by the opponent—similar to a check in chess. I found myself in Atari quite frequently. Next to us sat John Grisafi. He was more soft-spoken than Bateux-Mocquard but sometimes looked up from his own game to chime in with advice on cleaner ways to play. Grisafi is a fifth-year graduate student at Yale with a focus in Asian

religions and has previously researched U.S. military occupations in South Korea. His research, as well his marriage to a Korean person, drove him to explore Korean hobbies. “I was exposed to the game after initially being exposed to Janggi,” he says as he deliberates his next move, talking through his turn. Janggi is a chess variant played in Korea on a 9 inch by 10 inch gameboard. Grisafi owns a board with Janggi layouts on one side and Go on the other. After a year and a half of playing the Janggi board, he decided to flip it over and try the Go side. Grisafi has helped Bateux-Mocquard advertise the club by reaching out to Yale student organizations like the Ancient Chinese Traditions Club. Both men are committed to growing the club for the same reason: personal connection. Bateux-Mocquard’s motivation for starting the club in March of this year grew out of a frustration with the lack of connection in playing Go online. “I need the balance of being able to actually see people and play and chat and play against a lot of different levels, and teach sometimes.” He adds that seeing people face-to-face motivates him. Grisafi, who started playing through apps, also acknowledges the merit of playing in-person: “I was in Daegu, Korea, and I was at a park and saw older men playing. It’s seeing people play it in person that really rekindles your interest in doing so.” Halfway into the club meeting, Justin Kim arrived, a newcomer to the Go club and a Korean American graduate student at Yale. He was the only

layout design and Title Illustration by Cate Roser

Points of Departure

other Asian person in attendance and had joined in interest of playing in person. Kim, who grew up playing with his brother, says, “It makes it much more human…it’s nice to talk to someone and chat before and after or just have small talk during it.” Kim adds that there is an added layer of excitement that comes with playing against real people—it heightens the stakes. He recalls his experiences of playing against chess hustlers in New York City, where putting money down made him even more exhilarated to play. Similarly, the dynamic of a Go game transforms when your opponent is sitting right in front of you, even with no money involved. Teaching, watching, and chatting comprised the ethos of the members’ interactions at the club meeting. Before a game, members would negotiate how to even the playing field, often playing someone with more or less experience. At the end of a game, players would deliberate moves they should’ve taken and exchange analyses of the other’s game. Throughout the games,

with jokes—the club was asked to quiet down three times by library personnel. By the end of the session, all three of the remaining members huddled around Kim and Bateux-Mocquard’s game, watching intently and offering lively commentary. I did not leave the club meeting any better at Baduk than I did walking in. The terms, ironically, still feel foreign to me—atari, liberties, ladders. I cannot inherit Baduk: my parents and cousins in America do not play, and the ones that might live fifteen hours away. And yet I can walk five minutes to the New Haven Free Public Library, where a small piece of this uninherited culture is nestled tightly into a community that handles it with care.∎

members also shared anime recommendations and bonded over their love for Californian cities. For a club I expected to be a silent, meditative escape from the rainy weather, the session was brimming

Photography by Ellie Park and Illustration by Ashley Zheng

Christina Lee is a sophomore in Davenport College.

TheNewJournal     November 2023


Points of Departure

advertised. It didn’t take long for the has made all my friends at other universities bitterly jealous. rosy camera lens to fog. “I wasn’t providing thoughts and I grew up in Mumbai—coming to Yale meant not only a transition from opinions on the Yale experience, I was high school to college but also a fun- just showcasing what we have,” Zhou damental cultural adjustment. For the told me. Living in Pauli Murray, her first time, I found myself in several “daily breakfast was delicious,” and she situations where I was the only brown aimed to let her viewers draw their own person in the room—some references conclusions about life at Yale. Of course, went over my head, and my accent Zhou did not advertise that she was an often felt uncomfortably distinct. Never employee of Yale Hospitality as a stubefore had my Indian identity felt so dent worker—even if she told me that pronounced, as I fielded questions like payment did not impact her content. While talking to her, I realize that “How on Earth is your English so good?” and “If you’re from India, how did you this disparity between the “Yale” that influencers portray and the “Yale” we get into Yale?” I am not alone in this isolation. imagine is an unintended consequence Fellow international students echo sim- of being an influencer at Yale. But, to ilar struggles—the lack of our represen- be perfectly honest, she did set the bar tation on social media, the differences high with her cannoli pancake-filled rom my home in Mumbai, I between the one-size-fits-all Yale expe- montages—a bar that my daily salad devoured all of Aimee Catherine’s rience and the one we have. and hummus could never dream of livvlogs. “LIVING LIKE RORY GILMORE FOR “We see glimpses of what it’s like to ing up to. A DAY AT YALE UNIVERSITY.” “Harvard- be at Yale,” my friend and fellow firstBoth Catherine and Zhou seemed Yale Game 2021 | ‘The Game’ Vlog.” year Mansi Anil Kumar ’27 told me, careful not to generalize the Yale expe“college weekend in my life at yale.” “but never what it’s like to be at Yale as rience to everyone. But, their wide Each left me in awe of the life she an international student.” Indian stu- reach—particularly when Catherine’s leads at Yale, and more excited to come dents at Yale like Mansi have become viewer demographics consist mostly of here in the fall. my makeshift home and family, people high schoolers—means that there is a Now Catherine ’25 sits in front of me that I cannot imagine my life here with- fine line between “showcasing” a Yale in the Morse common room. She’s taller out. The hashtags and TikToks never experience and having that become the than I expected, a wonderful listener, talk about the intense homesickness standard for future Yalies. and refreshingly down-to-earth. The and loneliness that several of us have These influencers are situated in a Yale junior also has more than twenty experienced given the huge transition much broader network of Yale’s carethousand subscribers on YouTube, a sig- we are making. nificant share of which are high school It can feel difficult to move beyond girls. I look at her with a mix of awe and the constructed image of Yale online to anticipation, incredulous to be talking to a real one—one beyond the myth. the same person whose weekly videos I Some of my happiest moments have once watched religiously. been in the last few months. My intelShe'd sketched out Yale with the lectual curiosity has never felt as nurtools I would need to succeed here. I tured, my friends are some of the most thought I knew Yale; I thought I knew wonderful people I have had the priviher—it turns out, I know neither. lege of meeting, and I have truly started “I center my content around my life- to feel at home here. But, this semester style, a big part of which is Yale,” she has also been rife with moments of selftells me. “It’s a way for me to channel doubt and imposter syndrome, with my creativity and document my experi- the constant doubt of whether I truly fully curated online presence. Their ences, and was never meant to be a gen- deserve to be here. work begs the question: Who should be eralization of what Yale is for everyone.” Curious about the image Yale influ- held accountable for crafting the idealI logically know that Catherine and encers seek to present, I also talked to ized myth of Yale? campus influencers are not complicit in Emme Zhou ’23, an influencer known Perhaps more pervasive—if subthe discrepancy between the content for her Yale dining hall content. Her tle—is the Yale Admissions Office and they produce and the resulting image “come get a meal with me at Yale!” other Yale administrative presences they create for their followers. And yet, TikToks went viral, accumulating mil- online. I remember coming across an I can’t help but feel deceived. lions of views. I remember obsessively admissions blog titled “What are Yale Until I arrived at Yale this August, rewatching her videos and salivating Youtubers,” which publicized a HarvardI was one of those many followers, con- over apple pancake brunches. Talking Yale game day vlog, Catherine’s “FIRST vinced that life at Yale was as perfect to her was surreal. She was the same DAY OF COLLEGE AT YALE UNIVERSITY | as it looked online, with the First-Year Emme who was my primary source of Freshman Year!” video, among several Dinner and East Rock hikes and picnics information about Yale dining halls, other influencers’ YouTube channels. on a beautiful fall day that influencers the same Emme whose food content Beyond just promoting these pages,




November 2023      TheNewJournal

illustrations And LayOUT DESIGN by Chris de Santis

Points of Departure

the adminstration has also taken on an influencer role itself. “Day in the Life” reels are no longer restricted to influencers’ Instagrams; they are all over Yale’s admissions account. The image of Yale that influencers portray becomes far more official in creating a specific perception of Yale when it is endorsed by Yale channels. Yale’s social media presence is filled with these student-made videos, with administrators encouraging students to toe the line between student and

influencer. It seems a new frontier of advertising has opened up—one that relies on faux candid sixty second videos and maximizing online buzz. Before I came here, Yale occupied an unattainable standard in my mind. Everyone was living a life that looked straight out of a movie, one that I just couldn’t seem to capture. Now I’ve come to love Yale much more. Instead of longing for only the picture perfect, I revel in the tangible, quiet moments of reflection. I revel in the mundane.∎ Alina Vaidya Mahadevan is a first-year in Morse College.

TheNewJournal     November 2023



“Because my past was so hard, this is my No Brakes escape­­—­ A writer rides the whirlwind of New Haven’s biking scene. By Josie Reich


ebi Killer talks me through cancer awareness. She has seen the numher trauma like it’s a grocery ber of female bikers riding in Connecticut list. Abusive household. Alcoholic grow exponentially during her lifetime. father. Foster system at 11. Near-fatal car She founded the group in 1987 with twelve accident at 16. Breast cancer. Stroke and “sisters.” Today, forty-five women ride with complete paralysis at 52. Milk. Eggs. No the Club. four-leaf clovers. But Killer doesn’t see Killer is full of laughter and quick herself as unlucky. with aphorisms. She doesn’t project “I’ve had a lot of miracles in my life,” ferocity. She explains that it’s because she remarks with the throaty voice of she, along with most of those she’s rida sure smoker. There’s nothing divine den with throughout her life, values about her endurance, though. She’s just respect above all else: “It's brotherhood, tough. “Killer” is a name her friends gave sisterhood, we're tight-knight. If somethe gritty 11-year-old Debi to help her one's broken down on the side of the remain unidentified when she ran away road, I don't care if I know them or not, from home. At 62, the faint haunt in her I'm pulling over.” eyes tells you she’s had to be as cutthroat Biking is all about the community, as the title. I’m told over and over by bikers across And yet, those eyes are the last the city. Being a biker doesn’t mean just thing you notice about Killer. They’re owning a bike—it’s when you bike with shielded by her head-to-toe baby-pink others that you truly become a biker. outfit. Her glasses, bandana, vest, biking Jordan Voss, a 40-year-old biker gloves, sneakers, and lipstick all match from West Haven, put it simply: “Biking so closely that you’d think she dyed alone is like having a party by yourself.” them herself. They also match the bright It’s an oxymoron. pink ’78 Shovelhead motorcycle that Like many bikers I spoke to, Voss she’s been riding for over forty years–– feels close to the biker community despite and still rides after making a complete being unaffiliated with a particular group. recovery from her stroke. Five bikers told me that it’s normal to “Because my past was so hard and ride with different groups on different so rough, this is my escape,” she says days, joining larger crowds to attend bikof riding motorcycles. “A lot of peo- ing events in far-flung cities. According to ple bike for that freedom, that relief of Killer, there are too many biking groups to trauma that they dealt with in life.” count, and various groups handle memKiller is the president of the bership differently. She accepts new riders Connecticut Women Motorcycle Club based on a vote of current members along Nomads, a female motorcycle group that the criteria of “no lies, no drugs, no troualso holds events to advocate for breast ble, and no negativity.”


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Molster-Pecoraro and Reich go on a ride.

I sit with Voss on cushy leather couches in the back of the Owl Shop cigar lounge. He smokes Blondie cigars and sips bourbon, trading flirty insults with the waitress as she comes by. He turns the conversation in unexpected directions, first toward the IsraelHamas war, then to DeSantis versus Trump. Then, in an effort to find some point of connection between us, Voss draws a metaphor. Biking is like being an overseas journalist, he says. “You’re so motivated to become part of that industry that you’d put yourself in danger.” Court charges and broken limbs are the price some bikers pay to claim the identity and image they romanticize— free, cool, part of something. Biking is, indeed, an industry: Cue Gabriel Canestri Jr. and Salvatore Fusco, two bikers based out of New Haven who have turned the activity into a business and a source of fame. Both men have hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and post videos that regularly garner millions of views. The rapper Drake follows Canestri, and 19.2 million

No Brakes

“It’s brotherhood, sisterhood, we’re tight-knit. If someone’s broken down on the side of the road, I don’t care if I know them or not, I’m pulling over.”

Photographs courtesy of Josie Reich.

people have viewed a video the biker posted of himself riding a completely vertical bike inside the clubhouse where he and Fusco work. “EVERYTHING WILL KILL YOU. CHOOSE SOMETHING FUN.” The words loom over the Hole in the Wall clubhouse, better known to bikers as “The Shop.” Tucked behind an abandoned church, The Shop is home to the New Haven-based motorcycle merchandise and hard parts brand Eastcoastin Crew. The large, open-air

garage is filled with gleaming HarleyDavidsons. The walls are plastered with stickers and spray-painted tags boasting slogans so stereotypical they come across as ironic. Canestri and Fusco, co-owners of Eastcoastin, run up and down the clubhouse ramp, wide enough only for a single wheel. They tend to the bikes with purpose and urgency, halting their constant motion only to noogie the shop dogs. Fusco coaxes the handlebar of a bike with precise

twists of his fingers, his hands black with grease. When Canestri and Fusco started Eastcoastin in 2017, it revolutionized the New Haven bike scene. They were among the first people to attempt advanced stunts on Harley-Davidsons, which are larger and heavier than other motorcycles. The average motorcycle weighs about 430 pounds; most Harleys weigh between 540 and 905 pounds. On these bikes, the men attempt tricks such as stoppies, lifting the back wheel

“—people bike for that freedom, that relief.” layout design by Alicia gan

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No Brakes

up to meet the ground with their eyes, and wheelies, hoisting the front wheel to hang, suspended horizontally, off the back of the bike. Canestri and Fusco’s gravity-defying, eye-widening tricks carved out a name for New Haven in the biking world, drawing many more bikers to the area and more of those already in the area to biking. “They do tricks and controlled slides in very close proximity to each other,” marveled Mario Galasso, co-owner of the Freedom Road Harley-Davidson dealership in Branford. “When they’re doing their shows, it’s like an orchestrated ballet.” Canestri and Fusco declined to speak on the record about biking, citing concerns about an ongoing lawsuit brought against them by the city of New Haven. In 2022, Mayor Justin Elicker’s administration sued five defendants affiliated with Eastcoastin over a party and stunt show the business hosted in 2021. The City claims that the event broke a Connecticut law requiring event organizers to cover the cost of police protection in any “place of public amusement.” The lawsuit separately alleges that the defendants violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, which “prohibits unfair competition and unfair deceptive acts,” arguing that it is unfair for Eastcoastin to have profited from the event while the City incurred the costs of public protection. Underpinning the ongoing legal dispute is a fundamental divergence of opinion between Eastcoastin and the City about whether biking should be tolerated in public spaces. Elicker recently launched a joint regional task force with several municipalities neighboring New Haven. It’s part of a yearslong effort to combat illegal riding in Connecticut of dirt bikes, which have two wheels and are intended for off-road driving, and all-terrain vehicles, which have four wheels and are safety equipment, meant for off-highway use. In a press Elicker said that conference, the mayor said that New he is concerned about similar “street Haven has seized thirty-three dirt bikes takeover” issues when they gather bikand ATVs so far this year. ers who upset traffic patterns, riding Elicker told me that there is a differ- through the city en masse. ence between street-legal bikers and dirt “In that circumstance, it’s someand ATV bikers. Street-legal bikers sim- what similar,” he said, referring to the ply break minor traffic laws, while the 2021 event at the center of the lawsuit. dirt and ATV bikers “do street takeovers” “Thousands of people came either as and are “somewhat regularly” found with spectators or riders and completely guns when they are arrested for biking. took over the streets.” Although Eastcoastin uses street-legal Eight of the bikers I talked to said bikes with brakes, headlights, and other the same thing about dirt and ATV 10

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bikers. They’re kids. They’re hooligans. It’s okay, though—let them live. There’s no tension between them and the Harley riders, even if there’s tension between them and the law. The dirt and ATV bikers, according to Voss, are often just 15 or 16 years old, and “cause chaos throughout the city, break windows on cars, and steal bikes. But there’s no tension because the groups just don’t associate.” Killer agreed. In fact, she’s “been in the pack a few times,” she said, referring to the younger, more reckless crowd. This is a

No Brakes

Illustration courtesy of Sarah Feng. Image courtesy of Josie Reich.

common theme among motorcyclists who have had long riding careers. It’s customary to fall in with the daredevils as a young rider before graduating to more sanctioned riding styles and bikes. When the older bikers I spoke to stop at red lights, they are left with nostalgia for their more reckless days. Connection, not just danger, characterizes the rides of younger bikers. “Everyone’s together, everyone wants to join in,” Killer said, frying her vocal chords for emphasis on toGEther. “Why not? We all just want to be left alone and be free.”

