This past month, one of the most driven members of our student body, Shameesha Pryor ’17, organized the second Black Women’s Conference hosted at Conn with the assistance of the Africana Studies Student Advisory Board. Although the first conference was held in 1969, the need for this event has not diminished, just as the injustices and double standards black women face daily certainly have not. It goes without saying that the Earth is fortunate to be graced with the melanin of black women, but this is also a group often pushed into archetypal roles not representative of their humanity and actual experiences. Instead, they are viewed as the angry, strong, or sassy black woman. This conference shattered those narrow perceptions and stereotypes of black womanhood, and provided a space for people to discuss the complexities that come with being a black woman in today's world.
The Walk-in Coffee Closet at Ruane’s Den has served as my home away from home since my very first day at Conn. Living in Harkness House, I have the luxury of being able to leave my room and be right at the entrance of the Walk-in, located on the first floor of my building. The Walk-in has been my lifeline. They serve (in my opinion) the best drinks on campus, and they have a variety of pasta dishes, paninis and snacks that are always there for me when I don't feel like walking to Harris Refectory, the largest dining hall on campus. The Walk-in is also one of my favorite places to study because the atmosphere reminds me of my favorite coffee shop at home, and they have the comfiest chairs on campus.
After receiving my acceptance to Conn, I was extremely excited and completely overwhelmed by all of the tasks that needed to be completed before Move-In Day. My biggest priority was to fill out the housing questionnaire about living preferences. It seemed like where I lived was a do-or-die situation. I thought there could definitely be some wrong answers, but I also did not know which ones those would be. Now I understand that there is a place for everyone on campus, and each building/location has specific benefits.
There are moments when I look back with amazement at the many performances and lectures I have been to in my short time at Conn. Recently, I saw three powerful performances on campus all in one week: on Monday the Ammerman Center sponsored a visit by famed performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Peña. On Friday, I saw the theater department’s production of Mark Blitzstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock,” and on Saturday I went to the Women’s Empowerment Initiative performance of their 2017 show “She is a Tempest.” These three performances dealt with difficult themes, such as dividedness, inequality and oppression, and inspiring ones, such as effecting change, empowerment and living life to the fullest.
Since coming to Conn, I have become a professional novice, frequently trying out new experiences to find my place within the community. My first semester here I joined the Ultimate Frisbee team and tried out for the improv comedy group N2O. Second semester I tried out for “She is a Tempest,” the Women’s Empowerment (WE) Initiative’s annual show.
I was asked to purchase six books for a single class my first semester at Connecticut College. Being overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught of assignments in my first week of classes, I decided to purchase the books for that class one-by-one. A couple of weeks later, I walked into the bookstore and discovered that the lovely piles of books had transformed into empty shelves featuring a couple of incredibly tattered, used copies and many order forms. I’m always a little averse to used books because I want my books to look nice; I don’t like having books that have been marked by other people or treated roughly. I chose to buy new copies of most of my books for that class online, which only cost a few extra dollars, something I could afford.
“You must be the change you wish to see.” – M. K. Ghandi
I live my life by this quote because it challenges me to take action to make the world a better place. Its philosophy is also a driving force behind Green Dot training here on campus, which I recently completed. Green Dot is a national organization that works to prevent power-based personal violence, such as sexual assault, domestic and dating violence and stalking, in communities throughout the country. I’m glad that Connecticut College has a robust Green Dot chapter, with about a quarter of students who have undergone training. My friends who completed the training encouraged me to do it for months, so when I got an email about a session that worked with my schedule, I signed up for it.
Before I arrived at Connecticut College, I had never really been interested in hearing the sound of my own singing voice, perhaps because my older sisters never hesitated to tell me it was similar to a cat in heat. Even so, I decided to audition for an a cappella group last year, just for fun. I must say that I was EXTREMELY surprised when I was accepted into the amazing group that is Vox Cameli. I didn’t realize that a cappella is sort of a hot commodity on the East Coast, with groups frequently being the entertainment at Conn’s events. While I’m quite confident that only one-third of the notes I sing are ever right, that hasn’t stopped me from getting on a stage yet, and our performance for Green Dot Week was no exception.
