We Change the World!: A Celebration of International Women’s Day

By Brie Bristol

AMHERST – On Thursday, Mar. 7, the University of Massachusetts Amherst celebrated women around the world with an “International Women’s Day Celebration.” The event, coordinated by the Center for Women & Community, was held in New Africa House, with special food, speakers, and performances from 4 to 6 p.m.  

“It’s empowerment in a positive sense,” said Sarah Danforth, educator advocate for CWC, when discussing how the event brings connections between women through networking. She discussed that she’s attended the event to have first hand “meaningful work [to be] connected on this campus.”

Open to all, the event hosted around  60 persons, including women of all ethnicities, a few men, and even children – most took turns coloring in pictures of their favorite inspirational women, such as Frida Kahlo.

Children and adults were invited to draw inspirational women figures (Brie Bristol/Rebirth Project)

As several children ran around the room, local poet and educator Amina Jordan-Mendez performed three pieces expressing her femininity, family, and black girl joy. She believes that conversations with young people being silenced, and that her poems allow for her to speak for them. Jordan-Mendez continued to explain, after her performance, that the more we speak up and tear away from silence, the better society will be for women and for all.

Poet-performer Amina Jordan-Mendez recites one of her pieces (Brie Bristol/Rebirth Project)

As a slideshow played in the background, it laid out quick facts about the history of International Women’s Day – such as the celebration’s beginnings in 1910 on an international scale to support the movement for women’s rights.

A Colombian inspired dance group performs (Brie Bristol/Rebirth Project)

To close out the event, a Columbian inspired dance group swept the audience away with their flag-colored dresses and vibrant head pieces.

Hillary Johnson, a public health science student, felt that the event was a good showcase put on by CWC in anticipation of the century-old celebration on Mar. 8.

Comic book creator Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez talks about Afro-Latina superhero La Borinqueña and social change in Puerto Rico

By Steven Turner-Parker

On Friday, Mar. 1, the Latinx American Cultural Center hosted graphic novelist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez for a talk about La Borinqueña, a comic book series he created that features one of the few Afro-Latina superheroes.

La Borinqueña stars Marisol Rios De La Luz, a Nuyorican (New York-born Puerto Rican) and Columbia University student who studies abroad for a semester at the University of Puerto Rico. While there, she explores the caves on the island and finds five crystals, all of which give La Luz individual powers such as superhuman strength, the power of flight, and control of the storms. With her newfound powers, La Luz adopts the superhero name La Borinquena, inspired by Puerto Rico’s national anthem, and works alongside the community to create social change.

As students walked into the LACC, they were greeted with a Puerto Rican flag and the alluring smell of Puerto Rican food prior to the talk. Later during his speech, Miranda-Rodriguez talked about the reasoning for hanging up the flag and serving food was to bring a home feeling to the event.

Continue reading “Comic book creator Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez talks about Afro-Latina superhero La Borinqueña and social change in Puerto Rico”

¿Cómo se Dice? How Do You Say it? – A space to express yourself through Spanish

By Cynthia Ntinunu

The flyer for ¿Cómo se Dice? How Do You Say it?, which is held biweekly. (CMASS website)

On Wednesday Feb. 20, five Latinx students sat at a table in the Latinx American Cultural Center admiring how fast El Alfa rapped in Spanish in his music video “Mi Mami” at the first ¿Cómo se Dice? How Do You Say it? event of the semester.

“I want to speak Spanish like him,” Yanni Cabrera, English major, said as she and the four other attendees watched the video.

Held every spring semester, ¿Cómo se Dice? How Do You Say it? is a biweekly event hosted by the LACC to give a space for Latinx students and all people to come speak in Spanish. No matter what skill level of Spanish you are at, the doors are open for you.

Continue reading “¿Cómo se Dice? How Do You Say it? – A space to express yourself through Spanish”

“A Celebration of Black Art” open mic (photos)

By Sifa Kasongo

On Friday, Feb. 22, the Black Student Union and the
University of Massachusetts Amherst chapter of the NAACP gave students of color a space to celebrate Black art. The event, “Celebration of Black Art” was held in the New Africa House Theatre from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“It’s a chance to have people celebrate themselves,” said Marquise Laforest, president of BSU.

