All posts by Shelly Hacco

Looking For More Ways to Get Involved on Campus? Join Student Clubs!

By Alyssa Delarosa

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

During my final semester here at USC (and as an undergraduate) I did a considerable amount of reflection on my time at USC. In that reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that carrying over my student club and organization involvement from my time at community college to USC resulted in a time of new growth, relationships, learning, and experience. Even amidst a virtual learning experience, I was able to keep pursuing my goals and forge new connections through involvement and leadership.

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

A community college is a two-year college where students complete their general education and lower division courses. Students have many options available to them as to where they can obtain an associates degree (two-year lower division degree), professional certificate, or other certification. Or, they can choose to transfer from their community college to a university – which was what I did in 2020. This was during the onset of Covid-19, which greatly impacted my educational experience.

Before the pandemic, I was determined to be involved as much as possible on my community college campus. I joined and led several clubs and student organizations, as well as joining a newly founded faculty committee on civic engagement. In this club, I was able to develop an internship program for student advocates. When the pandemic hit, it was during my last semester at my community college. I remember how faculty were unsure of the future of student clubs and organizations on campus continuing due to the pandemic, yet I was able to continue my involvement in these clubs remotely. I was even able to adjust my proposal for the student advocate internship program to a remote format accordingly. Though I have long been graduated from my community college, I continue to mentor students and work with faculty through this program.

Continue reading Looking For More Ways to Get Involved on Campus? Join Student Clubs!

Handpulled Noodles: A Taste of Home

By Cassandra Liu

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

After every hard day, depressing event, or stressful moment, the first meal I turn to is one that has been passed down to me through many generations of my family. It is our family’s version of a classic Chinese noodle dish – handpulled noodles. We call it Lā Miàn, which literally translates to “pull noodles” in English. Paired with a vinegary, spicy dressing sauce, this dish is something that never fails to bring me comfort and even a sprinkle of happiness. 

Handmade noodles have an incredibly long and rich history. The oldest known origin of the noodles was traced to an area in Northwestern China and its recipe has diverged into countless variations with differing ingredients, noodle width length, and ways of making the noodles. This is how my family makes it:

Photo by Sarah Boyle on Unsplash

My family uses a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. We begin by adding water to flour with a ratio of 1 water to 2 flour. Then, add a pinch of salt to the mixture and knead until a rough dough is formed. Cover the mixture with either a damp towel or cling wrap and let the mixture rest for around 10 to 15 minutes so that the dough is more workable. After that short period of time, continue kneading the dough until it is smooth, which might take around 2 minutes. Be sure to not overwork the dough, or else the gluten will develop and the noodles will become too tough. After the dough is smooth, divide it into two pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll them out into a rectangle shape with about a 0.5 inch thickness. Coat a plate in oil, coat both sides of the rectangle dough in oil, and place the dough on the oiled plate. Cover the plate in cling wrap and let it rest at room temperature for an hour and a half.

Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

Next, bring a pot of water to a boil. While the water is boiling, remove the dough from the oiled plate and cut the dough into 0.5 inch strips. Grab a strip and gently pull the ends in opposite directions. While pulling the strips apart, gently move your arms up and down and let the dough bounce against the tabletop, which helps the dough stretch out even more to your desired length. Drop the noodles into the boiling water and cook the noodles for 2 minutes, until the noodles are chewy and cooked through. Drizzle some sesame oil over the noodles to prevent them from sticking together while preparing the sauce. 

To make the sauce, mince garlic, ginger, and scallions. Place the chopped vegetables over the noodles along with some red pepper flakes. Heat up some neutral oil in a pan and pour over the chopped vegetables. Listen to and savor the sound as the hot oil fries the garnish. Add soy sauce and black vinegar to taste and enjoy!

Photo by No Revisions on Unsplash

Summer or winter, rain or shine, this dish is something that my family eats at least once every two weeks. Pair it with some boiled vegetables, and you have yourself a hearty and delicious meal! Whenever I’m feeling homesick, I come back to these noodles and I’m immediately taken right back to my family. 

Featured Image by Önder Örtel on Unsplash

Cassandra is a recent graduate who studied Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She grew up in the Bay Area and speaks Mandarin fluently, a language she uses to interact with her parents and grandparents. On campus, she was involved in Trojan Shelter, Wazo Connect, and worked as a research assistant in the Brain and Music Lab at the USC Brain and Creativity Institute, among other things. In her free time, Cassandra enjoys cooking, playing music with her friends, and exploring the best food places in LA.

