Review: “Grace Notes” Strikes a Flattened Chord

by Sarah Pearl Heard (Staff Writer)

Violence was everywhere this summer. It was hard to digest, let alone to grieve. On September 9th and 10th, Carrie Mae Weems performed her multimedia performance project “Grace Notes: Reflections for Now” at the Yale Repertory Theatre to allow us to do so. Yet amid the the show’s sensual dance and song – and shallow sense of peace and sadness – anger, the shock of loss, and the massacre that inspired “Grace Notes” were all conspicuously absent. “Grace Notes” was beautiful, but not quite healing, not quite complete.

Carrie Mae Weems is considered one of today’s most influential artists. In 2013 Weems received the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship as well as the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She is known for creating stunning images of Black women.

As she introduced the piece, Weems compared her own role to that of Antigone, the grieving sister in the Greek tragedy who is desperate to perform burial rites for her brother. Weems’s parallel need arose when President Obama sang “Amazing Grace” at the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney after the Charleston shooting in summer 2015. “Grace Notes” asks, “What is the role of grace in the pursuit of democracy?” How can the notion of grace – Black people’s dignity – help and heal a reeling nation? Weems explores this question through film, dance, song, and poetry.

Scenes of the multi-episode performance included step performances by Black fraternity Omega Psi Phi and Yale’s Steppin Out, who chanted slogans like, “I’m tired of all this senseless violence” and “If Eric Garner/Tamir Rice/Sandra Bland were here, [they’d] appreciate something like this.” One of the Graces, a trio of opera singers who performed throughout the piece, sang “Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby” to a man held in a large plastic ball like a womb. One scene projected the names of Black victims of racist violence onto the set while the cast read them aloud and the audience repeated the word “commemorating.”  

But even here, the piece danced around a key component of grief: anger. While a few lines presented by poet Aja Monet sounded the notes of revolution, like, “state violence is as intimate as forced kiss” or, “protest to the petition for presence […] the pirouette next to a barricade,” in general, Carrie Mae Weems’s “Grace Notes” offered was a flattened version of what it purported to offer–that is, a new sense of peace and renewal, and a putting to rest of the restless victims of the massacre of Black lives.

Grace was presented as an alternative, a healing, begrudging salve for all our wounds.  As is common in many Black religious communities, she promised that, “If not in this life, in the next we’ll be free.” But this refrain is nothing new. What we were so desperate for – “to bury our brother with dignity” – Weems fell short of providing.

Tuesday Human Rights Teach-In Will Protest Yale Honor for Rwandan President

by student affiliates of the Schell Center Lowenstein Clinic, Yale Law School

Human Rights Record of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to Be Subject of Yale Teach-In Tuesday, September 20, at 3 p.m., outside Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall

On Tuesday, September 20, Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, will deliver the Coca-Cola World Fund Lecture at Yale. Yale characterizes President Kagame as a leader in “the promotion of human rights.” But organizations such as Human Rights WatchAmnesty International, and even the United Nations have documented grave human rights abuses committed by Rwandan officials: enforced disappearances, summary executions, arbitrary detention, suppression of free speech, and widespread intimidation of journalists and civil society members.

kagame2016-coca-cola-sss-448

By ignoring these violations, Yale implies that serious human rights violations are less important to our community than reaching development goals. We disagree.

We recognize President Kagame’s role in ending the genocide in Rwanda and bringing economic and social stability to his country. But these accomplishments ought not to obscure the serious human rights violations that have occurred under his leadership. President Kagame’s right to speak  is not at issue. We oppose Yale’s decision to invite him to give a prestigious lecture at Yale and then to misrepresent his record in a one-sided announcement.

If you agree that the university’s unconditional endorsement of President Kagame unacceptably legitimizes his positions and ignores the human consequences of his policies, please sign our open letter condemning this decision and join us from 3 to 4 PM on Tuesday outside Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall (1 Prospect Street) for a teach-in regarding human rights abuses committed by President Kagame’s regime.

Frank Ocean Feels

by Sarah Pearl Heard (Staff Writer)

Frank Ocean is that weird artsy friend that disappears for weeks at time and reemerges on Facebook with a long emotional post. No – he is the long emotional post: nostalgic, gut-wrenching, and vaguely erotic, he is the human embodiment of a Tumblr.

Ocean released his second album, “Blonde,” last month, after teasing a project called “Boys Don’t Cry” for nearly four years.  Along with the album came a visual project, Endless, which itself had been teased for weeks with an endless video stream, a video for his song “Nikes,” and pop-up shops around the world carrying a zine called “Boys Don’t Cry.”

“Blonde” and its accompanying projects are as unsettling as they are promising. Ocean’s visuals seem to show off a bit of his process, giving the viewer the sense that this is the prelude to his next masterpiece, the “Surf” before his “Coloring Book.”

There’s something bold – genius, even – in his quiet assumption we will watch and listen to anything he puts out. And we do. This is different from the common strategy of making it big and then making the art you feel, as Beyonce and Rihanna have recently done; Ocean has flipped the trope on its head and is making the art he feels before anyone tells him not to. He did not make another album full of the angsty R&B that fans craved, but rather a hybrid of acoustic easy-listening and spoken word that glides into falsetto with ease and anguish.

Though many have expressed disappointment, have condemned “Blonde” as “worse” than “channel ORANGE,” remember that the genius and vulnerability of experimental art doesn’t meld well with megafame.  Experimental, and visual, art has to be sat with; it does not suit hashtag frenzies or calls to action. So how does he make us meander?  He is himself, privately and unapologetically. He’s not the sex symbol of our generation, but the siren, the muse.  He’s a sleepy Sunday morning when you oversleep and lie with your dreams and last night’s mistakes. He’s our queer hero, our bleeding heart, our Hemingway.

