STEP/CAP Students Perform Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls”

Lefto to right,Tatiana Stokes, Tyanna Soto, Jackie Verian, Myrdline Nourrissant, Liddy Siggia, Tajmarnie Appolon, & Norine Andrade

Eastern Connecticut State University STEP/CAP students performed a staged reading of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls” on Aug. 9 in the Fine Arts Instructional Center’s Proscenium Theater. The Summer Transition at Eastern Program and Contract Admissions Program (STEP/CAP) was designed to help prospective Eastern students prepare for the rigors of college coursework the summer prior to beginning college.

Center, Jackie Verian; left to right:. Tajmarnie Appolon, Tatiana Stokes, Myrdline Nourrissant, Norine Andrade, Liddy Siggia, & Tyanna Soto

Students in the STEP/CAP program worked with Eastern’s performing arts staff for four weeks to rehearse pieces from Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.”

Left to right, Chasidy Eubanks Perry, Brooklyn Ortiz, Jahney Dudley, Myrdline Nourrissant, & Tatiana Stokes

“For Colored Girls” is a choreopoem made up of a series of poetic monologues that follow the stories of seven women who have faced oppression in a racist and sexist society. The series of poems address issues such as rape, abusive relationships and racism.  Some of the poems that students performed included “Dark Phrases”, “No Assistance”, “I’m A Poet Who”, “Latent Rapists’”, “Somebody Almost Walked off Wid Alla My Stuff”, “Sorry”, “A Nite with Beau Willie Brown” and “A Laying on of Hands.”

The final show highlighted African and Hip Hop dance performances choreographed by senior, Jaqueline Verian ‘20.  Professor DeRon S. Williams, who directed

Left, Tatiana Stokes and Myrdline Nourrissant

and also choreographed pieces, expressed how instrumental Verian was in the process. “Initially Jaqueline was merely providing an outlet for students to free themselves from the stresses of the STEP/CAP program, but Professor Morgan and I thought I thought it would be a robbery to not showcase Jackie’s outstanding work, leadership and passion.”

The students rehearsed several days a week for four weeks prior to the performance. Rehearsals consisted of learning choreography, stage directions, designing lighting and projections for the performance. One of the challenges students faced was getting the right pronunciation for the poems, but they practiced on their own time and helped each other get the pronunciations down in time for the performance.

Professor Kristen Morgan, who helped design the performance, noted that the students involved grew immensely in a short period of time. “They accepted the challenge of working with a script that was new to all of them and it was rewarding to see their confidence improve,” she said. “Their relationships with each other also grew, and their creative sparks were ignited.”

Williams, also commented on the changes students experienced by the end of the four weeks. “From day one, the students were a bit shy and reserved, but throughout the process, I witnessed their growth as individuals and the development of their confidence,” he said.

Students also commented on how performing the pieces allowed them to grow and feel more empowered. Liddy Siggia ’22 said, “Performing these pieces felt empowering and it was also a good way to spread the message to everyone, both men and women, that these are common struggles that women face every day.”

Tyanna Soto

Tatiana Stokes ‘22, who was also a part of the performance commented on the experience. “The play itself was something that stood out to me because I had never heard about it before, but by the end of it, it had affected me in an enlightening way that left me surprised.”

Jaqueline Verian ’20, who took part in several pieces commented on how the pieces allowed her to connect with other women’s experiences. “I appreciate the fact that these poems realigned my understanding of abusive relationships,” she said. “They also showed me how manipulative and misconceiving abusive relationships can be to an outsider’s eye.”

Verian said that by the end of the experience she felt more empowered and prepared to start the new school year. “Since I am a new actor, being involved in these strong and very powerful pieces helped influence me to push myself,” she said. “These performances became both learning experiences and releases of emotions. I wish I could personally thank Ntozake Shange for her work.”

Written by Vania Galicia

Eastern Alumna Salutes Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

On May 9, Eastern recognized more than 100 students with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average or higher, and an additional 11 students who have demonstrated exemplary co-curricular engagement at the University’s Seventh Annual Inclusive Excellence Student Awards Ceremony. The ceremony recognized the achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Eastern.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez said the ceremony was not just about inclusion, but also spoke to the University’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, social responsibility, engagement and empowerment. “It is important for each of you to stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you are capable of. Never, ever, ever let anyone attempt to diminish your worth or your talents.

“Today’s honorees join thousands of other successful Eastern alumni who are making their own personal contributions out in the real world, including our guest speaker today, Dr. Kawami Evans. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  Thank you for being part of this celebration; to our honorees, congratulations.  We are very proud of you.”

Keynote speaker Evans ’97 serves as associate director at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success at the University of California at Davis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social science at Eastern, her Master of Education in educational policy and research administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate in educational management and leadership from Drexel University.

Evans encouraged the students to use their curiosity and optimism to persevere through unseen psychological struggles that can become their staunchest challenges. She said many high- achieving students fall prey to chasing individual achievements, accolades or material gain as their goal, even confusing their self-worth with what they can accomplish.

“This is dangerous; it can lead to anxiety and depression. Don’t let this be your reality or focus,” said Evans. “Who you are is what we are celebrating today. All the earned accolades you are receiving are but a byproduct of the brilliance within you . . . You are the promise of our ancestors’ prayers and walk with the wisdom and swag of those who have grit, resilience, the social and emotional intelligence, curiosity and hope.”

Evans told the students the most important element they need to resurrect in discussing their future success is their spirituality, ways in which students discover their destiny — answers to the big questions of who they are, what is their life purpose and how do they make difference in the world.

“Much of the world right now is relegated to systems and polices. We have to raise the bar with our vision of what’s possible,” Evans said. “It will take hard work, community, love, bravery, unrelentless effort and celebration.  I sincerely believe that we can create a world that works for all.”

A total of 280 students qualified for an Academic Excellence Award with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, and more than 100 of them were able to attend the May 9 event. During the ceremony, several students received service awards. Adrianna Arocho and Mayra Santos Acosta was presented the Volunteer Service Award; Aiyana Ward, the Athletic Excellence Award; Kimberly Allen and Sommer Bachelor, the Career Development Award; Jenilee Antonetty, the Resident Assistant Diversity Impact Award; Rafael Aragon, the Residential Community Leadership Award; Tristan Perez, the Social Justice Advocacy Award; Emma Costa, the Inspirational Leadership Award; Ishah Azeez, the Resilient Warrior Award; Kimberly Allen and Vishal Jungiwalla, the Advisor’s Choice Award; and the Freedom at Eastern Club, the Building Bridges Award.

By Dwight Bachman

Kulture Magazine founder is guest of New Media Studies Program

Anthony Valentine, founder of Kulture Magazine, spoke to students in New Media Studies 220, a second-year inquiry seminar, and others members of the Eastern community on April 8. A graduate of Central Connecticut State University, Valentine spoke with students about his journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur in Connecticut. Kulture Magazine is aimed toward a Millennial audience, and discusses issues relevant to young people today. Valentine’s visit was co-sponsored by the Office of Equity and Diversity.