My Sundays start like every other Conn student’s, with moving sweaty clothes from a large blue bin to a slightly smaller washing machine—only they’re not my clothes. How did I get myself into doing other people's laundry? The summer before my first semester at Conn I knew I was going to be involved in the Federal Work-Study program, which helps students who receive financial aid get jobs on campus to further reduce the cost of being a college student. I emailed Kelsey Lengyel-Jacovich, the manager of the Athletic Center, and asked her about available jobs for the upcoming semester. There were multiple jobs open so I decided to take on three different positions: ID checker, equipment room staff, and game crew. In my three roles, I work at the front desk greeting people and checking them in. I wash practice and gameday clothes for in-season athletes, and I assist with setup and other miscellaneous tasks to keep the games running smoothly.
Most of the student body heads home for Thanksgiving, but since I’m from Chicago I tend to stay on campus and enjoy the comforting isolation. Some might find it a bit creepy to be the only person living on their floor for four days, but due to my being a hermit in training I look forward to this time each year more than I do Christmas. I get an immense feeling of liberation from inhabiting large spaces entirely alone, leading to many hours of singing as loud as possible and dancing in my undies, and maybe once without, in the hallway during my one-man parties. This year, however, I wanted to focus on developing some of my more socially acceptable skills. So whenever I wasn’t having my private bachelor parties, I found myself picking up my long forgotten flute.
As a residential college, weekly activities in the residence halls are a large part of the culture at Conn. The floor governors, student staff responsible for residential programming, make a concerted effort to create varied events every week. I’m a huge fan of this. It allows the residents to grow closer, which molds what was previously just a residence hall into an actual home. This is important, because living away from home— whether you’re a first-year or a senior— is often not as comfortable as being in your own familiar space. The events are an inclusive way to band together and become a surrogate family between the months of September and May.
I’ve said this a million times, and I’ll say it again: the community that makes up Conn is remarkably special. It’s something that I love about this college, being part of a community of people that cares for one another loudly enough that it’s unmistakably visible day in and day out. In an uncertain time, like the coming arrival of a soon-to-be president, it makes sense that levels of anxiety would rise and those affected by something so unknown could possibly rub off on others around them. In the wake of an unpredictable new era for the United States, Conn students gathered together and expressed their doubts, questions, hopes and concerns for our country.
On October 22, the Connecticut College Habitat for Humanity chapter celebrated World Habitat Day. Within the Habitat for Humanity community, this is a day to recognize the successful global network that this organization is. Like most other events that we host, it is intentionally inclusive and asks for the community’s help to spread awareness of our presence on campus and to encourage participation from our peers and friends. My own involvement in Habitat includes being a member of the executive board as the fundraising coordinator. I have found a dedicated and awesome community of students through my involvement in our Habitat chapter at Conn.
Something almost magical whips through the air each fall, and it is always most prominent in October. At Conn, this time of year is celebrated with the return of alumni as well as the welcoming of parents, family and friends all coming to enjoy the exceptional beauty of the season. Though the changing colors of the trees alone is enough of a reason to visit campus, people flock from all over for a different reason: Fall Weekend.
This election year is an incredibly important and educational moment for the country and in my Conn experience. Like many of my fellow Camels, this is my first time voting in a major election, and I enjoy the support that we as students give each other as we make important decisions about casting our ballots. If you have the opportunity to vote this election you may feel, like I do, that selecting candidates who will do the things that you want them to do is tough, no matter how clear the outcomes appear. I have had several conversations with friends about the importance of learning about the candidates and issues when voting, no matter how polarized our politics. These conversations are important as I learn about becoming an informed and responsible citizen.
Starting in early February, I was a part of a workshop group working with Maia Draper-Reich on her dance honors thesis on non-verbal communication through dance movement and improv. This essay is a self-reflection of the entire process.
My movement history has mainly been sports-related. I played soccer until I was 17, even playing on a club team for a couple years. I began running track in 6th grade, and I haven’t stopped since. I did do ballet and gymnastics when I was younger, but competitive sports have always been my movement, my performance and my way of expressing myself.
