Maisha Foster-O'Neal’s Campus Journal

bonus entry!

Last night Kelsey and Owen performed a bunch of acoustic songs at the Co-Op on campus. The Co-Op hosts student music shows every month for Third Thursday. Kelsey is in my Utopias/Distopias class, and my shoes are currently in her room because Tea, one of our mutual friends, spirited off with them in the middle of the night on St. Patrick’s Day. This was the first time I’d heard Kelsey perform, and she has an incredible voice. The audio quality of the following videos just doesn’t do her justice.

Kelsey composed all three of these songs, and Owen accompanied her in the performance.

Matters of the Heart

20 March 2009

buck up and take on some democracy

my desk spaceI’m in full-on School Mode. This is the week right before Spring Break, so I’ve got midterms, last-minute papers, like eight interviews to conduct, and just generally a lot to do before that last push through April. The AIDS Summit, which is my baby, is fast approaching, and I’m increasingly spending my dinnertime meeting with other students to bang out the details. Gabe and I are also working with David, the Forest Complex RD and Unisex Advisor, to restructure Unisex for next year so that it’ll be more manageable. Unisex has had its teenage anarchy phase, but it’s time for it to buck up and take on some democracy.

rainbow!The remainder of the Gender Studies Symposium was excellent, and I’ve already got some ideas for next year’s GSS. I’m also applying to be a Co-Chair, which is so much work that the school awards a full four credits for it. Kim Brodkin, the head of the GSS and one of my favourite professors, has assured me that it’s quite possible to Co-Chair, be an RA, work two jobs on campus, and still pull decent grades in classes. However, if I end up Co-Chairing, I will probably cut my classload down to three academic classes next year, at least for spring semester.

emergeYesterday, I met with Administration folks and student representatives from all three campuses to discuss the transgender health care initiative. You can read the piece I wrote for the PioLog, our student newspaper, here. In general, I have received a lot of positive response from students in regards to adding trans care to the student health care plan. The Administration hasn’t reached a decision yet (we thought they would by the end of yesterday’s meeting), so we’re on tenterhooks waiting to hear the outcome. I am pretty optimistic, though!

it’s what I do during classToday Lewis & Clark is hosting a “reverse strike” on the Portland Public Transportation system (TriMet). The College is dispensing free TriMet passes to students and staff so that we can overwhelm the TriMet system. The Raz (the free student shuttle) is not running today, so if we want to get off campus, we have to use TriMet. The point of the reverse strike is to convince TriMet to run a line from campus directly to downtown. It would replace our costly and environmentally inefficient Raz, and provide much-needed funds for TriMet because the College plans to purchase passes for every single student, staff, and faculty member.

I have a midterm exam in an hour and a half, I’m doing a frantic load of laundry because I woke up this morning to discover zero pairs of underwear in my drawers, and I’m leaving for the Alternative Spring Break HIV/AIDS Volunteerwork trip to San Francisco early Saturday morning!

In two weeks, we’ll be back to your regularly scheduled Wednesday interesting blog entries riddled with too many photographs. In the meantime, launch all those hot questions to

18 March 2009

one big storm of crazy

As predicted, this past week has been one big storm of crazy. Even the weather has been throwing tantrums. The sky produced everything from brilliant rainbows to springy sunshine to multiple angry downpourings of a hail-snow hybrid. Oh, Portland. You are so meteorologically schizophrenic this time of year.

fancy foodbleaching Kelly’s hairIn a less celestial vein, campus was flooded with events last weekend. It was Parents’ Weekend, so everything was on its best behaviour. My parents drove to campus on Friday and brought my dogs with them, so while they went to a fancy schmooze session with professors in Howard Acadamia, I dispensed doggy fixes to all passersby. Kenna and I snuck into the parent-professor social (Kelly dog-watched) and nicked little plates mountained with the kind of incredible food that Bon Appétit only serves at functions designed to impress important people. Like parents. Because they pay our tuition.