Dave Molster-Pecoraro, a 51-yearold biker from East Haven unaffiliated with a biker group, credits biking’s unifying power for reuniting him with his biological father. A few years ago, Molster-Pecoraro identified his father through Ancestry.com. They decided to meet and bonded over their shared love of bikes. A few hours after their conversation, he checked his phone to learn he had won a Harley-Davidson in a raffle. He and his father now take a weekly ride together on Sundays. “It’s like we were never apart,” he said.

A cheerful Molster-Pecoraro cranks up “Hellraiser” by Ozzy Osbourne on the speaker of his Harley. He’s offered me a ride. I hold on to the skull tattoo on his upper left shoulder for dear life, and without GPS or a watch, we set off through East Haven. He salutes each passing biker with the “biker wave,” extending his middle and pointer fingers downward and curling the rest together. His sharp, staccato “ha-ha-ha” cuts the wind. When we pull into a parking lot, he tells me it’s impossible to explain in words why biking bonds people together so well. It’s a feeling you only understand when you’re riding. Once you’re on that bike, suddenly, you’re sharing an experience with every other biker you pass. Galasso, co-owner of the Branford Harley-Davidson dealership, told me that bikers welcome anyone who believes in the freedom philosophy of riding regardless of age, background, race, or gender. Killer contended that outside of the speckless Harley dealership, it’s more complicated. She and other women have had to work hard to carve out space for themselves in the biking world, which is male both in constitution and in temper. When it comes to intergroup attitudes, motorcyclists, dirt bikers, business owners, and joy riders set their different styles aside. They coexist, bonded by their common passion and mutual value of freedom from judgment. Tough childhoods are understood, even assumed. If you’re in, the acceptance is radical. And to be in, you just have to understand that the thrill comes when the rules go. The wind belongs to everyone. A guaranteed equalizer. “That’s why I brought you for a ride,” he smiles. “I wanted you to experience it.” My hair has ballooned into a fluffy, wind-blown tangle. I feel included.∎ Josie Reich is a sophomore in Davenport College.

TheNewJournal     November 2023



Front Women For four years in the seventies, the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band brought fiery feminism across the East Coast. By Sophia Liu

e’ve got to control our “W own lives,” Jennifer Abod sings. Her voice, sharp and convincing, cre-

scendos. “Free our sisters! Abortion is a right!” Virginia Blaisdell delivers the final riff on her French horn. Judy Miller strikes the last note on her cymbal and smiles. Rika Alper cracks a joke and tunes her guitar. Kit McClure distributes papers with the lyrics to the next song. “Sing along!” Leah Margulies shouts. Their audience of women, standing shoulder to shoulder, roars. It’s midnight on Wednesday in the summer of 1970. At Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity house, students experience something like never

Virginia Blaisdell practicing drums in her home in New Haven. Photograph courtesy of Etai Smotrich-Barr.


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before—the debut of the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band. Six months before this performance, the soon-to-be bandmates had met at the Free Women’s Conference, a two-day event consisting of feminist speeches and discussions in which over three hundred women participated. The event sought to recruit new activists for the New Haven women’s movement, a group that emerged in 1966 out of frustration with the male-dominated American Independence Movement. Both the Conference and the Band underpinned the second-wave feminism movement, a period of advocacy for women’s equality and visibility—primarily for the wealthy and white.

Among them was Kit McClure ’75, a first-year in Yale College’s first co-educational class in 1969 and the sole female member of the Yale Precision Marching Band in 1970. But after a male student forcibly picked her up and carried her across a football field, she quit. She’d also left the Directed Studies program, frustrated by the male students who talked over her in class. In 1970, Rika Alper was invited to the Free Women’s Conference to speak about the feminist struggle rampant within the anti-war movement. Having grown up playing folk guitar, Alper always fantasized about running away and joining a rock band.

When Leah Margulies spotted McClure at the Conference, she had already heard a rumor about a red-headed first-year at Yale with rock band experience. Marguiles moved to New Haven in 1968 and started practicing the flute along the way. She yearned to play in an all-female band. Virginia “Ginny” Blaisdell went to the Conference because “everyone was.” Her best friend, Naomi Weisstein, was a speaker at the Conference and would go on to start the Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band at the same time the New Haven chapter came together. The sister bands remained in close contact throughout their careers— it didn’t hurt that New Haven’s Jennifer Abod and Chicago’s Susan Abod were sisters. “When I feel my Eight women in their early Even amid this hostile landscape, sister’s embrace, there’s all the 20s made up the New Haven the New Haven Liberation Band’s first space and the love that I need. Yes, we Women’s Liberation Rock concert at Delta Kappa Epsilon was an need each other.” Band. The other core memuproarious success. The band distributed But to combat sexism, the Band bers were Harriet Cohen, who tambourines and lyric sheets, performed wanted to do more than subvert lyrplayed guitar, Florika Remetier comedy and theater, and spoke candidly ics. They wanted, as Weisstein and and Pat Ouellette, who played to their audience mid-performance. By Blaisdell wrote, to “demystify the bass, and Judy Miller, who played refusing to distance themselves as rock priesthood of the instrument and drums. Kate Field ’75 and Anna stars, they engaged their audience as the amplifier.” Because women playTsing Lowenhaupt ’73—who, like equals. The Band reinvented the rock ing music, especially rock music, was McClure, were also in Yale’s first concert experience from a spectator unheard of at the time, the Band, by class of women—joined briefly. sport to a participatory celebration. In playing their instruments, moving and The women were united by their 1976, Blaisdell wrote in Sister, New fixing their equipment, and recording disgust with the blatant sexism of Haven’s first feminist magazine, that by themselves, wished to strengthen rock music. Weisstein and Blaisdell the band “had somehow momentarfemale autonomy and self-confidence. explained this feeling in their 1972 ily succeeded in creating an event “It’s hard to imagine how much of a article, “Feminist Rock: No More that incorporated [their] vision of man’s world it was at that time,” Alper Balls and Chains” for Ms. magazine: a better society because it changed said. “It was almost as if women were “Rock has become more blatantly, the way performers and audiences like cows or horses or some species that menacingly sexist than anything that behaved with each other.” couldn’t possibly figure out how to play an had preceded it.” electric guitar.” In the late nineteen-sixties he Band challenged the sexWhen the Band played at women’s and early nineteen-seventies, rock ism of rock music by inserting conferences, they would often hold workmusic championed rugged mascutheir feminist, affirmative, and shops afterward on how to play rock music linity. Groups like The Rolling Stones humanitarian visions. “We were with their own instruments. and Led Zeppelin created what critfirst and most necessarily femi“Our mission was to open the rock ics termed “cock rock”—aggressively nists. Only second were we musimusic world to women and show them asserting masculinity by standing with cians,” Blaisdell wrote in 1976. that they could be rock musicians too,” their legs wide open, mimicking sex In their Ms. magazine article, Marguiles explained. with their guitars, and singing about Weisstein and Blaisdell defined For the members who had never empty-minded, sexually subservient their music as “musical organizplayed rock music or been inside a girls. The Rolling Stones’ “Under My ing.” Through their lyrics, they recording studio before, McClure, Thumb,” for example, compares a girl deconstructed women’s oppresFlorika, and Blaisdell—who each previto “a squirming dog” and “Siamese cat” sion in order to empower them. ously had ten to twenty years of trainthat “does just what she’s told…under The Band sang about the wholeing—acted as their mentors, writing my thumb.” In 1967, Jimi Hendrix prehearted female experience: “...our songs and teaching their less-experitended to rape his guitar on stage. Cock strengths and dignity and courage enced members how to perform. rock’s sexual aggression extended beyond and humor and honor and love and lyrics and performances and reflected the uniqueness and wisdom, our joy as hroughout the Band’s fourprevalent sexual violence women endured. well as our pain.” year course, members’ personal In 1968, at the Sky River rock festival, Songs emphasized everything lives were intrinsically linked with three women were gang raped and one from resistance to solidarity. In the intersectional causes they woman was stabbed while trying to escape. “Sister Witch,” the Band sings, championed. Influenced by the

specially e , c i s u m g en playin m o w e s time, the u e a h c t t Be a f o unheard s a w , c i s u s, moving t n e m u rock m r t s ng their in i y a l cording p e y r b d , n a , t Band n equipme r e i e h t g n i x then femal g n e and fi r t s o t es, wished v l e s nfidence. o m c e h ft l e s by d n a autonomy



layout design by lily lin

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Photog urtesy raph co in of Virg ia Blais dell

The Band playing at a reunion.

of the Band merely tolerat a prison in Niantic, gay liberation movement, some members saw ated one another or didn’t Connecticut. Blaisdell wrote, same-sex relationships as the logical answer to get along as well. Despite “The [prison] was buzzing their past romantic struggles with men and their their enlivening and exhilaratwith an incipient politifeminist resistance. ing performances on stage, the cal consciousness.” Two Everyone broke up with their former partBand frequently fought off stage. to three hundred incarners and experimented with their sexualities. “I “It was pandemonium,” Rika cerated people, mostly played with whoever I wanted to,” Blaisdell said. said. “We fought about everyyoung Black women, sat She divorced her husband. Marguiles ended her thing and nothing.” in the gym, bobbing up marriage to explore polygamous and lesbian When Marguiles married in and down and yelling in relationships. Alper broke up with her boy1968, her parents offered to either their seats. They were friend. Abod came out as a lesbian. McClure give her some money or pay for an not allowed to dance, frequented a gay bar near Yale. elaborate wedding. Marguiles chose but they did so none“We talked about how oppressed we were the money and bought a van for the theless. Every time a and how much men suck,” Alper described. “It Band. The Band agreed that all money guard motioned for was very disruptive and upsetting. There were earned from their gigs would be used one dancer to sit down, a lot of hurt feelings and conflict. Nothing communally on food, equipment, and another dancer would about our lives was placid.” transportation expenses. They charged pop up on the other Many of the women also joined femieach audience member only the amount side of the room. nist consciousness-raising groups, tightthey could afford to pay. “There was no One of these knit clusters of women that would speak financial interest,” Alper said. women was Ericka and share their intimate feelings and needs. Huggins, a leading While some of the members were n December 13, 1970, the Band had member of the Black close friends or had romantic relationthe unforgettable thrill of performing Panther Party, who ships with one another, other members



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wrote a poem inspired by the performance. She describes the solidarity she felt blossom across racial lines: “it was all a total exchange / of energy… they sang / and our voices answered their guitars…a feeling there that one day—soon— / all people will be free…we left / stronger / able to smile.” Moved by the crowd’s energy in defiance of the guards, the Band extended their performance until the prison matron made them stop. But at Cornell University, where the New Haven Band played alongside the Chicago Band, the women’s presence provoked outrage. Most of the all-female audience took their shirts off mid-performance. Male students at Cornell— overhearing this and feeling enraged by what they felt was exclusion—stormed the concert venue, calling the Band members “cunts” and hurling things at them. Police were called to evacuate the Band and the attendees. Despite this incident, the Band still received overwhelmingly positive responses from their female audiences. “People were thrilled with us,” Alper said. “It was so novel to hear music with these types of lyrics and to see women jumping up and down with

Abod said, “We had a right to do this, and it might not have come out as well as we wanted. The people after us will do it better, but we had to do it for the first time.”

an electric instrument.” The Band developed a loyal, young, and female New Haven fan base that would follow them to every concert, which stunned the members. “It seems magical that people knew we were playing in another city,” Alper said. In the fall of 1971, Marian Levy approached McClure at a concert and asked if the Band was interested in making a record. Levy was the co-founder of Rounder Records, a self-described “political collective as well as a record company.” The Band agreed but felt completely unprepared. “The idea was preposterous and terrifying,” Blaisdell wrote. “We were so perplexed by the enormity of the idea and also anxious to talk about the political implications of what we had been doing for a year.” The New Haven chapter of the Band was then invited to a recording studio in Southboro, Massachusetts for a weekend to record the album alongside their Chicagoan counterpart. Levy left the two bands to themselves, saying, “It was also part of the political point being made, which is that women can not only make their own music, they can have creative control over their own music. And so, they did.” In 1972, the New Haven and Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Bands released their sole album, Mountain Moving Day, which sold a few thousand copies across college towns and feminist bookstores.


n 1973, the Band was invited by The Furies Collective, a group of lesbian separatists that viewed lesbianism as a political decision, to Washington D.C. to play for what they assumed was a public dance. But it was the Furies’ private party, the Band realized. Outraged, Blaisdell saw the incident as a sign that the movement “began to therapize itself ” and that women would choose their personal pursuits over collective activism. She wrote, “We considered ourselves the ‘cultural arm’ of feminism, but it wasn’t clear that feminism wanted such an arm or knew what to do with it.” By 1974, as the feminist movement waned, members of the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band no longer felt they were fulfilling their purpose. “Our era was coming to an end,” Rika said. “Roe v. Wade was passed. The

The Band in 1972 from left to right: Harriet Cohen, Kit MvcClure, Rika Alper, Jennifer Abod, Leah Margulies (sitting down with glasses on head), Pat Ouellette, sitting down, Virginia Blaisdell and behind her, Judy Miller.

Photo courtesy of Leah Margulies

anti-war movement was coming to a close.” The Band was splintering. During her time with the Band, Marguiles became a member of Sullivanian Therapy, a cult that practiced radical psychoanalysis, communal living, and polygamy, and refused to compromise with other members who didn’t support her beliefs. Unbeknownst to the other members, McClure struggled with alcohol and substance abuse. Eventually, encouraged by a psychology student at Yale, McClure sought therapy in New York and could no longer play in the New Haven Band. In 1974, four years after its founding, the original New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band disbanded. TheNewJournal     November 2023


Only Blaisdell and Abod hoped to on to play sold-out venues throughout continue playing, so they put out adver- the Northeast United States, Europe, and tisements in Ms. and Sister to find new Japan. She is 72 and resides in Manhattan members for a more musical and less with her husband of eighteen years. political band. “The new band sounded Blaisdell remained in New Haven, immensely better than the old one,” working at the New Haven Independent Blaisdell wrote. “But there were prob- and serving on the editorial board for lems.” By 1976, because the women’s Sister. To her, the shortness of the Band’s movement was holding fewer confer- tenure meant that they were unable to ences and events, the Band struggled to accomplish their mission of radicalizfind gigs and eventually dissolved. ing rock music. The end of the women’s While the heart of the Band lingers movement marked an end to the Band. with the members, they’ve since found “We blew it,” Blaisdell wrote. “Without a their own paths. Abod went on to anchor movement, an assault against the cultural The Jennifer Abod Show, the first nightly forms of our society will fail.” AM radio program with a female host, But hope glowed through Blaisdell’s to found a feminist-centered production disappointment—even as they disbanded,

celebrates and spotlights queer and trans musicians by hosting events like the Trans 4 Trans music festival. Space Ballroom fosters an inclusive space dedicated to musical freedom and personal expression. Tarek, the lead singer of the hardcore punk band Intercourse, said that Connecticut treasures a prominent experimental punk scene that counters traditional exclusive and masculine rock. Today, Blaisdell is 83 and lives with her partner, historian and professor Amy Kesselman. Her home—and its bookshelves stocked from floor to ceiling, a room dedicated to her drum set and dozens of her used cameras, and a refrigerator covered in political

© 1974 Naomi Weisstein & Virginia Blaisdell

company, and to teach as a professor in universities across the Northeast. Alper, though still passionate about music, realized that she is more skilled as a developmental psychologist. Marguiles went to law school and practices law to this day, her activist spirit strong as ever. something greater had been set in motion. McClure kept at her musical dreams. Abod said, “We had a right to do this, and She became the first woman to graduate it might not have come out as well as we with a master’s degree in saxophone per- wanted. The people after us will do it betformance from the Manhattan School ter, but we had to do it for the first time.” of Music. After juggling jobs as a music While the band has not performed teacher at five different New York City publicly in almost fifty years, its legacy schools, she founded the Kit McClure carries on within Connecticut’s music Band, an all-female jazz band that went scene and within Yale. East Rock House 16

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magnets––still bursts with her youthful dynamism. “There wouldn’t be women [at Yale] today if people hadn’t pushed the crap out of it,” Blaisdell said. Her Band’s radical humanitarian and utopic vision still lingers in New Haven today. ∎ Sophia Liu is a first-year in Grace Hopper College.


