This weekend I rented an Airbnb, packed my bags and decided to have my own writers retreat. My goal was to finish 60 pages of a new script called Yema, Yosi and Timely Things. It didn't have to be perfect. Infact it was quite the opposite. messy pages. Messy hand writing. Paint on some of the pages. Notes on some of the pages. A true crap draft.
The entire goal of the weekend was to let the story out. And so I did. I still have a ton of research to do, but the important thing was to get the story out.
I dedicate this story to my muse and my grandma. Two people who showed up in the play in unexpected ways.
Life always has a way of bringing you back.
In 2013, a much younger Jelisa traveled to the University of Texas- Rio Grande Valley (formally known as UT Pan American) with three theatre peers (hi! Isaac, Bianca and Madilyn) and her Professor Roxanne Schroeder-Arce for the National Association of Chicana Chicano Studies Conference. She marveled at the speakers who shared their knowledge of Latinx histories. Along with her peers from UT Austin and her peers from UTRGV, she participated in a collaborative devised workshop where Professor's Eric Wiley and Roxanne Schroeder-Arce led the group in creating work that told their stories. That experience taught Jelisa that there is power in telling her story.
Fast forward. It's 2018 and that same Jelisa has graduated college, gone through 2 years of the "real world" and in the process of carving out a space for her self as a storyteller. AND she's presenting at the same college that gave her the opportunity to hone her storytelling passions.
Presenting my workshop for Dr. McMahon's class was a trans-formative experience. It's always an honor for people to feel comfortable enough to scream their truths loudly for the world to hear. Of course, I shared my work, why I do what I do and whatnot, but let's face it, the twenty or so students that I get to spend that 2 hours with make the workshop. And these students floored me with their ability to be real, raw and honest in their work. I mean there were pieces that combined poetry, monologues, Spanish-language and other forms of expression in order to create a river of flowing words. I am so grateful for their receptiveness to the space.
In addition to the workshop, I was a part of a dope panel that Dr. McMahon organized. The panel featured awesome scholars: Dr. Jamie Starling, who shared his extensive knowledge on Afromexican and Black American history in the Valley. Hearing these histories being unearthed in front of me made me feel affirmed. The panel also featured Jillian Glantz, an Undergraduate whose research on Black Americans in the South left me wanting to learn more. I was extremely happy to connect with them because ever since traveling to UTRGV in 2013 I had been looking for these histories.
I also met some incredible students like Danielle, a vibrant colorful performance artist, Juan, a fellow educator and Rogelio, a talented and creative Veteran. Our conversations will stick with me forever and I hope they continue to share their stories and be their genuine selves. I even reconnected with my friend Maria who participated in the performance in 2013.
Words cannot describe how grateful I am to Dr. McMahon. She worked extremely hard to organize this panel. She sent emails, had meetings, coordinated schedules, picked me up from the airport, served as a sounding board for ideas AND listened to me talk about life. She is truly a beautiful person. I enjoyed seeing her in her element with her students, because I can tell that she actually cares about them and they know it. Thank you for everything.
Much love to the RGV. I will diffidently be back and be on the look out for some writing inspired by these experiences.