My Heritage, My Gumbo

Written and photographed by Colin Thompson

There are three things I learned while being raised by a mother from Louisiana - the best restaurants have their bathrooms in the kitchen, good food must “stick to your ribs,” and never, under any circumstances, put tomatoes in your gumbo. I’ve had gumbo so many times throughout my life, I couldn’t tell you what it was like to eat it for the first time. But when I can get my hands on a bowl, I can’t help but to be reminded of my mother in the kitchen - the smell of onions stewing seeping into every corner of the house, the sting of cayenne powder drifting in the air, and the soft, slow bubble of the stew on the stove. She would work for what seemed like hours, starting with preparing the roux early in the afternoon. From there, she would stew heaps of onions, celery, bell peppers, and sausage until it was time - she never set a timer or kept track of how long the gumbo was on the range, but without fail she knew when it was ready and would promptly cut the heat. The moments my working mother would prepare a home-cooked meal were few and far between, but when she had time to prepare a dish for our family, there was an immense sense of pride in the toils of her labor.

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Admittedly, everyone seems to have a bias for their own family’s home-cooked meals. However, there has always been something magical about Southern food for me. It may be the buttermilk, three sticks of butter, and inhumane quantities of salt that do it in for me, but without fail Southern food cannot be replicated. Growing up in Texas and Louisiana, there was always an emphasis on feeding the crowd; if I had walked into someone’s house and hadn’t eaten in at least two hours, their parents would force-feed me as many things as they could rummage out of their pantry. After moving to New England, I longed for these blissful moments of affection expressed through food. Sure, I will always welcome a small cracker plate, but there was something so meaningful behind the gratuitous culture of food in the South.

Unsurprisingly, authentic gumbo was hard to come by up north. What was once my lifeline as a child disappeared completely, and over time my connection to the South faded as well, save for the few days out of the year I was able to return home. But every time I walked through the door of my childhood home, I was greeted upon entry with a piping hot bowl of gumbo. While I took this for granted the first few times, I’ve realized that these meals remind me of where I come from, who I am, and what food means to me. Seeing past the fads, boutique fast-casual eateries and unnecessary amounts of avocado I typically subscribe to, that bowl of gumbo made me feel loved.

Perhaps the reason a gumbo chain has yet to make it up north - or exist, really - is because it can be a bit labor-intensive. But when it comes to food that speaks to the soul, nothing is quite as magical as gumbo. At a glance, its origin, a roux, isn’t the sexiest concept - it’s essentially fried flour slop, and all you have to show for it is a sore bicep. However, it’s through this magical slurry that one of the most iconic Cajun dishes takes form. When done correctly, roux is rich, nutty, and velvety. When done incorrectly, it tastes somewhat like charred toast, with the mouthfeel of wet sand. Nobody wants that.

Treat your roux as you would your own child, and you’ll avoid that mess. If you’re a purist like myself, you’ll be making your roux on the stovetop - and that means you need a good whisk, patience, and immaculate cooking music. I’ve been really into Trance Farmers lately, lots of good tunes to zone out to while choppin’ veggies and whiskin’ away. Through your dedication and sheer willpower to see this gumbo through, you’ll get an idea of how one can put love into the food they make.

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My Mother’s Sausage Gumbo

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Serves 4-5

A quick note on the consistency of gumbo - some people like it thin and runny, and some people like it thick. If you want to make it thicker, add less broth, throw some okra in at the same step as the broth, or add gumbo filé, also known as powdered sassafras. You can dash some in when you throw the rest of the spices in, or even use it as a condiment at the table; my mom prefers this method since you can avoid the unwanted sliminess that okra sometimes imbues and better control the thickness of your gumbo. I will say that I have yet to come across filé at grocery stores in Boston, but you can always order some online if you’re feeling adventurous.


Ingredients

Roux

  • ¼ c. flour

  • ¼ c. vegetable or canola oil

Gumbo

  • 4 stalks celery, diced

  • 1 yellow onion, diced

  • 1 green bell pepper, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3-4 links sausage, sliced

    • Andouille sausage is best, but you can also substitute this with kielbasa or vegan sausages.

  • 4-5 cups chicken or vegetable broth, separated

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 ½  tablespoons paprika

  • 1 ½  tablespoons dried thyme

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

  • ½ tablespoon black pepper

  • ½ tablespoon white pepper

  • Cayenne powder to taste

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Extras

  • 2-3 cups of cooked rice

  • Fresh parsley to top

  • Hot sauce to top

Optional

  • 1 cup of sliced okra, ½ inch pieces

  • Gumbo filé, to preference

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Steps

  1. In a heavy-bottomed large pot over medium-low heat, pour in your oil. Whisk in the flour to combine, and whisk continuously for about 30-40 minutes, preventing any flour from sticking to the pot. You want to go low-and-slow here; if you burn the roux, you’ll have to start all over again. If your roux is getting too thick and gritty but not browning, turn down the heat to the lowest and keep whisking until it gets smooth again.

