“Born Obviously Incredible”

MCC- Mediated voices of “The BOI Doc” by Wayne Michaelson

I. Preface

For this assignment, we chose to listen to UCSB’s Multicultural Center, also known as the MCC. The MCC is a perfect location for this assignment because there are a multitude mediated voices that converge in this institution. The MCC is a space where critical conversations take place in addition to being a place to study, hold meetings, and have social events. In fact, if you haven’t checked or participated in any of the MCC events, you might be missing out on various scholarly programs, performances, art shows, and facilitated discussions that enhance our awareness and inclusivity of all people. This is a space of dignity, equality, and inclusivity, where years of scholarship and empowerment of marginalized communities is the base principle. 

For our first visit, we wanted to highlight the Multicultural Center’s “Cup of Culture” series. This event series features various speakers, performances, art shows, films and facilitated discussions that tackle the distinct struggles for validation and valuing of minoritized voices from numerous cultures. During our visit, there was a poetry reading and film screening called “Cup of Culture: THE BOI DOC” which was hosted by Evolve Benton. During the event we listened to poems from Evolve’s poetry collection “SIR”- poetry dedicated to Boihood and Black Queer Love. We also watched their film “THE BOI DOC.” THE BOI DOC is film that focused on shared narratives about gender and gender expression through the Masculine and Masculine of Center queer voice of the people of the African diaspora to the world.

Our second visit to the Multicultural Center was in the afternoon when there were no events taking place. During this time of day, it was fairly quiet, and the voices and sounds we heard the day before were contrasted with the silence in the building. Due to the absence of the dominating human voice, me and my partner were inclined to notice non-traditional voices that affect this institution. We noticed the astounding artworks on the walls which are the representational manifestation of the voices that once converged in these walls. We also listened to the voices of the machines and facilities that allowed the stories of marginalized communities to be heard. The state-of-the-art technology and facilities that the Multicultural Center offers, is a great privilege to have however, getting once voices heard in institutions like this is a right not a privilege. Through this paper, we are trying to expose my audience to an institution that recognizes the value of diversity and inclusion.

II. Observations

February 19, 2020 (6:00-8:00 PM) and February 20, 2020 (1:00-1:30 PM): Multicultural Center

While waiting for my partner Avital to arrive, I sat down in one of the couches by the theater entrance, and began to listen to the loud voices of ushers offering free food and welcoming viewers. The sound of “free food” is just music to my ears. I instantly thought that the first voices that you hear coming into a facility can affect your experience that whole night greatly. In that case, the energetic and welcoming voices of the ushers are already welcoming people with warmth and comfort. 

As we entered the theater, after Avital arrived, we were met with various distinct voices. I can clearly remember the musicalized voice of classical music controlling the mood of the room. Before, the event formally started, the room had a very calm and light hearted vibe. People’s whispers, conversations, and laughs complimented the ambience of the room. Despite the sensitivity and gravity of the issues expressed in this institution, the mediated voices that inflect on the Multicultural Center allows people to be lax, authentic, and be themselves.

The metaphorical and material voices that converge in the theater were overseen by Evolve Benton when they took over the stage. Their stage presence and passion did not just bring out the power in their voice but also reciprocated with the audience. Evolve’s live voice as she was reading her poetry had a rawness and sincerity in it. When I compared it to her recorded voice in “The Boi Doc” her mediated voice was very polished and assertive. The rawness of her live voice is due to sudden pauses or errors she would make during the reading, however this did not reduce or weaken her rhetoric, in fact, it relayed a more heartfelt and genuine message. Furthermore, the speaker and the audience cumulatively decided to not use the microphone during the reading and also during the Q and A. In lecture, we talked about how in constructing voices, there are a series of decisions made about  what to include and what to leave behind (Lecture Jan 27). Because their voice is inherently mediated, Evolve decided to avoid further mediation of their voice. Evolve made these decisions to accentuate her speech performance to express emotions and not just words (Lecture Feb. 12). This resulted in a more natural and synchronous interaction with the audience.

III. Analysis and Conclusions

There was a dominance of traditional voices during the poetry reading and film screening in the MCC theater. However, the non-traditional voices that I picked out from the scene we’re definitely playing a huge role in completing that environment. First, the lighting in the room. I noticed that there is reciprocity in the way the audience and the lights speak to each other indirectly. Before the start of the poetry reading, the white lights were adequately bright. This gave people clear visuals of their surroundings less centered on the stage or the elephant in the room, who was sitting in the front room waiting to take the stage. Secondly, the seats in the theater also helped create a focused but interactive relationship between the speaker and the audience. I noticed that whenever Evolve, or someone from the film, or the audience, would share an interesting concept of compelling story, the seats would be dead silent and that kind of brings everyone to be more keen to the information being shared, but when there was a questions asked, or even a punchline thrown, you could hear people reacting through the sound of their chairs moving.

Evolve Benton’s voice and the voices of members of the “BOI” movement featured in the film were the privileged voices during this event. However, calling it a privilege might deprecate the whole message of this event. My point is that their voices were put on a higher pedestal just because they were the host of the event, and their narratives were the center of the conversation. Narrating the truth about black queer community through the different experiences of the members of that community was expressed in a way were the viewers were still allowed to contribute and react to those experiences. The Q and A portion set up for the audience and also just Evolve using her voice to make people at ease and not intimidated through her politeness is an effective way of getting people to actively think and participate in the event.

The Multicultural center by itself is an institution representing various voices from different cultural contexts. The institution’s base principle is to highlight the differences between people, giving them a safe space to be authentic. The collective voice in the Multicultural Center is creating a lot of noise in different ways and is indirectly giving other individuals voices by the collective speaking out. Evolve’s experiences were just a gateway to the distinct experiences that a lot of people in the audience are going through. In Nick Couldry’s “Why Voice Matters,” he stated that “to deny value to another’s capacity for narrative is to deny a basic dimension of human life (pg.8-9, 2010). Evolve Benton, members of the “BOI” movement featured in the film, and the Multicultural center collectively emphasized this right and empowered the audience. The culmination of voices were just so accepting and encouraging that during the Q and A the audience started with sharing their own unique experiences instead of asking questions. The collective voice created an environment where the audience understood that getting their narratives heard was not a privilege but a basic human right.

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