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Interview by Matt Walker ‘04.
MW: “Thank you for meeting with me. If you could say your name, where you’re from, which class year you are in, and yeah, start with that.”
AH: “Hi, my name is Angel Harris. I am a second-year. I’m the class of 2024. And I am from Atlanta, Georgia.”
MW: “And why did you choose to attend Antioch?”
AH: “This has been a very hard question for me because I got accepted to 66 schools and I got $2.4 billion in scholarships. And somehow out of every single school I chose Antioch. I don’t know if it was fate, or destiny or whatever you want to call it. One of the reasons I chose Antioch was because it was this small school. I feel like I can do a lot, I can change something or make myself well known in the area, in the community, instead of going to a huge school of thousands of students. When I got here, I was like “What is this?”. Because, of course I’m from smack dab in the middle of the city, where the city is full of culture and, let’s face it, Black people. Then I get here in Ohio and it’s cold. I’m used to 105 degree weather, and I find that the college is in the middle of cornfields, quite literally. And my parents were like, “Are you sure you’re at the right place?” And I was like “I think so” hahaha. But that’s a question I get asked a lot. I just saw an opportunity to go away from home, travel… Now I have a car so I get to travel in-between states and see places as I go back and forth or home. I just chose you guys because it felt right in the end, ultimately. Do I regret my decision? No. But I would change some things, I believe, most definitely.”
MW: “Let’s talk about that. What would you like to change? What are the top two or three things that come to mind when you say that?”
AH: “I think, and this is just my personal opinion, I think Antioch is better for transfer students that transfer in from another college or older transfer students. And I say that because I came here straight out of high school, and I was not prepared. I come from a privatized city, in Atlanta. And I came here. I never lived with anybody a day in my life. Especially because of COVID. And I was the COVID class. So I didn’t get to do the tours and stuff like that. I would say, if we had virtual tours, because I know we have virtual meet-and-greet and whatnot… But I just feel like after you get accepted that you could do all that stuff. I wish we had a little bit of that before.”
“Also, a clear line on the website of the statistical standards of the population here because I had to personally email staff at Antioch, because, of course, I was thorough with my college search. I had to email Antioch and be like “Can you send me a statistical population for here?” They were like “Here’s a copy from back in 2016. This is really old. But I hope it’s still the same.” It wasn’t when I got here. But I think I would change the recruiting process, basically the way we get students. And have like a virtual setting and an in person setting. Maybe have “a getting to know Antioch” workshop.”
MW: “For prospective students?”
MW: “That’s great feedback.”
AH: “I don’t know if they still do it here. They probably don’t because of COVID, which is understandable, but I feel like if there are students that want to spend the night on campus and want to get the feel of campus or whatnot, or just be on campus for a day and probably go to a class or whatever the case may be. I think that would be nice too, just so people could get the feel. Because I worked with the Dean of Students this year and last year, not Bill, I worked with Louise Smith ‘77 during her time here. And then I’ve been working for ResLife for about a year now. So I’ve been cross-training on both jobs. After all of my time here, I’ve learned that a lot of freshmen were just like, “I wish we would have got to spend the night.” Getting feedback from all these freshmen, I was like that’s kind of how I felt when I got here. You know? If they were like “Spend the night, eat the food…” But that would be my second recommendation.”
“And then the last thing is, I feel like we should do a program where, and I’ve talked to a lot of students about this, but we should do a program where we can have meal cards. And, since we have a good connection with the town, it can be if we don’t like the food at Birch. Since so many students complain, we can go in town and swipe our cards and get a meal at the restaurants in town. Or it’s a certain amount of credits you can use at Tom’s to buy stuff with. Or however that can work out because I think that would be a great system that will take care of the food problem. If you don’t want to eat here you can eat in town.”
“But these are just ideas that I’ve had on my mind. I don’t know if they’re possible. But those are the only things I would tell you about Antioch. Other than that, everything else is wonderful for me.”
MW: “Those are excellent recommendations. I’m so glad that we’re going print them in the newsletter so people can see and be like “Look at this – this student had this great idea.” So, I’m super excited to put that in the interview. That’s great. very tangible, you know what I mean?”
“I’m so curious, what you were into in high school when all of this aid and all of these colleges were climbing all over each other to get you to come there. What kind of student were you? What types of activities was it that really gave you that edge? What are you all about?”
AH: “I come from a standard Black family, not standard, but my dad’s a mechanic and my mom’s a medical assistant. She used to work at a hotel and then she got her medical assistant license at a community college, a technical college. My dad did the same with his mechanic stuff. They never went to college so in their mind, everything that I was doing was like “Why are you doing this?” So, nine times out of ten I had to fundraise money for everything that I wanted to do. And there’s certain stuff that they’re like, “Okay, we’ll give you the money for that, we see the reason.” And other stuff they were just like “No”.”