Let’s let him have his mystery, and make our meaning. I suggest you avoid your ex and writing poetry while you set aside the heartache he’s caused and let his apology seep into your skin.

Indigenous Beats: Art of the DAPL Resistance

by Katie McCleary (Staff Columnist, Apsáalooke/Chippewa-Cree)

On Friday, September 9th, Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s request for an injunction to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline underneath the Missouri River. After Judge Boasberg’s decision, three government agencies – the U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Justice and Army Corps of Engineers – issued a joint statement temporarily halting pipeline constructions bordering Lake Oahe and suggests reform of Native input on such infrastructure projects[1].

As the fight for water rights and Native sovereignty continues, more and more indigenous people stand in solidarity against exploitation by corporations. To demonstrate the diversity of the Native nations, indigenous peoples, and groups standing in solidarity against the Dakota Access, I’ve compiled t-shirt designs, posters, a music video, and graphics of the resistance. I’ve also included links to where you can purchase the art, because a portion of the proceeds from many of the pieces go directly to Standing Rock.

The indigenous revolution has begun.

 

Artist: Weshoyot Alvitre

Nation: Tongva

Apparel and prints available from https://society6.com/weshoyot. All proceeds go to Standing Rock.

 

Artist: Steven Paul Judd

Nation: Chickasaw

stopthedapl_mock.jpg

Apparel available at www.thentvs.com. All proceeds from the No DAPL t-shirts go to Standing Rock.

Artist statement: “Did you know this is how we were described in the Declaration of Independence? This isn’t about hating the country or hating white people. It’s about educating people. Racists and hate speech isn’t something I will stand for for my own social media, so why would I let it slide on the Delectation of Independence?” #sageAgainstTheMachine

 

Artist: Erica Pretty Eagle Moore

Nations: Osage, Otoe, Pawnee, Sac and Fox

T-shirts available at https://shop.spreadshirt.com/100082752?noCache=true. All proceeds go to Standing Rock.

 

Artist: Tyler Read

Location: Art Alley, Rapid City, SD

Title: “How The Protectors Defeated The Black Snake”

Artist Statement: “To the people of Standing Rock, with love, peace, and prayers.”

 

Artist: Isaac Murdoch

Nation: Anishinaabe Serpent River First Nation

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Apparel available at https://teespring.com/water-is-sacred#pid=212&cid=5839&sid=front. All proceeds go to the Onaman Collective to “help work on environmental issues, Indigenous language restoration and connecting youth and Elders to land with Indigenous traditional knowledge.”

 

Artist: Marty Two Bulls Sr.

Nation: Oglala Lakota

 

Artist: Lyla June

Nation: Diné

“All Nations Rise”

Image result for lyla june all nations rise

Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nr2VLI8jKww

Artist Statement: “I am a Diné (Navajo) woman but I wrote this last verse in Spanish because our native brothers and sisters in Central and South America experience a deeper suppression of their culture and identity than we do up here in the “the states”. The Eagle and the Condor are coming together.”

 

Artist: Raye Zaragoza

Nation: Pima

“In the River: A Protest Song”

Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4eosRdP5gQ

Purchase at http://www.rayezmusic.com/music. All profits go to the Sacred Stone Camp.

6 Tips for Self-Care Magic

by Joseph Zordan (Community Editor)

(Cover photo – Arts & Culture Editor Ellie Pritchett @ NY Art Book Fair)

Congratulations! You have survived summer vacation. Maybe you got a job at that one firm. (Yeah, that one.) Maybe you taught the next entitled generation for endless hours daily with little pay. Maybe you got to experience Racism: International Edition™ as you studied abroad and learned that the word “exotic” does exist in any and all languages. Maybe you even got to relax! Regardless, we’re all back to the grind now. But as you get back into things, keep the most important thing in mind: yourself. Let’s talk self-care.

  1. Say no once a week.

no maya rudolph comedy bang bang scott aukerman

I know, we’re at Yale. Land of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Land of feeling bad when you have nothing to do. Land of – YOU DESERVE A BREAK. As you go through your week, think of the last time you said “no” to a commitment. Your friend will forgive you if you miss one of his a cappella concerts. The fight for social justice will go on if you can’t make it to one protest. Clubs have a board for a reason—so that no one person has to do it all. Remember these things and when you need to, say a polite, but firm “no.”

2. Sleep.

baby sleeping

All-nighters have become an unhealthy, but almost inevitable part of many people’s college experiences. We’ve all done it. We have social events, classes, sports, and extracurricular commitments during the day, and missing out on any of these sounds like the end of the world. Still—SLEEP. I promise that you’ll get to enjoy these things more when you are actually rested.

3. Make time for people you love.

zayn malik zayn you are perfect to me you are perfect

While many of us were drawn to Yale for its academics, let’s not forget the reason we actually stay: the people. No matter how busy you get, remember to make time for the people you enjoy—whether they’re a significant other, your best friend, or just an acquaintance. Taking these steps to surround yourself with people that love, support, and uplift will only help you flourish. Yale is not an island, and neither are you.

4. TREAT YO SELF.

hair flip fabulous gina rodriguez confident

The life of a broke college student is not easy, especially for low-income students. However, that does not mean you are never allowed to treat yourself. Save up to see your favorite band in New York, or get that snack food you’ve been craving. Or walk to East Rock. Treating yourself can be free! Whether you invest extra time, money, or attention, don’t hesitate to indulge every now and then. Remind yourself that you matter. You’re worth it.