At this event, students of color had the opportunity to share their art — whether through poetry, rap lyrics, or singing.

Ashley Lopez Dishmey recites one of her own poems (Sifa Kasongo/Rebirth Project)
Continue reading ““A Celebration of Black Art” open mic (photos)”

UMass printmaking professor uses her art and teaching to showcase her journey as an Afro-Cuban migrant growing up in America

By Isha Mahajan

Juana Valdes, printmaking professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, acknowledges that students and faculty of color deserve a platform and a community that makes them comfortable and creates a space where students can get together to share ideas and beliefs.

“Often times, there is not enough importance put to these situations and these issues are not addressed as quickly as they need to be addressed,” Valdes said.

Valdes recalls gravitating towards making art as a junior in high school, when she was put in various creative classes. She now sees it as an opportunity to express her perception of the world.

“As a woman, as a woman of color and as an immigrant, I feel that I’m at an intersection of a lot of discriminations and push-backs of my ideas and beliefs, so I have decided to use my work as a vehicle to communicate what it’s likes to be in my position.”

Continue reading “UMass printmaking professor uses her art and teaching to showcase her journey as an Afro-Cuban migrant growing up in America”

Letter: SGA president Timmy Sullivan: A candidate for racial justice

To the editor:

Timmy Sullivan may fit the same physical appearance as almost all of our past U.S. presidents (by physical appearance I mean the fact that he is clearly a white male), but through one single interaction with him I was able to realize his true dedication to advocating for racial justice, even on a local scale.

Continue reading “Letter: SGA president Timmy Sullivan: A candidate for racial justice”

Culinary historian and chef Michael W. Twitty traces his roots—and America’s—through food

Author, chef and food historian Michael W. Twitty. (Cynthia Ntinunu/Rebirth Project)

By Ethan Bakuli

Community members, faculty and students were in attendance for a talk by culinary historian and memoirist Michael W. Twitty. The talk, held Wednesday evening in the Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall, was based off of Twitty’s 2017 personal memoir, “The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South.”

For well over a decade, Twitty has worked with living history museums to recreate the cooking practices of black people, dating back to the Transatlantic slave trade. What began as his love of culinary history and cooking grew into a desire to learn and teach others the ways enslaved people raised, harvested and cultivated their crops during the 18th and 19th century.

Continue reading “Culinary historian and chef Michael W. Twitty traces his roots—and America’s—through food”

“If Beale Street Could Talk” film review: A “radical project of black love”

By Ethan Bakuli

(Warning: Light spoilers ahead)

University of Massachusetts Amherst faculty, students and community members were in full attendance Sunday evening for a special film screening of If Beale Street Could Talk, hosted by the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies in partnership with local movie theater Amherst Cinema.

Afro-American Studies department chair Stephanie Shonekan introduced the evening’s screening, anticipating that Barry Jenkins’s (director of Moonlight and Medicine for Melancholy) film adaptation of the 1974 novel by James Baldwin would allow present-day audiences to “pause and think about what messages [Baldwin] is still sending us decades later.”

Continue reading ““If Beale Street Could Talk” film review: A “radical project of black love””

New Yorker writer and Columbia Journalism professor Jelani Cobb speaks on free speech and polarization on college campuses

Author, writer and educator Jelani Cobb discusses “Speech On and Off Campus” with Associate Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Anna Branch. (Rebirth Project/Brie Bristol)

By Ethan Bakuli and Brie Bristol

On Tuesday Feb. 5, University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Office of Equity and Inclusion presented  “Understanding the Forces that Drive Us Apart: A Symposium on Polarization” as an daylong event allowing participants “to understand the history and dynamics of social polarization.”

The symposium, hosted in the Campus Center Auditorium, featured a conversation between Jelani Cobb, New Yorker staff writer and Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism at Columbia University, and UMass Associate Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Enobong (Anna) Branch discussing freedom of speech on college campuses.

