Behind the Scenes

All is calm on the surface of this fashion show.  But is it really?

By Sila Ogidi

“Stop! Go back! I left so many things in the common room, I couldn’t carry it all by myself.”

 The Rehearsal

Despite the cold weather outside, Getrude Makurumidze, a Zimbabwean sophomore, had on a classy white blazer with a black knit maxi dress meant for summers under the sun with a good book and big sunglasses. With one hand lifting her dress just high enough for her to run, she makes her way to the Pembroke East dorm common room at Bryn Mawr College to retrieve her suitcase and large bag containing everything from shoes to fabric and woven baskets. It was Saturday and Getrude, 20, was on her way to the Bryn Mawr African and Caribbean Student’s Organization (BACaSO) Annual Fashion Show dress rehearsal.

Behind the stage and grand room of Thomas Great Hall stood rows of chairs with names taped to the seat where she began to rearrange them. First alternating, then single file.

-“Getrude what are you doing?”

-“I don’t know if I should alternate them or have them in a single file. What do you think?”


“I’ll just make it single rows.”

She stood alone backstage at 4:20p.m. for the rehearsal that should have started 20 minutes ago. There wasn’t a single sign of frustration or anxiety in her face. Her smooth skin did not wrinkle even with time against her. In the absence of her BACaSO public relations partner, she took charge of the suitcases, unpacking and sorting the clothes for each model before they arrived. No one would think the show was only two and a half hours away.

“We’re here!” yelled Rosemont College model, Vimbai, over the phone. “Where should we meet you?”

Getrude walked out the building to meet the first of her models.  Her calm demeanor is replaced with a vibrant upbeat smile and laugh that can only be mastered by someone used to putting on a show. 

Back in the hallway behind the stage more models started to arrive and Getrude amps up the take-charge attitude she had when she was alone. The set quickly turns into a lively party as models catwalk to Afro-Caribbean beats of their choice. Everyone is laughing and smiling except Getrude. She is arranging chairs around the stage and if you weren’t watching her, you’d never know she was there. She was a silent force with a desire for perfection.

-“I have to go to the train station.”

– “Ok.”

Continue reading

One drop at a time

Why do so few college students donate blood?

BloodBy Alyssa Kayden 

 Some people find blood drives disgusting.  The invasive questions they ask.  The thought of sitting in the same place where some else had just given blood thirty minutes before.  The possibility of fainting, vomiting, and dizziness.  As if the free cookies and juice will make up for the fact that they have just taken a pint of blood out of your body.   And of course, the needle.  

 Others welcome the blood drive.  They see the invasive questions as fail safes for the recipients of the blood.  The thought of sitting in the same place where some else had just given blood thirty minutes before fills them with hope for the number of people donating.  The possibility of fainting, vomiting, and dizziness is a possible, yet overcome-able obstacle.  And to think — the Red Cross offers free cookies!

 According to the Red Cross website, the two most commonly cited reasons for not donating blood are “I don’t like needles” and “I’ve never thought about it.”

 At Haverford, “I’ve never thought about it” doesn’t come into the question.  For weeks leading up to the blood drive, signs plaster the dining center, the doors to dorms, and the bathroom stalls.  Emails are sent out in order to make appointments in advance.  And on the day of the blood drive, chalk messages and signs are posted all around campus giving directions to Founder’s Hall, where the blood drive takes place. 

 About 38% of the population is eligible to donate blood, however only less than 10% actually donate, according to the Red Cross.  At a school of 1,198 students, only 152 students made appointments for blood donation.  College-aged adults are often cited as the healthiest adults.  They are also known for being the most outspoken and most community-service driven of adults.  Yet, 12.6% of the student body signed up to donate blood. 

The donation process has three steps.  First, one must complete an oral medical history.  Then, the donor has a mini-physical — in which his/her temperature, blood pressure, iron level, and pulse is taken.  Lastly, the donor donates. 

At Haverford 152 people signed up to donate.  Only 137 of those students showed up to their appointment.  And a mere 103 people donated, giving Haverford college an 8.5% donation participation, as 34 people getting turned away to donate. 

 Students get turned away from donating for many reasons. 

As Sadie Resnick, 19, says, “For my height [5’ 1’’], you have to be legally obese to make the weight requirement.”  Continue reading

Four Profiles

The English House Gazette opens its fall 2013 season with four profiles.

Sam Fox, whose beat is street art, writes about a wunderkind Haverford student who has made his name writing about street art.

Katie Griefeld, who writes about religion, visits the Quaker collection at Haverford’s Library and talks to its director, Anne Upton.

David Roza, who is covering the paranormal, travels to the creep but compelling Eastern State Penitentiary to interview Annie Anderson, who works there as a historical researcher.

Saira Kitagawa, whose beat is the immigrant community, talks with Ellen Polsky, the director of Philadelphia’s Nationalities Services Center.

The Haverford student behind Vandablog

RJ Rushmore’s obsession with street art

By Sam Fox                                                                                                    

 Michael “RJ” Rushmore is obsessed with street art. “I just fell down a rabbit hole,” he says.

