Changes to SAGA and the Haverford Community

Haverford’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) is undergoing a lot of changes this semester. Under the leadership of co-heads Christopher Bechen ‘18 and Chelsea Richardson ‘18 and the advice of OMA Intern Clara Abbott ‘18, OMA Program Coordinator Benjamin Hughes, and Women*s Center Program Coordinator Qui Alexander, we have rewritten our mission statement and unveiled a series of new initiatives. The new and improved SAGA aims to be more action-oriented and inclusive of a more diverse range of queer student experiences. We have also brought two new students onto our executive board: First-Year Representative Ceci Silberstein ‘19 and Director of Social Media Emily Dombrovskaya ‘19.

With our reorganized board and new network of support, we have already begun to implement some new initiatives. For instance, we have begun the process of renovating the SAGA Lounge to make it a more welcoming and versatile space for all Haverford students. We also intend for the new lounge to serve as the location for SAGA’s historic collection of gender and sexuality books and magazines, which will be accessible to the entire student body. Further, in an effort to focus more on intersectionality and intergroup solidarity, SAGA is bringing queer Latina spoken word artist Denice Frohman to campus in late March. Additionally, SAGA is attempting to foster more intragroup solidarity by hosting an increased number of social events and organizing group excursions into Philadelphia’s Gayborhood.

These changes have in part been inspired and fueled by the creation of Haverford’s first ever officially gender neutral first-year hall. The hall guarantees incoming first years a single room and gender-neutral bathrooms. The hall serves as a safe space for first years with marginalized gender and sexual identities, and this model will hopefully be expanded to more first-year halls on campus in years to come.

We, in turn, hope to better equip Customs folk with the knowledge and tools necessary to make their first years feel comfortable and welcomed when they arrive at Haverford. Clara and Chelsea began a sensitivity training pilot program for the AMAs and CPs this past spring. This training is modeled off of a popular training project, Safe Zone, which includes resources such as vocabulary, advice about coming out, and scenario-style discussions. They co-facilitated the training and adjusted it to the needs of specific Customs positions, and it was subsequently met with excellent feedback. They intend to expand this program by facilitating the training for each Customs position this spring.

This success of the gender-neutral hall and the Safe Zone trainings is currently inspiring ideas for more LGBTQ affinity spaces on campus. We see the year as an important turning point for Haverford’s queer community and are grateful for the institutional and student support in carrying out these new initiatives.


A direct thank you to Clara Abbott ’18 and Chelsea Richardson ’18, who co-authored this piece for the OMA blog.

Post-WeSpeak Submissions Open!

Last Sunday, on April 24th, WeSpeak was held. WeSpeak is an annual event hosted at Haverford College where students of color are allowed to speak openly and uninterrupted in front of an audience of their peers about issues they have faced related to race on campus.

The event was incredibly moving. The stories shared at the event as well as the number of students who attended WeSpeak both speak to the importance and significance that WeSpeak holds as an event on this campus.

After the event, The Clerk, Haverford’s student run newspaper, opened up a submission forum where students who, for one reason or another, did not speak at WeSpeak, and now feel compelled to share their story or experience with the greater Haverford community. Submission mediums can range from prose, to visual art, and can also be published anonymously if requested.

The link to send in submissions can be found below.

Before WeSpeak

Tomorrow, at 1:00pm in the Quaker Meeting House, Haverford College will hold its annual WeSpeak event. WeSpeak has, and continues to play a crucial role in how this campus engages issues related to people of color, as it gives a platform for that particular marginalized group to speak about struggles they have faced on campus.

Recently, first year Maurice Rippel penned an article in The Clerk, Haverford College’s student-run newspaper, pertaining to WeSpeak and its significance within the Haverford community, as well as his own perspective on the event. Maurice’s article not only sheds light on important aspects of the WeSpeak event, but it also advances a unique and personal outlook on WeSpeak and what it means to the greater Haverford community.

I encourage everyone to read this article prior to WeSpeak tomorrow, in an effort to gain some context for this very special event. Additionally, Maurice’s article posits some interesting questions; some of which I urge you to think about as you consider WeSpeak in the coming hours and days.

The link to this article can be found below. I hope you all can come out to WeSpeak tomorrow afternoon.

