Interviewer: Peyton Riegel
Interviewee: Asani Fowler
Date Interviewed: January 23, 2023
Edited by: Liam Larkin-Smith
Link to SoundCloud Audio: https://on.soundcloud.com/KSTVR
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Peyton: Hello, everybody. Welcome. You're listening to KAMP Student Radio. My name is Peyton, and welcome to the first episode in our camp interview series hosted by the KAMP News Team. I'm super excited to be bringing this series to you. Basically every week we're going to bring someone new on, give a little interview, do a little outreach, and hopefully you guys continue to tune in and you know, participate in our series. So, honored guest, would you like to introduce yourself, name pronouns, hobbies, activities, et cetera?
Asani: Hi, I'm Asani Fowler. I used they/them pronouns. I am a sophomore studying photography here at the U of A. Did you say some activities?
Peyton: Yeah, some activities you're involved in
Asani: I am a student organizer for or with Koba. I'm also involved with Pride Alliance, which is an internship ran through the LGBTQ resource center here on campus. And yeah, just like community cultivating and facilitating and stuff.
Peyton: Beautiful. So your personal definition, what does it mean to you to be a student leader?
Asani: I don't know, I mean, it's not really a loaded question. I just kind of feel like being a leader in general is kind of more what I would say. I think you have to be very compassionate, doing anything with compassion and understanding that the people that you are trying to, I guess, quote unquote, lead or guide, they have to be built. Not everyone is just going to be understanding of what's going on or what you're trying to go through. So compassion, empathy, solidarity mainly. Mostly I think solidarity with all groups, no matter what your ideology or whatever you have going on in the background, just understanding that you are definitely more powerful in numbers. That's probably it.
Peyton: Pretty all-encompassing thing. So who would you consider a role model for you? Whether it be a person, you know, personally or like more of a figure. How do you classify a role model?
Asani: How do I classify role model? I guess anyone that I am inspired by, whether it be like an art or an activism or just like anyway in my life, I guess. India Moore, she's an actress, a trans actress. She started in Pose and yeah
Peyton: Yeah, great show. So good.
Asani: But yeah, the activism she does is just, it's very globalist centered. It's not just like American stuff. It's pretty all encompassing. So like, India Moore, Noname, female rapper, black female rapper. Her lyrics are just so impactful to me. I don't know, I think that was kind of like my entry into learning about activism and politics and stuff because she's just really raw and I don't think there's any one of her songs that I can listen to and not be able to relate in some way. But people that I know personally, I'd say my bosses at the LGBTQ resource center, they're all really dope, they do really cool stuff when it comes to community organizing and stuff like that. And just like some of the faculty advisors that I've met here on campus are all really great people and really encouraging. And I hope to someday kind of relay what I've learned from.
Peyton: Yeah, pay it forward.
Peyton: So college is a weird time in everyone's life. And I remember the college decision making process was very, very hectic. So what made you want to come to the University of Arizona? And how do you feel coming to the University of Arizona has impacted you?
Asani: Well, the photography program here is really sick. It's funny because I actually came here, I started off in political science. I don't know what was going on. But yeah, the photography program here was really sick and it was either here or nowhere. And I got accepted. So I was like, okay, cool, we're going to go to Arizona.
Asani: And it was a big jump, big leap. I'm from Missouri, so I'm like pretty much all the way on the other side of the country. But now that I'm here, I think I have progressed so substantially in my art and all the ways that I do my craft, the ways that I am learning how to be an activist and bringing people together and forming community and just. I guess sort of kind of encouraging people to start being a little more active in their communities and just like, stuff like that. I think before I came here, I wasn't like a recluse. I wasn't like antisocial or anything, but coming here definitely kind of like threw me into the water.
Peyton: Yeah, definitely
Asani: I kind of had to get into all of it.
Peyton: So how do you feel, like, since attending, obviously the university has impacted you in this vast spectrum of ways. How do you feel like in your short time here that you've impacted the university and the university culture?
Asani: That's a good question. Honestly, it's only my second year, like halfway through my second year, so I don't think that I have had any crazy substantial impact on the campus or anything like that. Some of the process that I co-organized last semester, although the turnout to those were great and I think a lot of the coverage on them was pretty good. I think our campus has a really big issue of just letting things happen and then like a couple of weeks later, totally forgetting about it. I guess that's kind of on my part as a campus organizer, to constantly be on top of stuff like that and constantly be reminding people. It's just hard to do when you really get bogged down after a while. And so that's kind of what I was saying earlier about being like having big community, having a lot of people on top of it because it is-
Peyton: Takes a village.
