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What it means to “be brown and be down”

April 15, 2016

The directors of the film “Mala Mala,” Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles, were among the various artists that attended a symposium inspired by the racial slurs from the cleaning product Spic and Span. Monmouth College students also got the opportunity to attend the “Being Brown, Being Down” symposium at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign on Thursday.

“By revealing the relationship between difference, power and privilege, [the] symposium pushes us to consider how performance operates as a political force in the face of violence against queer and racial others,” Dr. Sandra Ruiz expressed in her opening remarks. “By co-opting the pejorative of Spic and Span, we revisit Brown resistance through performance in order to situate new possibilities of being both Brown and very down.”

The symposium included a drag performance by Lola von Miramar, an avant-garde performance by Erica Gressman, an artist talk with Kenneth Pietrobono, a sound poetry performance by Dr. Tracie Morris and a scene from a play performed by the Brown Theatre Collective.

Sophomore Diana Rubi shared her perspective of people’s reactions to the performances, “I think that to the majority of the people that went, it really spoke to them, and it was a very positive reinforcement of who we are as individuals. But I know there was a particular person who never really understood oppression. He felt that he never faced it, and when he would hear about it at Monmouth he didn’t understand what we were talking about,” Rubi continued. “After the symposium and seeing other people talking about this [issue], and not just Monmouth, he believed it. So it was really cool to hear him talk about that, and the overall feel was very positive.”

Professor Carina Olaru helped plan the trip to Urbana- Champaign and shared some thoughts, “It is only when we speak openly and honestly about the violence, power, privilege and difference that we can begin a dialogue and create community. This is important for both educators and students to witness because it demonstrates that diversity is not a matter of numbers or quotas nor is it a problem that needs to be fixed, and those complex issues around diversity need to be engaged and discussed in safe spaces.”

Lily Guillen
Contributing Writer

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