Silenced Voices

On the evening of April 1st, Haverford College held an event titled Silenced Voices in Zubrow Commons. Silenced Voices was an event constituted of poetry and music, attempting to lift up and bring to light voices that, in other contexts, may normally be silenced. Performances from Lethal Expression, BABY BUSH, Chamber Singers, The Outskirts, and City Love (a West-Philly based, justice-oriented music duo) were enjoyed by everyone in attendance. The performance in Zubrow was very well attended and was full until the event ended. This event was brought into being by Haverford’s Director of Quaker Affairs, Walter Sullivan, and his friend and friend in residence Amanda Kemp.

Former friend in residence Amanda Kemp was the catalyst for this event. Kemp is a poet, performer, playwright, and social justice activist originally from New York City. After attending Stanford University, where Kemp made a great impact – helping with the university’s divestment movement out of South Africa, Kemp went on to win many prestigious awards and travel the world. At the close of the event, Kemp made a point to mentioned how moved she was by the congregation of all of the on-campus groups, and how they came together to bring positive energy and love into Zubrow that evening.

This event was extremely special. Each group brought their own twist and own voice, and generally speaking the event was a celebration and an acknowledgment of the voices and people who may not be able to be heard. I am sure that moving forward, there will be attempts to create spaces like this on campus, and have the student body participate in and appreciate these voices again.

Kay Ulanday Barrett Poetry Performance

On Wednesday, March 23rd, at 7pm, Kay Ulanday Barrett came to Haverford to perform poetic story-telling. Throughout Kay’s performance, the audience was made to engage with issues like racism, disability, migration as well as others difficult topics. Kay’s performance was extremely powerful, and members of the audience could be heard audibly responding to Kay’s performance throughout. Titled “you are SO brave,” Kay’s performance was very memorable, and more of Kay’s work can be found all over the internet.

The introduction of Kay to the Haverford community was a collaborative effort of Haverford College Women’s Center, Haverford’s John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, Office of Access and Disability Services: Haverford College, Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, Haverford College Student Activities Office, and Haverford’s Center for Career and Professional Advising.

Kay is an award winning, renown poet, having toured on other college campuses such as Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.

To find more of Kay’s work, or learn about Kay’s other social media outlets visit



Women’s Center: ManTalk

Three weeks ago, Qui Alexander and Michael Bueno, leaders in the Women’s Center, held a workshop titled ManTalk. The goal of the workshop was to combat the commonly-held “nice guy” bias, which is the idea that “nice guys” can use their “nice guy” moniker to excuse boundary violations. In addition to this concept, the workshop also touched on the idea of relationships, and how this bias manifests itself in these contexts. Often times, actions that make people feel uncomfortable in a relationship, can go unbeknownst to the offender, and the importance of awareness was certainly stressed in this workshop.

The workshop consisted of only men, and was roughly and hour and a half long. Through video clips, lecturing and break-out discussion groups, those who attended the ManTalk workshop were able to take part in honest, candid discussion about general ideas and personal anecdotes related to the “nice guy” bias as well as relationships.

The workshop, according to many people who I talked to afterwards, was a great success. Throughout the course of the hour and a half, a lot of learning was done both as a result of educative videos and also as a result of discussion with one another.

There is potential for future workshops such as this one to be held in the future, so keep an eye out for advertisements going forward.

Upcoming Multicultural Events on Campus (March-April 2016)

Community Forum: Race and the Honor Code

Join us Thursday at 7 p.m. in the MCC to discuss how race affects both the academic and social honor code. We will discuss topics such as the diversity requirement for juries, how race affects confrontation, and more.

Race and the Honor Code


Alumni Panel: When the Bubble Bursts – Life after Haverford

Saturday, March 26 from 11:00am to 1:00pm in the Bryn Mawr room of the DC

Do you ever look around your classroom and feel like you’re one of few?

Do you live for those moments in between classes when, walking across campus, you and another student of color share a head nod of solidarity?

Do you find yourself attending career panels and noticing that the panel… doesn’t quite remind you of yourself?

Do you find yourself struggling to find a place you belong on campus, and worry that you’ll continue to struggle past graduation?

If you answered yes to any of these questions and are interested in attending contact Kayla-Marie Franceschi ‘15 (

Sponsored by Haverford House and the Multicultural Alumni Action Group. 

Alumni Panel Poster


Transnationalism, Identity, and Diaspora: Asian American Studies as the Prescient Harbinger

Thursday, April 7th in Chase Auditorium. 4:30 – 6 PM

A roundtable discussion with scholars and poets from a variety of disciplines, each bringing a complex dynamic to the growing field of Asian American Studies. Guided by student and faculty facilitators as well as panelist responses, the discussion will focus on Asian American Studies as an interdisciplinary mediator – how professionals are interacting with current, cutting-edge topics present within the field, as well as discussing the difficulties of its reception in institutions based on the Western canon.

