Monday, April 14, 2014

Event Highlight: Hijab Awareness Day 3.24.2014

By Sofia Naqvi ‘14

Tuesday, March 24th marked Hijab Awareness Day at Skidmore College. Hayat asked the Skidmore campus to don the headscarf or turban for one day to gain a better understanding for the piece of fabric itself, what it represents, and to bring awareness to this topic that has created huge opposing movements all over the globe.

Now many would think. “Isn’t that cultural appropriation?” To some people, yes it is. But, as a Muslim woman who chose to bring this experience to her campus, the intention was greater than the fear of cultural appropriation.

Students Stella Langat, Ahmed Wheida, Abdu Almsellati,
Mobasera Begum tabling for Hijab Awareness Day

For many people, the hijab is a symbol of oppression and segregation. By opening up new pathways to understanding, Hayat wanted to counteract some of the controversies surrounding why Muslim women choose to wear the hijab. Our campus has a tendency to avoid certain topics that make people uncomfortable, yet we call ourselves a liberal school. We float around certain issues with fear of either not being politically correct or quiet intentions of not actually caring.

We as Americans are taught to tolerate yet is tolerating good enough? Is that really what humanity should strive for? To just tolerate? We see something different and automatically need to label it, to put it in some type of category because actually attempting to understand it seems just a bit too hard. Instead we set our way of life as the standard, and when something does not mesh with our way, it obviously is not right.

Skidmore students at discussion for Hijab Awareness Day
When someone who doesn’t know much about Islam turns and notices the hijab, they usually thoughts like “Omg she’s one of them,” or “HOW is she not hot in that?” or “I feel so bad for her, I wish I could help her.” Because what our media shows us are little girls wearing the hijab who are forced into child marriage, or dented women being abused by their husbands, or women who are sent to the back of the mosque (like the back of the bus). The thing is, hijab is so much more than that. Women actually choose to wear it a lot of the time. The Hijab is a declaration of Muslim identity, of Islamic faith. It is constant reminder of how Muslims choose to live their lives. It is a form of solidarity for the strength of the Muslim woman.

The mission statement of the event was Better Awareness, Greater Understanding, Peaceful World. The event was successful in making a dent to get a little closer to that goal. Tabling for the event involved students speaking about the role of the hijab in their lives, whether they wore it, their sister, or someone they know. Students came up to the table and learned about how to tie a scarf, the up and coming trends in the muslimah fashion scene (yes, you can wear a scarf and be a fashionista). Most students were very hesitant to come up to the table on their own, they usually would ask a friend to come up with them. But once at the table, the questions started to pour in and people were very interested in understanding the topic. Other students came up and were slightly concerned and would refuse to partake in the event.

The next day students were asked to wear the scarf to classes and around school. This was the hardest part. A lot of students wore it in the beginning of the day and then took it off after stares and questioning looks from others. A few students did push through and continue to wear it for the entire day and said that after a while they forgot they even had it on. The discussion that followed the event was really powerful and ranged from what the hijab means in America to cultural appropriation to effects of globalization to white privilege.

If there is anything that can be learnt from all of this is each individual has a voice, and that that voice is solely their own and no one has the right to speak for them or to take away their voice. Thank you to everyone who participated in any way shape or form.

I would like to end by sharing #LifeOfAMuslimFeminist article about a group of women that don’t need saving, from any man or woman: 32 Powerful and Brutally Honest Tweets from #LifeOfAMuslimFeminist

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Student Spotlight: Yoon Young Sim '16, President of Asian Cultural Awareness (ACA)

By Kiara Boone '15

When did you join ACA? How did you learn about it?
I went to ACA's first general meeting in my freshman year. Timothy, who was the secretary of ACA at that time introduced me the club. I went to every single meeting for a semester and really loved the experience! I was elected as PR Historian for my second semester. In my sophomore year, I worked as Head PR and became president in spring semester.

Why did you decide to join ACA?
Yoon Young Sim, President of ACA
When I first visit ACA, I feel like it is my second home. I am an international student, and Skidmore does not have many Koreans. Therefore, sometimes I feel lonely. Seeing ACA reaching out and promoting Asian identities and cultures makes me think about my home. In ACA, everyone is so friendly and willing to share their experiences and back ground. I joined ACA because of this friendly, supportive atmosphere.