  2. Are you still whisking? Good! At this point, your roux should be thick, smell nutty, and taken on a color between peanut butter and milk chocolate.

  3. Once you’ve got your roux in good shape, toss in the celery, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until the onions become translucent.

  4. Pour in 4 cups of your broth in addition to the bay leaves and spices, stirring to combine. Increase the heat, bringing to a boil, and then lower the heat and allow the gumbo to simmer. Stirring occasionally, let that bad boy simmer away for at least 30 to 45 minutes.

  5. In the meantime, coat a large pan with oil over medium heat. Cook sausage until nicely browned. Once cooked, remove and put on a plate with a paper towel to sop up any of that extra grease. You can also pour some of the leftover grease in the pan into your simmering gumbo for some extra flavor.

  6. After the gumbo is done doin’ it’s thing, check it out and see how you like the consistency. Too thick? Add some more broth! Too thin? Add a little gumbo filé until you get there. If the my tip above didn’t get your attention earlier, check it out to learn about how to play around with the consistency of your gumbo.

  7. Once you have tamed your roux-beast, remove the bay leaves and grab a bowl. Fill it up with some cooked rice, and ladle in your gumbo. Top with sausage and some chopped parsley, if that’s what you’re into.

  8. Congratulate yourself! You just made a roux-based stew, which is no small feat. But, uh, do you mind if I come over and snag a bowl too?

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Jessica's Product Diary

By Jessica Varner

Have you ever wondered who writes for The Avenue? Now, you have the chance to get to know some of our amazing contributors, and snag some great product recommendations at the same time! Welcome to the first of (hopefully) many Product Diaries.

There are two distinct lifestyles at Northeastern: co-op and classes. My routine and schedule varies greatly between the two. While in classes everything is erratic. I never know when I’m going to wake up, eat, do homework, workout, or anything else; it kind of all just happens. Currently, I’m on co-op, and I have found my life is much more structured. This structure has led me to forms routines, some I stick to rigidly and others that only occur on occasion. I typically live my life in a disorganized manner —I plan things last minute, and I’m am always up for spur of the moment activities — but within this erratic schedule I am surprisingly organized. I spend much of my free time making spreadsheets, helping my friends with their course selection, and thinking further into the future than probably necessary. Through all of this there are some products and brands that hold it all together, like the JIF peanut butter that holds the bananas to my toast every morning.

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I’m currently co-oping at Wayfair, which is conveniently located two T-stops or a twenty minute walk away from Northeastern. I usually arrive at work between 9 and 9:30 a.m., which allows me to wake up leisurely each morning at around 8 a.m.. This morning, for instance, I rolled out of bed at 8:17 a.m., popped some toast in my Black + Decker toaster oven, turned on the tea kettle, and made the same turkey and swiss sandwich I eat everyday. After making my lunch and eating my breakfast, I brushed my teeth with my Colgate toothpaste and began my skincare routine (that doesn’t always actually happen even though it should). I start by washing my face with my Neutrogena Healthy Skin Boosters Daily Scrub (with white tea and vitamin e). Next I applied my Retinol Brightening Serum from Rosen Apothecary, followed by Glow Facial Serum (with vitamin c and magnesium) from Valjean Labs. (I purchased all three of these products at Marshalls, because skincare on a budget IS possible!) Lastly, I applied Glossier Priming Moisturizer because winter is here and my skin WILL dry out flake off like Voldemort at the end of Harry Potter if I let it.  

Getting dressed is always interesting. Some nights I plan out an outfit, wake up, put it on, and go to work. Other times I wake up, try on eighteen different things that someone all don’t feel sufficient, and leave my dorm wondering where I went wrong in life. This morning when I woke up there was no planned outfit waiting. I plucked a pink Topshop sweater out of the heap of clothes that sits on my desk chair (the rejects of previous mornings), pulled my black, faux leather Free People skirt out of my closet, and threw on some black tights so I wouldn’t freeze on my way to work. I paired this with some heeled black chelsea boots from Zara and my tweed Jack Wills coat I got my junior year of high school and refuse to ever get rid of. Finally, I was ready to face the world.

I always forget something when I go to work. Today it was my favorite lip balm, Chapstick Total Hydration in coconut, my Apple earbuds, and my umbrella. Each loss became apparent throughout the day as my lips began to feel more chapped, I was unable to listen to music while working, and worst of all, when I walked home in the rain.

