Land Acknowledgements for New Commons Project

By Robert Drinkwater

During this semester every New Commons event begins with a land acknowledgement. The first one was given when the poet Cheryl Savageau came to UMF to read some of her poems. This land acknowledgement was read by UMF’s new president Edward Serna. The land acknowledgment recognizes that this land once belonged to the Indigenous people and that we are on Wabanaki land. The idea of starting off every event with a land acknowledgment came from Kristen Case’s New Commons class.

“I first experienced a land acknowledgement a couple of years ago at a Canadian university,” said Case. “It didn’t really occur to me to do that at UMF until I saw a Facebook post by Nicole Kellett about the practice. I followed up the links about the practices of land acknowledgements. I saw a video of a bunch of Native people saying how meaningful these land acknowledgements are to them.”

Case did some research on land acknowledgements with her colleague, Steve Grandchamp. She said that there are critics of these practices, even by those who are advocates for Native people. “I felt like it was important to find out why and if you are going to do a land acknowledgement, what is important to include in it and what are the best ways to do it.” said Case. This was when Case realized that it would be best to practice this exercise for one of her classes with her students. “We did research about the local area,” said Case, “and the different tribal nations in Maine and to come up with a language that we wanted to use together, so that it was more of a community statement. It felt appropriate for the New Commons Project.”

Case and her students were able to discuss what they had come up with for the land acknowledgement with Lisa Brooks, a scholar of Indigenous studies, who was a keynote speaker for the New Commons event “The Canoe.” Case was able to get input from both Brooks and colleague Sabine Klein who does research on Native American history.

Case had her class work together to figure out what works and what doesn’t, “We had them work in groups for people to find out that information,” said Case. “They had to write a draft for what they would say for a land acknowledgement.” Her class had four different versions of land acknowledgements. Case notes, “We picked out elements we liked from each one and combined them into one final one.”

Land acknowledgements have been read at every New Commons event this semester, and Case said that she wants it to be an ongoing thing, “We wanted to commit to the idea of making an acknowledgement sort of something that we don’t just do once for a Native American speaker, but for something that’s part of our ongoing way of doing things.” She states how it should be something that is a part of everyday life that reminds people of whose land we’re on, “Not just on Indigenous People’s Day,” said Case, “but on every occasion.”

Zion Hodgkin, one of Kristen Case’s students in her New Commons Project class has helped her come up with the land acknowledgement. Zion talks about how in the class the students learned about different cultures throughout time. “We were on a section where we were reading a poetry book by a Native American woman writer,” said Hodgkin. “We decided that because it was her event that it would be a good time to start doing this land acknowledgement.” Hodgkin states that the land acknowledgement is meant to recognize that the land belonged to somebody before us and that we honor that.

The New Commons class worked together to figure out what ideas worked for a land acknowledgement such as researching tribes that lived on this land to make it more relevant to the UMF community. “We looked online at previous examples of land acknowledgements,” said Hodgkin. “We sort of mixed everything together, and made it applicable to us, and made sure that it flowed well.”

“Even though we started it during an event with a Native American writer,” said Hodgkin. “We didn’t want it to be pandering.” Hodgkin believes it is important that a land acknowledgement is read before every New Commons event from here on out, “We wanted it to be something that continued, that even when I’m out of school, or that when the professors are no longer teaching about Native American Studies or at least in the way that they did, that it [the land acknowledgment] will be something that continues throughout the years.”

Poet Cheryl Savageau comes to UMF

By Robert Drinkwater

On October 16th, Cheryl Savageau who is of Abenaki descent came to UMF and read us a few of her poems from her books. The event was kicked off by UMF’s new president Edward Serna, who recognized Indigenous People’s Day. Afterwards Cheryl Savageau came on stage and began her reading. Her poems not only her heritage, but also her upbringing, and a lot of it was about nature and her family.

