No space for love in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is currently suffering from, perhaps not a wave but more of a persistent flood of extremist attacks, manifesting in the form of assassinations of various free-thinking, secular or atheist bloggers, publishers, writers and journalists. While this trail of blood may be linked to a point of origin with the murder of blogger Avijit Roy in February last year, this is something that has existed under the surface of Bangladeshi society for much longer. Conservatism, the quashing of more progressive ideals, rising belief in Islamic homogeneity, and a vicious intolerance for anything that does not fit the Sunni, Bengali Muslim identity. As mysterious men, armed with machetes chip away further and further at all opposing ideologies with violence, the space for liberal and progressive ideals in my country is disappearing. The latest in this bloody spree of “divine” executions came on April 25, when gay rights activists and editor of the country’s first and only LGBT magazine, Xulhaz Mannan, along with his friend, colleague, and fellow activist, Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were brutally murdered by unknown assailants, linked with larger, global Islamic terrorist outfits.

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The two murdered activists – Xulhaz Mannan (left) and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy (right)

(Source: Dhaka Tribune)

Mannan started the magazine, Roopbaan, to promote LGBT rights in Bangladesh. This by itself is an amazing achievement in such a conservative country. In the face of such disapproval and adversity, Roopbaan took off in 2014. Long an advocate in the development sector, especially working with LGBT rights, Mannan’s work went from strength to strength. In fact, on 14 April 2015, when Mannan successfully organized a “rainbow rally”, Bangladesh’s version of a pride parade, during the Bengali New Year celebrations, for a second, Bangladesh’s liberals believed again that the country was moving forward and for the LGBT community, especially the gay and lesbian communities who are legally oppressed, it was a landmark achievement – an announcement that these people not only exist, but are unafraid to stand up and be counted, as people, in Bangladeshi society. For me as well, long having been frustrated by regular news of tragedy, misfortune, oppression and intolerance, reading about the “rainbow rally”, during the New Year celebrations no less, brought me immense pride, and in one of those rare moments, I may have felt something akin to patriotism.

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Pride parade in Dhaka, 2015

(Source)

I could swell with pride for how far my country has come, and like the rest of Bangladesh’s liberals, once a proud tradition in its own right, feel hope for the future. Mannan’s murder feels like a nail on the coffin for a dream that I once thought could be reality.

This dream now seems a long way away. This year, the second “rainbow rally” was cancelled due to death threats and intimidation from a section of society that cannot bring themselves to respect (or even tolerate) other human beings. And the worst part is, this seething hate is winning. And we, Bangladesh as a nation, are allowing it to win. A Buddhist monk had his throat slit earlier this week. University professors, a profession held in such high esteem in my society, are being hacked down for no good reason. The violence is more senseless than usual. The government refuses to acknowledge that we have a terrorist crisis on our hands for fear that we start remembering that their role in how we got here. So they tell us that these murders are unrelated. That we should stay quiet. They tell us to be silent and let hate win. But for Xulhaz, for the LGBT community in my country that have now had to flee for their safety, we cannot. The pride parade is a symbol of love triumphing over everything else, and I hope, for our sake, I see it next New Years. Only then will I remember the dream that me, Xulhaz and everyone that looks forward and looked forward in my country once dreamt.

-Bareesh

Cover photo source: Wikipedia Commons

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Kolkata Musings

The dawn breaks early here. The soft sunshine, slowly working its way through the chilly morning air, enshrouds the city in amber. As I look outside my window, I see trees, fresh from an early morning shower, laden with raindrops. On the street below, people are opening up their shops, dusting and arranging their displays. A couple of food stalls have started with their preparations for the day. The smell of hot and oily mint pakoras and spicy dalwadas waft up towards me. Around the corner, there are scattered groups of men sitting on wooden benches, excitedly talking in fluent Bengali while savoring their gingered tea in tiny earthen pots. There are women too, draped in red and white saris buying hibiscus and marigold as the daily ritual offerings to Goddess Kali. The air in this city always has a distinct spark of festivity; a city where every day is a celebration. Kolkata- the place where I was born, the place where my heart is.