Why did you decide to run for president of ACA?
I was on ACA e-board from my freshman year and loved the community and interaction we had. I decided to run for president because I want to contribute more to the community I love. We had a great change in e-board when I became the president since we had many people going abroad. I wanted to help new members coming into e-board. It was only plausible because there were people who I believe would be great partners. Elaine and Carol are very experienced and willing to give me advice. John Li, who is the vice president now is one of the best partners that I have ever worked with. Not only these people, but our huge e-board is willing to distribute and share their thoughts actively. We are debriefing every single event we had and trying to balance our different interest by sharing our opinion.

What is ACA's mission here on campus?
ACA is promoting and sharing Asian cultures, identities, and other Asian-related topics on campus. Our goal is not only reaching out to Asian population but also embracing everyone to learn and know about our cultures.

What has been your most memorable moment with ACA?
Last semester, we had a big lecture with Shin Dong Hyuk, the North Korean defector. I was fascinated and surprised by the great interest from the campus as well as the surrounding community. We had people coming from Rochester, Union College, Albany, Clifton Park, etc. We also had a chance to have a talk with Mr. Shin before the meeting. It was great experience to hear how he thinks about North Korea and human right issues. I really liked the meeting because we succeeded to embrace many people and brought the topic not only related to general culture but specific issue that the world is now dealing with.

What are some of ACA's future plans for Skidmore?
I think ACA succeeded to promote our cultures not only to the Asian population but to the whole campus. We tried to introduce general cultures, such as food, ceremony, arts, etc. However, we are now also accessing to political, social related topics that could be serious. We try to be cautious but still concerning these topics. The future plans for ACA will be to give more voice to topics that people might not be talk about often: providing deep, elaborating ideas of Asia rather than superficial information. Also, Even though when we do have food at meetings, we always provide information and history of food. Our constant goal for club is let people learn not only see our event.

**ACA will be hosting their annual ACA Dinner this Saturday, April 12h from 5-8pm on the second floor of DHall. Tickets are $5, and will be available for purchase in Case Center from noon-5pm and in DHall's Atrium from 5-8pm.

To learn more about ACA, join their Facebook page!

ACA hosts general meetings every Tuesday at 7pm in the Intercultural Center (ICC).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Event Highlight: OSDP Keynote '14 Janet Mock 3.27.2014

Oh What An Evening It Was
By Jonny Lynn '16

On March 27th, OSDP invited New York Times bestselling author and trans activist Janet Mock to be featured in OSDP's 2014 Keynote, with a moderated Q&A with Sydney Magruder (’14) and Professor Megan E. Williams, American Studies. 

OSDP Staff & Janet Mock Post-Event
Prior to her Skidmore debut, the event co-sponsors and staff members were invited to dinner with Janet.  The dinner, while delicious, was even more filling with the conversations that stemmed at my table.  We were able to discuss our philosophy as an institution, what we as student leaders participate in, and Janet supplied easy commentary, gladly joining in the conversations on topic ranging from our love of dogs to our academic interests and pursuits. 
Obligatory Hair Flip as Janet reads the first chapter of
Redefining Realness.

Engaged Audience in Gannett Auditorium
Professor Williams of the American studies Department and Sydney Magruder '14, a Dance and Sociology double major - Intergroup Relations minor, led the Q&A, asking Janet about such things as her experience as an author, all the way to quirky questions about pop culture and television (any Scandal lovers out there?).  Janet offered up some wonderful insight into her life as a transwoman, and more specifically as a transwoman of color.  She shared how her life experience in the media has shaped her current approach to presenting her ideas and content to the media, and the influence of her book, “Redefining Realness.”  To end her visit, Janet offered a book signing where students and community members were able to talk with her one-on-one.  Attendees were able to purchase books at the event, or bring their own copies to have Janet’s personal message permanently staining the front pages of this gem of a book. I believe we all would agree that Janet Mock’s visit was one of the most worthwhile experiences of the year.  Poised and constantly present, Janet left a lasting impression on those who attended, and lit a flame for action, voice, and presence in all spaces.

For more photos of this event, updates of the OSDP Calendar, and other wonderful information, check out our Facebook.  All photos in this post by Anna Sand '16.

Special thanks to our co-sponsors: American Studies, Anthropology, BARE, the Center for Sex and Gender Relations, CIGU, CODA, Gender Studies, Intercultural Studies, QWOC Talk, Raices, Skidmore Pride Alliance, Social Work, Speakers Bureau, Ujima, and Vox.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Event Highlight: Pangaea, ISU's International Culture Show 3.22.14

by Kiara Boone '15

Stella Langat '16, Model. Photo courtesy of ISU.
If you were not in Filene at 8pm on March 22nd, you definitely missed out on an AMAZING show. Two Saturdays ago, ISU hosted PANGAEA, their international culture show. 