Continue reading “New Yorker writer and Columbia Journalism professor Jelani Cobb speaks on free speech and polarization on college campuses”

CEPA organizers ‘extend an olive branch’ to Board of Trustees, push for student debt relief

CEPA organizers Blythe White and Erick Plowden speak in front of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees (Ethan Bakuli/Rebirth Project)

By Ethan Bakuli

On a particularly cold Thursday morning, a group of University Of Massachusetts student organizers bared frigid temperatures as they waited to enter the Old Chapel. The group, comprised of members from the Center for Education Policy & Advocacy, were in attendance for the Dec. 13 meeting of the UMass Board of Trustees, planning to push the board members to address rising tuition and mandatory fees that have priced out university students.

The Board of Trustees meeting began with a call to order by chairman Robert Manning, who quickly highlighted UMass Amherst as an “anomaly” compared to other universities in the “industry of higher education”. Nationally, he cited a declining trend in enrollment and graduation rates that could lead several private and public colleges to “go out of business” within the next five years.

Continue reading “CEPA organizers ‘extend an olive branch’ to Board of Trustees, push for student debt relief”

UMass Amherst students ‘March Against Racism & White Supremacy,’ bring list of demands to administration

A mixed crowd of undergraduate and graduate students gathered in front of the Student Union (Photo: Brie Bristol/Rebirth Project)

By Brie Bristol

A usual day around one in the afternoon at the University of Massachusetts Amherst consists of students in class, eating in the dining halls, studying at the library, or working out at the recreation center. On Thursday Dec. 6, it was different than the norm. About 200 people marched together to “denounce the acts of hate and cowardice plaguing our campus in recent months”, such as written threats and racial profiling.

In the past three months, UMass Amherst has experienced various racist incidents. A Whitmore employee had campus police called on him, the Melville residence hall had three racially targeted issues in a row and white supremacy flyers were found around campus. While this is not the first time these incidents have happened on the campus, their frequency over the fall semester has made it a deep concern for the UMass community.

Continue reading “UMass Amherst students ‘March Against Racism & White Supremacy,’ bring list of demands to administration”

Eyewitness Account: Solidarity with the Migrant Caravan

Embed from Getty Images

By Sifa Kasongo

On Wednesday, Nov. 28, students and faculty from the University of Massachusetts Amherst joined the International Socialist Organization (ISO) at 6:30 p.m. in the Campus Center to hear a firsthand account of the struggles of the migrant caravan and how people can show solidarity and support.

The firsthand account came from Fermin Valle, a queer South American activist, an ISO member and a doctoral student in higher education at UMass.

Valle discussed his experience traveling down to Mexico City, where he met some of the migrants, asylum seekers and people who are a part of the caravan.

Continue reading “Eyewitness Account: Solidarity with the Migrant Caravan”

The Veins that Stopped Growing

By Lucia Solorzano

I have dreams of my veins spreading out
like the vines on my garden wall

And my blood,  bringing life
like the ocean 20 miles south

My skin, the protector
like the air and the clouds

The hairs on my body to keep me warm
like the small spring grown sprouts

My braid that swings about
like the old moss licked tree
that grew with me

and it’s leaves that fell
like the trees that fell
like the chemicals that spewed and spilled
and the smog that clouded our judgement
and brought us downhill

and now the vines can’t grow
and the ocean can’t glow

with the life and the warmth
of the trees and the sprouts

and my garden wall
the vines stopped growing
and all we do is watch the leaves fall.

Thoughts from Fear and Curiosity: A Collection

By Nathalie Amazan

#1
Lately, presently feeling surreal
Something I am doing, or not?
How can I fix it, or not?
Is it the flower?
Is it the sleep?
Is it the isolation?
Are these explanations or the solution?
Interrogating myself, my care, my love
How do I relate
Or not?
Feeling my eyes lowering
tingling
forcing my body to relax, ease the tense of the day
or prepare for it
Take in the fatigue, the euphoria all at once
know that whatever you may call it
it is something felt
and that may be enough for now.


#2
Stop trying to write the universe.
Let the universe speak in all the ways
even the mundane can open up galaxies.


#3
The things we do not know are mysteries quite literally
If and only if one is in pursuit of Truth
If not,
Ignorance may very well be bliss but it will never fix the pain of tomorrow’s unknown
Or enjoy its beauty
I live to seek and I will surely find
Truth through the mysteries
and
Unfortunate events of life.

A poem by Nathalie Amazan. To see more, visit her blog: https://medium.com/@natamazan