Every year, I go there to visit my maternal grandparents during the scorching summers when the school is on hold. Calcutta, as the city was originally known and the name I have always preferred, offers a cool, soothing respite. Thinking of how I used to spend time with my grandparents, brings back sweet memories of my childhood. We would go on walks, feed the pigeons on the sidewalks, and play in the park. They would spoil me with sweets and candy. They spent hours telling me stories of the ‘olden days’ and sometimes taught me to pray.

But it’s the city of Calcutta that has been more central in my upbringing and has contributed significantly more to shaping my personality than my grandparents. The capital of West Bengal, this city is overflowing with culture and people. Bengalis, as the people of Calcutta are known, are the most laidback and relaxed people you will meet in India. At the same time, the fiercely stand up for what they believe in. The sights, sounds and the smells of Calcutta are firmly etched in my heart and it’s those that root me to the place.

To be honest, it’s a chaos. This city. People visiting Calcutta for the first time get trampled underneath it in the first week. Main roads run through residential complexes. And there are some stick thin lanes which not only have two rows of parking, but also big, fat yellow six-seater taxis (mostly carrying just the driver and a malnourished passenger) along with a Mercedes Benz and an Audi, scrambling their way through them. The economic and the social diversity in Calcutta is astounding. The legendary one way traffic rule where the entire city moves in one direction before 1 pm and goes exactly the opposite direction after 1 pm is unique and even bizarre to some people. And somehow, everyone seems to know the flow. It’s like their mother tongue. They are just born with the traffic language of the city.

People are everywhere in this city. They sleep in houses, apartments, parks, sidewalks. And the rest on handcarts, on machines and in cars. If somehow the first-time visitors manage to make it till the weekend and slowly shed the overwhelming blanket that the city has thrown on them, they will begin nuancing the city- little by little.

Each time that I have been there, Calcutta has revealed itself to me slowly. Opening one sleepy eye at a time. Now a British cemetery, then some jazz left behind by some Americans in the war years. Sometimes a scroll in the Indian Museum, other times a casket of opium and its history in this city. Calcutta lives in the history as much as it lets its history get moldy.

Look, for instance, at the streets parallel to the Chowk Bazaar. A crumbling monastery founded by a Sri Lankan monk, a locked up Chinese hermitage and the building of the Bengal Theosophical Society, one of the world’s first East-meets-West religious ideologies. Each building has its own tale. Each street, a journey through the grimy layers of time. When you walk through Calcutta’s old quarters, you can’t help but feel like you are flipping through a yellowing old book from your grandpa’s bookshelves, with dog-eared pages and broken spines. You might find letters and photos tucked between pages – which seem to talk of love, loss and long nights of his life.

As much a talker’s city as a rambler’s, happiness to Bengalis is Adda-baaji – a substantially Bengali penchant that might be extravagant but is actually very intellectually stimulating. The word ‘adda’ means a group of people, and that is exactly what it is. People, mostly men, sit together for hours talking about anything from politics to theatre, from food to even mundane gossip. The facility to arouse creative expression in others is an absolute quality of the adda. Even if you do not understand Bengali, like in my case, you are welcome to join them under big banyan trees, over a spacey rooftop, in dark corners of parks or over smokes at river-fronts fringing the city.

Happiness to the people of Calcutta is also food. And you can eat the world here, albeit on the streets. A Chinese breakfast at Tirreti Bazaar. The Iraqi sambusas at Nahoum’s.  The Indianised cabbage dolma brought in by the Armenians. Or the Bangladeshi Rui Kalia (carp curry) in Free School Street. And of course, the perennial roshogullas – cottage cheese balls dipped in thick, sugar syrup which are the absolute favorites of everyone. What perhaps could be missing here, when compared to the other metro cities of India, is the boutique-y setup. Right from the transportation of a clutch of chickens tied by their feet and strung to the backseat of a bike to their de-skinning, amidst a flurry of feathers and blood diluted by the water flowing from hand pumps. The butchering and the frying. And then rolling it into a chicken roll the city is famous for. Everything happens right before your eyes. Once in some local magazine, I read this: Every city does its share of dirty work. But Calcutta, unlike most urban cities of India, lacks that cosmetic layer shielding it.