Originally from Chicago, Rushmore found his passion when he was living in London five years ago. One day, his father brought home a piece by the Faile street art collective and asked Rushmore if he knew anything about the artist. Rushmore was curious, so he sat down at his computer.

“I was like: I could research this thing or I could do homework.”

 That weekend, he started going into East London, which has a lively street art scene. His Saturday trips soon turned into

Portrait of RJ Rushmore by Elbow-Toe

Portrait of RJ Rushmore by Elbow-Toe

a “ritual.” 

 Before his introduction to Faile, Rushmore had not had good experiences with art. He had gone to galleries and gotten sneered at. He was frustrated by the pretension of much modern art.

“I tried to stare at Duchamp’s urinal, and I just didn’t really understand why I was staring at a urinal,” he says. “Street art, to me, is just way more accessible.”

Rushmore believes that the best works of street art make the most of their location and age gracefully.

He remains unimpressed with the “yarn bombing” trend of recent years, which involves knitting projects that cover public spaces. These pieces might look good at first. But then it rains. And they are ruined. And they don’t wash away.

In contrast, Rushmore prefers an artfully placed “wheatpaste”–or a type of glued-on poster–which can become part of its surroundings with time. As it fades, gets written over, and becomes a host to moss, the work manages to gain character and beauty.

Since his transformation in London, Rushmore has fostered his obsession through a variety of solo and collaborative projects.

His critically acclaimed “Vandalog” blog, which chronicles street art around the globe, celebrated its fifth birthday last week.

During his gap year before coming to Haverford College, he curated an exhibit and published a book about it.

Last summer, he interned at Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, which asked him to curate an exhibit at their gallery in October. Rushmore also works remotely as a co-curator and liaison for the LISA project, a street art organization in New York City’s Little Italy.

At Haverford, he is a student comanager of the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. He also commissions murals at James House, a student art space. Thanks to Rushmore, three of the building’s walls are covered with striking images: a giant black crow, a crowd of colorful people, and a pair of fantastical beasts.

This coming December, he plans to release his second book, which covers street art, graffiti, and the Internet. He argues that the Internet is a kind of “public space” that is changing the way street art is practiced and understood.

It is quite a lot of output for a self-described “twenty-something.” Continue reading

Preserving Quakerism’s past

Ann Upton oversees one of the nation’s largest collections of Quaker material

By Katie Greifeld                                                                                                                 

Magill Library’s Special Collections, home to Haverford College’s prized Quaker Collections, is as quiet and reverent as a Quaker meetinghouse itself. In a library that hums with the academic pursuits and activities of hundreds of elite liberal arts students, Haverford’s Special Collections library is a place of silence and scholarship.


Records of the Fallsington, Pa. Quaker meeting

Records of the Fallsington, Pa. Quaker meeting

It is fitting that Haverford College, a Quaker institution whose history is rooted in the area’s early days of Quakerism, houses these Collections. One can catch a glimpse of it as they make their way to the main tier bathrooms, which are located right next to the Special Collections’ heavy wooden doors.

 In this serene place is the office of Ann Upton, Haverford’s Quaker Bibliographer and Special Collections Librarian. Upton, 60, does not look the part of the dowdy librarian portrayed in books and movies. Her handsome green, suede blazer matches her eyes too well to be a coincidence, and contrasts well with her light gray hair and the black sweater she’s wearing underneath. Gold studs line her jacket collar, a bold look that does not match her personality.

 “I’m a little anxious,” Upton warned. “It’s good though – you’ll edit all this out and only take the good stuff!”

Though nervous about being interviewed, Upton was eager to speak about the Special Collections, which is home is “materials that are too fragile or rare to be in the main collections.” Special Collections materials include manuscripts, college archives, rare books, photographs, artifacts, and other primary source materials.

 There are over 4,000 rare books, maps, and manuscripts in the Collections today. Notable items include the Morley family papers, an important family in the College’s foundational years, and the William Pyle Phillips collection, which contains four folios of William Shakespeare’s plays.

The Special Collections also houses the Quaker Collection, which Upton proudly describes as “the third best in the world.”

 The Collection consists primarily of Quaker writings in the form of publications, manuscripts, letters, and diaries. It boasts approximately 35,000 printed volumes, including the journal of Margaret Hill Morris during the Revolutionary War, and personal letters between members  of the Cope family.

 The Haverford Quaker Collection also helps care for records of meetings in the Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Yearly meeting, a responsibility it shares with the Swarthmore College Friends Historical Library.

 However, when asked if the Haverford Quaker Collection could be considered a ‘Quaker Museum’ of sorts, Upton responded with a laugh.

“It would not be an interesting one, as we have very few Quaker artifacts,” Upton explained. “With our Quaker Collection, you mostly have to interact in a different way than just looking at things.”