5. Tell your friends how you’re really feeling.

love cat valentines day grumpy cat grumpy love

Self-care can also mean helping other people understand what you need. Talk honestly to people about how you are doing. Having conversations that dig a little deeper than, “Oh, I’m good” are critical to keeping yourself emotionally unblocked and free. Get some of the things that keep you up late at night out of your head so you can do more of Tip #2.

6.  Therapy is nothing to be ashamed of.

relief denzel washington denzel relieved phew

Let’s repeat that again: therapy is nothing to be ashamed of. Therapy and mental health can be taboo topics, especially in many POC communities. However, seeking professional mental health assistance at Yale can be an incredibly positive and powerful experience. Take the time to find the right therapist—it’s worth it. Even if there is a bit of a wait, setting up appointments by phone is easy at (203) 432-0290.

ANAAY Releases “Water is Life” Photo Series

by Haylee Kushi (Staff Writer)

On September 6, the Association of Native Americans at Yale (ANAAY) posted its “Water is Life” photo series on Facebook to call attention to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Construction of the petroleum pipeline has sparked outrage among the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its allies, who say that DAPL risks safety and cultural practices of Native Americans living along the Missouri River.

Ashton WIL

Ashton Megli ’18 (Choctaw)

The album featured thirteen pictures of members from the Yale Native community standing against a brick background at the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) next to a quote about the importance of water. The quotes, abbreviated from longer statements provided by each individual, varied in perspective: some explained cultural understandings of water, some admonished the pipeline for its environmental racism, and others told personal stories about how access to water (or lack thereof) has affected their lives.

Kyle WIL

Kyle Ranieri ’18 (Diné)

The photo series demonstrated that struggles for sovereign water rights and access to clean drinking water are prevalent in numerous Native communities. From the Hawaiian island of Molokaʻi in the Pacific, through the Navajo Nation in the American Southwest, up to the Mohawk Nation in Canada along the Lawrence River, Yale Native community members related to the Standing Rock Sioux. As a part of a larger national conversation, Yale Native community members are fighting to reclaim and protect water polluted in the interest of corporate profit.

Tiffany Hale ’17 (Cherokee), a Yale graduate student in History, starts her “Indigenous Religious Histories” seminar by asking students about relevant current events. “Have you all heard about the Dakota Access Pipeline?” she asked last Monday. Most had heard about the pipeline from social media – mainly Facebook.

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Asst. Director Kapi’olani Laronal (Native Hawaiian, Haida, Tsimpsian)

“When books, research studies, non-Native scholars, and national news sources do not center our stories, we take to social media to share them ourselves,” commented alumna Dinée Dorame ’15 (Diné) in support of ANAAY’s photo campaign.

“We are storytellers,” she added. “Storytelling is resistance.”

Min Kwon ’18 took the photos on Wednesday, August 31st. Members of ANAAY as well as the Director and Assistant Director of the NACC contributed to the photo series.

“Unnamed Poem”

by Ryan Wilson (Staff Writer)

“Unnamed Poem”

It’s hard to love the world

When you’ve never loved yourself

When you’ve been taught never to love yourself

They wanted to contain our hearts

So they planted us in small pots

So our compassion may know boundaries

And call those borders the world

They told us to grow big

Knowing we were displaced

Doomed to grow at the expense of ourselves

And collapse into our own emptiness

 

How did they rob you from the earth?

My hair was too unruly

My nose was too wide

I was rooted in skin too dark and too light to be beautiful

My mouth was made to be too big and too loud

With lips you called ugly

Until you kissed them

And then you wanted more

Taught me to smile

So you would only see what                       you desired

So I would seem less dangerous

So you could see a part of me in the dark

In the                      blackness

Even I learned to stop seeing myself

The mirror only reflected disappointment and

Muddy brown eyes that promised I could love them

if only they were clearer

if my lips were thin enough to

pull back into that charmingly crooked smile that always pairs so well

with a head of messy

(not kinky)

Brown hair

 

I had to write myself into love

Transplant my characteristics onto characters that are supposed to embody my struggle

But who cannot both look like me

And be relatable

Because a Mockingjay is a whole lot prettier than a Jim Crow

And Force is never good when it comes from the dark side

The world loves to dream of fighting Capitols and Empires

Am I not the voice you’re looking for?

 

They knew we were seeds

That’s why they would rather we hang

Or bleed out on asphalt

We are only           allowed to be planted in boxes

Lest our roots grow deep

Intertwine

And empower those they tried to bury with us

Lest we learn to find humanity where they said there was none

Lest we learn to love ourselves

And beyond

“The Colored Doll”

by Marina Tinone

“The Colored Doll”

I presented these dolls to them and… [t]he conclusion which I was forced to reach was that these children [in Clarendon County], like other human beings who are subjected to an obviously inferior status in the society in which they live, have been definitely harmed in the development of their personalities; that the signs of instability in their personalities are clear.

Is that the type of injury which in your opinion would be enduring or lasting?

I think it is the kind of injury which would be as enduring or lasting as the situation endured, changing only in its form and in the way it manifests itself.

– Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

 

        Hard plastic hands, peach skin, brittle synthetic lashes, pellet-filled body.  Lifeless, but isn’t she precious?  Baby doll?

        The other day I saw a little Black girl holding her mother’s hand, boarding the bus to New Haven.

        As her mother guided her onto the bus, I noticed, in the crook of the little girl’s arm, that little peach baby doll. Stark contrast against the little girl’s cheek and her cornrows threaded with beads.

        I wondered if she could hold her doll dear, when at best, she would have to claim some sort of adoption in her make-pretend world with her baby.

        My eyes stay locked out the window as the little girl boards the bus, passing my seat. As I hear her settle into the back row, I wonder, I don’t look back but I wonder, if that little girl plays with her baby doll the way I never could.

