Racial Healing: Open Space Conversations

For me thus far, 2018 has been about healing. Of individuals, of communities, from embedded historical pains or personal ones, emotional, physical, spiritual, everything imaginable. I’m channeling almost all of my energy towards the idea of how people can heal themselves and one another, especially in diversity and justice work where healing becomes necessary for engagement and change. I’m entering my second semester as Erdman’s Community Diversity Assistant with a more critical and healing-oriented vision for conversation. I originally pursued a major in Psychology in order to engage in helping people of color recognize and emphasize mental health. I’m in a Psychology of Diversity course this semester to enhance my understanding. I’m dreaming of Sociology now to make it a reality (but I’ll save that for a post on my majors! Keep an eye out.)

I laughed when, coincidentally, I heard that Dean Jennifer Walters would be hosting the topic of Racial Healing among her themed Open Space Conversations, where members of the community can make space for certain topics together. There have been conversations here at Bryn Mawr about how to institutionally reconcile histories of racism and antisemitism, but not nearly enough about healing for those who experience those inherited histories on an individual and communal level. The conversations themselves have given me the chance to engage with administrators and faculty members, lovable people who work in the Health Center, and often with me as one of only two students among them. We exercise openness in half-formed thoughts and productivity in ways that not all settings leave room for. Our three weeks have seen a variety of comers whether brief or consistent, and the group remains small enough that it feels pretty informal. We talk about our feelings and ideas over lunch.

{I’m thinking a lot about community racial healing this Black History Month, and Ntozake Shange’s “Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo,” an ode to generational black woman healing, is next on my to-read list.}

The conversation is ongoing; we haven’t come to a conclusive ending yet, and I’m pretty sure that much like healing, there won’t be a clear solution or endpoint and much less a change overnight. We talked about institutional accountability and what that may mean for the histories we claim. We talked about how healing is more than just the removal of harm, about student experience, and about efforts to celebrate diversity that don’t entirely capture the realities that permeate us and our campus architecture. We talked about memory and inherited narratives of trauma that become embodied, and perhaps that healing could be inherited too. These topics are extremely relevant to my experience of Bryn Mawr, and it felt really sweet to be able to energize myself through expressing my thoughts and ideas to people who can affect more change!

On that note, I wanted to open up the conversation to anyone who is interested in engaging with Bryn Mawr’s complicated history. How do we imagine and enact racial healing? What does that entail? Healing, and especially racial healing, are definitely topics I’m making an effort to return to in the near future and over the course of the year.

Check out the Daily Digest for information about Open Space Conversations.

Well-Loved Campus Locations

One of the reasons why I chose Bryn Mawr, in the end, was for its botanic landscapes and comfortable, old spaces. From our art rooms and studios to our unique and individual dormitories, our campus architecture is unlike any I’ve seen before. Especially when I’m looking for a place to work or relax or channel energy, I find that there’s no shortage of places where one can feel at home, enjoy the greenery, & take refuge. In honor of final exams and reflecting on the places I’ve explored and made soft spots for in my heart, here are some of my most-loved campus locations from my time here!

Pem Dance Studio: The dance studio in Pem Arch, adored for its rose-colored walls and lovely natural view, may be unarguably the most aesthetically sweet place on campus. Though it was one of the first places I visited, (and though I’ve loved it ever since), I never actually had the chance to dance there until this past month when I joined Rhythm n’ Motion, the tri-college dance group created to honor and celebrate the African diaspora. I’m aware that because I’m a dancer that fact is kind of unforgivable — but I can’t express how excited I am to make use of it. Loved for: the feeling of dancing, surrounded by softly-lit ambiance, when the sun sets through the windows.

Erdman: I’ve noticed that people either love Erdman or hate it. Of those people, I wholeheartedly adore Erdman and would defend it to my grave. My new nine-month home both central and isolated on the edge of campus, Erdman holds a charm that goes unrecognized — from the artful exterior to the natural light that pools through huge windows. For lovers of experimental design and the ease of alone time, Erd is wheel-chair accessible on the first floor and offers a cozy living experience unlike any other at Bryn Mawr. Loved for: charming architecture / the trees and surrounding green / the obvious convenience / the single bathrooms! / the fact that I can heely on the first floor.