Kelly’s hair is a lionI bleached Kelly’s hair in the Odell Hall bathroom. The intent was to bleach it for the purpose of dying it purple, but she decided she liked the funky lionish result so much that she’s delaying the purple indefinitely.

Chinese accouterments tableJapanese calligraphy tableMiddle East tableJapanSaturday morning was the International Fair. The annual International Fair is four hours of cultural wonderfulness. Sample-size servings of incredible food descended upon the Bon and booted out our regular brunch eggs and muffins. There were also tables scattered all over the place devoted to lessons in everything from Japanese calligraphy to Muslim hijab-tying. The second half of the International Fair was performances in the Chapel. I especially liked the Peacock Dance from China and the Yosakoi Traditional Fisher’s Dance from Japan, which my roommate was in.

Milk flierOn Saturday night, we went to the mainstage play, The Blue Room. It was extremely well done – I still can’t figure out how the set folks reconfigured the space to make the stage central to two banks of chairs. I am consistently impressed by the quality of our theatre productions – not just in the acting (which is phenomenal), but all the nuts-and-bolts stuff like lighting, sound, costumes, and set design. The Blue Room ended just in time for me to change into pyjamas and grab a blanket before settling into a chair in Council Chamber to watch Milk on the bigscreen.

On Sunday, I sequestered myself away and forced myself to do homework. I was deep in Productive Mode, and just before midnight I made a Maggie’s run for a cup of caffeine to perpetuate my focus kick. Sometimes weird whims attack me, and just such a whim seized my head as soon as I returned to my room with cup in hand. You’ve heard of Mexican hot chocolate, right? How it has chili powder in it? Well, it occurred to me that it would be a great idea to add Sriracha Hot Sauce to my cup. Fueled by coffee that kicked my butt, I finished reading Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed for Utopias class, got caught up on my neglected Gender readings, studied for my Monday Judaism midterm, and created a Fieldwork Binder Thingy (official title) for Qual Methods.

GSS buttonsThis week is the Annual Gender Studies Symposium. Because I am on the GSS committee planning meeting, I’ve been all bound up in obligations and excitement – which is why this entry is a day and a half late. My professors are all being totally cool about the fact that I’m skipping all my classes on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week. They understand how much work is involved in helping run the GSS.

Christabel opening for Salt LinesSalt LinesAndrea Gibson performing a poemThe night before the GSS really got underway, a dozen students (myself included) rented a Suburban from the College and fieldtripped over to In Other Words, which is the last independent feminist bookstore in the whole US, to watch Salt Lines perform. Salt Lines is a quartet of lady poets – Tara Hardy, Sonya Renee, Andrea Gibson (here is a video I shot of Andrea performing; warning: it is not appropriate for all viewers, so click with caution!), and Denise Jolly – touring the US for National Women’s History Month. These four phenomenal performers came to campus the next day for a writing workshop as part of the GSS. Andrea Gibson is my poetic hero, so it was unbelievable to meet her and the other Salt Lines women, and to interact with them in both a performance context (where I was an audience member) and in a workshop context (where I was a writer). After the workshop, I had the privilege to eat dinner with Salt Lines at the GSS Banquet (yet again, Bon Appétit produced fancy food), and we had an unexpectedly deep conversation about how we perceive and discuss war. I bought CDs and chapbooks from the poets, and when I calculated it later I realised that I’ve spent over $80 on poetry in the last month. I have an addiction. It is a problem. A wonderful, wonderful problem.

Toying with Gender workshopToying with Gender doll action figuresPostSecret displayThe first event of the GSS that I attended was a workshop called Toying with Gender. It was run by a senior art major who made plaster casts of miniature body parts and set up a table strewn with fabric, buttons, wires, feathers, paint, newspaper, and hot coloured wax. In two hours, we all assembled our own lumpy, awkward, wax-covered action figure dolls. Mine is laying naked and unfinished on my bookshelf, but the students who finished their dolls now have them displayed in the GSS Art Gallery. The GSS also did a PostSecret display this year.

