Jessamine and the Shadow-Beast

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 DowneySarah Prevost and Professor Shaun Wrighof JMU’s School of Media Arts and Design for producing and editing these short films. You rock!]


Watching for Hurricanes

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.

The Measure of Sarai’s Worth

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

Lupe….and kittens!

The quietest people in the room are sometimes the ones that have the most to say. That’s our friend Lupe. Kind, artistic, family oriented, reflective, funny, fearless, observant, resilient, a fierce reader…and tiny.  Plus kittens!  Much thanks to Nicole Goldstein and Tyler Beatty in JMU’s School of Media Arts and Design for their work on this project.


JMU School of Media Arts and Design students, Buddy Harlow and Dan Johnson, interviewed several SLI Scholars from Harrisonburg High School about their feelings of difference, to produce this poignant film of the alienation experienced by many high school Latinos in our communities. The short film was screened at Harrisonburg’s Court Square Theater as one entry in the Fall 2015 DocFest. Much thanks to JMU’s School of Media Arts and Design, School of Communication Studies, Court Square Theater, and Three Notch’d Brewing Company for sponsoring the event, and to Professor Shaun Wright for his commitment to engaged teaching and community betterment.