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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.”

Oscar Predictions

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Image courtesy of Google Images.

Teegan Macleod, Staff Writer

February 25th, 2017

This year’s Oscars boasts a great deal of talent.  It has been a few years since I’ve had so many favorites and many have been nominated for multiple awards. However, at the end of the day, someone must take home the award.  These are my picks for 6 of the categories: Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, and Best Picture.

For Best Picture, I am firmly behind the film Moonlight.  It was far and away the greatest film to come out this awards season.  It tells an incredible story in three chapters about the life of a gay black man named Chiron from childhood through adulthood.  Every moment of the movie is utterly captivating and every facet of it works to create a beautiful work of art.  With that in mind, I am also picking Barry Jenkins for Best Director and Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor. Mahershala Ali gives an unbelievable performance in the film as Juan, a drug dealer who takes care of Chiron as a child.  Ali gives new life to the too often marginalized role of the drug dealer with a heart of gold.  Barry Jenkins, as writer and director, created a masterpiece with Moonlight, I will make no bones about it. I cannot express enough how incredibly beautiful it is as well as the subject matter being very important. Moonlight is a film that reflects the time in which it is made in a beautiful and unforgettable way.

I think Moonlight deserves every single Oscar that it is nominated for, except for, Best Supporting Actress.   That award I believe belongs to Viola Davis for her role in Fences. I also believe that Denzel Washington deserves the Best Actor Oscar for Fences.  The two of them give unbelievable performances that drive the movie and make it an amazing experience.  They deserve to win the awards together because they both heighten each other’s performances.  Take one away and the other would not be as good in my opinion.  They play off each other in such a way that they bring the art of acting to new and incredible levels.

There are many other awards categories that I have opinions about but these are, in my mind, the essential ones.  Hopefully we will see a shift this year towards a more diverse winner’s circle.

Goucher Style: Haley Rice

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Annie Schwartz, Arts & Entertainment Editor

February 25th, 2017

Who: Haley Rice, Senior, Socialogy Major

Annie Schwartz: Describe your style.

Haley Rice: I like to wear mostly black and neutral colors with a small pop of red (or sometimes burgundy). I love things that are oversized, lots of layers, and having fun with different materials, hem lines, and textures.

AS: How are you able to dress so well even on your laziest day?

HR: Just wear all black!

AS: Who is your Goucher style crush?

HR: Annie Schwartz, duh!

AS: Which Goucher professor has the best style?

HR: When I had class with Citlali, I always loved her colorful skinny jeans. Also her watch was always on point.

AS: Where did you go abroad and how has that affected your sense of style?

HR: I studied abroad in Seville, Spain. Sevillanos always look good. Everyone was always put together, especially during the holidays such as Semana Santa and Feria. You wouldn’t be caught dead in sweatpants there. Even wearing sneakers is pushing it. Chelsea boots with a thick platform sole were really in while I was there. So were those preppy plaid Burberry-esque scarves. I really learned how to be stylish but still comfortable while I was there. It’s something Spain has really got down!

AS: What is your go to item?

HR: A black cardigan!

AS: What is your fashion pet peeve?

HR: Mixing metals even though I do it all the time. Also graphic tees are the worst.

AS: Do you have a favorite store you like to shop at?

HR: If I had all the money in the world I would shop at Zara every day. It reminds me of Spain. They had Zara’s everywhere.

AS: Out of all of your roommates, whose clothes are you most likely to steal?

HR: Vinesh’s banana shirt.

AS: What is your least favorite trend?

HR: Tucking your sweatpants into your socks and definitely those lace up tops. Also, jean jackets that you buy with the patches already on them and Calvin Klein underwear. You might as well get a 3-pack of Hanes at Target.

Book Review: The Memory Book

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Image courtesy of Google Images

Erika DiPasquale, Associate Editor

February 25th, 2017

Lara Avery’s The Memory Book is the next The Fault in Our Stars and the Young Adult equivalent of Still Alice. Upon being diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C, a genetic degenerative disease that causes severe physical and mental handicaps, memory loss, and ultimately death, Sammie, a high school senior, starts an electronic journal in conversation with her future self. Despite the diagnosis, she’s convinced that she can still win debate nationals, give her valedictorian speech, go to NYU and law school, and become a defense lawyer worthy of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s praise. As her NPC episodes increase and her imagined future self unravels, her relationships get more complicated—including two love interests—forcing her to self-reflect and revise her values and goals.

What makes this book extraordinary, and worthy of its place on the Barnes & Noble Best Young Adult Books of 2016 list, is the character development. How Sammie chooses to tell her story in her journal builds her into an honest, Type A character. She’s socially awkward, ultra-driven, and dynamic. When she’s experiencing a NPC episode, her tone, diction, and syntax change significantly, adding to the authenticity of her character and narrative. A few other characters contribute to her memory book and their voices are marked by distinctly different tones and syntax. Thus, each character feels like an authentic person with realistic reactions to Sammie’s condition.

Another refreshing quality about this book is that it’s not cliché. The diary-like form is paired with a strong, confident voice rather than an angsty, insecure one. The romance sub-plot is indeed secondary to the main self-growth plot line and even undergoes an unexpected twist. Sammie’s fate is as unpredictable as her romantic relationships because of the form, confident tone, and selection of detail. Furthermore, the theme isn’t the trite make the most of life and love in the face of adversity as many sick-teenager narratives preach. Rather, it encourages self-reflection and self-growth in periods of uncertainty and probable doom.