This is terrifying: I am in the process of officially declaring as a SOAN (Sociology/Anthropology) major and Gender Studies minor. While tabling for the GSS this morning, I discussed my future plans with my minor Advisor. I only have two more gen ed requirements to bulldoze through (Spanish 201 and a category B science). If I chair the Gender Studies Symposium next year that will count as the last Gender elective I need to minor. Convenient, since I hoped to do that anyway. And I can likely get some elective SOAN credits by volunteering in a Spanish-speaking country next summer. The summer volunteering thing is very hypothetical at this point, but it would be wicked to go play with kids in an orphanage in Costa Rica for three months and get college credit for it.

Wow, that was disgustingly long. As always, spit me your thinkings and inquiries at

12 March 2009

launch a fireball case

postcard wallBeing a college student produces this strange phenomenon whereby receiving anything in your mailbox is indecently thrilling. (I almost get excited about bills, even.) To encourage my mailbox to surprise me more often, I’m part of an international postcard exchange project called PostCrossing. Last week I got postcards from Germany, Ukraine, Los Angeles, and Finland. I also literally parked myself in front of my mailbox on Monday in anticipation of receiving my RA (Resident Assistant) notification letter – and yay! I got hired to Hartzfeld! That means that next year, I’ll have my own bathtub. Hartzfeld is on-campus suite-style living, although as an RA I’ll be in a single room.

pink bike downtownThe Oscars – which I only saw the last 15 minutes of – triggered my enthusiasm to see Slumdog Millionaire. So on Wednesday night, Kenna and I abandoned our homework in favour of an excursion to Fox Tower Theatre downtown. The cinematography was incredible and I need to track down the soundtrack, but I felt like Latika, the leading female character, could have used a lot more development and a lot less damsel-in-distress tokenization. Overall, I liked the movie very much. It’s got a solid plot and an engagingly anachronistic structure, and I wanted to keep all of the adorable children.

Portland Coffee HouseMy classmate Rina and I met with Robyn, a student from OutLaw (the Lewis & Clark Law School Gay-Straight Alliance), at Portland Coffee House on Sunday. We are fusing forces to snap transgender health care coverage to the regular student health care plan. The change would add a nearly negligible $10 per semester to every student’s health care premium, but it would enable transgender students to have access to treatments that would otherwise cost them a minimum of $20,000. We are currently gathering student support so that we can launch a fireball case to the Administration later this week. Getting this approved would catapult Lewis & Clark onto the forefront of the transgender rights movement.

On Saturday night, a bunch of friends and I went dancing at The Escape, Portland’s all-ages nightclub. It was super good fun, and we caught the last shuttle at 2am back to campus exhausted and happy.

Shayna surveyingOn Monday, Shayna and I planted ourselves in Pioneer Square to interview Portlanders about “Portland Life” for our Qual Methods class. The questions were really basic, and we interviewed twice as many people as we were required to because the next Raz would not arrive for an hour. The sky dripped on us.

Ali and I are leading our Racism & Privilege class this week. Rather than structure a discussion revolving around scholarly readings, we decided to mix it up a bit. We are having our classmates listen and respond to a performance poem called “See-Through” by my favourite Slam Poet, Andrea Gibson. We have to be careful around such sensitive subject matter, so Ali and I have pasted disclaimers and warnings all over the curriculum we’ve arranged for this week.

tartletThis is one of the most delicious things the Bon (that’s our dining hall’s nickname) has ever made. Chocolate raspberry tartlets. I ate like six at dinner today.

I forecast a crazy entry next week, given all the events that are scheduled to blow through campus. In the meantime, email me any questions, introductions, and conclusions at And if you visit campus and see me galloping around, rein me in and say hello.

4 March 2009

the problem of unlively Fridays

I have been weaning myself off of poetry and relearning how to do homework. Midterms are hiding just round the next bend, so it’s about time to reacquaint myself with the library and my professors’ offices. Accordingly, this entry is academics-heavy.

ceiling art in the Co-OpBut as a last thorough dose of poetry, I went to the Daniel Beaty one-man show in the Chapel last week. BSU (Black Student Union) hosted Daniel Beaty as part of Black History Month. It was a genius performance. I also went to the Co-Op for Third Thursday and negotiated crowded seating with other students to hear Jonah perform his musical excellence. Boys who can play instruments and sing make me all sorts of happy.

