MHP (& me) @ BC FA14

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Where do I begin?! I guess I’ll begin by copy and pasting my Facebook post about my experience on last night. To quote myself, “People who know me know that tonight was a dream come true. I got to meet and chat with my (soror) shero Melissa Harris-Perry. Not only did I get to hear a deep lecture about Ferguson that adeptly and thoroughly connected racial inequality, residential inequality, economic inequality, pop culture, and George Romney to that terrible injustice; but I also got to ask the last question of the evening and MHP’s response was everything I could have asked for and more. I am even more inspired ‪#‎FiredUpInTheBestWayPossible‬ to do the work. ‪#‎TheStruggleContinues‬ As she signed my book we talked about our various connections ‪#‎UVa‬ ‪#‎DST‬ ‪#‎Duke‬. Thank’s KG for all you did to make tonight happen. — with Kevin Jason Gin at Boston College.”
Yeah so that happened! …when I get overwhelmed and have so much to say in my writing I revert to my most preferred method of communication: lists. ;) (KG get it together.) So here goes my highlights from last night in bullets (ummm some irony right there).

My MHP @ BC FA14 highlights:

Her lecture.
  • I’ve been to a lot of teach-ins, presentations, forums, symposia, conferences, etc. but it’s been a loooooong time since I felt like an undergrad (UVa ’00) in a lecture hall. Last night I had multiple flashbacks of days in my Government (American Politics concentration) & African American Studies lectures (including Julian Bond’s History of the Civil Rights Movement course). I’m not gonna lie, while I loved the small seminars of grad school (UVM ’06), I had a deep appreciation for that lecture hall style educational experience …which is no doubt connected to nostalgia and not my love for lecture style classes.
  • As for the lecture itself, it was #Everything. Let me know if you’d like to see my notes.
My question for her & a paraphrase of her response.
  • Q: I’m not a parent yet but I’ve been blessed to call so many other folks children my own including my now college-age niece and nephew; my friends kids, a ton of middle school through college-age kids through my work as an educator; and more recently I’ve been blessed to get to know a few of the Dream Defenders. I call them my kids too. I’m even hosting two of them this coming weekend as they visit Tufts University [from Florida] for the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) conference. What would you say is the most important attitude or approach we could be teaching our kids about growing up in the USA today? You’re a mom [she had her little baby girl with her] so I imagine you think about this fairly regularly yourself.
  • A: On this I will simply share the highlights cause I cannot capture the I really wanted to record her response but she was talking directly to me the entire time so I didn’t. …as KG said, “Recorded in your brain [I'll add and in my soul]. All that matters.”
    • Don’t teach the next generation what our truths are… …on that she shared an anecdote about how a young lady mentioned to her that they were in the same in that they are both biracial. MHP responded to the girl, “I don’t know about you but I’m Black. You need to go outside and be Black.” …she shared that as she later reflected on her own response she realized it came from growing up in the South at a time when you were Black or white: there was no such thing as biracial. But she realized for this generation that identifying as biracial is both real and liberating.
    • She shared that she’s down for the kids reconstructing identity and redefining the struggle so long as they know what they are reconstructing and redefining. EG teach the kids the history and teach it well. …but don’t just tell the kids, encourage them to ask questions of us and give them real answers.
    • As you can imagine I was already in and then she took it there… …many folks don’t know that MHP is also a theologian having studied theology and divinity at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. She shared that she knows that Martin Luther King Jr. met God and God showed him the mountain top. She said that she knows that because while MLK told us about the mountaintop – that it exists. that it’s real. – he did not tell us what he saw; he did not tell us what it looked like. She said like the reason babies can’t speak for their first year it’s because they would tell us way too much about what they know, but forget, on their journey to us. She said it’s not about heaven or hell: it’s just about knowing what God allows us to know before and after this time down here.
Our connections.
  • Our fathers. During her lecture she shared an anecdote that, even as a small child, her dad would sign cards, “The Struggle Continues, daddy.” You can see that she signs each book with that salutation. I did not get to share with her, but it’s very real, that one very important reason I am who I am around the work is that my father had me watching Eyes on the Prize every few months since I was in third grade. That and his and my mama’s tremendous storytelling about growing up in the South in the 40′s through 60′s.
  • UVA. She asked me where I went to school and I said UVa. She said, “My father was the first Dean of African American students at UVa.” I knew that but I’d forgotten that.
  • Duke. I worked at Duke and she received her Ph.D. from Duke. She said to me, “We kept just missing each other.”
  • DST. She’s my soror. She pledged the Pi Omicron chapter at Wake Forest. I’m not sure the year. I pledged the Kappa Rho chapter at UVa in ’99. #1KPSP99
  • #DJH. There is one last thing that I’ll need to post later for fear of blowing a surprise. I will post the update later.
 The pics.
  • Last last last I wrote this on my facebook Nay, my best friend and soror, “Nay look at how 5-0 is grillin’ me in that pic!?! …I could write a whole paper (or Astroland blog post) or create a presentation on that dynamic alone!! …ummmmmm I may just do that. MHP shared that his presence was due to death threats she receives daily. So he was there to protect her. …and her little baby girl!! She had the baby with her. …I took lil mama’s pic but I don’t post other folks children w/o their permission…”
That’s all I’ve got. Enjoy the pics. Let me know if you wish to see my notes from the lecture.
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Evolution of Berklee Caf(e) Shows

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Last 150 Caf Show #1 Last 150 Caf Show #2

Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 10:00pm was definitely (probably) absolutely (well maybe) the last Caf Show in the 150 cafeteria. It’s worth noting that due to construction delays and the small potential that sound checks scheduled for January will not go well, we may live to see a 150 Caf Show again. For that reason, and that we know students are more excited about the opening of the new caf than the closing of the old one, we in the Student Activities Center did not make a big deal out of Saturday.

