Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Art & Activism Zine by Jake Mahr '17

 Jake Mahr '17 created this cool zine for the 2016 Seneca Falls Dialogue Conference. Check it out!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Intergenerational Learning with Barbara Smith & Alethia Jones

 Barbara Smith was a part of the Combahee River Collective and is  among some of the first to theorize black feminism. Alethia Jones, is the co-editor of their book, Ain’t Nobody Gonna Turn Me Around, where they highlight the beginnings of black feminist organizing in the sixties and seventies. Barbara Smith is currently working for the first woman mayor of Albany.
Activism can often be a rewarding, yet tiring process. Barbara Smith is no stranger to the  stress activism and organizing puts on one’s health. She suggests that through the process, one must remind one’s self why one got involved. Remembering the experiences, emotions and importance of cause often reinvigorates our commitment. Additionally, Smith challenged us on our framing of activism because she saw activism as a single issue cause whereas organizing is a more comprehensive way of seeing and seeking to eradicate oppression through a systemic lens. Next, she suggested that even when it seems like you're not making any tangible process to keep going because just like athletes, you can’t just train for the big event, rather you must practice and stay strong for multiple battles. For example, Black Lives Matter was able to come to forefront because they steadily asked  what is unjust and how can they continue to destabilize power as it exist.
Barbara Smith (back row, sixth from left) meets with students, faculty, and staff at Colgate on International Women's Day.
What also sustains movements is to do it with other people and not in isolation. Moreover, we must seek to not be afraid of anger because righteous anger often fuels our organizing. Instead, we must find ways engage our anger productively. Denying the presence of anger  may make it easy at first but also strains the body. One of my favorite quotes was from Alethia joins who posited that “Anger is an indication that boundaries have been crossed.” Likewise we must use these indications as opportunities for growth rather than wounding, ourselves or others.

There is an inherent healing in social justice that Jones is drawn to, but sometimes we let our health go to plan the next thing. Indeed, we must ask how do we cultivate ways to take care of ourselves as a political act. Health problems especially in marginalized communities are often political and structural issues. However, we must be careful and cognizant of the line between self-care as a political act and self-indulgence that perpetuates class violence. Self- care and consciousness of health, although a growing popular movement, is not new and has been a staple in organizing culture. Therefore, we have have a lot to learn from elders and intergenerational knowledge.

- Aidan Davis '16, Women's Health Intern

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


So I know we’re all of age here (except for the occasional young ambitious student or the year-skippers out there), but even as a senior, I find myself incredibly confused about the voting process. Where does one go to vote? Am I registered? Does my registration expire? How do I get an absentee ballot if I’m in state? Or out of state? What? .... Oh god. 

What’s strange is that we’re positioned at a college that likes to think of itself as pretty prestigious and on top of everything. (I mean, we’re literally on top of a hill here.) A few of my peers and I are rather surprised that no one is tabling for absentee ballots or reminding us that we need to vote, that we should be making a difference in this upcoming presidential election… or really any election. Where are our student organizations, the College Democrats, Democracy Matters or even the College Republicans? No one is sending out widespread public information on this campus to remind us that we should be the ones going out and voting. 

But when I take a moment to think about it… it doesn’t really surprise me. I’m not seriously sure people want to make the voting process easier or clearer at all. We’re also used to being far too busy on this campus, engulfed by this “Colgate bubble” to really pay attention to the outside world. But the “rest of the world” is still chugging along, with us right inside it. This bubble we’ve got is self-made and we need to pop it. Now.

It’s not even just within Colgate, the U.S. voting system as a whole isn’t all that clear either. With the internet, social media, unnecessary amounts of emails and even snail mail, why aren’t we being bombarded with more information, need I say CLARITY, about voting? Especially to the youth. If all the youth were voting, the primaries might look very different from what they look like now.

So in my realization that the primaries have begun for the Presidential election, I searched google for some sort of answer to the mysterious world of voting. And here’s the most helpful site I found…

This organization is actually set up to help get more people to vote, and students are one of their target demographics. They have voting deadlines and dates set up easily by state. They also have links to register to vote and to request an absentee ballot.

But so far, this is what the primaries look like. To me, it’s a little scary, and it looks like we need to get out there and shake it up. If you feel a little confused about who you might agree with, here’s a short quiz that might help you figure it out from the Washington Post. There is also a quiz here, at I Side With that may help. I Side With also has news and polls that you might be interested in looking at!

