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Philly Beat: Women’s History Month Edition

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We all witnessed almost three million inspiring individuals take part in the Women’s March and celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8th, but it doesn’t stop there. It is currently Women’s History Month, and there are some incredible and eclectic events happening around Philadelphia, which celebrate the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.

  1.     Women’s Film Festival

Taking place from March 16-19 at the Kimmel Center and Prince Theater, the Women’s Film Festival features and celebrates the work of phenomenal artists and women in the film industry. Tickets vary in price and start at $8.

  1.     The Philadelphia Women’s Theater Festival

Launched on International Women’s Day, the Philadelphia Women’s Theater festival is staging “Period Play: Eight Anachronisms from the Future Past.” The local playwright Hannah Sciver states that the play is about “refracting tiny glimpses of women’s history through the prism of today,” while upholding a critical eye and acknowledging the growth that is still needed. Organizers recognize the play as the hope of progress to come, and tickets are around $10-15.

  1.     The Body Wails, The Body Restores

Happening on March 17 and 18, artists and choreographers from Chicago join the Painted Bride Art Center in exhibiting a series of performances that engage in themes of race, trauma, history and womanhood, that ends with a discussion lead by Dr. Brenda Dixon-Gottschild; a cultural historian, anti-racist activist, and performer.

  1.     Dish It Up!

This one I will definitely be attending. Dish It Up Is a fundraising event based on a food competition featuring all female chefs. Tickets can be purchased online and donations can be submitted at the venue itself. The funds raised will support Women Against Abuse — a leading domestic violence organization comprised of advocates and service providers in Philadelphia.

  1.     Amplify! Black Women of the Movement Symposium

Featuring free admission, the African American Museum of Philadelphia, in collaboration with Independence National Historical Park and the Smithsonian Institute, have put together a symposium that both features and honors the work of African-American women which are often overlooked.

  1.     Philly Film Showcase

Taking place at the PFS Roxy Theater on Sansom Street, the film showcase and Friday reception will feature four screenings from female directors including: Amy Frear, Maaman Rezaee, Catalina Jordan Alvarez, and Lisa Jiang. The film showcase attendance fee runs on a pay-what-you-wish system.

  1.     Disrupting the Patriarchy 2017: Negotiating and Getting Things Done

Taking place at the Free Library Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC), a panel will teach the art of negotiation and how to get things done as a woman in a male-dominated society.

  1.     #SpeakUpPHL: A Feminist Art Workshop

This collaborative street event celebrates anything and everything to do with Women’s History Month. Sponsored by Blur and ishknits and New Century Trust, multiple prints of Blur’s iconic abstract ‘mouth’ in a range of colors that will be on multiple displays for anyone and everyone to fill with words, feelings and thoughts. The aim of #SpeakUpPHL is to celebrate the 135-year tradition of women speaking their minds, and once the displays have been filled up with words, they will be posted around various locations around the city.

  1. Roxane Gay: Difficult Women

Take part in a conversation with Roxane Gay, an American feminist writer, professor, editor and commentator. Engage in discussion about her recent story collection called “Difficult Women,” which explores both “the privileged and impoverished, the loved and forsaken – a beautiful cross section of modern America.” The function is taking place at Parkway Central Library on Friday March 24.  

SGO seeks to subsidize SEPTA tickets for students, make Philly more accessible

in Around Campus/News/Regional News by

The Student Government Organization is currently working with the college administration to subsidize SEPTA tickets for all students. If this program is implemented in the future, Philadelphia and all its resources will become more accessible for Swarthmore students.

“We all know how expensive it is to go into Philly, and with SEPTA offering no student discounts themselves, a lot of students, especially low-income, have little incentive to take the train and engage with the variety of academic, social, and cultural experiences there,” said SGO’s Chair of Student Life Policy Clare Perez ’18.

SEPTA does not offer student discounts for any schools or colleges in the region.

“A year ago, SEPTA declined to give us, or any other college, subsidized tickets. I know that it would be great for our students to get subsidized tickets,” wrote the Executive Director Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility, Ben Berger, in his email to the Phoenix.

“SEPTA is super stingy and does not even have student discounts, so it is understandable that when Swarthmore asked if they could sell them tickets at a discounted price they declined,” continued Perez.

The college has not been helping students connect with the resources in the city either, especially considering the case that Bryn Mawr and Haverford both subsidize their students’ SEPTA tickets. The Lang Center and some academic programs do offer subsidized or free tickets, but generally available subsidized tickets are lacking.

Sophie Xirui Song ’20, a prospective art history major welcomed the prospect of subsidized SEPTA tickets enthusiastically. She has not always been able to get subsidies from the art history department for trips to Philadelphia when she is required to go to the art museums or galleries.

