Posted by: Naima | April 23, 2010

Working the Streets

So, last time I wrote here I was just embarking on my senior thesis (read last post for details). But now it’s a few months later, finals are done, April showers have blanketed the country and it’s Spring Break!!!

No, I am not writing to you from a tequila-soaked hostel in Cancun or a luxurious castle in Prague but from a humble flat in Montreal, Quebec. If you’ve followed this blog for a little while, you know by now that I sing with a co-ed a cappella group on campus called the Crosstones. We’ve tried to tour every year, usually singing at group members’ high schools and other colleges; but this year, the Crosstones have decided to go international. Yes, Montreal is the first step of our global a cappella takeover.

Since the car trip is only about five hours from Bates, the travel costs weren’t too expensive and we were able to raise enough money to fund the space we’re renting in the city. As for performances, we were hoping to hit up McGill University, but they’re finals week got in the way. Luckily, they let us know that street performing is incredibly lucritive in Montreal and no permit is needed so we’ve been using the city as our singing playground all week. From train stations to street corners to malls and outdoor squares, we have sang all over the city inviting tips from satisfied crossers-by.  Sure, we’ve had a couple of problematic run-ins…most notably some shopping mall security guards that were’nt down with our tip jar, a part of our singing group we neglected to mention earlier. But generally, we’ve been welcomed in every space our voices have invaded. Our singing during the day has helped us to fund unforseen costs of the trip and is also going towards the finishing touches on the CD we’ve been recording all year.

Now, I don’t want you all to think that it’s all no work and no play for the Crosstones. We have made a point to explore the city on our own and take advantage of some of the nightlife here. It may be too predictable, but the most memorable night so far has been spent at a kareoke bar where we sang some favorites and got down on the dance floor.

But aside from nighttime shenanigans, I have had so much fun singing with the group and I actually think we’re getting rid of pretty much any shred of stage fright we might have brought with us to Canada. And yes, it’s also nice to make a little cash.

On that note, we’re heading to our favorite train station to sing for a little while and time is money so….

Peace and then some,


Posted by: Naima | January 31, 2010

The “T” Word

Here at Bates, almost every student graduates having done a few things. Among them might be jumping in the freezing puddle, enjoying one of Brad’s fantastic made-to-order omelettes, and returning to the library arcade the morning after the 80s dance to collect lost belongings. And then there’s the Senior Thesis, a final paper that is dreamt up and researched entirely by the student while overseen by an advisor for one or two semesters. It’s qualification as a class allows students to completely immerse themselves in the topic they’ve chosen. Many see the paper as a conclusion to their academic time at Bates, a collaboration of past and present thought, four years in 100 pages. Over 96% of Bates students write a thesis their senior year.

As a senior whose major requires a thesis, I’ve met with my advisor to cultivate the form of my paper. In order to combine what I’ve learned in both my major and minor (African American Studies and Rhetoric), I’ve chosen to explore the roles black women play in Spike Lee films. This rhetorical analysis will help me to prove that Spike Lee’s use of black women may undermine his role as a cinematic activist. My thesis will include in depth analysis of three Spike Lee Joints: She’s Gotta Have It, Girl 6, and She Hate Me.

Spike Lee has embraced the role of an activist who uses film as a medium to expose inequities. He has said numerous times that images have an impact on the communities that consume them. Statements like those are what have driven me to explore the consistent use of black women as purely sexual beings in Spike Lee Joints. Here’s the trailer for She Hate Me, one of the films I will be writing about.

While there is definitely a culture of thesis being to most stressful thing next to finding a job after graduation, I’m actually excited about this. My advisor is fantastic and he has done a lot of work with rhetorical film analysis through the lenses of race, gender, and sexuality. Hopefully, everything will go smoothly, but I also keep reminding myself to take a couple deep breaths now and then.

Peace and then some,


Video collected from

Posted by: Naima | January 25, 2010

Welcome Back

The first two weeks of the new semester have been really busy. I’m not sure if our winter break ended late or started early but the second I got back to Bates it seemed like something was going on in every corner of campus. All of the activities started last Monday. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, all classes are canceled for the day and replaced with workshops that focus on race relations and social justice. This year’s theme, Faith and Ethics in the Public Sphere, provided a platform for students and faculty to host a huge selection of panels, films, lectures, and discussions to attend. On Monday morning, the Brooks Quimby Debate Council hosted their annual King Day debate with Morehouse College. The resolution, “this house believes that religion is a necessary element of a just social change”, created an environment filled with thoughtful arguments that allowed people on all sides to understand the many elements of social change. Here’s a photo including both teams of debaters after the event:

Later that day, four female students and I sat on a panel for the Women and Gender Studies Program. The workshop started with a screening of Chris Rock’s recently released documentary, “Good Hair” and was followed by a brief discussion of the social implications of the film. We had a really wonderful conversation about the purpose of the film, common societal pressures for women, and the politicization of black hair. Other events on Monday spanned from leadership training to dance performances by Bates students.