One thing that I noticed from her poems was that she wasn’t afraid talk about her heritage, growing up of Abenaki descent. One of her poems was a detailed account about how one her her college professors told her to stop writing about natives because it made people feel guilty. Another poem, “Looking for Indians” was a poem about her childhood, learning about her Abenaki heritage from her father.

Another thing that I noticed about this poem, was that Savageau did a phenomenal job at providing us a detailed description of these mundane activities that she did with her parents as a child, such as fishing, and gardening, things that can make anyone reminisce about our childhood and think about the fun activities that we did as children with our parents that created some of our best childhood memories. I also enjoyed how towards the end of the poem we get a detailed account of her father telling her about the Abenaki tribes and how they “roamed the thick new england forest/ they hunted deer in winter/ sometimes moose, but mostly/ they were farmers and fishermen”. I felt like this excerpt gave me a clear picture on the Abenaki people.

I also enjoyed the poems about when she was in high school. She told us that she was in a band. This poem was about her experience as a high schooler playing in a pub as someone who is underaged. Another poem she read was a list of reasons why her family members drink. This was originally written when she was a child because she was curious as to why her family members drank alcohol. It was a comical and overall enjoyable poem as she listed her family members reasons, some of which included: being married to someone, being in college, and just wanting to see the bottom of the can. She also mentioned how the Abenaki believe that they come from trees, which I thought was fascinating learning about this culture.

Cheryl Savageau has three books of poetry, Dirt Road Home, Home Country and Mother/Land, and in 2020 she will be coming out with a memoir.

You can buy Mother/Land on amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mother-Land-Earthworks-Cheryl-Savageau/dp/1844712699/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2DQ0YYMZGQG09&keywords=cheryl+savageau&qid=1571673072&sprefix=cheryl+sa%2Caps%2C159&sr=8-1

Dirt Road Home: https://www.amazon.com/Dirt-Road-Home-Cheryl-Savageau/dp/1880684306/ref=pd_sbs_14_1/144-2792618-1449133?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=1880684306&pd_rd_r=548f7c1f-0f21-4bac-84a6-ab8971d9fae8&pd_rd_w=b646I&pd_rd_wg=I2KoW&pf_rd_p=52b7592c-2dc9-4ac6-84d4-4bda6360045e&pf_rd_r=TQV7YH85QFZC2EEMZEM6&psc=1&refRID=TQV7YH85QFZC2EEMZEM6

Sigma Tau Delta Writers Workshop

By Robert Drinkwater

On Saturday, October 5th through October 6th, I had the pleasure of going to the Writers Workshop with Sigma Tau Delta at Camp Kirkold in Readfield, Maine. We left UMF at around 3:00pm on Saturday. When we arrived we got to pick out cabins and help collect firewood. after we collected the firewood, we made our way down to the lake, where there were two benches. A bunch of us, including myself took pictures of the lake, really capturing the beauty of Maine. We sat down on the ground or on one of the benches and did our first writing exercise. For this writing exercise, we had to write about an object near us and describe it in immense detail. Describe how it looks, the texture, what’s around it. Pretend as though this object was the most important thing in our life. We had about fifteen minutes to write about this. When we were done, we continued to walk down the trail where we saw a chimney with nothing else around it. It looked like something out of a horror movie. It really set the mood for spooky season.

Eventually we made it to our next stop for our second writing exercise. For this exercise we had to remain completely silent and write about every sound we hear. After that we made our way to our third and final stop to where there were a few picnic tables and for this exercise we had to write a poem backwards, that had to be twenty lines and we had to use words from a list that was provided. This resulted in an interesting poem to say the least that involved talking coyotes and nosy cicadas.

By the time that we were finished with our writing exercise, Tegan met us at the picnic tables and said that our dinner would be ready soon. We made our way over back to the campsite and gathered around the campfire as the sun began to set. We cooked rice and beans. Having it after a long day of hiking made the food all the more delicious.