        I remember: I was her age, holding hard plastic hands, peach skin, brittle, synthetic lashes, pellet-filled body. Lifeless, but wasn’t she precious? Little baby doll, American?

        Three, maybe four years old, holding a white plastic baby. I remember trying to love it, but I couldn’t. This baby, I knew, couldn’t be mine.

        Me, with my straight black hair and skin that seemed to turn more strikingly yellow when I pressed my cheek against the plastic baby body.

        Maybe I learned some hard lesson in motherhood that I didn’t know back then; I don’t know. But know that I couldn’t love that doll. I couldn’t.

        Three, four years old. I held that doll out of obligation, to nurture a doll in which I found nothing of myself.

        Five, maybe six years old. Giggling the way little girls do, like when they’re about to walk and jump on a balance beam.

        I wore a pink leotard, like all the other little girls. It made my skin look yellower, on them, their skin looked softer and rosier.

        “My hair is strawberry blonde.” She flipped her ponytailed hair about. “My mommy said it’s strawberry blonde.”

        “Is my hair strawberry blonde too?” wondered the girl in front of me.

        “No, it isn’t, your hair is just blonde. My mommy said–”

        You don’t know how it felt, standing in line behind that strawberry blonde girl, begging in your own head for her to stop, balling your four year old hands into fists.

        Did you know that strawberry blonde girls have the same color skin as American baby dolls?

        I didn’t hit her out of obligation.

        “I was born in Farmington,” I would later tell my classmates in grade school.

        “But where are you from? Like really really from?”

        “Japan, but I only lived there when I was two.”

        “Don’t they live in houses with sliding doors in Japan? Does your house have sliding doors?”

        “No, I live here, just like you.”

        “But your house doesn’t have sliding doors?”

        March 3rd is girl’s day, in Japanese, Hina Matsuri. Traditionally, a display of regal dolls would be found in the household, celebrating girlhood and hopes for a good marriage. Not that my family ever found themselves to be one of tradition, but my mom would dutifully set up our miniature emperor and empress dolls beside each other on the mantle.

        The mantle. One of black and red and white brick, the shelf above an American fireplace.

        I would lean against the cool brick, absent minded child, staring at the Japanese set-up.

        I knew I couldn’t possibly be a good Japanese girl. Fragile, mincing, obligating, motherly, responsible. A beautiful, dutiful doll.

        God knew I was a damned Yankee girl since the day I was born (in Farmington, Connecticut, mind you).

        Eight years old. Standing in line for recess, little girls talking excitedly the way little girls do when they learn they will receive a gift.

        American Girl dolls garnered some sort of rite of passage for my middle-class peers. They garnered a trip to New York, careful decision-making, trying to choose outfits and accessories for their hard-handed, peach-colored 18-inch American girl. In purchasing their doll, they needed to find themselves in the Velcro outfits and unseeing plastic eyes of their brittle-lashed dolls.

        Do you know what the “Asian-American” doll looked like?

        Peach-skinned, black hair, hard-handed.

        But dear Lord, the eyes. Forced narrow slits. Conniving, unbecoming.

        Ugly.

        The alternative would be to buy the white doll with straight black hair and big, innocent, American eyes.

        I knew I couldn’t love these dolls.

        I wanted to be like my classmates, finding their American Girl in the shelves of a glitzy New York store.

        But I knew I wouldn’t find me.

        I think I wanted to be Japanese when I was little. I really do think I tried.

        I often wore the polyester kimono slip my dad brought back from one of his long business trips to Japan, complete with the zori sandals, just for fun, to play. I would take soft little steps about the house, trying to move from the seated, kneeling seiza position on the ground in soft motions, within the confines of the dress.

        My parents couldn’t care less about what I wore when I played my make-believe. All this play, I chose.

        A soft voice, a bowed head.

        I would tire of it quickly.

        I’m too American to be patient; I’m too American to properly endure.

        Screaming revolution in Asian silence.

        Farewell to Manzanar and farewell to Japanese confinement.

        Jeanne came of age distancing herself from a Japanese-American past.

        Trying to be All-American, cheerleader-type girl.

        Can’t escape the Asian black hair though, can you?

        Middle school, between books, in hallways.

        I found myself unbeautiful.

        Streaks of bleached hair, damaged blonde.

        Friends would notice, compliment me.

        I hoped that boy would notice me.

        Futile.

       

        Hagar cried herself to a stupor.

        I don’t remember how it went exactly, but I remember her beautiful tangle of hair in that shoebox, I remember her trying to fit into all the clothes and accessories in those glitzy boutiques. She needed him back.

        Fuck that bitch with the beautiful red hair.

        To me, it was strawberry blonde, and I fell intoxicated with Hagar, poor girl, trying to make herself up into an American girl.

        The two of us, in our different ways, trying to become the American doll.

        I cried with her.

        American girl, American doll.

        I am eighteen years old, bleaching streaks into my black Asian hair.

        American girl.

        I swear I am a daughter of a Revolution. I know I am.

        American doll.

        I could never really hold myself dear, me with my jaundice skin compared to the smooth peach of your manufactured American dream girl.

        Hagar and I still suffer through the mall.

        We lost the boy, in the end.

        The bus rolls to a stop, the New Haven green. It’s my stop— happens to also be the end destination for the little Black girl.

        Here’s me, standing in the center of this old American town, New Haven, wondering if I will find new refuge in its American name.

        But I doubt it.

        I don’t know what this American town can save me from, after all this time.

        Me and my bleached hair.

        The little Black girl and her untainted cornrows.

        Little white doll in the crook of her arm.