It’s a city where if you lose your gold bracelet on a sidewalk, ten pedestrians will be looking for it along with you. If you are a woman and someone tries to suggestively brush against you and if you shout in fear or curse a threat, men from your surroundings will leave everything to come protect you. But if you don’t be grateful for the gestures, they will make their offence known to you. It’s a city where change is not visible, but millions of human beings and auto motives function in an uninterrupted cycle every day, negotiating their space and value in the giant street theatre.

I miss my hometown deeply. I haven’t lived there at all, except during those month-long summer vacations, but I still consider Calcutta as my home. Maybe someday, I’ll find a quiet suburb to live in. A tiny place tucked away in some corner, a place forgotten by people, left behind by the ever-expanding city. Right now, I am drowned in nostalgia because I miss the dark skies, the chilly winds and those sudden thunderstorms. Calcutta has a special place in my heart, an irreplaceable place.

– Nidhi

(Cover photo source)

African and Caribbean Identity at Clark [Part 2]

Every year at Clark University, the Graduate School International Development and Social Change Department (IDSC) hosts an Africa Day celebration to celebrate Africans on campus. This year Celestina Agyekum, a Ghanaian Masters student, was in charge of the event, and she set out to make some changes to the event in the hopes that its impact would be long lasting beyond the event. For the first time, this event attempted to include not only African identity as was tradition, but also Caribbean identity.

Traditionally a one evening event, this year the celebration was a two day, two part event. The first was a dialogue on Friday, April 22nd centered on this year’s theme, “Identity”. The theme, derived from Celestina’s personal experience battling the differences between being both a Ghanaian woman but also a woman who has lived in the USA for a long time,  was one that hoped to delve deeper into what identity means. Knowing she was not the only one who struggled with this, she hoped to begin the campus dialogue on this pivotal issue. The event this year became a two day event because of how deep and heavy the subject of identity was, and Celestina wanted it to be more than just a quick discussion followed by a party. The event this year was an in depth discussion on the first day, followed the next day by a celebration of African and Caribbean Identity.

The dialogue was led by Dr. Carol Bailey, whose area of teaching and research is postcolonial literatures, with specialization in Caribbean literature. A Clark Alumni, she was particularly excited to bring this conversation to Clark as a Caribbean woman. Two main themes came out of the dialogue. Firstly, any and everyone has more than one identity but it’s up to us to use these multiple identities. We are not arrested into one and we can move in and out as we see fit, and call upon them in any situation depending on our surroundings and the people around us, to help us communicate and survive. Knowing that you have the power to use these multiple identities is amazing, and very few people realize that you don’t have to pick a side. Picking is an injustice. Secondly, it’s okay if others are uncomfortable with your multiple identities. It’s their discomfort, you don’t need to be uncomfortable with their discomfort.

The dinner celebration held on Saturday, April 23rd was a celebration of the identity that was discussed at the dialogue. It was also intended to be a sharing experience, sharing our identities with people who have different identities. The atmosphere was unlike a traditional dinner, beginning with the vendors who were in attendance selling traditional West African jewelry. Clark’s very own Senior Ophelia Okoh presented her very own brand of Ankara print earrings, “Black Palette”.

The dinner included games that tested creativity and knowledge of the African continent including a quiz at the end. The idea behind these activities, according to Celestina, was to foster a collaborative atmosphere. The table games allowed people to communicate with and bond with the people they were siting with. The goal was to organize a more community-like diner that would allow the expression of identity in a relaxed environment. The quiz included prizes meant to be incentives to encourage participation, including jewelry from the vendors, gift cards as well as novels and books by Caribbean and African authors.