After we all finished our meals we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores . Afterwards we huddled around the fire to keep ourselves warm in this Autumn weather. The next morning we all woke up fairly early. Three of members of our group had to leave because they were not feeling too good, but our remaining group went down to the dining hall where Tegan made us pancakes. Afterwards we did our next writing exercise, which was a scavenger hunt. For this we we given a clue to a hidden writing prompt that would be somewhere around the area. Each prompt had something to do with character creation. For instance, for our first prompt we had to list the physical attributes of our character. For another prompt we had to write a monologue that gave a bit of a backstory to our character. By the end of this exercise, we knew our characters backstory, motivations, fears, flaws, and weaknesses. This is the type of exercise that I would recommend to anyone who really wants to get to know their characters. With each writing exercise, all of our characters became more developed and human. I found myself getting invested in these characters and their stories. We concluded our camping trip after the eighth and final prompt, which was to write about an event that would change our characters nature. These prompts were thought provoking and made me more conscious of the importance of knowing your characters when you are creating a story. This writing retreat was an excellent way to practice writing and experience the great outdoors of Maine.

Keynote Speaker: Lisa Brooks

By Robert Drinkwater

On Friday, September 27th, Dr. Lisa Brooks visited UMF as a keynote speaker for UMF’s New Commons project The Canoe. Dr. Brooks is a professor of English and American studies at Amherst College. She is of Abenaki and Polish heritage and she has written several essays and books. This isn’t Dr. Brook’s first time here at UMF either. She visited a few years ago as a Libra scholar in 2012. For this event Dr. Brooks talked about the Wabanaki tribe and how this land in western Maine is their land. The event started off with our own professor of English, Kristen Case as she listed off the upcoming New Commons events coming up as well as introduce Dr. Brooks as she began her presentation.

Dr. Brooks started the presentation by showing us a map of land that the Wabanaki once inhabited. New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, part of Quebec, and Nova Scotia were once Wabanaki lands. Throughout the presentation Dr. Brooks shared her knowledge of this group of natives. The Wabanaki used canoes to travel down rivers because it was a faster way of traveling. These canoes could contain up to twelve people. Brooks also shared a poem by writer, Cheryl Savageau, who is also of Abenaki heritage, who will be giving a poetry reading on October 16th, from 11:45am-1:00pm. As a student living in Maine, I’ve never really thought about the culture of the indigenous people who once resided on this land. Who had their own culture, history, and traditions. I found myself fascinated with the language as Dr. Brooks began her presentation speaking in the language of the Wabanaki. The Wabanaki tribes have three different languages: Abenaki-Penobscot that is spoken, Maliseet-Passamaquoddy, and Mi’maq. I learned a lot of insight about this group of natives, as I don’t often think about who resided here before the colonists came here.

Humanities Spring Reception 2019

Spring was (and, as of May 13, still is) late in coming this year, but the annual Humanities Spring Reception arrived right on time, providing a bit of sunshine (well, emotionally anyway) in a gloomy spring and on an otherwise gray day.

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Pre-ceremony and post-ceremony music was provided by English major Cora Curtis.

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Faculty member Pat O’Donnell read from her most recent novel, The Vigilance of Stars.

The Spring Reception also provides a chance to acknowledge student accomplishment from the preceding year.

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Pictured from left to right, Eireann Lorsung, Annie Moloney, Tegan Bradley, Sabine Klein, and Master of Ceremonies Christine Darrohn.

Two students from the Humanities who received Wilson Scholars awards for Spring semester were recognized: Annie Moloney, Creative Writing/English, whose project “To Touch One Another: Ethical Boundaries of Human Violence” was sponsored by faculty member Eireann Lorsung; Tegan Bradley, Creative Writing, whose project “Hair: A Graphic Narrative” was sponsored by faculty member Sabine Klein.

Currently off campus for a study abroad program in Peru, Andrea Swiedom (Creative Writing/English) was recognized as a Wilson Fellow, for the project “The Recipe Commons,” sponsored by Luann Yetter. As part of her project, Andrea has created an active blog called The Recipe Commons: Telling Stories of Migration Through Food.