The richness of Martin Luther King Day is followed by Winter Carnival, a week of events sponsored by the Chase Hall Committee and the Bates Outing Club. The events included an a cappella concert featuring all of the groups on campus, kareoke with refreshments, ice skating on the puddle, midnight breakfast in Commons, sledding down Mt. David, and inflatables in the cage. The Friday of Winter Carnival is probably the most festive. 1. It’s  the weekend, and  no matter how you spend your weekdays, weekend = happiness. 2. The one and only Puddle Jump. Every year, the Bates Outing Club breaks a hole into a frozen Lake Andrews. After the hole has been made, Batesies line up in bathing suits, spandex, boxers, wetsuits, robes, and sometimes nothing at all to jump into the ice cold water. A lot of students here will tell you it was one of the things that made them apply early (ya know, aside from the fantastic professors and the energetic student body) and others will tell you it’s part of the general education requirements for graduation.

Does everyone jump in? No. But a whole lot of people put on some layers and watch their peers get a running start and cannonball into ice cold water…we’re a very supportive campus.

During months where the snow can be piled up high enough to cover dorm room windows, Winter Carnival is one of the ways Bates reminds its students that the winter/snow/rain/cold/sleet/ice of the northeast isn’t so bad. Hell, it’s actually really, really fun.

Peace and then some,


Video + Images contributed by, Ben Hughes ’12, and Joseph Kibe ’11

First off, Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your sweet potatoes, collard greens, tofurky (or the real thing), ham, whatever you grub on these days.

This week-long break has come at the perfect moment, a time when the library is filled to the brim and other study halls have students pouring out from every opening, but somehow the work has seeped into my holiday plans. Don’t get me wrong. I love what I’m studying at Bates, some might argue that it consumes me, but I honesty cannot have a conversation without talking about -isms and patriarchal reflections on society. Between reading Laura Mulvey and Black Sexual Politics, I have been taking every moment I have to watch Lady Gaga-related things on television. Somehow, amidst talking about contemporary music videos and arguably “the new racism”, my entire Black Feminist Thought class watched Lady Gaga’s new music video “Bad Romance”. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I’ve embedded it below.

Assuming you did your part and watched the music video, you might agree with me and most pop culture critics who say that it is a little wacky. Between the live auction for Gaga, that crazy looking cat, and the final scene, there’s much to look into. Anyway, after spending weeks talking about female exploitation in music videos and other mediums, a classmate of mine rose her hand and brought up this Lady Gaga video. She wanted to point out that there are some music videos that clearly try to shift focus from the usual overtly sexual and patriarchal images. My professor was intrigued so we got on the classroom’s computer, projected the music video,  and watched it as a class. Everyone was really interested in the images and after theorizing about the different things going on and whether they are conceptual or not, Professor Houchins said we’d continue the conversation after break.

I must admit, I hadn’t really listened to Lady Gaga before last week so I’ve spent some (or maybe a ton) of my vacation watching her television interviews and watching more of her videos, hoping I see some trends. I still haven’t decided if she is a provider of social commentary or just a self righteous artist who claims to have “mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is [she’s] writing about at the time.” Maybe she’s both… I’m just waiting patiently until Tuesday to see what my professor has to say. In the mean time, I’ll just watch it one more time.

Peace and then some,


Video contributed by and Universal Music Group. Other contributors on this page: Wikipedia

Posted by: Naima | November 4, 2009

Oh, Academia!

This semester, I’ve been able to take classes that add more perspective to my own daily gaze. The following are my courses this semester: Field Geology in Maine, Public Discourse, Race and U.S. Women’s Movements, and Black Feminist Thought.

Out of these four, one might stick out. Why am I taking GEO, you ask? I have to. While the senior class is the last one with these specific requirements, Bates College has always been an institution that pushes its students to study outside of the realm they are most comfortable with. This particular Geology course spends lab time all over Maine. From Yarmouth Island to Acadia National Park, my Professor and Teaching Assistants guide out 100-level class through the history of rock formations in Maine. We leave some of the most beautiful locations with new understandings of lava, crystals, and sediments. Here’s a picture Professor Dykstra Eusden took when the entire class did an overnight at Penobscot River and Rip Gorge, about a five-hour car ride from campus.