The treehouse: The setting of my blog photo! I always talk about how our campus houses some of the weirdest individualistic trees, but the treehouse was where I spent a lot of time taking photos or just hanging out when the weather was dreamy. Whether I wanted to sit among the branches or look out over the fields onto Cambrian Row, that tree on the walk from Brecon became one of my most-loved nature spots. Even if its a little creepy in the dark. Loved for: the feeling of enchantment and history that you get entering it / the names that you can find carved on the tree.

English House: I’ve met with some of my favorite professors in English House mostly because the English professors (in my experience) have been the ones most passionate about establishing a connection with me. In addition to office spaces that felt very lived-in and classrooms that feel open and warm, I found that English House often feels so homey that I melt a little in comfort (I tend to overshare in my conversations with professors, but in a nice way that leaves us more familiar), and I would even say enough for me to consider double majoring in English. Loved for: the fact that it’s surrounded by forest / its many, characteristically rose-colored bathrooms.

Pensby: For someone who lived in Brecon last year, there was nothing better than studying cozied up with a warm blanket or taking an air-conditioned nap away from late August heat. On Cambrian Row, Pensby houses the center for diversity and inclusion, hosting occasional workshops and conversations to enhance campus community. The building is unknown to most because of its location, but its lounges became a haven for me during exam week and moments when I especially needed a cozy, isolated space. Loved for: the plant-filled room upstairs / its faraway view of campus / the baskets of blankets that students are encouraged to use.

Honorable mentions: Arnecliffe Studio’s creative energy (a neat place for intimate hangouts), Uncommon Grounds & The Lusty Cup (for comforting espresso smells and camaraderie), that lovable outside nook in Guild, the Sunken Garden (for the branches!), and Campus Center 105 (for ideas and relaxation beyond the pool table.)

Behind-the-Scenes of: RnM’s Winter Performance!!

Every semester the posters appear. Every semester the Bi-Co blue bus emerges for a night as the unofficial Tri-Co van, & transports students to Swarthmore the hour before the performance. Every semester in the fall and spring, Mawrters pour into the center for performing arts and pour themselves into the colorful energy that characterizes one of Bryn Mawr’s unofficial traditions. I’ve never been to one of Rhythm n’ Motion’s celebrated performances—both semesters the effort I made to be there was interrupted by other responsibilities that now, for some reason, I can’t remember—until this semester when I auditioned for and became a part of the movement. My first RnM performance experience would be one that I had a hand in curating from backstage.

I arrived at Swat pretty early and worked on an essay while waiting for dinner to roll around. The whole team ate together talking and laughing. Therese, one of the Swat RnMers on this semester’s newbie team with me, baked us pumpkin pies to enjoy after the show and initiated a cup drop where we announced the performance’s time and place. At 6 p.m. we hurried back to the dressing rooms to prepare, do some last-minute run-throughs in dance studios, and get ready to perform. Below: Maliha Ashraf, Bryn Mawr ’19, fellow newbie going abroad next semester!

I cozied up in the dressing room corner surrounded by Bryn Mawr loves. I covered my eyes and face in golden shimmer. At 7 p.m., in our all-black outfits for opener, RnM warmed up together for the first time this fall since my audition. We had spent the last four months learning choreographed dances, the last two days getting the spacing and the colors and the music just right, & the night had finally come to bring our all. I had performed countless times before in ballet productions full of muted Marvin Gaye colors and debuts as the evil enchantress in Sleeping Beauty. But still, hanging in the shared dressing room dancing artlessly to old hits and helping my friends with eyeliner and highlight, (and later huddled after warm-ups receiving encouragement, and even later waiting to start off the show in complete blackout), my blood hummed with nerves. The lights went down. The cue for the newbies to walk on in darkness sounded. In one sharp beat the music played, the lights illuminated, and the ten newbies turned from our positions facing away from the audience to the vibrant roar of the crowd.

There was so much laughter shared soundlessly onstage and backstage in the dressing room while we watched our friends perform on the elevated screen. We marveled at clean choreo and danced the moves we knew for pieces we weren’t in, the energy easily matching that of the crowd even though the music and dances were committed to our memory. I grooved in mesh velvet to bubblegum pink and heartfelt blue in a piece named Honey, emerged in smoke and orange side-lights to dance in red silhouette and haunting golden-green. Backstage and hidden in the wings we energized one another.

