MLC presented “Lanterns,” a storytelling showcase, on Thursday, February 15, 2018 in Alumni Hall.
Seven international students shared stories of their own heritage as well as of their experiences at Vanderbilt. They vulnerably discussed instances of isolation, pondered the adjustments in their lives and conveyed their understandings of “home.”
“I realized that on a spectrum of American to Indian, I always thought I leaned toward the American side,” said Megala Loganathan. “Coming to the US, I realized that I knew next to nothing about this culture that I always thought I might identify with and my Indian identity was extremely prominent.”
In her story, Loganathan shared the difficulty of balancing identity.
“I feel more than just a physical distance with things that were so intrinsically tied to who I was and wonder how much of myself I’ve lost to make space for who I’ve become since coming here.”
Sophomore Emre Kanli described his experience moving from Istanbul, Turkey to Nashville and explained the challenges of answering questions about his background.
“The reason is that for most of these questions I don’t know the answer yet, nor do I know if I will ever know the answer.”
“One of these questions is if people should visit Turkey,” he continued. “And I always wanna say yes, as I said it has an amazing heritage. But that’s not the correct answer, unfortunately not right now, and it feels hard and wrong to say no as well.”
In addition to these candid insights, the showcase featured very relevant guest performances in the forms of spoken word and music.
Lackhoney, student producer and rapper, shared an emotional poem that discussed terrorism, the danger of stereotypes and the significance of empathy.
Melanated A Capella, which champions inclusivity within Vanderbilt’s a capella community, demonstrated their talent and addressed institutional racism and police brutality through the lyrics of their performance.
Junior Liuting Wang played songs on the Chinese guqin.
“Guqin, one of the most ancient instruments in China, is also called ‘the instrument of the sages’ because of its association with Chinese philosopher Confucious,” said Wang.
“It's a plucked seven-stringed instrument that can display exquisite emotions. Two Songs that I played at Lanterns were called ‘The Sadness of Concubine Xiang’ and ‘Wild Geese Over the Clam Sands.’ They showed subtle yet strong emotions of a woman longing for her husband and a man aspiring to save his country. Although I do not have personal experiences with these emotions, combining with my understanding of Chinese history, I was able to present my love for these two songs through my play.”
The storytellers at the showcase themselves similarly expressed positivity about their involvement in the showcase.
“One of my favorite parts about my story in Lanterns, and all the other stories shared as well, was watching the audience react to certain things,” said first-year Josh Albert Miller from the Philippines. “Many of the things we all said are very intimate and personal and having only ever said these things to one another before, we did not know what to expect from so many other people who may not even personally know us. It was quite a sight to see some people so fixated on a speaker, nodding their head and listening with such intent.”
“Telling the story was a challenge but having gone through it, I definitely think the experience empowered me,” said Kanli. “I feel more in sync with who I am and also seeing all the people that came to support us and all my friends being there for me.... I'll conclude by saying I believe in a better future.”