You Sat Low with Me You sat low with me then against the foot of the bed in the week after my father died. I put my head in your lap and I wanted you, and I went cold with shame for my wanting you. I said, nobody knows who my father was. I did not mean it. Even you knew who my father was. It was a bad room I led you to: I knew that I repulsed you. Also that you would never say so. I asked you then: is there shame in it? I could not afford shame in the week after my father died.

— Netanel Schwartz

Illustration by Angela Huo

TheNewJournal     November 2023


Mass Education By Aanika Eragam


olling hills. A long pasture of highway. Cars grazing in the distance. The view from the classroom at Danbury Correctional Facility could be idyllic enough for portraiture—if one leaves out the chain link fence. Jonathan Herrera Soto YSA ’23, a Teaching Fellow in the Yale School of Art’s Art and Social Justice Initiative, spent the slippery months of mid-summer driving up a jagged path to a small parking lot in western Connecticut. Lugging art supplies from his trunk, Herrera Soto would enter the prison for a security screening reminiscent of the TSA’s. At times, guards turned materials away, forcing him to return crates of styrofoam back to his car and improvise lesson plans without them. “I know I'm not supposed to bring in, like, hazardous contraband, but I don't really know what contraband is,” he told me. “I'm also not imaginative enough to see how some of these things could be used as weapons.”

layout design By Chris de Santis | Photographs Courtesy of Karen Pearson and Zelda Roland



A Wa YPE lke I g r C rad or r uat ect e r ion ece al ive In s h sti is t u dip tio lo n. ma



a cD


ga ll


The Yale Prison Education Initiative brings prestige and power into nearby prisons— but not without a cost.

November 2023

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In his application for the fellowship, Herrera “the University is celebrating this program in a Soto wrote about his older brother who was big way. It's taking a lot of credit for what we're incarcerated. During visits, a glass window stood doing. And what we're hoping for is that it will between them. The separation was part of what lead to better investment and buy-in.” brought him to the craft of drawing. The “techWhen Roland initially pitched the program nique of seeing and looking” became a way to to the Connecticut Department of Corrections, better understand his memories. Yet, a summer the Commissioner stopped her mid-spiel: he’d teaching in prison challenged him to ask: in the been waiting for someone at Yale to propose this art of rendition, is the truth only what appears? idea for years. “Part of [one] assignment was to draw out“For me, the prison system in Connecticut side,” he tells me, describing students’ apprehen- always wanted us inside it,” Roland explains. sion about including the fence. “As your instructor, “Yale was the holdup.” I want to say that it's your choice, if you're going Ultimately, while the YPEI bears the Yale to use the chain link fence as evidence of what name, degrees are awarded by the University of you actually see. But also…omission is a creative New Haven—a decision informed in part by decision to maybe get at a deeper truth or more logistics (Yale doesn’t offer Associate Degrees), of the truth. And I had the students [say] to me, and in part by exclusivity. ‘Alright, from here on out, no more fences.’” “There's always a tacit awareness that the selective nature of elite universities in the United States necessarily means that only a few can have Beginnings something that's valuable,” says Peter Crumlish, Director of Dwight Hall. Extending that educaIn the summer he taught at Danbury, Hererra tion to more people—particularly incarcerated Soto joined a host of Yale and University of people—breaks down Yale’s value system. “And New Haven faculty who teach in the Yale Prison you hear people saying, well, what about peoEducation Initiative—a Dwight Hall program ple who aren't incarcerated who are deserving? founded in 2016 by Yale alumna Zelda Roland Shouldn’t we start with them?” ’08, GSAS ’16. Each semester, the YPEI hosts This question of merit—who deserves approximately thirteen classes at MacDougall an education, particularly a Yale education— Walker Correctional Institution and Danbury clouds the rollout of the program. For faculty Federal Correctional Institution, with between and students within the YPEI, higher educaseven to fifteen students in each course. The tion is a means of reclaiming inmates’ humanity YPEI is a member of the Bard Prison Initiative's in prisons and paving a better life post-release. nationwide Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Yet, resources and funding constraints mean Prison, which runs programs from fifteen univer- that only a select few can access this legitimizsities across ten states. ing force. In a setting where release isn’t guarThe partnership between universities and anteed, performance post-prison still seems to prisons can occupy a tenuous space, particularly be the prevailing metric that matters. This begs given the difficulties plaguing both institutions. the question: in between the Prison and the Citing students, with soaring fees, post-grad- University, is personhood something you have uate employment in limbo, and faculty bogged to prove? down by bureaucratic bloat, media and academics have claimed that the University is in crisis. The Prison, too, has been decried for its inhuLiberating the Mind mane conditions, and the disproportionate representation of low-income BIPOC in its surging For students at MacDougall-Walker populations. For two institutions that have accu- Correctional Institution, the journey to class is mulated a barrage of negative media coverage a taxing one. over the past few decades, prison education proMuch of students’ days—twenty hours if the grams present a unique opportunity to change prison is in lockdown—is spent in cells. When the narrative. it’s time for class, they embark down a long gray From a PR perspective, it’s not difficult to see “hallway of hopelessness,” according to Marcus the benefits of hosting a program like the YPEI Harvin, an alumnus of the YPEI (’23) and a curfor an institution like Yale. Last year’s graduation rent College-to-Career Fellow. He described alone turned up more than sixty hits from a quick how the trek is a double-edged sword—“a sign Google search, with nationwide media outlets of hope for the inmate population but a sign of such as AP News, PBS, and NBC picking up the ridicule for the Corrections Officers.” story. The Yale name finds itself front and center Indeed, despite supportive prisons from in this coverage, with headlines including “The the YPEI’s administrative perspective, all five Jail to Yale Journey” and “Seven Prisoners Earn incarcerated students I spoke with described College Degrees from Top World University.” a degree of hostility from guards across pris“As you can probably tell,” Roland tells me, ons. Though some COs displayed interest in 20

Mass Education


students’ coursework, many firmly espoused Co-Faculty Director of the YPEI, teaching a class the belief that incarcerated people did not called Non-Cynical Socialists required an exercise deserve an education, much less one from an in imagination. institution like Yale. “We looked for a way to think about society that “Some will even be bold enough to say to wasn't cynical,” North said. “What does it mean to each other when a group of students are comlook for utopian moments? And students are resising by, ‘Oh, we got to pay X amount of doltant at first.” lars [for college], all they got to do is come to For their final projects, students were tasked prison,’" says Harvin. “You got to get through with analyzing an intentional community in history. a lot of hostility, to get to, let’s say for vernacuOne decided to focus on Black Wall Street, a proslar’s sake, History.” perous area in Tulsa, Oklahoma heralded by Black History is held in a seminar room at the agriculturists in the early twentieth century. It was end of the hall. With a round table, chairs, eventually the site of a devastating massacre. For and a window, it could resemble any their final projects, students resurrected classroom at Yale. But instead of lush the community, acting out a day on courtyards and blue skies, students Black Wall Street. gaze out at the prison block, where Hinton describes how in her other inmates walk to and from class. African American Literature class, “You can't get roped into Harvin describes it as an “educational many students were able to name—for believing that something warehouse.” the first time—the structural forces of Part of the violence of a prison is race, class, and gender that played a role is worth more than your its mundanity, says Hector Rodriguez, in their imprisonment. freedom,” says Jeter. “That an alumnus of the Bard Prison “This is essentially the essence of the Initiative and a current College-tovalue of a liberal arts education,” says this version of your huCareer Fellow at the YPEI. North, “liberating your mind.” manity is worth more than “I will look into the yard and peoAnd yet, liberation in a prison setple go in circles like zombies,” he told ting is always limited. Eventually, class your overall humanity. me. “That's your routine for every day ends, and students, armed with the acaNothing is worth more of the sentence. You're doing the demic tools to interrogate their oppressame thing.” sion, must still embark back down the than your personhood.” For Herrera Soto, proposing “hallway of hopelessness.” assignments for Basic Drawing meant “Of course, it's cool to be on finding ways to fight this mundanInstagram for the Governor. It's cool ity. He suggested that students use to be on Yale’s Instagram…But it sucks abstraction—rendering an image with to have to go back to a cell after you scribbles. “It's great because it’s not really your learn all of this stuff,” says Harvin. “After you've bunk or the concrete hallway…but [still what] just been told by one of the most brilliant people in we're trying to learn, which is value,” he said. your field that you are brilliant yourself. But you’re The classroom itself, for many students, is a still behind bars.” departure from the oppressive routine of the prison. In a prison setting, where students tolerate “You’re planning something and you're perharassment to go to class, Jeter says inmates must forming or you're writing and that brings you be wary of conflating studenthood with personhood. to another world,” says Elizabeth Hinton, a “You can't get roped into believing that someHistory professor at Yale and in the YPEI. “It's thing is worth more than your freedom,” says Jeter. important to provide people—[where] the pur“That this version of your humanity is worth more pose of prison is to remind them where they are than your overall humanity. Nothing is worth more in the world—to be able to transcend that.” than your personhood.” James Jeter, an alumnus of the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education and the Founder of the Dwight Hall Civic Allyship Initiative, labels Not An Educational Utopia professors as “idealists,” facilitating a space where “for the first time…[students] get to actually have For many, college in prison isn’t just about educaan experience outside of being an inmate.” tion; it’s about the future it offers post-release. “It's like the best part of the day that anybody in “A lot of times, we're not really looking at recidsuch a situation could have,” says Harvin. “Because ivism as a metric of success in higher education. you don't only get educated. You get community, That's not important to us,” says Roland. “But to sell communication, camaraderie. And that's somethe program to the facilities, they want to know that thing that prison lacks because it's such an indepenhigher education is impactful for recidivism, or that dent process…It's like a facade or dream, right? … it's having these different metrics, which it does.” But like, we can't really survive by ourselves.” At the Danbury location, Site Director Tracy Cultivating this community of optimism Westmoreland mentions a new Ward who really is not without its challenges. For Paul North, “sees the value” in the program: “If the students are November 2023

Mass Education


s ate adunal r g EI tio YP r r ec ent e r Co c e R alk ht: rig gall-W d n ou ta Lef MacDion. in stit ut In


Mass Education

gonna go back to the community, they need education, they need to be able to get a job. Otherwise, it's just a vicious cycle.” The philosophy that helps pitch prison education programs, then, stands on two fronts. One, that attending college in prison will behaviorally reform inmates, decreasing recidivism rates and increasing public safety. Two, that education programs will make inmates more productive in the workforce, becoming high-functioning and contributing members of society. While these are the principles that help get prison education programs through the door, they often come with fraught implications. Hinton argues in her lecture “Second Chances: Redemption and Reentry after Prison” that reliance on recidivism as a metric further reinforces the idea that education is a privilege. “It is necessary to redefine education from social utility,” Hinton says, “from its purpose being to train people to develop useful skills that will allow them to succeed in a global capitalist market, to individual utility.” This, Hinton tells me, looks like a world where education is afforded to incarcerated students simply so they can “understand the world better, expand their horizons”—without any expectation of capital return. Yet, for some students, education is a means to an end. Reentry often means lowwage, labor-intensive jobs at warehouses or construction sites. Having a degree opens up an entirely different trajectory—the ability to make a living. Rodriguez describes how in the Bard Prison Initiative, some inmates would apply year after year: “Every time they keep trying…because they see people go home and have good jobs.” “Wesleyan’s motto was ‘Education for the sake of education.’ No one in that program was looking to be educated for the sake of education,” says Jeter. “It's impossible to be real, because learning has been so commodified in America…Men and women want to get out. They want to get better. They want redemption. They want to prove something. So this isn't for the sake of education.” Ultimately, inmates have lives they lead outside of prison, and many have hopes of one day making their way back to the places and people they love. In one of Herrera Soto’s assignments, where students were tasked with drawing portraits, many turned to the only references they had—photos of their children. “That was particularly hard because I wasn't expecting the effect,” Herrera Soto says. “There's nothing that prepared me for going to check on people's homework and then they're sharing their stories of their kids.” For one student, prison education was a way of reconnecting with her daughter who was finishing high school. “She's participating in the YPEI to TheNewJournal

show her daughter,” Herrera Soto told me, “…if your mom can do it, then it's never too late.” The Prison-To-College Pipeline “[Yale] owns New Haven,” says Harvin. “Yeah. That's how I felt. That they own it. And maybe that they owed something to it?” Historically, Yale has a long record of perpetuating racial and economic inequality in New Haven, purchasing large swaths of land, over-policing, and limiting local hires—all while evading property taxes. The majority of students at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution are from New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport, directly residing in spaces where Yale is implicated. “Therefore,” says Hinton, “it should be part of Yale’s responsibility to share its resources with students.” Currently, Yale’s investment in the YPEI primarily comes through administrative support, such as faculty and indirect contributions. Roland stresses the importance of these resources, yet the University’s direct financial commitment to the program is “such a low number” that she doesn’t share it. “We raise nearly the entire budget for this program through private grants and individual donations,” she says. “And it's all funds that are raised not through Yale, but through Dwight Hall." Real buy-in from Yale, Hinton says, would require an expansion of resources and a shift in its educational mission. In the past, courses in prison counted as overload for faculty—classes they taught on the YPEI’s payroll—in addition to a full schedule at Yale. A recent administrative win means that now, professors can count one credit taught in prison as part of their normal workload, covered on the University’s dime. In Hinton’s view, this policy should apply to all course credits. What does this mean for the University’s educational goals on campus? Rather than a “side project,” Hinton says Yale should include educating incarcerated students in its primary mission, thus addressing inequalities that are “studied so deeply [at the University] but that Yale as an institution has helped to create.” This could look like a degree awarded by Yale itself—something that the YPEI administrators I spoke with characterized both as an improbable pipe dream and an ultimate goal. Hinton calls this the “Prison-to-College Pipeline,” a radical reimagining of prisons as a space for “mass education,” and a world where the transition to college post-release is seamless, with institutions like Yale taking the lead in facilitating degrees for students upon reentry. This is work that the YPEI has already begun to undertake. The College-to-Career Fellowship November 2023

Mass Education


offers one to two years of funded “professional development, career exploration, and mentorship opportunities” for formerly incarcerated alumni of any prison education program. Students pursue their academic interests, drawing from the wealth of resources that Yale offers—professors, libraries, mentorship. Roland calls it a “Fulbright for formerly incarcerated students.” Marisol Garcia, a College-to-Career Fellow and a graduate of Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education (CPE), is using the Fellowship to supplement her exploration of teaching and policy, while also pursuing her law degree at the University of Vermont. “Even let's say people who are not formerly incarcerated,” Garcia said. “[To] have an opportunity for a two-year fellowship at a university as large as Yale, with their resources, and their networks, and the different opportunities?” Initially, Garcia’s many commitments dissuaded her from taking on a full-time fellowship, but a mentor told her, “You would give up an opportunity that would take you multiple lifetimes to be able to even explore Yale.”