“Freshman year, I started off as a Fine Arts major. So, I majored in Dance and Chorus and Artistical Studies, which was like drawing and whatnot. And so I took seven classes per day at a majority white school for my freshman year. It was pretty nice. I got heavily bullied which led to me being transferred to a predominantly Black but wealthy, upper class Black high school, where I changed my course of study to Science. To get into the school you had to test really high in the application tests, which were out-of-this-world hard. But I studied and I got in and I got a full scholarship to go there for free.”
MW: “This is all for high school?”
MW: “Wow. Okay.”
AH: “We have charter schools in Atlanta. So some require you to have a talent or they require you to be recruited for a sport or to test in. For me, it was testing in for this school. And then I did debate, which I ended up being a state champion in. And I did poetry slam, which I ended up being a state champion in. And I did basketball which my school ended up being national champions in. I did beta club. I did softball. I was so close to getting my EMT license at school, but I finally did get my EMT license my senior year as a 17-year-old. I just couldn’t be on the back of the truck. You have to be 18 or older. But I did get to ride on some calls because I finished at the community college. That school ended up being great. I started my very own blood drive. I got the Red Cross to come to our school. It was amazing. I did so many accomplishments. It was crazy.”
MW: “Sounds like it – thank you for your service! Thank you for your service. I just have to say “WOW!”.
AH: “I transferred again. I ended up at the high school I graduated from and at that school was a president Mu Alpha Beta which is a math honor society. And I did a 20-hour math challenge. So I sat in a room with a computer and a projector. And me and my brother who was about to graduate and three of our friends sat in a room and solved a 20-hour math problem. It was kinda crazy.”
MW: “That’s awesome.”
AH: “I did softball again. I got inducted into the high school hall of fame for sports for softball. So it was really nice and if you go to my high school you see my picture up on the wall. It was really nice. At that high school I did a mix between Science and Fine Arts. So, the only fine art I did was chorus and then I did a few dance classes, which I got countless amounts of solos for that. For me, a lot of the stuff I did was just to prove people wrong. I’m a big girl, so a lot of people will say like, “Oh, you can’t dance because you’re big.” or “You can’t be a professional dancer because you’re big.” And a lot of people are like, “Well, you can’t sing particularly well, because a lot of big women or Black women can’t sing. and I’m like, “Oh, okay.” I went on to my state championships in chorus. I did a solo at the homecoming. It was the 30th of homecoming. And all the alumni came back. And I got a solo to Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time”. And it was really big and it was really well because I had to make my own costume because my high school would not provide a costume for me because I was a bigger woman. I went on stage and I just I danced my heart out, I danced my heart out. And a lot of people were clapping and screaming. It feels good once you’ve done an accomplishment. I was in national honor society at that school. I was in a lot.”
MW: “Okay, let’s pause right there. I mean, it seems like we could go on for hours talking about your high school achievements – amazing!
AH: “My major is actually Neurosurgery and Biomedical Engineering. I want to double major in those.”
MW: “Amazing. Yes, that’s the next question. You know, you just said your major. I’m just curious what your interests within your major are and what Co-Ops you’ve done?”
AH: “I have done no Co-Ops pertaining to my major. But I have done co-ops that I believe changed my view on the world. The Co-Op that I did for the last two years, is Home Inc. in town. And Miss Emily, she’s an amazing director. And the staff is great there. We’re nonprofit and we build homes and fundraise for housing, in the area, in our community, and out, for people who don’t specifically qualify for anything else because Yellow Springs is very expensive to live in. We just built Glen Colleges on Xenia Street. I was there for that whole project and I called countless amounts of people in town. And I really got to know the people in town and see how caring some people are and seeing the impact that you have on people who think they don’t have a chance anymore. And it’s really nice. My Co-Op at Home Inc. showed me that I can do the smallest thing by giving somebody a call and it will make them day. That smallest thing of hope will turn into a fire. I remember giving this lady a call and telling her she didn’t make the application process. And she wasn’t mad. She was like “I actually just got my section eight” because I helped her call the state and helped her find the website and do all the paperwork. It really changed my view on the littlest things. I didn’t see that they mattered. I love doing the littlest things for people. But when you actually get to see how big of an impact they are, and it comes full circle, that’s what mattered for me. So I love Home Inc. I still work there just for a job during my study term. I don’t think I’ll do another Co-Op there only because I want to do something more inclined to my major. I did work at Friends Care, as just a side job, upon my millions of jobs here. But I worked at Friends Care. I helped do countless amounts of laundry and watch all the residents there. So, it wasn’t a Co-Op, but it pertains to my major. So it was really nice. It was really nice. I got to hear stories of how Yellow Springs used to be and everything but…”
MW: “Cool. What about your major – what within that major interests you? What are some of the specific things that you’re drawn to be in that major for?”