After an hour of being at work the need for caffeine became too apparent to ignore. My coworker and I, determined to complete our star-challenges for the week, journeyed to one of the three Starbucks within 500 feet of our office. I ordered a toasted white chocolate mocha with coconut milk and then returned to sitting in front of my computer until lunch. At lunch, I ate the sandwich I made in the morning and snacked on a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos at my desk afterwards. By the time it hit 1PM I was probably on my third Bigelow English Breakfast Tea which I continuously refill throughout the day. Since it was a light day at work I spent a lot of time scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat on my iPhone X, wishing I had headphones so I could listen to the new Ariana Grande song. At 5PM I grabbed my Cole Haan leather backpack and headed out of the office.

My next stop was the ever-glamorous Star Market. I picked up the turkey, cheese, and bread I use to make my sandwich every morning since I was running low on supplies, and then proceeded to walk back to West Village in the slight drizzle. Upon arriving home, I ate my leftover ramen from Wagamama and threw on my Taylor Swift Reputation Tour sweatshirt, ready to get cozy. After watching half of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, I applied my Peter Thomas Roth cucumber gel face mask and sat down to write this blog which I have procrastinated for wayyy too long now. So now I’m sitting on my couch, using my Macbook Pro and a whole bunch of brain cells to type out all the products I used throughout my day. Scrolling through this it appears I am probably the most basic person alive but I’m out here having a good time doing that.

Once I finish this, I’m going to repeat the same skincare routine as this morning. I’ll probably take some Nyquil because my throat has been feeling weird all day and because I can never sleep, brush my teeth with my good old Colgate toothpaste, crawl under my Anthropologie comforter, and wait until my alarm wakes me up again tomorrow at 7:45 a.m. Then, I can ignore it for a solid half an hour before actually emerging from my comfy, warm cocoon and doing it all over again.   

Help! I'm a Hypocrite

Written and photographed by Dea Davita Krisanda
Modeled by Wei Wei Faith Chan, Tommy Katio, and Elodie Geltzer

It’s surprising how anything can be considered mainstream nowadays — literally anything sells. What’s even more shocking is trying to differentiate mainstream culture from what isn’t, as the two practically blend together. Even the conversation of whether to be mainstream or not has turned into a debate about conforming versus standing out. The act of consuming culture has become an obsession for people, but it shouldn’t have to be this way.

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So, a note to ourselves: stop being hypocrites. The lines have been blurred, definitions have been altered and the only thing left to do is to choose: either? neither? both? Who cares, it’s your choice.

I have always been familiar with pop culture — a majority of my childhood was spent being “mainstream.” It wasn’t until my teenage years (thanks to the internet) that I discovered the options available to me, and actually started being selective about what I consumed. Yet, for some reason, the more knowledge I gained, the more I obnoxiously I felt I needed to flaunt it. Although I’m glad I now know what I’m into, I regret being so outspoken about how corny mainstream things are. Ironically, the things I used to hate are now what I enjoy most; for instance, my obsession with Grey’s Anatomy or my love of K-pop phenoms.

It was hard for me to accept the ugly truth: I actually liked mainstream things. I struggled so much trying to differentiate myself from others that I lost touch with what I actually loved.

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Now that I’ve broken my own cycle, it became more obvious to me that the fear of being mainstream is recurring among my friends — especially women. In fact, the reason why I was so critical about showing people what I consume is because of the people around me in the first place. Why are we as women so sensitive to the idea of being basic? Why do we have to constantly change ourselves to stand out? Why can’t we just be?

Women tend to be scrutinized by people based on what they see. If we fit in, we are basic and if we stand out, we are just seeking attention. Nothing seems to ever be right. This is also why women tend to feel more pressure in consuming mainstream culture: unfortunately, we are still mostly assessed by our look and how we represent ourselves. Don’t get me wrong though, the same thing goes for men.

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The more I consume different types of culture and media, the more I realize that there really is no difference between the popular and what not. Anything that sells will eventually become mainstream, and there should be no shame in selling or consuming it; might as well be proud of it. No one should be judged for liking something that they genuinely love. Most importantly, just saying you prefer one pop culture thing or another doesn’t instantly make you prettier, more open-minded, or better in general. Whoever you are, men or women, mainstream or not: stop lying to people and more importantly, stop lying to yourself. For once, let guilty pleasure just be pleasure.

The Hex on Brett Kavanaugh: Just a Joke, or Something More?

By Kelly Fleming
Quotes courtesy of Vice


“Please join us for a public hex on Brett Kavanaugh, upon all rapists and the patriarchy at large which emboldens, rewards and protects them.”

Photography courtesy of Jacquelyn   Martin / Associated Press

Photography courtesy of Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

These are the words that led the description of the “Ritual to Hex Brett Kavanaugh,” a Facebook event hosted last month by Catland, a “spiritual supply hub” in Brooklyn. Over 10,000 people claimed to be going.