“I know I often have to go to museums for classwork, and the department should definitely subsidize these trips. I had subsidies for my art history first-year seminar last semester, but Modern Art, the class I’m currently taking, does not give me subsidies.” said Song.

Song expressed her thoughts on the benefit of subsidized SEPTA tickets for Swarthmore students.

“There is so much to do [in Philadelphia]: food, concerts, museums etc. I think Swatties would benefit more from going to Philly more often because it’s always a change of view from the college, which to me is very refreshing, and people can enjoy themselves through means different from what Swat provides,” said Song.

The program that the SGO is currently working on is going to set aside part of the budgets of the offices and the departments and give them to the Lang Center and thus subsidize students’ SEPTA tickets.

“I have been working with Dean Braun, Ben Berger at the Lang Center, and Bruce Easop, who is the Presidential Fellow to Val Smith, in brainstorming and designing what a potential SEPTA program would look like. My goal is to create a comprehensive subsidy program, modeling the one that currently exists through the Lang Center of Civic and Social Responsibility, that provides SEPTA tickets to students wishing to engage in other enriching experiences that don’t fall under the Lang Center’s budget and mission,” said Perez.

The Student Government Organization has been working on this project for a two years now and is still striving to get subsidized tickets for all Swarthmore students.

“I started this project in part because it was something the last chair was working on,  but also because I felt passionate about the project and seeing it through to the end.  I feel that a strong connection between our campus and the city of Philadelphia is needed, and I don’t see any way to achieve this without Swarthmore providing students with subsidized tickets to get to Philadelphia in the first place,” said Perez.

This program is still under-progress and does not have a definitive result yet, but if it is carries out eventually, the college community will be greatly benefited with its growing connection with the city of Philadelphia.

Reflections on a [potentially] New America: Philly in Action

in Campus Journal/Philly Beat by

Philly Beat-2 Philly BeatWe’re tempted not to write about “fun things to do in Philly;” it almost seems trivial. But fun is something we all undoubtedly deserve in these times. The other night, as we were surrounded by an illuminated crowd of different races and ethnicities, jumping together and shouting the words to Kendrick Lamar’s “We Gon’ Be Alright,” we felt strange stirrings in our souls — unsure if it was recognition, or realization, or resignation; maybe all three. We were at the Foundry at the Fillmore Philadelphia, a venue Philly Beat has covered before (if you haven’t read that piece check it out, it’s pretty nice), being enchanted by rapper D.R.A.M’s wide-ass smile and his ability to make dirty things sound cute and innocent. Philadelphia was a getaway. For many other Swat people, the Women’s March on Philly (or even Washington) was their weekend getaway, joined by thousands of others who came together for collective empowerment and resistance, from all walks of life. And so the question is, what now? See all of you nice white ladies at the next Black Lives Matter march, right?

In all seriousness, many people in our community have been asking for ways to further involve themselves in meaningful, progressive ways. The good news is that in upcoming weeks, there is no shortage of organizing. For many people, political activism and advocacy have been integral parts of their work and Philly-experiences since long before the march(es). We’re almost 97% sure that if you are reading this you are far more politically versed than us, but here’s what Philly Beat has for you this week in terms of how to keep up the post-march momentum:

  1. As simple as it sounds, social media is a great place to look for events (see Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, your usual go-to’s). Activism-oriented students and campus organizations will often post in the official and unofficial class pages, but if you check your “Events Near Swarthmore, PA” tab, you may be able to find other free to low-cost planning meetings, protests, and workshops open to the public.
  2. The Lang Center for Social and Civic Responsibility is providing transportation funding for students to attend political events via SEPTA. Here’s a recent message from Executive Director Ben Berger: “We will support students without respect to political affiliation or partisanship. We are here to help you learn and engage with the world.”

 

What this means is that two main obstacles to involvement —knowledge of events and accessibility to those events — are made a bit less obstacle-y. The hosts of such meetups are a wide range of stakeholders in the Philadelphia community, such as arts and cultural centers, religious organizations, and immigrant advocacy centers, just to name a few. For example, yesterday the Arch Street United Methodist Church held a public discussion entitled “Let’s End Gerrymandering.” Later today, Jewish Voice for Peace and the People United USA are co-hosting a rally to surround the Loews Hotel — the site of the Joint Republican Retreat that is happening right at this moment. This week, from Jan. 23 to Jan. 28, is the Philly Educator’s Black Lives Matter Week of Action, sponsored by the The Caucus of Working Educators Racial Justice Committee. To make your involvement easier, they’ve scheduled a calendar of free events throughout the city.

