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.

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. 

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When I was at Wellesley, I used to call it the “gilded cage.” I, along with my partners-in-crime, would stand outside McAfee, and later Claflin, smoking our cigarettes, bitching about the amount of stress and the mundane this, that, and the other. In one sense I was excited to leave Wellesley. The bane of my existence was the damn requirements that we all “just had to do.” It was for our “benefit” to get a better understanding of the world and have a general knowledge of how to approach it. It was meant to raise awareness of what is out there and ensure that we could talk about anything to anyone if we needed to, even if for the sheer purpose of shifting topics. However, at the stubborn age of twenty-two, what started as, “Geology sounds fascinating!” turned into, “Professor, I’m an artist, when will I really need to differentiate between rocks and minerals?” These lines were embedded in my negotiation with my geology professor, Professor Hawkins, of making a movie about the twenty different minerals instead of taking the written exam. Needless to say, I had to take the exam like everyone else even if I didn’t like it. “Like many things in life,” he added.

The other side of Wellesley, the side that saved me, was the Art Department. I didn’t know what to expect from my first Art History class, which actually was a requirement too, but after the first lecture in the auditorium, I was hooked. To look at an image, take in what you can for yourself, and then be told a story that encompasses the history, culture, geography, economic trend, gossip… even pillow talk! Who needs requirements when we have art? I would spend days and nights between the drawing rooms, the editing suites and the media lab jumping from one project to the next; it was a time of inspiration. I was given the green light by all my professors and was constantly told by Professor Olsen, “just keep making art.” And I did. I didn’t know what was happening to me at the time, but looking back I realize that art was giving my soul the chance to breath.

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makkahmeetslife:

Fear does strange things to people’s minds and their hearts. When you perceive someone as a threat, you stop thinking about them and start thinking about yourself— how to protect yourself, how to avoid them, a combination of the two. When you perceive someone as a threat, your heart beat may…

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I’m writing this review as a public service announcement. This book came out in 2000, but none of the overly friendly people on the subway who all insist they “LOVE Sarah Vowell” have heard of it. And while I responded diplomatically with, “Well, clearly you don’t love her like I do,” it seems a general announcement could be helpful.

For those of you unfamiliar with the “straight out of second grade” voice of Ms. Vowell, she’s usually spinning a yarn about being the sole AARP-less member of obscure American historic tours. She gets competitive with other tour attendees, and often expects docents to provide insight into why so many of our forefathers were assholes.

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The use of the term “Community” in this piece is in reference to a Wellesley Alumnae Facebook group.

During my time at Wellesley, I gained and maintained a certain level of notoriety for my involvement in the improv group and shutting it down on the reg on First Class. I was witness to many epic First Class threads. I took on Wellesley’s defenders and deniers of white privilege and people who said incomprehensible things like “I don’t even see race.” I gave advice to my struggling peers about their boyfriends who didn’t know where their clitoris was. My private inbox would flood with messages of encouragement and further criticism. As the forums of First Class moved onto Facebook and other platforms after my graduation, these threads began to reappear and my participation continued.

As Wellesley alumnae, we are constantly striving to forge connections with our Wellesley siblings and support their lives, projects, and passions.  Unfortunately, when it comes to discussions about race, that all goes out the window.

And I’m tired.

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shepherdsnotsheep:

Why Carefree Black Girls Are Here To Stay

Constantly battling stereotypes and bad news, many black women are hungry for reflections of the lighthearted side of their identity. Flower crowns, bicycles and a hashtag to the rescue.

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By Diamond Sharp ‘11