Some regarded this event as a joke, clicking “interested” or “I’m going” to get a laugh or quietly share their position on the case. Others took it more seriously, eliciting reactions ranging from fervent support to sheer outrage. The angry comments tended to come from Christians citing the immorality of hexing a person, or from self-described witches who were upset that witchcraft was being used for political purposes. The supportive comments, however, were often from women and survivors of sexual assault, thanking Catland for giving them a way to fight back against this perceived injustice.  

When I first saw a few Facebook friends say they were “interested” in this event, I scrolled by it with no more than a quick glance. It seemed like another joke event that occasionally pops up on my timeline,  perhaps in the spirit of Halloween.

At first glance, I did not grasp the true weight of the occasion for those who have been most deeply affected by Kavanaugh’s run for a Supreme Court seat, who have experienced rape or sexual assault themselves. They have had to watch an accused sexual assaulter make his way to the most honorable and high seat of justice in the nation. Similar allegations against President Trump have been traumatic enough for these survivors, as they have been forced to see a man accused of rape in the country’s most important office.

An event like the “Ritual to Hex Brett Kavanaugh” provides a space for survivors of rape, domestic abuse and other forms of sexual violence to process their trauma and take their own small revenge on those who hurt them. The event’s main purpose was to curse Kavanaugh, but for the individual participants, it had much more personal meaning. The leader of the hex, Dakota Bracciale, described it as a healing space for survivors in Vice Magazine:

“People have to have an outlet to do something. Because here's the reality—statistically speaking, if you are a survivor of sexual violence, there is such an immense likelihood that in a situation like this, that rage is going to come out…We have got to have an outlet for this because we don't have any form of justice available. There has to at least be some sort of support.”

At a time when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to levy assault allegations against Kavanaugh, is still being disparaged and mocked, this form of healing is essential. Survivors must be able to express the pain they’re feeling within a supportive community, even through as unusual a venue as witchcraft. Hex attendee Sara David described its value in Vice Magazine:

Photography courtesy of WBUR

Photography courtesy of WBUR

“When Dakota asks us if we're still here—if we're still alive—we all scream ‘yes.' They tell us that our existence, our joys, and each breath we take, is resistance—is its own victory in a world that is not merely indifferent but actively hostile to us, survivors and the disenfranchised.”

While only about 60 people were able to attend due to the size of the venue, many more performed their own hexes at home as the event was live-streamed. This hex provided community support for many people who needed it more than they had in a long time. No one was required to believe in the witchcraft, only to support those around them and to believe each other. When the government seems to have turned a blind eye to survivors, their turning to the supernatural feels like an attempt to be seen.

Chameleon

Written and modeled by Aidan Baglivo
Photography by Catherine Barna

This article has been adapted for the web from our Flux Issue.

Early each morning I, like most, choose what clothes to wear for the day. I stand in front of the mirror, weigh my options and check if the colors match. For me, though, my decision extends beyond the usual criteria for an acceptable outfit.

I came out the summer before my first year at Northeastern, and although I’m almost a year out from then, I still find myself tethered to questions like, “How ‘gay’ am I going to dress today? Am I expressing myself honestly through the clothes I’m wearing?”

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18 years of my life were spent as a chameleon. I tailored myself to accommodate the restrictive expectations of others. After high school, I was exhausted and lacked a tangible sense of self. But as I entered college, I felt a stronger responsibility toward my own happiness—so I took the first steps in what would be a lengthy, confusing process.

Stepping into the LGBTQ+ community was both refreshing and intimidating. Having just come out, I perceived older queer folks as veterans. Everyone seemed innately true to themselves and well-versed in queer culture. However, after meeting other gay students, I came to realize my identity didn’t rest upon my sexuality. All my life I had presented myself differently depending on my audience, so it was an adjustment to step out of the traditional, straight role I had assumed for years. By prioritizing my own opinion, I felt more comfortable experimenting with my perceived identity. The clothes I wore began to hold more meaning without the weight of archaic judgments. Fashion had actually become part of my queer identity.

There truly is no singular mode of dress for gay men. Through conversations with friends who have also recently come out, I’ve found that finding your style is complicated. The eyes of the LGBTQ+ community, along with the restrictive expectations of a conservative society, provide mixed signals when standing in front of the mirror in the morning. Valid concerns for personal safety and the ability to receive equal treatment linger when taking the “risk” of wearing something perceived to be more flamboyant or effeminate. At the same time, newly identified members of the community feel pushed by both their peers and themselves to venture outside of their comfort zone. The constant tug of war between queer and traditional mindsets manifests itself in the simple process of getting dressed.

