Monthly Archives: May 2020

An Offering of Fortitude, with Consuelo Jimenez Underwood

By: Teresa Conchas ‘22, Sarah Doyle Center Student Program Coordinator 

My antique dining room table in hot and sticky San Antonio, TX

Consuelo Jimenez Underwood is a bright soul who sings to the world with welcoming arms. In her early seventies, she beams with an optimistic and enthusiastic energy that is especially touching these days. Each time I experience the treasure of being in her presence, I notice a change in my body and mind — my shoulders relax and my words flow out with ease. Consuelo has a gift for opening, and it comes to her so naturally. 

As many of you in our Sarah Doyle community may recall, Consuelo visited Brown this past fall on a week-long artist residency, during which she collaborated with a group of undergraduates to create Exposing Unseen Boundaries, the most recent installment in her “Borderlines” series. The exhibition showcased a combination of new and old works: the “Brown-Violet Borderline,” “Apocalyptic Rain Song,” a hand-woven barbed-wire basket and tapestry, and photographs documenting a performance along the borderlands. Her artwork reaches deeply into the dynamic political and ecological forces emerging from the U.S.-Mexico border, and sifts through these complex entanglements with bold strokes of color and texture. 

I was fortunate to spend a couple hours chatting with her one afternoon in mid-April. Below you will find some personal reflections and meditations in response to our conversation together. Moreover, I had the opportunity to help out with elements of the Exposing Unseen Boundaries exhibition; included are images of the “power wand” I created (first photo) and the “soil blessings” I arranged (third photo) for its two main wall installations. 

On Solitude

As a fellow textile artist myself, I am all too familiar with the labor-intensive and social distancing aspects that accompany the art-making process. And while I find comfort in the company of my needle and thread and the repetitive motions of embroidering in and out and weaving over and under, every now and then I feel as though asking us to commit our whole selves as artists to the work is too much of a demanding sacrifice — the piling hours of isolation and concentration can become unbearable at times. Thus, when I look upon Consuelo’s beautiful and intricate weavings and paintings, I am filled with wonder and appreciation in reverence to her ability to inhabit this liminal space, carving it out as a universe of her own and transforming it into one of truth, liberation, and imagination. 

When I inquired into her experiences with solitude, she addressed it with a warmth reserved for old friends, referencing Emily Dickinson’s perspective on “solitude of space.” For her, this solitude of “a soul admitted to itself” is long-term, and she is intimately acquainted with its sacred possibility, urging us to presently “do something with it,” to share and create in it. 

Her words on solitude particularly resonate with our moment, as we learn to navigate the difficult and lonely waters of our newly-imposed social guidelines. In our state of quarantine, how can we learn from solitude, find grounding in it, and most importantly, care for ourselves and our loved ones amidst it? I am convinced that art has a vital role in addressing these big questions, in helping us process and understand the new world we are confronted with. Art is healing and unifying, and we should embrace creative practices as a vessel for learning to live with ourselves and our thoughts during this period of remaking and adjustment. Though she is “sad that it’s happening so harshly,” if we have the time and energy, Consuelo asks us to pause and rest, to listen and reflect (inwardly and outwardly) in the silence of our solitude. It will be challenging — approach it with an abundance of patience and tenderness for yourself — but I am excited for the learning, discovering, and imagining that will come of it. 

On Borders

While this is a time engulfed in fear and uncertainty that has exacerbated division and inequality in previously unrecognized ways, Consuelo insists that we resist growing and expanding borders and boundaries — which can be a particularly troubling task when we are required to remain six feet apart. We concluded that borders have reached a new extreme, as we carry them with us on our own person now, “like you’re wearing them.” Several weeks later, this statement still haunts me, its implications becoming further real with each passing day. 

However, rather than dwell in this fracturing, I am choosing to think about borders in the counter-context of inhabiting a shared world through strengthening ethics of connection and care and deepening meanings of community. Nowadays I find myself being more purposeful about acknowledging and cherishing living presences of all sorts — whether that’s greeting neighbors I hadn’t spoken to in years along my daily bike rides or tuning into the birds happily chirping from my front porch — gestures that had long gone neglected and taken for granted. Our restorative solitude has allowed us to “get to know ourselves in order to better understand others,” making our points of connection that much more intentional, enriching, and precious. 