AH: “Well, I picked the major sophomore year in high school. Everybody told me I was crazy. And I’ve never changed my major, not and once. And it’s because I want to do neurosurgery. I want to be a neurosurgeon.
AH: “And I want to make prosthetics also, or do prosthetical research for limbs on the body, through lab work. And Biomedical Engineering also includes gene engineering, finding cures for stuff. So I think I want to do that kind of work in the field. But I definitely want to become a neurosurgeon because a lot of people in my family have dementia and brain damage. My mom just got brain damage a couple of months ago from an 18-wheeler accident.
MW: “Oh no, I’m so sorry.”
AH: That just motivates me more. The field that I’m going in needs people, specifically people of color and women. It’s gonna take me a long time, like 10 years to be exact. But I’m just waiting for it. I believe that I’ll get there when I get there. You know, a couple of setbacks aren’t the end of the world.
MW: “I believe in you. I think you’re going to do great things.”
AH: “And if not, if that doesn’t work out, Medical Litigation. What can I say?”
MW: “Oh yeah, there you go. Either way, I think either field will be benefited by your participation. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. I mean, I want to keep asking so many questions. I feel like I should sort of start to get into wrap-up mode. I’m just wondering if there are any other topics you would you like to discuss or any comments you have on anything going on around here or just anything you’d like to speak on in general that you’d like me to publish?”
AH: “I think that there’s a lot of people, alumni and community members, they don’t see students often and they don’t communicate specifically with students often that live on campus. But we struggled a lot; with getting things we want done, really getting things through. We struggle a lot. I’m not saying that the campus is bad or anything, but there are a lot of nicks and knacks that can be tweaked and fixed to fix the community life. How students socialize here, how we interact together. I’m the President of Dance Club. But because I am the president of dance I don’t get a lot of people to come. I’ll get my closest friends. And I feel like that’s because our communities kinda divided. I would say it is divided racially and socially, on a social, class level. I love Antioch because it allows people to be who they want to be. And we have a huge LGBTQIA+ community. But in terms of just standing together on things, I think there’s a huge disconnect, probably because of our backgrounds and where we come from. I feel like it’s a cultural shock to many people. They’ve never lived with a black person before. We’ve never lived with a white person before. And I think there needs to be a class on how to live, how to communicate. Because a lot of students come here already preset and not open to feedback or conversation and not with open mindsets. And I think there’s no activities for community engagement, positive community engagement. Because what we see a lot at Community Meeting and on CommCil, and stuff like that… Sometimes people are kind of attacked and misunderstood in front of a group of people. And instead of that being a good thing. It’s a bad thing. Because now those same group of people who probably have never met this person now have a bad outlook on this person. I think we just have to learn ways to bond as a community. And all the alumni stories that I heard, the Antioch community was jumpin’ back in the day. And I just wanted to get that feeling back. I feel that there’s a major disconnect between the students. And not even just between students, between the students and staff members. So I think that’s something I would add.
MW: “That’s great.”
AH: “I’m sorry. It’s just on my mind and I want it to be…”
MW: Yeah, that’s exactly what I asked for. It’s great. You have such clear, debater, policy-style plans to improve it. I feel like we are getting somewhere by this discussion.”
AH: “I know there’s tons of new management and leadership and everything, on campus. And we’re figuring out because Antioch doesn’t have a structure, they’ve just been Antioching their way through everything. But I feel like once you get in good policies and once the students learn how to communicate with their leadership, it will be wonderful. Once we get those policies in, once we have a structure, everything kind of has a tunnel to build down through. And right now there is no tunnel. We’re just all sliding our way down the slope. Which is fun sometimes because amazing things come out of chaos. But also, I feel like right now we have organized chaos. That’s the only way that I can describe it but we’ve had countless good things come out of it.”
MW: “What’s your what’s your favorite thing about Antioch?”
AH: “My favorite thing about Antioch is… that’s a hard one. I would say that my favorite thing about Antioch is the comfortability feel. Coming from POC that says a lot. Because sometimes the town can be vicious, especially when Trump was getting elected and we had the KKK riding through town. It was wild. I think Antioch makes you feel comfortable. You’re in this little bubble. A lot of stuff you do at Antioch, I don’t think we would get away with in the real world as students and as people of professionalism. I don’t think we would get away with it in the real world. I love how it’s kind of like a family feel here. It’s a dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless. That’s my favorite thing. You get tired of being here, away from your family, especially me because I’m eight hours away from mine. And then I go home and I miss my room, having my own room, being able to have my bed and stuff of that nature, and just hanging out with my friends until four o’clock in the morning or I don’t have a parent calling me to come back home or whatnot. But those are the very special moments to get. And I think that Antioch truly helps people, in a way, find themselves. But also, they help people figure out where they want to go in life. They give people the chance to experiment and try and mess up and pick themselves back up and start something new. So that’s my favorite thing about Antioch.”