The main event of the show was no doubt ISU's fashion show. Each model wore outfits from a variety of worldwide cultures.

The show featured performances from student clubs. Hip Hop Alliance, UJIMA's step team, Circus Club, and Skidaiko. As always the crowd was thrilled by Circus Club's tumbling and stunts. UJIMA's step team rocked the house (literally) with their powerful steps.  Skidaiko performed and I must say I could feel the force of the drums in my chest.

UJIMA step team performs. Photo courtesy of ISU.

Pangaea also showcased the talent of individuals and non-club related groups. Adam Simpson (Sim Simma) got the crowd moving with his lyrical freestyle. Thabang Maphothoane wooed us with his velvet voice, a love song, and his guitar. Lebo McKoena opened both our eyes and minds with the beautiful words and undeniable truth of her spoken word piece.
Thabang Maphothoane '17 entices the crowd with a love song. Photo courtesy of ISU.

I think many will agree that MCs Theodoros Saroglou and Adam Simpson stole the show with their witty humor and energy. When these two were on stage together I could not help but laugh, especially when Theodoros entered sporting the armor  of a Greek soldier.

All in all this was a great show and definitely a night to remember. Keep it up ISU!

Students perfom a Flamenco dance. Photo courtesy of ISU.
Students perform a Bhangra dance piece from South Asia. Photo courtesy of ISU.
Want more info on ISU? Join their facebook page!
ISU meets Wednesday 8-9pm in the ICC. 
Come hangout with ISU for a movie night next Friday, April 11th in the SPA from 8-10pm!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Student Spotlight: Sunny Wong ’15, Historian/PR for Chinese Culture Club

OSDP Student Spotlight with Sunny Wong ’15, Historian/PR for Chinese Culture Club 
By Sarah Arndt ‘14

The Chinese Culture Club (CCC) is the newest OSDP club on campus. What is it and how did it get started?

The Chinese Culture Club started since there are so many more international Chinese students coming into Skidmore these past few years that we wanted to find the opportunity to form a platform for them to better integrate into Skidmore and American society. And also, we want to provide a place for American students who want to study abroad in China to have a place to understand and prepare themselves for cultural differences.

And what is your role, how did you get involved?

Currently I’m the historian, so kind of like the PR of the club, and then I was also one of the co-founders of the club.

Cool! So when did you first start, as a co-founder, how did that process begin?

A group of us we were just talking about it, because every year there is an international student adviser who contacts us and asks if we will be able to help out with international students from China or other places. So if they have any questions, they can ask us individually. But we realized, why not form a clear place where they can come, a place that already has information provided for them? In that way, they can have better access before they come into this school. From there, we started thinking about what else we can do for Skidmore as a society, and then we thought that for students interested in Chinese culture, they can better understand it through our club.

What are some events you’ve held that have helped you achieve those goals?

I wasn’t here last semester, I was abroad in Shanghai, but I know our club did workshops and events. Workshops are basically presentations of different cultures and information about China. Whereas events, we’ll be doing stuff on the spot, we’ll make dumplings, have different food for them to taste, and for this semester we are also planning to have a calligraphy night, where students can write calligraphy. We are also going to have sports activities, so ping pong and badminton. We also have game night, so we play Chinese Chess and then different activities like mahjong then some kinds of card games from China.

And how do you do outreach to let people know about all these opportunities?

We use facebook and email so like the other clubs, we try to reach out to different students. You can find the link to their facebook page here:

What has been your favorite event so far?

Well for me, I really liked game night, because for me that was a really busy week, but then I was able to sit down and for one hour, forget about other things and just play some games with other people, so that was really nice. And I also really like all those food tasting nights - we had rice dumplings, and other different foods. The tastings happen in the ICC, but we prepare it prior to the club and then we bring it over for people to taste. We buy the food from the Asian market in Albany. And last semester, we actually made dumplings in the ICC.

What have you learned from participating and leading a club on campus?

I feel that it is definitely nice to organize those activities and meet new people who are also interested in the same topics or things as you are. So having a place to communicate about Chinese culture is really nice. And some difficulties, I think finding more American students who would also be interested - we are still trying to develop more interest and outreach past international students.

How have you been able to do that, what have been your more “successful” events?

I think one of our most successful events has been when we made dumplings. So we find our events that are really interactive to be really popular among students because it’s more fun, of course.