I’ve never felt more heartened than when I learned that the dance I was consistently most nervous about perfecting turned out cleaner than I could’ve imagined. In all honesty, the piece I was now most nervous about was the one we newbies curated together, to Rihanna’s “Pose” and the classic “Get Ur Freak On.” But when it came time for us to close the show, hearing my name yelled in the crowd and the energy that surged when my friends Lia and Morgan danced beside me in our portion of choreo envisioned in 11 p.m. dance studio meetings, the nerves melted away and were replaced by my love for dance and performance, restored.

i have the sweetest hell babe!

Our finale featuring performers from Swarthmore’s Terpsichore & Bryn Mawr’s Ajoyo made me feel extremely warm and loved. That feeling only bloomed when upon returning to the dressing room, my sweet friend and fellow newbie Morgan Fernandez presented me with a rose and a handmade sign asking me to be her hell parent!! (For Hell / Welcome The First Years Week, a loved Bryn Mawr tradition welcoming frosh with creative tasks and chosen families.) I can’t express how thankful I was; I had been hoping she would ask me and hadn’t yet gotten a hell babe. If my night hadn’t already been made, the sweetness of it made my newbie semester experience of the passionate Rhythm n’ Motion Dance Company all the more memorable.

For those who can’t make the shows, check out Rhythm N’ Motion Dance Company’s channel on YouTube, and enjoy the filmed pieces from past semesters or make a game of it and try to find me in four pieces from this fall! <3 Until next spring!

Bodies in Social Life, Toni Morrison, & Anthropology of Youth and Childhood

Nearing the end of the semester means encompassing all that I’ve learned into condensed final projects, but, to an extent, finals season also offers a chance to reflect more personally on the emotional and academic elements of being a student. How have I created meaning? How have I bloomed into understanding of myself from the experiences I’ve had as an intellectual and individual? How have I performed? How can I reshape? In what aspects do I wish I had done more?

I’m awaiting the moment in my academic life when I’m not fortunate enough to have loved and felt passionate about the courses that I’m taking—my first year was full of lovely experiences exploring photography and education and women of color and poetics. This year is no different. The past semester has allowed me to re-imagine my favorite author (Toni Morrison, whom I read and loved in high school), examine a subject that envisions my future endeavors (working with children and youth in whatever capacity imaginable), and explore a topic that captures a lot of my interests (the sociology of bodies, and whatever that may mean). But much like past semesters, my studies have come with their own unique challenges that re-established my emotional boundaries; my energy waned with each blow to my mental health & I re-learned the realistic parameters to my performance. My passion & motivation often felt at odds.

My English course entitled “Toni Morrison and the Art of Narrative Conjure” nourished my need for an exploration of blackness & my love for poetic analysis all at once. I had the chance to re-read two of my favorite books, Beloved and Song of Solomon and fulfill my dream of reading the rest of Morrison’s works in a way that allowed for conversation. Professor Linda-Susan Beard is a performance artist in her own right. Her enchanting way of speaking and inclusion of black histories and creative concepts brought in so many elements at the core of Morrison’s heart. The room itself was full of artists and masters of language. Being there emphasized, and eventually solidified, my need to surrender my own stubborn nature & double major in English.

I could spend hours talking about each of Morrison’s pieces and her exploration. Of motherhood. Of blackness. Of heritage and local histories, inherited through trauma. Of magic and witches and spirituality. Of death and water. Of home. Of youthful sisterhood and women trying to love one another. Of color. Of intimate, emotional violence. But also the toll of reading one novel after another, all of them intimate to my own history and body and having no time for recuperation was more than I had expected. The coalescence of healing and heartbreak that is characteristic in Morrison’s work manifested in how I was able (or unable) to approach the material.

I’m working on my final Pilate Project (named for one of my most-loved characters in literature), where my sweet friend Hannah Chinn (’19) paints on the faces of people of color while we ask them about their relationship to history, memory, race, and family through the colors they ascribe feeling to. The element of narrative conjure feels important. I’m taking film & digital photos of each person after their face is painted, and piecing Morrison’s God Help The Child into her body of work through an essay on how it encompasses elements of her signature. (On the left: Stevie Campos-Seligman, Haverford ’20,  a dear sweet friend and fellow member of the Toni Morrison class!)

