ODMA Event “Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation Connects With Freshmen Despite Flaws

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One of the final events of orientation for freshmen this year was the “Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation” performance, an event meant to promote acceptance of all people no matter their identification sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (ODMA).  On Saturday, despite a rocky start and blurred messages, actress Toyin Moises’ performance was genuine and made the needed connection with the freshmen.

It began with a quick slide show to The Who’s “Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation” that attempted to draw parallels between the baby boomer generation and this generation.  This is where the blurred messages began.  I was confused on what the point of the parallel was since the performance was supposed to be about equality and acceptance.

My first guess was that it was because of the civil rights movement, but it was never mentioned again throughout the rest of the performance.

After the slide show ended Toyin Moises walked out and performed her first monologue about how racism and discrimination still exists today and then leaved the stage again for another slide show meant to set up the next section of the performance: Two Spirit.

The performance was split into seven sections meant to cover as many issues of discrimination as possible.

Most of the slide shows were confusing to the point where I was shaking my head wondering what all the pictures being shown meant.  Obviously, the slides shows were meant to suggest the themes and topics for the following monologue, but most of the time, it fell flat.

For example, the slide show for Two Spirit attempted to suggest the topics of transexuality and discrimination against Native Americans.  But instead it just shoved one slide with a protestor holding a sign about transsexuality after a picture of a Native American and that was it.

I think this flaw was because the performance attempted to include as many different people of different cultures, ethnicities, and identities as possible.  As a result, each slide show is not only about Latino women, for example, but about birth control and abortion as well.

It’s impossible to cover everything and the performance would have been more effective if it focused on seven distinct issues and made sure the message was still general.

Also, the event was boasted as a “multimedia performance.”  When I think of “multimedia,” I don’t think of a slide show that we see enough of in classrooms accompanied by a song.

When the slide show finally ended, Toyin Moises remerged on stage dressed in a Native American garb.  It was her first character.  She would do the same with five others: a black inner-city man, a Muslim woman, a Latino woman, an Asian woman, and an autistic woman.  Each character was meant to portray many different people dealing with similar issues of discrimination or racism.

Most of the characters were well portrayed, but with little to no accent and nothing to differentiate between the two other than the clothing.  Speaking of clothing, the one I had the most trouble with was the autistic woman.

Not only did she frame her monologue in the style of an autistic person, but she came out in mismatched clothes, like the stereotype of an autistic person or other intellectually disabled people.

The effort and performance, of course, are genuine.  It was meant to divert people from framing people by stereotypes, but it still doesn’t change the fact that it was not tasteful.

For a show that prided itself on pushing forward the concept of people, no matter who they are, having their own, distinct voice, I was surprised that all six voices were played by the same person via new clothing and subtle change in accent.

Despite all these criticisms though, it didn’t change the fact that after the performance ended, many freshmen raised their hands and complimented the actress and expressed joy in its message.  It was obvious that the message still stuck.

“My friends,” Toyin Moises said to everyone at the end. “All I ask is make one affirmation in life.  I will accept everyone that is not me.”

I think many freshmen still left taking that message to heart by the end of the performance.