Posted by: gillianpet | November 7, 2021

Review – Hortense Parker Day Celebration “Rewind and Reconnect” 10/28/21

The 12th annual Hortense Parker Celebration was held on Thursday, Oct. 28, from 7-9 p.m. in the Great Room. The event was organized by the SGA Students of Color Committee, the Division of Student Life, the Office of Community and Belonging, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Weissman Center for Leadership, the Alumni Associations, and the Office of Advancement. At the event the “Hortense Parker Museum … Rewind and Reconnect” exhibit was unveiled in the Blanchard Student Art Gallery in lieu of the usual Hortense Parker Essay Contest. The museum was on display until Nov. 4th. 

The Hortense Parker Day Celebration was first organized in 2009 by Ahyoung An `09 and Camila Curtis-Contreras `09 to celebrate and raise awareness of the history, struggles, and achievements of women of color at Mount Holyoke. This year’s event was titled “Rewind and Reconnect” and was in conjunction with a museum put together by the Students of Color Committee. The event featured keynote speaker Zakiya Collier, Digital Archivist at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Also featured was alumni speaker Christine Harding `16 

The celebration began with an opening remark about the theme “Rewind and Reconnect” from Co-Chair of the Students of Color Committee Valeria Serna-Solis. The Committee chose the theme because many students are connecting with campus for the first time and have not had an in-person Hortense Parker Day Celebration. Also, for many students this is their first in-person celebration since their first year, said Serna-Solis. 

I think this theme really resonated with me. The last in-person event I attended was a journalism workshop with Gary Younge that I went to for my Intro to English class just a few days before we got kicked off of campus. Although I am a Junior, living on campus again for the first time since March 2020 and beginning to attend in-person events does feel like I am connecting with campus all over again. I think the theme did a really good job at acknowledging this feeling. 

Serna-Solis then introduced President of the College Sonya Stephens for her remarks. Stephens shared that she looks forward to the Hortense Parker Celebration each year and thanked the Students of Color Committee for their work in organizing the event. 

Ewura Esi Yankah then introduced Vice-President for Equity and Inclusion Kijua Sanders-McMurtry to give a brief history of who Hortense Parker was. Hortense Parker was the first known student of color to graduate from Mount Holyoke. Parker graduated from Mount Holyoke with the class of 1883. She was the daughter of an active abolitionist and former slave who bought his freedom in 1845. Parker’s father encouraged her to receive an education, she began studying at a school in Ohio, but was unhappy and transferred to Mount Holyoke. At Mount Holyoke Parker was known for her musical ability and was frequently asked to play the piano for students and faculty. She married shortly after graduation and taught music at schools in Missouri, New York, and Indiana before her death in 1983.  

Following Sanders-McMurtry, SGA President Lasya Priya Rao Jarugumilli made remarks.

“When I sat down to write this speech, I found myself writing my full name which I don’t do often. I often shorten my full name. Just because my name is difficult to pronounce does not mean it is not worth pronouncing. I encourage you to think about your name and demand that it be pronounced correctly just like every other Emma, Mark, or Sarah,” Jarugumilli said. 

After Jarugumilli’s remarks, the event featured a dance performance from Jhumka. I enjoyed this performance. It was a change of pace from the previous speakers. All of the dancers were dancing full out. This was their first performance since March 2020 and you could just see how happy they all were to be performing again. 

Natasha Almanzar then introduced alumna speaker Christine Harding ’16. Harding is one of the students who took part in the creation of the “Hortense Parker Museum” in 2014 and is the first SGA Students of Color Committee chair. Harding said this year’s theme connected her to the “Past, Present, Future and You” Hortense Parker Day in 2014, which students used resources from to create this year’s exhibit.

I think this was the part of the event that I enjoyed the most. I enjoyed how Harding spoke of her time at Mount Holyoke. Harding shared that when the museum was first created, campus was going through a transition period. In March 2014 a student of color was wrongfully arrested by campus police. Following this event, the MoHonest movement was created. These events really galvanized students of color on campus, said Harding. This portion of the remark was very informative. Harding provided a good background for the museum from 2014, which the students this year used to create the museum that was on display. Harding also spoke of legacy and activism. She reminded students that although Mount Holyoke encourages us all to leave as leaders and changemakers, that is not the only thing we have to do. Our legacy could be about being a caring friend or a good roommate. I felt that this was good advice. I also think I enjoyed this part of the event so much because I always enjoy seeing what alums are able to do with their Mount Holyoke education. Harding is leading a very successful life after graduation. 

Achol Otto, secretary of the Students of Color Committee, introduced keynote speaker Zakiya Collier.

Collier is a digital archivist at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She explained that she uses web archiving tools to expand the nature of the Schomburg Center’s archival collections to reflect 21st-century Black life and experiences. 

The part I found most dynamic about the keynote was the Q&A section that followed. Students asked questions ranging from Collier’s thoughts on the difference between curation and archiving, and how to collect history while remaining in the present. When asked how she would imagine life without digital collections documenting the history of people of color, Collier answered that she wouldn’t want to. “Being able to experience your history is an untouchable experience — one that I think many people of color go without, which is why my work is so important to me,” Collier said. “I think if I had to imagine it I would document it through dances, smell, or food. Although, food is not allowed in the archive.”

The event concluded with Kelechi Ezeugwu Co-Chair of the Students of Color Committee inviting us into the Unity Center for a Dessert Reception and for the unveiling of the museum. I think the museum was a good representation of visual culture. The museum was arranged in a timeline around the Student Art Gallery, the timeline overlapped with major national events, international events, campus activism, and the opening of the various cultural centers on campus. The timeline was mainly marked with photos and biographies of when various students of color made history or attended Mount Holyoke. I found the bios underneath to be so well researched, the entire museum was well researched and clearly took a lot of time and effort. 

I felt this was a very good event. The alum and keynote speaker were both engaging. The Q&A sessions that followed were dynamic and I learned a lot from them. The Jhumka performance was phenomenal. The museum was so well executed, you could see all of the hard work that was put into it. I think this was a good event to attend as my first in-person event since March 2020.

some photos of the Museum


Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing, Gillian! It’s interesting to hear about this history and I agree that it does feel like we’re all reconnecting to Mount Holyoke.


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