Welcome back to the 255! In this final week of the semester, we would like to wish all of our students the best of luck getting through their finals, projects, and exams. In celebration of the Winter Break, we are highlighting all of the wonderful holidays that make up this season. No matter what you’re celebrating this season, on behalf of the HUMSOC Division, we send you our best and warmest wishes!!

December 6 is Saint Nicholas Day. Historically, Saint Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in what is now Turkey, in the fourth century, and he had a reputation as a giver of gifts and a defender of children. In time Christians in Europe and further East developed the tradition of leaving their shoes by the chimney in hopes that Saint Nicholas would leave them gifts. In the United States this tradition has not been widely celebrated, and Saint Nicholas, more commonly known as Santa Claus, has become more associated with Christmas than his own Feast Day. This holiday is observed by Christians in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican communions. 

December 10 through December 18 mark Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday. Hanukkah is an 8-day celebration in remembrance of the Maccabean revolt, in which Jewish rebels, let by Judah Maccabee, liberated Jerusalem from the Seleucid dynasty. When the war was won, there was only one small container of consecrated oil with which to purify the temple in accordance with Jewish Law. This oil miraculously lasted eight days, leading to the celebration we have today. Hanukkah is typically observed with friends and family in the home, and involves games and gift giving.  Hanukkah dishes typically consist of sufganiyot, latkes, apple friters, and kugel!

December 12 is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a feast of particular importance in Latin American Catholic churches. Our Lady of Guadalupe is another title for the Virgin Mary, who in 1910 was made the Patron Saint of Latin America. According to tradition, Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a poor Aztec Christian, outside of Mexico City on his way to mass. Mary told Juan Diego to tell the Bishop of Mexico City to build a church on the hill on which they were meeting. The Bishop was skeptical, and required a sign, which Mary provided when she made the hill bloom with roses in the middle of winter. The church that was built on that hill is now one of the most visited holy sites in the world, and pilgrimages to it feature prominently in celebrations of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   

December 21 is the Winter Solstice, also known as Yule. The Winter Solstice is celebrated in a variety of ways across cultures, but commonly involves feasting. Yule, which is the Germanic manifestation of Winter solstice, has been revived as part of the neopagan and wiccan traditions. While observations vary, neopagans typically commemorate Yule with feasting and gift giving. Wiccans celebrate Yule as the rebirth of the Great Horned Hunter god, and commemorate with their covens and/or families. Yule is also the origin of some of our favorite Christmas traditions, such as the Yule log or the Yule ham.  

December 25 is Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who in Christianity is the Son of God and the Messiah. Christmas is marked by the decoration of trees, gift giving, and general togetherness, and is celebrated across Christian denominations as well as by those who recognize no religious affiliation at all. 

December 26 is the first day of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, who got the name from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits of the harvest.” The holiday has its roots in the Black Nationalist movement of the 1960s, and was meant to provide African Americans with a way to reconnect with African cultural and historical heritage by study of the Nguzo saba, the seven principles of African heritage. The seven principles are Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa are dedicated to celebrating one of these principles. 

And, finally, December 31 is New Year’s Eve. This is the last day of 2020 in the Gregorian calendar,  and begins the countdown to 2021. 

Again, we would to wish all of our students the happiest of holidays! As you work through this semester’s final stretch remember to stay hydrated and take breaks. As we depart for Winter break we wish you rest and merriment, along with a reminder to be kind and stay safe. We look forward to seeing all of you in the new year and new semester!!

Welcome back to the 255! Again, we would like to wish all MMC students our best wishes in these final weeks of the Fall semester. During this is a stressful time please be sure to take a few moments to care for yourselves. This week we continue our #InClassToday segment. This post highlights the work of Grace Delsohn and Zachary Chamberlain in Professor Jessica Blatt’s Reform and Revolution in Radical New York York City course. Blatt uses a “Reacting to the Past” pedagogy to educate her students on societal structures and relationships. We took to time to interview Grace and Zach to discuss and showcase their work to the entire division. Photos throughout this post were created by Grace and Zach!

Professor Blatt uses “Reacting to the Past” pedagogy in many of her courses, including courses like Playing Politics and America’s Founding that immerse students in critical historical time periods. Below is a description of Blatt’s current Reform and Revolution course:

What is the meaning of citizenship, and who should exercise it? What is economic justice, and how might it be achieved? What sorts of family and sexual relationships nurture and unleash human potential? This course explores how a diverse group of New York intellectuals engaged with such questions in the early twentieth century. These figures confronted a changing world: small-town America faced great cities and hitherto unimaginable contrasts of wealth and poverty. Ideas about American culture were challenged by an influx of immigrants and the claims of women and African-Americans to equal citizenship. Stable social roles were undermined by a new fascination with the Self, a unique identity that had to be discovered, nourished—even created. This course uses a game-based format called “Reacting to the Past” to immerse students in the ideological, artistic, and sociopolitical context in which these challenges played out.