Asani: It takes a village.
Peyton: No? Yeah, definitely. So in terms of that, then, what aspects of campus culture, campus policy do you think could use improvement
Asani: For starters? Those like, what do we call them? Like the Jesus Super Radical Christians.
Peyton: Oh, like the Navigators? Not to like, out an organization, but I guess yeah, you can, we can, like the Navigators.
Asani: Sure, people like them. I think the freedom of speech thing that we have going on on campus is very, very gray. It's a little too gray. Like, the ways that a lot of students aren't able to go out and just kind of, like, you know, promote their art or promote what they're organizing for. Just, like, things like that, without some sort of certificate or just, like, anything to prove that they're supposed to be there, but they're students. Like, they're supposed to be there, but we're just letting all these, like, weird, like, crazy, random people on campus and just, like, shouting, heinous awful things at us all the time. That's sick.
Peyton: Yeah. It's definitely interesting also, that you say that because a lot of the times to book space on the mall, you need to reserve a time, but you don't need to reserve someone walking up and down shouting, yeah, it's crazy.
Asani: And that's what I mean. There's just all these little loopholes where people can just go and manipulate things. I think, for starters, that's, like, something that should definitely be changed. I also think when it comes to advertising, like student advertising, that isn't facilitated through the university, that should be more available, and it should be totally accessible to everyone. I know when I was doing stuff and I was going around putting fliers up, I would come to campus the next day and all of them would be gone.
Peyton: Oh, my God
Asani: I'd be all over the place. Up and down, like, north, south, east, west, all over the campus, all be taken down. So I think that's really
Peyton: It's discouraging. It's discouraging.
Asani: Yeah. And it's really disingenuous because it's like a lot of the marketing for getting students to come here is like, we're allowing you to
Peyton: Be so diverse.
Asani: They just want us to think that we're going to come here and just have such a great time. And then when, like, bad stuff happens and we're trying to speak out about it, it's like an issue.
Peyton: Yeah, it's stifling. So in terms of that, do you think that the University of Arizona kind of fosters a safe place for students to express themselves?
Asani: I guess it depends on who you are, like what kind of student you are. Can I say it? I would say if you're white you probably have more of a chance of just saying whatever you want. And also I guess it probably definitely depends on what kind of organization you're in. So like mine Coba for instance, already way under fire for a couple of years by administration. So anything that we put out is not allowed or not allowed. But they're definitely like we're kind of under fire a lot of the time.
Peyton: Definitely scrutinized.
Asani: But yeah, I think it just all really depends on your socioeconomic status and stuff. Like if you are not seen as disposable and not easily done away with then sure, go ahead.
Peyton: If your parents can afford it.
Asani: Yeah, exactly.
Peyton: So then kind of an interesting shift. So the University of Arizona is kind of like I would say almost a snow globe in the greater Tucson area. I mean, obviously there's definitely a disparity even in the surrounding neighborhoods in the university area and then Tucson at large. So how do you think living in Tucson has impacted you?
Asani: Well, I'll be honest, I lived on campus all of my first year and then even like now I live not too far from campus. If you guys know where the Rock is. I'm pretty much right in that area. So I'm not far from campus at all. And I don't drive, so I don't really go to too many places that are also kind of far from campus. But I'd say that from what I have gathered from Greater Tucson is that people are really friendly and especially in the art scene here, I think people are very helpful and very encouraging and that's something that I was not really exposed to back home in St. Louis. It's definitely a drastic shift but I think that's something that I really appreciate about Tucson is how, just, willing to help people are like, people want to see you win. Like, well, maybe not everybody, but for the most part, people want to see you win, people want to see you do good stuff.
Asani: So I think that's really cool.
Peyton: Yeah. So do you think there's more of an ample opportunity to get involved in self expression and the arts community in the greater Tucson area, despite your race or gender, etc?
Asani: Oh yeah, for sure, sure. I think for the most part, at least in my experience, I don't think I have ever come across any group of artists or any artist individually that is just like a bigot, that’s just not really cool. I don't know. Like I said, pretty much in my experience, most of the art scene is pretty dope and self expression is very encouraged and people want to see you do what you do in the most authentic way possible. And I think it's really dope.
