The independent student newspaper of Goucher College

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Katie Van Note

Katie Van Note has 4 articles published.

Stories of Immigration

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Note: This article was written at the end of last semester. It remains relevant, however, especially in light of Trump’s recent attack on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Two recent Goucher graduates, Sabrina Jimenez, ‘17, and Fernando Parra Chong, ‘17, shed light on the continuously misrepresented, marginalized members of the United States: immigrants. For their senior independent project, Jimenez and Parra Chong, both Latino immigrants themselves, took on the task of conducting, recording, and transcribing interviews from local Latino immigrants living in Maryland. The project began spring semester, 2017, as they interviewed people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, and Honduras.
Why is it important to retell these stories of immigration? In the age of Trump and mass media, immigrants are often misrepresented by statistics and generalizations. Parra Chong stated, “these misconceptions [of immigrants] are because the public hasn’t heard their stories.” What better way to truly understand the experience of an immigrant than by listening to them?
Both Parra Chong and Jimenez have conducted numerous interviews and gained insight into the factors that persuaded or forced people to leave their home country, their families, and their comfort. One story included a woman who chose to move her immediate family, (herself and her two sons), from Mexico to Maryland after being targeted by rebel groups. She was a professor in a University in Mexico and was only given a one-year visa to stay in Maryland upon presentation of her legal documents. She is currently approaching the end of her stay and has the choice to live undocumented in the States, risking deportation, or move her family back home and face the same threats. Jimenez stated, “A lot of these immigrants are refugees from their own countries, yet they’re not classified as refugees.”
Jimenez noted the increase in fear, specifically related to the Trump administration, that has permeated through the latino community. “People have been living here undocumented for years, a lot of them are developing back-up plans. Not everyone has the choice to leave.” Unfortunately, due to the high stress and uncertainty of their situations, “many immigrants here struggle with mental illness.” In addition to the high stress environment, immigrants cope with leaving their home and families behind while adapting to a new culture in the States in which they are often discriminated against.
By presenting their findings and interviews in psychological summaries, pamphlets, and at the Goucher Symposium on April 26th, Parra Chong and Jimenez hoped to “give voice to the marginalized group of people.” These stories allowed others to “view them as people, not immigrants, put themselves in their shoes, and empathize.”

Who Gets to Be a Jazz Musician?

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Photo courtesy of Google Images.

Katie Van Note, Staff Writer

March 5th, 2017

What does a stereotypical American jazz musician look like? This is the question Naomi Moon Siegel asked that prompted conversation in Jeffrey Chapell’s jazz ensemble class last Tuesday, February 21st. Siegel is a composer, trombonist, and educator who visited Goucher College to present a workshop titled “Gender Equality and The Feminine Principle in Jazz.”

Siegel received her bachelors degree in jazz trombone from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. It was through her training that she realized conversations about patriarchy, sexuality, race, and gender – very much present among students in the liberal arts college – were not present in the conservatory. The majority of her teachers and fellow students were white males. In her music history classes, she learned about men. All of the books she read were written by men. If there was ever a section in a textbook on female musicians, it was given a special label, “Women in Jazz.” Yet, as Naomi stated last Tuesday, “women have always played jazz as instrumentalists.”

So, who is a typical jazz musician in America? Who is given space to sing, play the piano, guitar, drums, flute, clarinet, trumpet, or saxophone? This is where the conversation started at Goucher.

Eight of the attending jazz student musicians were given the task to identify stereotypes of various races and genders in jazz. Siegel asked, “What images and messages does the society receive at large about these groups of people in jazz?” Students identified these stereotypes about men: “they are white, instrumentalists, intelligent, they have an expected level of know-how, they are cool cats, aloof, elitist, middle-class, most able, and most visible.” One Goucher musician added, “they can afford gigging around,” as yet another symptom of privilege and class.

