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When I first stepped on Princeton’s campus four years ago, I could not imagine all the ways I would grow before walking out of FitzRandolph Gate again. My expectations were that of any incoming freshman: I would learn from professors who were experts in their field. I would become a better writer and critical thinker through my academic and extracurricular work. I would gain a new sense of direction concerning my professional interests and pursuits. I did not, however, want Princeton to change me fundamentally. Hundreds of miles away from my family, friends and the only home I had ever known, I feared what would happen if I let Old Nassau erode what had grounded my identity — my Louisiana roots, my Jamaican and Ethiopian culture and the people I had loved from all these places.
Two of my girlfriends and I often tease our other friends in the economics and ORFE departments, letting them know that they may have to take us in in the future. Undoubtedly, their lucrative jobs would be enough to support us as we worked at our respective nonprofits and paid off debt from graduate school. Like all good jokes, this one has a modicum of truth to it. As my friends and I have begun to accept jobs and fellowships for the upcoming year, that hypothetical discrepancy of earnings has become a reality.
The first time I listened to “Work,” I was ridiculously excited. I was happy primarily because its release meant Rihanna’s highly anticipated eighth album was soon to follow. I also enjoyed the Caribbean dancehall style of the single and hoped that the other album tracks would draw on her Bajan roots.But as much as I enjoyed the song, I struggled to understand all the lyrics. As “Work” gained popularity, it was obvious that many other people had the same problem. However, while I shared a small laugh with my roommates about our miscomprehension, the song had apparently left others seriously disgruntled.Music reviews praising the single overall commented on the track’s resemblance to gibberish. The most popular comments on the music video made similar jabs, sarcastically wondering when the English version would be released. Acoustic covers received praise, being declared superior in sound and comprehensibility.I understand people’s frustration. Rihanna sings “Work” in patois, an English-based creole language. I had been able to understand some of the song’s lyrics because I grew up with my Jamaican father, who spoke patois often. Even so, there were some phrases I struggled to grasp. Too curious to guess what the words meant, I searched for the song’s lyrics on Google and finally understood the full narrative of “Work.”Unfortunately, people often forget about the existence of useful tools like Google. Rather than take a few minutes to look up the song, people decided it was unacceptable that they didn’t immediately understand it — that it was not an English accommodated to their ears and, consequently, an unacceptable English.The sociopolitical nature of the English language has existed for centuries, and I have had a number of personal experiences based on linguistic policing, both self-imposed and imposed by others. Most of my hometown’s families, in suburban southeast Louisiana, have lived there for generations. However, this is not my family’s narrative — both my parents immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia. Most people are very welcoming and curious when they realize this, but my middle school experiences were less illustrious. My classmates would mock my mom after hearing her Ethiopian accent. Their comments cut into my sensitive 12-year-old heart. It was the first time I remember feeling ashamed of my heritage. They told me my mom talked funny. What was funny is that I didn’t realize she had an accent at all — she sounded like my mother. She sounded like home.When I left for Princeton four years ago, I quickly learned to self-police my southern colloquialisms that Saint Rose had left me. I used “y’all” as sparingly as possible. I have a slight, yet noticeable accent when I’m angry or upset, and only my closest friends have been privy to these moments. Though they appreciate the southern lilts, I am still abashed when they draw attention to it. And while I have grown more comfortable with black and southern vernacular overall, I still code-switch based on the room in which I’m standing. Some of this is a necessary formality. Yet, a large part of this behavior is being told that this is a substandard form of English.Modern English doesn’t belong to any one person or country. Centuries of colonization, occupation and globalization have made it a language spoken in all corners of the world. It’s fine not to understand someone’s English because of accents or hybridity with other languages. It’s even alright to be annoyed that you are not in a position to easily understand. But it is cruel to mock someone who is making a serious effort to speak a constantly changing language like English. It is ironic to do so when we, as native English speakers, misuse words and grammar every day.The Caribbean, and several countries beyond it, has been transforming the English language for centuries, changing it through their own unique linguistic traditions and making a new one from it. Your comprehension is not the responsibility of these countries. If you want to understand, the burden lies upon you to, well, put in some work.Lea Trusty is a politics major from Saint Rose, La. She can be reached at email@example.com.
My senior year of college has been filled with countless “what ifs.” As my time on this campus began to dwindle, I increasingly worried about everything I had accidentally forgone. Reminiscing with friends about the classes we’ve enjoyed, people whose paths we have crossed and our Princeton experiences as a whole — it becomes difficult not to question our decision-making these past three and a half years. It’s easy to wonder what I could have done differently, or, really, better.
