The Blog


Recently, the Columbia community has been introduced to two new terms: “woke,” and “colonized.” It seems that some people of color are “colonized”—their honest convictions and beliefs are simply evidence of assimilation to a white supremacist power structure. On the other hand, those who hold a “sufficiently racially conscious” set of beliefs are “woke.” This is more than a matter of semantics; rather it has the potential for a dangerous form of identity policing amongst people of color when casually used in an academic context.

As a person of color I find this infuriating, offensive, and when used in this context, ludicrous. This is something that has to be stopped immediately and decisively before it becomes part of our discourse. Each of us holds differing ideas for why we believe what we do and why others may see the world differently. But none of us have the right to broadly deride those who think differently as illegitimate members of their identities. To do so is to patronizingly turn “People of Color” into an exclusive moniker for those who think in a specific, narrow way. This robs all of us of our inherent right to be part of our identities and communities. No one should accept the use of this kind of language in public discourse anymore than they would any serious microaggression.

All of us, people of color and allies alike, have to draw a line in the sand at basic respect for each other. Passing personal judgments on one another says far more about us and our shortcomings than it does about others. Discourse in our community is plagued by serious structural issues. Individuals of color denouncing each other or their professors of color as “colonized,” not to mention white “allies” doing the same, would be more than enough to deal a fatal blow. If you’re comparing yourself to others please don’t refer to yourself as “woke,” and do not refer to anyone else in our community as “colonized.”

 

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Getting ready to pull another all-nighter? You’re probably looking for some tips for how to avoid that late night crash. Luckily for you, The Lion team has compiled this useful guide for the best energy drinks to keep you going and ways to effectively use them. Think we missed something? Let us know by emailing submissions@columbialion.com.

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With as much energy as I could muster, I held my cell phone up to my face and told Public Safety that I was locked in a stairwell in the Barnard Library. Weak and exhausted, I had been locked inside for over two hours. After two hours of being curled up in the corner, I finally was conscious and alert enough to pick up the phone and string my thoughts together so I could tell the guard where I was.  

After quaffing half a bottle of Merlot with a meal of anti-anxiety tranquilizers, pain pills, and heart rate lowering medication—all to help quell the intense maelstrom of anxiety I was feeling in an anticipation of a routine meeting with my adviser—I had wandered into a Do Not Enter stairwell, with doors that only open from the outside. For two hours, I was so drugged out that I couldn’t type my password into my phone to unlock it to call for help. This was at 2pm on a Monday.

Public safety came and freed me.

That was one of the many incidents I had during my first year on campus. My first semester, I self-medicated my anxiety constantly. From being too drugged up to remember what professors said during office hours, to missing classes because of severe hangovers, the semester stretched out in a blur of assignments, readings, wine from International, and a cocktail of whatever anxiety medications I could crib from friends and acquaintances.  

Consequently, I had trips to St. Luke’s my first year here, and even managed to give myself a concussion that forced me to defer some of my exams. I could have accidentally killed myself multiple times. In my drunken and high revelry, I did everything from accidentally steal books from Butler to drug myself up so much for an oral presentation that I have no recollection of giving it.

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As early as I can remember, I’ve been a neurotic mess—prone to exploding in a paroxysm of anxiety and panic at any moment.  Although I hesitate to use formal labels, I’ve had varying degrees of panic attacks, social anxiety, general anxiety, and since I could remember (kindergarten). I’ve also had extreme, paralyzing fear of public speaking, oral presentations,  interviews, and authority figures. From chest pain and heart palpitations, to vomiting from the feeling of impending doom, anxiety has permeated every day of my life for the last 12 or so years.

In my fear, I’ve turned down  public speaking opportunities, ignored interviews for scholarships I had applied to, declined to be interviewed by my favorite publication when I had the opportunity, ignored job interview requests, and schedule my classes based off of whether oral presentations count for the grade.

And I’ve done an equal amount of things to cope: diet, exercise, meditation, yoga,  deep breathing, medication from friends—usually downers, wine, hard liquor, weed, ‘natural herbs,’ avoidance, compulsive book reading (salvation from my fear of not being intelligent enough to succeed in life), attempting to hijack my fight-or-flight response by  forcing myself to be even more anxious, and self harm.

What’s helped? Everything, to a certain extent. But most of what I’ve done is wildly unhealthy, dangerous, and unsustainable.

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After an unsuccessful series of meetings with the counselors at Furman during my first semester,  I temporarily gave up on seeking traditional therapeutic help. It wasn’t until I had a day where I had multiple panic attacks and drunkenly self-harmed in the stacks with a pencil sharpener, spent 4 hours walking around Morningside trying to figure out whether I should go to the hospital, and then slept in Butler because I was too afraid to sleep in my room alone that I finally acquiesced to the demands of my friend to try to seek help again. I should have tried to seek help sooner.  

When I’ve told friends about my first year, all but one had ever thought there was a problem. No one knew, and thus, my ability to be evasive and operate with such stealth actually helped me avoid the need to get help. If no-one knew, there was no safety net that could be activated.