Peyton: Definitely. So a lot of campus resources are kind of poopy, like, let's say, like campus health or I've heard a lot of complaints about caps like the mental health services on campus. So do you think that students that do attend the University of Arizona have access to safe spaces and resources in the greater Tucson community?
Asani: Yes, but again, I will say it probably depends on who you are as a person. From what I know, when it comes to queer and trans individuals, there are so many resources in Tucson. Like, for example, Saga, which I think they're based on Fourth Avenue. They help with trans healthcare and if you are not able to access resources, they make it very accessible. Like Thompson house. And there's another one I can't think of.
Peyton: I know there's Tasson.
Asani: Tasson? What's that?
Peyton: I think it's like the trans alliance society something something. I know Anika did a fundraiser with them, like a semester or two ago. But they're another resource. They accept a lot of clothing and household donations and distribution to the community.
Asani: Thompson house is like something very similar to that. But yeah. When it comes to that kind of stuff, yes, resources are very much available. I think it's mostly just knowing where to look and who to talk to, which is kind of hard when people are hushed and not like allowed to do their jobs. But yeah, I think you got to know where to look.
Peyton: Definitely. So for people that aren't necessarily, quote unquote in the know or are close to people in the scene, do you think that the promotion of these resources could be made more widely available? Because knowing where to look is great and all, but sometimes, like you said, again, people get barred from accessing certain resources. Do you think that these types of availabilities could be made improved? Or if people are scared to reach out because maybe they're in a community that puts shame on certain things. So how do you think in the future these types of things could be more accessible?
Asani: Are we talking about on campus or just like in general?
Peyton: I guess both. Just like the younger demographic. Because, again, when you move here from out of state and you don't know a lot of people, it can be very isolating when you feel like your community isn't represented.
Asani: Well, that just kind of goes back into what I was saying earlier about out, how it is really hard for the people who are trying to do outreach and stuff. They are barred. And so whenever. They're given the opportunity to actually go out and do the outreach, they can't do it. But if I would say anything, I think it can be improved. I think that it just has to be a lot more adamant. Yeah, it kind of just has to be like a constant sort of thing. Especially if you want to cater to people who are not probably, like, super social or just able to actually go out and look for things themselves. Accessibility is a really big issue that I feel like a lot of people overlook. But yeah, just even if it's not digital, I would say especially digital. Honestly, promoting on Instagram and social media in general is so easy now. But I'd say making even paper, like, physical flyers now is like, something that's totally dying down. That should not be happening at all. We need more physical flyers. Yeah, for sure.
Peyton: Okay, so then how do you think arts and activism are intrinsically linked? Or are they linked, do you think?
Asani: Yeah, I think so. I mean, artists just to me, art is, like, always a reflection of what's going on in our world, and it comes down to, like, a very subjective and personal sort of like level. But at least in my art, I'm very much influenced by everything I see on the news all the time? I don't know. I think you can't really, at least in my case, I can't really make art without it somehow being linked to how I'm feeling about a very specific situation because I think I'm kind of emotionally sensitive and so my emotions very much overtake my creative process. I'm talking in a very personal standpoint, but I think in a broader sense, then yeah they’re pretty close to one and the same. Especially with the way that artists can be heavily scrutinized.
Peyton: No, definitely. So do you think art in certain contexts? Because obviously, like you said, it's subjective, but I think when we look back in history, it's not just what the art is, it's the context in which it was made. So now, because a lot of activism is promoted online and through social media, do you think that the context is still like, represented through these online formats or does it kind of get lost sometimes with like, performative activism?
Asani: Yeah, for sure. Oh my God. I'm actually really glad you brought that up. I think that is such a big issue because it's so saturated now. There's just all these randoms that go on and spew whatever they read on Twitter and then it's like nothing is really impactful anymore just because it's all recycled stuff. But yeah, I think there are very genuine artists who are putting in a ton of effort into doing stuff and are trying to get it out there and it's just being totally ran over by everything else that we're already seeing constantly. Unless it's something really shocking, which I think is another issue that people love shock value more than anything.
Asani: But then when they get it, it's too much
Peyton: And then it's like controversial.
