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As part of our Wellesley in Art Series, Wellesley Underground founder Shelly Anand ’08 interviewed Shavanna Calder ‘08, creator of the website Arts in Color.

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Photo by: Matthew Dunivan

WU: Hello, Shavanna! Thank you for agreeing to answer questions for Wellesley Underground’s Wellesley in Art Series. First of all, tell us a bit about your background in theater.

SC: I started performing at the age of 5. While at Wellesley I performed professionally in Boston, and I had the blessing to be featured in the Boston Globe during my sophomore year. After school I worked at North Shore Music Theater with a group of Broadway actors and, from there, moved to NYC to continue a career in the arts. Since being in NYC I’ve performed regionally, toured with the national tour of Hairspray and recently received my Masters in Musical Theater from NYU.

 

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Hena Zuberi ‘96 (@henazuberi) remembers Rahma Salie ‘96, who died on September 11, 2001 on Flight 11 from Los Angeles

Perks include paying $10 for white guilt relief!

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Like so many other Wellesley in Tech contributors, I never would have guessed that I’d end up in this industry.

Prior to Wellesley, I attended an arts high school in Portland, Oregon, where I double majored in creative writing and theater. I arrived in Boston and knew I wanted to study something related to language—something that would challenge me to write impeccably and creatively every day. I had no idea what kind of career options were even available to me, so I figured I’d choose a major that would build the skills crucial for any field. So much pride, fellow English majors. So much pride.

My introduction to the tech world came the summer after junior year. Miraculously, I scored a perfect communications and tech writing internship at a software company back in Portland. The office was amazing. The work was awesome. My team was filled with former MFAs, one of whom had a novel published that summer. I felt like I had found the holy grail of English major fantasies. Here was a team of creative people being paid very comfortably to work on interesting writing projects.

Looking back on it now, it’s outrageous to me that I never once was like, “Hey Sara! You’re working at a tech company. Maybe you should, you know, learn the tech part of it.” For whatever reason, it just didn’t dawn on me.

 

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Stress is a trigger for depression. Hahahahahahahaha.

Welcome to stressville, depression style. Welcome to feeling crazy out of control scared crying lost afraid angry. Welcome to the worst spikes of anger and just marveling at what the fuck am I doing. Is this really happening. Wow. Craziness. Welcome to feeling lost and hopeless and anxious. Welcome to thinking about suicide and how good it would be to not have to deal with this fucking shit anymore.

Goddamnit. You know, when you deliberately omit telling your therapist that you’re going off your meds… you know that it’s really not a good idea. And yet.

There’s that pride or that hope or that prayer that this time I can do it, now I have the tools, now, this time, it’s going to be different.

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Thanks to Wendy Gao ‘09 (@WendyBikes) for this month’s submission!

For September, I would like to nominate Ali Barthwell. I haven’t met Ali personally, but I am consistently impressed with her eloquent posts on Wellesley’s numerous Facebook groups regarding feminism, fashion, relationships, and micro or macro aggressions concerning race. Ali’s article,”I DON’T KNOW HOW TO TALK TO WHITE PEOPLE ABOUT FERGUSON" on xo jane (a must read it if you haven’t already) was incredible, and I hope it inspires many fruitful and honest conversations on race between persons of color and non-POCs.

Congratulations, Ali!

Know an awesome Wellesley alumna/alum? Nominate her or him for YAOTM here.

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I downloaded the Kindle version of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt a few weeks ago to read on the train on my road trip. I had really enjoyed Tartt’s writing style in The Secret History with the vivid characters and captivating plot. It was the kind of writing that you stay up all night for and remember for years to come to poetic lyrical nature of it all. And so I went into reading The Goldfinch expecting something along those lines.

 

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Also check out this video on Mira’s transition into the world of Soap Operas in Pakistan.

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I started my education at Wellesley College with ambitious plans to be the next Cokie Roberts, or perhaps even Barbara Walters!  At Wellesley we all seemed to mold our careers in the footsteps of a select few famous alumnae and those ended up being my selections.  Despite offering a complete liberal arts education, it often seemed like your (successful and ambitious) career options were depressingly scarce.  Most of my classmates seemed to lean towards Hillary or Madeline and immediately moved to Washington, D.C. soon after graduating.  Me? Right after graduating I was still bent on becoming a renowned journalist and so I uprooted myself and moved to New York City with A Plan.

But, I soon found myself not liking The Plan.  I didn’t like my job as a junior reporter, I didn’t like my work environment, and my extracurriculars didn’t provide adequate distraction.  And so I decided to change course.  A friend (an Olin graduate, interesting enough) referred me and helped me get my first job in tech at a company called HubSpot.  I started as a Support Engineer and helped provide customer phone support on the HubSpot product.  