        Be safe, baby girl.

Fake “American Indians” Feature Prominently at New Haven DAPL Protest

by Kodi Alvord (Diné)

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) currently under construction in North Dakota is the site of extreme contention among indigenous activists and community members. Standing Rock Sioux tribal members are protesting, calling for an end to environmental destruction and the exploitation of Native people, land, and water. Pipeline construction has already destroyed a Lakota burial site. An oil leak would contaminate the Missouri River, and consequently the water supply for thousands of Americans. While protestors have remained peaceful, Energy Transfer Inc. (the company responsible for the pipeline’s construction) recently deployed harsh intimidation tactics including pepper spray and attack dogs to deter protesters. In the past few weeks, thousands of Native peoples throughout the country have travelled to Standing Rock in a show of intertribal solidarity.

On Wednesday, September 7, New Haven community activists and Yale students gathered outside TD Bank on 994 Chapel Street to protest the bank’s funding of the DAPL.

Independent journalist Melinda Tuhus organized the protest, titled ““New Haven Solidarity with Indigenous Defenders in North Dakota” on Facebook. “TD Bank [has] contributed $365 million to the $3.8 billion project […] there’s like 30 different institutions that are funding it,” she said. Picketers lined the sidewalk with signs and small percussion instruments, chanting, “Water is life”. Protesters accompanied Tuhus into the bank lobby, where she delivered a letter to the bank staff explaining her motivations for protesting.

Tuhus had reached out to Yale student organization Fossil Free Yale, which in turn invited members of the Association of Native Americans at Yale to participate in the protest. Katie McCleary ’18 (Chippewa-Cree/Apsáalooke) and Bobby Pourier ’20 (Oglala Lakhota) were scheduled to deliver short speeches, and Blue Feather Drum Group planned to sing the “Idle No More” song in support.

Upon arrival, students were shocked to find that in addition to the small percussion instruments, a large and unusual-looking powwow drum was being used to lead the procession. White protestors were gathered around the drum, beating it irregularly while chanting “water is life” with the other demonstrators. Adorned with fake drum-beaters, rattles, feathers, and a hatchet, the drummers did not resemble a powwow drum group.

When students asked Tuhus about the drum group, she replied that she did not know them, nor had she invited them. McCleary then informed Tuhus that the drumming was inauthentic and making students uncomfortable, and decided not to speak at the event. Pourier Jr. and Blue Feather Drum Group promptly canceled their demonstrations as well. Native students in attendance left the protest and returned to the Yale Native American Cultural Center (NACC) to process the experience.

Tuhus’ reporting prominently featured the drum group, identified by other reporters as the “Sacred Sorrow Singers.” The group’s website claims that Sacred Sorrow Singers is “a group dedicated to enriching the lives of both children and adults though empowering song-chant, indigenous drums, and rhythmic dance.” Joseph Medicinehorse, the group’s founder and leader, is a graduate of Oregon’s National College of Naturopathic Medicine and an adjunct professor at the University of Bridgeport, where he teaches “Nutrition, Oncology and the Philosophy of Healing.” A search for “Medicinehorse” in the National College of Naturopathic Medicine alumni directory yields no results. A search for “Joseph” reveals “Dr. Joe’s” real last name: DelGrosso. Under his actual name, DelGrosso’s personal website advertises naturopathic medical treatment, but makes no mention of Sacred Sorrow Singers.

When discussing issues relevant to Native peoples, it is important to elevate Native voices. Sacred Sorrow Singers is not a real powwow drum group, and Joseph DelGrosso is not American Indian. Powwow groups don’t chant, they sing. “I know the protestors outside TD Bank had good intentions,” said Chase Warren ’20 (Standing Rock Sioux), “but because they were trying too hard to act Native, I felt uneasy.”

“There’s a right way to honor the ancestors,” commented Pourier. “The right way to do that,” he added, “would be to learn from elders and make sure that you’re doing things in a right way. The wrong way is to show up to protests out of nowhere and wear tie-dye t-shirts with beads on them in a headdress.”

According to Kelly Fayard (Poarch Band of Creek Indians), Director of the NACC, culturally appropriative displays from groups like the Sacred Sorrow Singers—though well intentioned—are harmful. “While there has always been a fascination with Native culture, and Plains Native culture in particular,” she explained, “it feeds into stereotypes that are perpetuated against Native peoples each and every day.”

“It is so important that Natives themselves get to dictate their own stories,” Fayard concluded.

Subway Car Vignettes

by Nicole Chávez (Staff Writer)

STOP: WAKEFIELD – 241ST STREET

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME: $38,261

On a dull, fall afternoon at the northern edge of the Bronx, a subway car screeches to a stop at an empty platform. I sigh in content at the familiar scene. The subway stop is a mere ten-minute walk away from my parents’ cramped apartment, a place that has become slightly less cramped since I left for Yale. Only home for two days, I make a trip to Manhattan.

The morning rush hour has long since ended when the beats of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” impregnate the empty silence of the subway station. Ever since I left the city you/ Got a reputation for yourself now. The rapper’s croon, blasting from a passerby’s headphones, is interrupted by the sound of ungreased subway doors groaning open. I break out of reverie. The pungent scent of sweat percolates my nose, springing tears to my eyes. Accustomed to subway quirks, I ignore the tears, take my seat, and wait for the train to start down the 2-line.

