Jessamine says that when she learned that her grandmother didn’t want her mother to attend high school because there were too many boys, she thought, “I don’t think it’s right. Women have their own voice also. They can get better opportunities out there, and not just stay at home for the man.” Gloria Anzaldúa might say that Jessamine is coming to terms with the Shadow-Beast of a mestiza consciousness that is a reality of Latinas who straddle multiple cultures and contradictory identities. Anzaldúa conceived of the Shadow-Beast as a powerful force brought about by one’s vision of self as living both with and in defiance to ideals held by family and culture. The power of a Shadow-Beast is awakened by a person’s own subversive actions against it, notably through their resistance to conform, contort, or defer to the orders and authority of patriarchy. The wisdom Jessamine draws from acknowledging her Shadow-Beast empowers her to give guidance to her younger brother. “He’s just a freshman, but I tell him, ‘Don’t give up. Talk to counselors, teachers; see what you can do. Don’t listen to others who say you’re not going to make it, because you are.” [Big thanks to Claire Downey, Sarah Prevost and Professor Shaun Wright of JMU’s School of Media Arts and Design for producing and editing these short films. You rock!]
As the damage of Hurricane Florence continues to be assessed, we were reminded that it was another hurricane, Katrina, that set Nathalie’s journey into motion. Two years ago, Nathalie shared her story with students from JMU’s School of Media Arts and Design who were struck to learn that Nathalie was a 17 year-old high school sophomore completely alone in the United States. Nathalie will be graduating from Harrisonburg High School in May, 2019, and has JMU in mind as her college of choice. She will enter college a few years older than her peers, but with the strength and wisdom of someone who knows how to survive and move forward against the fiercest headwinds. Thanks to SMAD students, Melissa Blum and Mike Gefell, for helping Nathalie to share her story.
Emily is a creative, academically talented student involved in marching band. An inspirational motto on her bedroom wall reads, “Onward and Upward!” The words speak to the positive possibilities for one’s self where the goal is not simply to survive hardship, but to progress and rise in spirit. The Spanish word adelante is sometimes used by Hispanic and Latinx serving organizations, advocacy groups and community programs to speak to this same spirit of perseverance and empowerment.
There are many individuals like Emily who progress through school with excellence and are recognized by teachers as outstanding students. What sometimes goes unrecognized is the toll on their spirit along the way. It’s confusing to be encouraged by one adult to reach for your dreams, and advised by another not to reach too far. It’s exhausting to be promoted as a “model student,” an ideal example for an entire Hispanic community. It’s traumatizing to learn that while you might be able to achieve your college dream, the status of your family in the U.S. is not certain. Fortunately, organizations like SLI exist to provide a space where students can feel safe to share their particular yet common experiences and receive strength in spirit from peers and mentors
Emily says, “I shouldn’t be scared to say what I want to say…or scared to do anything that I want to do…in the future.” We agree and we support her.
Thanks to Courtney Coffey and Bryan McIntyre of James Madison University’s School of Media Arts and Design (SMAD) for producing and editing this film for SMAD 303. The original full piece was screened at DocFest 2017, Harrisonburg Court Square Theatre. Thanks to Professor Shaun Wright for supporting JMU and SLI students.
How can love for family and community be empowering? Pay close attention to how Mary beams when she talks about her goals, and you will see and hear how love of family animates her to seek out challenges that will help her grow as a person, and in the process, create an environment for her sister’s growth as well.
Big thanks to Gabriella Molite, Nakiesha Lawrence, Debbie Cavazos, and Professor Shaun Wright of JMU’s School of Media Arts for producing a longer version of this video that was shown at the DocFest Film Festival in downtown Harrisonburg, VA.
Sarai is enrolled in an academic partnership between Harrisonburg High School and Blue Ridge Community College where she has an opportunity to earn her high school diploma and a college Associate of Arts degree. Sarai says she could sum up her college statement with five words: “I am worth your time.” We think she’s worth more. Continue reading
Is there anything more wonderful than overhearing parents speaking proudly of their child? Alisia’s parents have much to be proud of. They’ve raised a wonderful daughter who will soon be chasing her college dream to be an elementary school teacher. Continue reading