The easiest part of coming to my once a week Bodies in Social Life course was definitely the laughter and spirits of the people with whom I shared the space. Made up of all upperclassmen (with me being the only sophomore), the class felt extremely collaborative and encouraging of confusion; our professor Piper Sledge constantly emphasized the importance of us being easy on ourselves and was always open to ideas that would better accommodate our learning from the moment they crafted the curriculum around our discussed interests. We explored the sociology of bodies from embodiment theory: how do we inhabit our bodies and how do social locations become embodied? What meanings are embedded in certain body practices from body modifications to various forms of surgery? How do we think about visuality, authenticity, wholeness and “the self” in conversation with the way we treat bodies in society?

Nolan Julien (’18) is in Bodies in Social Life too

I wrote my midterm paper on the culture of tattooing and how marginalized bodies that are already visually marked negotiate the creative and meaning-making elements of body projects. I’m most likely writing my final paper on ambiguous bodies, how they inhabit space, and the reconciliation of ambiguity that manifests through the readings we’ve examined this semester.

Professor Leigh Campoamor teaches the Anthropology of Youth and Childhood course, where we complicate how childhood is imagined by recognizing the multiplicities of experiences that different childhoods hold. We have conversations about exercising agency, performance of an expected childhood, children as laborers, organized aid interventions, and issues of race, class, geography, gender, sexuality, and the realm of politics within the histories of neoliberalism, capitalism, and colonialism.

One of my most notable moments in this class was the class discussion I co-led on themes of citizenship & belonging, emphasized through a chapter of Aimee Cox’s Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship and two chapters from Sunaina Maira’s book Missing: Youth, Citizenship, and Empire after 9/11. Both involved an element of self-reflexivity that I’ve always loved reading in my academic work, and so I was enthusiastic about creating a conversation with my peers. To capture all that I’ve learned for this course, I am writing my own self-reflexive ethnography on how certain memorable readings emphasize my own experience of negotiating childhood and youth. Professor Campoamor encourages all of us to be creative.

I’ve written a culmination of thoughtful, weekly journals for all three of these courses. Often, too, the ideas melted together with embodied meanings appearing in Morrison’s work and imaginations of childhood, or notions of space and belonging threading through the three. The more time I spend here, the more I realize that I’m happiest with a liberal arts education, where all of my passions & ideas can fulfill me and be fulfilled.

Love for Dining Services

Pretty much all of the dining services jobs lend themselves to a creativity that only happens behind the scenes. From experimenting with flavors to crafting ideas from napkin notes, new drink inventions, panini combinations, and pizza concepts come out of the kitchens as often as food is served. It feels easy to imagine that dining service work is easy or less valued because it’s the only job first-semester, first year students are able to be employed. But there are reasons — be it the perks, or the companionship, or the staff — why the experience of dining service makes people stay.

candid in uncommon | by Cordelia Perez ’16

For me, I’ve been working at Uncommon Grounds since I entered my first semester here. No barista experience & a whole lot of hope landed me a chance at the job, when in my first real week here, I left my name and expression of interest with the worker at the counter. I hold a place for it in my heart because not only was it my first on-campus job and first job in general, but also because I really love the ambiance of working to music and the mundane work of opening and closing. I met my lovable hell mum, Kamara, at Uncommon when she supervised my very first closing shift in radiant afternoon light.

lusty love (my co-workers Toni and Daphne, ’20, admiring our day’s work)

Taylor McClain ’20 met her hell mom as an enthusiastic first-year as well, and laughs as she tells me, “most of my hell family is from Uncommon actually.” After working there over the summer she has been promoted to supervisor this semester and is loving it so far. Her favorite things about working at Uncommon? Playing music, talking to our manager Lisa and cleaning the grill, which she names is something to be proud of. Missing the seniors she and I grew to love while working last year, Taylor says “working at Uncommon is amazing especially when it comes to May Day,” and exchanges a look that I understand but can’t for the sake of secrecy elaborate.

As of this semester, I have been splitting my hours between Uncommon & our very own local night hangout the Lusty Cup! Uncommon has the food and the camaraderie of working with people. Brewing coffee & having my own space at Lusty nourishes a different element of calmness.

