Reflection and Gratitude: A Haverford House Holiday Update from TJ von Oehsen '18
Each month we'll hear from a Haverford House Fellow about their work, house activities, and independent projects that connect the Haverford College community with Philadelphia. Keep up with Haverford House events and more at @haverfordhouse! Seniors - apply to be a 2019-2020 Fellow here by Feb. 3rd.
The holiday season was a busy one for us at the house as we sought to host events and celebrate the end of the first half of our Fellowship year together before all heading out for a little time off before the beginning of 2019.
Almost no better example of these efforts was seen on the very first day of December when Smmo and Claire hosted an event called Decolonizing Dinner, a post-Thanksgiving potluck + reflection on the historic effects of colonization on Indigenous people. The event sought to bring to light the ongoing effects of colonization on Indigenous people through a consideration of how colonizing culture manifests in our lives, and how we can address and confront this culture as we work towards deconstructing it. The event was very well attended, the conversation was fruitful and urged us to continue thinking well past the night, and everyone’s contributions to the potluck were delicious. To see a list of some of the resources Smmo and Claire compiled for the evening and for continued knowledge building moving forward check out this doc.
The very next day, Haverford House collaborated with fellow Haverford class of 2018 member, friend, and founder of Beyond the Bell Tours Rebecca Fisher, for Stories of West Philly, a collaborative walking tour of our neighborhood. The tour combined Rebecca’s knowledge of West Philadelphia’s evolution historically with opportunities for everyone on the tour to share their own personal histories and stories.
Three of us followed up this busy week of engaging with the histories of our local neighborhood by attending the premiere of Precious Places, a regional community history project revealing neighborhood sites as bright landmarks that surprise and inspire residents and visitors alike through documentaries made by those who know the places the best. In total, we watched nine short documentaries that focused on Atkinson Memorial Hospital in Hayti/Coatesville, Bethel Burying Ground in Southwark/Queen Village, the Chinese Cultural Center in Chinatown, Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia, Monument Cemetery in North Philadelphia, Painted Bride Art Center in Old City, Paul Robeson House in West Philadelphia, St. Peter Claver Church in Washington Square West/Center City, and YWCA/YES Center in Chester. They were all nothing short of moving in their efforts to show the gravity of so many of the spaces that comprise Philadelphia as a greater region and that we should be working hard to preserve for the people who call them home.
Later in the month, we went to Haverford to provide information to prospective applicants for next year’s Haverford House cohort! Before heading out on our respective breaks, we also came together for a Secret Snowflake gift exchange amongst the house. Shout out to Claire who made me some beautiful earrings! I left for break feeling ever so grateful for all of the ways that I feel supported and loved by the people with whom I share this wonderful home. So excited to have another half a year left with everyone, and can not wait to see what 2019 brings!
Here are a few words from everyone about their December breaks:
Callie: During my time off, I enjoyed lots of hikes in the Texas Hill Country, soaking up warmer weather and sunny blue skies. I also braved baking a Christmas log cake for my family's holiday party!
Claire: I went home and had a lovely time relaxing and catching up with old friends!
Jason: I had a fun time lounging on my comfy couch, eating delicious foods, and going to see the big Christmas tree in New York!
Sabea: Over the break I spent time city-hopping with my partner in Europe. We visited 7 cities via plane and train, spending a few days in each city. We listened to live Afro-Cuban Jazz in Barcelona, ate Dutch pancakes and went to a storytelling open mic in Amsterdam, learned how to make homemade pasta and tiramasu in Florence, ate a baguette at the Eiffel Tower, and certainly should have made wishes for the safety of our credit scores when we visited the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
Smmo: This break I got to restore my relationship with the mountains while visiting my family back in Denver. There's nothing like spending down time with loved ones and ours proved to be a much needed respite!
TJ: The first half of my break I got to spend some wonderful time with my brothers, mom and dad, and the second half of my break was filled to the brim as I tried to see as many friends as I could before ringing in the new year and heading back to Haverford House. It was wonderful to see people that I hadn’t seen since graduation, and everything fell into beautiful sequence.
Additionally, I’d like to take a minute to make everyone aware that a dear friend of our house suffered a stroke earlier this week and we are trying our best to help raise money for his medical bills. If you have the means, please consider helping a wonderful person who has dedicated his life to wide scale social justice reform and is in need of the world returning the favor!
- TJ von Oehsen '18, Fellow at Education Law Center