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From testing various combinations and outfits each morning, I feel a sense of ownership of my style. Be it through adding a funky pair of socks, tucking in my shirt or vibrantly tie-dying a white Northeastern Huskies T-shirt, I take pride in how I present myself because I have full control over the clothes I wear. Taking the time to build a distinct outfit provides the foundation for a positive outlook that day. My opinion alone predicates my sense of self.

While I’ve made enormous strides in expressing myself, feeling confident in my sexuality and establishing my own identity since I came out, I’m definitely still finding my way. The coming out process never truly ends for members of the LGBTQ+ community. I often catch myself reverting to the traditional, “straight” role I assumed for so many years to appease the needs of others. But ultimately, when I look at the mirror in the morning, I see myself, not the chameleon who craved to blend in.

Consistently Mine: Lessons From a Long Distance Relationship

By Nia Beckett
Photography by Kaela Anderson
Modeled by Roman Distefano and Dania Danielle Gritzmacher

This article has been adapted for the web from our Flux Issue.

Imagine that for months, you spend every waking moment with someone you truly care about, and the next day you’re on a plane to call a place 1,200 miles away from them home. No more cuddling up next to them, no more late night trips to the beach. Amidst the change of scenery, the struggle to make new friends and the ungodly amounts of homework, you miss them and you wonder where to go from here.

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Let me be the first to say that before I dated my current boyfriend, I never even considered being in a long distance relationship. I had no doubt in my mind that I would leave for college 100 percent single. I was going to party and take advantage of everything that the college social life had to offer. As cheesy as it sounds, when you meet someone special, all bets are off.

I remember him saying in the weeks before each of us left for school that he hated long distance relationships because of the lack of intimacy. He didn’t necessarily mean this in a physical way—it’s just that when you’re not physically near someone, it makes it more difficult to connect with them on other levels. His words lingered in my mind as the summer drew to a close, presumably bringing with it the end of our relationship

July turned to August and while he did his best to comfort me, my mid-date breakdowns became more frequent. Then a funny thing happened: we didn’t stop talking.

Obviously when a healthy relationship is uprooted overnight, you don’t immediately start acting differently. It hasn’t hit you that you aren’t just on vacation or at summer camp. Your mind isn’t even equipped to process how long you’ll be gone. Still, days turned into weeks and the same guy who didn’t believe in long distance relationships couldn’t let me go. It was time to re-evaluate.

Entering this new, uncharted territory, there wasn’t really much to go off of. There isn’t an official textbook you can refer to. No “turn to page nine to find out how many times it is acceptable to text him before breakfast.” All of the information you gather is about friends of friends who tried long distance relationships once and you always end up asking the million dollar question, “Did it work out?”

Long distance relationships are the kind of thing that you need to be certain about. You don’t need to know that it will work, but you need to be positive that you want to try. I have found that it’s easier not to get caught up in my own head about it. The logistics don’t really matter: it’s about me and the guy I love.

Trying to define the relationship through a screen or a phone line hundreds of miles apart is like running your hand across the wall to find the light switch hanging right above your head. FaceTime is so much harder than face-to-face time.

Communication becomes so much more important when you aren’t physically there to see how the other person feels. Distance creates such an interesting obstacle. For some, it’s easy to keep texting each other and go on as if nothing has changed. For others, going into this kind of situation with a sense of uncertainty presents uneasy conversations about where you’re going.

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What you often find is that one person has committed to at least trying while the other is unsure. It’s almost as if they’re stuck in limbo—part of them finding the loneliness overbearing, but whenever they are with you, they can’t see it any other way.

Friends mean well when they tell you to “just find another guy.” I guess there’s some merit to that consideration. The consideration that a relationship, especially one that’s long distance, is an extra time commitment. However, a relationship isn’t like a club or a class that you just unenroll from with no emotional repercussions. When two people find true companionship in each other, it can’t be written off as “just another thing on their plate.”

There’s nothing wrong with ending a relationship because of lack of time to spend together, or because long distance just isn’t for you. In fact no one should be judged for ending their relationship on those grounds, if they see it fit. However, it’s a personal choice, and I don’t think that it has to be seen as a taboo, unconquerable burden.

I can’t say that down the road we’ll still be together, (although I’d like that very much). What I can offer, however, is that I still get happiness out of our relationship every day, and I’m not ready to cast it off just because of the distance. At a point where my whole life has been a whirlwind of changes, he has been consistently mine.

How Not To Be a Bigot This Halloween

By Kaela Anderson, Lifestyle Editor
Photography courtesy of Teen Vogue via Pinterest

2018 has been quite the year — with social media as a constant presence in our lives, it’s quite do able to keep yourself informed. From celebs in the public eye to great films to fashion trends, anything is up for grabs this Halloween costume shopping season, right? Wrong.