Between sketching contacts of different rock formations, my studies have been focused on other relevant issues in the United States. In my Public Discourse class, my peers and I have been actively creating speeches about the intricacies of American health care reform. Professor Jan Hovden (also the current debate coach) has given us the freedom of choosing any topic within the health care debate and allows us to switch topics – presumably providing the students the ability to argue different ideologies and understand all sides to this debate. My last speech aimed to convince my audience that explicitly denouncing abortion through through Bart Stupak‘s amendment would be both immoral and an example of a “government takeover”. Regardless of my own ideologies or those of my peers, being able to present coherent arguments to a 15-person class for 10 minutes is a good skill to have. And one that must be nurtured. Taking this course, aside from helping me distinguish the writing strategies of essays and speeches, has put me in a position where part of my grade depends on how well versed I am in the current health care debate. While I fancy myself to be someone who goes to great lengths to stay up to date on what’s going on on in the news, it’s easy to function within this beautifully autumnal bubble and ask, “H.R. 32-what?

My last two courses this semester have a ton in common. Between Black Feminist Thought and Race and U.S. Women’s Movements, I spend about 6 hours each week discussing the importance of feminist theory in the context of the societal normalities that much of the United States holds dear. These converstations take place in small classes, where the students are seated in a round table manner.

Like Public Discourse, these courses have facilitated conversations about the gender-related, newsworthy events of the 2008 Presidential Election, the debates on South African runner Caster Semesnya’s gender, and Morehouse College‘s new dress code.


Being able to explore the role of gender and race in every nook of our country’s society forces the student to ask questions of race and gender in any societal exhibition. Is Tyler Perry guilty of feminizing the black male body and stripping black females of sexuality? Or is he just a funny man in a women’s fat suit?


Were the feminist movements of the 1960s ignited by the sexism occuring within the male-dominant Leftist activist movements? Or was it the catcalling on the streets and the media portrayals of women that propelled the movements? Should women even be regarded as an oppressed group in the first place? Dissecting theory with Professor Sue Houchins in Black Feminist Thought and excavating campaigns with Professor Melinda Plastas in Race and U.S. Women’s Movements go hand in hand to provide  students with the tools to make up our own minds.

In the aftermath of Maine’s election, many of Maine’s voting residents (such as myself) will be forced to define equality. There are many ways to describe what equality in the United States looks like; I like to think that taking particular classes this semester have facilitated my ability to see all sides of this argument and come to my own conclusion.

Peace and then some,



Images contribued by,, and Dykstra Eusden.

Posted by: Naima | October 18, 2009

And it begins…

It’s that time of year, the library is flooded, bodies are tired, and you might just find some people in PGill buried in their books. Midterms has hit the campus hard and abruptly, and this year it’s coupled with sickness. As you may have read/heard/spread rumors about, the H1N1 virus is abundant on college campuses around the country. But the second any campus has ten confirmed cases, there seems to be a trend of diagnosing all flu-like symptoms with the Swine. I only know about four people who suffered from the actual H1N1 virus even though Lewiston residents rarely come onto campus without surgical masks. Since all of the students were offered the flu vaccines, and many of us received them, I’ve gathered that a lot of the sickness on campus has been either the common cold or a two-day fever. Either way, class is still in session and we all still have to sleep, eat, and study. Thankfully, Bates has its annual fall break starting Wednesday. That ought to curb trends of both illness and stress.


This year, I don’t have any tests for the midterm period. Instead, I have a series of papers that I’ve been working on. Last night, I finished an autobigraphical piece for my Black Feminist Thought course. The assignment was for every student in the class to discuss how their own gender, race, and sexuality are affected by the patterns of oppression in the United States. My professor wanted us to be able to articulate our experiences within the structured society we’ve all lived comfortably within. The privileges we are granted and the pangs from which we suffer are often sourced from things far beyond our control. Our identities intersect in ways that make some of us favorable than others. I had been looking forward to this project: I saw it as a more or less simple opportunity to explore who my sense of self, an idea that many believe is at the core of the college experience. But to my surprise it was for me to really difficult for me to unearth personal experiences dictated by blackness or womanhood, regardless of the amount I have studied the two since I came to Bates. While it was a long and strenuous task to complete this exploration of self, I’m so happy that class on Tuesday will be filled with students who have fully evaluated themselves in the scope of our studies. The racialized and gendered discourse within our class will surely continue to unravel as the semester moves forward.  I can’t wait.

