Recent lectures inspire
I have attended three lectures of major guest speakers at Colby in the last week. The first was “What Can Architecture Do?” by Nicholai Ouroussoff, the architecture critic for The New York Times; the second was “Media Matters: Race and Sexuality in Popular Culture,” a Pride Week keynote event featuring LZ Granderson, senior columnist for ESPN and CNN; and the third was “A Race Car Named Desire: Intersections of Class, Sexuality and Gender,” by award-winning author Dorothy Allison as part of Social Class Awareness Week. The first of these was much better attended than the second two, which I can’t seem to get over. Don’t get me wrong, it was great seeing members of the football team alongside Art Department faculty and majors at this event, but I know that I exited Ostrove on that evening feeling tired, probably a little hungry and not much else after an hour of esoteric, unstructured ramblings about the history of modern architecture.
This was simply not the case for me upon leaving Granderson’s and Allison’s lectures, the latter in particular. Both of these people have absolutely unbelievable insights into the most pressing social issues facing this country today. Both of these people spoke passionately, intelligibly and, at times, humorously about these social issues—issues into which they have endless insight as a result of their own compelling, personal life experiences. The words of both of these people have stayed with me and will stay with me, long after the end of their hour-long allotted time for speaking. I didn’t cry when I first watched The Notebook, but I teared up twice during Dorothy Allison’s lecture. I’m not going to take the time in this piece to recount the messages, beliefs and stories of these two speakers. I’d rather people seek them out themselves, mostly because Granderson and Allison can make you learn, question and care about aspects of society and your own self that you never realized you should or would learn, question and care about in under 500 words in a way that I definitely cannot. I would like to raise instead some questions and hopefully get people to think in whatever small way I can. The Civil Discourse has recently exploded, as it tends to do, with both very hateful and very thoughtful posts on a variety of social issues, many of which were discussed by Granderson and Allison on this campus in insightful, provocative and intelligible ways. Much of the Discourse has moved toward a discussion of why SGA and the administration fail to address these issues satisfactorily. I want to stay out of the finger-pointing at these two scapegoats and instead point out that there are unbelievably passionate and hardworking people like junior Pat Adams, senior Annie Chen and Professor Adam Howard, to name a very, very few, who work tirelessly to bring people like Granderson and Allison onto campus; people who have the power to generate productive and intelligent discourse on things like social class, gender, race, sexuality and the many ways in which they intersect. I’m not breaking new ground when I say that more meaningful and constructive conversations need to be had about these issues at Colby, and I recognize that there are many different paths to conversation and social change, but I hope that in the future, the Colby community will begin to recognize that there are amazing opportunities right here on the Hill to learn, question and care about social issues with brilliant individuals who have made learning, questioning and caring their life’s work.