Last thing, the New York state primary is on April 19th and you can vote at the Hamilton Public Library downtown. Or you can sign up for an absentee ballot on the website that I mentioned earlier.

While I know it’s not everything it could be but it’s a start, so get on this website and seriously GO VOTE! 

 - Monica Hoh '16, Information Technology and Resources Intern

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Battle Over Bathrooms: Why We Need Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms at Colgate

Two weeks ago I interviewed two wonderful human beings: Jake Mahr ‘17 and Em Rubey ‘18. Em is the Media and Outreach LGBTQ Initiatives intern. Jake Mahr contributes zines to the Center for Women’s Studies. Both Jake and Em are Lambda leaders. Lambda is a student-run organization meant to give agency to LGBTQ people in the space by not making assumptions or subjecting  people to gender binaries. Jake, Em, and other members of Lambda gathered to make engaging and thought-provoking posters raising awareness about the lack of gender neutral bathrooms on this campus. Although the posters were quickly taken down, they sparked conversation that we all should continue to engage in. Hopefully the poster campaign and this blog post are just the first steps in an ongoing dialogue for Colgate.

Ashleandra Opoku: Can you speak about the poster and what sparked the campaign?

Jake Mahr: Lambda has been steadily growing this semester which is great; in that growth we have seen an expansion with identities and fluidity.The growth is great, but we still live in a world and a campus that has very strict ideals and normative systems. Gender should be something we are all be able to choose, but that is not always the case.  

Em Rubey: For me personally, one of the things that started the bathroom campaign is that we do not have many gender inclusive bathrooms on campus. The fact is that people who have  identities that do not match up with men or women’s or even whose expression do not look like the stereotypical man or woman are unsafe to use a bathroom just because their identity does not fit into that box. They cannot use the bathroom or they risk  being harassed or assaulted in that space. It is really important that everyone can use a bathroom in a building where they go to school, and it seems like a really simple request to me. The posters went up as a way to begin a conversation where people start thinking on how bathrooms affect people whose identities are not in the mainstream binary.

Ashleandra: What was it like speaking to administration about this campaign?

Jake: Change does happen on this campus when you get a good unification of students and faculty. After the posters went up, we emailed a set of administrators in various position from a couple deans, vice president, to people to work in facilities, people that work equity and diversity. It laid out some general steps that we hope to see in the future, we just want to make sure that no matter where anyone is on campus, where they are living, where they study, or what department they are in, they don’t have to worry about their safety every time they use the restroom.  It hard to be student when you go to the restroom and you are not sure which restroom to use. It’s a stressful situation to be unsure which restroom to use or  to feel as if the outside world is imposing a gender on you that is not your identity.

Em: I know that right now there are 15 gender neutral stalls out of 218 gender bathroom stalls on campus. That means only seven percent of the bathrooms on campus are gender inclusive. We sent several emails back and forth between deans and administrators just to say this is what we are doing. We also explained how gender diversity is not appreciated on our campus. We need bathrooms and spaces to use  in all of the buildings on campus.

Ashleandra: What do you want people to gain from the campaign?

Jake: We also emailed a lot of people we consider to be allies or advocates on this campus, including other students, student groups, faculty members and some administrators. They were all supportive, and there was a lot of  positive feedback. We had professors who reached out who said they would love to talk about it in classes, which I see as an important part to this.

Em: I want people to gain a deeper understanding of how gender is socially constructed because gender is so ingrained in our society that people do not even realize that the reason they are a man or a women is because they were told that the minute they were born. I want people to be able to understand more of the complexities of gender and what it means to be a man and women and the fact that these ideas of gender are not real, yet they do have very real consequences on people. I want students to think about the gender binary and the way it does not fit for everyone and how it is enforced upon all of us. There are many gender identities and gender expressions in the world and at Colgate; these identities need to be recognized and honored.

Jake: The ultimate goal for the posters was to get people to start having conversations. Whether or not people felt uncomfortable was not a concern of mine because we feel uncomfortable by the signs that are on the bathroom. It is kind of easy for people to say, well, we have a gender neutral restroom in the Center for Women’s Studies and we have some in other academic buildings. Sometimes people advertise it as a positive thing, making it seem as if the institution is actually doing something, but we forget to still be critical and to remember that it is not as great as it could be. I want people to just know that students around them are affected by this on a daily basis, and we can’t just sit silently and continue to ignore it.

