October 26, 2001
WHO OWNS CULTURE?
Smith's Week-Long Cromwell
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
to Probe Cultural Appreciation and Appropriation
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.-Does anyone own
his or her culture?
That's the question reflected in the theme of this year's Otelia
Cromwell Day celebration at Smith College. Titled "The Politics
of Culture: Appropriation, Appreciation, Interrogation,"
the celebration will feature a week of events, from Sunday, Oct.
28, through Sunday, Nov. 4, that will focus on personal ownership
of culture and social mores of cultural appropriation. All events
are open to the public and, except for the Nov. 1 concert by
Diane Monroe, free of charge.
"What does it mean when different groups use the culture
of others for self-expression, to sell goods, to create a personal
identity?" asks the Otelia Cromwell Day symposia brochure.
"Does any group own its culture?"
Otelia Cromwell Day, which is officially on Thursday, Nov. 1,
is named for the first known African-American to graduate from
Smith. Cromwell, who graduated in 1900, eventually became a professor
and chair of the English language and literature department at
Miner Teachers College in Washington, D.C. The author of three
books and many articles, Cromwell received an honorary degree
from Smith in 1950.
A day was established in Cromwell's honor to provide the college
community with an opportunity for further education and reflection
about issues of diversity and racism.
The symposium "builds on a theme to get people involved
in a long-term discussion, to provoke sustained discussions on
diversity," says Brenda Allen, assistant to the president
and director of institutional diversity and a co-chair of the
Otelia Cromwell Day planning committee. "Where do we all
fit in? Otelia Cromwell Day allows us to put these kinds of complex
issues before the community."
The event's keynote address will take place on Nov. 1. Gina Dent,
a visiting scholar in the Department of Rhetoric at the University
of California at Berkeley, will discuss "Incarceration,
Americanization, Exportation: Prisons on TV" from 1:10 to
2:30 p.m. in Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall. Her lecture will
explore the ways that representations of prisons become sources
of race-specific culture that are then exchanged and appropriated.
Dent is best known for her book "Black Popular Culture,"
a collection of discussions by black artists, scholars and
cultural critics on issues such as essentialism, materialism
and sexuality. "Black Popular Culture," which
was published in 1992, was named Best Book of the Year by the
The week of events will kick off on Sunday, Oct. 28, with a 2
p.m. "Sacred Jazz Concert" in Helen Hills Hills Chapel,
featuring jazz pianist Trudy Pitts and Mr. C. & Friends.
At 7 p.m. on Sunday, a screening of Spike Lee's film "Bamboozled,"
a commentary on the history of minstrelsy in American theater,
will take place in Wright Auditorium. The film will be shown
again on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 9 p.m. in Stoddard Auditorium.
On Monday, Oct. 29, Hawley Fogg-Davis, a professor of political
science at the University of WisconsinMadison, will speak
on "The Ethics of Transracial Adoption" at
7 p.m. in Wright Auditorium. Fogg-Davis, who wrote a book by
the same title, will then discuss the issue with Barbara Yngvesson,
professor of anthropology at Hampshire College.
At 7 p.m. on Oct. 30, Sut Jhally, professor of communication
at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and executive director
of the Northampton-based Media Education Foundation, will give
a lecture titled "Why Americans Can't Think Straight About
Race." Jhally's lecture will analyze how mass media portrayals
of racial differences can confuse social understanding of racial
stratification. "America cannot think straight about race
because it cannot think straight about social class," says
Jhally in the symposium brochure.
On Thursday, Nov. 1, classical and jazz violinist and composer
Diane Monroe, who has performed on stages from Carnegie Hall
to the Blue Note Jazz Club, will give a concert at 7 p.m. in
Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall. Admission is $7; $3 for students
and senior citizens.
Two theater events will accompany the week-long symposium. On
Oct. 31, actor and playwright Magdalena Gomez will present "Chopping:
A One-Woman Play" in which Mina, a Puerto Rican woman,
acts out the stories of three women who have influenced her life
and identity. The performance will take place at 7 p.m. in Theatre
14 in the Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts.
And on Friday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m., also in Theatre 14, performance
artist Canyon Sam will present "Capacity to Enter,"
a solo play that illustrates the conflicts between desire
and identity, and Buddhism and modern-day America.
As part of the symposium, "The Fence Project," an interactive
exhibition will run throughout the week on the construction fence
surrounding the Fine Arts Center renovation project. The fence
will be draped with a white canvas fabric; using colored markers
placed in canisters around the site, community members are invited
to fill the canvas with thoughts, ideas and images pertaining
to the week's events and concepts.