So we proceed. Tonight there is a film screening of “The 13th” and community talkback entitled “the effects of mass incarceration on Black and Brown communities” (4301 Wayne Ave). Tomorrow there is a panel discussion called “Demystify Black Women and Black Girls: Misogyny, Stigma, and Power” (Univeristy of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education). On Saturday, Temple University is hosting a LGBTQ Youth Conversation about “Pariah” and “Moonlight.” The list goes on and on and so do the chances for continued education, listening, and collective brainstorming.

 

Ready to get your hands dirty, and looking specifically for opportunities to strategize? Repair the World: Philadelphia is hosting a workshop this Saturday afternoon by the name of “Escalating Political Resistance: Tactics for Racial Justice,” featuring representatives from the Philly Coalition For REAL Justice, Black and Brown Workers Collective, and the Philly War Tax Resistance. Afterwards head over to Chinatown and give Asian Arts Initiative a visit. We’re all encouraged to join the Philly Catalyst Project, New Sanctuary Movement, Reconstruction Inc., VietLead, and PA Working Families Party at a discussion on “Anti-Racist Strategies to Out-Organize Trump.” Whether or not you currently consider yourself a part of the city’s action community, the doors to these events are open to you and we promise, easily findable via your Facebook search bar.

 

Yes, there’s a lot of work to do, a lot of causes to stand by, a lot of emotions to process. But for that very reason, we believe that now is the time to get involved, especially if you have the emotional capacity, energy, and positionality to do so. It starts with listening, and for those who want to know to get started; we have one parting quote from Muslim-American activist Linda Sarsour’s speech from last weekend’s March on Washington:

 

“If you want to know if you are going the right way, follow women of color, sisters and brothers. We know where we need to go, and we know where justice is. Because when we fight for justice, we fight for it for all people for all our communities ”

 

See you all in the City of Brotherly [and Sisterly] Love soon.

Sufjan Stevens dazzles with light show, lyricism in Philly

in Campus Journal by

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Photo by Z.L. Zhou

This past week in the Academy of Music: Sufjan Stevens walked onto the stage in complete darkness. Dual spotlights shone down from below as he began to play the piano, singing, “Spirit of my silence, I can hear you, but I’m afraid to be near you. And I don’t know where to begin.” Screaming ensued, and so began the critically acclaimed multi-instrumentalist’s most recent tour to promote his new album “Carrie & Lowell”.

Stevens’s album, released just over two weeks ago, has already been met with rave reviews. Although his last two LPs, “Illinois” and “The Age of Adz” were largely bombastic, decorated affairs punctuated with brass, “Carrie & Lowell” is a much more stripped-back work, carefully adored with Stevens’s tenor-falsetto harmonies. No wonder, since the album deals largely with his feelings towards his schizophrenic and bipolar mother’s death.

For most of the concert, Stevens along with his accompanists said nothing about the album or the individual songs. He probably felt as if nothing needed to be said. As he played, a series of screens with shapes reminiscent of church windows showed videos of vivid colors, childhood videos, sunsets, and confusions of violet.

Halfway through the concert, Stevens spoke directly to the crowd for the first and only time. Reflecting on the process of writing this album and what it meant to him, he semi-jokingly, semi-seriously apologized for the content evening’s program, acknowledging that “It’s weird, to sing so much about death … but I think we should think of death as a companion, one that reminds us to be alive.” Although somewhat kitschy in the light of day, his words felt like a bold pronouncement — at least, as bold a pronouncement as you could expect from someone who had just sang, “Do I care if I survive this? Bury the dead where they’re found.” His voice slightly shaky, it was hard to not take his words as they were meant.

Although the evening consisted almost entirely of a straight run-through of “Carrie & Lowell”, the applause was overwhelming as he finished his last song. To the shock of absolutely no one, the applause continued, unabated, until he returned to the stage for an encore, thanking the audience for being there and playing two songs from “Illinois” and one song from “Seven Swans” before ending with a rock rendition of his most well-known song, “Chicago”. The applause, still as loud as the last time, was unfortunately not enough to convince him to play more.

At the expense of sounding like a rabid fanboy — well, I am a rabid fanboy, so whatever — seeing Sufjan Stevens in concert was an incredible experience, one that really did meet and exceed all of my expectations. The lightshow/video display was a great touch, one that resisted being distracting even as the disco balls dropped. Although he is unlikely to return to Philadelphia on this tour, I recommend that everyone not from the immediate vicinity find out if he’s playing near you at any point in the next few months. And then buy some tickets! Go! Listen to some of the most beautiful lyrics I’ve ever heard.

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