To celebrate thankfulness and honor its spirit, this year (and every year) I’m thankful for dining service workers & staff and want to emphasize their invaluable place on campus! So, I made an effort to feature some student voices who contribute to the love and energy that is Bryn Mawr’s dining services.

i made a milkshake upon my return from break

New Dorm Dining Hall (lovingly known by its old name Haffner) is where Moreen McGrath (’20) found her home upon being employed as a student worker during her first semester. My experiences of New Dorm Dining Hall are embodied in cozy exposed brick and relaxed lunches in early afternoon, where Moreen recounts gratitude for lasting friendships and admiration for full-time staff members. When asked about them specifically (I am always hearing stories about and interacting with them in small slices—Arthur has made me laugh with his humor and Theresa worked at Uncommon for a brief time on my early morning shifts), Moreen expresses, “In truth, I wholeheartedly believe that the full-time staff members are the most genuine, caring people at Bryn Mawr; we are so beyond lucky to have them… each and every member of the full-time staff sincerely cares about every student who comes through the dining halls. Arthur is undoubtedly one of the kindest, most outgoing souls you could ever hope to meet. He is always singing and dancing in an effort to bring a bit more cheer to peoples’ days, and, if he sees that something is upsetting you, he is always the first to remind you how lovely you are and that he knows you’ll succeed in whatever you’re doing. For me, personally, Arthur was one of the first people to encourage me to apply for the supervisor position.” From Theresa’s love for baking and efforts to create recipes for all dietary needs, to Bryan and Sinclair’s stories and cool exteriors, to the passion of countless other members of the staff, Moreen vouches for their value and caring characters.

love notes for full-time staff! | from the lovely @brynmawrdining instagram

From my room on the third floor of Erdman I can hear the full-time staff laughing and playing music in the morning. One lovable Erdman hall-mate and new sweet friend of mine, Makayla Hope Selden (’20), is a supervisor at Erdman, a geology major & a member of the rugby team on campus. When I spoke to them about their experience working in dining services and at Erdman specifically, they expressed appreciation for fellow workers and friendships:

“So I love working in Erdman for the family environment we have and the kinship I have with fellow workers. Last year I looked up to my supes for info about BMC that they just don’t tell you in Customs Week™. Working in the dining hall lets me appreciate how many people have similar schedules to myself and shows me more students of BMC than I would’ve seen/met otherwise. I like making iced chais at Erd!! Indulge in the extensive tea selection we have!! Something people don’t really think about is the dining hall stench you get hugged by by the end of a shift. Also we can’t just call out of work so appreciate the work people in the dining hall do because you wouldn’t eat.”

a warm, Sunday Erdman brunch

a meal made by me but made possible by charming staff

Wyndham‘s charming energy houses visitors, caters events such as weddings and brunches, and doubles as both a restaurant and a bed and breakfast available to outside patrons. The Alumni House employs student workers like Nattalya Pacheco ’18, my fellow Community Diversity Assistant and Sociology major, who tells me amid the Campus Center’s late afternoon hum that she has been working at Wyndham since her first year. Among heartfelt memories reminiscing with graduated seniors in Wyndham after May Day last year, and ideas about post-grad dreams that are typical of seniors, Nattalya recounts a special love for catering weddings and working morning prep shifts to start her day. When asked about creativity, food, and staff relationships Nattalya tells me, “Sometime’s we’ll ask the chefs to make us fries during a shift or something… one of our new chefs makes really good grilled cheeses. The closest thing you get to cooking is a prep shift… but I enjoying working with all the full-time staff.” She laughs. “They each obviously have their own personalities.” 

Movements like Humanizing the Hat and events like Dining Worker Appreciation echo the idea that Makayla emphasizes in their reflection of working at Erdman, and illuminates the passion and effort that student and full-time workers alike embody.

Warmest thanks to the lovely fellow students who elected to share their experiences. <3

Rituals for Managing Stress

Over fall break I returned to my home in beloved West Philly for some much-needed rest. Meaning that I chose to sacrifice a week of exploring new places in favor of relaxing at home, eating homemade meals, and playing video games. I learned throughout my first year at Bryn Mawr that self-care is sacred. Not necessarily self-care in the form of baths or celebratory sushi that are often hard to come by for certain students. But rituals of self-love that are simple and taken for granted; especially as midterm month comes and goes and the end of fall semester draws near.

Learning on campus & in this space made for intellectual growth also means that I’ll naturally grow emotionally too, and that I need to learn my own habits and become intimate enough with myself to recognize when I’m feeling anxious or disheartened or low. To know that when my muscles ache and my passion is waning I’m low on fuel and in need of self-love. I’m pretty open about my experiences with mental illness, but I’m always learning and re-learning the need to be easy on myself.