Princeton has always had the ability to attract stirring speakers. In the past three years, I’ve listened to Toni Morrison, Arianna Huffington, Laverne Cox and the lateJustice Antonin Scalia just to name a few. While their ideologies and fields of study vary, all of these visitors have sparked important dialogue on the state of campus, national and global affairs.
Before this past Sunday, I was unsure if I would be watching the Super Bowl halftime show. I am a fan of all three artists that performed. In fact, the last time Bruno Mars or Beyoncé were on the Super Bowl stage, their performances were incredible. This year, however, I wasn’t completely invested in the teams playing — my crush on Cam Newton notwithstanding. Rather than tune in for 15 minutes, I had convinced myself to watch the playback of the performance afterward.Beyoncé shattered all of these doubts with her new song, “Formation.” While I pride myself on being a fan of her and her artistry, it was my roommate who saw someone excitedly post the new music video on Facebook. I was not prepared for what happened when we pressed play.The first scene of Beyoncé perched on a New Orleans Police Department cop car, partially submerged in the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina, was one of the most powerful images in the video. And from there, it only got better. We heard the voices of Big Freedia and a passed Messy Mya, both idols of New Orleans bounce. We saw beautiful black women flanking both sides of Beyoncé as their afros moved with their dances. We saw a little boy dancing in a hoodie in front of a line of police officers with their hands up.The lyrics themselves were just as powerful. Beyoncé pays homage to her roots, singing, “My daddy Alabama, momma Louisiana, you mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama.” There are even lyrics speaking of hot sauce, cornbread and collard greens, proving that food equals love of her blackness. She goes on to address the petty people who have criticized her husband’s nose or her daughter’s hair, saying she loves her baby’s afro and her “negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils.” She repeats, “Okay ladies, now let’s get in formation… prove to me you got some coordination. Slay trick, or you get eliminated.”The song hits all the right notes. Beyoncé reflects on her black Southern roots like never before, reveling in all parts of her blackness. She challenges police brutality and general political incompetency when we consider the terrible responses of the NOPD to the aftermath of Katrina. Equally important, she demands that all black women put in the necessary work to thrive in a social hierarchy in which we’re not meant to. It’s not enough to be adequate: as black women, we must slay or get eliminated.As I work on my thesis, apply to postgraduate opportunities and continue considering the life I hope to carve out for myself — all while reflecting on black history and my place within it — this song was a wakeup call from one of the most hard-working black women in the industry.But as 111.9 million Americans tuned in to her live performance of “Formation,” it was a wakeup call to the blackness of Beyoncé.Understanding the meaning and necessity of “Formation” could prove to be challenging for those for who have not directly experienced the beauty of black culture or the struggles of racism. While Beyoncé frequently claims her country and Houston roots, we have never seen such unabashed pride in black culture from her. Songs like, “***Flawless,” “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” and “Run the World (Girls),” have made her work easily accessible to everyone. “Formation” marks a change, as it is a definitive song for the black community and black women especially.Undoubtedly, this former Beyoncé is the one with which most people are comfortable. Yet the black community has been waiting for “Formation” Beyoncé, as other prominent black artists have voiced their support — not only through demanding accountable justice systems, but also by shamelessly enjoying their culture and the diverse black narrative in the music and film industry dominated by whites.In an outfit reminiscent of Michael Jackson, with her backup dancers wearing the berets of the Black Panthers, Beyoncé brought blackness to an event that has long been a cornerstone of American culture. There is no other artist who could have acted so radically on such a large platform.The wait was worth it. Connecting Beyoncé as an artist and Beyoncé as an activist depicts how we must nurture every critical part of our identity, especially when others would try to forgo them. “Formation” made clear that any Beyoncé you love does not exist without her black roots. It made clear that any Beyoncé you hate will continue to thrive, not in spite of black culture and history, but because of it. And as a black woman, it has shown me that I must do the same.Lea Trusty is a politics major from Saint Rose, La. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was only a month ago when I first watched the trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” By the time the two or so minutes had passed, the grin on my face seemed permanently fixed. Almost immediately afterward, my friends from back home started to talk about it and plan when we’d be seeing it together. It’s an understatement to say the film will be dominate the season’s box office, if not the entire year — and with good reason. Star Wars has a colossal following, as perhaps the most popular, influential film series to date. And with impressive direction like J.J. Abrams, it is sure to draw in both new and old fans.
At any given university, there are bound to be a few majors and pre-professional tracks that attract more students than others. It only took the first few days of my freshman fall to determine which of those were Princeton’s. If someone in the liberal arts school wasn’t pre-med, they were probably in the Wilson School (admittedly, I started out in the latter before landing on politics). A disproportionate number of engineers were typically either in the operations research and financial engineering or computer science departments.