A YPEI classroom.

A Select Few Hearing about the application process for the YPEI, I was surprised by its extensive rigor, some components even exceeding what was required for my own application to Yale. After an initial information session, the YPEI invites interested students to submit a written component, consisting of three to four short answer questions and a longer essay. Next, students complete a timed essay in response to a prompt—often quotes from literary icons. A committee of faculty and formerly incarcerated staff read their applications, looking primarily for the “desire to engage with questions.” Some are then invited to participate in a mock Socratic seminar. Finally, a select group of students are interviewed. In 2018, out of nearly six hundred applicants to the first YPEI class, twelve were granted a spot, amounting to an acceptance rate of 2 percent. It follows then, that for participants in the YPEI, being a student is a matter of prestige, replicating Yale’s real-world hierarchy and the hostility its exclusivity creates. “People in the community college programs will often subordinate themselves to someone in the Yale program. ‘I'm not as smart as you Yale dudes,’” Harvin says. “So what it does is, it kind of gives the people in that program, rightfully so, some level of esteem amongst their peers. It takes a lot to get into the program, even more to stay in the program, and not just to stay, but to excel in the program.” Yet, in a setting where those I spoke with described professors as the only ones who treat 24

Mass Education


them like humans, what does it mean that this Square, uncertain about what came next for the program is only accessible to a select few, and lives he briefly encountered. that “it takes a lot” to excel within it? “Something about leaving always felt hard… “Everyone should understand that education Saying bye and then going through a bunch of is always valuable,” says Francis Ernest, an alum- gates and then you drive away,” Herrera Soto says. nus of the YPEI (‘18). “Most of us wouldn't be “Yeah. It was kind of gnarly.” here if we had education. Right, you will make Still, part of him was relieved. better choices…An educated person doesn't “There's so many contradictions, so many commit crime because you understand the reality, things that get in the way sometimes,” he slows, right?” cars from the street below droning through the Indeed, while prison education is often silence. “It’s hard to hold the feelings of caring touted as a “second chance,” Hinton argues in for your students. And then that feeling, someher lecture that “most incarcerated people never times in my body, like you shouldn't be in here. had a first chance” at school. With over-po- And I don't know. I don't know if I've resolved licing in historically under-resourced districts, that for myself.” many Black and brown youth are funneled into Sitting on a crate, Herrera Soto’s silver earplaces like MacDougall by the school-to-prison ring catches the abundant light of the studio. It’s pipeline. Prison education, then, is the righting a stark contrast to the darkness of the prison he of a wrong that begins before inmates are even drove to three times a week, in the wet heat of incarcerated. mid-July. And it must be treated as such. “Until there's “At Danbury when I taught, all the good and legislation that says a person has a right to edu- bad was also housed within this feeling of dread cation,” says Ernest, “there's always going to be a of the prison,” he says. “Every minute you're small amount.” there, there's this feeling. Like you can't leave. In a prison setting, this exclusivity runs the Like once you're in there…You're in a prison. risk of maintaining the carceral system. You can't just run out the door.” “Prisons do just enough to basically say we’re Before I go, Herrera Soto shows me his studoing something,” says Ernest, “but they don’t dents’ drawings. Just one more, he insists, pausing want to turn prisons into colleges…It’s in your to marvel at each one. It’s a beautiful piece, he best interest not to educate everyone because if affirms. Over and over again: “Like objectively, no one comes back, why would you exist?” just looking at, it’s a beautiful drawing.” The YPEI must be funded, developed, and For her final project, one student—Felicia— nurtured. On this, faculty and students are in drew a self-portrait. Her inked signature is shadoverwhelming agreement. If Hinton’s vision owed by charcoal. She is the focal point of the comes to pass, prisons will one day be colleges, piece, elevated in a vortex, hair parted by the democratizing education and the humanization wind. The floating faces of her classmates flock that can come with it. out from around her. A sea of eyes, they stare At MacDougall Walker Correctional at her as we stare at them. We, the viewers, are Institution, Harvin was referred to by a number: aliens. And we’re abducting her. 403853. “The fact that she's bigger or the other peoToday, as I sit in the crowd at Pitts Chapel ple are smaller. It doesn’t necessarily make sense. United Free Will Baptist Church, he is intro- [But] she's the most important part,” Herrera duced by a Bishop who marvels at how three Soto says. “When you're imagining from a difdays after being released from prison, Harvin ferent perspective, you’re imagining more of the found himself “on top of a hill at Yale University.” whole…Which is hard for a student.” Among the sea of friends and family who have He ponders whether the alien is a metaphor come to see his first sermon, Harvin shouts out for wanting to escape. I think about wholeness. one row in particular—his professors at the “Yeah,” he tells me. “It was hard to leave.”∎ University of New Haven, where he is now completing his degree. “I got some good news,” he says. “Number 403853 has passed on.” Aanika Eragam is a sophomore The crowd cheers; the organ blares; “It’s your in Pierson College and an time!” someone shouts. Harvin ends the sermon Associate Editor of The New Journal. with a beginning: “Allow me,” he says, “to reintroduce myself.” Endings After his summer teaching for the YPEI, Herrera Soto returned to his studio in Erector November 2023

Mass Education



Kinks in the Movement









A writer braids together the stories of New Haven’s Black hair salons with her own.

By Viola Clune ow’s mom?” one stylist asks as she In the way that stories so often told or straighten textured hair. Instead, the “H settles her client into the chair, become a memory, I somehow remem- salon offers curly cuts, curly training, draping a black smock over her. The styl- ber sitting propped in a portable car and curly styling, as well as color and ist invokes a collective mother, not your mom or my mom, but a mom where the our is silent. The air is misty with the blow dryers’ smoky clouds. It smells like fruits and oils, like suds and sheen. I am visiting The Curly Hair Salon for my friend Monique’s biannual “curly cut.” As Susie Baez washes Monique’s hair, I sit in the empty seat beside them. Susie says that the salon’s location in Fair Haven, within the smells and rhythms of New Haven’s little Puerto Rico, feels like home. 26

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seat opposite my mom in her salon chair. It’s a story only a mother could tell: me, well-behaved, observant for about an hour until I wanted out, with all the women in the salon fighting over who could hold me. This was when we lived in Baltimore. The salon was around the corner from us, on University Place, when my mom still relaxed her hair, before that became a sort of sin. In The Curly Hair Salon, you will find nary a flat iron or curling iron— G-d forbid any relaxers or texturizers, chemical treatments meant to smooth

various hair-health treatments like deep conditioners and protein treatments. The salon, open since 2011, sustains itself with a steady stream of regulars and first-timers. It is a new type of salon, part of a movement that elevates natural hair as a means to self-love and empowerment. Susie says her job is “healing.” Curly girls have trauma, she laments, whether with their hair or from the salon. Every year, from about the ages of 5 to 8, I asked to get my hair done for my birthday. No matter how many products my Photographs Courtesy of Viola Clune

Kinks in the Movement

mom brought for the Hair Cuttery hairdresser to use, my haircut looked like a one-dimensional poof. But the following year, I’d ask to go back—even if the hairstylist pulled my hair while she detangled it and I was too shy to talk with her like my mom talked with her hairstylist Linda. I was happy to sit in the salon, to walk from the bowl to the chair with a smock around my neck, the droplets from my hair pattering against it—to feel, in that moment, a little more like my mom, like a woman.

“You start to think the only path to beauty is to manipulate the hair that naturally grows out of your head.”

Hair trauma can take many forms. For some children, it might look like bullying or familial othering. For others, it might stem from a mom or dad that doesn’t know what to do with their hair, leading them to get relaxers at an early age, inflicting permanent damage. And when your hair won’t fit under a swim cap or can’t be done in the style you wanted for prom, you receive the message early on that your hair is abnormal, unwanted, difficult. You start to think the only path to beauty is to manipulate the hair that naturally grows out of your head. So for Susie, one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is when a client tells her, “Susie, that trick you gave me saved my life.” In my seat next to Susie, light spurts of water leap out of the bowl, splashing me. With my hair in braids and not flat

ironed (straight), I’m not worried about The Civil Rights Movement and it getting wet. Today I let myself enjoy Black radical politics of the twentieth the odd sprinkler, as Susie tells me about century brought with them a new push her own hair trauma. Growing up in for natural hair. Popular leaders alongpredominantly white neighborhoods side celebrities—from Angela Davis and schools, she mostly straightened and to Michael Jackson—sported afros. As relaxed her hair. In cosmetology school, Marcus Garvey said, “Do not remove she finally stopped. With the expertise the kinks from your hair, remove them of a hairdresser in training, Susie felt from your brain.” Natural hair in the more confident than ever before in her nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies ability to finally “figure out” her hair. was a political statement, or as Griffin Still, cosmetology school offered writes, a “sign of Black power and rebelSuzie practically no training for curly lion against white American beauty hair. She turned to natural hair influenc- standards.” ers on Instagram and YouTube, whose In the nineteen-eighties and ninevideos she watched almost religious- teen-nineties, assimilation came back ly—“like everyone else.” Important to to the forefront. Hair care ads marSusie’s increased confidence was a place keted permed and pressed hair to Black to learn from people like her, people women yet again. Still, images of popuwith natural hair too. lar celebrities like Janet Jackson wearing Luvena, the salon’s owner, disclosed braids or cornrows proliferated. that the biggest secret to her hiring In the late two-thousands and early method is prayer, asking G-d to send two-thousand-tens, the national imagiher who she needs. nation seemed to be captivated to some “I can teach you how to do hair,” extent with Black hair, particularly in its Luvena explains, “but I can’t teach you natural form. Popular films like Chris to be kind, to care about people.” Rock’s Good Hair and Regina Kimbell’s The Curly Hair Salon is one of the My Nappy Roots: A Journey Through three salons I visited in the Greater Black Hair-itage appeared on screens at New Haven area. For generations, New the same time bloggers like Naptural85, Haven has sustained the tradition of Blackonyx77, and Patrice Yursik surthe Black salon as a way of maintain- faced on people’s social media feeds. ing and uplifting the community amid Videos like “My Natural Hair Routine,” urban trends like disinvestment, police “How to Get the Perfect Twistout,” and violence, crime, and poverty. Hair salons “The Best Deep Conditioners, Ranked” are forced to reckon with the world— showed Black women talking about, its prejudices, changes, and joys—both styling, and experimenting with their within the confines of the salon floor natural hair. Soon, what had been a reland in the neighborhood beyond it. atively invisible phenomenon became a sensation. YouTube, in a way, became a new type of salon, and YouTubers, a new Roots of a Movement type of hairstylist. lack hair styling has a long hisBeyond mere social media engagetory, often tied up in expression, ment, the natural hair movement raprebellion, and belonging. idly turned into a booming industry. The divide between natural and Before, hair care aisles at major stores manipulated hair in the U.S. has its roots were dominated by mainstream brands in chattel slavery, scholar Chanté Griffin like Pantene or Garnier. One of the only writes, with enslaved women working Black hair brands available was Dark in the fields covering their natural hair. & Lovely, famous for at-home perm Those working in plantation homes, kits. Brands like SheaMoisture, Carol’s though, sometimes styled their hair to Daughter, and Miss Jessie’s have since mimic their enslavers, wearing wigs or entered the market in quick succession. manipulating their natural hair. In the Now, natural hair products are at the era following emancipation, hair styl- helm of a burgeoning hair and beauty ing became a way to promote the Black industry catered to women of color. respectability that leaders like DuBois Whereas chemical relaxers accounted and Washington espoused. Madam for 60 percent of the textured hair catC.J. Walker, the first female African egory in 2009, as of 2020, 60 percent of American millionaire, popularized a this market, which has topped one bilstraightening comb and invented hair lion dollars in revenue, belongs to prodcare products meant to “tame” Black hair. ucts marketed towards the specific needs


layout design by Jessica SÁnchez And Chris de Santis

TheNewJournal     November 2023


Kinks in the Movement

of natural hair. As journalist Aimee Simeon writes in Refinery29, “those numbers speak to the transformative power of the Black dollar.” In New Haven, while some salons have maintained a commitment to hair straightening, others, like The Curly Hair Salon, have opened. Older ones, like Sharon Joy Salon have incorporated natural hair services—like locs, curly cuts, and natural silk presses— into their acumen. Good Hair o one can straighten hair like N Dominicans can, according to Susie. When my family moved around during

the first half of my life, Dominican salons became a reliable constant for my mom and me whenever we wanted that silky smooth look. The classic Dominican blowout: a shampoo and condition, rollers that make you look like a grandma, hair under the dryer for at least an hour, blowdryer, flat iron—heat, heat, heat. For some who wear their hair natural, this level of heat is too much, invoking memories of strands that will no longer curl after years of overprocessing and over-straightening. For me, I deep condition, I trim my ends; I’ve made my peace with this natural hair sin. Odalis Hair Salon in Gaithersburg, Maryland has become one of my hair homes. The days before holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are busiest, with dozens of clients coming in and out. Some are Dominican, many are African American. Bachata, salsa, and merengue play constantly, and I remember the stylists by those who sing and those who don’t; those who know the words, or not so much; the ones who sing songs that aren’t even playing. When I’m there, I feel like a girl again, like I never stopped being one. The hairdressers call me “princesa” and “linda.” They tell me my hair is beautiful—that I have so much and it’s so long. They prod at my ethnicity, assuming I’m Latina, but rarely Dominican. Facing the mirror, I could think about Ginetta E.B. Candelario’s assertion that hair and the salon were sites on which racial identity and Blackness were negotiated or negated in the Dominican context. I decide not to. It’s difficult to think about what their assumptions seek to deny. While their compliments sound like hugs and feel like kisses, I also know why they call my hair beautiful, why 28

November 2023      TheNewJournal

its length is a virtue. That knowledge threatens the innocent joy I feel sitting in their chairs. What I can’t help but think about is good hair and bad hair, their jury, and all the girls whose hair never brought them this sort of joy. Colorism and texturism—both modes of elevating Eurocentric features within communities of color—have always been present in conversations about Black hair, pervading salons, families and communities, spanning oceans, from the D.R. to the U.S. Put simply, the more kink, bad; the more straight, good. The natural hair movement can be viewed as an attempt to intervene in this stratification, rejecting Eurocentric standards that praise straight hair as professional and frame naturally textured hair and hairstyles as unprofessional, ugly, and even immoral. But the movement has the potential to fall into texturist traps that valorize looser curls over others.

“For some who wear their hair natural, this level of heat is too much, invoking memories of strands that will no longer curl after years of overprocessing and over-straightening. For me, I deep condition, I trim my ends; I’ve made my peace with this natural hair sin.”

In the end, curly seems like a fair middle—it’s not the wavy hair salon or the tight curl salon. She adds a final word: “if you have curls of any kind, we’re the place.” Making Choices haron Joy Salon and Trachouse Sitations both grapple with the material limof the natural hair movement.