Celestina and the entire planning committee would like to thank the following people and departments for their support: The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, The International Development and Social Change Department, Graduate Students Council and Graduate Students Association, Sharon Hanna (financial support) and Erica Paradis (financial support). The committee looks forward to working with them again in the future.

Having been privileged to attend both events celebrating Caribbean and African Identity on Clark’s campus and as an African myself, I can honestly say that I am proud to know that Caribbeans and Africans are determined to proudly display and share our culture, traditions and identity. My hope is that through these events and these two articles, there is an increased understanding of who we are.

 -Ashleigh

(Cover image photo credit: Garfield Barclay)

 

 

African and Caribbean Identity at Clark [Part 1]

Every year the Caribbean and African Students Association (CASA) hosts their CASA Weekend in which we take a weekend to remember and share our Caribbean and African identities with the Clark Community. This year was slightly different in that the weekend began with a picture campaign in Red Square on the Friday afternoon (15TH April). The campaign – which was the brainchild of CASA Community Chair Blessing Ojini – was one in which we as the Caribbean and Africans aimed to debunk common stereotypes that people have about our respective homes. Important to note here is that the stereotypes we debunked were taken from an anonymous survey carried out on the Clark campus. Hence, what was displayed in Red Square was a representation of what Clarkies think of Africans and Caribbean’s.

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Stereotype Campaign, which kicked off CASA Weekend, Organized by Blessing Ojini.     (Photo credit: Linh Vu)

Both Blessing and CASA President Adwoa Anno shared with me that they were happy with the turnout and the number of people who stopped by Red Square to take time to read the stereotypes and the “debunks.” When I asked Blessing why the picture campaign was so important to her, she noted that Clark is said to be a diverse and accepting campus but the survey and the experiences of fellow Caribbean’s and Africans showed that this may not necessarily be the case. The campaign was in essence CASA making a conscious effort to educate the Clark Community of the places we all call home and that we are proud to represent. The full compilation of the stereotypes debunked will be available on the CASA Facebook page by the end of semester for anyone to go through. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1101628426531375/ )

The second, more traditional part of CASA Weekend was the CASA Dinner. The turnout for the event was amazing with it reaching capacity two days before the event itself. The theme of the dinner was, “ROOTS: Remembering Our Own Traditions.” CASA President Adwoa noted that the theme for her was important because as Africans and Caribbean’s living in the USA, it is very easy to be caught up in the American culture and forget some of our own traditions. For her and for many CASA members, the dinner was a chance to not only remember our traditions, but also to share them with the non–Caribbean and Africans present at the dinner. It was also important for many of the people at the dinner, because as Africans and Caribbean’s we are naturally very social people and that aspect of our culture gets lost in the day-to-day bustle of the day. Being able to take an evening to socialize was important to us all.

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Fashion Show – Featuring Hanan Ali Mohammed and Abdikarim Mohammed.                  (Photo credit: Linh Vu) 

The dinner included dance performances from a group of girls from the Boys and Girls Club, Clarks own ADDA (African Diaspora Dance Association), as well the traditional fashion show which was a two category event. The first category of the fashion show was traditional wear, and the second was modern wear. Pictures of the dinner and the fashion show will also be available on the CASA Facebook Page. The CASA Caribbean Representative Kaiomi Inniss noted, “CASA weekend/dinner was one of the best events I’ve attended thus far at Clark simply because I felt like I was connected and my culture was represented accurately.”

The entire CASA E-Board would like to thank all that came and we hope to see you at many more CASA Events. Part 2 will cover the Graduate African and Caribbean Identity Night was held on the 22nd of April.

-Ashleigh (CASA E-Board, Cultural Committee)

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CASA e-board 2016. (Photo credit: Linh Vu)

 

Event Recap: TCK Conference 2016 @Clark

Clark University hosted the 4th Annual TCK/ Global Nomads Conference on Saturday, February 27th. Check out our website for more information on the conference! Here’s a recap by Charis and Fileona. 

