by Eleanor Pritchett
Since the beginning of the spring semester, three Black Yale students have each launched their own personal websites. From music reviews to twist-out hair tutorials, these blogs come at a time of blossoming self-expression of students of color in the wake of the racial justice movement in the fall.
Spotifly takes on Spring Fling and orchestral riots
“I’d been thinking of doing something like this for a while,” says Calhoun junior Yonas Takele. Something like this, evidently, is Spotifly, a budding journal of Takele’s ever-evolving music tastes. He’s off to a strong start with three articles up on the bold, white-on-black front page grid, including a spotlight on recently-announced Spring Fling performer Vince Staples, cross-posted to our Arts & Culture section. He has three more coming this week, though he doesn’t anticipate to remain so prolific.
More than once, he referred to his project as “deeply personal,” as he “charts [his] trajectory” through his musical explorations.
In his post about radio.string.quartet.vienna, he begins: “I first learned the power that music could have when I was about 12 years old…” Inspired by his middle-school orchestra teacher, he became fascinated by a ballet performance in Paris at the turn of the century that was so dissonant it incited a violent riot. When the young Takele found a video of the performance, he was “completely immobilized by this piece of art,” a sensation he felt again for the first time listening to radio.string.quartet.vienna’s “ensnaring” warped soundscape, with jazz, rock and funk influences.
Spotifly is also an opportunity to “connect and cooperate with friends,” Takele says. In his most recent post, he interviews the Yale electronic pop pair known as Opia, whose new single “Falling” is rapidly making rounds on the internet.
Takele says his classical training in voice and upright bass gave him his ear, but his love for music really came from his late brother, who, despite his inability to communicate because of his cerebral palsy, loved sound. Any kind of sound, “from the sound of a plastic bag rustling to Michael Jackson.”
“I’ve seen the real impact music can have on a person,” Takele says. “I’m exploring what I like, what I don’t like. I’ve spent the last few years being more intentional about what I listen to.”
Spotifly is a chronicle of the “weird shit” one Yale student listens to, to see if he can reach others, and form a following of music lovers.
Who Is Like Micah keeps it upbeat
Stiles sophomore Micah Mingo brings herself to the web in the pink pastel, bubbly blog Who Is Like Micah. Having renewed her positive outlook after a difficult period in her life, Mingo’s profile on the front page identifies her as a “Writer. Geek. Naturalista. Crafter. Carefree Black Girl. Jesus Girl.” Reading Mingo’s posts about her knitting project gone “chunky,” the “Forest” productivity app, and Game of Thrones, it’s impossible not to feel calm and centered.
Mingo’s blog also deals with her faith and her relationship to God.
“This is the age where most of us stray from our faith, but I didn’t see anything being done to address that,” she says. Her favorite post so far is about her name, which means “Who is like God,” after which the blog is named.
Her name, Micah, had caused her anxiety throughout her life, being traditionally male and recognizably Black. The post describes her path toward understanding the beauty of her name, heralding this new positive phase in her life.
“I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” Mingo says, lamenting that she hasn’t been finding as much time for her passion as she wants to. If God created her to be an artist, she says, she isn’t fulfilling herself.
“If you want to do something you’ll find time for it.”
Mingo is currently working on a series on time management, scheduling, organization, and productivity. “The blog is its own accountability coach,” she says. If she’s giving advice she’s obligated to be following it.
“It’s equal parts for myself and others,” she says. “If you write from your heart it strikes a chord with people. If you write something with only your audience in mind it’s not coming from your heart.”
Currently Mingo is thinking about expanding her audience by making a foray into hair tutorials.
feelindiasporic centers your Blackness
Saybrook senior and DOWN writer Karléh Wilson has embarked on a quest to bring Black and African diaspora artists into the foreground of her new website, feelindiasporic.
“We have to put out our own stuff,” she says, an idea which for her came straight out of the #OscarsSoWhite critique and Jada Pinkett Smith’s public call for Black artists. The groovy, visual single-page scrolling blog curates reviews and promotions of mostly Black underground artists. The goal, she says, is to help artists from marginalized communities reach new networks and eventually connect with producers.
The blog is for the artists, who Wilson hopes to help work in the industry on their own terms.
“My father works in entertainment,” she says, “I know how the entertainment industry works.” Many talented artists, especially those of color, go largely unrecognized even when their work is featured in popular songs.
“It’s problematic that we don’t get to consume our artists the right way,” Wilson says. When Black artists make a blip on the Billboard charts and drop off, it isn’t fair to their listeners.
And then there’s a problem with the consumption of Black music and culture. In her review of Black artists’ covers of “Hello” by Adele found on YouTube, she included a New Orleans bounce remix, sharing a hugely popular art form in her home state. Placing it next to various island/reggae renditions, she bridges the geographic distance between these Black communities and “makes sure [she] can control the narrative on people’s music.”
Wilson wants to make visual art as central to feelindiasporic as music. “Visual art is so intrinsic to who we are,” she says, mentioning that artists who create even the album covers don’t get proper recognition.
“We’re influenced by Black people all over the world,” Wilson says. Feeling the diaspora, Black people worldwide can look at art from thousands of miles across the globe, and recognize it, she says.
“That’s Black; that’s mine.”