Despite being home since college, I haven’t been back to my childhood room for a while. My old desk is till here. Many of my books still sit in their shelves, many of them unread and many that I fondly remember annotating in high school. Porcelain dolls and stuffed teddy bears sit frozen, no longer animated by my childhood imagination.
Paintings quietly present their stilled scenes, telling of the sophisticated tastes of my grandmother—a family by a mountainous seaside, pale faces of women doing embroidery, a winter scene dotted with settler-esque figures, a space high view of Jesus hanging from a cross above the swirling blue and green of our planet.
Some dust lines the plastic foliage of silk plants that sit in little baskets and pots here and there.
There are empty drawers where my clothes, socks, jeans, t-shirts, and trinkets used to be. I can see the back wall of my closet where I couldn’t before. Some picture empty frames lay stacked near the end of my dresser.
There is a balance here. Many parts my young presence have disappeared, but just enough remains to be reminded of how much I have grown and changed. I can smile while reading old letters I wrote to my elementary friends, but I can also sift through the melancholy of knowing that though I can return, this room can not know me as who I was.
There was a time when I read the bible for fun. I went to Church on Wednesday nights, sang
I may never march in the infantry
ride in the calvary
shoot the artilley
I may never zoom o’erthe enemy
But I’m in the Lord’s army
I roughy thumbed the pages of my bible in hopes of finding a passage fast enough for bible drills when I was in Christian school. I prayed fervently most nights for god to help me stop being such a sinner, to not be a burden.
I think about those times often. When I get into bed without my knees touching the floor first and when I receive food and I catch myself wanting to mumble something into the air. I catch myself before I start praying. When something happens to me, I now often say the “the Universe is teaching me…” and not “God.”
However, discontinuing these practices have not stopped me from being unkind to myself. The way I have look at myself, the way I have talked to myself at times—curses in exchange for prayers.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. Proverbs 18:21
I got my license in September 2018 at the age of 22 years old. I then, thanks to the generosity of my family, got my first car in October. So far so good, right? Mobility: DUN! Adulting: PROGRESS TO LEVEL 5!
Guess what? I did not have my car 11 days before getting into my first accident trying to drive to Detroit by myself. Days before that, I went to the gas station, where half of the pumps were out of order and drove up on the curb. Hard. I had knocked the gas pump out right out of its holder. When I sheepishly went inside, the clerks wrote down my name.
“Well, if that pump shows up defective, we’ll know who’s responsible and we will be giving you a call.”
To be honest, I very much despised myself at this point. Talk about a freshman mistake amiright!
But truly, Freshmen get a bad rap. I’ve never understood the scorn that is occasionally braced against them by everyone else.
Random person walking in a congested hallway: UGH. Freshmen everywhere!
Me to myself: Well, today is orientation. There is one school building. Freshmen will be present. Yes. They have nowhere else to go…
When I got to college there would be a sort of performative angst over the fact that these fresh recruits didn’t know where the heck they were going, where their classes were, or what the dorm names were. Basically, just frustration over the fact that these folks were new—ignorant to the collegiate landscape, but what the heck else would they be if not ignorant, searching, eager, and freaked out. They’ve literally transitioned from one life space to another.
Meanwhile, it has been 7 months since I graduated from college and I’ve spent a lot of time picking myself a part, expecting myself to somehow know what I’ve never before experienced before. In short, I’ve been unfair to myself.
I somehow have had it lodged into my mind that at some point, I’m going to stop feeling like a freshman. I’ll stop asking so many questions. Stop making so many blunders. Stop allowing my eyes to look like saucer disks every time someone talks to me about taxes and healthcare.
But maybe that’s not the point. I will be a type of Freshman forever. I think the vulnerable part of being a Freshman is that pretty much everyone else is aware that you know the equivalent of untested opinion.
I’m not going to get into the whole “college life vs. real life debate” because I don’t believe either journey is any less real.
But what is inherently real is the the willingness to learn, to admit when I’m wrong, and then do something about it. Freshmen or not, I’ve fudged up plenty of times and it gives me calm to know I will never to be first nor the last to do so.
