Wondering what Trin students are up to this summer—especially while doing much of their work and research remotely? We asked Esther Appiah ’21, and Max Norteman ’23 to share a little about their experience taking a Public Humanities Collaborative (PHC) course, which is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and taken through The Center for Hartford Engagement & Research (aka CHER) at Trinity College. For those who are unfamiliar, PHC courses at Trin are summer research opportunities that bring together students, faculty, and individuals and organizations in the local Hartford area to work on public humanities projects—the study of how people interpret stories of shared human experiences.
Esther and Max applied for the ten-week research experience and were matched with a faculty member already working with a research topic that both Bants were interested in—in this case, podcasting and storytelling. Dr. Mary Mahoney, Trin’s Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities(who also happens to be an alumna of the class of 2009), was the perfect match for Esther and Max because of the love for reading and fostering empathetic communities that all three of these Bants share.
Here is what Esther and Max had to say about their current project, Audio Shelfie, and their request for the Trin community to participate in their research:
Audio Shelfie is a storytelling project by Dr. Mahoney designed to foster empathy by posing questions about specific readings and then collecting stories from participants about what that reading experience helped them understand about themselves. It is an in-depth dive or self-reflection. We believe talking about books and reading experiences helps us to connect with others by fostering a sense of community. And we want YOU, in our Trinity community to participate in this project! We are looking to collect submissions through the start of August 2020. If you are looking to learn more about Audio Shelfie, check out our past interviews on Instagram @audioshelfie. Click here to listen to a sample Audio Shelfie, and then submit your own story here!
What topics are being collected?
We’re currently taking submissions for these specific questions for our listening guide. Listening guides will be available on our site shortly.
What are some readings that helped you understand ‘Black Lives Matter’? What did they teach you about yourself?
What book or writer had the greatest influence on your relationship with food? What did this help you understand about heritage and culture?
If you’re available and would rather submit a “Shelfie” via Instagram interview, reach out to Max and Esther via email: [email@example.com x Maxwell.firstname.lastname@example.org]
If you follow Trinity Film Fest (TFF) on social media, you’ve likely seen numerous student videos and throwback still images from films promoting the upcoming festival. We recently asked TFF senior director, Kyra Lyons ’20, to pose a few key questions for fellow TFF creative team & screening committee member, Simran Subramaniam ’22. Here’s how their conversation unfolded…
But wait! Before we dive into the Q&A, what is the Trinity Film Festival, you ask? Kyra breaks it down: TFF features the innovative work of talented, undergraduate filmmakers from Trin and around the world and showcases those films every spring at Cinestudio, the nationally-acclaimed 1930s-style movie palace on our Trinity College campus in Hartford, Connecticut. This year though, due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic, the ninth annual film festival will be held virtually starting 5/2, at trinfilmfestival.org/tff2020
And onto the Q&A: KYRA: Why are you passionate about film?
SIMRAN: In a way, film found me. I was a part of the InterArts gateway seminar program as a first-year and took a film production course with Visiting Professor Ian Harnarine, both experiences were major turning points for me. Both classes not only taught me about film production on a technical level but having professors who were so passionate about their work and what drives them to create helped me find my own artistic voice; one that I was struggling to find when I was more focused on music. The power of collective emotions in a movie theatre is one of the best feelings, especially when you can use that to drive a change in the world, and film is one of the most powerful tools for that.
What inspired you to become involved with TFF?
I love short films, and to give underrated student filmmakers a platform to showcase their work sounded incredible because these are fellow students who are trying to create and enter the film industry. I want their voices heard! That said, I credit fellow student (and friend), Nirina Randrianarisoa ’21 for inspiring me. He’s been a huge part of my film journey starting from freshman year as my TA [teacher’s assistant], and the DOP [direc. of photography] for a film we made for our seminar. Since then, I’ve worked on multiple student productions with him, and he encouraged me to join TFF.
Watch or create film? And, don’t say both.
I feel like I’m betraying each half of myself by answering that, but I love to create. Even if it’s just experimental, I’m constantly looking at the world, the people in front of me, and what is happening in front of me as if they are events unfolding in a plot. Building a world, and developing characters is one part of it, but I love cinematography and lighting so everywhere I go, I find myself trying to frame a shot in my head and how I would want to film it.
How has your work with the festival shifted in the past month and a half as a result of the global pandemic?
In terms of being on the creative team, our biggest task was figuring out how to move forward without being in-person to collaborate and create content leading up to the festival. We’re definitely lucky that we had already had some in-person collaborations before we all left campus [in March], but it’s been a fun challenge to see how we can show our connections to each other and the festival when we’re all scattered around the world. [Simran, for example, is home in India at the moment].