 

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Each year, Islandport Magazine sponsors a writing contest. In 2019, several UMF students performed well in the contest, including prize winner (and Creative Writing major) Aimee Degroat (for the story “Down to It”), and honorable mentions Meagan Jones (Creative Writing; standing, to the left), for the story “The Wish,” and Bethany Wicks (Creative Writing; standing, to the right), for the story “Frosted Windows and Salt Stains.”

The Spring 2019 BFA Senior Award went to Kristine Sarasin, who was present but somehow didn’t make it into a photograph by herself, although you can see her in the background behind Megan and Bethany in the picture above.

The UMF English Department offers two yearly awards to students in English, the Maude L. Parks Award and the Eleanor Wood English Scholarship. The Maude Parks Award is given to a junior student at UMF demonstrating excellence in communication arts in the field of English. The Eleanor Wood English Scholarship is awarded to an outstanding junior or senior English Major (including Creative Writing and Secondary Ed-English) who has been a student at UMF during both his/her freshman and sophomore years. It is to be based on academic achievement in the field of English.

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Awarded Honorable Mention for the English awards were Kasey Erlebach (English/Secondary Ed-English), Syl Schulze (Creative Writing), and (not pictured) Margaret Pomerleau (English/Secondary Ed-English).
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The Eleanor Wood Memorial Scholarship winner was Zoe Stonetree (Creative Writing), above. The Maude L. Parks award winner was Andrea Swiedom (who is still in Peru). Zoe and Andrea were multiple winners this year, as Zoe was also the recipient of the Alice James Books Director’s Chair Fellowship for fall 2019, and Andrea was also named as the recipient of the Beth Eisen Memorial Scholarship.

The reception was also a time to recognize members of the UMF branch of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society, including newly inducted members, Rowan Bagley, Grace Barnard, Juliana Burch, Aimee Degroat, Ali Hooper, Jennie Ingall, Meagan Jones, Darby Murnane, Liz Niznik, Billie Rose Newby, Bethany Wicks, and Meaghan Wildes. Also recognized were the slate of officers for 2019-20: Tegan Bradley, President; Billie Rose Newby, Vice President; Liz Niznik, Secretary; and Grace Barnard, Social Media Liaison.

Photography by Bob Bailie.

The Echo of History & The BlacKkKlansman

Amidst the cultural events on the UMF campus, the New Commons Project has been off to a radical start this spring. Beginning with lectures on hip hop and Kendrick Lamar’s latest album Damn to most recently with a screening of BlacKkKlansman this past Friday, February 8. Focusing on cultural events having to do with race and racial equality, the New Commons Project followed the BlacKkKlansman screening on Friday night with a symposium day of lectures on Saturday, February 9.

Directed by Spike Lee, the BlacKkKlansman came out in 2018 and is based off of a true story which was originally a memoir written by Ronell Eugene Stallworth that was published in 2014. Stallworth wrote this memoir based on his experience working as a cop for the Colorado Springs Police department in the 1970s.

Lincoln Auditorium in the Roberts Learning Center was packed on Friday night with only a handful of empty seats. The main character in the film, Ron Stallworth, is a young African American that joins the Colorado Springs Police Department to infiltrate the local KKK chapter. In the film, Stallworth’s actions and interactions with the KKK chapter are a wonderful paradox. First, Stallworth calls the chapter on the phone to pretend to be interested in becoming a member and then is partnered with a fellow cop, who is white to be the white Stallworth that interacts with the KKK in person. It isn’t until the end of the film that David Duke, the KKK leader, learns that Ron Stallworth is in fact African American. No one knew that he was black because of his white partner — Flip Zimmerman, played by Adam Driver — and all of the KKK members began to accept him and eventually nominated him to be one of their leaders.

Ron Stallworth’s two-part character presents us with the ultimate racial duality or double consciousness. Firstly, Stallworth’s character is an African American in a mostly caucasian police department. Secondly, Stallworth risks his life and his partner’s life (character, Flip Zimmerman) by pretending to join the KKK in order to learn more about the violent and racist organization.