STOP: NEREID AVENUE

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME: $42,880

On Tumblr, self-proclaiming hipsters and artistes tag images like that of the Nereid Avenue subway station, with its grimy, stained glass windows flanked by freshly sprayed graffiti tags, as #urbanchic. #Factcheck: It’s really urban decay. At this stop, people pile into the subway car, a palette of brown faces contrasting starkly against the sterile white walls of the car’s interior. It’s only noon, but the reek of cheap alcohol already seeps from the mouth of the man splayed out on the seat next to me. Opposite to me sits a little boy who looks no older than 10. With a grim look on his face, he pulls down his snapback so that its rim just barely conceals his eyes. The kid reminds me of my little cousin Eric. Recently, Eric got suspended from elementary school for picking fights.

STOP: EAST 180TH STREET

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME: $13,750

As herds of people funnel in and out of the train at East 180th, hard metal resounds desperately against the subway car floor. The standing crowd disperses as people rush to find seats. As the subway car lurches forward, the only person left standing is an elderly man with a metal rod gripped tightly in his fist, trying to regain balance of his wobbling legs with his makeshift cane. I inspect him, taking in his stained brown shirt, torn at the neck, and the vague emptiness at the bottom of his right pant leg. In a strong, but strained voice, he tells his story – a war veteran forced into homelessness by his own country. Hobbling down the moving subway, nearly falling, he shakes a coffee-stained cup with loose change. For most of the passengers aboard the subway, charity is a luxury that they cannot afford. As the train arrives at the next stop, the veteran leaves with the same five pennies with which he came, a soldier departing the battlefield devoid of spoils of war.

I gaze outside the window and avoid eye contact with other travelers. When I was little, I would occasionally accompany my dad on the subway to work. Jumping atop his lap, I would meticulously chip off the dry paint splattered across his white, painter overalls while we waited for our stop. Now, I cannot help but feel self-conscious. About 4:00pm curfews in a “changing” neighborhood, and a sheltered adolescence. About the Choate banner hanging from my bedroom wall. About my father’s “Yale Dad” t-shirt. I am struck with guilt for making it out of my neighborhood. More aptly put, it’s the guilt felt for those back home who will not.

No matter how many times they commute to the Upper East Side, in hopes that affluence will rub off on them the same way the Chanel No. 5 does on a Burberry scarf, they always make a roundtrip home. They are stuck in a perpetual state of static movement, where physical movement is falsely synonymous to social mobility. Background is the defining indicator of the quality of one’s life outcome. The equality of condition afforded by the subway, through its connection between ghetto Harlem and the prosperous Upper East Side, is a specious one. The exception to the trend, I have a one-way ticket to Connecticut while my peers are forced to return to poverty and de facto segregation after working overtime each day.  

These thoughts speed through my brain as quickly as the train slides down the tracks to 116th Street. Outside, colors blur into a mess as the subway hustles past red brick buildings with sun-bleached roofs and houses fading from white to grey with chipping paint and falling shingles. On the corner of one building, the word EXODUS is spray-painted in ragged letters. The graffiti appears rushed, as though the people who painted it were hurrying to join the exodus themselves.

STOP: 116TH STREET

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME: $55,469

I don’t see a white face until this stop; approximately forty minutes after 241st Street. The sole passenger is an elderly, white man. He enters the subway of brown bodies, rushing to his seat, eyes cemented to the ground. He opens a copy of Oedipus Rex and his shoulders visibly relax upon his eyes meeting the white pages of his book. Here, West 116th Street intersects Morningside Heights, the home of Columbia University.

STOP: 96TH STREET

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME: $75,481

The 2-line leaves Harlem and arrives at the Upper West Side. The clinking of Swarovski crystals signals the entrance of a new crowd of passengers. They stroll nonchalantly into the subway cars, their languid pace creating a bottleneck at the doors. At this stop, battered jeans are swapped for maroon slacks and salmon-colored Vineyard Vine shorts. Kate Spade bags replace the grease-drenched, brown paper bags of the bodega, and Birkenstocks replace Crocs. A young couple stands at the center of the car; a girl gingerly sips her Starbucks while her companion guffaws at his own jokes. An elderly, white woman sitting beside a black man and Asian woman is perched at the edge of her seat and glances around nervously. Her body cringes inward as she avoids brushing up against the passengers. After several minutes, she lurches forward and stands, forfeiting the only remaining seat for shaky legs.  

After some time, along comes a middle-aged Muslim woman, clinging to her loose, unpinned hijab with one hand and a sign explaining the circumstances of her homelessness and unemployment in the other. Eyes remained glued to the screens of $649 iPhone 6S Plus’s as everyone actively ignores the woman.

In fast-moving settings like the subway, I, along with my privileged peers, focus on where we need to go and what we need to do next. Efficiency over empathy. Capital over charity. These are the maxims we learn, live, and thrive by. It’s easier to convince ourselves that we don’t give change because we are too busy responding to a text from a friend or figuring out the remaining time before we reach our next stop. We choose to not confront the truth: we simply do not care enough.

STOP: TIMES SQUARE – 42ND STREET

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME: $118,487

All the passengers from 116th Street down leave the train. I follow.

New Haven Documentary Series: Part 1, “The Hill”

by Janis Jin

On Monday night at 7:30 pm, New Haven community members led by Jonathan Hopkins of BEEEP! (Bicycle Education, Entrepreneurship, and Enrichment Programs) organized a viewing of The Hill at the Bradley Street Bicycle Co-Op. A bike garage lined with boxes of bicycle parts and metal tools thus turned into a makeshift movie theater, with an audience of 20-25 gathered together to watch.

The 2013 documentary directed by Lisa Molomot follows the construction of the John C. Daniels School from 1998-2002 and the conflicts between homeowners and New Haven city officials as the Upper Hill neighborhood was set to be demolished under the city’s eminent domain claim. The film is a powerful story about one community’s fight to save their home, and explores issues such as gentrification, urban renewal, and affordable housing.