Asani: Yeah, exactly. Yeah I don't know. I think it's really complex and I couldn't really explain it totally. But yeah, I do think it's. It's very much underappreciated,
Peyton: Definitely. So again, kind of like in continuation of that thought line because a lot of, like, with the news cycle and everything, sometimes certain, like, threads of activism become trendy because something shocking or a gross injustice has taken place. But then after the shock value from that event dies down, people are like, it's been oversaturated, it's done with. And then people move on to the next thing without really deconstructing what actually happened and how to affect change in the future. So how do you think, like, being a person that does consume internet media that is of the technological generation, how can people step away from that and really look at these issues more holistically, do you think?
Asani: It kind of just comes down to your own personal want to do it? I feel like for most people, we're all so desensitized. It's pretty much like everything. So whenever we see things like these terrible tragedies there was literally a shooting the other day, and what suburb was it in? New York? I don't remember. But, yeah, ten people died, and everyone's, like, just coming up with all these crazy theories and stuff on why it's happening and blah, blah, blah, blah. None of it really matters. There is data already that it shows why things like this happen, and it's like you have to actually go out and look for it. I feel like another thing is that a lot of people just want it all handed to them, and it's not always totally accessible. So if you really want it that bad, you've got to be, like, scouring for it. It's time consuming, and it takes a lot of patience, but like I said, you have to want to do it, and I think there's a very strong lack, and they'll want to be better.
Peyton: Yeah. So do you think that in terms of affecting long term change, would you suggest taking to the social media route of activism, let's say, or more of a boots on the ground political voting approach? How would you, I guess, kind of rank the importance of those?
Asani: I don't know if one outweighs the other. Personally, I think they're both pretty substantial, but. And if I had to choose, I would say on the groundwork is really important, especially within your community, because in the grand scheme of things, yeah, we'd want the best for the entire country and the whole world. But it really does start in your town and I think people overlook that and they get too caught up in what's going on everywhere else. And even if it is somewhere else, it probably still does have an effect on where you're living.
Peyton: Oh, definitely, yeah.
Asani: I think on the ground work is pretty important.
Peyton: So then where do you see the future of youth activism or activism headed? What do you think that looks like?
Asani: I don't know. In my head, I see it's pretty linear. I kind of see it consistently rising, especially with the way that the internet is just pretty much accessible to everyone now all the time. You really can't even escape it if you wanted to. Nothing is censored. All the information is right in your face all the time. And I feel like kids are growing up from a very young age. Kids are able to understand right and wrong, and there are so many wrongs on the internet. I feel like everyone is just like the younger generation is just kind of going to be a little more willing and ready to speak out against injustice and it just kind of depends on what we're doing, I guess, by that point.
Peyton: No, definitely. So do you think youth media today kind of accurately reflects that or is it kind of viewed at with an older lens? Because I know sometimes when I watch a television show that's supposed to be from the perspective of someone our age, it kind of falls flat. It kind of isn't as relatable.
Asani: Yeah, I think we kind of take up after what we've already seen and what we know, which is to be expected, I guess. But if we want things to resonate with the rest of us, then we have to start being a little more unique about our approach to things like media and stuff. I know specifically in the Daily Wildcat or maybe even in KAMP. I'm not really too sure what your all protocols and rules and stuff are, but I know for a fact that you guys have to listen to higher ups and stuff. And obviously your higher ups are much older people.
Peyton: Oh, definitely, yeah.
Asani: Probably like outlandish protocols and rules and whatnot. But I think we have to be a little more willing to just do away with the status quo entirely and just kind of be willing to risk whatever it is that you have going on for you in the name of the greater good. That was a pretty big problem that I had with coming to terms with last semester was I was like, why is nobody willing to protest? Why is nobody willing to get on the ground and actually come out and shout and do stuff? Because people have scholarships and stuff on the line, people have jobs, all that kind of stuff. And it's like I understand that. I think it just comes to a point where it's like if you know it's wrong, you just kind of got to put it to the side and think there is enough willingness to do things like that. And I think that's where we fall flat is the not willing to be a little out there and be a little rowdy. Break rules.
Peyton: So kind of like how you were saying before, that if you have a greater community that's supporting an issue, you potentially risking these things that you care about doesn't hold necessarily as much of a consequence if multiple people are doing it.
Asani: It really won't hold any weight because, like, whether you're under fire or someone else in the community is under fire, the community has your back. That was the point of establishing a community. And I feel like a lot of people overlooked that.
Peyton: Do you think with the rise of, again, like, just social media and kind of hyper individualistic culture, that people feel like maybe they don't have a community or maybe they don't need a community? Do you think that's being lost on people now?