People like my mom, who cut out relaxers and went natural, found that empowerment and hair “health” were no match for hair loss, whether due to chemotherapy, alopecia, or any other host of factors. How can you go natural when your hair simply won’t grow? At Sharon Joy Salon, I talk to stylist Ranada Morrison. She’s currently in school to become a licensed trichologist, someone who studies diseases or problems related to the hair and scalp. “After the pandemic, when we came back into the salon, I noticed that a lot of clients were suffering from hair loss,” Ranada tells me as she presses a client’s hair. She felt a responsibility to help them, but because it wasn’t something taught in cosmetology school, she enrolled in the Institute of Trichology Studies online. Though she’s not fully done with her trichologist certification, she shows me a before and after photo of a client she’s helped. “She’s been suffering from alopecia for ten years,” she explained, “and I was able to help her in a few weeks.” Renee Brown, the owner of Trachouse, specializes in hair loss through another medium: wigs. Every October, Trachouse hosts what they call the “Pink Project,” a day where breast cancer survivors will receive a makeup application, wig installation, and photoshoot with food and gifts, all provided for by the salon and its donors. Wigs, which may seem at odds with the natural hair movement, can be understood as an extension of one of its central goals: choice. Both Sharon Joy Salon and Trachouse are looking for new ways to help their clients when those choices are limited.

“What about the people who feel curly doesn’t describe their hair?” I ask. “But that’s the thing,” Luvena says. Just Hair She leans forward in her chair, as if to tell me a secret. “Their hair is curly, they y mom tried wigs, too, but decided just have to see it that way.” Even the they weren’t for her. tightest curls, what some would describe After the second round of chemo, as kinky, have a curl pattern. Although her hair began to fall out. One night, we she admits that some textures don’t curl, sat side-by-side on the couch, watchthe ones that do are curly. ing TV, when I noticed a clump of hair


Kinks in the Movement

subtly distended from her scalp. It was in the process of falling. For a moment, I forgot there was an obvious cause and asked “what’s that?” As my mom pulled that piece out, the hair offering no resistance, we couldn’t help but remember. She was calm; I pretended to be. I’d done my mom’s hair before—I liked to do hair, and it saved money. My mom wasn’t too particular about those things. I’d cut her bangs, styled it when it was curly and natural, and given her twist outs. I sprang into action. I told her I’d give her a short haircut, cute yet modern, like ones she’d had before. I got the scissors and a comb and carried a dining room chair into the living room for her to sit. I had to comb to cut, but as I combed, the hair kept coming. It was unexpected. I didn’t imagine she’d lose this much, this soon. I was trying to stop the bleed. We went upstairs to wash her hair in the tub. She sat, kneeling over the tub, her head under the faucet—the way I had so many times before—and I kneeled behind her, the same way she would. I lathered shampoo in her hair and scrubbed, and the hair kept falling. Now, the water bound it to my hands. How was there so little when there had been so much? I wasn’t able to be strong anymore, to keep up the problem-solving nonchalant charade, even for her. Was I standing or sitting when the tears came? It’s all awash. Even though it was her hair and her battle, it was my mom who held me in that moment, and told me that it was okay. That it was “just hair.”

“In the world of Black hair, it can feel impossible to extricate oneself from a painful past of denigration and dehumanization. Efforts to empower women and Black people—to uphold the right to choose what to do with your hair—are complicated by the implication each style carries.”

the The Curly Hair Salon team assures him that he’s arrived. He admits he has never had a curly cut or styling before. Soon, he’s grinning as the hairdresser shapes and defines his fro. The Curly Hair Salon, like those around it, exists as a contradiction, intervention, remembrance, and stagnation at once. The ever-growing salon industry in New Haven suggests that there is something complementary about these contradictions, something inherent about them to these practices. Or it suggests, as Renee said, that “people will always want to get cute.”∎

Viola Clune is a junior in Ezra Stiles College and an Associate Editor of The New Journal.

In the world of Black hair, it can feel impossible to extricate oneself from a painful past of denigration and dehumanization. Efforts to empower women and Black people—to uphold the right to choose what to do with your hair— are complicated by the implication each style carries. As Monique sits under the dryer, her curly hair cutting session almost complete, a teenage boy walks into the salon, still dressed in his school uniform. When he expresses doubt that he’s in the right place, I remember what Susie said about trauma that she and other curly girls experience, and I think about the boys, too, about everyone. A member of TheNewJournal     November 2023


30 layout design By Cate roser Photography by Nithya Guthikonda

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layout design By Cate roser Photography by Nithya Guthikonda Oni Muhammad at the Yale New Haven Hospital.


Delivery Fee Local doulas and midwives struggle to offer critical birth services amid rising maternal mortality rates and shrinking networks of care.

By Maggie Grether

November 2023

layout design By Cate roser, Photography by Nithya Guthikonda

31 31


t her day job at Yale Dining, Shamica New Birth Journey, in 2019. Since she began pracFrasier is who co-workers turn to with ticing three years ago, Frasier has helped fifteen all birth-related questions. Pregnant clients through their pregnancies. co-workers consult with her on breastfeed“Being able to see moms overcome something ing, mood swings, and unexpected changes that they fear…being able to usher them through in their body. Other colleagues solicit health a whole life changing experience—it’s been a love advice to pass on to their wives, grandmas, for me,” Frasier says. cousins, and friends. Doulas have risen in prominence over the Frasier loves these questions, no matpast few years, with several studies linking ter how random or intimate. Birth is doula care with higher rates of vagiher life's work. When she’s not at nal births, a reduction in preterm Franklin and Murray dining births, and a lower likelihood of halls, Frasier is a doula, guidbirth complications. Last suming clients through a birthmer, Connecticut Governor ing process often marred Black and Indigenous women Ned Lamont signed S.B. 986, by confusion and fear. experience the highest rates of which will create a state cer“Being a doula isn’t pregnancy-related complications, tification process for doulas just you clock in one day with rates of pregnancy-related and provide Medicaid covand clock out,” Frasier says. deaths for Black people three erage for doula care, among “You’re always clocked in.” times higher than the rate for other provisions. Advocates Since becoming a doula white people. argue that the state should three years ago, Frasier has invest in doulas to help keep discovered that everyone has parents and infants healthy as questions about childbirth— maternal mortality rates climb and especially Black families, who access to maternal care narrows. can receive inadequate hospital care The United States faces a materand face grim maternal and infant health nal health crisis. The number of pregnancy-redisparities. lated deaths in the United States doubled in Frasier, whose red glasses match the magenthe last twenty years. Over the same period ta-streaked locs that tumble over her shoulders, of time, maternal mortality in other high-indeveloped an interest in health and anatomy as a come countries declined—even though the U.S. young girl. She was a teenager when she became spends more per capita on healthcare. Black and pregnant with her first child. The birth of her secIndigenous women experience the highest rates ond child a few years later was traumatic. of pregnancy-related complications, with rates of After her second birth, Frasier began to wonpregnancy-related deaths for Black people three der: were other Black mothers experiencing simitimes higher than the rate for white people. larly harrowing births? What could she do to give As maternal mortality rates climb, people other people a better experience? across the country face fewer options for where Researching online, she came across the term and how they can deliver their babies. More than “doula,” a companion who provides emotional and one in ten U.S. counties have lost obstetrical units physical support to parents throughout pregnancy, in the past five years. At least five Connecticut birth, and the postpartum period. She learned hospitals have terminated their maternity wards how, for centuries, births in African American since 2010, many after being acquired communities were attended by midwives and by larger healthcare corporations. birth companions who drew from African healIn New Haven, the closure of ing traditions. the Vidone Birth Center at The idea of becoming a doula captivated Saint Raphael Hospital Frasier. As a doula, she could directly support has narrowed options for More than one in ten U.S. parents like herself without incurring massive people seeking low-incounties have lost obstetrical student debt to become a highly-trained medtervention, midwifeunits in the past five years. At ical professional. While both midwives and ry-centered births. least five Connecticut hospitals doulas focus on low-intervention, natural births, The financial push have terminated their maternity midwifery involves professionalized medical for hospital consoliwards since 2010, many after care. Certified nurse-midwives, the most highly dation and the closure being acquired by larger healthtrained type of midwife, must complete three of maternity wards has care corporations. degrees and pass a national certification test in made it increasingly order to practice. Doulas, in contrast, can become difficult for doulas and certified through a variety of different channels, midwives to care for low-inincluding workshops, online training, and shadcome communities. Doulas TheNewJournal owing other doulas. like Frasier, intent on giving qualFrasier signed up for training, became a cerity care to the people who need it most, tified breastfeeding counselor, and eventually find themselves working in a profit-driven system opened her own New Haven-based business, set up against them. 32

Delivery Fee


The Birth of an Industry Before giving birth, patients may only see their doctor and nurses a handful of times, if at all. Frasier prides herself on working with clients from the very beginning of pregnancy to well after the baby is born. While clients are pregnant, she teaches them different birthing positions and explains what to anticipate during the delivery. During labor, Frasier is by her client’s side, whether they’re delivering in the hospital or at home. After the pregnancy, she helps clients breastfeed, watches the newborn while the new parent rests, and even does loads of laundry. Frasier’s job, as she tells it, is to help her clients feel knowledgeable about their options, especially in the hospital. “It’s giving them that confidence to be able to not walk out with their tail between their legs, but their head up and shoulders back like ‘Hey, I have an idea of what I’m talking about,’” Frasier says. She is keenly aware of how Black patients’ voices are often pushed to the margins in a hospital setting, and how the birthing process can spin out of their control. “There’s a cascade of interventions that often happen in hospital births that themselves can be harmful, can cause adverse outcomes—what we call birth trauma—and take away control from the patients,” Gina Novick, Associate Professor of Midwifery at the Yale School of Nursing, explains. While such interventions, including C-sections and inductions, can be necessary to protect pregnant people and infants, unnecessary C-sections can have lethal consequences, including infections, blood clots, and hemorrhaging. C-section rates above 19 percent of live births have not been shown to improve maternal or infant health, but in Connecticut, 35 percent of births are C-sections. In 2021, the C-section rate for Black women in the United States was 19 percent higher than the rate for white women. Jessica Westbrook, another New Havenbased doula, views herself as an advocate for clients in the hospital setting. Like Frasier, Westbrook decided to become a doula after receiving poor hospital care, feeling isolated and abandoned after the birth of her first child. As a doula, she says that she notices discrepancies in the treatment her white and Black clients receive at the hospital—even with the same provider. “Sometimes they treat the women of color like they are just numbers,” Westbrook said. “It just seems very routine—there’s no sort of bedside manner that feels comfortable with them.” She’s observed an increased push for C-sections with her Black clients. November 2023

Delivery Fee

Westbrook described working with a recent client, a Black woman pregnant with twins. Hospital staff wanted to put her on a steroid as part of “standard procedure.” After pressing providers on why the woman needed the steroid and what the possible side effects could be, hospital staff checked the patient’s file and saw that she was allergic to the steroid. Westbrook believes that if she hadn’t intervened, the woman could have lost her life. “Medicine is driven to look at people like a complication, like a disease,” says Lucinda Canty, a certified nurse-midwife and Associate

Professor of Nursing at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “When I was in the hospital setting, it was like a woman comes in—if she’s not really in labor, we’re going to send her home. If she doesn’t move fast enough, we’re going to have to give her Pitocin or medicine to speed things up. If she’s still not moving fast enough we’ve got to start thinking about a Cesarean. Once she comes into the system, she’s already a problem.” Childbirth in the United States wasn’t always so medicalized. In 1900, half of all babies in the United States were delivered by midwives, who were mainly immigrants from Europe and Mexico, or Black women. Katy Dawley, 33

nurse-midwife and professor at Drexel University, has written about how early twentieth century physicians, nurses, and public health reformers, intent on building credibility for obstetrics and bringing births into the hospital, launched a calculated campaign to stamp out Black and immigrant midwives. Advocates began writing racist and xenophobic articles that framed midwives as


backwards, ignorant, and dirty—one published in Harper’s Magazine in 1930 decried “rat-pie midwifery.” Such articles ignored statistics showing that births attended by Black and immigrant midwives in the nineteen-twenties and nineteen-thirties had significantly lower death rates. By the nineteen-thirties, midwives only attended 15 percent of births in the United States. Now, almost a century later, midwives attend about

Delivery Fee


12 percent of births in the U.S. This attendance is significantly lower than in countries like England where midwives deliver nearly half of all babies and maternal outcomes are much safer. Today, only 7 percent of midwives are Black. Hafeeza Ture, a mother of three from a multi-generational New Haven family, can trace this shift away from the home and into hospitals through her own lineage. Her grandmother’s generation was the first to give birth in a hospital. Both her grandmother and mother used formula instead of breastfeeding. After unsatisfying prenatal appointments with an OB-GYN, Ture decided to have her children at a freestanding birth center, and then at home, attended to by midwives and doulas. For Ture, returning to natural births felt like returning to a tradition that runs in her blood. She never had the opportunity to ask her great-grandmothers about her memories of childbirth, but she thinks about what they might have told her. “I wish I could have sat at their feet and asked them: what was this like, what was that like?” she said. “Do you recall your grandmother’s mother?”

overdrive. Five full-time midwives at the clinic work to provide continuous care, from prenatal counseling to accompanying patients to hospitals like Yale New Haven Hospital for delivery. Muhammad estimates that she helps deliver fifteen to twenty births a month. Recently, the midwives renegotiated their contracts with Fair Haven Health Clinic to decrease their on-call hours to avoid burnout: instead of a monthly seventy-two hour on-call shift, the midwives will have a forty-eight hour shift every five weeks. For their weekly twenty-four hour on-call shifts, their salaries still only compensate one-third of their hours. “[Midwifery care] is not compensated because it’s not lucrative,” Muhammad says. “C-sections are much more lucrative from an insurance standpoint. On-call and vaginal births are just not where the money is at.” Like midwives, doulas who want to serve low-income families struggle to make a living. With S.B. 986’s implementation still in process, doulas are not currently covered through Medicaid in the state of Connecticut, meaning that hiring a doula requires out-of-pocket money. Frasier charges $700 for “Birth Support,” which includes On the Clock services like prenatal visits, constant accessibility over On a Thursday evening in early text, support during labor, October, Oni Muhammad breastfeeding help, and takes a brief dinner break at “I wish I could have sat a postpartum visit. She home before heading back at their feet and asked them: charges $30 an hour for to Yale New Haven Hospital what was this like, what was that additional postpartum to complete her on-call midlike? she said. “Do you recall your services, and $20 an hour wifery shift. Her day started grandmother’s mother?” for lactation consultation. at 8 a.m. when she attended a Frasier tries to connect cliC-section and saw a postpartum ents who cannot pay with patient. She’s headed back to the programs that will cover the hospital at 8 p.m. and will be there cost of her services. She often until 8 a.m. the next morning. finds herself drastically reducing Muhammad will be on-call for a her fees so she can provide care for total of twenty-four hours. She will only get paid the underserved Black communities who for eight. motivated her to become a doula to begin with. “We get paid more in karma, and less in cash,” Still, she wonders: how accessible is her care to a she says. teenage mom, like the one she once was? Muhammad is a certified nurse-midwife at Frasier's dream is to quit her day job at Yale Fair Haven Community Health Clinic, a fedDining and commit herself to being a full-time erally recognized health center. Latine activists doula. Right now, the money is simply not there. founded the clinic in the early nineteen-seventies, frustrated by the lack of accessible and culturally sensitive care for Fair Haven’s growing Latine Growing Pains community. Many patients live within walking distance of the center. Today, the majority of the Over the past thirty years, large healthcare clinic’s patients are either underinsured or unincorporations have engulfed Connecticut’s indesured, and over half of patients earn less than half pendent hospitals. The two largest, Hartford of the federal poverty line. Since Connecticut HealthCare and Yale New Haven Health System expanded Medicaid coverage of prenatal and (YNHHS), own nearly half of the hospitals in postpartum care available to undocumented the state. After consolidating, many hospitals immigrants last year, the clinic has seen more cut services to cut costs, and labor and delivery is than a 20 percent increase in patients. often one of the first to go. This increase means Muhammad and other In 2007, Hartford HealthCare acquired midwives at the Fair Haven clinic are working in Windham Hospital, which had been struggling November 2023

