Sunday, May 10, 2015

Penn Summit for Black Girls & Women in Education

Photo Credit: Charles Davis / The Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education
(Penn Graduate School of Education)

Guest Contributor: Taylor McLendon (UPenn, Class of 2015)

The lobby of Fagin Hall radiated warmth and excitement even at 8:30 AM. Nearly one hundred women in every shade of brown enjoyed refreshments and soon after made their way into a spacious auditorium. Dr. Shaun Harper and Ph.D. student Charlotte Jacobs welcomed all of us to the Penn Summit on Black Girls & Women in Education. They thanked us for our presence and introduced us to our opening keynote speaker—Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw. Taking time out of her dynamic career of advocacy and teaching at both UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, Dr. Crenshaw delivered an engaging talk on her areas of expertise: critical race theory and intersectionality. She began by explaining how "framing" is of the utmost importance in the work of public policy and education. Facts, she said, are useless without the proper frame and that “facts without frames gain no traction.” In order to frame our issues as a society, Dr. Crenshaw believes that we must be conscious of the systemic and institutional barriers just as we assess individual choices. Using a color-conscious framework, rather than color-blind or post-racial one, allows for solutions that address the environmental changes that can be made, rather than blaming an individual or factors outside of their control.

One of the most poignant points of discussion was the “paradox of intersectional erasure.” The deterrent most heavily affecting solutions for black girls and women in education is the intersectional nature of our very existence. It is common for researchers studying black girls to have to justify why their research is valuable and necessary. They are often asked, “why not all girls? Why not black students in general or black boys?” This sentiment pervades academia and is summed up in the phrase: “All the women are white and all the black people are men,” denoting the erasure of the uniqueness of existing as a black girl in American society. Dr. Crenshaw critiqued programs like My Brother’s Keeper that exclude girls of color and Let Girls Learn, which is exclusively for girls outside of the U.S. Much of the domestic policy for girls is supposed to engage and support girls universally without culturally specific interventions to support black girls. It is without question that black girls are in need of support—black girls are suspended at nearly 6 times the rate as white girls and are the fastest growing group being funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline. Dr. Crenshaw’s solutions for these problems are simple: encourage black girl research, demand public will to support funding, implement specific programming and measures to assess the programs’ effectiveness.

Directly following Dr. Crenshaw’s talk, Dr. Vivian Gadsden moderated a panel entitled Status of Research and Policy about Black Girls & Women & Education. The panelists, Ph.D. student Monique Ross and Drs. Monique Lane, Lashawnda Lindsay-Dennis and Sherell McArthur discussed topics related to the overall theme of the day. Below are highlights of the panel discussion.

How are policies affecting black girls? 

- Curriculum is removed from their reality. There is a very limited scope and it’s being reflected in graduation rates for black girls. Beyond the curriculum, a very reductive pedagogy pervades education. The ways in which we teach students have just as much of an effect on their learning as the content.

- Much of the policy affects us indirectly, so that we are being benefited or harmed without efforts to mitigate these effects. The President’s free community college initiative will positively affect black women because many in this demographic pursue 2-year degrees prior to, or in lieu of, 4-year degrees.

- Informal policies also matter. One common stereotype about a “good STEM student” is that such students seldom ask questions or that they quietly just absorb the information without help. “Loud” or “sassy” (stereotyped) black girls don’t fit that mold, but do have the capacity to excel in those fields.

Why is the risk greater among black girls? Are the in-group comparisons detrimental?

- Girls' performance of self, the way they express their identity and interact with others, is often a bigger indicator of their academic success than their aptitude.  Their capabilities are overlooked by their personality, which is often rooted in cultural norms and expressiveness (sassiness, attitude, etc.). These inclinations for “attitude” aren’t necessarily negative and definitely shouldn’t be overshadowing their ability to learn. Much of black girlhood and manifestations of black femininity are compared to white performance of femininity as a baseline, which is unfair, unnecessary and detrimental in a classroom where the ultimate goal is learning.

Is it possible to have an inclusive discourse? “All girls” or “All black youth”?

- Research is so scarce on black girls and women that the need for specific studies is paramount.

- The problems addressing black girls are important to study. Assessing programs and best practices is equally important.

- “Teaching is a political act, so (performing) that work is automatically care.”- Dr. Monique

What structural barriers are present in studying black girls?