Although I won’t attempt to posit that therapy or psychiatry is a panacea, that’s where I started. I was too recalcitrant with Furman staff and demanded an outside referral. Eventually, towards the end of my first year at Barnard, I was able to figure out how to manage my mental illnesses without putting my life at risk and flouting social convention.  But that was only because I intentionally positioned myself in a way that would allow me to seek help.   

Seeking help for mental illness is difficult. There a numerous reasons people don’t seek help: social stigma, stigma from family, fear that the school would force you to take a medical leave, insurance problems, the cost of treatment being prohibitive, scheduling conflicts, etc. But if you wait too long to get treatment (the type that involves seeking help from professionals, and not buying weed with Venmo), you could end up in a dangerous spiral of self-medication and self-injury,  too drugged and dysfunctional to be able to ask for help at all.

Every now and then, another name of a college students appears in the news for having committed suicide. While I cannot claim to know what will help everyone, whether you’re having panic attacks, depression, hallucinations, delusions, suicidal thoughts, or other problems—asking for help is the first step in getting better. And pursuing that help, well that’s the best way to stay alive in the long term. Not to say that traditional therapy or psychopharmacology is always the answer, but it’s a start.

Disclaimer: Author is a junior majoring in a social science field, happily medicated and mentally stable now.

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An open letter to the man who stopped me on the street to tell me that “we should have never let you n****** into this country” and then tried to hit me,

I have no anger in my heart against you. I don’t hate you. I have no bad wishes for you. I only hope that you can find in your heart the love and forgiveness that I have.
That being said, you had no right to say that to me. You had no right to make me feel unsafe on my morning walk to school. You had no right to traumatize me and to make me feel unsafe on a part of my routine. You had no right to try to hurt me. You had no right to tell me that I don’t belong here. New York City is just as much mine as it is yours. This country is just as much mine as it is yours. I have as much right to go to school here and get an education as you do.
But I am not going to justify my faith to you or anyone else.
I am sick and tired of feeling like I have to apologize for atrocities committed by people I’ve never met, like somehow it’s my fault, like somehow I have to justify myself, like somehow I have to say out loud that I am not a terrorist. It’s ridiculous and unfair.
I am a Muslim. But I am also an Egyptian, an American, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a student and most importantly, I am a human.
But instead of being treated as such, you treat me like an abstract concept, like a statistic, like a news story on suicide bombings and terrorist threats. If you got to know me or any Muslim, you’d know that we are people. We do things like everyone else, we lead lives and do normal things like drink coffee and cry over TV shows and contrary to the picture painted by popular media, the fair majority of us don’t spend our days plotting the fall of the West. We, Muslims, think these terrorists are just as crazy and sick as you do.
So please, educate yourself. Muslims shouldn’t have to keep telling the entire world who we are, and we shouldn’t have to be held accountable for the actions of perverse, lost souls who have been grossly miseducated about the Message of our Prophet.

All of which is to say, if anyone is willing to listen to me talk, I’d be glad to educate them on who Muslims really are.

Yours Sincerely,
Amani

The Lion is the only publication that pledges to post all submissions . To submit a piece, email submissions@columbialion.com

I’ve always considered myself a shy admirer of jazz. I played trumpet for seven years, six of those being with a jazz band. Despite my time spent on the genre, which can be considered either a little or a lot based on whom you ask, I never felt that I had a good enough understanding to claim fanaticism or true jazz musicianship. Performing jazz felt wrong in some bizarre way. There was always the question of what sort of soul you have to possess in order to play something that can be considered jazz. I put the trumpet down about two years ago, but my interest never waned. Since I missed the great vibes of jazz music and needed to write a concert report for Music Hum, I decided to head down to Smalls Jazz Club.

Occasionally, the journey is as interesting and influential as the destination. I chose to take the A train, somewhat humorously, though not for comedic purposes, and ended up in the same subway car as frenzied man. This man was African-American, a noteworthy characteristic here, since his speech was focused on the racism he had found in New York City. A black man is as racially discriminated against in the city as he is in the south, or so this man claimed. He generalized, and then spoke to us directly, labeling us all as racists for one reason or another. Fellow passengers shifted in their seats, moving as far away as they could. The subway car was silent except for the strained voice of this man, who only grew angrier in response to the lack of his preferred reaction.  They did not even look at him. When the train stopped, most everyone vacated the car.

This shook me up quite a bit, as I’m not from the big city, but rather a suburban area around Columbus, Ohio. The anxiety of the situation stuck with me until I reached Smalls.  It was not exactly what I had imagined. I had only read about the venue, as I wanted the visual and auditory experience to be an authentic first impression. I would use the same word — authentic — to describe Smalls. The jazz club looked like a little speakeasy tucked into Greenwich Village. A small blackboard standing outside the door indicated that it would be $20 to see the current set. As a lower-middle class college student paying my own way through school, I hesitated. A man noticed my indecision, came over, and encouraged me to pay the money and enter. He told me that Don Friedman, an amazing and aging pianist, was playing that night, and it would be well worth the money. I took his advice and entered the club.