On Hope and Art Futures

Consuelo also emphasized our collective human resiliency, expressing that “we can sustain anything” while we firmly hold onto hope and resist the defeat of despair. Although we are enduring immense pain and devastation, she considers our current moment a call to shift and improve, for “when there’s chaos, it’s a time to change the world a little bit.” A profound structural change is long-due, and it is up to us to accountably fight for it — we owe this to ourselves and the loved ones we have lost. Equipped with a renewed vision of justice and the might to see it through, we will mend and repair the fabric of our humanity in radical ways. 

She assures us that the arts aren’t going anywhere, and that their power to build consciousness and uplift communities is more important now than ever. Anticipating a return “back to the hand” and the rise of guerilla art activity in a public reclamation of art that is accessible and relevant, she views this as a positive reinstatement of the arts as being for and belonging to everyone, the “big empty gallery and museum spaces were getting to be too stuffy for their own good” anyway. And though the arts are the first to be cut from budgets, we will keep them alive and flourishing with our creative resourcefulness. So dream tremendously about the world you want to live in and then take part in actively creating it with your pen, brush, guitar, voice, body, etc. 

Consuelo believes in the promise of young people with her whole heart and spirit. Her confidence in this next generation’s potentiality to sew the tears and scraps of our broken society together bestows dually upon us inspiration and commitment. We will continue to make movement, breathe, survive — and surely do good too. 

For those who missed our series of events featuring artist Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, included are links to the artworks she created and the talk she gave while on campus in October:

High-resolution photos of the Exposing Unseen Boundaries exhibition available at this link:  

For more information about the artist and her collection of works/exhibitions, visit her website at

Image credits: Photography by Nicholas W Dentamaro/Brown University

Illustration of hands holding a gaming controller with pink and yellow cords coming out of the top and connected to 2 wireless symbols (one green and one red).

Gaming While Girl

By: Elisia Lopez, Junior studying Literary Arts and Anthropology, Special Projects Coordinator at the LGBTQ Center

Since coming back home, one of the ways I’ve been distracting myself from all this stress has been by playing video games. It wasn’t until pretty recently that I had actually started playing them semi-regularly. Before now, before I found a group of supportive friends who encouraged me to start gaming, it wasn’t really something I super felt comfortable doing or even something I was supposed to do. And, to be honest, a huge influence on my relationship with video games has been the fact that I’m not a dude.

Despite the fact that about half of self-identified gamers are women, there is still a lot of stigma around “gamer girls” and a general lack of confidence in women’s gaming abilities. And, while anyone should be able to enjoy a game without concern for how well they do or not, there is still a degree of discomfort when it comes to playing video games, especially if you’re not amazing at it, and even more so if you’re playing alongside or against people who are much more skilled than you.

One thing I’ve been realizing is that sometimes this discomfort is internal, sometimes it’s external.

I remember the first time I was ever introduced to Super Smash Bros, which is basically a culmination of every Nintendo character I didn’t know beating each other up…for some reason. I was probably around ten or so, and I was at a friend’s birthday party when they busted out the Wii. I had been pretty excited to learn how to play this new game that everyone swore up and down was so fun. When all the characters showed up on the screen and we finally got to play, I slowly went from being totally psyched to just bummed out. I remember asking how to play and just not having any of my questions answered. I was feeling tense and–for lack of a better word–shitty because I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t last more than a minute, so I eventually bailed.

And yeah, I know, we were ten. Around ten. I’m not trying to bash on what people did when we were kids because, you know, we were kids. But this is just one of the earlier instances of an ongoing pattern. The same thing happened when I first played Mario Kart. The same thing happened when my cousins tried to get me to play Assassin’s Creed. When this kind of thing keeps happening over and over and over, it becomes something that eventually stops you from wanting to play.

A lot of it had to do with people thinking I just couldn’t be good because I was a girl. Yeah, I wasn’t good, but that had nothing to do with my gender. I just wasn’t socialized to play video games, so I didn’t. It becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy, where girls can’t be gamers because that’s a “boy’s thing,” so girls aren’t really encouraged to game, then when they do of course they’re not as good at it. And sometimes, you start passing up on playing because you know you’re no good, or you don’t have the energy to get made fun of.

In my case, I just stayed away from playing video games entirely.