Watch Angel’s interview on FOX 5 Atlanta here.
By Matt Walker ’04
MW: “Thanks again for meeting with me. I just have some basic questions. If you could just state your name, where you’re from, which class year you are and why you chose to attend to Antioch College?
RM: “Okay. Hello, my name is Robin McCoy. I am a second-year and I am in the class of 2024. What was the other question? I’m so sorry…
MW: “That’s okay. Why did you choose to attend Antioch?
RM: “I chose to attend Antioch because it’s very close to home. I live in Springfield, so I’m close by. And I’ve gone to schools in Yellow Springs since my sophomore year of high school. And also, education is really important to my family. So, I decided to come here.
MW: “Thanks for making that choice. My next question is, what’s your major and what Co-Ops have you done?”
RM: “I’m majoring in Creative Writing.”
MW: “Why did you choose Creative Writing as your major and how has it been?
RM: “When I first applied to come to Antioch, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and it was like that my first year. Over the summer of 2021, I started writing just for fun and over time, I started to find an actual joy for it. I like the process of creating something based on my own imagination and that definitely made me want to go for creative writing. I’m definitely excited to take more writing classes.”
“For my spring Co-Op last year I was the Black Women at Antioch IG coordinator. And for my second Co-Op, which is this winter, I’m coordinating at the CSKC (Coretta Scott King Center).”
MW: “How have those co-ops been? How was it coordinating the Black Women’s group and what’s going on at the CSKC? How are you liking it?
RM: “The first Co-Op was good. I stayed at home for the spring and I just Co-Op’ed from there. And, also I worked at the nursing home that’s close by to the campus. The first Co-Op was really good. We did a lot of events. It made me realize I wanted to continue working at CSKC and also try to coordinate the group. I did that for working on campus during the fall.”
“This Co-Op is a bit different because I am living on campus. And that means I’m working thirty hours and so far, it’s really good. It’s just, I do a lot more than what I’m used to, which is fine. I like it.”
MW: “So you’re very busy there?”
MW: “And who are you working with? You’re working with Shadia (Alvarez ’96)?”
RM: “Yeah. I’m working with Shadia. I work with Clarence and Aniya, Rayna, Gael… It’s really nice.”
MW: “I’m curious about your first Co-Op. Were there any events or notable things that happened that you either enjoyed or did not enjoy?”
RM: “I really enjoyed my first Co-Op. My favorite event that I did for that Co-Op was probably the self-care day that we did. We went out to get hibachi which is really fun. And we talked about self-care, and it was really lovely.”
MW: “Nice. Do you feel like people had a good self-care routine going or was it a pretty big, new experience for them? What’s self-care like with the students that were involved?”
RM: “We talked about ways we could take care of ourselves especially being at school, and also on Co-Op, which is really important even though sometimes people don’t take care of themselves. I think those conversations on what we can do and what self-care is, really gave some people insight. It gave me insight, which is really nice.”
MW: “Do you feel like there was any self-care that was already popular amongst the group?”
RM: “Probably just taking a day of rest to really energize yourself and regroup. That was really common.”
MW: “And did you find that folks had the availability to take a day of rest?”
RM: “Yeah, I hope that’s what happened.
MW: “Yeah, it’s hard. I was trying to yesterday but I only got a few hours in. I guess you’ve got to get it when you can?”
MW: “And now, on your current Co-Op, you’re at CSKC, and it’s Black History Month. What event or aspect of Black History Month are you most excited about or looking forward to?”
RM: “What I’m looking forward to for this Co-Op is probably the ‘Getting to the Root’ training that we’re supposed to do, because it’s heavily important to discuss issues and problems we face as people of color, specifically in ways we can dig deep and figure out what it is and how we can possibly fix it.”
MW: “Right on That’s awesome. I took the training in January. I know they just had one in February. So, you must be looking forward to the next one, the March training?”
RM: “Unfortunately, we didn’t have it because of the weather. We had to postpone it. But I’m really excited for when it is time for us to officially do it. I’m ready to sit in on it and talk.
MW: “Yeah, Have you participated in that training yet?”
RM: “No, I haven’t yet.”
MW: “I’m sure you will find it inspiring or intellectually stimulating. What about the letter that you wrote about Black History Month? That must have been a part of your Co-Op? Anything you care to comment on that?”
RM: “I was kind of nervous to write it at first because I didn’t really know what to say. But then I really had to think and I’m glad I wrote it. And I think that’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever written so far.”