How can more students get involved or help out?

We always love help from other people, we want more people to come and support us as a new club - and help us get the word out there, we are here now, we have a place for you to learn about Chinese culture. And yeah - we actually have reached out to the study abroad office, we had a workshop this semester where we had information, we had students who went and studied abroad last semester, American students and Chinese students, who came by and talked about their feelings and their experiences studying abroad in China. There were some students who studied abroad with me in Shanghai, and they were really helpful talking about their experiences, because when you first get there, there is definitely this culture shock that you experience, so they provided different ways to overcome it, and what they loved most and what they didn’t like, which can prepare students who are interested to know what they are going to be experiencing.

Is there one thing that surprised you, in terms of the experience of American students studying abroad or Chinese students coming to the U.S.?

As an international student, coming to America I definitely experienced culture shock - not being able to have the food I like, not being able to contact my family and friends back home as often. I definitely believe that is also the case for American students. Since the communication network in China is not as advanced as in the U.S., they have a hard time getting into or used to China for the first month. A lot of them went to China knowing Chinese, but I had one friend who went to Shanghai with me, he actually didn’t know any Chinese before he went there, but then he loved it, he picked up Chinese immediately and he was able to make a lot of friends and had a really good time. Yeah, I think after studying abroad, you definitely gain a lot of life experiences, and feel that you’ve grown up a lot - thinking about oh, I actually have been through all of that, I coped with all those difficulties, you feel like there is nothing that can stop you after that.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Student Spotlight: Derek Thompson '16 of Ujima

OSDP Student Spotlight with Derek Thompson ’16, PR for Ujima
Interviewed by OSDP Student Assistant, Sarah Arndt ‘14

What club(s) are you a part of in the Office of Student Diversity clubs?...Tell us more about Ujima.
First and foremost, Ujima’s name comes from one of the days of Kwanza, and that day, ujima, represents working together, as a community and as a collective, which is very reflective of why I wanted to join Ujima. As well, our goals and our mission is to serve the community, be inclusive, and to be a cultural club - to teach and educate about our culture, and to celebrate and acknowledge our differences. During my own experience over the past year, I’ve seen a push for acknowledgement of social issues and social justice, and talking about and reflecting on those differences in justice amongst various cultural communities. A lot of the stuff we end up discussing at the end of our general meetings usually lead to social justice. We reflected on this topic a lot at the OSDP Club Leaders Retreat, and whether that is something we directly want to focus on or whether it should just be something that is supplementary to the introduction to our culture.

What is your role in Ujima and why did you decide to join?
First, I am currently one of the two PR’s for Ujima, so I am the person who really broadcasts information about events and will try to do some of the footwork, putting up posters, creating them, telling as many people as I can about events, reminding people of dates, things like that. I first joined because of the president when I was a freshman - she was very vocal in asking me to join the club. And the other reason why I joined is because I really liked the sense of community that Ujima strives for, and the inclusiveness; I just wanted to be part of it. I wanted to see how I could help this club reach higher heights and reach more people.

Coming in as a freshman, what events or activities do you think seemed to give it that community feel?
Well seeing the step team, seeing that there weren’t just only African American students on the step team. During Carribean Awareness Week, my freshman year, there were various different ethnic groups being incorporated, but I always felt like there could be more, because I always feel like you can always strive to do better, in whatever aspect it may be.

What is your favorite memory with Ujima?
My favorite memory is definitely Jazz Café last year, not only because it was such a great turn out, but because of the quality of the people that we brought there. We did a really good job at finding passionate people that were excited and invested in what they were saying and about the problems in our community - and they used poetry and music and dance to convey and talk about that.

Tell us more about what Jazz Café is?
Jazz Café is an event that we usually have in the second semester. It’s really at a midpoint in the semester, so its just a little bit of fun, you know just come out and we set the mood - we have coffee, sweets, and everybody can sit around and listen to poetry, watch dances, that really talk about what the black culture is. Last year we got people who had had very different experiences of the black culture because they all had had different identities, ideas, or lenses, through which they saw and expressed themselves.
… Were there student performers?
Some of our e-board did do their own sections to it but a lot of it was the outside performers.
… Where does it take place?
We usually have it in the Spa. And then we usually get the stage set up, a poster in the back, and then organize the tables with a centerpiece, set the mood. It will take place this year on Friday March 28 - mark your calendars!