Of course, that’s not everyone’s experience. But I’ve been in enough friend groups where men patronize women about how badly they’re playing that they just decide to not even try and say they’re just okay with watching. 

It wasn’t until college that I started to let myself play video games, despite how far I am from being good. Being someone who is into creative writing, a lot of the video games that appealed to me did so because of the way that they engage with stories and lore differently than books, movies, or TV, like running around in a fantasy world and defeating evil in Legend of Zelda, trying to figure out my way home from the Underground in Undertale, and just messing around in the futuristic world of Overwatch. And once I had gotten into them and understood the gameplay, I actually began to enjoy playing them–and get better at them, as practice tends to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get super nervous and self-conscious when I’m playing video games. Sometimes I get the overwhelming urge to stop because I don’t think I’m good enough. Sometimes I get so nervous about it that I try to preemptively explain away why I’m so bad. Sometimes I even stop playing something when someone else walks into the room. But that’s only sometimes.

Being able to game with non-cishet men and without dealing with weird gatekeeper gaming complexes has done a lot in teaching me that I am allowed to suck and still have fun at the same time. Right now I’ve logged an embarrassing amount of hours on Overwatch with my friend, and I’m able to laugh at myself when I mess up but also recognize how much better I’ve gotten at it. That’s something I wouldn’t have seen myself doing a couple of years ago.

It might not seem that deep because it’s honestly just video games. But the fact that I have been able to get to the point of enjoying something I hadn’t felt good enough to even try just because of my gender has got me feeling pretty great.

Footnote (some games, game designers, and gamers that subvert gendered expectations in video games)

  • Undertale – Features a protagonist who is referred to using they/them pronouns throughout the game. The game diverts from uber-violent expectations in video games and focuses on solving problems peacefully and with care.
  • Night in the Woods – Features a queer woman protagonist and explores her mental health and relationship with her hometown and her past.
  • Life Is Strange – A game that follows a lesbian in high school with time-altering powers. The game includes potentially triggering content.
  • Tell Me Why – The first video game from a major developer with a playable trans character, also voiced by a trans man. (I haven’t played this game, so I can’t speak to the quality of it)
  • Roberta Williams – A self-taught woman game designer who revolutionized graphic game design.
  • Anna Anthropy – A trans woman game designer who makes digital games, interactive fiction, and zines.
  • Aisha Tyler – A WoC gamer who is very vocal about sexism and racism within the gaming community.
  • Here’s a link to a list of trans game developers from 2018–check it out!
  • And here’s a link to another article with influential women in gaming.

Image credit: Sara Montoya ’21, Graphic Design and Publicity Coordinator at the LGBTQ Center

Image of the Sarah Doyle Center crossword puzzle.

Sarah Doyle Center Crossword Puzzle Challenge

By: Jennifer Katz ’20 and Katherine Sang ’21, Student Coordinators at the Sarah Doyle Center

Complete our SDC themed crossword puzzle for a chance to win this year’s Women’s History Month tote bag! Hint: Take a look at our SDC website for clues! Click here to download a pdf version of the crossword puzzle.

Please either attach an image of your completed puzzle or list all 21 words at this google form:

The winners will be the first two people to submit all 21 correct word selections. Keep an eye out for an announcement on this blog post with the names of the two winners. Good luck 🙂

UPDATE 5.12.20: Congratulations to Melinda Li and Cristina Taylor, who were the first 2 people who correctly solved the puzzle! The answer key to the puzzle will be made available on May 18th.

UPDATE 5.19.20: Sorry, we were a day late with the answers! You can access the answer key to the SDC crossword puzzle at this link.

Image credit: Crossword questions by Jennifer Katz, puzzle and tote bag design by Katherine Sang

Logo for the "Rooted Radio" playlists, which includes a radio and radish.

Rooted Radio 004

By Ciara Keegan ’20, Science Technology and Society Concentrator and Jennifer Katz ’20, Science Technology and Society Concentrator and Gender, Health, and Wellness Coordinator at the Sarah Doyle Center

Shortly before we had transferred to Brown, Ciara and I were connected by a mutual friend. I sat on the floor of the library while she spoke to me from her flat in Edinburgh. Almost immediately she brought up music and we started talking about our favorite artists and songs. It wouldn’t become as obvious until we coincidentally (fate?) were assigned as roommates during our first semester at Brown. My memories from that New Dorm double are deep shades of blue, red and purple lit by the whale shaped lamp on her bedside table with Lady Wray’s “Guilty,” Darondo’s “Didn’t I,” and Still Woozy’s “Goodie Bag” on a constant loop. 

