The Bobcat family is one that transcends borders, bans, and efforts to intimidate. On Saturday, April 15 Bobcats from all walks of life bared their flags and their souls as they marched down Court Street during the International street fair and parade. The street fair marked the culmination of International Week or OHIOIWEEK17, a week long celebration of international students at Ohio University.
Despite a group having an “Open Carry/Firearm Education Walk” on the same day which drove fear into the minds of many international students, students, faculty and staff, both international and domestic, came out in their numbers, proving that they will not be intimidated.
The street fair began with a parade of students carrying the flags of the countries they are from from the ISFS office to the College Gate where a stage was set up and attendees were treated to performances from all over the world. Walking along court street, people were also able to get a glimpse of many cultures and try international food and drinks.
The highlights of the event were captured and compiled in this short video:
The street fair was the last of a week of activities which included a kick off event and sticking of the flags on the College Green, film screenings, panels and other social events. However, one of the highlights of the week was the keynote speech by Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a female Muslim basketball player who has been advocating for the right of Muslim women to be able to wear hijabs and play basketball. Listen to an audio recording of Abdul-Qaadir’s speech here:
OHIOIWEEK17 was a collaborative effort between the International Students Union (ISU) and International Student and Faculty Services (ISFS). The staff, graduate assistants and student workers of these organizations, along with many volunteers, worked assiduously to make the week a success. Hear from some of the people who made it all possible here:
The Chinese community living in Athens, Ohio reacted with pessimism after the election victory of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. They expressed concern that the Republican President-elect will take a tough approach towards immigrants after taking office.
“I am not a religious person but today I want to visit a random church and pray,” a Chinese stay-at-home mom living in Athens wrote Wednesday on WeChat, a Chinese social media platform, a day after Trump’s win. “I pray I was wrong about Donald Trump. It is the first time in my life I wish I was so wrong.”
The 36-year-old green card holder asked to keep her Chinese name anonymous. She said she hopes Trump, as a shrewd and pragmatic businessman, will abandon hatred after taking the White House.
“With such a president who is not careful about what he says, what worries me the most is an increasing hostility against immigrants and minorities, especially in schools,” the mom of a three-year-old child said.
President-elect Trump, 70, according to The New York Times is “a real estate developer-turned-reality television star with no government experience.” His positions on immigrants include building a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico to stop illegal immigrants and tightening H-1B visas issued to low-skilled foreign workers. Trump will take office on January 20, 2017.
Current students studying in America worry about their futures
For Chinese students who wish to stay and work in America after graduation, Trump’s election win poses extra challenges.
Xiaoyu Wu is a second-year doctoral student in the School of Media Arts and Studies at Ohio University in Athens. She plans to find a job in America after graduation but now feels disappointed with the election outcome.
“Trump’s victory probably won’t influence me that much because I am legal and Trump is against illegal immigrants,” Wu said. “The biggest problem is many American people may misinterpret what Trump said during his election campaign and target all immigrants.”
“It could foster an unfriendly environment against foreigners in the long run, decreasing job opportunities provided to them,” Wu said.
“Anyway, as a foreigner I am disappointed with the result,” Wu continued. “America is supposed to be the most advanced and tolerant country in the world.”
“I probably will rethink about my future. I will have a much better life in my home country,” Wu said.
Prospective students thinking about coming to America won’t step back
Regarding concerns that Trump’s election win may disrupt the study plans of international students who are thinking about coming to America, most of the prospective students in China say they will not step back. According to an online survey among 84 respondents posted by the author on bbs.gter.net, a Chinese study abroad website, 60.71% said Trump’s victory will not influence their study plans.
“I won’t change my plan,” Zhiqiang Sun, a college student at University of International Business and Economics in Beijing said. Sun plans to start his master’s program in America in fall 2017.
“It’s like when we enter a bear market, will investors stop buying stocks?” Sun said. “Trump’s victory may affect us indirectly, but I believe the influence on individuals is not that big.”
China is the biggest spring of international students in the United States. In the 2015-16 academic year, 328,547 Chinese students were studying in America, increasing 8.1% from the previous year, according to the Institute of International Education.
