Celebration and Remembrance: Students Show Solidarity, Address Controversial Performance

Photo by Carolyn Brown '16 | Students light candles in the traditional vigil that opens Celebration each year.

Photo by Carolyn Brown ’16 | Students light candles in the traditional vigil that opens Celebration each year.

 

Katherine Hazen ’18
News Editor

Some 400 students gathered in front of the steps of Wilson House on Nov. 12 for the annual event Celebration. Quad houses and student organizations performed sketches to celebrate love “without boundaries,” as event organizer Taylor Fallon ’16 said.    

Celebration was started in the 1990s in response to homophobic messages that were found in the Quad.  Students in Cushing House lit candles at their windows to show solidarity with students targeted by the messages, from which the tradition of the candle-light vigil that opens each year’s event came.

“Celebration is still important today as prejudice continues to exist, against the queer community but also against several other communities,” said Fallon. “No identity exists in a vacuum and we wanted to emphasize the importance of intersectionality in Celebration this year, especially with the events happening at other universities and globally.”

“I see Celebration as a language of activism that I can understand. As someone who has always shied away from debates, discussions or critique, this was a language I could understand,” said event organizer Kyle Gouchoe-Hanas ’16.  “My first Celebration was a moment in which I realized that I was living in a community that cared for each other in the sense that they celebrated and supported the education about important issues.”   

Performers of almost every skit began by asking for a moment of silence to stand in solidarity with the students of color at University of Missouri, Ithaca College, Yale University and countless other college campuses where administrative failures to handle allegedly racist incidents created an uprising.

“We were especially happy with the continued inclusion of the tragic and hateful events that have been occurring at Mizzou, Ithaca and Yale,” Fallon said. “Many groups discussed the importance of solidarity with black students which we strongly support.”

At the beginning of the event, however, one student expressed her dismay for the Smith student body’s relatively low participation in showing solidarity. “Walking through campus today, I was disappointed to see the lack of support,” she said in reference to the low number of students wearing black in solidarity with the other colleges.

While most of the skits included nothing too far from the norm – Smith Rugby performed their usual dance featuring an inflatable penis; many groups danced to “Feeling Myself” by Nicki Minaj; poems were read, and songs were sung – one spoken-word version of “I’m Out” by Nicki Minaj, performed by residents of Gardiner House, offended some students.

“We had a house discussion on the implications that our performance had and about how and why it was able to happen,” said Gardiner House Social Justice and Equity Representative Nybria Acklin ’18. “We talked about symbolisms like the mockery of black entertainment as well as the issue of poking fun at slam poetry, which is a vulnerable outlet for people of color to articulate their humanities.”

Gardiner House President Anna Steckel ’16 added, “We, as a house, have recognized the severity of our skit and the impact it had on members of our community. Since the event itself, we have gathered twice to discuss the implications of our actions and are working toward building a safer and stronger community in our house.”

Fallon hopes that those who attended Celebrations remembers that “everyone is deserving of love and support, that love exists in multiple forms and across multiple identities and that Smith should be a community that respects and uplifts all of its members, especially those that are systematically marginalized.”

Despite the rain, Smith students stayed to support and celebrate love in every form.

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