Last week, the seniors participating in this year’s John Near & Mitra Family Scholar Grant Program conducted salons via Zoom, during which they discussed the results of the months they spent researching topics of their choice. Salons were held over three days, with three students featured on each day, presenting for the community with their mentors present.
Sabrina Zhu, the first of the presenters, examined the columns of Atlanta Constitution editor Ralph McGill and how they served as examples of the new journalism movement that became prominent in the 1960s and 70s. An editor for the Winged Post, Zhu said she has been fascinated with the history of journalism and how it can be a catalyst for social change.
During his time as an AP Spanish student, Alex Lan studied Peru and wrote a review of a Peruvian restaurant as part of an assignment to research a Spanish-speaking country. He then became interested in Peru’s “gastronomic revolution” and how it contributed to greater cultural exchange and the country’s economic recovery after its 20-year civil war.
While ensconced at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Michelle Jin began watching the Korean TV drama “Crash Landing on You” and noticed that its two lead characters – one from South Korea and the other from North Korea – were speaking very different Korean dialects. This led her to explore how North Korea’s language reform campaign created differences in the language spoken in the two countries.
Sarah Fathima Mohammed’s original poetry about her experience as a Muslim spurred her to investigate the work of other Muslim poets and how their work was informed by their own identities. She then examined how Kenya-born poet Warsan Shire’s work spoke to the experience of Muslims in Nairobi, whose surveillance led to an internalized gaze that Mohammed compared to Foucault’s panopticon.
Another former AP Spanish student, Isha Moorjani, researched Argentina and Chile for her class assignment and became fascinated with how Indigenous languages impacted each country’s version of Spanish. In her talk, she explained how languages spoken by the Mapuche and Rapa Nui peoples influenced the Spanish spoken in modern Chile, as well as how their influence can be understood by examining the impact of Nahuatl on Mexican Spanish.
Stephen Xia started his story in the present day and worked backward to tell the story of housing activism in San Francisco’s Chinatown and Manilatown, starting with Chinese and Filipino immigration in the early 20th century. The focal point of his talk was the International Hotel, which was the subject of a large-scale protest in the 1960s when real estate corporations made plans to tear down the hotel, which would have displaced the building’s many elderly residents.
Mitra Scholar Emmett Chung explored the rise and fall of the die Republikaner party in Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall, which he became interested in following a family trip to Germany. Chung explained how the party made anti-immigration sentiment a central part of its platform and made an effort to bring far-right politics into the mainstream, following up with their lasting impact on German politics and immigration policy.
Having lived in Japan from ages 2-4, Rahul Mulpuri became fascinated with Japanese culture at an early age and began studying Japanese in middle school. He also became involved in debate, where he learned about critical theory and critiqued the myth of the model minority, which has become a well-traveled stereotype of Asian-Americans. This led him to combine his interests into a research project that how Japanese-Americans interned during World War II helped rejuvenate the traditional Japanese music tradition as well as reignite general interest in Japanese music worldwide.
The final presenter, Austina Xu, contrasted the works of Allen Ginsberg and T.S. Eliot, using Ginsberg’s “Howl” as an example of a poem that expressed many of the same post-WWII anxieties as Eliot while eschewing Eliot’s elitism. She discovered an interest in slam poetry in her sophomore year and also became fascinated with the counterculture movements of the mid-20th century. She then delved into how the poetry of the Beat Generation may have led to the founding of slam poetry or “poetry for the people.”
All of this year’s salons can be viewed at Harker’s Vimeo page.