Peace and then some,


Posted by: Naima | October 6, 2009

Don’t Call It A Comeback

Ah yes, I know. It’s been long. Really long. The past couple of months in short have been hectic – so hectic in fact, I might just go through them quickly so that my own head doesn’t explode.

So here it goes. The first few weeks were filled with day trips to Range Pond, camp fires, lobstah, and nighttime dance parties.


The next couple included a couple of  job interviews, both of which I got (yay for me), and more days at Range Pond.The weeks following included lots of readings, most of which focused on analyzing gender and race as intersected entities in the United States. Then, there was homecoming/alumni weekend, where I got to see some old friends who are off in the real world now. Matt and Kim performed on campus, that was pretty raucous. And last week was Parent’s Weekend – sang some a cappella and caught up with Mom and Dad – always a treat. Most days though, weather permitting, have been spent outside and on campus – cold hard chillin. Here are some friends and I hanging out in the early days of the school year in front of Pettengill Hall.

Back to School

And here we are, Monday night at Bates sitting in my living room listening to a track from the opera “Don Giovanni” on WRBC Bates College Radio. Not a regular for Front Pocket, the show responsible for my listening pleasure, but one of the DJs just turned in a paper about the famous opera so he was inclined to share his listening experiences with anyone tuned in before returning to the normal setlist of reggae.

At the very least, being back at Bates means I can hear some of the people I share classrooms with everyday on the air. Turning the dial to 91.5 happens almost automatically now. There’s something in my fingers that knows the best thing on the radio will be Bates students. Am I a little bit biased? Absolutely. But that still doesn’t change the fact the WRBC is one of the only stations in central Maine where I can hear opera, heavy metal, pop, and reggae music all in one sitting.

Trivia Night 007.preview

There are over 80 different radio shows on WRBC each week. Each show has anywhere between one and four DJs who play different sorts of music and also feature talk portions. A lot of the DJs have hosted a show since freshman year and are now gearing up for graduation. Others, like myself and my roommate from sophomore and junior year, are pulling together a show for the first time.

At this point, our show has been purely music. We’re working on pulling together some talk show bits at least once a month. Each week so far we’ve had a theme and have tried our best to stay within it for the full two hours. Our first week, the theme was “Mad Men”. We spent the show playing songs from the late-1950s/60s – as an homage to the television show we both religiously watch – but we also played seemingly angry songs performed by men – think Limp Bizkit and Rage Against The Machine. This past week our theme was food. We pretty much spent the whole two hours playing songs about or inspired by food – all I know is I left the station really really hungry.

Not sure what our theme will be this week, but go ahead and listen online and check it out for yourself:

Stay righteous. Peace and then some,


Posted by: Naima | August 1, 2009

Catching Up With Study Abroad

While I was in South Africa, I managed to conjur up an internship with College Jolt. It’s a website that features a series of blogs written by and for college students. The topics range from advice on ending relationships to starting internships. The theme of my blog is global study. Considering the fact that I’ve only recently returned from a semester in South Africa, studying abroad seemed like a topic I could talk about knowledgeably.

My series is called “Get Out of There!” and focuses on studying abroad in regions that are a little less orthodox. Based on data from the Institute of International Education, the top ten places to go abroad are as follows: United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, China, Australia, Mexico, Germany, Ireland, CostaRica.

When I write for College Jolt, my goal is to put a spotlight on places in the world that are not on that list but are incredible and offer great programs nonetheless. Since so many of my friends from Bates went abroad to different places all over the world, I’ve been able to talk to them about their experiences so that I can incorporate real accounts into my blog.

My first post explored the possibilities of studying in India. More specifically, I chose to look closely at Hyderabad and Mumbai. I was able to briefly interview the handful of friends I have to spent time there and put together a short post about how awesome it would be to study and wander around India.

As I finished up my blog post about studying abroad, a handful of my friends from Cape Town were in New York City for the weekend. I’ve said in past posts that I haven’t really processed my time in South Africa. But while I was able to catch up with friends in an entirely new environment, I had my first real brush with rehashing my abroad experiences. Even though I left Cape Town feeling like I made some great friends,


seeing them in the United States somehow makes the relationships seem more real. At this point, I’m just so excited to see them again. Being able to verbally explore my time abroad was something I was missing out on this summer. Having so little time between deboarding the plane and starting my job put me in a position where my thoughts were engulfed by new colors and sounds of New York.