MW: “Yeah, yeah. You’ll have to keep track of it. It could be useful in the future, for sure. What about Antioch? What are your impressions of it? What is it like to be a student here in 2022?
RM: “I really like it here. At first, when I was a first-year, it was really hard because I didn’t really know anyone and I sometimes start to doubt my own abilities, intellectually. But I just kept my focus and continued to work hard. And that’s what’s gotten me to this point, I guess. When you set your mind to something, you feel like you can do it. And you can do it better. That’s how I think so that’s how I feel.
MW: “Is that something you feel like you brought with you to Antioch or is that something you learned here?”
RM: “I think that’s something I learned here. For sure.”
MW: “Really? How’d you learn that? Was it through a class or mentor or another student?”
RM: “It was probably just going home and talking to my mom about it. Because I’d go home and tell her what I was worried about, that I don’t think I’m doing good. I’m essentially afraid to fail. And she’d always tell me that I would do good. And that I got this. She would tell me to always put my mind to it and if I can do that I will always do well. So I think that’s what really helped me.”
MW: “What’s your mom like? She sounds pretty amazing. Any words you have to describe her would be great!”
RM: “My mom is amazing. She’s very encouraging and she pushes me a lot so I can do my best. She’s also very supportive of what I want to do and I’ll forever be grateful, not only because she’s my mother, but because she keeps me going and makes me want to do my best and make her proud.”
MW: “Yeah, having a good relationship with someone in your family can be so helpful, especially in college, guiding your choices and helping support you. So yeah, with that in mind, I’m curious, what are your hopes? What are your dreams? What do you think you want to set your mind to?”
RM: “Well, what I think about, what I want to do in life, and how can I push myself to do it when I leave… I want to get a master’s in education. I want to teach younger children and teach English as a second language. I also want to go teach English in a foreign country. I’ve just been focusing on that so I can get there.”
MW: “That’s great – getting everything in place to make those dreams a reality!”
“Do you have any thoughts on how to find a balance of self-care on one hand, but on the other hand, dreaming big and working hard and trying to make your dreams come true? How do you ever find a balance there?”
RM: “I set time aside for myself so I can really take care of myself. Like Sundays – those are days where I don’t do anything. I just lay in bed or go home to see my mom and dad and the cats. That’s mainly what I do. I take a day of the week, which is normally Sunday, so I can recharge. And then, for the rest of the week, all the way until Friday, I work. I do what I need to do and after I do that I take time and focus on learning Korean. I’m doing that right now because I want to teach English there. I find it interesting. So I do that. I set times for myself. I feel like just putting some time aside is important. Especially in college when you’re overwhelmed with everything, it’s okay to take a step back and just relax and recharge.”
MW: “It made me think of a lot of things but I have to ask what got you interested in Korea?
RM: “I started listening to K Pop and watching Korean dramas which led to me wanting to learn more about Korean culture. And I started to do that. And then I wanted to start learning the language. So, I’ve just been doing that. It’s kind of a diagonal type of thing – you start with the pop culture. Then you want to learn about the broader culture. Then you want to learn the language. And it’s really fun. It’s really cool.”
MW: “I hope you find success there. Do you have any other comments on Antioch or CSKC? Is there anything you’d like to add or advice you’d like to give to other students?”
RM: “I’d probably tell people that it’s okay to worry about how you’re doing. But don’t put too much stress on yourself. Because when you put too much stress on yourself, that’s when you burn out and you feel like quitting. So just always take a step back when you feel like you need to take a step back.”
Interview by Matt Walker ‘04
MW: “So anyway, why don’t you tell me about yourself? Tell me what your name is, where you’re from…”
RG: “I’m Rayy. Rayy Graham. I’m a Third Year, Class of 23. I’m from Brooklyn, New York. I came here initially because it’s college. Where I’m from college isn’t the main goal. It’s a goal but it isn’t the main goal. The main goal is to make a bunch of money, get out of whatever situation you’re in, and feed your family. But that became more and more difficult to do in the environment that I was in.”
“So okay, let’s see, what college is like? I came out here and I learned to mow a lawn, let’s say that. I’m from New York where we have concrete. They’re a little bit of trees. But it’s a lot of bricks and not a lot of nature. And out here it’s so much nature and greenery. So I had my first job, I think I was working in the dish-pits, and then facilities because I just had to get a lay of the land. I just wanted to see. I just wanted to work. It comes with the territory with me. I’m from New York. So working just comes naturally. When I got out here, finding jobs was more accessible than I thought it was. It was more well, how can I say it? It was more social. It didn’t feel like work. I just felt I can work this day or that day. It felt like a conversation. And it made that vibe much easier. If there was no pressure, and sending the email or sending a text like “Hey, I can’t make it today” or “Hey, can I come early this day or that day?” I felt that I was more and more comfortable working in that space. I don’t even know how else to say this…”
“There’s a small, small group of Black folks on campus. So naturally we found each other and find each other and that’s where we can start making stuff happen. Whether it be hosting a whole bunch of cooking events, or just straight up having conversations, painting together, making art together, a whole bunch of different stuff. It’s not just one or two people’s voices. It’s the majority. It’s like “Hey, this is us right now. What do we want to do?”
