Upcoming Event: Research in Praxis Discussion Series with Emily Drabinksi

The Queens College Library is co-sponsoring with the Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies a Research in Praxis Discussion Series with Emily Drabinksi, Critical Pedagogy Librarian at the CUNY Graduate Center and President-Elect of the American Library Association, who will give a talk entitled, Essential to the Public: Libraries at the End of the World. The event will take place on Tuesday, December 6, 2022 at 5pm.

RiPDS Poster FA22 Emily Drabinsk

A Queen at Queens: Her Majesty Diambi visits Queens College

On Thursday, November 17, 2022, Her Majesty Queen Diambi Kabatusuila Tshiyoyo Muata of the Democratic Republic of Congo visited Queens College campus. A CUNY alumna—she holds a bachelor’s degree from the College of Staten Island—Queen Diambi stopped by the lab of Maral Tajerian and Sebastian Alvarado (Biology) and joined a reception in her honor in the library.

Video of Her Majesty Queen Diambi Visit

Read more about the visit in The QView.

Behind the Collab: KITH x Special Collections and Archives

This past September, the anticipation for the CUNY x Kith collaboration was through the roof.

Kith apparel, a “multifunctional lifestyle brand for men, women, and kids, as well as a progressive retail establishment,” partnered with CUNY to create a range of shirts, hats, jackets, and sweatshirts emblazoned with Queens College and Brooklyn College insignia. Alumnus Jerry Seinfeld even modeled the wares in a high-profile publicity campaign before the drop, garnering attention from all corners of the internet.

The clothing is undoubtedly cool—but look closer! There’s more about Queens College history displayed on these items than first glance would reveal.

Representatives from Kith visited the Special Collections and Archives at Queens College looking for inspiration for the CUNY line in fall 2021. Archives aren’t only for your research papers (though they are great for that), they can be places of creativity, too.

The Kith collaboration is an excellent example of how expansive archives can be, and how they can serve all kinds of people and needs. The patches on the jacket above were sourced directly from a printed program for a 1952 Varsity Sports dinner honoring the athletes, preserved in the archive’s Student Publications Collection.

The artist of the original drawings, Earl Rubin, crowded the cover with lively illustrations evoking the teams that represented Queens College athletics that year. Inside, each page celebrated a different sport and cohort (the Women’s Basketball team was once…the Hoopsterettes!). Looking to evince a retro vibe for its letterman jacket, Kith used this material to throwback to an authentic mid-century look with a 21st century spin.

Cover page, Queens Page Knight athletic program
Queens Page Knight, Varsity Athletics dinner program

The Student Publications Collection is an unbeatable record of student experience on Queens College campus, stretching back to the founding of the college in 1937 through to 2014. In it, you’ll find copies of dozens of student magazines and newspapers, detailing the events, opinions, and interests of Queens College students in their own voices for almost 80 years.

Stop by the archival storage room on the third floor of the library—the jacket, born from the archives, is now part of the Queens College archives and on view!

Think you could use some inspiration? The Student Publications Collection is open for research and browsing; contact the Special Collections and Archives at qc.archives@qc.cuny.edu to make an appointment to view any of the materials.


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Interview with Edisa Weeks about her World Premiere of Action Songs/Protest Dances

Action Songs Protest Dances poster

Ahead of the World Premiere of Action Songs/Protest Dances at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts, the Queens College Library is honored to present a discussion on the live music and dance performance with its choreographer and director Edisa Weeks. Weeks, an Associate Professor of Dance at Queens College, discusses the power of dance and its relationship to political action, her experience as the first artist in residence in the Kupferberg Arts Incubator, and how the research she performed in the James R. Forman Library Collection at the Queens College Library helped shape what became Action Songs/Protest Dances.

The interview was conducted via email between Weeks and the Queens College Visual & Performing Arts Librarian, Assistant Professor Scott R. Davis.

Action Songs/Protest Dances is inspired by the life and work of civil rights activist James Forman. While rooted in an historical figure, the production is also firmly about the present and contemporary struggles to address social justice within the United States. What do you believe the medium of dance is uniquely able to contribute toward facilitating such conversations?

As an artivist (artist/activist) dance is my medium of choice for addressing issues in society. Dance serves many functions. It can be a spiritual practice, a source of exercise and catharsis, an economic signifier, as well as a way to affirm a cultural identity and cultivate a sense of belonging. I’m interested in how dance can comment on society. I believe that dance can re-vitalize the everyday to reveal something new about ourselves, and the revelation is a seed, an energy, a spark that has the power to enact change.