 While this may be true for some, many scholars approach the Special Collections and Quaker Collection with delight. Roughly half of the people who visit the Collections are not affiliated with the College at all. This is especially true in the summertime – many scholars who frequent the Collections are professors themselves, pursuing their own research. In addition, the Collections also receives “an amazing number” of email requests for help. Continue reading

Life in Prison

Isn’t bad at all for Annie Anderson, who works at Eastern State Penitentiary

By David Roza

The room looks like a set from a horror movie.  Walls of fractured tile, chipped plaster and exposed brick surround a grimy floor and a ceiling of broken glass, sepia-toned with dust after decades of disuse.  A surgery lamp the size of a car tire with four enormous light bulbs hangs precariously from a rusty fixture like a macabre chandelier in the middle of the gritty room.  The chilly air blowing in from the October wind outside gives the room an eerie, spooky mood. 

“So, this is where Al Capone got his tonsils taken out!” says the red-nosed, blonde-haired woman who lights up the gloomy room with her warm disposition and kind smile.  Her name is Annie Anderson, and she is the Historic Site Researcher at Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia’s infamous prison-turned-museum where the notorious Chicago crime-boss Al Capone did indeed have his tonsils removed during his brief stay at Eastern State in 1929.

Like Capone, Anderson hails from Chicago.  The young historian majored in English at Calvin College before working as a journalist for various publications and earning a Masters degree in American Studies at University of Massachusetts Boston.  Unlike Capone, Anderson hopes to stay at Eastern State for quite some time.

            “It is really fun to be employed as a historian…it’s sometimes hard to imagine all of the people who Eastern Statelived here because right now it’s so empty and quiet and abandoned,” says Anderson amidst the still sobriety of the tomb-like ruin.  “I love that I can imagine it being populated by the inmates.”

It is indeed difficult to picture that this half-dilapidated building—whose historical exhibits are interspersed with heaps of rubbish and piles of broken masonry—was once a bustling penitentiary that housed 1,700 inmates.  The 184-year-old building was shut down in 1971 because its aging infrastructure could not support a rising inmate population.

 The abandoned building quickly deteriorated into an overgrown urban forest that housed little more than a colony of stray cats.  Efforts to restore the building for historic preservation began in the late 1980s, and the penitentiary was opened for tours in 1994.  According to Eastern State’s website,, early visitors had to sign liability waivers and wear hard hats to avoid the risks of walking through a building that had nearly crumbled into collapse. 

When asked about the wreckage, Anderson said, “Eastern State is trying to pursue this interesting way of being a stabilized ruin.  We try to stabilize the spaces that are here without necessarily altering the landscape or doing massive improvement projects, so that the building looks like what it did when it closed in 1971.”

 Anderson’s role as Historic Site Researcher is to uncover through archival research the details of the penitentiary’s living past, hidden somewhere beneath the debris. Continue reading

Tired but happy

Ellen Polsky’s job is to help immigrants learn English. It’s a her life’s work and she loves it.

By Saira Kitagawa

     Ellen Polsky’s office in Central Philadelphia was a mess. There were papers, books and files everywhere. Her business cards were all over the floor and posters were half hanging off the walls. Her desk was also a mess except that a photo of her daughters, Samantha and Lia, who strongly resemble their mother, was somehow visible between the piled up papers and files.  Behind her seat, there was a calendar, but number of days was completely hidden underneath the crazy scribbles of schedules.

     “It’s ridiculous, it’s ridiculous!” Polsky said as she swung her head to keep her grey-brown shoulder length hair out of her face and took a bite of her cold hoagie with tomato, cheese and lettuce from Wawa.

     Polsky is the Director of Education in National Service Center for Immigrants and Refugees. Since she lost her Nationalities Service Centerassistant recently and NSC is looking for a new Executive Director, schedules had been pretty hectic for her.

     She explained this was one of the reasons why the new ESL program for Muslim women at Al-Rashadeen Mosque in Northeast Philadelphia had been on hold for the last month. The last class was held after the Ramadan in September. Polsky had found two women to teach at the mosque, but because of a lack of staff and funding, she was not able to get back onto the program.

    She hoped that NSC could reopen the class before December when everything is more settled. She explained this all in a rush as she finished eating her hoagie, rolled the Wawa wrappers in a ball and threw it in the rubbish bin 3 meters away from her. She missed.

     Polsky, 56 was wearing a white-and-black shirt with flowers and neat black pants. She recalled that she used to look similar to the young Patty Hearst. When she was 20 and near the Ecuador border, she was captured by the local police who thought that she was Hearst who had been kidnapped by terrorists. Since she did not have an ID card or a passport, she had trouble explaining that she was not the kidnap victim.  She laughed and her brown eyes twinkled behind her grey glasses as she told the story.

     “I love my job, Polsky said. “I always come in with a smile and leave with a smile.  I may be tired but I will be happy.”

     At the NSC, Polsky is in charge of the English as the Second Language program for new immigrants and refugees. Although the non-profit world is tough with less money and long work hours, she has always enjoyed creating the “comfortable environment”. Continue reading