The switch from in-person cinema experience to online viewing can change the audience’s experience. Keeping that in mind while pushing forward with the festival, changed the way we were channeling our creativity. In the era of streaming platforms, it’s an ironic way for us to keep up with the changing times.
How can audience members access TFF this year? What can people expect to be different?
Our website istrinfilmfestival.org/tff2020
Go there. The films will go live by noon (EDT) on Saturday, 5/2, [and audiences will have the opportunity to vote online for their favorite film through Tuesday, 5/5. Winning films will be judged by a TFF guest panel and cash prizes, sponsored by Xfinity, will be awarded.]
I don’t want to reveal the content of the films, but when you have young student filmmakers creating, you can bet they’re inspired by some of the best works of the 21st century—but with our generations humor, ideas, and views on experiences and life itself. We had to keep in mind how different it is to view films in a cinema vs alone, and some films might be less perceptible to solo audiences. That being said, the quality of work is fantastic and whether you’re watching alone, or with your family, these films are a must-watch (and it’s fresh content for your quarantine boredom, what more could you need?)
And lastly, we need to know: Favorite film? And film you’d recommend to someone just getting into cinema?
I have so many favorites, but my current favorites would be a tie between Parasite and Get Out.
Apart from some of the classics (like films Vertigo and Citizen Kane), I would say Pulp Fiction and Moonlight are two films of very different genres that are worth watching for anyone getting into film in the 21st century.
Amber Montalvo ’20 recently guided me through the journey of starting her lifestyle brand, “Love Me Natural,” her inspirations, and her advice for Trin’s upcoming class of 2024. To get to know her a little better, I first asked Amber about her major and her extracurricular activities:
At Trinity, my major is education, with a focus on education and power. I am involved with the Trinity College’s Black Women Organization (T.C.B.W.O), and I am a barista at Peter B’s. Off-campus I am remotely interning for “Embrace Her Legacy,” based in NYC. “Embrace Her Legacy,” is a non-profit personal development organization dedicated to equipping women and girls with the tools needed to overcome internal and external challenges in fulfilling a purpose-driven legacy.
As the founder of her lifestyle brand, “Love Me Natural,” I was curious to know what her inspiration was for her first-ever event back in 2017?
It started with a T.C.B.W.O event my sophomore year. We held an event called “Love Me Natural,” and at the time I had just transitioned to wearing my hair curly full time, and my curls had been revived from heat damage. The event was a space for women on campus who had the intention of going natural, or were curious about it, to learn about my journey. I loved the event. I wanted more people to feel more comfortable wearing their natural hair. I used to straighten my hair because I felt like it stood out too much.
Amber was unaware of what the event would morph into. What was supposed to be a one-time event, flourished into a lifestyle brand. This blooming occurred after Amber spent time studying abroad in Amsterdam. 🌷 She reflects on this pivotal change for her and her brand:
In the Spring of 2019, I went abroad to Amsterdam. It also happened to be Women’s History Month, so I wanted to do something with the small community of international students at the student hotel I was living in. I decided I was going to do a second natural hair event in Amsterdam, except this time, instead of doing beautification of hair, I organized a workshop focusing on the politics of black hair globally. I brought in women from around the Netherlands. I direct messaged people, I posted flyers and invited people from Amsterdam who had networks and similar interests. We all ended up coming together in this office space and shared our different experiences with our hair. It was powerful. I was in a different country and the women around me were from different countries. They gave me a perspective I didn’t have back home. The purpose wasn’t for me to come into the space and teach, it was really for women to get to know each other and discuss why black hair is important globally. After getting positive responses from that event, I knew I needed to keep doing the work, because I saw the importance of it, and recognized how good it felt. The brand grew from there. I eventually did various workshops in NYC, created an Instagram page and YouTube channel, and now the brand is also active on campus.
How do you see “Love Me Natural” thriving on Trin’s campus, and into the future once you graduate?
I have two ambassadors right now who are going to help when I graduate: freshmen Keanny Correia ’23 and Jason Farrell Jr., ’23. They reached out to me wanting to be part of the mission. That’s who I want to be involved with this brand, people who are genuinely interested in the idea of the “Love Me Natural” lifestyle.
Initially, I held workshops last semester, but now I hold consultations for women who are interested in the natural hair transition process, or who have questions about being confident in their natural skin, and with their hair. There are various levels of the journey for many people, and I work with them one-on-one so I can learn their story, and tailor my advice to them specifically.
I was curious about how Amber personalizes her consultations for people. So, I asked her what a typical consultation looks like.