Stereotypes of women in jazz included “non-instrumentalists, sometimes pianists, sex objects, vocalists, wives, and non-composers.” It is important to note that female instrumentalists, such as Lil Hardin Armstrong and Alice Coltrane, both jazz pianists in their own right, were known for their marriages to their jazz musician husbands. Within the first two sentences of their descriptions on Wikipedia, they are mentioned as wives to John Coltrane and Louis Armstrong, whereas both men are described on Wikipedia by musical style and accomplishments with no mention of marital details. This begs the question – would these female musicians have been documented and remembered in jazz history if they hadn’t married male musicians?

Students also offered stereotypes of African Americans in jazz as “natural, the best jazz musicians, best sense of rhythm, and the originators.” Furthermore, stereotypes were discussed of Asian Americans as “classically trained piano players, can’t swing, and non-existent in jazz,” while Native Americans, Arab-Americans, Latino-Americans, were all labeled as “non-existent in jazz” as well. Siegel noted that greater intersectionality between sexuality, gender identity, and cultural backgrounds were not mentioned either, as they further separated a person from the “norm” in jazz.

Yet, how have these stereotypes developed over the hundred or so years of American jazz history? Siegel identified the creation and distribution of magazines in the 1920s as a major cause – propaganda that sexualized women vocalists and prioritized white bands.

In her lecture, Siegel explained her own internalized stereotype as “socialized to believe that females are inferior jazz instrumentalists.” She gave examples by quoting her fellow female jazz musicians, Esperanza Spalding and Kate Olsen: “I’m just a jazz musician,” and “I’m just one of the guys.” In reflection, Siegel pointed to the implicit meaning behind their quotes: denial of the patriarchy “as if somehow it doesn’t exist.”

One female vocalist in the audience told an account of her own experience: “My mom has always said she sees me lying on a piano in a slinky red dress singing jazz.”

As individuals in the jazz arena, Siegel noted the importance of “telling counter-narratives.” These counter-narratives serve as challenges to the perpetual stereotypes marginalized groups face in jazz. She emphasized the development of an individual voice and sound. “My goal is for us to be fully expressive.Only in defining and challenging these stereotypes can we begin to discover our potential as musicians.”

In creating a space for dialogue of this kind, Siegel left some students with another perspective, some with a validation of experience as female and black musicians, and some with inspiration to challenge the concept of a stereotypical jazz musician.

Black Lindy Matters

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Katie Van Note, Staff Writer

February 25th, 2017

“There is something going on in our culture today; it’s being lost.” This is what Breai Mason-Campbell said in a recent phone conversation. Breai is an African American activist in Baltimore, MD who has dedicated her life to preserving and restoring African American cultural and heritage through dance. She is the founder and director of Guardian dance, a company that, for the past nine years, has taught the history and styles of African American dances like Lindy Hop, Breaking, Locking, Popping, Baltimore Club, and Hand Dance. Guardian has implemented a curriculum teaching these dances to grades Pre-K through 8th at a 100% African American School: New Song Academy in Sandtown, MD. The company is comprised of a team of dancers, including Mason-Campbell, who teach weekly and perform at various events like at the opening celebration of the Smithsonian African American History Museum last October.

What drove Mason-Campbell to create Guardian and more recently, Black Lindy Matters, was a culmination of experiences.

One such experience was at a latino party with her family as a young adult. At this party, salsa music was playing and all generations of people were dancing. Mason-Campbell noticed something special about this community, that the grandparents were putting their grandchildren on their feet and teaching them traditional hispanic dance styles: salsa, merengue, and bachata.

At the time, Mason-Campbell couldn’t put words to why this was so important to see. She wondered why their culture was so well preserved and furthermore, “what is our [African American’s] historical legacy?”

It was through Mason-Campbell’s dance background that she continued to question the cultural forces at play. She had grown up taking dance classes: ballet and modern dance. Although she was grateful for this training, she noted that “it didn’t have deep cultural value.” Ballet was the “aesthetic benchmark for beauty and grace… it was a right of passage.” For many young girls in America, these are the styles of dance they are taught. But why? Why is a European-born dance style so prominent in American culture? “America was built by Africans, it should be more a part of our general consciousness, as should Native-American culture.”