This event is meant to foster discussion while simultaneously introducing students and scholars to the wide influence of Asian American Studies with its ties to Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Visual Studies, Ethnic Studies, Literature, Poetry, Film, History, Anthropology, and Sociology. Despite the emphasis on the academic life of Asian American Studies, this panel is rooted in our lived experiences. Through discussing personal experiences, scholarly works, and various forms of fiction, non-fiction, and other literature that exhibit these qualities, the critical dialogue will start to open up the complicated, interrelated tensions between Asia, America, and all of the areas that lie between.

Organized by Catheline Phan ’18
Please contact Catheline with questions and comments. 


Interview with Ramelcy Uribe on Islamaphobia Talk at Bryn Mawr

Before break I interviewed Ramelcy Uribe, a senior at Haverford College, about her experience at a Bryn Mawr College, community conversation discussing islamaphobia within our tri-college consortium, sponsored by the Pensey Center. The conversation was tri-partite in nature, beginning with what islamaphobia is, and ending with formulating tangible next steps for making the experience of Muslim students in the tri-college consortium better.


Ramelcy wanted to attend this talk specifically “because…right now we haven’t had any talks about religion, faith, or cosmology and that’s something that we might be overlooking…and that’s problematic.” Additionally, according to Ramelcy “There hasn’t been any conversation about islamaphobia on Haverford’s campus in the last four years.” Both of these things are problematic in her eyes, and motivated her to attend this talk.


According to Ramelcy, this talk was important for a number of reason. Firstly, it was important because it opened up a dialogue about an issue that is often under-discussed within the tri-college consortium. Additionally, the talk was extremely educative and encouraged solidarity within the PoC (People of Color) community at Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swathmore.


The talk was also constituted of a wide range of people, including but not limited to students (both white students and students of color) from the tri-college consortium as well as graduate students from Bryn Mawr’s School of Social Work and Social Research in addition to Muslim members of the community nearby.


From this talk, Ramelcy took away a few key ideas. First, she said that as people spoke during the conversation, the majority if not all of the students said that they had not experienced islamaphobia. To Ramelcy, it is crucial that we keep this the case. We have to answer the question of ‘How can we create sustainable safe spaces for Muslim students, and a platform so that their voices can be heard?’ This is a key initiative in maintaining and improving the climate in the tri-college consortium towards Muslim students and Islam as a religion.


Additionally, Ramelcy spokes about the need for more educational spaces about Islam and faith in general. There are seemingly a lot of spaces for the exploration of Christianity, but “not for religions of brown and black people.” If the tri-college consortium were to establish a religion-speaker series, we could encourage more education about misconceptions and realities in regards to Islam and more generally non-Christian and non-western faiths.


This idea would be extremely beneficial to all three college campuses because, as Ramelcy puts it, “[Islamaphobia is] a discrimination against faith, but its also a racial thing…and white people are not the only people participating in islamaphobia, because I know that in my community people say [things as well].”


Opening a dialogue, to Ramelcy, is essential. If all three of the college campuses were to open up a dialogue across years, students, identities, with Muslim voices at the center a lot could be learned. Additionally, having an expert facilitator lead these dialogues and facilitate these discussions would be necessary. As long as proactive education is being practiced and proactive spaces are being created for marginalized students, in this case Muslim students specifically, progress is being made.




Janaya Khan Talk on #BlackLivesMatter at Bryn Mawr College

On February 2nd, 2016, in honor of Black History Month, #BlackLivesMatter Toronto co-founder and general spokesperson for the #BlackLivesMatter movement Janaya Khan came to speak at Thomas Great Hall on the campus of Bryn Mawr College. Janaya Khan identifies as black, queer, and gender non-conforming – all which speak to the wide array of personal identifiers that the #BlackLivesMatter movement encompasses. This event was the result of collaborative efforts between Sisterhood, the Tri-College Chapter of the NAACP, the Enid Cook Center Committee, and the Pensby, and drew an impressively large crowd, as Thomas Great Hall was completely full.

The general format of the talk was question and answer, preceded by a brief overview of the #BlackLivesMatter movement within the context of modern day race relations. Throughout the event, Khan touched on many important aspects of not only the #BlackLivesMatter but also racism and how it manifests itself on a global scale.