“There’s so little of us. So it feels kind of like a family because we all grew up with similar values. And, I don’t know how else to explain it, but we grew up under a familiar light, under a specific light, and we all, it may not be the exact same light, but we all have a similar understanding of that light shining on us. And we come out here, it’s almost the same for us, because we’re in the same environment. So it’s like “Oh, this… Remember what we’re used to? Is it going on here?” And we all go “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you’re talking about.” There’s like a sense of camaraderie without having to establish anything like “Hey, are we friends?” There’s no fluff amongst us. I don’t know how else to explain that.”
MW: “It seems very clear. It’s beautiful. Absolutely. I love that idea of the light and finding people by going out on a limb and coming to a strange place like this or that’s what I’m sort of hearing in some of the parts. Thanks for sharing that. It’s very beautiful. You know, I just have some basic questions. But please speak on whatever you like. Fill in the blanks that I post, whatever. I’m curious what you were interested in when you were in high school and middle school and how that brought you here, and how that’s been fortified or changed, and things of that nature?”
RG: “In my early years… I’ve always been obsessed with ripping stuff apart and seeing what I can make out of the parts. Art, expression, whatever it may be, making stuff. Coming together and making stuff. I read a book cover to cover, and I read this entire book. I know what it is. I wouldn’t think to give this book to someone else. I’d think “Let me rip out every single page and build something out of the pages” because I know I read page 87. So I know what’s on page 87. So I would know what it represents. Not fold up something, make some origami craziness out of it, but I fully ripped open a book. You’re not supposed to do that or stuff like that.”
“But that type of behavior followed me throughout high school. I was doodling in the margins of my notebook. It was always like “Art”. I’m still on the side of the highschool I graduated from. I’m on the front-side and the corner. So it’s on both sides of my school because I befriended all my art teachers and I’m like “I need to do bigger things! I need to put up my unique brushstroke onto the world or onto this and onto that.” And New York is just too much competition. Everyone wants to do the same thing. Everyone wants to be the best at it. So if you are in the graffiti field, the underground, whatever it may be, there were big names, big artists. Stepping into this new lane and there are already the people that you feel like “Oh my God, these people around me inspire me.” They’re inspired by tiers and tiers of other people. But this guy’s art is in Manhattan and up in museums. The main goal is get shifted because you do want your art to go up in museums and stuff. But at the same time you just want it to be recognized by people or a specific type of people. So it gets real, real tricky. I’m pretty okay at art, but what do I do with it for now? I joined a bunch of other programs. I learned how to sew. I learned how to make things, not just like popsicle sticks and this and that. But how to take it into machinery and plumbing and weird stuff like that. So it went from being an art expression kind of thing to “Okay, let me see how many art related skills and art related trades and techniques I can pick up.” I picked up as many as I could before I graduated high school. Then I came here.”
“But the space between graduating and here I created a video game, because there was a specific perspective that where I’m from had. And we have a perspective of how we are. And we understand that this is how we are. But the media and the outside forces would feed other perspectives, into our little environment. And it slowly changed what we thought of ourselves and what people thought of us. So there’s a problem there. We know how to fix this problem. Only we can fix this problem.”
“So I decided to make a video game. I got a bunch of people from different environments, taught them the skills that I learned so that even if they didn’t care about it, or they didn’t know what it was to have a new skill and you can use it however you see fit. But you do have that new skill and you’re a productive member of society because you’re fighting against like… we fighting the big fight, you know, and that is what made me want to do it bigger and bigger and bigger. Because if I know I I can walk into this school, nervous and scared, and by the time I walk out I end up on it, on top of it. Why not replicate that? You know? In college if I walk into this school, nervous and scared but I do have some accomplishments and accolades under my belt, how can I show the people that they can do this too. Or, you have the talent inside of you and you can put it on top of the school or you can put it anywhere you want. And that’s what gave me that passion behind creating stuff and making stuff and that’s what really made me leave New York: to go find stuff.”
“Take for instance a flower pot. If you have a plant in a tiny, little flower pot, it could only grow but so big. You have to take it out and stick it in either a bigger pot or into the earth. And I was just ready for a bigger pot. I came down here and there are other pots out here. It’s really cool. It’s really intriguing.”
MW: “That’s awesome. Thank you for speaking on that. It’s just amazing! I’m really curious about this video game. I’m also curious, of course, what’s your Major and what Co-Ops you’ve done?”