One of the joys of dancing is it releases serotonin into the brain, which makes people feel good. Communal singing also releases serotonin. On a more basic level, movement helps develop our brains. For example, research is finding that when infants learn to roll from their stomach onto their back, it helps to develop the pituitary brain, crawling develops the mid brain, and walking develops the frontal brain. Our bodies are hard-wired for movement! Dancing has often been integral to protests. The Toyi-Toyi dance was a part of rallies and gatherings in the movement to end apartheid in South Africa. In America in the 1960’s the twist, the mashed potato, the watusi, which emerged from the Black American community, were picked up by White mainstream culture to become an expression of freedom and rebellion against the conservative, repressive social norms of 1950’s America.

Archival research does not often immediately come to people’s minds when thinking of contemporary dance. How did your research within the Forman Archive at the Queens College Library inform your work in this production?

One of my mentors was George Bass who was a playwright, poet, director, and educator. He also was Langston Hughes’s personal secretary. George emphasized a research-to-performance method for creating original devised work. This method for devising work appeals to me as I’m fascinated by history. I enjoy scratching beneath the surface to understand the meaning and reasoning for why something exists. I’m interested in knowing what our deepest, darkest, and sweetest desires are, and in creating a work that interrogates those desires, I can begin to process, understand and possibly transform them.

I was intrigued by one of the boxes in the Forman archives, which is filled with social and political pamphlets, what we would now call zines. Several of the pamphlets featured the bold, psychedelic lettering and colors that were popular in the 1960’s. I immediately knew I wanted the poster for Action Songs/Protest Dances to be a throwback to 1960’s art.

One of the books in the archive “The Making Of Black Revolutionaries” by Forman, a guidebook for anyone interested in the civil rights movement and understanding what is involved in social justice struggles. Forman writes about how the pressure of being on the front lines advocating against oppression and for social change can take a toll emotionally and mentally. Forman had multiple times when he was brutally beaten by the police and members of the White Citizens Council, for being a Black man who did not genuflect, who was advocating for justice, and questioning oppressive systems in America. Forman had several mental breakdowns, yet was able to recover and keep working for social betterment. Hearing about his struggles with mental health really resonated during the pandemic, as the creative team was navigating the isolation and stress of the pandemic; as well as the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and too many others. I hesitate bringing up mental health as it can be perceived as a weakness and used to denigrate and diminish a person’s relevance, however, we need to discuss mental health so we can find pathways for care-taking, healing, and wellness. These discussions resulted in the song Pattern Map by Spirit McIntyre, which is about letting go of toxic isms; and the song Body on the Line by Martha Redbone which discusses how Forman, “often put his body on the line” during the civil rights movement and got beaten and arrested in the effort to register people to vote.

I would describe the process of creating Action Songs/Protest Dances as a Sankofa practice. Sankofa is a symbol and term used by the Akan Tribe in Ghana, West Africa. The literal translation of the word is, it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” In this work, we are going back in history to lift up the work of James Forman and bringing his words and advocacy forward through song and dance.

James Forman Library
Selection of material from the James R. Forman Library Collection

Did you discover any particular items within the archive that led to unexpected encounters or connections?

An unexpected connection was learning that Forman had worked with human rights activist Ella Baker. They both advocated for empowering the average person to become involved in the governance of their community. They did not believe in charismatic leadership, for if the charismatic leader is removed the work towards social improvement often ends with the leader. If people do not have a say in the laws, land, and resources in their community; they will be controlled by other people who don’t necessarily have their best interests at heart. 

Forman was trained as a journalist and wrote several non-fiction books including: High Tide of Black Resistance; Sammy Younge Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement; The Making Of Black Revolutionaries, so it was a pleasant surprise to realize that Forman also did fictional writing and wrote short stories.

In addition to conceiving, directing, and choreographing Action Songs/Protest Dances you also commissioned five original songs for the production. What was the process of collaboration with the contributing composers?

The dancers, composers, and I reside in different cities, New Orleans, Albany, New York City, and we started working on Action Songs/Protest Dances during the pandemic, so being able to connect through zoom, and work online was essential. I worked with student interns Kathreena Bunch and Paolo Cecilia Silva in compiling a dossier about James Forman based on information in the library archives. It included his bio, links to his writings, and quotes by Forman. The dossier was shared with the creative team and it was a springboard for discussions. Several quotes became the lyrical inspiration for the songs.

The process of creating the songs was very collaborative. Each composer was paired with two dancers and we had several meetings where we discussed James Forman, actions that he was involved with, and current social justice issues that we want to draw attention to. What was important for the creative process is to identify what was resonating with the composers and dancers, and especially what the dancers were invested in embodying.