The film screening was followed with a panel discussion with several professors from UMF and our partner University of Le Mans, France. UMF faculty Sarah Maline, Associate Professor of Art History; Andre Siamundele, Assistant Professor of French; and Michael Schoeppner, Assistant Professor of History were led in discussion by UMF’s Libra Scholar Delphine Letort. Professor Letort is visiting UMF from Le Mans University. The panel members shared their thoughts on the film. Professor Letort commented on how Spike Lee reversed the message of D. W. Griffith’s 1915 film The Birth of a Nation of white people being afraid of black people to the reality that it is black people that are more rightfully afraid of white people. UMF’s Professor Schoeppner was really taken aback by the film and shared with the audience his observation that “history doesn’t repeat itself, it echoes.”

This idea of history echoing itself was brought up again in Saturday’s symposium. Audience members of students and faculty talked about how violence against race keeps on happening, why it keeps happening, and what we can do about it. It was agreed by many that there is no immediate or sole solution, that there is no one film or work of art that can change the world, no matter how moving it may be. The change is with the people and the people — us, me, and you — need to keep the conversation going. Talking about racial injustice issues in academics and in our everyday lives will help to keep replacing ignorance and fear with education and open-mindedness.

Some Sentences From “Persuasion” – A New Commons Project Talk

RP101-0701Daniel Gunn, professor of English at UMF gave a talk last Wednesday December 5, 2018 in the Emery Community Arts Center on Some Sentences From ‘Persuasion’, a Jane Austen novel. This talk took the form of an academic reading journal of the profound intricacies that fascinate professor Gunn in Austen’s Persuasion. This talk was part of the Jane Austen series put on by the New Commons Project.

Kristen Case, associate professor of English and colleague to professor Gunn, prefaced the audience for what they were about to experience. Professor Case described professor Gunn’s investigatory research as slow, quiet, and “attentive to really understand the meaning of another’s words and sentences.” It is not every day that one pays such meticulous attention to the functionality of another’s writing. Professor Gunn is truly “Austen’s ideal reader,” affirmed professor Case.

It is the language at the sentence level in Persuasion that fascinates professor Gunn. His unusual, experimental readings of individual sentences captivated the audience in the Emery last Wednesday as professor Gunn took us all on a journey through his mind of the inner workings of Austen’s language. Gunn spoke with such passion and excitement as he shared his discoveries with us. “The narrator’s voice is not always the narrator’s” and “the withholding of the last phrase of the sentence is powerful” in select sentences throughout the Austen novel.

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If there is a heaven, Austen would have been smiling down upon professor Gunn last Wednesday. Among linguistic and grammatical investigation, there was also immense praise of Austen’s genius on Gunn’s behalf. He claims that her “arrangement [of syntactical elements] as brilliant” and the “sequences of phrases as ironic.”  One such example: … a dead young lady, nay, two dead ladies, for it proved twice as fine as the first report, gives the notion that Persuasion is “Austen’s saddest novel,” claimed Gunn. He also believes that the work is “a reminder of how precise Austen is to the natural world.”

Gunn delivered his discoveries with passionate understanding and appreciation of Austen’s technique. He continues to dissect her sentences, looking for more meaning, that Gunn knows is there, awaiting to be unpacked. At the conclusion of his presentation, professor Gunn called “the novel itself a ‘tender sonnet’ with a sense of loss.”

IMG_5869Upon hearing the enthusiasm in professor Gunn’s talk and learning about the profound inner workings of Austen, I felt a deep need to acquire a copy of Persuasion and save it for the day when I can read and experience for myself the inner workings of Austen’s genius.

Professor Gunn’s deciphering of thirteen select sentences from Jane Austen’s Persuasion can’t help but excite the mind of the listener. We discovered, with and through professor Gunn, the relevance and significance of Austen’s inner workings, truly a rare event.

For more information on upcoming New Commons Project events, please click here.