RG: “The Video Game is “Fireflies of Brownsville.”
MW: “What’s that?”
RG: “Fireflies because…”
MW: “..of Brownsville?”
RG: “Browns-ville. Brownsville, Brooklyn.”
MW: “Okay. Right on.”
RG: “So, again with the perspectives, you are put in the shoes of a journalist, a young photojournalist and you have to take pictures of all the different parts of your environment. It seems like an easy task, but when you start getting into the nitty gritty of it, you know that “Oh, I can’t walk over there because there are issues between my building and this building so I can’t go up that street. So I have to find a new way to do that. And I can go over here but the people over there just don’t like me because whatever may be.” And this introduces people to new issues that seem real cut and dry. Like “Oh, let’s just go over there and take a bunch of pictures.” But those obstacles and those lines kind of get blurred because you can’t. You know you can and you have the ability to do it. But there are things stopping you from accomplishing a very simple task. And you can explain that to people 77 different ways but until you put them in those shoes they can’t understand. That’s what the game is about – being aware of what’s actually going on where I’m from. Because I can show you what’s going on over there and over there, but I wouldn’t really know because I’m not from over there. I can only show you from my perspective or from our perspective. Like that.”
RG: “You said Co-Ops?”
MW: “Yeah, what’s your Major and what Co-Ops have you done?”
RG: “My major is Psychology with New Media. And with the game, that’s a part of New Media because it’s a VR based game and it’s a documentary, so there are elements to it. It’s not just any old video game or any old documentary. It’s like they met in the middle and had a little child and this is like my baby. Psychology with New Media is the same thing with perspective – showing people that specific perspective that you won’t be able to understand through conversation or videos or this or that. You have to walk in those shoes and you’ll have your own understanding of what just went down. But once you walk in those shoes, you have something to talk about to somebody. The next player or previous player will have something to speak on. And that’s teaching us psychology with the new media. The new media being VR.”
“I’m creating a humongous sculpture that three people have to touch in order for anything to even work. If I’m showing you something with the new media, not just like a movie or a film or a painting or art installation pieces, it’s just new media. There are new technologies coming out every day so that’s why I chose to jump on that.”
“And for the Co-Ops I’ve already done, I think I went back to New York to work, I worked out here, and I worked on our virtual Black History Museum. I liked that. It was fun because Dr. Kevin McGruder started slowly feeding me information like “Hey, do you know about this and this? There was Gegner Barbershop. There were riots and protests, and a whole bunch of history in the place that we are in. And I’m like, “Wow, this is the same exact thing I did at home.” Back home I learned the history and had to show people and teach the history. And then it’s the same thing but except there is a smaller number and more space. I don’t know how to… It’s the same but different.”
“But I wanted to work on that, because there was something there. Working with people who look like me in a place that I’m unfamiliar with. Like that. That was with Dr. Kevin McGruder. And my next upcoming Co Op I’m going to go to Hawaii. I’m going to go work at a farm and get a newer perspective on life because I’ve never been to Hawaii. I’ve never worked on a farm. I’ve never pet a cow. There are a lot of things that I didn’t do. I could never say I would never touch a cow. I can’t say that if I’ve never been there. So now if I’m putting myself out there and saying “oh wow! cows are about this big, they stink…” or I’ll have an opinion because I’ve been there. Like that.”
”That’s why I take my Psychology with New Media. I have to walk in that light. I can’t just say I’m doing these things and not actually be behind it. Because I’ve never mowed the lawn. I’ve never had an opinion about mowing the law. And to have actually done that and I got out here and had to learn how to even use the machine… Meanwhile, there are people who already know about that and already know what’s going on but they have never seen an actual drug deal go down. You know? So they’re two completely different perspectives on life and I would never know. I can’t know all the perspectives based on what people tell me. I’d have to walk that line.”
“Some things you see by accident, and that becomes who you are, but some things you wish to see. I’ve seen the stars out here. In New York it’s difficult to see the sky and the stars and stuff like that. But out here, I’m amazed. I am not amazed but I’m blown away every time I can pull out constellations because that’s not something I’m used to. It’s not a perspective that I’m used to seeing. I just like it. I like the feeling of it and like showing people that, if that makes sense?”
MW: “Absolutely. I can’t help but wonder what you were talking about in terms of the work you were doing with Dr. McGruder, and how it was the same but different. I’m wondering in what ways it was similar or what ways it was different?”
RG: “It was similar to the work I did before because I got to chip away at a problem that’s bigger than myself but also that affects me, because I am a black person in Yellow Springs the same way I’m a black person from Brownsville, New York. If you Google Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, that’ll come with a whole bunch of articles, people died, and a whole bunch of stuff. But if you’re from there, then you know that’s not even how it is. That’s just a small portion of it that people get to see. It’s the same way with Yellow Springs. We are already a small portion of Yellow Springs that people barely get to see but there’s a rich history there. And it’s the same way, how I had to showcase those things and the powerful, positive aspects of it. I get to do the same thing over here and say “Hey, we had this go down, this go down, this go down in the past, and these are the things that we’ve done, and are doing.” Stuff like that.”