Now more than ever, it’s important to check double check that costume you’ve been contemplating for a month. No one should be wearing an appropriative costume just because they like the hairstyle, or because it’s their favorite character. It’s important to understand the history of your costume before you put it on.

Halloween is prime time for cultural appropriators to take to the streets and really show off what no one should ever do “just for fun.” So let’s talk about approaching this Halloween as respectfully as possible.

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Let’s start off with Julianne Hough’s recreation of Orange Is The New Blacks’, Uza Aduba with this black face jumpsuit ensemble. Aside from the obscene amount of fake tan Hough is wearing, her recreation of Bantu Knots is unacceptable. Bantu Knots come African culture, and aren’t meant to be worn playfully by white women, or anyone who is not of African descent. Black people for centuries have been oppressed, their culture has been taken from them and shamed, and now it is being used in everyday culture by those who are not black. Black hairstyles are truly something that help create a sense of identity, confidence and pride in their culture. Bantu Knots were created by the Bantu people — a name that labels about a few hundred groups in central and southern Africa.

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Dia de los Muertos is another commonly abused Halloween costume. While the skeleton look definitely feels topical for Halloween, many who don’t actually know the significance of Dia de los Muertos just wear it as a cool look. Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that honors those who have passed away, and support their spiritual journey, and using it as a costume can trivialize that celebration of life and death. It’s important to respect others cultures, and not alter them to fit into a cute or trendy look that will get you compliments at the door of your Halloween parties.

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Native Americans are also up there on the don’t list — since when was it okay to dressing up as a minority group when you know nothing about their culture or their struggles? Native Americans have struggled with their own identity from as far back as the 15th century when Christopher Columbus colonized them. After being stripped from their culture, relocated from their homes and recovering from a genocide, using tribal names, identifying with many of the traditional ways of their culture is something important for Native Americans. It’s important to recognize and accept that someone else’s historically filled culture is okay to not be yours as well. Commonly packaged as “Pocahontas” and overtly sexualized, this costume crosses so many lines.

There are still so many things to know about how to go through life without appropriating another person’s culture — and there is most definitely a difference between appropriation and appreciation, but let’s take this one step at a time. Being mindful of others cultures this Halloween isn’t a suggestion but a requirement, and there’s no time like the present to start changing your ways for the better.

Happy Halloween!

Supporting Characters No More: Asian Representation in Film & TV

By Dea Davita Krisanda

Momentum is defined as “the quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity” by Merriam Webster—years of progress summed up in a word. Indeed, a momentum it is for Asian representation to be finally improved in the media. 2018 has been the year chosen to honor breathtaking roles in film and television, like Crazy Rich Asians, Killing Eve, Searching and many more—roles that would not have been understood or appreciated a decade ago. It is and will always be hard to comment about media inclusion in general. Still, such momentous strides have been made this year and it is worth commemorating. It’s a great feeling when you open Netflix and are excited to see a familiar face or to finally see your name in a callback list.

Crazy Rich Asians

With such grandiose coverage of the movie, Crazy Rich Asians became a significant pop culture hit, and broke the U.S. record as the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade (another rarity nowadays). The movie’s stellar reviews also included its glorious and exceptional all Asian cast: Fresh Off The Boat’s Constance Wu, the legendary actress Michelle Yeoh, presenter turned actor Henry Golding, rapper Awkwafina, Maniac’s newcomer Sonoya Mizuno and many more. The story’s unique commentary is based on author Kevin Kwan’s perspective on his Singaporean background and the fact that the movie revolves around this new and glamorous world is undeniable. With the critics’ mix of raves and sighs, Crazy Rich Asians is still the breakthrough of the year: director Jon M. Chu has successfully created a 21st century romantic comedy that is meaningful and does not fall under the typicalities of every other romantic comedies.

Photo courtesy of the Crazy Rich Asians official movie website

Photo courtesy of the Crazy Rich Asians official movie website

Meteor Garden

Netflix has also done an excellent job of including more diverse involvement in its productions. In fact, Netflix is reported to be exclusively implementing a further intensive “inclusion strategy”: to integrate more cultural diversity in all of Netflix’s activities and affairs; this is important as a response to such strong actors and movements that call upon more cultural inclusion in the media. Therefore, you can expect more international content coverage from Netflix and (hopefully) other media companies. So far, they have co-created and co-distributed some original works, including the remake of Asia’s popular Taiwanese romantic comedy, called Meteor Garden. The show tells the story of a relationship between a college senior and a freshman (and their group of friends), as they begin their journey to adulthood. Hence, you can see why it is considered a staple to many youth around the world. While it still adhere to most of Asia’s social norms, which previous versions heavily relied on, this 2018 version have been updated in terms of characterizations and storylines that are not as gendered as it were before. Yes, you do have to watch it with subtitles, it is incredibly cheesy and cringe-y and sometimes the story doesn’t even add up. Even so, it is guaranteed to be worth the time—you have all Asia (mostly the women) as proof.