It was interesting to Mason-Campbell that the one visible aspect of African American culture today was the idea of the black entertainer. “When people are trying to get out of poverty, their only access is through a record company, through break dancing, singing, rapping; it becomes so commercial we don’t own it anymore.” And this applies directly to the jazz and  swing dancing of the 1930s.

As a historical dance, Lindy Hop emerged in Harlem, New York during the swing era. The Savoy Ballroom (which has since been demolished) was not only a place to listen and dance to swingin’ jazz music, but it was the only integrated venues of its kind. It broke down racial barriers. Yet swing dancing for African Americans during this time wasn’t just an activity: it was a livelihood, a necessity, a liberation. For most black dancers and musicians, it was an escape from poverty.

Today, Lindy Hop is danced all over the world. Almost every major city in America has a Lindy Hop scene, as well as cities in the UK, Europe, Japan, Korea, China, and Australia. This traditional African American dance was rooted in the United States, it was a necessity, and yet, now it is an activity for a predominantly white dance scene.

When asked what Mason-Campbell would change about the current Lindy Hop dance scene, she didn’t express any negativity towards the majority of it’s often misinformed, unaware, white members. Her goal is to preserve these traditional African American dances through Guardian dance company and the Black Lindy Matter initiative in schools, performances, and dance venues like Mobtown Ballroom.Mason-Campbell hopes to create a deeper cultural appreciation and continuity of identity amongst her students, “I want to put these kids on my feet, share our culture with them, and show them who they are.”

S.E.T.: Winter Carnival and G.I.G Planning

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Katie Van Note, Staff Writer

February 15th, 2017

The Student Engagement Team set the bar high for events on campus this past weekend, with their Winter Carnival. Formerly know as Programming Board, S.E.T. is a group of Goucher students and professional staff members that meet once a week in the Office of Student Engagement (O.S.E). Their purpose is to create fun, entertaining, and enticing events on campus that the majority of the student body will enjoy.

In the past few years, S.E.T. has experienced a lack of participation at their events. They have held pop up events such as spin art, dance parties, and palm readings that haven’t always generated the participation they desired. In order to combat this, their new goal is to hold fewer, but higher quality events. Now, with more money going towards these events, they can generate more interest and student engagement!

The Winter Carnival on February 4th, 2017 is exactly the kind of event Goucher students have been waiting for. The Carnival was held in the the Hyman Forum of Goucher’s Atheneum and included a variety of activities, musical performances, and free food that attracted over two hundred Goucher students. S.E.T. gave priority to student bands, bringing to the stage two Goucher favorites: Mustang Riddle and Sharnell Huff (a recent Goucher graduate). Activities included bamboo planting, spray on tattoos, a photo booth, giant jenga and connect four, and inflatable twister. The favorite of the night, however, was the free food. Outside of the bottom doors of the Atheneum, students stood in the cold to receive their free Korean barbecue, crab tacos, gyro sandwiches, pulled pork, and cookies. Students sat on the steps of the Forum eating food and listening to music while others broke it down on the dance floor. There were activities on each floor of the Forum which kept students engaged after they finished their dinner. Ultimately, the program was well executed by S.E.T. and generated a large student attendance despite the lack of advertising.

S.E.T. will set their sights next on the highly anticipated Get Into Goucher day, (G.I.G), on April 7th. G.I.G. is Goucher’s annual outdoor festival where students get the day off (after 12:30pm) to enjoy festivities. The team is currently in the brainstorming stage for G.I.G. with potential ideas including free food (a crowd favorite), a beer garden, performances from local bands, and inflatable bounce houses. In the past, Goucher has hired outside performers such as Bosley and Khleo Thomas (the actor, Zero, from the 2003 movie, Holes). Currently S.E.T. is pushing for more student bands at events like G.I.G.

S.E.T. has meetings once a week that are open to Goucher students. If you’d like to see an event on campus or have additional ideas for an upcoming event like G.I.G., stop by the O.S.E. outside of Alice’s Cafe. Professional staff members include Aisha Rivers, Christine Krieger, Amber Barnett, and Kimberly Spicker.

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