In 1969 Forman wrote “The Black Manifesto”, which is an expression of rebellion rooted in the despair of a people who had given up hope of “integrating” into the mainstream socioeconomic systems and structures in America. It demanded that Protestant and Jewish organizations pay $500 million in reparations for crimes perpetrated against generations of blacks during slavery. Over 40’s years later America still has not come to terms with the legacy of enslavement, and how to pay reparations.

Composer Taina Asili was paired with Brittany Stewart who is a Queens College Dance Alumni. For the project, I am integrating three current QC Students, three QC Dance Alumni, and two professional Dancers with my company DELIRIOUS Dances. What resonated with Brittany is issues connected to financial literacy for the Black community as well as issues of wellness and Black Joy. Taina wrote “Reparations” a joyous song about the need, the demand for reparations.

Another issue that was identified was decriminalizing sex work. We met with members of Sex Workers Outreach Project who explained why they are advocating for decriminalization and not legalization; and with Carol Leigh (aka Scarlot Harlot ) who in 1978 coined the term “sex worker”. We are still working on decrim song, as we need more time to connect with people involved in the advocacy to decriminalize sex work, to clarify who we are writing the song for, is it a song that is a rallying cry for sex workers to be sung and danced at rallies; or is it a song and dance to educate people about why decrim needs to happen. 

Since the creative process for the songs was entirely virtual, I have not met composers Spirit McIntyre and Taina Asili in person. I’m incredibly excited for Thursday, November 10 which is when the composers, singers, musicians, and dancers are physically coming together for the first time!

This production is the result of your involvement in the inaugural Kupferberg Arts Incubator. As an artist residency initiative to support and advance the work of artists of color what was your experience producing Action Songs/Protest Dances within this context?

This question makes me think of how the US Supreme Court currently has several cases that are challenging the need for affirmative action. If education institutions remove affirmative action, then they also need to remove the practice of legacy. I also think of writer Toni Morrison who stated,

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

That being said, the experience of producing Action Songs/Protest Dances has been joyous. A give and take of listening, discussing, and dream-storming with an incredibly talented, smart, and generous gathering of artists. 

I started teaching at Queens College in 2010, which is also when the Rosenthal Library acquired James Forman’s personal papers. I was incredibly excited as James Forman was the first person I heard criticize capitalism as an exploitative economic system. I remember feeling shocked, as I grew up playing monopoly and believing that capitalism was good and the “American Way”.  Since 2010 I’ve been wondering how I can lift up James Forman’s voice, work, advocacy and sacrifices during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. Then in 2020, the pandemic happened, followed by the murder of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. I began wondering how as a choreographer I can engage with the protests that were happening across the nation and help address injustices in America. The Kupferberg Center for the Arts Incubator provided the opportunity to create Action Songs/Protest Dances, which celebrate the life and words of James Forman; and through music and dance advocate for America to be a truly great nation.


Action Songs/Protest Dances premieres at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts Saturday, November 12th at 8pm and Sunday, November 13th at 3pm. Tickets are $20. Queens College students receive a 50% discount.

For more information on the performance visit the Kupferberg Center for the Arts website.


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QC Research Highlights: Community and Love

CUNY Academic Works Logo

Welcome to the November edition of QC Research Highlights! This month will feature some publications by Queens College faculty that have to do with community love and support in various contexts: disaster preparedness, recovery from mental illness, children’s writings, and human connection to the natural world.

Thanks to all the authors who have contributed their works.

All the works featured in this series are available to read and download for free from CUNY Academic Works. 

Social Sciences

Anna Bounds (Sociology) explores how New York City disaster preppers responded to COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic in her article, “The Rise of Prepping in New York City: Community Resilience and COVID-19”. Bounds studied the New York City Prepper’s Network, a group that aims to prepare for disasters and to share knowledge to help their communities survive under such circumstances. As this article points out, New York City has endured numerous disasters throughout the years. While self-sufficiency is a value often associated with preppers, Bounds shows that one role of such a group is to build the social infrastructure to support survival in the case of a disaster. NYCDN teaches preparedness, organizes its members, and connects to local experts. Their work builds community resilience.

Murphy Halliburton (Anthropology), in his chapter “The House of Love and the Mental Hospital: Zones of Care and Recovery in South India,” shows how community care in South India aids recovery from schizophrenia and related disorders. While he resists romanticizing the Indian family, Halliburton emphasizes sneham, caring love, which is distinct from romantic love. Through a series of patient interviews, he noted that those patients whose families were most involved in their care fared better in their recovery. Those who were most isolated from their families talked about their loss of loving connections, while those who were recovering well attributed their success to their connection with their families. The article also examines a psychosocial rehabilitation center, Sneehavedu, which takes in the mentally ill who have no families and attempts to provide caring and affection for them. While they do refer patients to mental hospitals when necessary, the support they get at the rehabilitation center also enables recovery.