Photo courtesy of IMDb

Photo courtesy of IMDb

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Speaking of inclusion in romantic comedies, Netflix has been producing some of 2018’s best rom-coms in its original works, including To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Released just days after Crazy Rich Asians, the movie could not have come at a better time. While Kwan and Chu introduced the audience to life in Asia (or more specifically, the privileged Singaporean Chinese), author Jenny Han illustrated life from the eye of an Asian-American teenager, Lara Jean (superbly performed by the Vietnamese-American actress, Lana Condor). Condor’s portrayal was so believable that it is relatable to all audiences.

Photo courtesy of Screenrant

Photo courtesy of Screenrant

Killing Eve

This year’s representation of Asian people were not exclusive to romantic comedies. Some film and television narratives excel on a darker note—something that works these days. One of the well received television dramas that debuted in 2018 is BBC’s Killing Eve, which tells a story about the relationship between a female detective and a female serial murderer—two field of profession that is apparently very gendered. Killing Eve marks Grey’s Anatomy Sandra Oh’s television comeback, in which she was applauded for her exceptional performance as the lead, that she was immediately nominated for an Emmy—the first actress of Asian descent to do so. Killing Eve was intended by its creators to be a catalyst in changing the industry concerning genre, gender and most importantly, race. Fortunately, it did achieve its goal; as mentioned in The New York Times, the “...scenes and characterizations play out differently than we’re used to.” As a result, the creators were able to develop narratives in which an Asian woman is not either whitewashed or stereotyped.

Photo courtesy of IMDb

Photo courtesy of IMDb

Searching

While Crazy Rich Asians deserves its spotlight, the movie Searching should be recognized too. Similar to its counterpart, Searching cast an Asian as its lead, specifically the fantastic Korean-American actor, John Cho. Unlike Crazy Rich Asians, which emphasized Asian culture, Searching (like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before,) explores the mundanity of the domestic lives of Asian-Americans, which to be truthful are as mundane as those of any other Americans. To further illustrate this, director Aneesh Chaganty utilizes the conflict (spoiler alert: abduction) to accentuate the humanity within Cho’s character David and his family.

Photo courtesy of IMDB

Photo courtesy of IMDB

More...So Many More

In addition to the titles and individuals mentioned above, here are others that contributed to 2018’s Asian representation in the media:

  • Shirkers: an autobiographical documentary by Sandi Tan about her own experience as a young Singaporean filmmaker in 1992.

  • Yappie: a web series, by Wong Fu Productions, of a man’s journey of rediscovering what it means to be Asian in America

  • 88 Rising: a “hybrid management” record label, by founder Sean Miyashiro, in which majority of its artists are Asian (Rich Brian, Joji, Higher Brothers, Keith Ape, Niki, etc.), yet are inclusive to all talents.

  • Alan Yang: a Taiwanese-American writer/co-creator of the Emmy and Golden Globe winning series Master of None and the upcoming series Forever.

  • Young Jean Lee: a Korean-American playwright of the play Straight White Men: “a subversive exploration of privilege, identity, and American values”, as defined by Playbill; recently produced on Broadway (the first Asian-American to do so.)

Nonetheless, who we really should be clapping louder for are the people who stood behind these scenes, constantly contributing their groundbreaking ideas and persevering in spite of all the challenges. Therefore, while this article listed some of the best films and television programs by Asian actors and creatives in 2018, the category is not limited to those aforementioned pieces. There is a vast body of work and many creative individuals — of all backgrounds — out there that have yet to be discovered by the public. And last but not least, here is the reaction that I want to see from you: to promote this momentum forward and celebrate this moment altogether; then this would most certainly not be momentary.

Doing the Northeastern Shuffle

By Catherine Titcomb
Photography courtesy of Unsplash.com

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Every college campus experiences some degree of fluidity as students come and go, whether to transfer in or out, graduate, or study abroad. This is emphasized at Northeastern largely because of the co-op program, and the phenomenon has earned its own name, the “Northeastern Shuffle.”

N.U.i.n Fall and Spring, out-of-state and country co-ops, co-op cycles and studying abroad affects friendships, relationships and rooming situations. As soon as a student settles, half of their friends leave. However, many Northeastern students believe the fluid campus is what makes the university so unique, and should be seen as an asset.

Lucy Hoffman, a second year student, argued that Northeastern “helps to create an atmosphere where there is always someone new to talk to with an amazing experience and insight to share.” People leave to experience wildly different things, and come back to share their knowledge with their peers, contributing to an socially aware and worldly student body.