Here are some small ways that I manage feeling out of depth! These may not work for everyone, but I hope that my self-curated list can bring some inspiration to yours.

  • Taking showers: This may sound too obvious but bear with me! I take long showers by nature (they’re relaxed things — untangle my curls, wake up, moisturize) and often forget to shower when I’m too busy, and my mornings are booked already, and my hair is better off in a bun anyway. I am also an aspiring morning person by nature & curated my schedule for the last two semesters to leave my mornings energized and open. Making time for showering is healthy. But I found that showering makes me feel both more productive and more alive, with my ritualized, loved mornings started off on a good, warm, and level note.
  • Taking evening or night walks: I may not always have the energy for this, but one of my favorite things about being at a historically women’s college is the chance for nighttime walks. A time when campus has a calm quality about it. Having a campus where I feel relatively more safe being alone and outside at night is an element of this experience that I cherish. I also love taking late afternoon walks before sunset (especially behind Erdman and the ECC!)

  • Making lists of things that made my heart warm: In a journal, in the margins of my notes, on Uncommon receipts or personal creative spaces. (I have a journal from Barnes & Noble where I write what I’m hanging hope on, when I need it.) Wherever and made up of the tiniest things — the weather was dreamy. I made my own eggs at breakfast today. I used my film camera or loved my outfit. It does wonders for my mood to remind myself that small things matter & can derive joy.

I’m experimenting with making myself honey-tea and getting nine hours of sleep and finding places off campus where I can work. Make playlists and dance around while cleaning your room! Find comfort and solidarity in friends whose energy calms you to do quiet work with. Build in breaks to get coffee with a loved one or explore a new place in town, or don’t build them in and let them come naturally.

Celebrating Filipino-American History Month!

There are many reasons for my love of October. The enthusiasm of Halloween festivities. The sweet, changing energy. The celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day and World Mental Health Day and National Coming Out Day, the love and recognition and conversation that come with them.

But my love for October reached new heights when I recently learned that October also celebrates Filipino-American History Month, a month for the recognition of history and the embracing of heritage. (Below are photos from when I visited the Philippines in December of 2016. The landscape photo was taken on my film camera!)

On October 7th, I half-danced out of my 11 a.m. RnM rehearsal and rode the train to smooth tunes and a Filipino event at Reading Terminal Market. Among Reading Terminal’s local haunts and vibrant tourists were vendors featuring Filipino delicacies, cooking demos by renowned Filipino chefs, and screenings of short films about Filipino food movements. Even for a local Philadelphian, Reading Terminal is hard to navigate on a lovely autumn Saturday amidst lunch rush and the dizzying similarity of neon lights. I easily surrendered my plan, and myself, to the chaos and the language-sounds of home.

the event poster!


I explored artlessly. I stood in line for ube cupcakes and shared my resignation with fellow Filipinos who were near me in line. I happened upon packaged snacks and was recognized by other Mawrters, who exchanged names and vague familiarity and ideas for what to bring home to loved ones. I bought ube puffs for my mama and mango slices for myself and tried my chance at a demo sample of chicken adobo and lumpia, flavors of every staple Filipino meal. I missed the film screening, missed my train, and found lovely, Filipina friends from Bryn Mawr with whom I’d spent a day when I was in the Philippines last winter. We rode the train back to campus in cozy silence. I felt loved.

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Making: History, Art, & Home

A visiting professor at Bryn Mawr, Stephen Vider, recently curated an exhibit in New York that collected pieces of art, narrative, and personal experience to imagine a history of how intimate spaces of home and emotional care bred resistance and activism throughout the HIV/AIDS crisis. (For months now, I have been thinking about how little I know about this history — my history, not too far in the past that had I been born just a decade earlier I may have felt the earthquake in my own circles — as an individual belonging to the LGBTQ+ community. So when I received word from a professor of mine about the opportunity to learn, I absolutely had to take it.)

