Faculty Pub Night with Evelyn McDonnell: What You Missed

Veronica UrubioToday’s post was written by library student ambassador Veronica Urubio. Veronica is a first-year undeclared student with interest in psychology, creative writing, and the fine arts. She was born and raised in the suburbs of Downey, California, and happily works within one of the library’s departments. Currently, she is working on two book series and a graphic novel in her free time when she isn’t studying.

The atmosphere is heavy with familiarity, a comfortable chatter that doesn’t exceed the voice’s serenade. Old friends greet one another warmly as others shuffle to place their belongings and claim a seat amongst the array of couches and chairs. Conversation flows and mingles about the room like a freshly made batch of cookies from the oven on a rainy day.

Attending the latest installment of the William H. Hannon Library’s Faculty Pub Night brought Evelyn McDonnell, associate professor of journalism and new media, to speak on her latest collaborative masterpiece Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyoncé. Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl with fellow authors and contributors Allison Wolfe, Shana Redmond, Jana Martin, and Mukta Mohan. Along with McDonnell, Melissa McAllister and Flor Amezquita of KXLU (who co-sponsored the evening’s event) provided DJ sets for the event that not only welcomed guests in, but saw them out and left the lingering warmth of the firepower that women such as Amy Winehouse, Queen Latifah, and Sleater-Kinney in the aftermath of a politically charged, story-filled afternoon.

As I took my seat in the far, left-most area of the designated seating, the face of Selena gazed warmly at her arriving patrons, followed by artistic renditions of women whose stories lay within the pages of this book that accumulates roughly one-hundred years of history within its pages.

I observe the laughter, the embraces, and the volume slowly meets its counterpart – a symphony of voices and music blend to create a mixture of something richer than the nostalgic confectionary of baked cookies themselves.

The make-up of the gathered crowd presented to me the speaker’s past, present, and future. Students who had gone on with their careers and returned to support a beloved professor. Colleagues and fellow writers alike pop their heads inside in groups of three or more that, later, disperse into the crowd and get lost in the discussions. Many of those who I had spoken to were attending a Faculty Pub Night for the first time this academic school year. Several had seen the posters all across campus or had gotten an email from “Happenings @ Hannon”. All were there to experience something genuine and authentic.

Melissa McAllister cheerfully opened up the event by asserting how “18-year-old me would be very excited to know I’m drinking in a library” which garnered several chuckles, laughter, and head nods from the audience.

Stories bring people together. Whether you’re writing them with colleagues and making inside jokes along the way, listening to these moments of strength, weakness, and the in-between, or the muse who likes the post referring to their contributions to the industry on Twitter.

Their aspirations, dreams, and hopes they fought for.

Their struggles, barriers, and hurdles they overcame.

One story told of what it took to earn her newly brandished name.

One story laid out the inequities that the combination of gender and race had had on her life.

One story spoke on the pains and pleasures of performing, much less getting a gig.

One story highlighted how difficult making a name for herself was.

One story emphasized how sexism pervaded throughout her entire career, particularly in interviews.

In fact, several could be rooted back to this underlying theme of the barrier of a market that, for some reason, continually kept these artists away from the stage on the basis of gender. The speakers touched upon this theme and how it personally affected their work as performing artists and writers, rather than pointedly ignoring a major setback that still affects the careers of female rock stars and feminists to this day.

All shared in their most blatantly authentic forms in a collection that honors each and every woman and speaks on something larger than one, single experience.

“What can I do with 1,000 words that will do justice to these women?”

The political spark roared into an open flame, but rather than singe and destroy, embers of promise and a hope encased the room in the warmth of a campfire, surrounded by friends and an atmosphere that shared in the disbelief, grief, and anger at the situation that held back so many from their rightful place, recognized for their greatness and contribution to the music industry.

“Humans are textured…”, declared the presenter, just like these 104 faces that were showcased on the screen behind the speakers and, in their stories, we find the overlying theme of overcoming lifetimes of struggle.

We are the change. We will overcome the barriers set before us by a system that says “we have no place for the likes of you at our feast table”.

The applause was deafening. As people rise to take their place in line, mingle with their neighbors, or converse with the pioneers themselves, I observe how, for the first time that night, the buzz of the crowd has traversed that of the sets. A careful, more attuned ear than mine could perhaps pick up the lace of a voice or a percussion instrument. In that moment, this particular Faculty Pub Night became something more than another library event, seventh of the academic school year, but a community hooked with adrenaline and a desire for this fluttering spark of change to be seen within not just the music industry, but every industry.

Many spoke in groups, talking about how they would come to future library events as it was not only a good experience that exhibited and celebrated Loyola Marymount University faculty, but one that displayed women empowerment and feminism full throttle and without apology – a community that grew, and is still growing, with a common goal of equality in mind for future generations. Here, the platform rose for those who never had the opportunity to have and were denied that spotlight, having faced opposition and suffering before their overcoming takes a seat and smiles knowingly as an oncoming “threat” of inevitable change would soon fill the banquet in a flourish of artistry that bares itself as authentic and genuine as the artist allows.

In this room, it started with a sea of business casual toting along bright pink. People file out in groups they didn’t originally enter the space with while others build upon prior conversations and a sort of magic pervades.

Those who challenged the system before us, harnessing their wits, gathering their courage, and forging their own destinies that would be laid out, not just for this gathered crowd of friends, but for all enticed by an undisguised, overt pink cover. We are the harbingers for change, for the future isn’t just female: it’s intersectional and it’s paving a way for those who have been marginalized to be truly recognized for their work.

Thank you, Veronica, for sharing your perspective with us! If you are a student interested in being an event correspondent at a library event, contact John Jackson, Head of Outreach and Communications for the William H. Hannon Library.