Special Event: Jonathan Cohen on “Disciples of Dionysus: Nietzsche and the Ramones”

On November 7th, I attended Jonathan Cohen’s talk on “Disciples of Dionysus: Nietzsche and the Ramones”. I walked into the even not knowing what to expect because I knew nothing about Nietzsche or the Ramones, and my knowledge of Dionysus was limited to his association with wine or alcohol. Cohen began his talk by discussing who Dionysus is the Greek God of wine, fertility, chaos, and the law. While this is a confusing mix of traits to associate with one God, Jonathan Cohen thoroughly explained how all these things could connect. Dionysus is a God of the law because in mythology he decided which laws were good enough to be followed, and is therefore not always lawful. His disciples were often women who, if I remember correctly, would punish men by ripping them apart and eating the pieces of their bodies.

Clearly, there is a lot of lawlessness here as well as the association with outcasts. Next, Cohen gave some context as to how Nietzsche connects to this. This part was a little difficult for me to follow and retain, as I don’t have a lot of practice with philosophy, but I know that early in his career, he positioned himself musically with another composer and later in his career was fervidly against him. His musical progression became less neat and more chaotic in order to achieve a different sound.

Finally, we arrived at the Ramones. Cohen explained how the Ramones are the true disciples of Dionysus and Nietzsche because of their outcast brand of rock. Everything from their physical appearance, their sound, and their lyrics suggest a group of people who are outside of order and have their own rules. Cohen showed us his point by having us listen to songs by the Ramones and read the lyrics at the same time. They are tricksters, similar to Dionysus, and use terms that embody the other, such as pinhead, punk rocker, punk, cretin, and lobotomized.

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This connects to Josh Kun’s Audiotopia most strongly through the idea of discovery. In his introduction, Kun describes how the music around him growing up influenced his perception of the world. It created this audiotopic space where things he had never thought of before were possible. As he exposed himself to new music his understanding of the world grew. Cohen described that during the Ramones’ time, there were not many bands quite like them. In fact, they often drew themselves in direct contrast with the Beach Boys, who were clean and had a clean, good sound. The Ramones projected a new identity for listeners, and they projected a new sound. Their sound was more chaotic and allowed listeners to bring their own experiences to the table when listening to their music. This is evident by the followers they attracted and how popular they became. Music allows people to gain access to different kinds of culture and learn about new ideas in a safe way. Even as Jonathan Cohen played their songs for us, we too learned more about the Ramones and their connection to Nietzsche and Dionysus.

Belanna Morales is a senior English major at UMF. This post was originally written for the UMF Literary Theory 2018 blog, which is used by students in ENG 455 Literary Theory to write about course reading material and sometimes to apply the ideas from course readings to events on campus. The Jonathan Cohen talk was scheduled as part of the ongoing Noisy, Wild, and Extremely Troublesome: Lectures in the Arts and Humanities at the University of Maine-Farmington, sponsored by the Humanities Division at UMF.

Special Event: Anthony Davis on John Coltrane’s “Alabama”

In early November I went to Anthony Davis’s talk “Race, White Backlash and the Spiritual Quest: Jazz Responds to the Struggle for Civil Rights” on John Coltrane’s “Alabama”, which was written in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing that resulted in the deaths of four young African American girls in 1963. Davis discussed, in depth, the history of the event and of jazz during his talk. What interested me was the way he broke down how the composition of “Alabama” allowed any listener at any time to feel the grief that was the response to the bombing. While listening to the details of the song, I thought about our discussion of Josh Kun’s Audiotopia and how it applied to “Alabama”.

Kun defines songs as audiotopias when they “[function] like a possible utopia for the listener…[and] is experienced not only as sound that goes into our ears and vibrates through our bones but as a space that we can enter into, encounter, move around in, inhabit, be safe in, learn from” (Kun 2). When Kun describes the idea of an audiotopia, he thinks about songs as being separate from music, which allows them to embody this quality. However, I think here we can see that “Alabama” functions in this way without having (or needing) lyrics.