Chinese people react to Trump’s victory with memes
Compared to Chinese people living or planning to study in America, people back in China reacted less seriously to Trump’s victory. Some of the Chinese social media users joked that they are the “chi gua qun zhong” (watermelon eaters, a joking expression referring to a group of onlookers who witness a sensational event), paying close attention to the unusual chaotic election.
Meanwhile, hilarious memes about the President-elect started to float on Chinese social media.
Goodbye fall semester 2014. Along with your crisp air and changing leaves, you brought the feeling of freshness, of excitement, of keenness. The town seemed to burst with crisp, bright freshmen faces like the colors of autumn. These “Bobkittens” were also changing, starting a journey that will change them forever.
The journey for these “newbies” may have started at the back of a long line at one of the dining halls. And it probably continued during the search for an open table through the seven floors of Alden library, a nearly impossible feat. The presence of construction workers was the norm around town. They were hastily building new residence halls to house the largest incoming class in the history of Ohio University. The city of Athens was swarming with youth. But now, as most students head home for the holidays, who will occupy the streets? Actually, just one street in particular. The street that might be described as the heart and soul of Athens. A street full of red bricks and rich history. A street that supports the feet of diverse demographics and cultures. The one and only Court Street.
Those born and raised in this Appalachian town surely will take advantage of the emptiness winter break brings. Many “townies” appreciate the chance to get a seat at the bar. But others who call Athens home don’t necessary look forward to the empty streets. One man in particular is 72-year-old Don Canterbury. Decades older than those Bobkittens, Canterbury’s journey through life has lead him to unexpected relationships, unbelievable experiences, and great admiration through an unorthodox talent!
Canterbury often is found in the same seat at the end of the bar at The Pub, sipping a Sprite or black coffee (specially brewed for him) and watching whatever football game is on TV. The Pub is his spot. For Canterbury, early days turn into late nights at the place where everyone knows his name. A plump, white-haired senior citizen with blue eyes and a gentle smile isn’t the typical customer one would expect to see at a bar on Court.
Many elderly folk wouldn’t feel comfortable surrounded by youth. Not Canterbury. “You all keep me feeling young,” he laughed. But hanging out with the other regulars ends around 10 p.m. when Canterbury gets the itch to play.
“It’s called a djembe (pronounced jem-bay),” Canterbury explained. “These drums are handmade, made of mahogany and goatskin.” Djembe’s are rope-tuned, skin-covered goblet drums played with bare hands. “Some people ask if they can play my congo or bongo,” Canterbury said. “Many people have never heard of djembes.”
When it’s time to venture out for the night, Canterbury gathers his djembe from a cozy spot atop a dish cabinet at The Pub and searches for a venue along Court to perform for passersby. One normally can find Canterbury on the bench next to Subway or the ledge outside of Pawpurr’s bar. But simply following the sounds of Canterbury’s djembe will lead you to his whereabouts.
“I was a little surprised when I first saw this older guy playing an African drum so confidently outside my door. But then again, it’s Athens. You never know what your going to see. It’s funny though. I can hear him from the fourth floor when I open my window at night,” Lindsey Jerina said. Jerina lives on Court Street and said she expects to see or hear him every weekend.
The sound escaping the drum is loud, rich, and an unexpected musical treat as this music is native to Ghana, a country about 6,000 miles away.
“My old neighbor, Dr. Paschal Younge, teaches African drumming here at Ohio University. He gave me a free ticket to see the OU African Ensemble perform for Mom’s Weekend at the Memorial Auditorium a couple years ago,” Canterbury said. He explained that Dr. Younge invited him to attend practices regularly, and that’s how he learned to play. They are now great friends.
“I used to play in a band in high school. I played the snare drum and guitar. But I can’t read music,” Canterbury says. “You don’t need to know how to read music to play the djembe. I learned from Dr. Younge that it’s all about the rhythm and the sound and listening to the other drummers.” Dr. Younge and his wife, Dr. Zelma Badu-Younge, travel to Ghana every summer. They visit different tribes and learn the traditional style of drumming, and eventually spread their knowledge to their students. “Dr. Younge gave me my djembe for a birthday present,” Canterbury said. “It’s one of my most prized possessions.”