Ashleandra: Do you see yourself continuing this campaign next year?

Jake: Yeah, on this campus, this thing happens where someone will bring up an issue and people will acknowledge the problem, and then everyone will sort of forget about it. I am sure we can always find ways to disrupt that.’

Em: Whether that be through poster campaigns or other events such as working to promote Drag Ball during Queerfest, which is another sort of gender-bending event on campus -- yes, I definitely see this being a continuous process because obviously putting up some posters in the bathroom is not going to immediately open up everyone's mind. However, it is a start. This year a lot of our members have expressed concerns about gender and how it does not really make sense to them and does not really go with themselves personally and how they live in the world. So gender has been a bigger conversation in those spaces but we all exist outside of the Rainbow Room, a room reserved for Lambda meetings as a safe space, so those conversations must be and should be happening outside of Lambda.

Gender inclusive restrooms are most accessible way to guarantee we all use the bathroom safely. For more info check out these articles. Lastly, I want to thank both Jake and Em for letting me interview them. Let’s continue the conversation, continue to resist, and continue to challenge ourselves. With love from your favorite blogger.

- Ashleandra Opoku '17, Multicultural & LGBTQ Affairs Intern

Friday, January 29, 2016


Images of the all-white 2015 Academy Awards winners.
By now it seems everyone and his or her grandpapa has been talking about this all white Oscar situation. Y’all were probably wondering why I had not written a blog on it yet, since I live for pop culture. The truth is while everyone was outraged, I was trying to figure out how much is too much for a Valentine’s Day dress.  I did not comment on the so white Oscars because I was SO not surprisedto be honest no one should be surprised. The academy; which is the group of people that choose the films nominated for the year is filled with old white men. Also despite the fact that there were good movies this year with black actors such as Straight Outta Compton and Beast of No Nation, none of them were about slavery. And we all know white people only like black actors when they are being subordinate or stereotypical. In the words of Queen Nicki Minaj, “Thought you knew better, do your fucking research.” With all of this said I was going to let the conversation of this all white Oscars die out, but Jada Pinkett-Smith made a comment on it, than blacktress Janet Hubert, and also the still clueless Stacy Dash, Viola Davis, and later Gabrielle Union. The tea just continued to spill over with every waking hour, and I could not let all that spilling of tea go unaddressed. At this moment I did what any great blogger would do;I forwent all of my responsibilities to analyze this intense tea and give to you just like it is.

Jada Pinkett-Smith and The Fresh Queen of Petty Set it off

Janet Hubert (left) responds to Jada Pinkett-Smith (right).

Let’s start from the beginning, a couple days after the #OscarSoWhite announcement, Jada Pinkett-Smith posted a video where she urged black people to recognize the amount of power they have. Smith said, “Is it time that people of color have amassed enough power that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere and no longer beg for the love, acknowledgement or respect of any group?”  She also stated that it was time for black people to take back their resources and feed them into their communities and programs, which would acknowledge their work. Smith ended her video by explaining she will neither be attending nor watching the Oscars but she wished Chris Rock, the host this year, nothing but love. The video seemed very well-intentioned, and I do not believe Jada was asking other black actresses/actors to boycott the event; she was just announcing that she herself was not going.

Blacktress Janet Hubert, the darker Aunt Viv, was not here for Smith’s video and decided she would make a response video, where she dragged Mrs. Smith by her edges. Hubert called out Smith for devoting her time on the Oscars, “...when our boys are dying and people are starving.” Hubert also accused Smith for being a hypocrite because she is now boycotting the same group of people that have helped her and her family make millions of dollars.  “Just because the world didn’t go the way you wanted it to does not mean you can ask people to stand up and sing we should overcome for you… You have a huge production company in Hollywood where you only produce your friends, family and yourself, so you are a part of Hollywood and you are a part of the system.”