Education

Ted Kesler (Elementary and Early Childhood Education), in his article “’Does it Have to be a Real Story? A Social Semiotic Assessment of an Emerging Writer,” examines the interpersonal qualities of young children’s writings, which are overlooked by assessment instruments.  Positioning himself as a parent-researcher, Kesler uses a writing event with his young son as a source of formative assessment. He recorded and coded an interaction during which his son composed and explained a story. Kesler analyzes how his son interacted with him during this process; the child made deliberate choices about his story but also sought approval along the way. This process was performative and interpersonal. Kesler recommends this strategy of formative assessment – interacting with children and observing their writing process to better understand and support their learning. This form of observation gives a richer sense of how children go about their writing and seek support for it, whereas forms of assessment that focus on the writing product risk missing this interpersonal aspect of children’s writing. He describes his approach as “naturalistic research, based in relationship and love.”

Arts and Humanities

The last article featured in this post complicates these ideas about the virtue of community. Leila Walker (Library) is the author of the “Elizabeth Kent’s New Tales of Botanical Friendship.” As Walker explains, Elizabeth Kent was a nineteenth-century writer whose work includes children’s stories and botanical works. Kent is remembered as a member of the so-called “Cockney School,” which was deeply attached to sociability.  Walker argues that Kent’s botanical works exemplify the Cockney School’s philosophy by gathering together poems as plants (thus linking poetry to the natural world) in a collection where the poets of her social circle are linked to the poets of the past that they admired, imagining an ahistorical community among poets. At the same time, however, she is commenting from the margins of this community. Walker notes that Kent complains that her flowers – representing her friendships – have died. Furthermore, her use of plants is connected to the use of botanical metaphors to define women’s roles; Kent’s work resists the passivity associated with plants. Walker argues that “By collecting a Cockney canon from the margins, Kent uses the conventions of botanical and literary collecting to create a space for
herself within (and around) the networks of friendship that defined the Cockney community.”

This is one of a series of blog posts featuring faculty publications in CUNY Academic Works. Academic Works is a service of the CUNY Libraries dedicated to collecting and providing access to the research, scholarship, and creative and pedagogical work of the City University of New York. In service to CUNY’s mission as a public university, content in Academic Works is freely available to all. 

If you would like to share your research in Academic Works, please see this guide to Academic Works, or contact Nancy.Foasberg@qc.cuny.edu.

Open Access Week 2022

This last week of October, we are once again celebrating Open Access Week!

What is Open Access?

International Open Access Week Ocean

Open access is all about distributing scholarly research without financial or other access barriers.  This helps readers, especially those who don’t have access to institutional subscriptions, and it helps authors, who can gain a broader audience for their work.

Open access can be achieved in many different ways. While you may have heard that many publishers offer open access, either by default for all publications or selectively via a “hybrid” model, open access can also mean making your work available in an institutional repository, like CUNY Academic Works, or a subject repository, like arXiv (or one of many others, depending on your field!).

Open access does not always involve paying a fee as the author.

  • Many open access publishers do not charge fees
  • Open access via self-archiving in a repository is free, and almost all publishers allow it

You can learn more about open access in this set of guides covering related issues, or you could contact the library’s scholarly communication librarian!  I can answer questions about publisher policies, evaluating prospective publishers, depositing to CUNY Academic Works, making yourself and your work more visible, and more.

International Open Access Week 2022

The theme for International Open Access Week 2022 is climate justice. How does open access promote climate justice?

In the words of SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition):

Openness can create pathways to more equitable knowledge sharing and serve as a means to address the inequities that shape the impacts of climate change and our response to them.

This year’s focus on Climate Justice seeks to encourage connection and collaboration among the climate movement and the international open community. Sharing knowledge is a human right, and tackling the climate crisis requires the rapid exchange of knowledge across geographic, economic, and disciplinary boundaries.

Keep an eye out for CUNY events related to open access and climate justice. While schedules did not align in a way that allowed these events to happen during the designated Open Access Week, these issues continue to be relevant, and we plan to offer something soon.

Events: Understanding New Guidelines for Federally Funded Research

The library is holding an event on October 26, 2022 on the new guidelines for federally funded research! Please join us. There is more information in the event blog post.