- (Monique Ross) Justifying the need for the research is the biggest barrier. I explain it to the engineers I work with like this: When you were in algebra learning systems of equation, you couldn’t solve the problem without isolating the variable. In my research, each identity marker (race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.) constitutes a variable. If I can’t isolate black girls, then we’ll never be able to solve the unique problems that they face.

- Until the research exists, it’s hard to prove that research needs to done. It creates a cycle: people demand that we prove a need exists to support black girls specifically, however, a lack of research is one reason we need to study the problems to begin with.

After the panel, participants were able to choose which break out sessions to attend. I selected The Multiple Identities & Literacies of Black Girlhood—Creating Spaces for Black Girl Voices. The guiding questions were as follows: What are the strengths of your program? What challenges exist when doing this work? What are the solutions you found for identifying/overcoming these challenges?
Break out Session Highlights

Digital Literacy Collaborative
  • Started in Austin, TX & is now being researched in the Bronx as well
  • Focus is on 5th graders and their interactions with technology
  • Creating content that is educational, youth-focused, and age appropriate

Beyond Your Perception (Dr. Sherell McArthur)
  • Cohort style program with 15-20 female seniors in the College Access program in Atlanta, GA
  • Theme centered around media literacy
  • Discussions, field trips and check-ins are tools used to foster community within the group

Black Girls Write (Dr. Gholdy Muhammad)
  • Modeled after 19th and 20th century literary societies 
  •  Initiated each session with a group-crafted preamble
  • Girls were ages 12-17
  •  Focus areas: skills and proficiency, identity development, intellectual development, and print authority
  • Consisted of reading black female authors (historical & contemporary), dedicated writing time, and a safe space for writing without censorship—fostering a space of intellect and kinship
  • The difference between rehabilitation and safe spaces should be distinct. Safe spaces exist for self expression, whereas rehabilitation exists to try to “right” a “wrong,” which can be imposed on young women without their consent and moreover, without legitimate/adequate reasoning.
  • A simple but extremely effective practice is presuming black competence. Teaching educators to presume that their black students are capable and intelligent is a top priority.
  • There is a need to advocate for schools to fund the arts, recess, and computer classes especially in urban areas.
  • Programs that can provide models for grassroots groups include: Black Girls Write, Beyond Your Perception, Digital Literacy Collaborative.
Edited by Rick

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

NYU ACE 32: Muse

Guest Writer: Nicole Bernardo; Photographer: McKenzie Krochmalny 

The Eisner and Lubin Auditorium at NYU’S Kimmel Center for University life was buzzing with pop music and expectant guests on the evening of Friday, April 17. Fashion aficionados from both New York University and New York City took their seats before the black runway in anticipation for Asian Cultural Expressions (ACE), the student-run fashion benefit gala.

Already in its 32nd year, ACE is the largest charity fashion show at NYU. The aim of ACE is to promote Asian American diversity through all forms of art whether it be music, fashion, or dance. This year’s theme was entitled MUSE and included designers, performers, and models of all ethnicities. True to its student-run origin, some of the designers and all of the models were students from the NYC area.

I interviewed some of the student female models from New York University prior to the show.  Most of the models were newcomers to the fashion world, having never modeled or only a few times before. They were mainly invited by friends through Facebook to audition in the fall last semester.

“I never thought I would get it because I had no modeling experience whatsoever, but I’ve been dancing all my life, and I enjoy the stage. I stopped dancing for awhile, and I think this show has given me another opportunity to sort of perform and to get that old feeling back. It’s really fun being around these girls; everyone here is super nice and super supportive, so I had a very good time, and I wish it didn’t have to end,” said Monica Geng.  

“I’ve done some shows in the past but nothing this extreme or this large scale, so it’s kind of nerve wracking, but I’m really excited,” said Taylor Leworthy.   

“I’ve never done a fashion show before, so I wanted to give it a try. I’ve done Miss America pageants in the past, so it’s kind of similar but also different because you’re showing off the clothes and the accessories that you’re wearing. It’s a different experience, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Stephanie Meadowcroft.

“I’m nursing student, but I’m tall, so I’m interested in modeling and try to get into the modeling industry when I can. It’s an NYU show, so it’s great to get involved in the NYU community. This is my second fashion show, I just walked in one yesterday, so it’s going to be a new nervous experience again,” said Rachael Anadon.