So recently, I dared to extend my writing abilities to the Campus Times, and wrote a club profile for their features section. There had been talk that they were in need of interesting and meaningful features, and I figured I had the story that fit those parameters. I had been lending my eyes and ears to the Womanist Club for some time, and I felt that their journey to club recognition was empowering.
The Womanist Club has been making their debut through their Womanist Week programming that touches on topics like black women in stem, the hijab, the Latinx identity, the Asian patriarchy, and violence against trans woc. If you can, support intersectional feminism and attend!
I felt compelled to write this profile because given the climate of diversity at this school, clubs that advocate for social awareness more often than not tend to take on one voice—one that isn’t very colorful to say the least. In the case of campus feminism, there hadn’t been a group that had said, ” Hey guys, here is another way to practice or further explore feminism.” The Womanist Club is the pioneer of that approach.
Many times these questions and concerns weren’t addressed to us women of color, but to reach out to College Feminists […] asking for their permission essentially to exist as a group.
-Taylar Mouton, Womanist Club President
I encourage you to read the Campus Times article yourself…
However, understand that the article has been doctored by the Campus Times and because of the disposition of some their staff, their process, and my ensuing graduation, I will most likely never be writing for them again. Alright lets break down the receipts.
DISCLAIMER: if you’re a member of the CT and none of what I’m about to disclose applies to you, then feel free to chill out 🙂
Long story short, some people in the CT who dedicate the extra moments of their lives to communicatory practice, don’t actually know how to communicate.
I was diligent to present my pictures, my rough draft on time, and respond to edits. Despite being told that my feature would be placed in the print edition, alas, Monday comes and it was nowhere to be seen. One of my sources asked if it would print next week, in hopes that she would see her name or face in the paper. I had to explain that due to the dates in they story, printing it late wouldn’t do. After doing some reflecting, I had a bit of forgiveness because I figured that the online edition was better than nothing. After all, climate change…save the trees…
However, I looked throughout the day and its wasn’t there. I contacted a member of the CT staff the next day to ask for a confirmation of the article upload. I am given a mix of responses along the lines of “Its not in my control,” “There’s a lot going on,” and “I don’t have time for this.” Most of all, I was met with a lack of transparency.
F U N FA CT: If you are not a columnist, Campus Times will not allow you to view the final edits of your work. Which means that what you see online or in print may include content changes that you didn’t authorize.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for grammar, clarity changes, and making things concise. In my first draft I didn’t define the word “misogynoir.” The CT, rightfully so, added a hyphen and attemptedto define the term in the article.
The correct definition of misogynoir simply means misogyny against black women. Hence the suffix “-noir.” That’s it.
I later learned, without conferring with me as a writer, the CT added this:
I never reached out to Alex Guerrero, but the CT felt the need to write on my behalf, ironically for the sake of seeming fair and transparent. If the quote that my sources provided was not false, what is the reason for giving a quote that simply confirms what that source already said? further more, why wasn’t I simply asked about providing a corroboration of the quote?
There were other edits that were made without my input. Many of them just resulted in a few clunky sentences here and there.
Why can’t the editing process be a full collaboration between the writers and editors?
After discussing this all with a journalism professor he failed to see how it was a quality journalistic practice. When I asked a member of the CT why this rule existed, they couldn’t give me answer. Those that staff the CT should be able to amply defend the practices they abide by. Being unable to do so creates contingencies that affect the general credibility of the CT. So maybe the next work assignment for the CT should be actually finding the logic behind their “practices”, because clearly this isn’t what transparency in a newsroom is supposed to look like. The above practice reinforces a heavy hierarchy that shouldn’t exist, and allows too much leeway for people who may not have special knowledge of social issues to fudge up the details of a story when they have no reason to do so.
Revolutionary acts look like defending the relevancy of your club to complete strangers over and over again. Submitting a feature piece to the CT shouldn’t be a revolutionary act. It shouldn’t have to be appealing to a dismissive panel of editors in hopes that they won’t mishandle a story you wrote. A contributor shouldn’t have to suffer inconsistencies and lack of follow through that allows for their story to slip the cracks. Respect and collaborative editing shouldn’t be reserved to columnists. Internal conflicts of a newsroom shouldn’t impact a contributor’s work or the overall due process of a small university newspaper.