 Along Came an Airhead

The ever-clueless Stacey Dash chimed in, saying boycotting the Oscars was ludicrous. Dash stated that black people either want segregation or integration. Integration to her would be getting rid of awards such as BET and NAACP Image “where you’re only nominated/awarded if you are black.” Dash also said that if it were the other way around, meaning only white award shows nominating only white people, everyone would be outraged. However it is the other way around. That’s why people are upset because they only see white people win awards. Dash claimed there should be no BET channel or Black History month because at the end of the day we are all Americans.
Before we move any further, Stacey Dash is literally a buffoon and confused.  We should all take Gabriella Union’s advice and completely ignore her existence. Secondly, awards such as the BET and Image awards exist because black people do not see their work appreciated in the “mainstream” and acclaimed white award shows. These awards do not create segregation because as we can see from the previous Oscars and also this nation’s history, segregation already exists. Without channels such as BET and Centric, black bodies would not have been able to see themselves in media. There is still a need for these networks and for magazines that center blackness because blackness in media is still rare. Nothing has really changed, so please stop perpetuating this distorted reality where blackness, black history, black art and bodies are appreciated enough that we should abandon outlets that support and uplift us. Lastly, the belief that only black people are nominated for either the BET awards or the NAACP Image awards is false. Throughout the years there have been white nominees for both award shows.

Addressing the Real Issues and Caring about All Black Lives

People in media including the gossip of all time, Wendy Williams, believed that Hubert was just being Petty LaBelle. Despite how petty it may have seemed, Hubert’s response video made valid points. Smith was not speaking out last year about the all white Oscars, and prior to this video she has not mentioned the lack of black actors/ movies in Hollywood. Smith does not go to many BET or Image awards, where black musicians and actors are acknowledged for their outstanding work. Jada Pinkett-Smith does attend and speak about Black Girls Rock, which promotes spreading positivity about young girls’ blackness. However, I have not heard Jada speak out about police brutality or the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. It is convenient how she has been able to center her race at this point because her husband was not recognized by the Academy. Why does she not center her blackness in other conversations where she can use her voice to shed light on situations already occurring in the black community? Her and her husband own a production company; why are they not using that to make films centered around multifaceted black narratives and starring new black actors? Situations that are a little more pressing than an Oscar. I am not saying the Academy has not messed up, because they definitely did and have been for almost forever.  Yet, if we are being honest there are only like three black movies that come out every year, so there is not a lot to nominate. Also if we are keeping it like 115, Will Smith shouldn’t have been nominated because that accent was trash. The Straight Outta Compton actors, yes, Michael B Jordan in Creed, yes, Idris Elba in Beast of No Nation; yes!!!, the bear from The Revenant, yes, Will Smith for Concussion, NO!
On the flip side, representation does matter. Devaluing the work of black bodies even if they live in Hollywood is not okay. The question we must ask ourselves when these situations occur is how would the conversation be different if the people were white. Everyone was eating out of Patricia Arquette’s hands when she went on stage last year and demanded the universe had to help her obtain more money, even though she makes millions of dollars. People were fine when Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay about pay equality. Why is it a problem when black bodies ask why they are not nominated? Why is it automatically perceived as a complaint instead of a genuine concern that should be evaluated? If I’m not mistaken this the third year in a row that we have seen an all white Oscars, instead of 98 percent white Oscars. Why are white actors/actresses who claim to be feminist and activist not speaking out against this?  Actors/Actresses should be speaking about the lack of diversity in Hollywood constantly, not just when the Oscars come up. Actresses/ Actors should be critical about the mostly white academy always, not just when the Oscars come up. Black Actresses/Actors should appreciate the value of awards such as BET and the Image awards all the time, not just when white America has rejected them. If black Actresses/Actors are going to care and about their own, they need to always care about their own all the time, not just when they experience inequality in their privileged lives. Caring about black lives is caring about them all the time in every situation. From Flint, Michigan to Baltimore, Maryland; from Ferguson, Missouri to Cleveland, Ohio; From Sanford, Florida to Staten Island, New York. Not just in Hollywood when the Oscars come around.
On that note that is all the tea I have the week. I know this blog was longer than usual but there was so much confusion that needed to be addressed. I hope you all keep your edges in tact in every situation, and never let the man play you, and that you are always blessed.   
P.S. If you are looking to watch a film produced by a black person that is not about slavery check out AmeriCan. AmeriCan is a short film on YouTube, which gives viewers a new lens on police brutality. The film is directed by Nat Parker, who is also the star and director of the new film, The Birth of a Nation.This is the new birth of a nation about Nat Turner and not the old KKK one.

- Ashleandra Opoku '17, Multicultural & LGBTQ Affairs Intern