However I made a point to share this probable milestone, albeit late, with a few students, staff, faculty, and alumni. I also made a point to attend that show myself. So what group will go down in history as the definitely (probably) absolutely (well maybe) last band to rock the 150 caf?! That honor went to Winston’s Maccow’s Boy Band ensemble in a show they entitled Evolution of the Boy Band. *Band members can found here.

While I’m currently Director of Student Activities, my role for my first three years at Berklee included supervising the Caf Shows team. While my primary responsibility was Orientation and I loved doing that, it was the opportunity to work with Caf Shows that sold me on moving from North Caroline to Boston, in the middle of the winter, to work at our amazing College. One of the top reasons I wavered on moving from my previous position, Assistant Director of Orientation and Student Support Services, to Director of Student Activities, was knowing that I would have to leave the role of Caf Shows advisor behind. Since passing the torch to Luke Sutherland, Student Activities Coordinator for Orientation and Organizations, Caf Shows has continued to grow by leaps and bounds.

I say all of that to say that I have a unique perspective with respect to the Caf Shows student organization. I was their advisor when they made the switch from Cafe Shows (with an -e-) to Caf Shows. I was their advisor when they first introduced lighting to their production. I was their advisor when they switched the setup from presenting to the right (as you walk in) in front of the salad bar to presenting on the left (as you walk in) underneath the overhang. And I was their advisor when they presented their first SpringFest on the Prudential Center Plaza on Saturday, April 24, 2010.

Ok since this isn’t about me, let me switch gears and talk about the actual show which I’ll begin by saying was fantastic and so much fun. The show included choreography by student Jared Jenkins Sr, a 7th semester student from the Washington, D.C. area. Jenkins’ choreography matched the style of the performer(s) that made each number famous. For added effect the band created a makeshift backstage area just off stage right using DIY pipe and drape. There they made a few Clark Kent style costume changes including a b-boy urban look for the opening numbers to tailored black suits for the Temptations “My Girl” and a few songs that followed. Let me tell you I know how tight it is back behind the band so I have no idea how the five of them made those costume changes happen but they did.

The performance began with the Beach Boy’s “Surfing USA.” It then hit the Backstreet Boys “I Want it That Way” and Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” along the way. It culminated with my personal fav, Michael Jackson’s “Blame It On the Boogie.” The Boy Band ensemble with their amazing instrumentalists, complete with a phenomenal horn section, did their thing to rock the crowd. And I can attest that the crowd responded enthusiastically.

So many positive things about the Caf Shows program stood out for me on Saturday night but I’ll just share three here:

  • In existence for 26 years, the program makes the best out of the whatever is given to them: despite the whirring of the soda and soft serve ice cream machines, there being no backstage changing area, or really no stage at all, through the years this crew has made it work and well.
  • The student staff on the Caf Shows team take good care: without knowing I was present for the show peering down on them from on high (the balcony), I witnessed from that clandestine vantage the care and attention the student staff take to manage the space and produce the show. At one point a student staff member intervened when one sneaky spectator hopped behind the makeshift barricade of cafeteria tables to grab some soft serve for himself.
  • All of the students are incredibly supportive of each other: dancing, hugging, cheering, laughing, high-fiving and overall showing their appreciation for each others as artists and people.

I’ll conclude by sharing that the title of Saturday’s show, The Evolution of the Boy Band, and the content of the show, “6 decades worth of boy band music,”* was fitting and appropriate for the last Caf Show in the 150 caf. It’s obvious to all of us that Berklee College of Music is evolving: growing and changing more rapidly than any of the four institution’s I’ve previously called home. It’s been 26 great years in the 150 caf and I know we can count on at least that many, but much more, in 160. I’ll see you on January 14, 2014 at 10:00pm in the 160 caf for one of the many next steps in Berklee’s evolution: the first Caf Show in 160.

*Featuring:

Vocals:
JJ Asuming-Tawiah
Rob Ballantine
Matthew Sallee
Stewart Taylor
Nick Villalva

Instrumentals:
Jinho Choi
Diego Diaz
Arnetta Johnson
Jscott Martin
Alex Palazzo
Myrish Spell
Timothy Gabriel Smith
Jason Threm
Austin Wells
Michael Wooten

Choreography:
Jared Jenkins Sr.

Sound Design:
Jason Chambliss

Presented by Rob Ballantine, Professor Winston Maccow, and the Ensemble Department.

*From The Boy Band Ensemble: Last Free Show of the Year (Berklee Caf) on Facebook.