And while this wasn’t exactly using my Sociology degree, I would say that Wellesley prepared me to adapt to anything thrown my way.  I could tell you that it was my experience serving as Tech Director of WZLY or that the single Computer Science course that I took while at Wellesley was what set me up for success.  But honestly, I think it’s something more nebulous than that.  Because while those things look good on paper, they don’t really do anything for you in an interview.  Instead, I’d stay it was the implicit sense of confidence and the excitement to learn that Wellesley instilled in me from the very beginning.

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If you’re like me, you’ve been glued to, infuriated, and/or perplexed by the news coming out of Ferguson.  In addition to tracking the details of the story, I have been paying close attention to the buzzwords, images, and rhetoric that has been trending on Twitter, out in the streets, and in the media over the last week and a half. One word that seems to have gained traction is “peace.” I spent all four of my undergraduate years studying this term, all two of my grad school years meditating on the concept, and all 5+ years of my professional life trying to identify and support the conditions for peace in a wide variety of settings. In other words— peace is personal for me, so forgive me in advance for my rant.

Throughout parks and streets around the country, on T-Shirts and hand-made signs, on Twitter and Instagram— protesters are chanting “No justice, no peace,” a conditional statement whose usage dates back to the aftermath of several incidents of racial violence that took place around the US in the late 1980s. This simple statement means what it says and says what it means; if you cannot provide us with justice, then there cannot be and will not be a guarantee of peace.

Federal and local authorities are calling for peace in the streets of Ferguson. They’ve grown weary of the shouting and reporting, the palpable disdain for law enforcement officials, the looming threat of violence. President Obama has emphasized the importance of regaining ”peace and calm in Ferguson.” Attorney General Eric Holder echoed the President’s sentiments by encouraging protesters to cooperate with investigators and local officials, which will be “critical to keeping the peace.”

There seems to be a lack of understanding of what peace is and how one achieves it. In the field of conflict analysis, there are many ways that peace has been defined over time. It has been defined as the absence of personal violence or the presence of social justice. Johan Galtung has defined peace as “peace-productive, producing a common basis, a feeling of communality in purpose that may pave the way for deeper ties later on.” He also identified three principles that should always been understood as one attempts to define peace:

  1. The term “peace” should be used to articulate goals agreed upon by most people in a society, such as security, health, or education.
  2. These goals may be difficult to achieve, but not impossible to attain.
  3. Peace is the absence of violence.

That last principle makes me laugh, because peace, at least this public form of peace that our leaders seem to be calling for, is always met with violence. What makes peaceful and non-violent actions so morally compelling, so photogenic, so historically sexy, is that peace is always juxtaposed with horrific acts of violence or, at the very least, the threat of horrific violence. International peacekeeping organizations use armed forces to control the spread of violence and administer humanitarian assistance. “Turn the other cheek” implies that you are prepared to get slapped. “We shall overcome” what? Oh yes, getting burned, bombed, and beaten. Hey, what ever happened to those champions for peace Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi? Assassinated. Violently. 

The “No justice, no peace” folks have a much better understanding of what peace actually is than the “your cooperation is critical to keep the peace” folks. This is because peace is not a state of being. It is not an end point. If it was it would be the world’s most fragile state of being, as it would only take one warning shot or broken bottle to shatter the peaceful facade. Peace is the sum of the processes and mechanisms within a society that work toward justice. Peace is a long-term process. Peace is messy. Peace is annoying. Peace is loud. Peace is expensive. If one accepts “the presence of social justice” as an adequate definition for peace, then one must certainly recognize peace as the collective actions of a society that move it toward principles of fairness, equality, and justice.

In the context of Ferguson, peace cannot and will not be achieved unless there are apparent steps taken toward fairness and justice. The implication that peace can exist without the promise of justice is insulting to every person who works hard every day, without any recognition and without a decent salary, to create a society in which everyone feels like they belong, like they have something to contribute to it, and like they actually have a chance to live a fulfilling life.

The problem with peace is that it is inherently unstable and democratic in nature; its power and success is vested in the cooperation of the people. Peace involves constantly redefining power, meanings, relationships, and systems of human interaction. Peace cannot be expected to be attained primarily through political means, as politics depend largely on stability and predictability, but the conditions needed to maintain peace are constantly changing. 

I feel lucky to live in a place that has significant laws, regulations, and processes specifically designed to promote justice and provide opportunities for citizens to feel heard. Violence is used as a means to gain recognition and amplify the message that an individual or group is trying to send. Our country is supposed to be set up in a way that recognizes that everyone, regardless of race or religion or ability or gender or education level or income or sexuality, has a valid perspective to contribute and a valid concern to be heard. When those systems fail us and we feel as though our voice has been reduced to that of a whisper, when justice only appears to be working in favor of those with power, then peace is impossible and it is impractical, unreasonable, and frankly un-American to demand it.