RECAP: Show @ Oberlin College, Ohio
The Context: I worked at Oberlin College as the Asian/Pacific American Community Coordinator at the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) from right after college graduation in 2006 until the summer of 2008. Now, almost 2 years later, students who came in with me as first years in Fall 2006 are now graduating in May, so they invited me back to perform.Talk about full circle.
Throughout the weekend folks kept asking me if it was weird to be back in Oberlin. I had left exhausted, a little defeated, and a bit lost. But after seizing the time and space to heal and to figure out what I wanted to do next, it was time to go back. Not as someone who worked there, but as a spoken word poet. I released by first chapbook at Oberlin, so it felt right to return and share with students, faculty, and staff the part of me that was always present yet wasn’t fully formed at the time I was there.
I wasn’t expecting Oberlin to be too different. Sometimes colleges and universities aren’t touched by time. Students, however new, tend to be dopplegangers of previous ones (you still got the hippies and the hipsters, the athletes, and the occasional sprinkling of folks of color). The air still carries the same sense of earnestness. The trees, the locally owned restaurants and shops looked the same. The Feve still served delicious brunch on the weekends. The Black River Cafe still served their infamous pancake stacks and its brick walls welcomed me home. A few new buildings graced W College Street and the expansion of the Conservatory of Music was nearly complete. Oh, and by the way, Ohio is still as flat as ever.
Students picked me up from the airport and treated me as “special guest”, paying for my meals, my lodging, driving me around, etc. It was great! After years of doing that for guest speakers, it was my turn! I got updates on what they’ve been up to in the last two years, who the emerging leaders are, who’s dating whom, their post-graduation plans. I was very happy to see Tuyet, SKim, Haydee, Liz, SBox, Chloe, and to meet current students who apparently had heard about me from the old heads. (“What, you don’t know Jenny Fucking Lares?”) One of the best parts of the weekend was seeing my former coworker, Ramaesh for a minute. And of course, spending time with my former boss, Eric, and having him ask me to sign a copy of my poem, “Things I never want to hear again about race and racism”, and me bringing up the possibility of using it for RA training and being given royalties. What also completed my weekend was my friend, Theresa, driving down to Ohio from Michigan. We picked up like we hadn’t skipped a heartbeat (I hope she knows I mostly keep up this blog for her. hehe). I missed them all. Truly, I did.
Now enough with the sentiment, and let’s get to the video. Here’s my performance of “Indiana Jones”":
Many thanks to Liz and Tuyet for making this trip back happen. To the MRC Community Coordinators and Eric for coming out to support me. To Cuyler and his mom for their kind words about my work (I hope he’ll be coming to Oberlin in the fall). To all the students I met, bought my books, told me they appreciated my work–thank you endlessly! I’ll be back again in the next academic year for sure.