Depicting Race Without Racism: The Disconnect Between My Home Country and Disney’s “Encanto”

By Glenda Palacios Quejada

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[5 minute read]

As a Black woman from Colombia who recently moved to the United States, I was excited when I first heard that Disney would be releasing Encanto, a movie taking place in Colombia. Studying in the U.S., so far from of my country and my language has produced a strong sense of loneliness in me, not only because I cannot frequent the usual places and people I am accustomed to, but also because I feel that I am losing my voice and identity as I try to become immersed in a white-English predominant place. So, to me, Encanto seemed to be the perfect way to reconnect with my country, and to remind myself of home even if just through a screen. Additionally, this movie gave me the opportunity to share this experience with other Latinx students, as I went to the movie theater with a group of women who I have befriended in graduate school.

Photo by Krists Luhaers on Unsplash

The film began by introducing the hostile imagery of a Colombian family who became victim of armed conflict. Through this you could see the painful representations that are repeated throughout Colombian political history, such as images of women with children in their arms who see their spouses killed as a consequence of the war, or images of entire families who carry their most valuable belongings on their shoulders as they walk the long journey from their home territory to a safe place. Right away, I was impressed that Disney chose to confront this subject matter in a direct way.

Only ten minutes had elapsed before the film began to confuse different geographical, cultural, and historical aspects of Colombian tradition. Among the mountains with coffee plants, tall and leafy palm trees loomed which normally would not be found in these mountainous regions. At community festivals, in a place that seemed to be located in the Andean part of the country, Salsa music prevailed instead of carranga and guasca[1] music; and in exchange for the guitar, a White man played the marimba[2]. The rural people of the Andean zone, instead of wearing a ruanacarriel, and machete, wore summer clothes and sombrero vueltiao. The most shocking inaccuracy was the multiculturalism that the film tried to portray. There was a harmonious multicultural coexistence among the characters in the movie that erased the systemic racial violence that Black people who grew up in the Colombian Andean region, a white-predominant place, are used to. Consequently, I felt frustrated that Disney tried to portray a world with race without racism; it misrepresented and erased tangible and visible racial tensions that constantly subjected Black people to traumatic and painful experiences. Particularly, that magical world denied and hid more than 200 years of slavery and its permanent effects on the modern Colombian society.

Photo by Niels van Altena on Unsplash

The film had three opportunities to accurately represent situations related to racism in the mountainous areas of Colombia, especially with their three main characters–Matrona Madrigal, Maribel, and Bruno. Firstly, it described the dysfunction that the Madrigal family experienced as the female head of household was deemed as an authoritarian presence. She reminded me of the paisa women I used to see every morning on my way to school. They gathered in the main park drinking coffee after leaving church to lament and criticize the students who got pregnant, the wives who separated from their “brilliant husbands”, or those women who were seen participating in “immoral” sexual acts. Matrona Madrigal also reminded me of those paisa grandmothers who reject their darkest skin grandchildren. These women silence them, deny them gifts, and subject them to accusations and punishments in front of their lighter skin cousins ​​or siblings. Right there, the film had the possibility of enunciating how in white-rural contexts, girls with magic like Mirabel lose their strength due to the internalization of racism and their darker skin tones. This rhetoric makes children like Mirabel believe negative stories about their body, hair, color, and ancestry. Secondly, the film could problematize the role of the uncle who lived hidden. He reminded me of the homosexual rural men who are expelled from their homes because they do not follow the heteronormative and imposed ways of feeling for and loving others. The men like Mirabel’s uncle, despite being excluded, stay in these spaces because the paisa culture, religion and customs comprise a fundamental part of their lives that they are not willing to give up. Thirdly, in the representation of magic, the movie did not highlight how Black and Indigenous communities are stereotyped as witches, sorcerers, and children of the devil in these Andean geographies. The movie had no conflicts with these racist ways of classifying spiritual and ancient ways that are not seen as the norm. 

I left the film feeling extremely uncomfortable because I realized that this successful film inaccurately decontextualized race to play into the politically correct idealized world which Disney wishes to portray. This not only ignored long-standing and tangible problems but also recreated them as positive. Another dangerous aspect of these animated films is that they superficially make us believe that they have no impact on the construction of stereotypes, racial prejudices, or other types of bias. But it is quite the opposite. From my experience, this type of film contributes to the discourse of hiding and covering up the existence of racism and racial discrimination, which leads to null or ineffective measures against this structural problem.

Photo by Zan on Unsplash
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