Associate Professor Alexandra Vazquez
Florida rooms, in the simplest terms, are living spaces. Often tucked away, the screened-in sanctuaries have evolved from their bourgeoise beginnings into a meeting space wherein classes mingle, ideas are exchanged, and life is lived.
On Tuesday, April 19, we met in Florida rooms of our own to celebrate NYU Performance Studies Professor, Alexandra Vazquez’s latest book, the Florida Room published by Duke University Press in March 2022. Vazquez uses the Florida room to frame and listen to the music and history of Miami, offering “a lush story of place and people, movement and memory, dispossession and survival.” In a city of deep inequities, musical wind arias, symphonies of dissonance, and harmonized ballads play out, challenging, chattering, and threatening the notion of essentialized identities which Vazquez listens to intently, beckoning us to follow her lead.
It was only fitting that a book of such magnitude was hosted by the Department of Performance Studies and joined by a team of academic powerhouses, namely Professors Daphne A. Brooks (Yale University), Mary Pat Brady (Cornell University), Antonio Lopez (George Washington University), Fred Moten (NYU Tisch), Shane Vogel (Yale University) and Karen Shimakawa (NYU Tisch). Our panelists shared their insights from the book, listening to the lives and afterlives that seem to sing through the cover and converse with each reader in an individually crafted, intimately devised dialogue that meets each reader where they are, where they were, and where they want to be. Upon hearing from Vazquez and each of the panelists, we engaged in a Q and A session led by myself along with my colleague and fellow M.A. candidate, Andres Fluffy Aguilar. The seamless progression and distinct magic unique to giving minds and genuine spirits was selflessness offered as we sat in the pocket of intellectual slyness, practicing time scales that traveled through enchanting possibilities. We embraced, listened, and improvised to the crescendo of discoveries, the lull of radical stillness, and the reverberation of laughter.
As is all too common but always surprising in good company, time slipped away from us. But our desire to conjoin persisted, prompting us to form a jam session of our own, an afterparty of sorts in another zoom room where we continued to give and take in a caring exchange. Listening to a playlist with songs from the book, we danced, reveled, and luxuriated in the richness of company and inquiry; softening into the safeness of Florida rooms that accept us as and where we are. As we bid farewell, I thought back to our first speaker, Daphne A. Brooks, who aptly addressed Vazquez, saying, “our dear genius of the Everglades region has given us reason to put the electric slide on loop yet again…what a season of possibility, revolutionary discovery, and deep base earth-shattering plans for other places we can go together, other ways we can be together.” The Florida Room has given us a space for just that, to meet, to discover, to listen-together. \
Story by Leila Mire.