Prospective clients email me with interest, and typically, I will send a form to understand what their full needs are, because often, it’s not just about hair, it’s about skincare as well. The form allows me to understand what the client wants to talk about, and what stage they are at with their natural hair so I can tailor to their needs. Then we will set up a time and a location to meet. I have had sessions in public spaces, like Peter B’s, but I have also had sessions that are in private spaces. I understand that this can be a sensitive topic for some people. It’s not always easy talking about self-confidence, about Blackness, or being Black on Trin’s campus. Everything during the consultation process is up to the client.
I asked Amber, who has inspired her current projects?
I am inspired by my mentor and boss,Maria I. Melendez, who is the founder of “Embrace Her Legacy.” She is a boss because she is unapologetic about being herself. I have been with her in spaces that have been professional and casual, but in all these different areas she is the same, and I love that. I am trying to do that myself—to be comfortable being myself in every space that I am in. Watching Maria achieve that level of comfort and confidence is very inspiring. In terms of celebrities, I am inspired by Yara Shahidi, because she is also unapologetically herself. She is using her platform to be a scholar, an activist, a model, and she’s Black. I am rooting for every Black woman.
With the global pandemic and spread of COVID-19, I asked Amber how her projects, like the anticipated Hair Gala, which had been slated for April 2020, will be adapted?
“New Growth: The Hair Gala” was scheduled for Saturday, April 11, [but had to be cancelled] so I was feeling low on that day. However, I shared @loveme.natural.official behind-the-scenes footage on Instagram and YouTube that day, as a way to leave the community with something until the final show can be held. Editing the footage not only made me feel good, but it motivated me to use this time to improve the initiative. The Gala will now be held at a later date, still to be determined. I don’t have solidified details to share with the public as of yet.
The “Love Me Natural” team is also increasing our online engagement. We currently have free one-on-one consultations. The consultations are a chance for our clients to receive hair-care remedies tailored to their lifestyle and hair, and guidance in feeling confident if they are new to the natural hair journey. But, you don’t have to be new to the journey to sign up. If you have questions about your hair, or you just want to share your story with us, sign-up. The link is located in the bio on our Instagram page, which is the best way to engage with “Love Me Natural”—follow us on Instagram. As for me, the brand keeps me hopeful. Speaking with clients is the highlight of my week. I can openly say that I am fighting depressive episodes, like many of you. I just take it day by day and am grateful for every moment where I feel energized. I am healthy, and that matters most right now.
What are you grateful for about your time at Trin?
I am grateful for the tools that were available to me, such as the darkroom, the media labs, and the studios. I didn’t grow up with resources like that, and I’ve always had an interest in dancing and videography, but I never had the space to do it. I wish I had gotten into videography and dancing sooner, but I am glad that I can do that now and use it for what I can.
What advice do you wish you had heard as a first-year, and what advice do you have for the class of 2024?
The advice I am about to give is advice someone gave me, and I wish I had listened to them. So, I hope someone listens to me: Do not define yourself according to your social group or according to a specific space, like Trin. I know it’s hard, but be aware of how you are growing according to the space you are in all the time and try your hardest to step off campus and try new things so that you continue to grow. Your freshman year, when you are 18-years-old going to college, you have so much growing to do. You don’t know who you are going to be once you become a senior. You are so impressionable which means you have to be super intentional about what is influencing you, and what is influencing your values, even if it’s just about changing your hairstyle, or the way you dress. Be cognizant about what’s making you change, because you are going to look back and be like, “wow I don’t know who that person was,” or, “wow, I’m happy I was around those people and I’m more mindful now.”
Amber left me with this final piece of advice:
I used to be super sensitive about being misunderstood. People are going to judge you, of course, but my number one pet peeve was being misjudged. I have learned that you can’t control other people and what is being perceived. That’s just how it’s going to be. So, don’t be sorry about the decisions you make to be yourself or express yourself.
In 2019, the Reverend Y. Trevor Beauford became a part of the Spiritual and Religious life team at Trinity College. I recently sat down with him to discuss everything from Mather swipes and personal lessons to his future aspirations as a new Trinity chaplain.
From Florence, SC, to Charlotte, NC, to Union Baptist, and now Trinity College in Hartford, CT. What has the journey been like for you?
Trinity is work that gives me life. It’s the work that gives me energy and breath. Being a pastor [at] Union [Baptist] is really wonderful and fulfilling. Whether as pastor of my church or my time spent at Trin, my deepest passion is working with youth and young adults.
As a youth pastor for 11 years, Chaplain Beauford calls joining the Trinity team a “Godsend”. Describing it as “life-giving” because of the flexibility he gets as a chaplain. As he puts it, his work is more than just a job.