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Coltrane’s “Alabama” is not, however, a utopia, even if we use the definition Kun gives which is the central quality of having “no known location” (Kun 2). The song is clearly dealing with a world in which four children are killed because of their race. In other words, not an ideal world. Further, it truly is about a particular place. It is about Alabama. It is about racial tensions in the United States. On this level here, we can understand the song as an audiotopia because the song becomes the place. Any listener from any location and time is transported into the Alabama of 1963. The listener is emotionally transported to this moment in time, and the listener is allowed to move around in this space.

Davis shows us how “Alabama” does all this. Although I am not overly familiar with musical theory, I do understand that different musical keys can give different experiences to the listener. When Coltrane used his particular jazz key in this song and with his minimal instrumental arrangement, he provided a specific voice, and this voice was somber. Because of the bareness of the arrangement, each instrument can be heard clearly speaking its mind. Of course, as I describe it here it sounds simple, as though anybody could write a song within a key and create a mood. But one thing about music is that it is never just notes on a page. The performance itself is the most important part. It was very interesting to be able to watch the performance and also see how the music lined up with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in response to the bombing. The performance and the notes themselves all work to create this audiotopia–this place where listeners are brought back to this moment in time and gain something from each listening experience.

Belanna Morales is a senior English major at UMF. This post was originally written for the UMF Literary Theory 2018 blog, which is used by students in ENG 455 Literary Theory to write about course reading material and sometimes to apply the ideas from course readings to events on campus. The Anthony Davis talk was scheduled as part of the events organized by the New Commons Project at UMF.

Today’s Music Through Activism: Performance by Anthony Green

On November 20th, 2018 I went to see Anthony R. Green’s performance Today’s Music Through Activism in the Emery Performance Center at the University of Maine, Farmington. It was a solo performance, with various music, sounds, media, and even audience voices involved. I didn’t know anything about Green before the performance started besides one clip we watched in class of him, that confused me more than anything else. But Today’s Music Through Activism was on a whole new level.

The entire production had a focus on bringing the experience of being black in America to light. Recent events, like police brutality and unlawful shooting of black people were included, as well as the history of the black experience, shown through “WE CANNOT BE AFRAID/KINDNESS RECITATION” a performance on a lynching. Music, and by extension, sound and performance, has always been an expression of identity and experiences. Not all of Green’s identity or experiences were shared by the audience in rural Maine college with a 60% female attendance, but that’s why it’s important that we did watch and participate.

This reminded me of a section in Josh Kun’s Audiotopia on Whitman’s I Hear America Singing. Whitman’s experiences of supposedly listening to all of America singing neglected to hear the voices of anyone that wasn’t a straight, white, upper class, and predominantly male person. This was obviously a case of selective hearing on Whitman’s behalf, because it wasn’t as if black people were invented after he made all his money. To contrast this, Green’s performance was all about being black: being black in America, showing black creativity, being a black performer, a black singer, and a black person. This was his way of expressing his identity and imagination through sound. He sung, stomped, talked, played piano, choked, hummed, and screamed through the set. Each sound was purposeful and chosen as a way to express his message.

I would say that Green’s creativity is something that I would have previously considered “unique” or “a little weird”, but the message and his efforts really hit home for me when we were invited to sing along with him in “Rest in Pow’r: a Song for Survival Echo Round”. It was then that Green sung the three lines over and over, then played the melody, and had us sing along with him. I think it really brought us in a new place and experience on being black in America, by literally having us in the form of our voices part of the performance. We can be part of the problems, or the solutions, but in that moment, we were singing with him, and echoing what he was singing: for those dead by violence against black people, may they rest in power.

Hailey Wellington is a senior at UMF, with a major in Secondary Education-English. This post was originally written for the UMF Literary Theory 2018 blog, which is used by students in ENG 455 Literary Theory to write about course reading material and sometimes to apply the ideas from course readings to events on campus. The Anthony Green performance was scheduled as part of the events organized by the New Commons Project at UMF.