           Angela Davis is as bright as you.” – Janaya Khan

 At the core of their talk, Khan stressed the significance of time, in regards to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. As Khan explained it, the #BlackLivesMatter movement could not have existed such as it does today, in any other time in history. The events related to race relations in American preceding this movement, and the work that is being done today to continue to promote this movement, are both integral in continuation of #BlackLivesMatter.

Over the course of their talk Khan discussed a wide range of topics, spanning racial and political issues. After the event, Jhoneidy Javier, a Freshman at Haverford College who attended the talk described it as “…inspiring but also challenging. Khan had everyone talking by the end of the event, inviting everyone to challenge their perception of a social movement and empowering others to participate in the struggle for liberation of all oppressed peoples.”

For the rest of the month, Bryn Mawr College will be hosting events related to Black History and race relations in America. On the 10th, 20th, and 26th there will be a series of “Cultural Exchanges,” where stories, food, and dance respectively will be shared at Bryn Mawr. Additionally, on the 16th of this month, Dr. Hadiyah Green will speak on Black Women in STEM, in Thomas Great Hall at Bryn Mawr College. All of these events will be worthwhile, and will help in celebrating diversity and culture this through the end of the month.


A special thanks to Jhoneidy Javier, who attended the talk on February 2nd, and took extensive notes which played a central role in the creation of this article.







A MLK Day Reflection from Kim Benston

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

                        –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” 1963


Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested story plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: “A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.” This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together – black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.

                        –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Prize Lecture, December 11, 1964


Fifty years ago this month, I heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak at the launch of his Chicago Freedom Movement Campaign for fairness in housing, education, and employment. Dr. King’s blend of argumentative clarity and moral passion was powerful in itself; but what further dazzled me was his capacity to galvanize a diverse audience into a unified community “bending its arc toward justice.”  I saw the adults around me departing inflamed by what civil rights preachers called “fire in the bones”: the zeal for equity, righteousness, and decency.

After encountering much resistance, the Freedom Movement Campaign in the summer of 1966 wrested a promise from city authorities for improved public housing.  But by the spring of 1967, hopes were waning in the face of neglect and betrayal, and Dr. King trenchantly observed that “it appears that for all intents and purposes, the public agencies have … given credence to [those] who proclaim the housing agreement a sham and a batch of false promises.”  The Campaign continued, now fueled by gritty determination more than bright-eyed idealism.

And so I learned a second lesson from the King-led movement for civil and human rights: that the moral resonance of the “dream” was inseparable from an anxious awareness of continuing injustice.  For the dream of equality to be realized, hope must sustain itself through recurring trials.

Dr. King’s intense effort to preserve hope in the face of despair struck me anew while I was rereading his remarkable “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”  Written in 1963 while Dr. King was serving a jail sentence for participating in demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, his letter is formally addressed to eight prominent white Alabama clergymen who had drafted an open letter accusing Dr. King of unnecessarily inciting civil unrest rather than “waiting” for societal redress of bigotry and oppression.  Written in solitary confinement, “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is tinged by pessimism, anger, and fear, but it crackles also with the vehemence of a prophet challenging his people—and all people—to heal the breach between idealism and actuality.  Just as today we hear activists passionately reminding us that we don’t in fact live in a “post-racial” society but rather occupy a land beset by inequities including racialized mass incarceration, sanctioned brutality, and income polarization, so Dr. King reminded his audience that the modern America of his timehad not yet “reached [its] goal of freedom.”  By turning such disappointment into renewed resolve, Dr. King’s masterful composition was to become an act of both political and personal regeneration.

“Letter from Birmingham Jail” went largely unnoticed in the months after its composition, until its publication by the American Friends Service Committee.  After this Quaker organization published it, the letter became the launching pad for Dr. King’s renewed prominence, ultimately making possible his central role in the pivotal March on Washington in August of 1963 (where he delivered his epochal “I Have a Dream” speech).  But the link between Quakerism and Dr. King’s impact goes much deeper than the important role of AFSC in the dissemination of the momentous “Letter”––and, in fact, embraces Haverford College. The story of this connection––involving the African-American minister, educator, and religious leader Howard Thurman and the Haverford Quaker historian, philosopher, and theologian Rufus Jones––illuminates how Dr. King’s unwavering dedication to a truly just community has a poignant contemporary relevance for Haverford College. 