“My wife and I would give Don tickets to all of the performances, and in exchange he would help us cook for the students. He was very interested so I started teaching him how to play. I gave him one of my djembes to practice with,” Dr. Younge said. “We had a lot of fun playing and performing together during those times. Then we found out we were going to have to move. Don was upset. I remember him coming to the house, carrying the djembe with tears in his eyes. I told him to keep it,” said Dr. Young. “Don is a good man. He’s down to earth and enjoys life.” Dr. Younge plans to surprise Canterbury one night while he’s performing on Court Street.
Canterbury chooses to play the djembe for primarily college-age American students. The instrument dates to around 1230 AD and is considered sacred to many West African tribes. Considering his audience, it’s not always an easy crowd. Many students running around Court Street on a Friday or Saturday night are looking to get drunk rather than listen to an African drum. But Canterbury does find fans on Court Street. “A lot of the international students are drawn to my music, especially Africans and Saudi Arabians,” he said. “It’s funny. People pay thousands of dollars to go to Africa, and here in Athens, Ohio, Africans come to me!”
One international student in particular has shown an interest in Canterbury’s hobby. Maurice Ndour, well known for being on OU’s basketball team, often shares the spotlight with Canterbury. Ndour is from Senegal and grew up playing an African drum similar to Canterbury’s. If he’s not resting up for game day, there’s a chance you can find him next to Canterbury on Court.
“I handed Maurice my djembe one night and he started to play,” Canterbury said. “The next night he came back with his drum! We normally play his style. He’ll say, “try this,” and I’ll keep the beat going and he’ll play a more difficult part. His style of beating is interesting, like sometimes he just uses his fingers instead of his entire hand.”
Canterbury’s interaction with Ndour is a perfect example of the diversity this college town fosters. Two men from different sides of the world are united on Court Street in Athens, Ohio, through their passion for music. Suddenly age, race, and background are forgotten, and the pure sound of an instrument allows that to happen.
“Don just has a big heart. He embraces African culture through the teachings of a professor here,” Ndour said. “His curiosity made him fall in love with the djembe, and since the day he was introduced, he couldn’t put it down. I think he just wants to play and let people hear good music. Sometimes you have to let music speak to people, and the djembe is a very special instrument that catches the attention of people with a mix of different sounds. Don loves to be out there, meeting people, having fun, and playing from his soul.”
Canterbury doesn’t take his life in Athens for granted. He feels grateful for the opportunity to learn, experience and potentially inspire others. “People in life, they’re always in a hurry,” Canterbury said. “If someone stops for just a minute to hear the music, it’s worth it to me.”
Katie Derr is a senior broadcast journalism student at Ohio University. She currently produces a student-run entertainment talk show, called Straight Up and works as a bartender at Buffalo Wild Wings and The Pub in Athens, Ohio. Her interests include golf, documentary films, and cooking.
Homecoming is one of those annual celebrations by Ohio University to welcome back alumni. It is by far the biggest social event at OU with thousands of attendees, including alumni, current students, friends and families. From a football game to countless fun competitions, a parade to a band performance, and award-giving gatherings to massive rallies, Homecoming exhibits enthusiasm, cooperation, inspiration and pride in the Bobcat community.
Perhaps, the meaning of this event can be summarized into this wonderful saying, “Like branches on a tree, our lives may grow in different directions yet our roots remain in Athens, Ohio.”
The video below captures beautiful scenes during Homecoming Weekend on OU’s iconic Court Street and other parts of the campus. Enjoy.
It is almost impossible to ignore how important Court Street is at Ohio University. While just a downtown area to a lot of people, Court Street is so much more to Ohio University students in general. Not only is it a central place for them to mix, meet, eat and shop, but it is also very culturally rich and probably deserves to be called a third home for most students after their apartments and classes.
Among more than 22,000 students at Ohio University, around 10% are a diverse group of people from outside the United States, and these people have interesting encounters with Court Street when coming to live in Athens and study at Ohio University. Whether it is a surprise, a satisfaction or a disappointment, it is definitely worth telling the story of Court Street from the perceptions of international students.