[Charis] I never identified myself as a third culture kid (TCK). It always just felt like a foreign concept meant for those who could not identify with a national identity, but I had no trouble identifying myself with Thailand. Last year, when I heard of the Annual TCK/ Global Nomads Conference that Clark hosts, I just thought that it was irrelevant to my life and, while interesting, wasn’t something I wanted to spend a Saturday doing. This year, I thought differently.

Maybe it was because the past summer was the longest time I’ve spent at home in the last six years that I had the chance to reflect my place in Thai society and my experiences of ‘belonging’. When I heard about the TCK Conference this year, I thought maybe I should check it out to see what it really means and how it relates to my life.

So at 10:30 on Saturday, I ended up in a room in Jefferson, listening to Melina Toscani’s (Clark ’16) presentation on being Internationally Schooled.

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The first presentation I attended of the day (Photo by Charis) 

Melina had run a survey of TCKs and non-TCKs on their experiences of going to international schools. The respondents ranged in age and nationality, but several themes were clear.

Saying ‘goodbyes’ was one. Some TCKs got used to it and some got tired of it. Many non-TCKs remember saying goodbyes to the TCKs. Some even talked about avoiding making friendships with TCKs because of the pains of parting ways. I related with this immediately. While I wasn’t used to saying goodbye, many of my high school friends grew up as TCKs and had little trouble moving on.

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Melina Toscani presenting responses from the survey (Photo by Charis) 

Then, there was the theme of identity. Being a TCK itself constitutes a form of an identity. Some respondents told the story of the division between TCKs and non-TCKs in their schools. There was the idea that being a TCK meant embracing various aspects of different cultures that may sometimes be conflicting – but you find a way to make them work.

After Melina’s presentation, I attended a presentation by Leeron Hoory and Nicole Ohebshalom titled Searching for my Mizrachi-Self. Before this presentation, I had never heard of the term ‘Mizrachi’. As I listened, I first thought of the Arab-Israeli conflict and immediately questioned the implications of the division between the Arab Jew and the European Jew identities on Israeli conceptions of Palestine. Once I heard of Israel, I just thought of politics and controversies.

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Leeron Hoory introducing Nicole Ohebshalom’s video presentation. (Photo by Charis)

Listening to the presentation, then, was very eye-opening and humbling for me. It reminded me of the complexities of our world – of identities and conflicts, of the nonexistence of black and white lines. I have always looked at the conflict between Palestine and Israel as a conflict between states, and didn’t realize the widespread tensions – both national and local – that exist because of the conflict. The Palestinians are not the only ones that are excluded in this current situation – Jews within Israel are too. Leeron’s and Nicole’s stories are testimonies to this fact.

After that session, we headed to Tilton for lunch. I had the chance to meet some students and staff from Amherst College, and other Clark alumni. The hall was full of laughter as we listened to Teja Arboleda’s journey as an ‘alien’. He challenged us to explore the question of identity through his life story.

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Lunch with students and staff from Amherst College. (Photo by Charis)

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A time to mingle and eat. (Photo by Charis)

Then, we went for the afternoon sessions. I attended Laura Owen’s presentation on The World Is Our Home: TCKs as Global Citizens and What We Should Do With it. In this session, we were encouraged to share our stories and discuss the meaning of being a ‘global citizen’. While this definition can vary, the central idea is empathy. It is realizing and appreciating the connection between all of us individuals as human beings of this world.

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Laura Owen on Global Citizen (Photo by Charis) 

I got sick after that session and had to leave early. However, the conference introduced me a little more to the concept of being a TCK. I still don’t identify myself as a TCK, but listening to various stories have prompted me to recognize that while this word doesn’t mean much to me, it’s an identity for many people who don’t find their identities elsewhere.