Recently, as I was scrolling through my News Feed on Facebook, I came across an extremely lengthy post. You all know the type of post I’m talking about — the long-winded one that talks about someone’s multistep journey, that details all his or her hard work along the way, that resulted in some amazing new opportunity for him or her. I could see the hundreds of likes begin to rack up, and as someone moderately interested in this person’s life — and therefore moderately happy about this person’s success — I too clicked on the small thumbs-up.
Gun violence should be shocking. Gun violence should rile up unimaginable levels of fear, terror and pain. Gun violence should be so intolerable to our society that we enact laws to try to prevent it from ever happening again.
If a friend had described what the current state of the 2016 Presidential Election would be like to me many months ago, I would have scoffed at her — Hillary Clinton scrambling for “likeability” and still answering questions about emails. Bernie Sanders, who I would consider to be the closest thing we have to the people’s candidate, closely trailing her. Jeb Bush, whose announcement was so hotly anticipated, barely in the headlines.
I cannot recall the last time I read a positive column about Gwyneth Paltrow. Paltrow’s greatest flaw in the public eye has been her inability to relate with others, more so thanatypicalHollywood celebrity. Consequently, I was not surprised when I heard about what had recently put her in headlines.
When I received an email from the Undergraduate Student Government containing details on how to vote on the widely talked about Bicker referendum, I rolled my eyes and deleted it in a snap.
There are many things that I worried about as a 16-year-old high school sophomore. As a junior at Princeton University, most of those concerns seem irrelevant now, if I can recall what they were at all. Still, there have been moments on campus — from late-night chats with my friends to guest speaker talks to simply interesting lectures — that have brought me back to yesteryear. This happened most recently in the tiny Computer Science Building hall at the start of my American Politics lecture.
Choosing to study abroad in Barcelona was one of the best decisions I could have made while at Princeton and for a number of different reasons. One, I was able to gain a greater sense of self-confidence and autonomy as I navigated a new city. Being able to take a respite from the unending hustle and bustle of Princeton had many perks: I was also able to seriously consider my post-graduate future without stressing about the present. Additionally, it allowed me to truly enjoy all the new things I was able to learn without the pressure of grading. Perhaps the best and most significant part of studying abroad was being a part of a new culture and seeing how it fit with my studies. Although I missed my friends and many parts of campus life, I realized it was an experience I would have never gotten if I had stayed inside of FitzRandolph Gate.
The end of the academic year is a beautiful and terrible time. I woke up the other day, dreading the load of work and studying I have to accomplish by May 22. But almost simultaneously, I realized that the coming four weeks would be over in the blink of an eye. I could have done a number of things with this realization: scramble to begin my Dean’s Date assignments, make a pitiful attempt to start running with bikini season on the horizon or even plan some awesome to-dos for my few weeks of downtime during the summer. I opted for none of these.
It was a quiet Tuesday night when my roommate and I decided to take a trip to the U-Store. We were trying to go less frequently, as the store takes so much of our money, but we both knew we had a late night of work ahead of us. We went our separate ways, weaving in and out of the aisles for the perfect snack. I checked the ingredients list of everything I picked up. “How on earth do these chips have milk in them?”
Earlier this week, I stumbled upon a Letter to the Editor from the Opinion section of The Daily Princetonian, titled “A faculty statement on sexual assault.” I was confused and a bit intrigued, since I could not think of any recent incident it could be in response to. When I opened the Letter, I found 215 faculty signatures in support of holding victims of sexual assault blameless no matter their level of intoxication or dress, opposed to the statements of Susan Patton ’77 made in her recent interview with ‘The Prince.’ Patton responded to the faculty letter, saying that her recent book suffered because it did not directly contrast rape and “regrettable sex,” as she would have liked.
This column is the second in a series about socioeconomic diversity and low-income students at the University.
Around this time last year, an unnatural force stormed The Daily Princetonian website, campus and news networks everywhere. I speak, of course, of Susan Patton ’77, alumna of Old Nassau and self-proclaimed advisor to all Princeton women. In her letter to the editor, she advised female students to start the hunt for a husband immediately,for a number of reasons — the desirability of a woman decreases from her freshman to senior year, there is an amazing concentration of eligible bachelors here, and furthermore, our prospects decrease after college as we encounter less worthy men and begin to focus on our careers to the extent that romance takes the backseat in our life. In a nutshell, she says that women become less desirable the older they get, and men get less desirable the farther away women are from the Orange Bubble.