"My name is Gwendolene Mugodi and I am a writer and the founder of Paivapo Storytellers, a movement that aims to provide better access to local, good quality literature to the children in Zimbabwe--and eventually beyond. Our work would not be complete without the help of local artists like Abel Zvorufura who I met through the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. As two different artists we spent about a month and a half going back and forth on this book until we got to a place we were both happy with. I look forward to sharing that full book in a few months, but for now here's a little bit about Abel and why he does what he does."
On Sailor-Cats and Aliens
I’m at a Halloween themed party in July, where the ceiling is streaming with ghosts made out of toilet paper and everyone is dressed as half sailor, half cat. Obviously, I’m already confused, which is pretty much my modus operandi these days. Then a girl taps me on the shoulder and says: “Oh, you’re the European girl I saw on the bus!” I take a moment, giggle something inarticulate and then excuse myself to go ruminate on my unforgivable and inescapable foreignness.
So this girl has found me out. I want to cry; because I recognise her and I know which day she was talking about. It was one in which I was jolly-well-pleased with myself for putting my subway ticket in the machine the right way round, and convincing the world I was American. I also want to cry because no one told me this party was themed and so I missed a stellar opportunity to dress as a sailor-cat, but that is irrelevant to the central point, which is: Being foreign is hard.
This post is about aliens, both the way that the US Department of Immigration defines them, and the more common, existential-angst type. We all think of ourselves as an alien every now and again. We all know what it means to feel foreign.
It means you’re the only non-sailor-cat in a room full of sailor-cats and all you want to do is have a conversation, but everyone else seems too busy being sailor-cats.
At the Student Language Exchange, we train college students of diverse backgrounds to share their language and culture with their peers. I often talk about the benefit that has for American undergraduates. We build cultural literacy, along with concrete language skills. We open them to a world they didn’t know existed, and in doing so prepare them to engage in our ever-expanding global society. But I want to talk about our incredible fellows, who put their energy and efforts into building a more collaborative, communicative and culturally diverse campus.
The Student Language Exchange gives these fellows a home. Or moreover, it brings their home to college. Living a bi-cultural life is tough. We give them a place to talk, to connect, to have a whole room full of people all ears.
And these students give us an incredible opportunity. A record number of international students, 820,000 according to the International Institute of Education, came to US colleges in 2012-2013. This doesn’t even take into account the wealth of multi-culturalism within students who are American citizens. The world is on our doorstep, and we just need to start talking.
Nobody told me how difficult studying abroad would be, that my shoes would look weird, or that the already-terrifying world of dating would be a minefield of cultural inferences, or that I would spend 90% of my time confused and the other 10 exhausted. I left home 4 years ago, and I still don’t know how to put my subway ticket in the right way round. Of course, it’s also a fantastic experience. I’m beyond grateful.
My favorite days are the ones when someone listens intently to my blabbering about my mum’s emoji addiction, my grandparents’ toucan collection, or my sister’s dried blowfish. And then responds with a story about their brother’s pet blobfish, thus proving that the world isn’t really divided into sailor-cats and non-sailor-cats, but that actually, if we start talking, we’re maybe not that different at all.
August 11, 2016
June 13, 2016
Lauren Maunus '19 is starting a bold new venture.
Its goal: To help eliminate food waste and bring healthy, affordable food to "food swamps" in Rhode Island and beyond.
March 15, 2016"If little girls like me were saying Barbie is the pretty one and the brown one is the ugly one, that's a problem."
Yelitsa Jean-Charles studies Illustration at RISD with a a concentration in Gender, Race & Sexuality. She identifies as a visual activist, and believes that artists have a responsibility as society’s image-makers. Her doll company and book series, Healthy Roots, combats internalized racism and colorism by getting to the root of the problem: altering beauty standards and cultviating self-love for young girls through education, diversity, and positive representation.
March 12, 2016An Excerpt
Mina is a Brown-RISD Social Innovation Fellow. She traveled to her home in Iran last summer and brought back a cultural souvenir: the book she wrote, Taste of Culture. She explores Iranian families, streets, stores and the stories and spirit embedded in the recipes of Iranian food. She hopes to start a conversation about the benefit of knowing cuisines of different cultures to connect societies.
This year's class of Brown-RISD Social Innovation Fellows have just begun their yearlong foray into the world of social entrepenuership. Check out their projects here.
December 16, 2015
Ria is a 2015 Social Innovation Fellow and co-founder of No Country for Women (NCFW), an internationally-recognized gender education initiative that aims to combat systemic gender-based discrimination in India. Ria and her co-founder, Shreena Thakore ’16, who grew up in India, were awarded the Projects for Peace fellowship and used this grant to launch the project in May of 2014. NCFW was set up to educate the people in India on gender, rape culture, and misogyny through a series of workshops and initiate informed discussions about social change.
I was inspired by Ria’s story because she was determined to start a conversation about an issue in a country that fights hard to keep such issues silent and hidden. We reflected on Ria’s experiences, her interactions with young people, most of whom had never thought about this obvious form of discrimination before, and her moments of self-doubt and extreme conviction.
October 2, 2015