Since so many of my friends in NY have experienced similarly rushed transitions, it has been nice to have friends around who know what that feels like. Tomorrow, I’m heading home to Chicago to visit my parents and friends from high school. The visit i only lasting a few days but I compared to the 24 hours I spent in Chicago the last time I was there, this ought to feel like I’m settling in. I’m getting excited to be in my city on my block in my bed.

Peace and then some,


Posted by: Naima | July 31, 2009

Train Track Extras

You don’t even have to tell me. I know my blog entries this summer have been rare. Perhaps you’re so over my nook that it’s not even featured in your computer’s memory anymore!


In the last few weeks my life in New York has mostly been a commute. Between going to New Jersey for work, Central Park for Leisure, Coney Island for music, the Village for coffee, and the Upper West Side for potlucks, I’m starting to think I spend more time on the train than anywhere else. It doesn’t bother me much though, trains were one of those things I missed almost to a devastating degree while I was abroad. Now, no matter where I am in the city, no matter what hour, the train has become a place to unwind. Regardless of the amount of times I have to transfer, once I get onto the F I feel like home. I throw on my headphones, let my music player choose a solid track, and by the time my stop rolls up I feel refueled.


I don’t want it to seem like my entire summer has been spent on the train, but it’s hard not to admit that I’ve had some seriously good me-time on those rides. Sometimes having so many of your friends in one city makes your alone time that much precious. Other than riding the F though, I’ve been working a decent amount.

Now for the run-down. As you may remember from one of those posts that have been collecting cyber-dust on this site, I’m interning at a casting agency this summer. Originally, we were going to be primarily working on extras casting for a romantic-comedy with a basketball backdrop. But due to some organizational issues, my boss decided she wasn’t interested in stressing out from week to week and quit the movie. Where does this leave me you ask? Turns out we had another project; so I’ve been reading episode scripts, alphabetizing headshots, allocating roles, prepping actors, and going to the set to lend a hand where I can. What we’re working on now is a CBS court/family drama called “The Good Wife” – think Elliot Spitzer‘s wife goes back to the office. Here’s a preview of the show, it premieres in September:

Casting-wise, it’s very different from working on a film. With a television series, we work episode-to-episode. It’s also a little bit more fun because I get to read each script as if I’m watching the show each week; the only difference is that I’m helping to put it together. Last night actually, I was an extra for the second episode. A scene required some college students so my boss thought it would be a good opportunity to see exactly what it means to be an extra – and to get some extra $$. I enlisted some friends of mine from Bates who are in New York and we spent hours silently pretending to be at a Frat Party – something that all Bates students are somewhat foreigners to (considering Bates’ lack of Greek Life). But, whether you’re privy to life on Frye Street or in J.B., there’s somewhat of an understanding about how to act. Today, after spending most of last night being an extra, I was sent to the set to organize the extras. I didn’t do much – just tied up loose ends when others’ hands were full – but I felt that because I had been an extra the night before, I was able to help people out more efficiently.

After all of the extras were settled in, my job was done. Back to “takin’ a train, takin’ a train, takin’ a train, takin’ a train.”

Peace and then some,


Posted by: Naima | July 15, 2009

Chicago in New York

Macy's 4th of July fireworks

Originally, I had planned to spend the 4th of July weekend in Fire Island with some girlfriends from Bates. Instead of heading to the island though, I ended up staying in New York City with some friends from home who came into town that weekend. The weather was the best it had been in weeks and the all-too-familiar raindrops were no where to be seen. For that reason, some pals and I grabbed some snacks and trekked to Central Park. There we frolicked in the grass, watched tree leaves dance and pencil-rolled down hilly knolls. It was one of those days where you remember all of the fun things you did when you were a child. You take those distant memories, recreate them, and then understand why being a kid is so awesome. As I enter my senior year in college, I’m often swarmed with questions regarding my future plans. I generally provide a vague response of “I’m going to change the world” and have a memorized commonplace response to those who wonder what the hell I  can do with my degree in African-American Studies and Rhetoric. But because the mental preparation of entering the “real world” can be so exhausting, days like the one I shared with friends in Central Park become crucial to remembering not to be so stiff. The rest of the weekend was fantastic; more days in the park were in order and I watched the fire works explode over the Hudson River. All in all it was a really good series of days. I saw about ten people I went to high school with, half of which I hadn’t seen in years and the other half I know I’ll see for years to come. The sky was cloudless for all 72 hours. And then I went back to work. Ahhh, summertime.

Peace and then some,


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