As the pastor at Union, I have numerous roles and responsibilities. My days are half and half: both my pastoral work and then my CEO/administrative work. For my role at Trinity, my main focus is always with students—meet them, talk to them about spirituality, the love of God, and their life—which is amazing! That’s why it’s life-giving.
I love students. So, I went up [and] introduced myself, “Hey, I’m Pastor Trevor!”
He later reached out to Matthew for breakfast, and to discuss ways to keep students involved in the Hartford community.
It seemed very fast… I said, “I’ll come to campus,” and Matthew said, “I’ll swipe you into Mather.”
You know Matthew. He is the king of networking. After we had breakfast, we agreed that some [MOCA] students would come to serve in [Union’s local] breakfast ministry.
Keeping their words, Matthew and Pastor Beauford stayed in contact, which created more opportunities for Pastor Beauford to meet more Trinity students.
Matthew and I kept talking, I met other students through the breakfast ministry, [and many students] that came back and served again.
It was the quintessential snowball effect. Students started bringing other students and thus, Pastor Beauford’s Trinity connections grew exponentially. Eventually, it became clear that many students who called Union Baptist, in Hartford, home, wanted Pastor Beauford’s presence on campus as well.
That first year, it just kind of worked out. I [initially] agreed to do Faith Circle, and I was going to do it inside Umoja. I came and met with Chaplain [Allison] Read, and she said, “Why don’t you join our team?” So, I said, “Sure, why not?”
But, Chaplain Beauford wasn’t immediately thrust into his Chaplain role, as he notes:
I was a super-duper part-time person then.
(Stopping to reflect before stating wittingly)
Now, I’m established as staff. I got the ID and the parking pass to prove it. Some meal swipes, a t-shirt, and a Trinity hoodie. You know, I guess I’m official.
He is official, in both his credibility among the students and college credentials. And, it all can be traced back to that one guest meal swipe.
After hearing the origins of his journey to campus, I was curious to hear about any life lessons in those two and a half years that prepared him for his time at Trin. He quickly responded:
I can get too smart for my own good. I pride myself on being a competent professional, right? I believe I’ve got it covered. I read my journals. I do what I got to do… but I’m learning that I have to be more and more dependent daily on what I believe God has directed me to do.
Taking nothing for granted, he expressed with reverence the appreciation he has for each interaction with students he meets, programs he leads, or sermons that he preaches.
Now, I’ve been in a place where I’m like, “Yo!” There’s no way that my relationship with Trinity could have happened without, in my mind, what God was doing. And so now, I’m just like “Ok! I’ll depend on God and see if it works.”
What Beauford wants Trinity students to know?
I, Chaplain Read, all the team in religious life are here because we want students to openly explore who they are as people of spirit. We’re told to study hard in our classes for our minds, but we’re not ever really encouraged a lot of times to say, “but you also are not all mind and body. You’re not just flesh.”
Even though Trinity isn’t a religiously affiliated institution, what are you looking forward to regarding spiritual life on our campus?
Deepening the work. I look forward to meeting students. Every time I meet a new student and have a conversation, it is pure joy. I get to hear their stories.
And, for my final question, I wanted to know what Chaplain Beauford considers his favorite spot on campus?
I love being in Mather, and just watching the energy and traffic of people and students. I thoroughly enjoy being in the cafeteria. If I could set up a little office with my laptop, and just be there seeing students kind of going to and fro. I’d enjoy that.
All joking aside, feel free to invite Chaplain Beauford to a meal with you on campus. He’ll gladly accept (and he has his own swipes now). And, if you’re looking to find him around campus, to just chat or as a mentor, you can usually find him: Mondays 1 p.m., Tuesdays 2-5 p.m., & Thursdays after 2 p.m. in his office in the Trinity College Chapel.
We take a look through the decades to celebrate some of our community’s favorite and influential artists in honor of Black History Month 2020. [Pictured: TrinColl students from our Multicultural Affairs Council (MAC) at the 25th annual Black Solidarity Conference (BSC) at Yale in Feb.]
Ethan Yerkes is a sophmore econ and photography major from the northwest side of Chicago, Illinois where he is a member of Posse and Chicago Scholars. He participated in First-Gen, PRIDE, and Bantam Beginnings pre-orientation programs. Currently Ethan is part of the Trinity Film Fest team, is a “Designing your Life” fellow, and is working on his own photography business.
Favorite Spot on Campus: Top of the tower on Long walk
Can Often Be Found: Long boarding about campus
Favorite Thing to do on Campus: Connecting with friends at Mather