While acknowledging positivity of Court Street, a graduate student from Ghana, Henry Boachi, views it as a bit too American-oriented, culturally speaking. All kinds of social and educational events and activities occur at Court Street – which is convenient and highly symbolic for a street – but the majority of them are primarily tailored to American culture and way of life.
“I find it boring sometimes. Other than international events such as International Street Fair and International Week, I don’t particularly get excited about anything else,” explained Boachi. This is not to say he is anti-American culture; he does appreciate the opportunity to dive deep into American culture that Court Street delivers. He laughed and made a final comment, “I came here to also learn about America, anyway.”
Boachi makes a good point for many international students. Athens is a small college town with local culture at peak, so it is sometimes hard for international students to have a sense of belonging. Court Street has yet to be diverse enough to accommodate everyone, culture-wise.
Talking about a small town, a graduate student from Kualar Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, has a lot of nice things to say about Court Street as a central location. Wailing Fong points out the uniqueness of the small town and that there is a high chance for everyone in the community to meet each other. “I like this communal feeling that I get whenever I am on the street, and this is something we probably don’t get in a big city,” noted Fong.
Communal feeling is definitely a key advantage of a small town. Since the population is small, the town residents tend to know each other well, and Court Street does play an important role in bringing everyone in the community together. As Fong notes, the idea that there is a high chance to meet a friend, an acquaintance or even a familiar face makes Court Street a very attractive place to spend time.
“Court Street is like a giant coffee shop in your neighborhood,” added Majd Mariam, a graduate student from Syria. Of course, people go to a café because they want to get fed, get some work done, and also get to meet people they know. On this note, Court Street has just about the same characteristics as a coffee shop, and communal feeling is what makes it special.
Fong praises Court Street for its convenience. As the heart of downtown Athens with a number of small shops, banks, offices, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, clubs and a movie theatre, Court Street is also home to all kinds of important events that take place at Ohio University throughout the year, and is the lively place until late at night. For a lot of students, it is one-stop for everything.
She explains that students, especially those who just migrate to Athens not knowing much about the town, can pretty much get all the basic needs and amenities there. It’s just several blocks from classrooms, and it is certainly convenient for an international student like her who doesn’t have a car. Having said that, basic is not enough, and some other students still indicate things Court Street could offer beyond what it already does.
Leakhena Sreng and Sophyrum Heng, both from Cambodia, desperately hope that a functioning grocery store comes to Court Street. They like to cook, and every time they need to pick up fresh vegetables, meat and other cooking ingredients, they have to travel to Kroger and Walmart, which is around 15 minutes on a bus or a taxi. They complained, “It’s really tiring and time-consuming for us to go grocery shopping at stores this far from campus, not having a car.”
For local and international students who have been living in Athens for a long while, Court Street means more than just convenience. It’s a place full of meaningful memories. Samantha Rommel, an American junior at Ohio University, stresses that she generally feels pretty happy when she thinks about Court Street. It has so many of her favorite places like Donkey Coffee, Fluff Bakery, and Brenen’s – where she had her first date with her boyfriend. There is so much going on along that street, and she loves it during the holidays especially because it’s beautifully lit up with lights and decorations.
To Rommel, Court Street is particularly special to Ohio University because it’s such a central location for students. It bridges the gap between campus and the community, so much so that sometimes it feels like they are one and the same. She said, “To me, Court Street is a signature feature of OU and Athens. I can’t imagine Ohio University without Court Street.”
Associating Court Street to Ohio University is such an obvious notion. After all, one end of Court Street is directly linked to Baker Center, the heart of student life at OU and home of the multicultural center. Further, the whole street is paved with bricks, which are sort of a distinguishing characteristic of the school. In fact, a number of students have made stealing bricks as souvenirs before graduating a tradition at OU.
Personally, I am an international student who has lived in Athens for a little more than a year, and I definitely understand why different students, either national or international, have deep feelings for Court Street. Their experiences with it vary, depending on their backgrounds, but what I am sure they would agree on is the fact that Court Street is every bit an icon of Ohio University and the city of Athens.