The models rehearsed once a week since being recruited and every day the week leading up to the show.  “Auditions were actually really laid back, and they made me feel really comfortable. We did some practice rounds and then the final walk,” said Leworthy on the auditioning process. “It’s been a fun experience, it’s been a lot of rehearsals and practices, and it’s [the show’s] choreography is a little different,” said Anadon.  

The student model-directors planned creative presentations paired with upbeat pop music for each collection. Five screens connected by white flower garlands decorated the stage, and mounted on the surrounding walls and on pedestals around the room were original art pieces by NYU Steinhardt students. In the spirit of the theme, I will include descriptions of potential muses for each of the eleven collections showcased throughout the night. 

The first collection was 34-24-36 by Sarah Bacchus. This dress collection featured female models with male model escorts and designs perfect for the trendy woman who prefers the chic silhouette of a fuller skirt and a diverse, mature style. One of her pieces was a midnight blue dress with a partially sheer bodice and three quarter sleeves paired with nude pumps. Another cherry red dress featured a side slit and V shaped neckline. An embroidered band on the bodice and hem decorated a third piece sporting three-quarter sleeves and a fuller skirt.

The Lex Amarie collection featured looks for the woman aiming for sex appeal, one not afraid to be fearless in fashion. A two piece outfit flaunted aquamarine high waisted pants paired with a floral tank top. There were two fish-net style looks -- a two piece below-the-knee sheer skirt paired with a three-quarter sleeve top, and a one piece short sleeved sheer leotard. There was also a mute rose pink dress with a front slit.   

“It helped me get out of my comfort zone because I’ve never had to wear something like that in front of so many people, so I think it’s good for my confidence,” said Geng of the fishnet look. 

Rapper MC Jin performed after these first collections, introducing a few of the songs from his new album XIV:LIX which focuses on the last second of the traditionally known fifteen minutes of fame.

Schott N.Y.C, which recently celebrated its centennial anniversary, then exhibited their collection of jackets for men. A plethora of materials were used including felt, wool, and leather. Schott played on the traditional look with new accents such a belts, collarless pieces, and unique colors, making it perfect for the urban New Yorker man who aims to mix practicality and style while out on the streets. One zip-up waist length jacket featured large side pockets, a folded collar, and cuffed sleeves.

Next, NYU sophomore Sam Kang sang a Korean ballad then performed on a violin, alternating comically between well-known children’s songs and difficult classical solos.

A student designer from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) was showcased next. Judy Greco’s line seemed inspired by a romantic and adventurous touch, ideal for women who have a flair for color and curves but also more daring cuts. One standout was an above-the-knee blue dress with white polka dots that had capped sleeves and was cinched at the waist with a wide tan belt. 

“I love all the clothes that I’m wearing. My favorite dress that I’m about to wear is a deep blue plunge neckline,” said Leworthy of a piece in Greco’s collection. The dark blue gown included a fitted skirt, full sleeves, and striped glitter accents. Another space age piece featured a ribbed black mini skirt with a gold accented bodice and sharp shoulder accents.

Afterwards, came Pinkyotto’s collection. Known for their mannequins with teddy bear heads, their designs catered to the sweet, flirty woman looking for looser silhouettes and soft, pastel tones. Cuts and patterns came from nature or sported vintage appeal. A two piece outfit featured a crosshatch pleated light blue skirt with a crop top. Another two piece outfit paired a white mini skirt with a thin turquoise belt and a long-sleeved leaf pattern top with a slight V-neck. A standout was a retro white button-up shift dress with black stripes, cuffed sleeves, and a Peter Pan collar that seemed inspired from both the early 1910s and the Roaring 20s.

Next, the Brooklyn-based singer, Sandflower, performed a few of her songs. Her sound seemed to have Caribbean music, rap, and hip hop influences. Her backup dancers also entertained the crowd with their impressive moves. 

Henri Bendel exhibited a collection of their latest bags, including a turquoise long strap shoulder bag with a silver chain. The collection was ideal for the busy socialite flitting from business lunches to weekend brunches to nightclubs and always in need of a new purse.

“One of my favorite things I’ll be walking is the Henri Bendel collection, and I get to model the purses with the guys. It’s a lot of fun since the guys get involved too,” said Meadowcroft.  