On April 19, the Connecticut College Hillel and Yalla Bina, the Arabic Language and Culture Club at the College, hosted the most delicious event on campus: The Jerusalem Food Tour. Because I recognize my own bias (I salivate if something is covered in tahini), I did not expect to see many people at the event. However, when I arrived at Cro, I was surprised. The room was like a falafel in pita—stuffed.
The kinds of schools that encourage, above all else, spreading thought-provoking ideas are the kinds of schools that produce thought-provoking adults. Fortunately, Connecticut College falls into this category because of the kinds of discussions and real-world problems that are discussed across campus every single day. It was appropriate, then, that last weekend Conn hosted a TEDx event, which carried the theme of “What’s Past is Prologue.” Each speaker examined a certain moment or decision from his or her past and talked about how it has shaped their present.
Our own TEDx event introduced numerous wonderful speakers (including some Conn students) that all had some pretty important ideas to share. My favorite speaker, however, was a woman named Ella Dawson. Ella is a 23-year-old social media manager and sex writer who happens to have genital herpes. She has made it her mission to educate, well, pretty much everyone on why the stigma that surrounds herpes has to cease. Her talk was one I felt lucky to witness. Not only did Ella explain how she has made it an important part of her life to define what herpes really is and how common it can be to contract, but Ella also made it clear that contracting herpes should not be the be-all and end-all. A woman like Ella was a fantastic addition to this year’s TEDx. Her confidence and her motivation to break down the stigma that the world has placed on herpes was an inspiring kind of bravery to listen to.
For some time, it was a well-kept secret that yellow pigment was developed from the urine of mango-leaf-fed cows.
Ah, the things you learn in a color theory class. Since beginning the course, I’ve learned so many strange, but useful things. Granted, cow urine facts are likely only useful in a select few circumstances.
Color is so omnipresent in our lives that it’s easy to overlook. When you’re forced to examine color in a more in-depth way, your perception totally changes. The other day in my psychology course, we were using M&M’s to illustrate a concept. When I opened the bag, I thought, “Oh my gosh, look at that blue!” Maybe it had just been a long time since I’ve had M&M’s, but I don’t remember being particularly impressed by the brilliancy of the colors. It is truly strange having a new perspective on something that was seemingly so familiar.
Being a liberal arts college, Conn has hosted numerous exhibitions over the years. Even so, none of them are quite like the sight that greeted students when they returned from spring break.
Created by multimedia artist Steve Lambert and funded through Kickstarter, “Capitalism Works For Me!” is a massive 20-foot-long interactive piece, which encourages passersby to seriously question the effectiveness of a capitalist society. After debuting in Cleveland in the summer of 2011, the piece has toured all around the country, challenging everyone who comes across it to engage in meaningful discussion about a topic that can be considered taboo.
“As a culture, we need the vision and boldness it takes to discuss the problem [capitalism] itself,” Lambert explains on his website. “The idea that 'there is no alternative' to the way our world works takes away our ability to dream. As citizens we need the courage to begin these discussions in order to move on to new and better visions for the future… [and art] creates a space where new ideas and perspectives can be explored.”
The aesthetic of the work is firmly rooted in early-mid 20th century American propaganda and advertising. By drawing comparisons to the large, gaudy signs of yesteryear, Lambert alludes to how capitalism has become ubiquitous with our national identity, while simultaneously questioning the paradox of societal progress. If things like rights for minorities can evolve so drastically over the course of a century or two, why can’t our economic system see similar reforms? More importantly, why aren’t we willing to consider a non-capitalist approach to our economy when recessions and mass layoffs affect millions of people in a negative way?
“For 50 years it has been unacceptable, politically, in the United States to ask what is basically a straightforward question,” Lambert claims. “We have every right as a society to ask of that system [capitalism], is it working for us? Do the benefits and the costs balance themselves out…? We’ve been afraid to ask that question—and we’ve been afraid to have public debates—that’s the legacy of the Cold War. We can’t afford anymore to not do that. We have to raise the question.”