This theme, in conjunction with the realistic characters, make it suitable for any audience. Anyone in a transition period will relate to Sammie’s story regardless of their age or gender, especially seniors about to graduate. Sammie’s character will resonate with readers who set high expectations for themselves, have experienced social anxiety, and/or who are passionate about what they do. The debilitation that NPC causes Sammie makes the story relatable for anyone diagnosed with a chronic disease or disability or whose loved ones experience such circumstances. However, one doesn’t need to be in any of these categories in order to appreciate this story: the universal themes of self-reflection and growth in conjunction with the experiences of strained friendships and romantic and familial relationships make this a heart-wrenching, tear-jerking story for readers of all identities and experiences to enjoy.

I cannot attest whether Avery accurately represents NPC. In the acknowledgements, Avery says, “To anyone who has had to suffer through a terminal disease like Niemann-Pick (or anyone who is related to someone who has), thank you for the liberty to live in your shoes for a few hundred pages. Forgive me for inconsistencies and exaggerations. If the way I told Sammie’s story doesn’t feel right, write to me. Or better yet, write it the way you would like to see it.”  But regardless of its accuracy, the story is still a powerful one about life, love, and the flexibility of values.

Book Review: “Ember in Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir

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Image courtesy of Google Images.

Erika DiPasquale, Associate Editor

February 15th, 2017

In Sabaa Tahir’s fantasy world of An Ember in the Ashes, Martials train as ruthless Masks at Blackcliff Academy to protect the Empire, and all other races are subjugated to their rule, including the Scholars, some of whom lead an underground Resistance against the oppressors. The novel alternates between the perspectives of Laia, the daughter of two Resistance leaders executed for treason, and Elias, the bastard son of the Commandant of the Mask-training school Blackcliff. In order to rescue her only surviving relative from torture, Laia agrees to spy for the Resistance as the Commandant’s slave in return for the Resistance rescuing her brother. Elias yearns for freedom from his violent future as a Mask, yet he is named an Aspirant, one of the four Masks competing to be the heir to the throne when the Emperor’s line fails. In an unexpected twist of fate orchestrated by the immortal Augurs who facilitate the Aspirant Trials, Laia’s and Elias’s destinies weave together.

Between the setting descriptions, introductions of supernatural beings, character names, and flashbacks, the world-building is exquisite. There is no moment of stagnation throughout the 445 pages: whenever a resolution seems plausible, another complication arises. All of the tension and suspense build up to the last chapter, which perfectly sets up the sequel instead of reaching a resolution (and that sequel, A Torch Against the Night, was recently published). Furthermore, the characters are well-rounded: they’re motivated by their guilt and grief, and their romantic interests are signs of their humanity rather than a distraction from their goals.

Because of the variety of elements, An Ember in the Ashes will satisfy a wide audience. The assortment of supernatural creatures will appeal to the fantasy and sci-fi audience. The romantic sub-plot will grab the attention of romance readers. Since there is both a hero and a heroine, both genders will find empowerment. Although the Empire isn’t dystopian, lovers of the dystopian genre will enjoy this book because of the characters’ ultimate involvement with the Resistance. The origins and values of the characters in Harry Potter are emulated in both Laia and Elias, widening the audience even further. But it’s not for the faint of heart: graphic instances of violence and torture will likely trigger a visceral reaction for many readers.

While a preface orienting Laia’s and Elias’s stories in the context of the Trials and the Augurs from the begging would’ve made the book even better, as would’ve straightening out the few instances where the alternating perspectives confused the timeline, An Ember in the Ashes deserved all the awards it earned. Such awards include Amazon’s Best YA Book of 2015, People’s Choice Award Winner—Favorite Fantasy, and Bustle’s Best YA Book of 2015 in addition to it being an instant bestseller.

After devouring Ember and its sequel, A Torch Against the Night, you’ll join the hoards of readers anxiously anticipating the release of Book #3 in 2018, to be followed by a fourth. Even better, Paramount owns the movie rights to Ember, so we should have the opportunity to experience the incredible story on the big screen in the (hopefully near) future.

If immaculate world-building, fantastic character development, and perfect pacing are what you look for in a book, Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes deserves a top spot on your To-Read list.

Goucher Style: Wonde Pawlose

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Annie Schwartz, Arts & Entertainment Editor

February 15th, 2017

Who:Wonde Pawlose, Sophomore, International Relations Major

AS: What are you wearing today?

Wonde Pawlose: “I am wearing a pant and sweater and a shirt and shoes”

AS: Who do you think is the most stylish professor at Goucher?

WP: Professor Danny Kimball. He’s a communications professor. He’s always dressed up very well. Yeah, I had his communications class last spring and everyday he hasn’t failed to look great and be very stylish. I also like Zahi Khamis’ scarves from Mexico.

AS: Why do you like to dress so nicely?

WP: I mean in my culture in Ethiopia we are supposed to look our best every day. Whether you are rich or poor, you are supposed to clean what you have and dress well which is presentation. Also, for me, when I dress well, I feel well, which means I will have a very productive day. And also, I dress well to radiate positivity for other people.

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