Rachel Sigel, another second year, said that the changes often “make it difficult to maintain close relationships with students and faculty.” Friends, research partners and network connections are some of the most valuable takeaways from college, and Northeastern’s constant state of change can make it difficult to establish and maintain relationships.

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At the risk of sounding like a commercial for experiential learning, most students cite the co-op program as a reason for their attendance at Northeastern. However, because of co-op students have at most two years and at least a year and a half of classes before being thrown into the workforce, forcing them to adopt a new routine. The shift from classes to work forces students to learn flexibility, be uncomfortable, learn quickly and build a new network of peers.

I applied to Northeastern because I wanted to have a typical college experience in Boston as well as gain career experience. My acceptance letter told me I would have to spend my first semester abroad, which was the last thing I wanted. I wanted the freshmen floor friends, dining halls and sports games that my friends would be experiencing. I decided to sacrifice this idealistic tableau of my first semester at college for the next four and a half years at my dream school. Now, I cannot imagine freshman year without the friends I made in Greece through the traveling and the memories. My perfect college plan was interrupted from the start because of Northeastern, but the way it worked out prepared me for future location changes on co-op and taught me that allowing change pays off. This flexible mental state is necessary to survive at Northeastern, and is also essential for success and happiness in life.

Accepting flux at Northeastern is a step towards accepting flux in the world. Nothing is more inevitable than change, yet people never expect it. Relying on stagnation and permanence for our happiness leads to hurt.

In his novel Looking for Alaska, John Green references the Buddhist teaching that desire causes suffering and interprets it as, “When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.” Both small and drastic changes happen throughout life, and being open to this flux frees one to accept every aspect of life, even if it turns out to be different than what was dreamed or planned for. The Northeastern shuffle causes students to expect change and learn to be flexible, which proves valuable even out of the context of campus.

It is this flux that continues throughout our lives that make life interesting. Despite the pain and confusion it can sometimes cause, change adds variety and combats boredom. This makes it a vital aspect of fashion. For many, picking out a different outfit everyday is one of the best parts of the day. In the fashion industry, designers must embrace flux because the industry relies on newness in collections, techniques, and trends. Rapid change in the fashion industry makes it an example of the beauty of flux and an argument for embracing change. Flux makes fashion interesting, it makes Northeastern interesting and it makes life interesting.

When Your Niche Is Nowhere

By Kaela Anderson
Photographed by Jacqueline DeVore

This article has been adapted for the web from our Outsider Issue.

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When I applied to various colleges and universities across the United States my senior year of high school, I had three goals for my college experience. I wanted to be in a city, I wanted to travel, and I wanted to be in a diverse environment. Receiving my invitation to N.U.in and the eventual stay on Boston’s campus, my first two wishes were quickly granted.

Unfortunately, my final wish has not been granted. Since being here, the harsh realities of the lack of African American representation in higher education have set in. Instead of admiring the beauty Northeastern possesses, I constantly find myself scrutinizing the student body. In my classrooms, at the gym, around campus, I find myself searching for any kind of evidence that proves my third wish will eventually come true.

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Despite Northeastern’s size and prestige, its admissions website says only six percent of African American students enrolled in their undergraduate program. This means that, in my lecture of 150 students, I can count on two hands the number of African American students in the room each class. As for my smaller classes, I am usually the only African American student in the room.

I suppose I could be proud of this, and see these statistics as some sort of triumph, but I don’t. And I never will. Considering that the census lists 13.3% of the population as African-American, Northeastern’s measly 6% reveals the apparent systematic faults of higher education in the United States. The lack of diversity at even a world-renowned institution like Northeastern suggests that it is not an isolated case. I am grateful to attend such an esteemed university, and the modern job market makes it imperative for my success that I receive an education. But being a part of a successful academic community that doesn’t make up for the lack of diversity in the classroom.

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Northeastern prides itself on its “diverse” community, even highlighting its level of diversity for prospective students on its admissions website. The school alludes that it’s filled with a student body from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds - but housing students from across the globe does not make it an ethnically inclusive environment. During the winter club fair this past January, I scanned the event hall for clubs that I would be able to identify with. The only one I found was the Mixed Student Union, but even then, I have been reluctant to attend one of their meetings. Although I want to meet people who understand my experience as a woman of color in the Northeastern Community, I want it to be throughout the entire school, not just in one room. I don’t want to have just a place where I can go once a week to fill my void of diversity - it would just remind me of the one wish that hasn’t been ‘granted’ by this university.

Unfortunately, my wish for diversity within Northeastern is not unique. Students of color at colleges and universities across the nation are in the same shoes as me, with no one that understands their experiences to turn to in times of need. Six percent of African American undergraduate students is not enough. Students should never have to feel like an outcast in their community, and we desperately need this to change.

Sources:
northeastern.edu 
census.gov