On Friday, Sept. 29, I joined about thirty other students aboard an early bus to Manhattan to experience the exhibit first-hand. The walls, floors, and stairwells of the Museum of the City of New York are decorated with local art and histories, such as those pictured below in a photograph of the Croton Aqueduct over Pocantico River by Nathan Kensinger and an engraving of the same view by William James Bennett.

other pieces of local history

An amalgamation of visual art, photography, and film arranged in a home-like space, the exhibit “AIDS at Home: Art and Everyday Activism” expressed commentary on creations of resistance, community, art and home. Artists came forward to memorialize their ideas about the personal and the political, as well as loved ones lost and lives celebrated in the form of artistic archive work, made during the ’80s crisis and brought to life through Vider’s vision. The work specifically makes an effort to celebrate, visualize, and re-center the narrative around LGBTQ+ communities of color. (Pictured below: “Scott Shaving” (1985) by Vincent Cianni & “Kachin and Michael in Michael’s Apartment” (1987) by Susan Kuklin)

photos by Luna Luis Ortiz

We had the opportunity to experience the exhibit with Vider’s guidance and were encouraged to explore the space on our own. We returned to the ground level of the museum for lunch, and had the chance to hear from five of the featured artists, each threading together an individual narrative of emotion, loss, community, and growth.

Among the artists present were Latinx photographer Luna Luis Ortiz (who took photos of himself and his LGBTQ+ family of color after his infection with HIV), found materials artist Eric Rhein (whose work embraces body and spirit regarding his emotional experience with HIV), memoirist Lori Grinker (creator of an experimental collection regarding her brother’s death), transgender performance artist T De Long (who remembers late partner Chloe Dzubilo), and filmmaker Juanita Mohammed Szczepanski (member of the Women’s AIDS Video Enterprise). Their openness was inspiring, as was the passion with which they expressed themselves wholeheartedly.

“Bath Curtain” by Hugh Steers (1992)

“Knit Prep” (2014) by Ben Cuevas

From issues of housing discrimination to ideas of chosen family and the home as a space for love and activism, Vider and the artists spoke to the exhibit’s heart: that efforts of art-making and home-making — with regard to history, politics, and marginalized communities — embody, themselves, manifestations of everyday resistance.

I am especially charmed by a piece  by Jenna Gray of PBS Newshour, centering Stephen Vider and the exhibit’s heartfelt meaning.

“Health is not just medical attention,” Vider tells Gray. “It’s about emotional care and about all the different ways that home and family are meaningful. Creating home and family and creating art are themselves acts of activism with lasting effects for people.”

The exhibit is open until Oct. 22 at the Museum of the City of New York!


The neat thing about being a black, first-year Banter-Blogger-by-chance is the unique, fully-curated experience I’m able to offer. I adore personal narrative, and while my experience may not be echoed by other Bryn Mawr students or even fellow people of color who exist in Bryn Mawr’s spaces, I would dance at any chance to (reflect on? journal? archive?) myself and my experiences, etched forever into institutional memory.

Much like the complex elements of my identity, my feelings about Bryn Mawr are nuanced. I look at the easily-charmed, moon-eyed eighteen year old I was in August and have difficulty recognizing / reconciling her with the lovingly-critical eighteen year old I am now. I hadn’t realized then that my habit of over-idealizing could possibly extend to the change of scenery I was just eager to get, regardless of my firm belief in criticism as a healthy force with an unfit name. Just by being in the space I’m learning to recognize that complexity and criticism extend to places, too — that there are things I don’t have to love coexisting with things that I owe my growth to.

I found fondness in unlikely places. I received word that I was housed in Brecon and expected to hate it but only hated it for certain, very unexpected reasons. I expected to love certain spaces that I ended up never entering and found my place in responsibilities I didn’t anticipate having. I found excitement where there wasn’t previously. I may change my intended major to things I never considered. I’ve made some of the sweetest friends here, threaded together with memories that make me laugh upon reflection. And honestly, I should have known from the moment I visited the college I had previously dismissed, rooted in Philly Local Lenses and ideas about the out-of-character area I grew up near.

A note to those for whom Bryn Mawr was always their dream or was an unexpected additional application, for prospective students, committed ones, or even ones who are here, disheartened to some extent by dissonance: you don’t have to love everything about the spaces you’re in, and things may work out in ways you would have never imagined.

So, without further ado, here’s an informal and unexpected reflection in the form of lame reviews. (A lame attempt at creating laughter for myself.)