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financially. In 2020, the hospital closed its labor patients pointed to three central issues: a hospital and delivery unit. After Nuvance Health acquired layout that limits communication between nurses Sharon Hospital, the hospital filed for permission and residents; burnout and high rates of turnover to terminate its birthing services in 2021. among staff; and a pressure to speed up births, A similar story has played out in the heart sometimes due to inadequate bed capacity. of downtown New Haven with Saint Raphael At Saint Raphael’s Vidone birth center, one Hospital’s Vidone Birth Center. Founded in 1907 hallway housed six labor beds, the nurses’ station, as a small Catholic hospital, Saint Raphael was and the provider call room. “I feel like it made for acquired by YNHHS in 2012. After Yale School safer outcomes, just because we can see each other of Nursing midwifery began its practice at St. easier in a small environment,” said Muhammad, Raphael’s the following year, the Vidone Birth who has worked at both Saint Raphael and Yale Center developed a strong reputation as New Haven Hospital. a midwife-centered, low-intervenNow, at Yale New Haven tion birthing center. Hospital, nurses, residents, and “We really built it to thrive “Turnover has been private practitioners occupy on a midwifery-led model dramatic,” Telfer said. physically separate rooms, and of care and had excellent “I barely know any of the there is no room large enough outcomes,” said Michelle nurses there. A lot of the for nurses, residents, and Telfer, a certified midwife ones who have been there for midwives to review patient and Assistant Professor in many years have left to do other records together. This disMidwifery and Women’s things—they are very unhappy tance forces communication Health at the Yale School with the pressure and the lack over text from siloed sections of Nursing who worked at of safety at times of having to of the labor unit instead of Saint Raphael. “We were care for too many people face-to-face discussion. Telfer drawing patients from all at once.” expressed concern over this over the state.” dependence on digital probThe midwifery model praclem-solving. “I think a lot gets lost,” ticed by Telfer and other midwives she said. “When you have less collaboat Saint Raphael focused on helpration you have less communication, and not ing patients give birth as naturally as possias good outcomes for patients.” ble. Midwives avoided social inductions—early Telfer sees this physical isolation as a remlabor inductions performed for patient or pronant of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the vider convenience rather than medical necessity. hospital intentionally limited contact between In 2014, Saint Raphael established the Vidone different providers. But even now, the separated Volunteer Doulas program which provided sectors of the labor unit continue to hinder on-call doulas to support people during labor, communication efforts. opening access beyond patients who hired a “Structurally, you don’t see people. You doula privately. In 2015, 20 percent of births at don’t have that visual contact with people,” said Saint Raphael were C-sections—well under the Heather Reynolds, lecturer in the Nurse-Midwife state average of 34 percent. Specialty program at Yale School of Nursing. In the spring of 2020, YNHHS closed the Though Yale New Haven Hospital Vidone birth center at Saint Raphael. Citing increased its bed capacity during renovations concerns about COVID-19 transmission and an in 2018, the hospital still sent a few overflow inability to operate two obstetric units during patients to Saint Raphael each year before the the pandemic, YNHHS consolidated the Saint Vidone Birth Center closed. Since the consolRaphael unit with the maternity ward at Yale idation, no new labor beds have been added New Haven Hospital. The two units merged in to the hospital, meaning capacity across Yale less than two weeks. Though YNHHS initially and Saint Raphael is down six beds. Patients intended for the consolidation to be temporary, sometimes labor in triage because there is no the Vidone Birth Center never reopened. labor bed available. While the triage beds are The obstetrical unit at Yale New Haven designed to “flex” into labor beds, Telfer and Hospital is now the largest in the state. According Muhammad said that the triage beds are not to Cynthia Sparer, executive director of Yale New ideal for labor—there is no room for more Haven Children’s Hospital, the decision to perthan one support person, and laboring patients manently merge the two delivery units was made must walk through triage to use the toilet. in order to centralize care and provide better Additionally, triage beds do not accommodate services to both low and high-risk patients. Yet different birthing positions. Telfer, Muhammad, Westbrook, and Frasier— Both Telfer and Muhammad said that the along with three other midwives and doulas shortage of labor beds can create pressure to perwith experience delivering at Yale New Haven form C-sections. Telfer said nurses have asked Hospital—shared that since the consolidation, her to intervene to speed up births, because Saint Raphael’s original midwifery-led, low-inthere's no time for a physiologic birth if other tervention model has dissolved. Providers and patients are waiting for a bed. 36

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The stress is palpable for doulas Frasier and Westbrook. They recall providers looking overworked and understaffed when accompanying patients to Yale New Haven Hospital. Telfer and Muhammad also described an atmosphere of staff burnout and fatigue. “Turnover has been dramatic,” Telfer said. “I They talk about the barely know any of the importance of healthy nurses there. A lot of relationships during pregnancy. the ones who have been The final question of the day is there for many years “how would you like to enjoy the have left to do other rest of your pregnancy?” things—they are very unhappy with the pressure and the lack of safety at times of having to care for too many people at once.” Executive Director Sparer said that while several senior nurses left during the pandemic and there has been turnover among midwives at the hospital, retention has been very high among younger nurses. According to Westbrook, one of the patients she was working with was scheduled for a C-section at Yale New Haven Hospital so that the birth would be over before the doctor went on vacation. State Senator Robyn Porter, whose district includes New Haven, said she spoke with a woman who felt pressured to get an epidural she did not want. A close friend, who Porter considers her non-biological niece, had a traumatic experience at Yale New Haven Hospital. She believes it resulted in the loss of her infant at five months old. Frasier said some of her clients wanted to deliver at Saint Raphael because of its reputation for patient-centered, low-intervention care but were disappointed to learn that they no longer had the option. “Our practice from the last few years—the midwifery model is barely there. It is a very busy labor unit,” Telfer said. “We’re not providing the kind of model that midwifery is known for and actually reduces bad outcomes—reducing unnecessary Cesareans, preterm labor, preterm birth, NICU admission—because we’re not able to give full patient-centered care experience.”

scrubs and speaks slowly, with a steady calmness. “Do you have any concerns?” An interpreter next to her translates her words into Spanish. Next to Muhammad, the members of the prenatal group sit in a circle of chairs, some accompanied by their partners. A projector plays a video about breastfeeding on the wall. A table with tortilla chips, dip, and a veggie platter stands in the corner. In the hallway outside, a red sign reads “Keep Calm and Call the Midwife.” The prenatal group convenes weekly to build community between parents and provide information beyond what Muhammad can cover during a twenty-minute consultation. During the sessions, Muhammad isn’t as much of a lecturer as she is a facilitator. The women share concerns they’ve noticed, such as swollen feet, brittle nails, and heartburn, and share tips and solutions. They talk about the importance of healthy relationships during pregnancy. The final question of the day is “how would you like to enjoy the rest of your pregnancy?” The session ends, as it does every week, with a breathing exercise. Muhammad puts on an acoustic track. Everyone stands up and breathes together: in through the nose, out through the mouth. “This is how I want you to breathe during labor,” Muhammad says. “This is how I want you to breathe if you need to get a C-section.” Following Muhammad, everyone in the room reaches their arms up towards the ceiling. Behind them, the guitar swells.∎ Maggie Grether is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College and an Associate Editor of The New Journal.

A Safe Beginning Muhammad kneels next to a woman, performing a vital check before a weekly prenatal group meeting. She and a medical assistant measure the woman’s blood pressure, pulse, weight, and fundal height—the distance from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus—to make sure fetal growth is on track. “How are you feeling?” Muhammad asks. She wears a salmon-pink headwrap that matches her November 2023

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When the Paint Dries Where did all of Yale’s graffiti go? By Tashroom Ahsan


n october 4th, 1984, a group of Yale students carried cans full of paint into the Lillian Goldman Law Library. Some hands grabbed boxes of catalog cards. They dusted the floor with delicate slips, dropping hundreds of hours of work—in paper catalogs— onto the ground. They painted “Support Local 34” in massive letters in red across the center of the reading room carpet. More notes in support of Local 34 defaced sections of the floor. Smaller messages littered carrels throughout the building. “Shut it down,” the wooden walls decried. The protestors left one catalog card propped up in the center of the library. It implored Yale to accept the worker’s binding arbitration. They left the building before any workers entered, leaving the door locked behind them. The vandals were not caught.


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For months prior to the incident, tension had been mounting throughout Yale’s campus. In response to being significantly underpaid, a cohort of clerical and technical Yale employees, which were 82 percent female at the time, unionized and formed Local 34 and Local 35. Protests followed, culminating in more than five thousand people demanding that Yale meet the workers’ demands. Subsequent teach-ins, faculty reports, and worker testimonials shed light on the discrimination occurring. Despite these protests and the flood of information, Yale remained steadfast in meager compromises, insisting that they were paying staff fairly. They maintained vague policies regarding free speech. Police shut down nonviolent protests despite them conforming to policies, and some professors harassed students, with one writing to a protesting student that other faculty members were “out for his scalp.” Yale stood behind those who shut down transgressions. Workers went on strike throughout October and November of 1984. Picket lines blocked off buildings and classes moved into off-campus locations like the Grove Street Cemetery.

When the Paint Dries

Union and the University. The Union, writing to the News in response, claimed that such tactics only harmed their movement. Another student in the News wrote that such actions were cowardly because they hid themselves behind anonymity, not allowing for conversational responses. Allies— including the very Union itself—criticized the medium of the transgression, with little regard for its message, in response to vandalism. Attention heeded, but conversations shut down. Vandalism often incurs controversy, allowing for others to criticize the moveIn the battle against ment due to its destruction rather than the student and administrative apathy, the message of the movement itself. For Hierro, vandals chose an emotive outburst as the strategic calculus of vandalism seldom their weapon. They transgressed author- justifies it. “One wants to disrupt authority ity—in this instance, Yale—by harming without thinking about the consequences its property. Maria Jose Hierro, a professor of those actions and how those conseof political science at Yale, says that van- quences distort your message,” she says. dalism, when linked to protest, “relates “You get a lot of pushback from potential to emotions, to anger, to frustration, to allies or the authority.” some form or feeling that is the outcome The consequences of these actions of a grievance...it calls the attention of the go further than disagreeability. In a authority but it’s about the individual’s News report, a Law Librarian Morris expression.” Perhaps the vandals felt their Cohen remarked that the main individvoices and faces were not enough. They uals affected by the actions were those needed a faceless, bright red, and massive that had to clean it up. Though propexpression, one that explicitly defies the erty damage may appear to disrupt the authority, to demand their acknowledg- authority that manages it, those who ment. They expressed themselves in a way steward the property are often more that cannot be ignored. affected than the superseding authority. And they weren’t alone. Yale’s history of vandalism adorns each social move*** ment. With each major twentieth century protest—the Black Panthers, anti-Apartut what if vandalism’s transgression heid in South Africa, anti-Gulf War is creative instead of destructive? intervention—came a slew of shattered Here we encounter graffiti, where the glass, graffitied walls, and broken doors. defiance of authority becomes the basis This act of vandalism in 1984 con- of community. tained an attempt at strategy. A memKevin Repp, the curator of the ber of the group anonymously called Beinecke’s current exhibit—“Art, Protest, reporters of the Yale Daily News. She and the Archives”—talks through sevclaimed that Yale was oblivious to stu- eral of these examples. “Art,” he says, “can dents bearing the brunt of the strike, sit on the edge of violence.” He tells me stating that she was tired of having this as we sit between cases with Dadaist classes in a graveyard and “wanted to works that gesture to the horrors of bring it close to home to end student World War I and photos of the Sioux art apathy.” She explicitly distanced the tent pipeline protests in South Dakota. In vandals’ actions as separate from the each instance, people were bound by the


layout design by Alicia Gan

art they formed. He tells me that certain artistic communities, brought together through creation, retain their energy by implicit transgression. To him, art’s transgression either unfolds through straightforward messages or by directing the viewer’s emotions against reason using shock. In each instance, art challenges an authority’s narrative, either by questioning or offering a counternarrative. By maintaining this challenge, art edges on violence. And, centered around the edge where art subsists, people come together. Graffiti can tie people together through transgressive narratives just as art does. Hierro recalls a summer she spent teaching in Barcelona where student organizations painted murals advocating for socialism, independence, and women’s rights. “To me, those were very artistic, and they were art—in the sense that they were trying to leave an imprint, in the walls of their university, of their ideals.” In other instances, people call for empathy through art. She tells me about graffiti on walls in Mexico and in Palestine. “Why are they in English?” she asks. “Because they are seeking the solidarity of people in other places in the world.” Uniting around the defiance of a common authority, graffiti can combine art’s coalescing power with vandalism’s transgression to sustain a community. *** frustration with Yale as an Tsibleheauthority, both in dictating permisexpression and in determining

institutional action, remains. Yet Yale’s campus remains mostly pristine. In the last decade, the only publicized acts of property damage have been hate speech graffitied onto overlooked public spaces. Why are these the most visible afterlives of vandalism? What’s changed? An initial explanation is that Yale focuses more on its community than ever before. Joey Adcock, an area manager for the campus, pulls out a graffiti-removal spray can from his desk drawer as he describes this shift. “I’ve wanted service staff to be seen, to show we take care of the place, that we care enough to be out in public and be a resource for those around us,” he says, “and as a result, custodial staff are more respected.” The consideration for those who are harmed by property damage seems to have landed with some students. Adriana Colón Adorno ’20. , an alumna TheNewJournal     November 2023


When the Paint Dries

Illustrations by Angela Huo

who organized with the Environmental Association at Yale—Yale’s oldest and Justice Coalition during her years as a largest organization of Indigenous stustudent, told me that “vandalism just dents—held a vigil for Missing and wasn’t at the top of our minds because Murdered Indigenous Women in 2022. we thought there were other things we Hands, stamped with easily-washable could do that were based more on build- red Crayola paint, covered the walls ing community.” of Cross Campus in memory of these Another explanation is that inces- missing women. The activists both comsant surveillance prevents property dam- municated their actions to Yale Facilities age. Police presence at Yale has evolved and planned to clean after themselves. beyond bodies. Property itself can see, Administrators messaged the organizers too, with cameras watching students to immediately remove all displays. They everywhere at all times. As Adcock strove to, but risked frostbite. A few disexplains it, there are more eyes watching, plays were left to be cleaned the next with cameras at every corner, and more morning. Organizers found themselves mechanisms for faceless expression. The subject to more hostility—cleaned walls internet now platforms countless anon- and responsible names demanded by ymous voices. He leans back in his chair, administrators. saying, “Anonymity is huge. It’s a lot Later in the year, a pterodactyl, easier for people to just open up a lap- taken from Indigenous land by Yale top, open up the phone, and, and put professor O.C. Marsh in the nineteenth out what they want. It takes a lot more century and immortalized in a glass time, thought, and effort to put a mes- display case, found its shelter covered sage out in writing.” The internet’s ano- in small red sticky notes which read nymity grows even more attractive when “STOLEN.” These actions were easone realizes that nearly every physical ily removable forms of protest which place is monitored, with skilled investi- did not significantly disrupt campus gators prepared to track down culprits. life. Sticky notes are sticky notes, easily Vandalism has lost its anonymity, while removable and nondestructive, espethe internet makes anonymous expres- cially when on a glass display case. The sion far easier than ever before. Yale Police Department identified the And even when students move Native student protesters by their shirts to touch things without the intent to and IDs, calling them to declare their destroy, surveillance pounces on them. acts as vandalism. The accusation was, “Vandalism” has become a term Yale uses evidently, not about the method of proto antagonize disagreeable movements. test, which was harmless. It was about The Native and Indigenous Student its agreeability with the institution, an 40

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institution that could so easily frame certain actions as vandalism. Today, the incidents of vandalism that leak into this campus appear to be done by outsiders. In the last decade, the only major reported instances of vandalism have been three acts of antisemitic hate speech. In each case, the Yale Police successfully identified the responsible culprits—the identified culprits were juveniles outside of the Yale community. They happened in less visible places than the other acts of vandalism—a bathroom stall, an entryway door, the Law School steps. But these acts were possible only to those outside of the Yale community, those unable to be tracked by shirts and IDs. They act without fear of an institution that they don’t have to answer to. It remains an open question as to when vandalism will return to campus in the activist vein it once existed. Security camera screens, with their timestamps ticking away, may be the first to let us know.∎ Tashroom Ahsan is a sophomore in Davenport College and a Design Editor of The New Journal.

