Jelisa Jay Robinson, Negra-Americana (Black American) storyteller, playwright and educator, attended the University of Texas at Austin where she majored in Latin American Studies and Theatre. During college, she wrote her first play Ice Cold Milk and an Oreo Cookie and she's been writing ever since.
Her play The Stories of Us, that tackles Black and Brown relations, Afrolatinidad and Afro-diaspora in Texas, was one of three plays chosen for the Austin Latino New Play Festival in 2015. It received a critically-acclaimed full production by Teatro Vivo in 2016, a excerpt reading at the Now Africa Festival in New York (2016), a excerpt performance at the Black and Brown Theatre Inaugural Showcase in Detroit (2016) and a developmental residency in Chicago with the theatre Vision Latino (2017).
Other full-length plays include: Fae and Paciencia (commissioned by Echame Un Ojo Latinx Arts festival in Austin, TX in 2016, reading at The Rec Room in Houston, Texas in 2017), Delivery (Scriptworks Reading in 2017, Reading at the Mexican American Cultural Center in 2017) and Circles.
Short works include Fight Til the Death (14/48: The World's Quickest Theatre Festival), Freedom (Austin One Minute Play Festival) and Dreamer's Cry (Austin One Minute Play Festival), Mi, Myself and Ay, Papi ,The Third Wheel, Pop-Buelo (Fornes Playwriting Workshop Presentation 2016) and Ice Cold Milk and an Oreo Cookie (UT Lab Theatre 2010). Jelisa was one of 14 playwrights nationwide chosen to participate in the inaugural Fornes Playwriting Workshop taught by Playwright Migdalia Cruz. She was also one of five playwrights nationally selected as a finalist for the inaugural Seattle Public Theatre Emerald New Play Prize.
She is the founder of #Teatrolatinegro, a blog dedicated to Black, Brown and Afrolatin@ theatre. She participated in Writespace's Writers of Color Workshop. She has hosted workshops, shared her experiences with diaspora and love for writing through workshops at Texas State University and other spaces in the Texas area. She is a proud member of Scriptworks, the Playwright's Center, the Black Theatre Network, the Latinx Theatre Commons and the Dramatists Guild.
Robinson is motivated by the desire to help the next generation of Black and Brown artists empower themselves. When she is not writing, she can be found traveling, gushing over Bluey Robinson and Laz Alonzo, jamming to Los Rakas, and spending time with her family. She is a firm believer in God and keeps him at the forefront in her life.
Her story of Identity from African American to Black American to Negra Americana Robinson uses the term "Negra-Americana" to identify herself. It pays homage to her Black American identity and the fact that she grew up around both Black and Mexican American spaces. Why does she use a Spanish term if her ancestors oppressor were probably Irish, French or/and English? Because Spanish gave her the words, connections and experiences that English couldn't. The connections grew in the form of learning how Black and Latinx folk had engaged with each other for ages. How African-Americans found refuge in Mexico and influenced culture there. How certain "Black American" elements in music like drums and call in response were prevalent in Mexican music. How her connection to Louisiana calls to a greater connection to the Caribbean islands like Haiti, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico and Spanish/French Oppression. On a personal level, it was her elementary school friends that taught her Spanish, a trait that became a part of her identity. She was now able to connect with her friends in a way that she hadn't been able to before. The experiences were formative as well. Once when an Afrolatina friend and her chatted in Spanish about the disparities of Black women across cultures. "Somos negras", she assured Jelisa. "And we are here for each other". That idea of shared stories led Jelisa to find her home not just within the Black American context, but within the diaspora. For most of her life, she has been actively engaging in the language and using it to connect with the latinx and afrolatinx in her community. Through it she found a second family. The Diaspora. And could never really articulate that part of her identity in English, so she became Negra-Americana (which by the way is NOT saying that she is Afrolatina, but that she is BLACK AMERICAN).