Advice to Campus Times: Try actually listening to all your writers because without writers you wouldn’t have a paper print.
Thank you to those of CT who do the best they can to offer transparency and quality communication. You know who you are. Keep doing what you’re doing.
[*I’m working under the assumption that they didn’t sell out in comparison to Hasan Minaj]
But they didn’t, and I can’t say I was entirely surprised.
Ms. Burke is the #blackgirlmagic fireball behind the #metoo movement—a movement that has been largely associated with the sexual harassment/assault nightmares of Hollywood actresses by the booger-faced ogre Harvey Wienstien. Google him on your own time. Last Monday, she actually came to the University of Rochester Campus to speak. Why is this so profound? Well, number one: the University of Rochester is in the middle of nowhere. Number two: refer back to number one. Number three: this campus was completely rocked by the sexual assault case concerning Brain and Cognitive science professors Celeste Kidd, Jessica Cantlon, and Florian Jaeger. Both Kidd and Cantlon were listed in Time magazine Persons of the Year as “silence breakers.” Rightfully so, because the careers of these women were placed in jeopardy at the sexual whims of a man that was actively protected by the University.
Unfortunately, I was not on campus to really get a first hand observance of the campus dynamic, but I looked on through Facebook livestreams. I watched President Seligman utterly fail to placate or answer to the wrath of the student body. I watched as he bumbled and weaseled with excellent bureaucratic vocabulary through reasonable demands. I watched clips of student protests, and I watched the steam rise from the heated chants in front of Wallis Hall. I also watched the lack of follow through from these demonstrations, but that’s a blog for another day. Never the less these on-campus happenings were reinforced by the disturbing events among the Hollywood elite that put the nations ear to the #metoo movement.
I’m kinda of sick of going around campus and people not knowing who Tarana Burke is. People are more likely it riddle offactresses than they are to know who actually created the movement in the first place. But who’s to blame when even Time magazine didn’t even put her on the front cover. But Taylor friggin Swift is over here taking up space. OKAY.
And when you go to the actual website of the “silence breakers” article, this is the first face you see:
You have to wait damn near 8 seconds before you even see Tarana Burkes face. Am I being petty?
Yes, because I’m personally tired of people waiting till black women are dead and gone, or on the edge of death before they are ever acknowledged for the contributions they have made to this society.
The least that folks can do is put her on the cover for the movement she started and know who she is. Okay, rant over…almost.
So I when I saw that Tarana Burke was coming to campus I was ecstatic. I saw that that the talk started an 8 PM. That was the same time that I got out of work, but I was determined—DE-TER-MINED to get there anyway. Don’t get me wrong folks. I was indeed late. But if you were the ticket holder at the entrance you saw the eagerness seeping out my eyes and my pores. A good friend of mine (the one and only Naomi Rutagarama) had done her do diligence and saved me a seat in the third row, so I came in looking like a ravaged nomad searching for an oasis in the desert. I apologize to the programmer who offered me a seat in the back to which I briskly breathed, “No. My friend is saving me a seat. No.” I was beside my myself. When I finally found my seat, I sat down like:
“If you’re not happy about the climate here, you need to change that. You have that power.”
Tarana Burke’s speech was comprehensive and real. She embodied the activism that gives the #metoo movement the backbone to continue with or without the media attention.
She made it clear that it was important to know her beginnings with the concept of advocacy for women’s assault/healing. It started with her as a youth worker and founder at JustBeInc. and her troubling interaction with a young girl named Heaven. This interaction was the spark that got the gears turning towards developing #metoo in the first place. I highly highly encourage you to read the story for yourself. It adds so much context and bolsters the depth to the social media hashtag.