[Fileona] The TCK conference gave me good insight into how terms like “identity,” “race,” “ethnicity” and “culture” are divisive yet incredibly redundant. Teja Arboleda (Clark ’85) and Farah Weannara’s (Clark ’16) game show: What Are You Anyway? The Ultimate Identity Game made the definition of such terms, for lack of a better work, incredibly absurd. Below is a photo of the multiple choice answers for “What is a TCK, anyway?”

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What is TCK, anyway? (Photo by Fileona)

The last word in the question, “anyway” was a cool subversive challenge against how such terms confine us. Race, ethnicity and cultural identity can sometimes be incredibly divisive. Key to the TCK experience, as Teja said, “is navigating the being of being more than one thing.” This navigation is basically the realization that in the end no matter how multiracial, multi-ethnic, multicultural our experiences are, the fact is that humans are much similar that we’d like to think.

Once this had been established, I attended another session Life in Transition: The Evolution of Home’ over Time by Juan Gabriel Delgado Montes (Amherst College).

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Juan Gabriel Deldago Montes raised the possibility of categorizing our definition of home according to our age (Photo by Fileona)

For the TCK, home is not a definite spot, since it has been several places over the course of time. This session went along with this year’s conference theme: Redefining Home, evolving identities in a global world. For international students and most emerging adults, this echoes a common question, “Where will my home be?” The session discussed that as we grow, home will change from being a specific country to being several countries to even the possibility of home being a person (spouse/partner). Discussing where we could look for “home” was perhaps a good end to the conference.

-Charis and Fileona 

We hope to see you at next year’s conference! 

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Conference Attendees (Photo by Fileona)

(Cover image by Fileona)

 

Yoni Ki Baat: 50 Shades of Gender, Identity, Race, Sexuality and Violence

Last weekend, the South Asian Student Associated hosted its annual Vagina Monologues: Yoni Ki Baat. This event was held in collaboration with multiple cultural organizations on campus such as ISA (International Students Association), CASA (Caribbean and African Students Organization), LASO (Latin America Students Association) and, MCS (Muslim Cultural Society).

The event spanned over 2 days and 23 performances, including self-written and popular pieces performed by a diverse group of Clarkies. The theme this year was “YKB: 50 Shades of Gender, Identity, Race, Sexuality and Violence.” 

Day one started with a piece called “Half-Blood” and was performed by Ariana Mohammed. It was based on the rampant societal labeling that we face everyday and how it leads to identity crisis and frustration for people from mixed or diverse backgrounds.

This was followed Kaiomi Inniss’ performance called “Meditation on Yellow”, that shed light on the ongoing exploitation of the Caribbean culture and traditions by the privileged West and how it mimicked the oppression the Caribbean people have faced in the past.

“How to cure a feminist”, performed by Medha Monjaury was a sarcastic take on the gender status-quo and the how women are often objectified and are the ones who have to change according to their male partner. While it was a more humorous piece compared to others, it addressed real life situations and social hypocrisy. Another Clarkie, Marika Thompson performed a piece called “Dear Straight People”. It addressed homophobia in its different forms and the deep and lasting impact it can have on people. Lack of self-expression is still oppressing large strata of society and this issue needs to be paid more attention to.

Recently, through media and popular opinions, Muslim women have been facing flak for how they choose to express their religious believes. “Lollipop”, a piece performed by Azra Tahria reflected on a comment that compared Muslim hijabi women to lollipops and also spoke to the hypocrisy of Muslim men towards Muslim women.

For me, the most spellbinding performance of the night was a self-written piece by Elyana Kadish, “A not so sincere apology to the person I left behind”. It gave us insight into the personal lives of people who have to stay inside the closet and how the world, their own family treated them when they decide to be true to themselves. This one really captivated the audience. Suaida Firoze, Hasini Assiriyage and Elyana Kadish performed the YKB classic “Hairy Pussy” reflecting on the unreal beauty standards set up for women.