Asani: Yes. Yes, for sure. Yes. And I think that's another thing, just, like, ingrained in American culture in general, is that, like, people are so individualistic, like, all the time and never really see past themselves in so many aspects of their lives or in other people's lives. It takes a village. Like you said earlier, it literally takes a village. We take care of each other. We share space together. I say this a lot. I feel like people don't really get to know their neighbors as much as people used to.
Asani: And why should I not know who I live ten feet next to? Like, dude, if I need something, I'm going to go to them. I'm here alone. My family is not here. Who else am I-? Like, yeah, you got to be a little more willing to be sociable and be personable and be friendly with one another. I think people are just so okay with not being nice to people now.
Peyton: I completely agree. So then kind of in tandem with that, like we were talking about earlier, college can be viewed at kind of as like a snow globe. It's like this era of your life. Everything. Like all of these resources, even though they may not be the best, are technically on the books there for you. And especially when you're living in dormitories with hundreds of students, you are able to knock down the hall and find friends or meet people. And there's all of these social programs like recreational sports and art clubs, student radio, when it's like you can be an engineer and be a part of the radio station so you can have all of those kind of needs met. So do you think there's kind of like a disconnect between that built in community from this young adult age and then transitioning postgrad into more of adult life?
Asani: Yeah, probably. But I don't know if it comes from the university that you attend. I think it is more of like a generational thing. Within our generation and probably like a little older and definitely much younger. I think because we are all always so connected to each other through our phones and stuff, it definitely, most definitely has an effect on how we interact with each other in the real world, in real social settings. We kind of are very connected on the Internet, but super disconnected in real life.
Asani: And so I don't know. I think it's a lot to get into. And I know that we don't have a ton of time, but-
Peyton: -we do have time, though. Yeah. Okay. We do have a good amount of time.
Asani: I think it's like it's also like this one for instant gratification. Oh, yeah. You're not going to get that when you go out and you have to actually mingle and socialize and stuff. Yeah. It takes time to build connections and relationships and people just don't have the patience to do that anymore. Yeah. And so I feel like, yeah, once you leave your university and you're probably off in some other state and you're getting your job and stuff, and you're like or maybe I don't know, maybe even if you're in grad school, I feel like you're probably still really career forward and really thinking about your career and getting a job. You get really busy and you kind of forget to make friends and build community and stuff. But just like, on top of that, I feel like somewhere along the way we kind of forgot how.
Asani: So. Yeah. I don't know. I don't really know what the solution that would be. I don't know. Put your phone down? But I don't want to sound like a geezer.
Peyton: No, I think there's definitely validity to that. But then again, the trajectory of the family unit is also changing. I mean, there was, like, the model of the nuclear family now, especially in a post pandemic world, people want to live in cities now. They want to be closer together. But then you have the whole issue with gentrification and then high density populations and these already, like, culturally diverse areas. It's a big pill.
Asani: Yeah, that's what I mean. There's so many things that go into it. You'd have to read a book. I mean, there are many books to read about it, but you'd have to really do some research into that.
Peyton: Yeah. So then kind of, I guess, just to wrap up the interview. Going forward, what is something that you want to leave here for everyone to then take home with them and think about whether it be about activism, art, or how to go forth in this changing society and community. Like, what's your two cents?
Asani: Closed mouths don't get fed. So whether it be in something that you're doing an art and you need to sell your stuff, you need to be marketing, you need to be talking to people, you need to be making connections, I think that's a really big thing that people are, like, not really getting especially, like, at the U of A, at least in my experience, is that a lot of the professors are very tapped into, like, a lot of different networks. And that's why a lot of the kids that come out of these programs are kind of sort of successful to do really well, and it's because their professors already knew so many people. But I think just from the outskirts in the greater Tucson area, it's like they're doing everything within their community and not really expanding, but it's like you really got to be, like, putting yourself out there constantly. Or if it comes to activism, if you're just sitting there and you're knowing things are not really great and people are doing really terrible things and you're not saying anything about it, I mean, you can say something about it, sure, but what are you actually doing about it? Yeah. Just speak and be loud and obnoxious and just command respect and demand that space is made for you.
Peyton: Well, that was very well said. So, Asani, thank you so much for joining us today.
Asani: Thank you for having me.
Peyton: Yeah. So this is the KAMP interview series. If you like what you heard, tune in next week, same time, same place, and by place, I mean Internet link. So I hope everybody has a great day and see you next week.
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