As Tarana Burke continued to speak, I learned how important it was to work towards a vision no matter if anyone pays attention or not. Tarana saw a need to create a space for women to see each other and recognize that they are not alone in a world that tolerates misogyny and rape culture. As she was continuing to shine her light through her work on the ground and eventually myspace and Twitter, it resonated with women of all walks of life and one of those women came to be Alyssa Milano. Tarana was sure to clarify that Alyssa has never overstepped her bounds by claiming to be the gatekeeper of the #metoo movement, unlike some people (*cough, cough Rose McGowan).
Tarana wasn’t shy in emphasizing that the #metoo movement was a safe space for all, including (if not most of all) the transgender community.
Rose McGowan has no jurisdiction here, despite her little tantrum late January. Watch on your own time….or just wait for me to write a blog post about it.
Any way, back to the important things. Tarana wasn’t looking for fame and recognition, but when Alyssa Milana happened upon Tarana’s movement on Twitter, she gave credit where credit was due. As a result Tarana Burke has been interviewed, paraded on the Golden Globes, and has even been given a book deal. She has continued to do her good work by developing online resources and toolkits for intentional community healing. Some might say, all of her prolonged hard work is starting to pay off, but Tarana said it was far from over.
This is when it got real, folks. Tarana held nothing back when addressing the failure of the University of Rochester to do its part in protecting its students:
This is a community, obviously. I wanna say something to this room that I hope resonates through this campus and I feel like hasn’t been said directly: You are worthy of and deserve protection and safety. Period. And when you enroll in a school one of the top priorities should be to provide that protection and safety, period.
She had taken the time to read some of the the independent report and she was sorely disappointed. She identified a warp in the moral compass and lack of accountability on this campus, and she wasn’t wrong. The administration does lack accountability concerning this case, and its impact on UR students. But she didn’t stop there, she encouraged and charged us all with the task of finding ways to allow healing to permeate throughout this campus. What she described was collective action—a coming together of individuals that actively enact solutions that emphasize and reinforce procedures, policy, anything that promotes security and protection for everyone. Healing can be shared.
The talk ended with Tarana giving us all the honesty, flair (honestly, check out the link she is stylin’ profilin’ for real), and #blackgirlmagic the room could handle and then she took questions. She stayed on the stage a little bit afterwards to take hugs and pictures. I pitifully looked on, regretting I didn’t charge the stage earlier. But alas! as Naomi and I were exiting towards the tunnel towards Wilco, I spotted her coming my way. I eagerly waited at the doorway and as she passed, she saw me. She shook my hand and gave me the deepest hug…I had been blessed.
I wistfully looked after her, as she answered to the buzzing swarm of students, coordinators, and security. What a night.
Special thanks to Naomi Rutagarama for being the supporter and sounding board of this blog post! Thanks friend 🙂
Before I could settle on this thought, I heard horns pierce through the hum of the crowds. It was a sound I imagined the apocalyptic angels made in the book of Revelations. Maybe the world was ending after all.
Barni was my last interview. I had seen him around and he seemed to give the air of a senior member of the camp. He was the big brother helping out teachers and stepping in to reign in the younger kids when needed.
We had weathered the car ride together, and I learned that Andi had recently arrived from Sziget, Hungary eight months ago. She would be the new employee for Care2Travel, and she was shadowing Peter that day to learn the ropes. She had briefly hinted that she was just settling in and she expected challenges in making friends—although they were not challenges that I could directly relate to. We were able to find some wooden benches and after introducing my phone-recording device, and my camera we lost no time digging into the subject further. Continue reading Part 4: Up for a Challenge
I spotted this Angi only because I happened to be looking for another Angi that I couldn’t find at the time. Regardless Angi’s big, brown downcast eyes got my attention. I sensed a voice worth lending an ear to for a little while. She was one of the few children that did not find a cell phone enchanting at all, which helped to lessen distractions during out chat. Continue reading Part 3: A Smile Worth Searching For
I noticed Zoli mostly because of the contrast of his voice and stature. He was on the smaller side, but his voice was rather based and sharp. He would be my first interview that set the tone for the depth and dynamism these kids were harboring behind their obsessions with smartphones, fidget spinners, and American early 2000s pop and rap music. Continue reading Part 2: As Bad as Sin