“The Soviet Union through Jewish Eyes,” public event commentary, Nikolaos Paramyhtiotis

The lecture ‘The Soviet Union through Jewish Eyes” conducted on the 20th of February 2020 provided me a truly interesting insight into the Jewish prosecutions within the Soviet Union and the power that photography possesses to distort reality. A major focus of the lecture was the unknown, relatively to the Holocaust, genocide that took place within the borders of the Soviet Union, whose victims were the Soviet Jews. This was interestingly connected to an analysis of the power of photography to form public opinion.

The lecturer brought as an example the posting of images portraying dead Soviet soldiers and grieving women in the newspapers in order to shift public opinion away from the atrocities happening against their Jewish neighbors, calling the Soviet people to focus their hatred on the Nazis that were killing their compatriots. Another example had to do with the publicly distributed images of the Soviet victory in the Battle of Berlin, that brought World War II to an end. In this instance, the most suitable image taken had to be processed, as it also included a Soviet soldier visibly wearing two watches in his hand. This proved that he had engaged in looting activities and at least one of the watches was in his possession as a result of that, something that did not fit the narrative of the Soviet government about the integrity and honesty of all its soldiers. Overall, it was an amazing lecture that helped me develop a fuller understanding of the factors often hiding behind photography, because of its power to shape public opinion.    

“Yamato: the drummers of Japan” Campus Event Commentary, Nikolaos Paramythiotis

A truly unique performance that I was fortunate enough to attend this semester was by Yamato: the drummers of Japan, on the 22nd of February 2020. The excellent technical ability and unbelievable sense of rhythm of the Japanese drummers became apparent from the moment they stepped on stage and truly left the audience stunned in its entirety. What was even more entertaining was their effort to mingle this traditional art form that they were performing with well-worked elements of farcical comedy, that indeed caused great laughter among the audience. Their ability to flawlessly combine the sound of the drum each of them was playing at the moment into creating a sense of perfect harmony, despite the great noise characterizing the whole performance was really amazing. It was a truly magical performance that let the viewer loose to travel with the sound of their drums and provoked his or her imagination. What is truly amazing, is how this performance essentially managed to draw elements from their country’s ancient tradition and transformed it into something universally appealing that allows them to share their cultural heritage with the entirety of the globe.   

Bryan Stevenson Lecture Commentary – Lydia Catterall

I found it impactful that Stevenson did not sugarcoat the issues around which his speech centered, such as explicitly telling the crowd that people of color will have a harder life than white people. I think one of the persistent problems in this country is white people thinking that issues surrounding racism have been solved. Stevenson seemed to target this perception in his speech. All his stories clearly demonstrated the remaining racism in the United States, and the wide range of situations he spoke of show how far the reach of racism extends. At one point Stevenson told the crowd that the Civil Rights Movement is over-celebrated, which was a call to recognize the reality we live in and how it still needs to change. Following the hard truth of his stories, Stevenson urged the crowd to have hope. I felt very much called to action by the end of the speech, with Stevenson’s message that so much needs to improve, but there is hope that this change can happen.