Breaking the rhythm of women’s issues and rights, Brennin Consalvi performed a piece by Kevin Canter “People you may know”, and talked about an issue that is brushed aside by many, the plight of male rape victims. Suaida Firoze followed this up by “No man’s land”, very aptly describing the dilemma international students face after studying abroad. This resonated with me as I went through something very similar with my family and friends back home.

Again, changing up the tone of the night a little bit, Melina Toscani presented her bilingual, poetic piece about exploitation of Latin America and its people for resources and, while these actions might have physically damaged the land, it hasn’t killed the spirit of the people. The night came to end with a piece performed by members of the SASA about labelling of people, cultures, race and, how useless and unnecessary the concept is.

The second night of YKB opened with an energetic and charismatic recital of the Maya Angelou classic “Still I Rise” by Milky Abajorga. Her performance set the tone of the night as the performances that followed exhibited opened up about the oppression of women and the stigmas attached to their cultures and traditions. From a daring declaration by Amira Farrag that her hijab was not about judgement and oppression but a declaration of her submission to Allah. Ending her piece with the powerful statement, “My hijab, and everything under it, is mine”. The South Asian Sisters provided two poems that reflected on the hardships and realities of life as a South Asian woman. Sweta Basnet ended the first half of evening with the “Period Poem”, a piece imploring women not to hide the fundamental element of their lives and challenging the stereotypical male view of the female period.

Opening the second half was a hilarious anecdote performed by Hasini Assiriyage about the concept of blaming a woman’s rape on the way she is dressed and debunking the “She was asking for it” stereotype. The duet of Oyut Amarjargal and Melody Uyanga Mungunchimeg opened up about the effects of the Mongolian culture of women and its similarity to that of many women around the world.

The most striking performance of the night in my opinion came from the penultimate act by Marika Thompson who opened up about the realities of being a gay black female in the USA. Her experiences with police brutality and having to prove that as a black female she can get her education and use it to build herself up. The deeply emotional self-written piece entitled “Tired” was the perfect round up of the pieces from both days. Two of the pieces, “Half Blood” and “People you may know” from the previous night were repeated, and the evening ended in the same manner as the first with a piece by the SASA E-board members entitled “Labels.”

The two day event was one that left every member of the audience either in tears, or very close to it as we experienced the joys and pains of every piece.

-Radhika and Ashleigh 

* As there were an incredible number of performances this year, this article did not cover every single piece. Unmentioned performances include “Unborn Dreams” performed by Qurrat Ul-Aim (Anny), “Wedding Night” performed by Lubaina Selani, and “Rapefugees” performed by Jitske Grift.

Coming up: Clark University’s 4th annual TCK/ Global Nomad Conference

Clark University is hosting its Fourth Annual Third Culture Kids/ Global Nomad Conference on Saturday, February 27th, 2016. The conference will offer a variety of sessions that will be of interest to anyone who identify themselves as TCKs and their allies as well as faculty, staff, and administrators who work with these students. To attend, please register before Friday, February 12th. The Registration Form can be found here: https://www.clarku.edu/offices/oia/tck/conference.cfm

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“Third Culture Kid”. I hadn’t heard of the term before I came to Clark University. When I learned what it is, and that I might be one, it was a strange moment of realization. A realization that the way I grew up – although I knew it was not so special or uncommon because most of my high school classmates were TCKs – had something in common with the stories of so many others. That a deeper look into how I’ve come to identify myself as a TCK could be a starting point to better understand who I am, and why I see the world the way I do.

The Annual TCK/Global Nomad Conference at Clark University is a one-day event that offers a variety of sessions as well as a lunch with a key note speaker. This conference has been growing in its scale and scope every year since 2013, attracting participants and presenters from in and out of the Clark community. As one of the participants looking forward to attending the fourth annual conference in a few weeks, I had an opportunity to meet the student co-organizers of the event, Santi Deambrosi (Clark U ’17) and Melina Toscani (Clark U ’16). Here are some highlights of what they shared with me.

This year’s conference is themed: “Redefining Home: Evolving Identities in a Global World.” What are the thoughts behind it?