We started our radio show, “The Now and Then” the fall of our junior year and it quickly became the highlight of my week. On Sundays we would create the collaborative playlist, piling on songs until Wednesday came along, when we would debate over the layout of the final 50 minutes. We would send it to everyone, knowing that only a couple friends and our parents would tune in. It didn’t matter. And who knows, maybe someone driving in Providence had turned the knob to 101.1 WBRU at just the right moment to hear us fangirling over Hope Tala or Radiant Children. Even during the worst moments of our semester, we made the time to lug ourselves up staircase three to the BSR studio, pressing pause on the anxiety of college that filled every hour of every day, except 10-11 pm on Wednesday nights. 

This past year we submitted to our busy-ness, living off of Wickenden we kept putting off walking all the way to campus for our show, always saying, “next week we’ll do it.” Until there were no more weeks left and we found ourselves packing up the belongings of her room before she flew to California for the foreseeable future. As I’ve put together these Rooted Radios each week, I’ve felt a strong pang of nostalgia for making these playlists together—a nostalgia that competes with regret as I mourn our senior year ending early. 

We both admit to being poor communicators, FaceTime has become exceedingly laborious as every aspect of our days have been converted to digital means. We may never be able to have our radio show at Brown anymore, but one way I know we can always stay connected is through sharing music and collaborating on playlists.

Click here to listen to the Rooted Radio 004 playlist on Spotify

Comment below: What was the last thing you recommended to a friend (it can be anything)? Why did you recommend it? How are you staying connected to your friends during this time? 

Image credit: Rooted Radio image by Katherine Sang ’21

Praise: The Act of Offering Glory To One’s Self

By: Maurisa Li-A-Ping, Coordinator for First Year and Sophomore Programs at the Brown Center for Students of Color

Providence, Rhode Island

While quarantining and social distancing it feels like there are mirrors all around me. The ones you find in the circus, making tall things short, big things small, and oval things square. Everything feels filtered and contorted, even my body. So much is lost and gained in the illusion of shame. Some days I am a soaring acrobat, while others I am a clown walking the tightrope. In the blaring silence of quarantine, I turn to Lucille Clifton for resilience and comfort.

Last night while reading “homage to my hips” I wondered, did she wake up with the utmost reverence for her body? Was it gained over time? Did someone name those parts of her worthy? I am not sure of how but, I too want a body that is magical and mighty. It feels right to start with gratitude so each day I honor the joy and horror of living in my body. 

What has she done for me today?

What has her terror taught me?

Where does love live within her?

I am not sure if you too feel you are being chased by mirrors. If your round has become triangular and your small has been turned big. However, I am sure of praise: the act of offering glory to one’s self as a form of survival. Do it with me: (as said by Lucille Clifton in her poem homage to my hips)

….these hips

are free hips.

they don’t like to be held back.

these hips have never been enslaved,   

they go where they want to go

they do what they want to do.

these hips are mighty hips.

these hips are magic hips….

Image credit: Maurisa Li-A-Ping

Rooted Radio 003

By: Teresa Conchas and Jennifer Katz, Student Coordinators at the Sarah Doyle Center

Perhaps it is the rain that appears to have no end that provoked it. As if I was possessed by some azure calling, I started this week on a quest to collect songs revolving around the color blue. In #72 of the 240 meditations on the color blue in Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, she writes,

“It is easier, of course, to find dignity in one’s solitude. Loneliness is solitude with a problem. Can blue solve the problem, or can it at least keep me company within it?—No, not exactly. It cannot love me that way; it has no arms. But sometimes I do feel its presence to be a sort of wink—Here you are again, it says, and so am I.”

When I spoke to Teresa, by serendipitous chance, she had undergone a parallel excursion into the color blue this week. We joined blue forces. She wrote to me, “at first I had a hard time compiling songs around the color, and then I just couldn’t escape coming across it.” Maybe we are all feeling and searching for a touch of blue right now.