Below are Zach and Grace’s reflections of their work as well as some content the students created throughout the course:

  1. How do you find participating in the interactive pedagogy of Professor Blatt’s course?

Participating in this class has been a lot of fun and a highlight of my week. It makes zoom class more engaging. It forces you to pay attention because the stakes are high at this moment in history, and everyone gets in to it. Everyone usually says or presents interesting and fun things. We have costumes and props. We present creative work, play games, debate, and discuss. 

Grace Delsohn

I took a game class with Professor Blatt last semester which is what led me to taking this one this year. To talk about the pedagogy and structure of this class tells its own story for my wanting and willingness to take another game class with her. With the zoom format, it is obvious that it is changed from the in person style. Luckily for us, the class becomes more interactive with one another, since the chat function in Zoom grants us the ability to ask questions during speeches, have relevant conversations with one another, as well as giving a platform for those that do not like to speak up as much a better chance at participating. I enjoy the pedagogy of Professor Blatt’s teaching, as well as the class itself as it works really well with the online format. 

Zachary Chamberlain
Cubist Painting – Grace Delsohn

2. How does this educational approach differ from a traditional lecture course?

It differs in the sense that it is more interactive and more personal. We all have personal goals and assignments, and it makes things be a bit competitive too. I know so much about this time period and it is rooted in my brain like stories I have been told, or things I have lived through. Other lectures, I tend to forget material after the test or paper is due, but this is not about memorizing. It is about learning, applying, and then fighting for your goal.

Grace Delsohn

This is not your typical, run of the mill college course. Most classes are spent with us having conversations, better worded, critiques with one another as opposed to the traditional lectures that are in many other classes. What I take away from this class in particular is that history is living within us. We the students take on roles that are based on historical figures, giving us the ability to see a time period from an individualistic perspective as opposed to studying it in an overview which I know is not very fun. When looking at other PS classes that I have taken besides the theoretical classes, I learn much more with the interactive structure rather than reading and lecturing.

Zachary Chamberlain
Zachary Chamberlain’s Presentation on the Suffragette Cook Book (here)

3. What are your highlights and takeaways from the class?

My favorite parts of this course were the movies we watched in preparation for the game, it made me feel very connected to the world and able to visualize events. I also loved the “heckling game”, where we heckled the labor faction like people did when they were in the streets. Mainly, I am taking away how to gain support for a movement, how to organize, what worked and what did not in history, and how to work with people to achieve radical change. These are all crucial with the current social justice movements in 2020, and now I feel more prepared and confident to get involved.

Grace Delsohn

So far, the highlights and takeaways from this class are that it gets people more comfortable with public speaking. After taking this class, as well as the game class last semester, I was always nervous giving presentations and thinking that I would fail. I still do get nervous, but after these I trust in myself as a speaker and presenter more. My confidence has been boosted as well as my physical ability to do so. I also have enjoyed learning about 1910’s America. I did not know that there were so many Progressive thoughts going around and it really changed my perspective of the country, specifically in New York, where women’s rights were becoming more and more important as well as labor rights for the country. 

Zachary Chamberlain
Watch and listen to Zach’s musical recreation here!

We would like to thank Zach and Grace for sharing their thoughts on the course as well as allowing us to showcase their work. We are happy to hear your positive reflections and takeaways. Congratulations to Professor Blatt for engaging students in such innovative ways. Finally we would like to gently remind everyone to be kind, stay safe, and always look for new ways to learn!

Welcome back to the 255! As we quickly approach the end of the semester, we would like to remind our students to take time for themselves to get through the challenging and stressful final stretch of the Fall term. This week would we are highlighting a college wide program launching in Spring 2021. 2020 marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In commemoration and honor of the women whose work led to the amendment’s ratification and those who continue to struggle for its decolonization, the Politics & Human Rights and International Studies Departments are collaborating with departments across the college to create the “Sojourner Truth Suffrage Academy”!

The Suffrage Academy is an interdisciplinary curriculum across all of MMC’s Divisions such as Art, Dance, Business, Communications, and History. All Divisions are hosting courses for the Suffrage Academy that directly or indirectly discuss the history of suffrage. In recognition of the contested history of suffrage, the program is dedicated to Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist and women’s rights activist, who embodied both that passionate dedication to the cause and that critical spirit that seeks to make it deeper and more just. In order to further promote the program, we reached out to one of its primary coordinators, Erin O’Connor, to learn more about the Suffrage Academy and how students can participate.