Photo Essay By Ángela Pérez

On Sunday, October 22nd, more than one thousand from Yale, New Haven, and throughout Connecticut gathered on the New Haven Green to march around the Elm City in solidarity with Palestine. They protested the ongoing bombing campaign in Gaza, which the UN has called “a graveyard for children,” and that has left more than ten thousand dead, according to Palestinian health officials. Whole families, students, and organisers marched for about three hours, chanting “Free Palestine” or “Not another nickel, not another dime, not another dollar for Israel’s crimes,” among other chants. People donned traditional keffiyehs and masked their faces out of concern for the spike in doxing of openly pro-Palestine people across workplaces and campuses nationwide. The rally was organised by American Muslims for Palestine Connecticut, Students for Justice in Palestine at UConn, and Yalies4Palestine.

TheNewJournal     November 2023


Personal Essay

Resisting Collapse I

left for Oxford in January of 2023, expecting that my life would be different there. I had spent the past four months in New Haven, in pain. First, it was swelling in the tissue around my heart, which left me popping a dozen Ibuprofen a day to keep the feeling of a heart attack at bay. Then came the body aches and headaches, a product of stress and sleepless nights. At night, panic attacks brought the feeling that my chest was collapsing, my throat permanently closing. These were pains reserved for the United States; I imagined they would disappear on the other side of the Atlantic. Then the insomnia came. Weeks after I could feasibly use jet lag as an explanation, I spent the hours between two and five a.m. laying awake in a suffocating room, lit only by the gray light of the low-hanging moon and the blue light of my phone screen. One night, I stayed awake simply because I was too afraid to go back to sleep. I had dreamt that my body was rotting from the soul outward, heart crumbling like stale bread, muscles going green, then black, bones eroding like brittle rocks. I woke up to stop the decay.

What is the cost of excellence? By Caleb Dunson

regularly do extraordinary things. Their friends know me only through their stories and have come to see me as—to quote one of them—“a unicorn.” This picture of me grows all the more mythic by my being Black and from the west side of Chicago. I’m the first person that family friends and people in the neighborhood know that has gone to Yale —whenever I come home, I field eager questions about the big things I have done and the big things I have planned. When I came back to Chicago for a few days this past summer, I ran into a friend of my mom’s on the street. He immediately introduced his children, told them where I went, and said they had to live up to what I had done with my life. I go to a university made concrete to people from home only through movies and TV shows and rumors about the Ivy League—I have become an embodiment of their hopes. I am supposed to be the wealthy East-Coaster bold enough to xcellence has always been the leave Chicago, or the Black president bar in my life. that actually decides to help our comAfter years of academic achieve- munity, or the public intellectual doing ment and extracurricular success, my book talks and speaking tours. Whatever friends and family have begun to oper- I become, it must be high-profile, but ate under the assumption that I will it cannot take me too far from home. I

E 42

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layout design by lily lin

should be the one they can brag about at their churches and offices, but I need to stay generous and within reach. I have to say yes to every opportunity I get, because how often do people like me, from where I’m from, get them? It’s crucial that I take risks, but I have to be so, so careful because the world’s expectations for me are much different than those of my family. When America acquitted George Zimmerman and forced me to read those headlines with my fourth-grade eyes, the country laid the possibilities for my life before me. Criminality, death, or both. I, from the west side of Chicago, will never be the Black president who started his political career in my hometown. I, Black boy from the west side of Chicago, will find bullets in my back or handcuffs on my wrists, or both, if I step out of line. I strove to meet my community’s expectations so that I could avoid settling into the world’s. But when you carry the expectation of excellence into Yale, it’s easy for this place to collapse your identity. My time here would only be useful if I achieved those things worth bragging about, those things which definitively placed me on

an extraordinary trajectory: university awards, club leadership positions, and summer fellowships. Back home for the holidays with my extended family gathered in our living room, I explained how getting an internship at Goldman could set us up financially for life. The days spent feeling my heart sink as I walked past partners’ offices with floor-to ceiling windows to get to my desk, and the evenings spent wandering down Lafayette street fighting back tears were not worth mentioning. I told my family about how being one of the first two Black opinion editors at the school newspaper was an act of legacy-building––leaving out the endless evenings of lost sleep and subsequent exhaustion. To win and keep their love, I measured myself by these accomplishments. I let their visions of ivy-covered walls and centuries-old castles give me an air of intelligence and distinction I could not create with honesty. There was no space in those stories for my real self. That was relegated to private conversations with my mother and grandmother, met sometimes with sympathy, and others with the suggestion that if I just kept working, kept accumulating achievements, the pain would be worthwhile. I was hollow when I left for England. Throughout college, I had made no genuine effort to find myself, and I thought that leaving the US would finally give me the chance to do that. I imagined Baldwin in Europe, away from Harlem and unburdened by American racism, free enough to begin thinking, really thinking, about his life and the world in earnest. I imagined the same would happen to me. I expected my pain to dissolve with the weight of familial expectations, and expected I’d then grow into a fuller, more complex, self. But

Oxford is not a place you go to to leave expectations behind. Walking past sprawling Gothic colleges and into centuries old libraries reminded me that I was in a place of distinction, where heads of state went to be educated. Tutorials that required weekly 2000-word essays and hour-long debates with my professors reminded me that Oxford prized displays of academic rigor. Hearing students talk about their colleges’ multi-course formal dinners held in grand dining halls and opulent formal dances held at the Oxford Union reminded me that polish and manners separated the simply brilliant from those destined to lead. Here, unable to reach familiar markers of significance, I recognized my hollowness. This placed me on my back, in my bed, at two a.m., fighting nightmares. Afraid of truly reckoning with myself, I instead sought the markers of success my new environment demanded. I acted as I thought a true intellectual might, spending hours at a time poring over books and papers under the high domed ceiling of the Radcliffe Camera. Trying to appear as cultured and well-traveled as my peers, I dragged across the continent on days I should have been resting. I thrifted button ups, wool sweaters, and corduroy pants in my attempt to cast myself as an Oxford student. With these experiences, I could perform enlightenment, say to my family that my time abroad had changed my perspective on the world. I could tell them stories, and they could tell those stories to their friends, and we could all remain comfortable in the lie that I was, am, doing well.

and anxiety built as the campus’ Gothic buildings came into view. By the second week of this semester, my insomnia was back. I tried to ignore my pain and continue demanding excellence of myself, applying for postgraduate fellowships to return to Oxford and continue the lie. By the end of the first month, I was dealing with headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision. I did not get those fellowships, and I am still in pain. I have no advice to give from my time abroad. I am a senior now, and I am realizing that I cannot recover the experiences I denied myself during my time here. In those hours I am awake–– two, three, four a.m.––I now think about what college would have been if I had not lied, pretending to love what I do not. What I am left with, though, is this essay, my attempt at telling the truth. By putting pen to paper I am making myself and what I want more permanent. I am resisting letting expectations collapse my identity. And I am finally contending with the realization that I am far from where I want to be, still very much unknown to myself.∎ Caleb Dunson is a senior in Saybrook College.

the drive from the Hartford Onairport to New Haven, my pain illustrations by sarah feng

TheNewJournal     November 2023


Personal Essay

The Age of Looking A writer parses through hotness and beauty. By Suraj Singareddy


eyoncé opens the show center stage, visibly pregnant. Her stomach hangs like ripe fruit, encircled by gold chains, like the ones my grandmother wears on special occasions. Do you remember being born? She asks the audience. Her voice resonates like God. Do you remember the velvet of your mother and her mother and her mother? She snaps, and backup dancers appear around her like generations of descendants. Flower petals trickle down and cover their bodies. You look nothing like your mother. You look everything like your mother. You desperately want to look like her. And I did. I wanted to move like she did. I began to sit like she sits with her morning coffee—one foot up on the stool, the other hanging to the earth. I conjured the way soapnut essence smelled in her cupped palm. The way henna paste clumped and tangled in her hair. Everything about my mother is beautiful in the same way everything about Beyoncé in that 2017 Grammy performance is beautiful. She’s in herself. She’s at home in her body—like the stars and trees are in theirs. I liked the idea that I came from a lineage of beautiful people. If my mother was beautiful, so was I. If I could believe in her beauty, I could believe in mine. There was honor in this inherited beauty, I’d decided. Beyoncé’s generations spread themselves around the stage. She birthed so much time—so much legitimacy, a thing proven from having appeared again and again. I tried to mimic that with my own 44

body—assuage my insecurities with the idea of life. In high school, I’d stare at my stomach in my bathroom mirror for hours, trying to map Beyoncé’s body onto mine. My stomach filled out three inches at its apex, a half-melon midsec-

first—beauty—was an acceptance of the self without additions. It was an acceptance of history and what it had repeated. The second—hotness—was the belief that desire could only be achieved with additions. It was an allure that one could only access by putting in the effort to be different than they were. Hotness was beauty’s shallow step-sister. It was skin-deep. It was conditional. It could not last. I accepted being beautiful for a long time. I thought I was making the good choice, but really I’d stopped believing I’d be hot. I was someone who only grasped at hotness, a lightning bug between clasped hands. I couldn’t hold it there forever. It had no malleability or stability like beauty. It could not be seen in anything passed from mother to son. So I contented myself with ideas instead of feelings— trading the visceral pleasure of hotness for the loftiness of beauty. And then I went to India. ***


he days before the monsoon comes to Hyderabad are among the hottion. I’d cup it with my right hand and test of the year. It’s difficult to survive lay my left on top, trying to imagine the the mornings without air conditiontruth that might flow from its fullness. I ing, which is why my sisters and I were could hold beauty and life in the tough- huddled around the only functioning est soft parts of me. I could be beautiful unit. We were in our mother’s childlike Beyoncé if I chose to see it. hood bedroom. She had a plastic bag I wanted to be respected. I in her hands, that she tipped over and wanted to be wanted, and there were spilled onto the bed sheets. A dozen or only two ways to reach that end. The so photo albums. My sisters and I each TheNewJournal

mine. I remembered, then, all the times my mother had told me I was handsome like my uncle. I remembered how I’d written it off as something mothers said. How can a mother know of anything other than beauty? I flipped forward in the album and found a picture of him. He had the same, sharp cheekbones, and the same hair which rippled down his forehead. His skin stretched taut like I always thought mine would if I went to the gym. I paused, for a second, at this thought. I felt a desire, then, to find myself hot. I wanted my birthright. I wanted to claim my lineage in the way I was owed. *** week after I held those pictures, A I left India. I flew to Laramie, Wyoming, an arid town of twenty

thousand. I was there for a summer internship, but what I really wanted out of this summer was to have sex as part of a short, mutually non-committal relationship with a strange (hot) man in a small town. I was proud of myself for having set a measurable goal. I reminded myself that I could be different here—this was a place of no consequence. I downloaded Tinder the night I arrived. Looking for: Short-term fun. I started scrolling. See, the thing that Above: Singareddy’s grandfather (left). I didn’t account for was Laramine’s size and location. Oh, twenty thousand? That’s grabbed one and began flipping. There I scan this picture, think for a second, almost a quarter of New Haven’s population. were pictures from my mother’s child- and then come to a singular conclusion. I’ll be fine. Wrong. It took all of twenty hood and my own. Kids in high waisted minutes for Gay Laramie Tinder to run bell-bottoms and sweater vests on a out on me. I closed the app and hoped balcony in Algeria. Me at 6 years old that someone might match with me. My grandfather wasn’t holding a Bharatnatyam pose in front I went to Planet Fitness two days of a washing machine. later. I learned to run again. Living in beautiful. He was hot. I kept flipping, further and further Atlanta and New Haven hadn’t prepared back in time, until I landed on a black me for the rigors of cardio at 7,200 feet. and white picture. I didn’t try to look good at the gym. It In it, my grandfather is James And then, I have another thought. was a place to prepare to desire, not to Dean. He stands in front of a soda be desired. I wore baggy sweatpants shop. Glass bottles blanket the tucked into socks with my “I took CS50” counter behind him, and an awning T-shirt (or something of an equally worAm I supposed to be hot, rolls overhead. He’s looking at somerying nature) on top. one I can’t see. Another man stands too? behind him, looking straight into *** the camera, but my grandfather’s the one in the light. His skin is smooth, week later, my match arrived. It was and his hair falls in strands over his Cue the crisis. one of those sure, I guess matches. forehead, like mine on special days. He reached out first. Said Hey, what’s The resemblance seems to come and I had not been born into hotness, I’d up. I took two days to reply. Just chilling! go. His jawline is sharp. He’s a nine- thought. But here was my grandfather, What about you? We sent messages back teen-fifties heartthrob. Maybe this is proving if not what was, then what could and forth until the volume of them felt the picture we’ll use in his obituary. be. I could imagine his magnetism as like we could say we knew each other. I


November 2023

layout design by ALICIA GAN | Photographs COURTESY OF SURAJ SINGAREDDY


The Age of Looking

realized that I’d seen his face before. He worked evening shifts at the gym—stationed at the front desk every time I walked in. We didn’t speak in real life, other than a hey, which signaled a history. Sometimes, I’d tilt my head up—craning over his coworkers to see him—and almost smile. I did not want him, but I tried to act the part. I started dressing differently. I swapped my sweatpants out for jersey shorts with a 7-inch inseam. How my thighs curved. How my calves mounted to a peak. I became infatuated with myself and the skin I could show. Summer is a good time to be hot. Outside of the gym, I wore the collared shirts my mother always told me would make me look powerful. Sometimes I’d wear them to the gym, if I hadn’t had time to change at home, and he’d message me afterwards. You looked good today. He reminded me that someone was looking. I was desired, so hotness became my reality. It was something which I could exercise and embody. I had been addicted to the idea that beauty could connect me to the world, but here was hotness doing the same. Acceptance—the passive existence that beauty bought—was no longer enough. I had worked to be wanted conditionally and achieve success in the economy of desire. And I enjoyed the gig. I feigned seduction with gym guy for the rest of the summer. He texted me, and I would text back days later. One day in late July, I opened Tinder after a week of no contact to find that his icon had vanished. I thought about seeing him again and began to work out exclusively in the mornings.

Above: Singareddy’s grandfather with friends. Right: Singareddy’s mother, her brother, and a friend on a balcony in Algeria.

reality. Its allure returned to my mind, where it joined beauty in the place where images reside. It was impossible to make either fully physical and present. It became more and more difficult to look in the mirror—to make a conscious *** choice in how I looked. The picture of my grandfather n late August, I moved into my house ceased to be anything more than an in New Haven. The school year started, image stored on my phone. And like and I began going to the gym regularly that version of him, my season of hotagain. When the weather allowed, I ness has become history. The age of wore collared shirts and left two buttons looking is over.∎ undone for my 9 a.m. English seminar. My roommate called it slutty. Gradually, inevitably, the weather Suraj Singareddy is a junior in turned cold and cotton shirts became Timothy Dwight College and a impractical. I layered on knit wool and Podcast Editor of The New Journal. began looking in the mirror less and less. What was there to see but fabric? Who was there to please with my crew neck sweaters? Without gym guy, there was no second set of eyes grounding hotness in




TheNewJournal     November 2023



Terminal E-O15 A single red sclera scans linoleum. It encloses the white irises that I bathe the milling men and women and children in. They are scattered on the smooth floor. I stare down rows neater than hangars columns of dates and times, and flights an endless array of white arriveds and red lates. I spit out the brisk walking businesswoman, the curly haired teenager, the bearded man with a black mandala on his shirt. Their shells roll with them, worn as their faces. Tiny heads crane to look through my eastern gate—searching for mothers weary, fathers hurried, siblings with sound proof headphones and textbooks weighing their carry ons. A crumb-fingered child hops to his mom, and a sister hands her a damp bouquet. A woman cannot stop her wide, toothy smile directed at my open mouth. I chew all who are missed, so their faces weary are lit up red seeing the ones caring. I chose the boundary between away and returned. I decide when their waiting comes to a halt. I watch over them in red, bold. Unnoticed. In the end, no one disobeys my command. In the end, none of the travelers ever turn back.