I ordered the Tri-College Identity, Equity, and Social Justice Starter Pack in August of 2016, expecting fruitful guidance for activism. To my lack of knowledge the product requires you

explored the dance studio during tri-co

to assemble the pieces yourself Ikea-style and translate the instructions from a dead language. Many hours were spent with frustration, emptied energy reserves and a visual headache, but the final product (though always somewhat unfinished) was rewarding regardless. Would recommend for the strong of heart.

Customs Week

The release of Bryn’s new EP “Customs Week” features sounds from high-energy to poorly-sustained noise, hit singles like “Baby Blues,” “Eduroaming (Around Campus),” and “Yellin’ For Athena’s Mercy” painting themes of exhaustion and estrangement and summer camp colored vibes. Overall very loud and restless. Not ideal for lovers of solitude, introverts, or those prone to following their own rhythm.

Lantern Night 

my lantern where it rests on my shelf

Product was not as pictured — arrived in late October without the lantern and rain-stained? Very poor preparation despite the beautiful packaging and magic moments. I eventually received a refund (complete with the lantern this time) and came away with charming apple cider packets from the festivities, thanks to the lovely service I was offered.

Dimensions of Diversity

Placed my faith in the updated Social Justice Starter Pack free-trial and was very pleased with the product I received! Was very durable and reliable and arrived with heartfelt notes holding words of encouragement. Not fully assembled, but the instructions were easier to follow and in a language I understood. With this product I feel as though I’m capable of applying what I learned to the activism I want to create for my community; very, very happy with this product, and would without a doubt recommend to those who are interested!!

Hell Week 

Amazing service despite having been sworn to secrecy. May depend on the server you receive and the company you surround yourself with, but my personal experience was flavored and made with love.
Hidden menu treasures at reasonable prices (but only for the first year of service.) Would recommend with caution, as the taste is not for everyone.

me & my lovely pal dalia



May Day

Only came in white and one-size-fits-all, though the product pictured appeared available in a variety of colors and sizes. Would have preferred more options, but I was fortunate enough to be able to shape the item to what I had imagined with some easy embroidery and splashes of color. I very much appreciated that the product arrived with cherry-flavored sweets dusted in pink sugar as compensation, which I thought was a charming touch. Wished this hadn’t been necessary, but with some simple changes it’s possible to mold the fabric to capture your authenticity. Now, because of my persistence, I would not return it for the world, as it’s one of my favorite staple pieces and holds a special place in my wardrobe.

shirley temples & maraschino cherries

sandy’s may day outfit change








From missing lanterns to days full of pink sugar, I hope these reviews captured a piece of my first-year experience in full color, in the variations I created to make room for myself in Bryn Mawr’s various quirks & traditions. Among moments of hardship (as there always are) I’m really happy that I was able to mold my year to accommodate myself, with the help of friend-love and a little island magic. Bryn Mawr may not always be for me in the ways that I imagine, but there’s comfort in the knowledge that I can make my experience my own (in resistance, in empowering community, and in the ways that count.)

Downtime & Updates

Four days until my very last class of freshman year. Eighteen until all of my finals are in, and twenty until my home among Brecon’s dark wood panels is cleared out, my plants neatly placed (again) in an empty ramen box.

my room in brecon

Meaning that I’m enjoying my time among sweet company and hoping that next semester finds me in sweeter spirits — after having celebrated this year (through completed projects & endured moments) and reflected upon my time here (in the form of an upcoming post in the works!)

The last post I wrote here (for re-imagined blacademia) was my final showcase project for my course in Multicultural Education, a blog post capturing my experiences with emotion in learning and how I feel their inclusion would create a more critical, accessible, and understanding space. I’m extremely proud of it and the things that I’ve learned this semester in class, from both my peers and our lovely professor Peggy Shannon-Baker. Though I’ll reflect on it more in addition to the other courses I took (and loved — or maybe didn’t — for very different reasons), I wanted to clarify that that post, both personal and thoughtful, is what I hope this space will become for me as I continue to move through Bryn Mawr, using the emotions and experiences of this year to guide me.

not-so-local on the lower east side

The next few weeks will see me venturing more off campus and wishing that my goals were placing together as neatly and as lovingly as my plants are. There really isn’t time for another New York visit (how I spent the weekend before last, with two friends and many trips on the metro) but whether I’ll be cozied up on campus or exploring ideal study spaces downtown (stay tuned for Notes from a Philly Native), I’ll be trying my best to make the best of it.