What have you learned from your participation in Ujima?
I’ve learned that working collectively as a unit, it demands something more than just face to face once a week interactions, you have to build a real relationship with the people you work with, which kind of affects my way of seeing what networking is. Because I feel like taking that idea of networking, like you meet somebody and you can ask them for a favor later, isn’t really applicable. So it’s very important that you build relationships with people, so that when they are in their time of need and you guys are working together, you can be there for them and you understand so that they are comfortable coming to you. So working as a group depends a lot on the team's dynamic.

You participated in the OSDP retreat two weekends ago, how was that experience, what did you take away, and/or what are you bringing back to Ujima?
I think that was a great experience - it has definitely given me time to reflect on my position in Ujima - especially because next year we are going to really revamp the e-board as so many people are leaving and coming in. It really reignited my passion for working for Ujima, helped me reflect on a lot of the relationships that we have as an eboard, and made me more aware of how other people on my e-board may be feeling. It motivated me to keep trying to be a better coworker, teammate, and comrade to all of them.

What would you tell someone interested in joining Ujima or looking to get involved?
We have open meetings Tuesdays at 8pm and we are always looking for people who are passionate and want to continue the work. We tell our general members that they can always come to eboard - so long as you have the passion for it and the time to do the work, then we would like anybody who is willing to to come. We have general meetings every other Thursday at 7pm in the ICC and we usually send out an email at the beginning of the week. We often do every other Wednesday because we’ll have a general meeting one week and then an event the next week.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Event Highlight: Consuming the Other - Perceptions of Food and Race 2.20.2014

By Sarah Arndt '14

Last Thursday, February 20th, Sustainable Skidmore and OSDP, in collaboration with Ujima and Real Food Challenge Skidmore, hosted “Consuming the Other: Perceptions of Food and Race” for their second dialogue in the “Just Sustainability” series as part of Black History Month programming. The dialogue was held in the ICC and facilitated by Kana Miller ‘14 and Crystal Moices ‘14.  
Facilitators Crystal & Kana
We were very excited by the great turnout for the event; approximately forty people came to engage in the conversation, which focused on the cultural appropriation in health food movements, food gentrification, and stereotypes of food cultures. The goals of the dialogue included:
  • To explore the inclusivity or exclusivity of alternative food movements: the normativity of whiteness in healthy food culture and the defining of healthy foods
  • Judgments about food cultures of color and assumptions about communities of color’s motivations in choosing food (assumption that food cultures of color are motivated by lack of knowledge of "healthy" food).
  • Exploring food trends that appropriate “ethnic food” and the impacts of those trends.

We began the evening with an activity in which we split up into three groups and were given a list of foods that we were asked to place on a spectrum of healthy to unhealthy.

Facilitator Crystal Moices watches on as participants sort foods.
A lot of discussion ensued: we often found ourselves saying “it’s all relative” and “it depends” (on who cooked it, where it was bought, who was eating it, etc.). We also struggled to conceptualize food cultures, let alone determine their relative “healthiness” - who gets to define “Chinese food” or “Mexican food” and thus, who determines whether it is “healthy”?

When we reconvened as a larger group, we noticed that individual ingredients tended to be placed on the “healthy” side whereas generic food groups, specific food brands (ex. McDonald’s hamburger), or generalized food cultures or cuisines tended to be placed on the “unhealthy” side. These trends indicated two important topic areas of the dialogue: food control (who is producing, consuming, and defining food) and food appropriation (generalized food cultures were deemed unhealthy whereas specific ingredients from said cultures were deemed healthy and often became “trendy”). 

Small group working on thought association activity.
Following the food spectrum activity and debrief, we split up into five smaller groups and were each assigned a different food - either Burrito, Chai, Oatmeal/Grits, Quinoa, or Miso - to further delve into the questions of who is controlling the food and whether/how it is appropriated. We were asked to consider the questions: Do you know what “culture” and/or region this food originated from? Its history? Who eats this food? Where is this food popular? Is it easily accessible for all communities? How is this food produced/processed? We also wondered if public perceptions of the foods had changed recently and if so why - what was the impact of this change? 

Participants who came to this event were engaged and passionate, sometimes sharing personal experiences or thoughts from their own habits of food consumption. The event lasted a little over an hour and a half - as always, it would have been great to have more time to dig deeper. OSDP and Sustainable Skidmore plan to continue this conversation and host similar dialogues in the future however so keep your eyes peeled!

If you are interested in reading up for more info on this topic, we recommend these articles:
- The Racism in Healthy Food 
- #Breaking Black: 1 in 5 children face food insecurity