Dr. King’s extraordinary ability to fuse inner strength with social vision had been nurtured toward fullness by Reverend Howard Thurman, the first African-American Dean of Boston University’s Marsh Chapel, and founder of the first integrated, interfaith religious congregation in the United States (San Francisco’s Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples).  This influential theologian authored numerous books on the relation between nonviolent social change and individual spiritual rejuvenation, including the widely read Jesus and the Disinherited, which Dr. King carried with him during the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.  It was Rev. Thurman who showed Dr. King, during one of the most despairing moments of his life (after he was shot by a deranged woman in 1958), the path toward becoming a “redemptive dissenter.” 

And how had Rev. Thurman himself been nurtured?  Raised by his grandmother, an ex-slave from whom he caught “the contagion of religion” infused with fierce racial pride (“You are not slaves.  You are children of God,” she recalled hearing the black preacher intone on the plantation when she was a child), and educated at Morehouse College (during which time he became close to King family), Rev. Thurman began his career as a pastor and was then profoundly influenced by a book by Haverford Professor Rufus Jones. This autobiographical meditation, Finding the Trail of Life, which laid forth the power of mystical spirituality to address the crises of poverty, war, and oppression, inspired Rev. Thurman to apply to study with Prof. Jones at Haverford in 1929.  On learning that the College did not admit African-American students, Rev. Thurman persuaded Prof. Jones to offer him a private unofficial tutorial, an experience that Rev. Thurman later described in his autobiography With Head and Heart as a “watershed from which flowed much of the thought and endeavor to which I was to commit the rest of my working life.”  Advancing Prof. Jones’s view of spiritual self-understanding as the wellspring of social action, Rev. Thurman became a close spiritual advisor to such luminaries of the civil rights movement as Jesse Jackson, Vincent Harding, Whitney Young, and Vernon Jordan. 

This, again, is the Reverend Thurman who uplifted Dr. Kingin a time of crisis, setting his inner compass toward social transformation.  In so doing, he extended the teachings of Professor Jones, revealing to Dr. King a “common ground” on which the “disinherited” and the socially favored might seek mutual deliverance. Thus, we can trace an organic psychological, political, and theological thread from perhaps Haverford’s most profound developer of Quaker thought to arguably our culture’s most profound political activist and social visionary.

And yet this encounter presents us with another dual lesson, for the College makes its appearance in this intellectual lineage as both a catalyst for social change and a stolid adherent to the status quo (the College would not grant a degree to an African-American until Paul Moses graduated over two decades later).  The mutually enriching work of Rev. Thurman and Prof. Jones occurred in a realm somehow both inside and outside the academy––and both inside and outside the most vital concerns of American society itself. “During the entire time with Rufus,” Rev. Thurman tells us, “the issue of racial conflict never arose, for the fact of racial differences was never dealt with at the conscious level.  The ethical emphasis of his interpretations of mystical religion dealt primarily with war and the poverty and hunger of whole populations, and the issues arising from the conflict between nations. Paradoxically, in his presence, the specific issues of race with which I had been confronted all my life as a black man in America seemed strangely irrelevant. I felt that somehow he transcended race; I did so, too, temporarily, and in retrospect, this aspect of my time with him remains an enigma.”   

That enigma persists for usHow did seemingly pertinent “issues of race” manage to acquire a “strange irrelevance” during this collaboration between a professor and a student?  Did that irrelevance constitute “transcendence” of a social impasse by professor and student alike as they enacted a leap onto “common ground”?  Orwas it inevitable that such irrelevance should come back to haunt them—and us—suggesting “in retrospect” the inability to confront an elemental institutional wrong?  Like Rev. Thurman, we see the interaction with Prof.Jones shrouded in a haze of ambiguity.

Thus, we may celebrate Haverford College’s little-known role in the genealogy of spiritual and social commitment that shaped Martin Luther King, Jr. for leadership in the civil rights movement––but, at the same time, we must ponder the College’s complex relationship to the struggle for fully realized justice.  That complexity is very much alive today as we consider how our community cantranscend the tensions of the world while simultaneously giving sharedattention to their effects on us.

While we continually hope that our efforts here at Haverford inspire lives that speak, we must remain on guard against complacency, and against obliviousness.  In Dr. King’s and Rev. Thurman’s perseverance we hear a summons to the work of improving our life together in all its aspects—teaching and learning; working and playing; leading and serving; living and dreaming—so that we can say, in Dr. King’s words, that we dwell together in the “world house” of our common inheritance, bound each to each in a “network of mutuality.”

Peace, Kim