“I’ve also worked with the 365 project, which is hard to explain, but they are a group of people who are trying to educate Yellow Springs about Black people, 365 days a year. It’s really similar. They have really similar values, but it’s in a completely different area. There’s nothing to fight out here. Out there, we had to fight against the media, and fight against the people in our own community, and keep fighting, fighting, fighting. But out here, it’s just more of an educational endeavor. We’re letting you know what went down. It doesn’t feel like a fight. It feels like a conversation. We can have conversations on it. That’s why, again, I chose to not be in that space. Because it’ll always put you in a fighting kind of mood. It’s similar because I get to fight for something bigger than myself. And it’s different because one is an actual fight, and one is just like “Hey, did y’all know that this went down and this one down? One is: we aren’t villains and we have to defend ourselves. I feel like there’s no need to defend here. I can just say, “Hey, here’s the things that are going on.” This is more of a conversation.”
MW: “Yeah. Yeah. I’ve totally gotcha. Thanks for clearing that up. I’m really happy to hear about that. Is there anything that you want to talk about? Is there anything that you want to speak on or that you thought about or even right now that just came up for you?”
RG: “I worked a bunch of different jobs here: facilities, now I’m the Event Coordinator on campus, with Coco, making sure any event that wants or needs to, gets down. I mean, I send them a form or I’ll throw the event or I’ll oversee it. What else? We did a bunch of work work. For example, making sure everybody has what they need. They aren’t “jobs”, but there is a duty, if that makes sense? It isn’t on any paperwork. You don’t get paid for it. But there is kind of a duty there. I don’t know how to really explain it. Being on this campus you have to, in order to protect your sanity, some things do have to be said. You say “Hey, this is the treatment of the past. This is the current treatment. This is how we can start having those conversations about specific topics on campus. Because there are Black people here. I don’t know how to explain it.
It’s the same way with perspective. People can have theories and thoughts on how to coexist with people who don’t look like you. But when those people are in front of you, then you can’t keep theorizing the same. Now we can do, because we are here. We’re having these conversations versus just having a theoretical conversation about something blah, blah, blah. That’s nice and all. But we physically are here. Treat us the same way how you theorize on how we should be treated, how we shouldn’t, we’re here. So please act on your words versus just continuing to say words. So now we can pull those cards and pull those bluffs. We’re here, we’re Black, and we’re here to stay. And in the work I’ve done, it’s only further pushing that. For example, the Blacks in Yellow Springs, The Herndon Gallery hosting events and asking Black students for their voices and saying “Hey, what do you need? How can we help you?” and having stuff like that around, further pushes what I’m doing and what other people are doing like, “Hey, We are. We exist over here.” You know?”
MW: “Yes! I definitely feel what you’re saying here, Rayy. Thank you. Are you gonna participate in the exhibition that Casselli is putting up this weekend – The Black History Museum?”
RG: “I want to but we don’t have a VR set. If there was a VR set, I could showcase a small demo, show what I’ve worked on…”
MW: “What a shame.”
RG: “Yeah, but I mean, all good things come to those who wait. So, hopefully, later on down the line, someone else picks up where I left off with the Black History Museum and adds on to it, builds it up, and changes the way it looks. But, the fact that I started it and it does exist. I did it. It’s not a complete victory. But there’s something started in that way that someone can pick it up and keep it going. I’m picking up where Kevin left off and I can keep it going. Like that.”
MW: “Awesome. That’s amazing. I mean, I just hope that you, you know, remeber the College when you’re super successful. I could talk with you for hours, it’s so hard not to, but can we wrap this up? Is there anything that you would like to add?”
RG: “It’s Black History month. So if you see a Black person, smile at them. Say something nice. And hopefully that energy will not be just one month. It’ll be real. It’ll be an actual thing. When you see Black people, don’t freeze up or be like “Oh, I have so many things running through my mind.” You just treat them like a person. Say, “Hey, it’s Black History month. I see you.” Any type of gesture will count. But if you’re still thinking about it and thinking about it, you aren’t moving forward. You’re thinking about it. Stuff like that. That’s what I’d like people to know or people to hear. Smile at a Black person today.”
Lola Betz ’22 is a filmmaker, artist, musician, fashion icon, and a true Antiochian. Lola is on the brink of completing a trilogy of feature-length films made at and about Antioch. Her work is rich, mysterious, and fun. Here is a student with great talent and potential. Enjoy this interview with Lola Betz ’22.
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