Illustration by Angela Huo

— Diya Naik TheNewJournal     November 2023


Flash Fiction

The God of Speed and Distant Messages

The boy comes in at ten to sit again. He is a model for Hermes. The sculptress wears safety glasses and earmuffs and her bootprints leave neat trails across her studio floor. She climbs a ladder and works on a big white face. In every direction: marble torsos, marble heads, marble all over. The boy watches. Three times this week he has woken in the sculptress’s bed and opened his eyes to the light of an unfamiliar window. The sculptress looks down at him, looks back at her work. Chink chink chink, says her chisel. Chink chink chink, chink chink chink. She tells the boy he is perfect for her project. The boy sits and smirks. He smirks because he is in love, and the sculptress, from atop her ladder, says his smirk is what she likes most about him. His smirk is just right for Hermes, god of thieves, god of speed and distant messages. But the smirk is not right. The boy is no god. The sculptress does not tell the boy, but when she chisels away at the nose, when she carves the fullness of the lower

lip, she does not think of the boy’s nose and lip but of the nose and lip of a man she would like to make exist. Because with each stroke of the hammer, the sculptress thinks of the boy mispronouncing synecdoche; thinks of how his swaggered walk is clearly forced; thinks of that terribly embarrassing way he pouts when she is unimpressed by his poetry. The boy is no god. Here’s Hermes: curly-haired, marble, seven feet tall. The boy is not marble or seven feet tall. The sculptress wipes the back of a glove across her brow. She studies the face of the god she has made, and Hermes glows with something like gratitude. “He’s finished,” the sculptress says. “How do you know?” asks the boy. She says she just knows. One gets a feel for these things. But there’s more to it than that, of course. Hermes is finished, and she knows he is finished because all his imperfections are on the floor. The sculptress, for all her accolades, has just two skills: she locates something she doesn’t like— and then she destroys it.

—Cal Barton


November 2023      TheNewJournal

Layout Design and Illustration by CATE ROSER


Home Amidst Ink and Coffee Beans

I've lived here for two months already, and it’s clear this space does not allow for another. I am left holding fragments of two homes in my bare hands. Norfolk has discolored from memory; New Haven has not materialized. I stop myself from waving hello to old friends on Cross Campus. They do not exist here. My dorm is decorated like my childhood bedroom—it is familiar but not the same. I swipe my card for a vanilla chai and a tattered paperback. Book Trader Cafe unites worlds: vintage and new, books and coffee, students and locals. Here, there is motion and stillness. Baristas bustle about, people stop to flip through a book then run out with a cup


in hand. Stacks and shelves of novels are indomitable as they loom over me, but if I take one out the rest falls to a slant. Everything is a counterbalance; everything exists in harmony. Each book is a living archive that would have been forgotten if not recorded; the pages are yellowed but their contents remain. Time sharpens their stories and they endure discoloration. Running my fingers along cracked, wellloved spines, I think home has come into focus for me now. Though discrete, the two cities can coexist. My past and present are reconciled. —Tina Li

ser Ro te a C by on i t tra lus

TheNewJournal     November 2023


Personal Essay

A Distant Mentorship A student reflects on the criticisms, poetry, and teachings of Louise Glück. By Danya Blokh

“It is true that there is not enough beauty in the world. It is also true that I am not competent to restore it. Neither is there candor, and here I may be of some use.” - Louise Glück, “October”


t was this very candor that characterized our first interaction. I was a freshman at the time, and a friend who was enrolled in her workshop offered to introduce us if I walked her to class early. Nervous and giddy, I followed my friend into the seminar room and approached the head of the table. My literary idol looked surprisingly casual in her scarf and navy blue coat. “It’s so nice to meet you, Professor Gloock,” I said, hastily pronouncing the last name with an exaggerated vowel, as in glucose. “You’ve been a huge inspiration for my poetry.” She looked at me and, without malice or warmth, said, “it’s pronounced Glück,” pronouncing the umlaut like the word “Buick” with the two vowels melded into one. Then she moved on with her class. Embarrassed as I felt, I was also amused that the real-life Louise Glück was just as straightforward as the one I’d encountered on the page. I first came across Glück’s critical essays as a 16-year-old poet. At the time, I was torn between loving poetry and hating what I deemed its self-important discourse. Many American poets, seeing the general public’s disdain for their work, responded by doubling 52

November 2023      TheNewJournal

down on praise of one another’s writ- that her lines might disappoint me. They ing, making sweeping statements about didn’t. Here, too, Glück rejected perforpoetry’s urgency rather than demon- mative drama for a deliberate and disstrating it. Glück was the first writer I tant voice, one whose authority stilled found who departed from this ostenta- you, whose scathing irony made you tious tone. She wrote with clear passion listen close and allowed glimpses of vulfor poetry’s inexhaustible mystery, and nerable beauty to cut ever more deeply. at the same time diagnosed contempo- Take “Celestial Music,” which begins, “I rary poetry’s drift toward self-obsession have a friend who still believes in heaven. and fruitless abstraction, warning of the / Not a stupid person, yet with all she conditioned responses such tendencies knows, she literally talks to God.” Cruel evoked. Contemporary literary journals, and prosaic as Glück sounds here, she she argued, are full of “poems in which earns my trust. Having chuckled at her secrets are disclosed with athletic avid- friend, I become receptive to her praise ity…poems at once formulaic and inco- of this friend’s bravery, her disclosure of herent.” I shivered at her recognition of their shared affinity for wholeness, and the precise kind of poetry I had begun the stunning ending when the two look to write in hope of publication. She upon a dead caterpillar and Glück writes, unveiled a new vocabulary for discussing “It’s this stillness that we both love. / The poetry: one of aesthetics, form, and tone, love of form is a love of endings.” one that recognized how poetry existed Whenever I was skeptical of poetry to make the world both more clear and and deprived of inspiration, I returned more strange. In a sea of poets and to Glück’s texts. During the pancritics who were constantly selling the demic, I convinced my parents to rent importance of this or that work, Glück’s an Airbnb near Alabama’s Lake Smith. rejection of bullshit made her the only We sat outside, the cicadas humming voice I could trust. all around, the host’s labrador curled It took me a couple years to explore up at my feet, and read Glück’s poetry. Glück’s verse itself. Perhaps because I For my parents, two Eastern European found her essays so incisive, I worried emigres who’d grown up on the Russian layout design by ALICIA GAN

poetic tradition, Glück’s poems, as lucid in image and thought as those of Mandelstam and Akhmatova, were among those few which resonated with them. The three of us connected in our shared marveling. After my parents went to bed, I walked out on the dock and sat there for several hours with my Kindle copy of Averno. Periodically, I set down the glowing screen to look up at the stars, listen to the water, and let the words echo. I hope she will forgive my pathos here. Glück’s poetry seminar was offered every fall semester, but through a confluence of bad luck and trepidation at working closely with someone I admired, year after year passed without me enrolling. My first year, I was so weary of poetry that I didn’t apply; my second year, after regaining passion for poetry through Glück’s work, I was accepted into the course, but it was unexpectedly canceled; my third year, I was rejected. Only this semester did I finally enroll in the Iseman Seminar. My parents were overjoyed. I studied up on the umlaut and, thankfully, Professor Glück seemed to have forgotten about my mispronunciation of her name all those years ago. The Louise Glück I met in the Iseman Seminar was consistent with the one I’d read—just as unpretentious and honest, just as cautious of tropes and sentimentality. As in her texts, her directness, though sometimes ruthless, garnered complete trust. Yet despite the darkness of much of her poetry, she was also surprisingly jovial. I loved how comfortably she passed aesthetic judgements with no need for explanation. “This word is off,” she would say, or “this line should be replaced with another,” identifying problems the ear understands better than the mind and trusting us to find solutions. She hated unnecessary adjectives and loved specificity, especially geographic. In one of my poems, she suggested scrapping almost every line except one which was merely a description of place: “through Cuneo, they came to Florence.” She vehemently rejected bullshit, not only poetic but also interpersonal. Despite being a Nobel laureate, she was never

condescending—joking frequently with us, never insisting on decorum. She seemed to be less an instructor than a peer, seated at the same round table as the rest of us. I won’t pretend that we became fast friends in the five weeks of class we had together, as much as I would love to indulge such a fiction. We had class in person twice, and I never made it to her in-person office hours. One afternoon, however, we discussed a couple poems of mine over the phone. I sat in my sunny dining room and typed madly in an attempt to write down her every word, her every criticism of every line, her divulgence that writing prose poetry was one of the most enthralling experiences of her life. When she made the off-handed disclosure that she liked my poems, my heart leaped. As the call was drawing to a close, there was a brief but seemingly endless

silence in which I thought of asking something deeper, beyond the minutiae of my lines—about the usefulness of rhyme, about the disarming potential of prosaic language, about writing from beyond a singular I, about decoding Ashbery and understanding Oppen. There was so much I wanted to ask her that I hardly knew where to begin. There will be time for those questions later, I decided, so why keep her now? I said, “Thank you so much, see you soon,” and she said, “See you.”∎ Danya Blokh is a senior in Timothy Dwight College.

Left: portrait of Louise Glück, illustrated by Angela Huo.

TheNewJournal     November 2023



Island Janus.

Tau Gallicum In the roaring undergirding

By the fine old wattled keep

Ogham up the Boa

I chanted fast my brains to muck

And sunk forms into sleep

And for each blearing corner

Which when broken, yielded pain I melted horns for every world

And stuck pins in my brain

—Asher C. Hurowitz

n by ratio Illust

rg. enbe Wold a l e i Dan

Superwoman House Tour: Blondie

Puzzle by Adam Winograd

group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death,” according to Ruth Wilson Gilmore

68 Microtus pinetorum, familiary

ACROSS 1 “Meh” in modern lingo; *with 5-across, album 12* 2 PRO; *with 6-across, album 6* 5 Darknesses; *see 1-across* 6 It can come after a perm; *see 2-across* 10 Set in place 12 Divas’ features 13 One may be picky

71 Melee 72 “Mercy!” 73 Cellular division 74 Jimmy Elmer , running back for the Chicago Cardinals, Dayton Triangles, Staten Island Stapletons, and Newark Tornadoes 75 Area opposite the spine? 79 Gift 80

Ketchum, famous Pokémon trainer

15 Hershey’s toffee bar

81 Without hesitation *album 2*

16 Blackjack

82 Mythology; *see 60-across*

17 Amendment allowing women to vote; 83 Vocal trick; *with 99-across, album *with 20-down, then repeating its 3* own first syllable, album 5* 85 They can famously lift 10-50 times 22 Eternally; *with 46-across, album 9* their body weight 26 Edge

87 Primordial Greek God of the Sky

32 Stuff 33 Three-pronged creation of Cyclopes

89 Guitar manufacturer; *with 107-across, Miss Americana herself, or album 1*

36 Munch

94 Lū’au dance

37 Mendicant

97 Catfish

38 Spark plug, for one

99 “ASAP”; *see 83-across*

39 Partner; *album 7, within which the 100 Wee hour of the morning, say titular music video first showed the 101 Plucking theme of this crossword* 103 Rose (up) 40 Hindu Demon-God of Eclipses 104 One hundreth of Georgian lari 41 Niche

43 Governmental finance bro 46 S’

; *see 22-across*

48 Debt; *album 4* 51 Benjamins 53 “Would you?” 55 Temporal vasculitis, to docs

© The New Journal 8 Wave: Spanish

105 Allusion

9 Brooklyn’s b-ballers

106 Littoral US agents

10 Irritated

107 Quick; *see 89-across*

11 President Nixon’s legacy, which enforces the CSA

108 Hated 109 Lower Saxony’s geographic border between Halberstadt and Hildesheim

58 More than half of the 8.045 billion people on this planet live there


60 Soul; *with 82-across, album 8*

2 “Shoot”

64 Slip

3 “when will u get here?”

65 “The state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of

4 Heap 6 Major train station of New Haven


for S.

7 Bygone Russian leader


45 12 Province in the southwest of Saudi Arabia, surrounded by Makkah, 47 Al-Bahah, Jazan, Najran, and Riyadh 48 14 Rotational meas 17 Crux 18 NARI, before two months ago 21 Injury 22 0.000001 joules 23 Cheap wine

November 2023

plasma after interleukin-6 secretion 69 Pest by macrophages and T cells...for 70 Clock setting for NYC short 76 Letter opener? Son of Shem, and father to Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash, from the Table of 77 TV channel for “Wheel of Fortune,” “Family Feud,” “Jeapardy,” “The Nations in Genesis 10 Price is Right,” and many more Handheld video game console 78 Jewish Queen, married to King produced after GBA Ahaseurus See 62-down 80 Yearly interest costs, expressed as Native people located in what is now pcts. considered Virginia, comprised of 83 Swelled various Algonquin-speking tirbes which merged in the 1680s 84 Mentally irregular

49 Attempt

86 Ultra

50 Does and bucks

87 Crumb

52 Mouthful

88 Curse

54 Atlantic Ocean, to North American 89 Kiddos poets; Pacific Ocean, to Australian, 90 From scratch New Zealand, Chinese, or Japanese Network of vessels or cells 91 Folkloric Himalayan beast poets 92 Small, immature buds Pervasive injury area for NFL or NBA 55 Harsh athletes 93 Leave out 56 Dugout Oarsmen’s favorite character? 95 It’s “what happens when you’re busy 57 Capital of Ghana making other plans,” per John Lennon Federal domain extension 59 Object 96 They might be served at pubs Check-up by an outside M.D., often 60 It may come before position or for litigious compensation 97 The solar disk of Ancient Egypt presentaiton NPO media organization where “All 98 Pristine 61 Echinus Things Considered” is hosted 62 What 47-down might stand for when 102 100 square meters Word after zip, bow, knit, bolo, or directed from the head 103 Subset of the UN which facilitates ascot cooperation on issues regarding 63 Recently renovated Biology Tower Standard atmoshperic science, climatology, of Yale hydrology, and geophysics It comes before and after a minuet 66 Robert Michael , A.J. Soprano on Annular, pentameric amino-acid the Sopranos PLAY MORE TNJ chain of hepatic origin (synthesized 67 Sew closed the eyes, usually of a by the liver) and found in blood CROSSWORDS ON falcon or hawk

24 Second drop-down category, usually 25 27 28 29 30 31 33 34 35 42


The New Journal was founded in 1967, under the following mission statement: “This university has once again reached that stage in history when people are talking about the New Yale, presumably to be distinguished from the Old Yale, which in its own day was presumably considered new. Wishing to share in this modernity, we have chosen The New Journal as the name for our publication. Besides, things seemed slow around here.”









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Today, The New Journal is published five times during the academic year by The New Journal at Yale, Inc. One thousand copies of each issue are distributed free to members of the Yale and New Haven community. The New Journal is printed by TCI Press, Seekonk, Massachusetts; bookkeeping and billing services are provided by Colman Bookkeeping of New Haven. Office Address: P.O. Box 3311, New Haven, CT 06515.



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