Set in the Upper Hill neighborhood of New Haven, whose residents are primarily low income African-American families, the film begins by explaining that the city of New Haven and the Board of Education are set on building a new school. The new school project is to be part of a 15-year school reconstruction program in the city and will be the largest school reconstruction program in the state.

However, to the anger of residents, the area of construction is destined to span three residential blocks in the Hill. 123 housing units are to be demolished. 94 families will be forced to relocate. Many families say that they were never notified of the city’s eminent domain claim, and are forced to live in homeless shelters until they can find affordable housing. Under federal law, the city is responsible for resettling the Upper Hill residents, but families slip through the cracks with no word from city officials about helping them find new homes. Pleas are spray-painted in red on houses across the neighborhood: “SAVE THIS HOME.” “WE LOVE OUR STREET.”

The school board defends the school project as a boon to the Upper Hill in the long run – a community that has slowly been on its way to “deteriorating into nothing,” in the words of the new school’s president. However, the magnet school will not serve the children and families who have made their homes and lives in the Upper Hill. Residents and community organizers point out that the Hill is just blocks away from the Yale-New Haven Hospital. Many wonder, is a scheme for Yale and the city of New Haven to push low-income African American families out and away from the Yale-New Haven Hospital?

Ultimately, families and community members rally together and take a case to the U.S. District Court with the help of civil rights lawyer John Williams. In the words of the attorney, “Often it is the struggle itself that is the most important fight.”

Hopkins said he organized the viewing because he wanted “to get the word out, and hopefully get some people to see the film who might not otherwise know about what happened.”

There will be another showing of The Hill on Thursday, September 15th, at 7:30 pm in the Bradley Street Bicycle Co-Op (138 Bradley St, New Haven, CT 06511). More information is posted on the Facebook event. The Hill viewing is part one of a three-part New Haven documentary series. Later events will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

“Queen of Katwe” Delivers Much-Needed Representation

by Eleanor Pritchett (Arts & Culture Editor)

On Wednesday, September 7, Walt Disney Studios hosted a pre-screening of the new movie Queen of Katwe at Yale University and several other universities across the country. Professor Tavia Nyong’o (Theater Studies and American Studies) introduced the movie to the packed theater at Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas on Temple Street, telling the audience that his cousin, Academy Award-winner and star of the movie Lupita Nyong’o DRA ’12, would be proud to see her school like this. He took a selfie with the crowd to send her.

Queen of Katwe is a movie about chess which casts itself like a movie about football.  It tells the true story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), a Ugandan girl from the slums of Katwe who stumbles upon a children’s chess club while looking for food, stays, and quickly shows herself to be a prodigy, almost immediately becoming the girls’ chess champion of Uganda.  The movie also centers her mother Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o) and her coach Robert (David Oyelowo), who fight in their own ways for Phiona’s happiness.

The audience for the screening was evidence that this representation was a key part of the importance of the movie: the mostly Black, largely African crowd laughed, cooed, and sighed with the movie.

The film was shot entirely in Katwe and Johannesburg, keeping it grounded to the story it was telling.  In this way, it is a refreshingly remarkably genuine movie that loves its setting and its characters, and treats the people around its edges with care and respect, never condescending to them or to its audience.  It’s a children’s movie that teaches kids to persevere through hardship and self-doubtbeautiful lessons through incredible performances by Black women – specifically, African women. It uses a story unique to these often unsung people to teach audiences a lesson of their own self-worth.

“Sometimes where you’re used to isn’t where you belong,” Phiona’s coach tells her.  Throughout, Phiona struggles with not belonging either in her home of Katwe or in the moneyed and educated world of competitive chess. Her coach’s and her mother’s love, along with her own sticktuitiveness, propel her through her uncertainty and land her a place on the world stage and a new confidence in herself that allows her to feel she belongs there.

Queen of Katwe in particular seemed to resonate with Black Yale students because it dealt so heavily with Phiona’s pervasive sense of emotional homelessness.  A common phenomenon among students of color in general is feeling out of place at Yale as a predominantly white institution (PWI) and feeling out of place at home as a student at a PWI. When Coach Robert addressed this with Phiona, the simultaneous intake of breath of the audience was audible. It was exactly what we’d needed to hear.

The power of this story for Black and African kids is indescribable—children see a high-achieving role model that look like them without struggling to identify their own experience with a white person’s, or even a fictional character’s. As heroes of power and determination go, there isn’t much farther to go than Phiona Mutesi, who once said in an ESPN documentary about herself, “My chess goal is to be a grandmaster.  My life goal is to be a doctor.”

Queer Latinx Collective Hosts First Meet-and-Greet

by Nicole Chávez (Staff Writer)

On Wednesday the 7th, students gathering in the kitchen of La Casa were greeted by the thick smell of spiced Abuelita hot chocolate, Shakira on blast, and light, sugary pan dulce. De Colores, an affinity student group for queer Latinx students on campus, was hosting its first meeting after a two-year hiatus.

Both in and outside of the Yale community, people note the university’s reputation as the “Gay Ivy.” With this reputation, however, comes the omission of many of the intersection of the queer community with other marginalized or non-Western identities, including Latinidad. De Colores is geared towards the needs of this demographic.

De Colores strives to recognize the nuances and intersections of identity, spotlighting issues such as the maltreatment of trans Latinx women, machismo, the complexities of Spanish as a gendered language, and coming out. Additionally, De Colores will serve as a space to build and celebrate community. At some point this semester, they are hoping to create a space so that students can commemorate the dead from the Orlando massacre of this past summer, when a gunman opened fire on partygoers at the gay nightclub Pulse on Latino night. This calamity must be understood in the context of violence against intersectional LGBTQ+ Latinx identities, which manifests differently than threats to white queerness or heteronormative Latinidad.