Melina: “The first keyword Santi and I wanted to include in the theme when we were brainstorming was, ‘evolving’.  We wanted to emphasize the fluidity of identities, how identities begin to change through experience.”

Santi: “Beyond the mix and the conflicting identities, the TCK/ Global Nomad identity is also about the creation. In this increasingly globalized world, many identities and perspectives are being created, and we wanted to focus on that aspect.”

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Last year’s TCK/Global Nomad Conference at Clark University.

What’s new about this year’s conference?

Santi: “Compared to past years, we have more sessions about mixed identities, and how individuals can deal with the experience. For example, there will be a student-professor collaboration interactive game show about race, culture and global identity that participants can play using their smartphones. We also have some great presenters from outside the Clark community. For example, the founder of an online magazine, UYD (Use Your Difference), will be joining us as a presenter. Another presenter is the Director of the Expatriate Archive Center in the Hague, Netherlands, who will be arriving early on campus to meet with Clark professors who might be interested in conducting research on the topic. We will also have a graduate student from Harvard Graduate School of Education, two graduate students from School for International Training (SIT) Graduate Institute, one undergraduate student from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and a prominent psychologist from New York City who will be presenting.

We also have Clarkies presenting on various topics, as well as a collaboration session between Clark and WPI’s International Students and Scholar’s offices. Speaking of WPI, we have been working closely with WPI TCK students to build a tighter partnership between the universities, and we will be hosting 17 WPI students this year!

Another highlight is the Clark TCK alumni panel that has now become a tradition. This year’s panel will be the largest ever, with 7 panelists from New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Vermont, and Worcester, ranging in graduation year from the 80’s to 2015. This year’s conference has a record number of speakers, as well as farthest distance travelled for the conference (Holland), and with many individuals coming up from New York City. Melina and I are really excited.”

So, who should attend the conference?

Melina: “Anybody can benefit from coming to the conference. Whether you grew up in different places or not, I think it is equally important to understand your own identity as well as of others. Identity isn’t a static concept, and experiences with foreign cultures or spaces make it more fluid. Whether you are a child of immigrants, person of cross-race or cross-cultural identity, a TCK, or someone born and raised in one place – if you want to learn about it, get exposed to it, I think everyone who attends will get something out of the experience.”

Santi: “For example, I remember one of the participants last year was a Clark graduate student. She was attending the conference because she plans to work abroad and moving around to different countries. She wanted to learn how that could affect herself, and potentially her future children.”

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Ok now, tell me a bit about your stories..  Where did you grow up, and when did you start to identify yourself as a TCK?

Santi: “My passport country is Argentina. I’ve lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Motevideo, Uruguay, and Bogotá, Colombia, before coming to the U.S. for college. During my senior year of high school, my twin sister sent me a buzzfeed article titled, ’31 signs You’re a Third Culture Kid,’ which became very popular. That’s when we both realized we were TCKs.”

Melina: “I was born in Argentina, then I moved to Ohio at the age of 5. After that, I’ve lived in Uruguay, Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, and China, before coming to Clark. I learned about the term TCK when I was living in Brazil during my junior year of high school. I went to international schools so I knew I wasn’t the only one, but there was no term to describe it. It was kind of a relief; it was good to know there was a term for it. At Clark, I think I’ve found that people are interested and curious about the TCK identity. Clarkies love learning and talking about the intersectionality of identities.”

Santi and Melina also shared their “classic TCK small world moment” with me. Believe it or not, it turns out they went to the same international school in Uruguay when they were in 2nd and 3rd grade. Not only that, but they once were dance partners!

Santiago y yo (Uruguay)

Melina (left) and Santi (right) as dance partners in the Uruguay (Photo provided by Melina) 

The TCK/Global Nomad conference is easily one of my favorite Clark events to participate in. Every year, I learn more about myself and about others, and walk out with a lot of food for thought. I recommend you to check it out!

-Michino