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Masquerade Harris opens the ballroom for accessible music listening

Gabriela Rożnawska

Hosting their first Harris party, the Disability Cultural Association (DCA) welcomed students to “mask” or “unmask” –– at their Masquerade Harris. 

On the night of Friday, Feb. 16 into the early morning hours of Feb. 17, the Harris Center came alive for a sensory-friendly party, complete with medium-energy Americana and indie beats from debut student band South of Tama. A selection of earplugs, noise-canceling headphones and fidgets were available for students to use at any time. 

According to Emmy Potter `24, executive officer and student leader at the Disability Cultural Center (DCC), “Masquerade Harris was a part of the DCA’s efforts to bring disability justice to the student body and Grinnell’s social scene.” While the DCA has hosted community-wide events before such as tea events in the DCC suite, they have never hosted an event as large as a Harris party. 

Potter said she hopes that the event will facilitate conversations and personal reflection surrounding disability and help get more people involved with the DCC. 

“The DCC received a lot of feedback that it very much feels like there are very separate communities within campus with certain communities dominating those conversations,” Potter said. “Certain people also feel like this maybe isn’t their spot because there’s so much representation from other groups that we’re looking to open up and expand.”

Potter highlighted the duality of the dance’s chosen theme. She said, “I don’t know if it was intentional, but we were like, ‘Oh, haha, masquerade as in masking.’ We do represent a large part of the autistic community on campus, so I think part of it was an allusion to that, but also, it’s a fun theme.” 

Potter indicated that the biggest challenge of hosting a Harris is knowing that one size does not fit all when it comes to accessibility. 

In reference to the music for the event, she said the goal for the night was to allow “everyone to find something that feels good to them at some point.”

Opening events up and thinking about different access needs for any event can make a difference.

— Emmy Potter `24

“One neurodivergent person might prefer a lower sensory environment, where others of us want a lot of stimulation and enjoy a typical Harris environment because it’s overstimulating in a way that feels nice,” said Potter. “You’re never going to be able to make it accessible for everyone at one spot, but opening events up and thinking about different access needs for any event can make a difference.”

The night was not only a first for the hosting members of the DCA, as student band, South of Tama, played their first gig. Theo Richter `24  recently formed the band as a casual, low-stakes commitment for Grinnell student musicians to come together and jam out.

For this gig, four members joined Richter — guitarist Grant Anguiano, drummer Renzo Iurino `27, upright bassist Noah Mendola `26 and vocalist Maddie Church `27. 

Richter said that many of the students involved in the College’s music scene are currently studying abroad this semester. He said he hopes South of Tampa can serve as “another opportunity for people to make music with each other in a more independent, casual manner that doesn’t necessarily have to happen in Bucksbaum or have anything to do with earning credit.”

The whole goal is to make music and enjoy making it with each other and for others. That’s what it’s about, just having a good and accessible time.

— Theo Richter `24

He described the sound of South of Tama as “indie rock with a little bit of folk, alternative influences, some R&B, soul and an Americana rock backdrop.” He said he worked with Potter and the DCA to incorporate music that everyone could connect with, keeping in mind factors of over and under stimulation. 

“It’s just about the balance of the sound. I’m incredibly flexible with how loud or quiet it is, they could mute us for all I care,” said Richter. “The whole goal is to make music and enjoy making it with each other and for others. That’s what it’s about, just having a good and accessible time.” 

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About the Contributors
Zoe Zappas
Zoe Zappas, Staff Writer
Zoe is a first year intended gender, women’s and sexuality studies and Spanish double major. Originally a Clevelander, she fell down the Ohio to California pipeline and is now labeled a fake midwesterner. She is a lover of sesame bagels, stalking your spotify, playing the dance like an appliance game, and raising her eyebrow at everything.
Gabriela Rożnawska
Gabriela Rożnawska, Graphic Designer
Gabriela Rożnawska is a second-year student majoring in Computer Science, Psychology and concentrating in Linguistics from Krakow, Poland. She is likely to be spotted longboarding around town and, if stopped, would be delighted to discuss tornados, planes, rodents and plans for an upcoming multi-city trip.
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