De Colores is by no means a new organization. Nicolás Aramayo ’17, a Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality major, joined the group during their freshman year at Yale. Back then, recalls Aramayo, De Colores was a “group of upperclassmen hanging out, socializing, and talking about things centered around queerness and Latinidad.” Once the upperclassman cohort graduated, membership quickly declined. De Colores became defunct.

As La Casa builds upon its reputation as a queer-friendly space, a central question raised Wednesday night was: “Outside [the existing structure] of La Casa, is there a need for this other [queer] group?” For Aramayo, the answer is a resounding yes.

“La Casa is very queer-friendly, but it is a passively queer space,” they said. There are few active and organized discussions at La Casa that concern queer Latinidad, offering critical perspectives on heteronormativity, misogyny, and gender norms as they appear in Latino culture. “Once we leave Yale, La Casa, [or] whatever safe and comfortable space we are currently inhabiting, we are still going to be navigating the world as queer Latinx people,” they stressed.

With this in mind, last spring Aramayo gathered together a cohort of students including Jesús Ayala ’19, Steph Toyofuku MacLean ’18, and several other students to revive De Colores.

In this space, students will not feel as though “their identity has been split,” affirmed Aramayo. They will feel Latinx and queer, full in grief and love.

A Conversation: Rick Bartow and Native Art at Yale

by Haylee Kushi (Staff Writer)

On Wednesday September 7, Katherine McCleary ’18 (Apsáalooke/Chippewa-Cree) and Yale American Decorative Arts Ph. D. candidate Sequoia Miller facilitated a conversation about the late Native artist Rick Bartow and this summer’s Native American Arts internship based at the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG).

Rick Bartow was a contemporary Native American artist from the Mad River Band of Wiyot Indians, a tribe indigenous to Northern California. Bartow was heavily involved with the Siletz tribe while growing up near Newport, Oregon, and created art with themes spanning across various indigenous communities.

While Bartow sculpted, painted, and etched, his great love was drawing. According to Miller, Bartow drew in graphite early in his artistic career but used bright, colorful pastels following his adaptation of influences from modernist Marc Chagall. Māori artist John Bevan Ford also had an influence on Bartow’s work. Bartow imitated Ford’s strategy of depicting Native peoples’ close relationships with animals by painting figures with a combination of human and animal features.

“I’m taken by the myth of Sisyphus as I am by Coyote,” recited Miller in a telling passage from Bartow’s book Things You Know but Cannot Explain. “I didn’t have to use some pseudo-knowledge of shamanism or ceremonial rites culled from some anthropology book. Contemporary art allowed me to vent something to my native interest in an articulate and valid manner.”

The three Bartow pieces displayed currently at the YUAG – “Bound Salmon Man,” “Winter Brother,” and “Coyote” – are three of a collection of five works that the art gallery put up this summer. Bartow’s drawings are the only contemporary works by a Native American artist in the YUAG, and they are a temporary installment.

Speaking on behalf of herself and Leah Shrestinian, this summer’s other Native American Arts intern, McCleary recommended that the YUAG collaborate more with local Native communities in their exhibitions, and curate more contemporary Native art. McCleary emphasized the importance of contemporary Native art as opposed to historical pieces both to combat the historicization of Native peoples, and because contemporary Native art tends to be less tribally specific, and thus more accessible to a wider Native audience. Bartow, who draws influences from various Native cultures and communities – Mad River Band of Wiyot Indians, Siletz, and Māori – in his work, created art that is relatable for various Native people.

“The most Native art [at Yale] is not in the Peabody or in the YUAG, but at the Yale Native American Cultural Center,” said McCleary. “Visiting as a first-year I thought this was pretty cool, but after working for the YUAG I wondered why contemporary Native art isn’t displayed in the actual gallery.”

As a part of the Native American Arts internship, McCleary and Shrestinian visited other museums to better research how museums can collaborate with local Native communities and represent Native art and people in vibrant and accurate ways. Displaying work by Bartow, who was committed to combatting the stereotype that Natives exist only in the past, represents a first step. In an interview, Shrestinian said that the Gallery Plus program, which partners with groups at Yale, would be “a perfect opportunity [for the YUAG] to improve its relationship to Native art by collaborating with the NACC, before even acquiring more Native art.”

Attendees of the talk continued this conversation in the following discussion: why doesn’t the university consider the artistic production of Native people worthy of the same space as white artistic production?

Members of the Yale Native community as well as curators from both the Peabody Museum and the Art Gallery attended the talk and participated in the conversation. The attendees were particularly interested in “next steps,” and concern about repairing Native people’s relationship to and representation in both the Yale Peabody and Yale University Art Gallery dominated the conversation.

Mint

by Ashia Ajani (Voices Editor)

Mint

Grandma played me her garden song

In the shallow heat of spring

 

She beat her palms against the soil

Kissed the scrapes on my knees

Jewels of sweat lined her bosom

As she hacked up weeds

 

Licked her peeling lips like sugar cane

Softened her gaze to calm the flowers

 

There were whole continents dropping off her hands

Breathing in mint leaves and parsley

Ballads of San Juan and Mississippi, West Africa

Settling in the grass

 

There is nothing ill-omened about lilac

Or false-hearted about rosehips

Nothing serious about germanium

Everything has its place in a garden

 

She sat in the cool shade, mint leaves bowing

Her back creaking slowly

Like slaves ships on salted ocean

She’s found ways to harvest her own skin

 

Ripe like bananas

Quick and deliberate