  1. What is suffrage and why does it warrant this type of ongoing interdisciplinary scholarship?

Suffrage is the right to vote, straightforwardly. In terms of how it warrants ongoing academy inquiry, I believe it does because the sphere that we enfranchise as the rights to vote is in need of ever expanding. The inclusion can never be exhausted. The inquiry into suffrage stands today in that regard. Specifically, I think of the recent scholarships of the intersection of racial justice and climate. For example, I am teaching a class on Trans-Species Suffrage that is an inquiry into multi-species democracy. What would it look like if a tree had the right to vote? How does that sit in relation to the contested history of suffrage?

2. What is the Sojourner Truth’s Suffrage Academy?

The Suffrage Academy is an interdisciplinary initiative to bring multiple perspectives of the ongoing history of suffrage. That includes courses from across the college in arts, business, communications, international studies, politics and human rights, dance, other fields. I have solicited faculty and asked division chairs to recommend faculty whose courses might be relevant to the issue of voting rights. For example, COMM 363 Black Female Sexuality in Film with Professor Cyrille Phipps, she is not going to do a normative inquiry into suffrage but rather taking a few weeks to look at how do representations of black women in film inform or have they informed suffrage debates. Do they inform how people think of black women’s’ voting rights? Similarly, other examples are Erin Greenwell’s course Video Field Production and Elisabeth Motley’s course Dance Composition II. Both of these courses are very hands on and look at technique and how can we use technique to speak to the topic of suffrage and critique the history of suffrage. There are 15 classes in the Academy. Some of them are immersive and discuss suffrage throughout the entirety of the course and others are labeled connection courses that discus suffrage in an assignment or a few weeks throughout the semester. On the one hand the Suffrage Academy is the interdisciplinary curriculum itself. On the other hand, these courses will be placeholders for our speaker series. The Suffrage Academy is not actually made up but what was already existing in our speaker series. It just needed a name. All of these professors are already talking about social justice and women’s rights in their courses, so it was just natural for us to come together and give it a name. This history is so contested. This program is not seeking a normative dialogue around women’s rights but rather is going to allow us all to learn and grow together.

3. What led to the creation of this intiative across the departments?

Of course, 2020 is the centennial for the ratification of the 19th Amendment. When we were talking about our event series in the fall, it came to light that there was a theme of social justice. We did not seek out this theme but rather it emerged. And for the Spring, Professor Manolo received an email from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard who had curated this 19th Amendment visual archive of the Suffrage Movement. And that little blimp was the impetus for us. It made so much sense – conversations about race and sex coming together. We were already discussing these themes in our classes. So it came up on the heels of the Fall event speaker series and the centennial for women’s suffrage. I think finally a crucial part is the hope to create a space in which difficult contested histories can be unearthed, rearranged, and be put forth anew. I always say the work of decolonization is a life time. We have to decolonize suffrage and decolonize our education around what suffrage looks like.

4. What are some of the courses being offered outside of Politics & Human Rights and International Studies?

In the History Department, we have Lauren Brown teaching a history course entitled American Women’s History and another entitled Monumental Debates. We also have a special faculty member, Ricardo Bracho, teaching Participation in Liberation: Women of Color and Citizenship. In the Business Division we have Professor Lorraine Martinez-Novoa teaching The Social Psychology of Dress. When speaking with her, she found it interesting that how fashion changes in line with these changing perceptions of liberation and freedom. In the Communications Division, there are courses such as Erin Greenwell’s Video Film Production, Sarah Nelson Wright’s Creating the City, Tatiana Serain’s Reporting Gender, and Cyrille Phipps’ Black Female Sexuality in Film. In the Dance Division we have Catherine Cabeen teaching Ethics, Aesthetics, and Gender Representation in the Performing Arts, and Elisabeth Motley’s Dance Composition Course.

5. Are there any courses for students looking for AIP courses? And do you have any favorites that stand out?

The Suffrage Academy is full of AIP courses. We have Reform and Revolution with Professor Jessica Blatt who teaches with a Reacting to the Past Pedagogy that is a EP and UP course. We have many REP courses, Participation and Liberation, Black Female Sexuality in Film, and Professor Brady’s Social Movements course are all REPs. In terms of EPs, there is my Trans-Suffrage course. Professor Nossiff is teaching Politics of Abortion which is a UP course. For anyone looking for AIP courses, the Suffrage Academy has a variety of selections.

We would like to thank Professor O’Connor for answering our questions about the Suffrage Academy. We highly encourage students to take the opportunity to participate in these courses and event series. For students who are interested in the program you can contact Professor O’Connor at eoconnor1@mmm.edu. We look forward to these crucial dialogues around the contested history of women’s suffrage and MMC’s efforts to decolonize it. Lastly, we would like to thank you all for joining us this week. As always, a gentle reminder to be kind, stay safe, and get ready for the holiday season.