It felt as authentic inside as it looked from outside. I paid the man waiting just inside the door and then descended down a short set of stairs. The actual venue was tiny by my standards, though rewardingly intimate. The room was low lit, and the walls were covered with mirrors, framed photos, curtains, and tapestries. The floor was crowded with mismatched chairs, which had already been claimed before I arrived. To my right was an expansive bar, and to the left, a bathroom tucked away in a narrow hallway. There was no theatrical stage, but only a section of slightly raised flooring covered with a red carpet, visible upon further inspection during intermission. The place had a vintage, musty quality to it, which only added to the atmosphere of the actual music set.

The Don Friedman Quartet consisted of the man himself on piano, Tim Armacost on tenor saxophone, Harvie S on string bass, and Klemens Marktl on Drums. Though Armacost led on the tenor saxophone with an airy yet warm tone for a great deal of the time, every musician contributed greatly. Don Friedman especially impressed. Though he was usually relegated to the background, his quick licks and improvisation on his given chord progressions stood out for the length of the performance. There were no stands or sheet music, so I cannot accurately say how much was improvised and how much was not, though I’m sure a significant amount of the music was created on the spot.  

The quartet musically moved together so intimately that I was astounded by the efficiency of their wordless cooperation. When there weren’t any solos going on, I didn’t even feel the desire to pick out individual instrument voices, since the collective voice was perfectly satisfying. Passing solos around perhaps arbitrarily, each musician had a chance to prove their adeptness, and they certainly did, though they made it sound effortless. Improvisation of solos seemed second nature; unconscious yet highly thought out by some inner natural process. They had soul, mastery, and emotion.  I was greatly humbled by their performances. I have never played like this.

I found the style of jazz the quartet played to be smooth rather than punchy, a style I was more accustomed to in my days of jazz trumpet. The melodies weren’t catchy and all that memorable like we commonly hear in current pop music. Instead, the melodies were fluid, flowing from one to another. You may not know exactly where it’s going at the moment, but after you hear the next line, you nod your head and think, “Yes, that’s right.” This may seem to imply a degree of blandness, but this was not the case. Intricate rhythms threaded with syncopation on the part of every quartet member drove the music on and kept the audience members on the edges of their seats.  Since I didn’t have a seat, I spent the night swaying to the contours of the music and tapping my foot to the persistently strong beat. Though jazz may not be entirely unique in its ability to enter people’s bodies and fill them up with musical euphoria, it is undoubtedly a frequent culprit.

More than happy to be drawn into this indigo haze of emotionally infused music, I was a bit irritated when a family to my left obnoxiously forced me out. Dressed to the nines, these people managed to be the most inappropriate and rude members of the crowd. They shuffled around, struggling with each other to get the correct, albeit complicated, order conveyed to the bartender. The two adult children of the couple occupied the front of the standing area, though their eyes were occupied with their smart phones as they perused Instagram and Facebook. While they stared at their illuminated screens, others behind them were forced to look at the backs of their tall heads.

The adult children were stereotypical in their behavior, as were the parents. The father shoved another man who was trying to get to the bathroom. His defense was simply that he “had to do it,” since the passing man was in danger of stepping on his expensive shoes. The final straw was the adult son taking a front row seat from a woman who had gotten up to use the bathroom. Now, I’m a firm believer in the “move your feet, lose your seat” rule, but the fact that this young man took a front row seat only to remain on his phone irked me.  On some level, I could no longer hear the music, and the show seemed over for me.

Perhaps I was being too hard on these people. They certainly didn’t reflect everyone in the entire venue. I once again had the man from the subway on my mind.  Looking around, I realized there was not a single African American in the entire venue. The musicians were all white, and so were all those who paid to see the show. The only African American face in the place was that of a young man in a picture frame behind the musicians. The image displayed this man sitting on the ground with his legs crossed.  He wore a woolen suit, a cap, argyle socks, and a wide, toothy smile. I only later found out that this was no random young man, but was Louis Armstrong during his first tour of Europe in 1933.  

Appropriation is a difficult topic to tackle, especially in art and expression. We have Miley Cyrus with her dreadlocks and twerking, Iggy Azalea with her arguably faux-accented rapping, and countless other examples, some more recent and obvious than others. Columbia is no stranger to this, as the school has employed black rappers two years in a row to entertain their predominantly privileged masses. It is common knowledge, or should be, that jazz is an African-American art form. It is a beautiful creation that managed to arise from African ancestry and the black struggle in America.  Yet now when you attend one of the most critically acclaimed jazz clubs in New York City, you might find only white faces.  

The jazz tradition was undoubtedly appropriated, but how good or bad this is seems impossible to judge. Though the musicians were all white, I’m confident that they had the right kind of souls to be playing what they played and were doing the music justice. I have the utmost respect for them and other jazz musicians of their caliber.  

Does everyone in the audience being of a lighter skin complexion and different background mean that we did not have the right or ability to truly enjoy the music?  Surely not, but I still think back to the man on the subway, indignantly going to another destination, while I attended a performance based on his very heritage. I can’t help but feel that I’ve stolen something from him that he desperately needed. I am not making a statement, but rather asking a question needing to be discussed: Where do we draw the line?