FIT sophomore Dalton Taylor presented his collection NSFW, which seemed fit for the edgy, urban woman seeking splashes of color in her black-based wardrobe as well as geometric designs. A two piece outfit featured a sleeveless, colorblock top with some water color accents on the left side on top of a patchwork mini skirt with an asymmetrical hemline. Color block crop tops and tightly fitted asymmetrical skirts with zipper accents were representative of Taylor’s work (first image & below).  

Jill Stuart’s collection was designed for the classy woman who prefers tailored evening wear with standout accents. A black dress with full sleeves featured a intricately decorated front. Another dress included a blue velvet skirt with a partially sheer bodice and sheer sleeves accented with large polka dots. Two standouts included a gold-studded black shift dress with box sleeves and a deep V-shaped neckline and a turtleneck cobalt dress with full sleeves and padded shoulders.

Armor Lux’s collection displayed Cape Cod-esque summer designs ideal for men who want to be comfortable and stylish while boating and even when caught in sudden summer rainstorms. The collection included sailor striped long sleeve tops in combinations like red and white and blue and navy. There was also a bright orange drawstring hooded rain jacket paired with a striped cap.

Pairing well with Armor Lux’s sailor was the Calle Del Mar collection designed for the boldly flirty woman looking for fun shapes and colors in the summertime. The collection aimed to redefine the tomboy and had everything except the wind and surf. Looser bottoms were paired with crop tops and waterproof jackets, many dotted with tidal wave icons. One standout was a light blue pleated cheerleader skirt below a pastel yellow tee with a wave medallion patch.  

NYU’s break dance club performed for the audience with a high energy and entertaining piece.

Grungy Gentleman’s collection represented the fashion line of a lifestyle brand promoting masculine simplicity. Perfect for the trendy male Brooklyn hipster, plaid was prevalent in the collection. One long sleeve top featured a red and blue plaid pattern with unbuttoned sleeves.

The Team

Note: Sponsors of the event included Rasa, Peanut Butter & Co Sandwich Shop, Bloomingdale’s, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Kiin Thai Eatery, Two Hands, Joe New York, Kulu Desserts, and Engel&Völkers. Proceeds from the event benefited the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA).

Edited by Rick

Monday, March 2, 2015

NYFW 2015 Show, presented by Maserati of Manhattan & Star Vodka USA

Guest writer: Nicole Bernardo; Photographer: Bettina Ávila

The Highline Ballroom was packed to capacity on February 16 for the runway show and party organized by the Prive Group and hosted by the Esquire network’s Lucky Bastards.  The event was the fourth annual Fashion for Charity event and benefited the Holy Apostle’s Soup Kitchen. With DJ Francis Mercier blasting house music remixes and the one hour open bar courtesy of sponsor Star Vodka, it’s no wonder the line outside in the frigid elements never seemed to end.

Maserati Manhattan was among the other sponsorships of this collaboration event, with two of its sleek models displayed in front of the entryway.  Inside the ballroom, awash with the blue and purple strobe lights, fashion guests mingled around crescent leather couches. The runway sat in the center of the room under the glitter of disco balls.

Professional chic was the style of the night, with leather and fur making multiple appearances. Up against the pink brick backdrops, were bars on each side of the room dishing out vodkas and vodka Redbulls as fast as the bartenders could make them. The second floor offered more intimate booths with another bar and a view of the club crowd below.

The runway show included Con Vino Denim with its collection of women’s jeans. Skinny jeans and unique accents were prevalent. Some of the more striking pieces included a cuffed capris with a swiped gold glitter accent on the sides, and a slightly distressed ombre wash jean that faded to white below the knee. Patchwork accents added an asymmetrical flare to a pair of skinny jeans, and you can’t go wrong with white wash skinny denim with gray stitching.

Con Vino’s second collection included a cut out white top paired with a fitted pencil skirt accented by elaborate sequin work on the back. Two of the dresses showcased full sequin or rhinestone adornments. The rest of the collection mirrored the audience with plenty of leather and animal prints. The Wicked collection featured basic tees, tank tops, and even underwear for both men and ladies in an edgy collection featuring allusions to the seven sins.

Lastly, the Taylor Knight collection by Nippy Lavern featured a playful color palette and varied cuts. It kicked off with a white jumper with loose, flowing pants paired with a sequined, partially sheer bodice. An artistic long sleeve dress in a mix of bright and pastel hues also made an appearance. The Impressionistic bodice was paired with a high-low tiered structured skirt in mint green creating a striking look.

The Team

Edited by Rick