In Utopias and Distopias on Thursday our professor kicked off the class with this verbatim gem: “So, I was thinking we could bump the reading schedule back by a day. I would like you all to watch a distopic film and come to class on Thursday prepared to discuss it. It’s a fairly recent film, some of you may have heard of it – it’s actually a kids’ movie, produced by Pixar… it’s called Wall-E…?” So yes. I get to watch Wall-E for class.

making onigiricutesy Japanese stuffFollowing our discussion on Japanese mothers and obento in class on Friday, our Gender professor cooked rice and we made onigiri with ume boshi – it was an unexpected and delicious lunch. For a Gender Studies professor, Linda is hilariously domestic. She brought in lots of cutesy Japanese things too.

roadtripping to Mt VernonAsk Not film screeningrainbow cakeThis weekend I roadtripped to Mt. Vernon, Washington, (an hour north of Seattle). As representatives from Lewis & Clark College’s United Sexualities club, five of us (Ian, Claire, Kenna, Allison and I) tabled at Mt. Vernon High School’s Over the Rainbow Festival. Ian had started the Gay-Straight Alliance as a student at Mt. Vernon, and last year’s Over the Rainbow Festival was his baby; this year’s Festival was its sequel. We didn’t end up spending much time sitting behind our designated table – the panels and workshops were far too fascinating. I sat in on “Families Under the Rainbow,” “Safer Sex,” and “Coming Out Stories.” We also got to meet the filmmaker – he flew in from Oakland, California – of the documentary Ask Not, which was the featured event of Friday night. And at the cakewalk, we won two cakes! (We gave one of them away to a group of middle schoolers who hadn’t won any.) We arrived back on campus late Saturday night after a lot of singing along and dancing in the backseat of Ian’s car. (Paul Simon is surprisingly danceable!)

On Sunday, my mom drove to campus and I interviewed her at a nearby coffee shop for a Gender class project. The assignment is to elucidate the nature of stereotypical household gender roles in our own families: who cooks, who is responsible for car maintenance, who buys birthday cards.

Last week I met with Linda, my Qual Methods professor (who is also my Gender professor), to discuss my final project proposition. Proposal approved! I plan to collect Coming Out stories from students who identify as non-heterosexual. I will be examining patterns in the language students use to disclose their sexual orientation to different people. It’s pretty cool that something I would do out of curiosity – collecting Coming Out stories – counts as a legit ethnography in a Sociology/Anthropology class.

I also met with Sylvia, my Judaism professor, last week. In keeping with my favoured gender lens, I am planning to write my final research paper about the role women have had in writing midrash about female figures in Jewish literature. Sylvia has already started emailing me sources – she is practically compiling my bibliography for me. When I met with Sylvia, we also discussed the problem of unlively Fridays. I suggested that we start doing a discussion-based format where students bring in a question from the reading to lubricate the conversation a bit. She liked the idea, and now Fridays have been reformatted accordingly.

dinosaur sculptureMonday was Maisha’s Social Obligations Day. First, I finally got my webcam properly configured and I spent two hours in the middle of the day skyping my friend Emily, who is living in Germany as part of the LC year-long Munich program. Second, my buddy Kowalski (he just graduated and was on the East Africa trip with me last semester) was visiting Portland from DC, so a bunch of the East Africa kids and I got together and swapped stories over cups of chai. Third, I took the Raz downtown and met up with my friend Celia, who goes to PSU. We grabbed dinner at the Pita Pit and then raided Ross for new shoes – we walked in the door 15 minutes before closing and walked out ten minutes later with three pairs of shoes between the two of us.

I just received notification that I got accepted to the LC Alternative Spring Break programme to San Francisco! That means I’ll be volunteering with HIV/AIDS organisations and communities in SF for a week instead of kicking around campus or home. I’m stoked.

Email me your love and confusion!

25 February 2009