CUNY Peer Leaders is a community-based program that supports CUNY undergraduate students’ scholarship and creative work in the Humanities and supports them in developing leadership skills to implement within their communities and colleges. As part of the program, CUNY Peer Leaders design and develop a humanities themed project that is publicly exhibited at a year-end Showcase. The full Showcase of projects this year will be posted here on the CUNY Peer Leaders site at the beginning of June!

Showcase Sneak Preview

Because the Showcase itself will be asynchronous and online this year, the CUNY Peer Leaders offered a chance for a sneak preview! This video is of a live event where the CUNY Peer Leaders took participants through a sneak preview of their Showcase of student-designed projects around this year’s theme of “Reimagining.”

Showcase Projects

Sam Ascencio

Sam Ascencio is a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (JJC). He is majoring in English, transitioning toward the CUNY BA. Sam currently minors in Film, Interdisciplinary studies (ISP), and Art. A recent lecturer at CCNY’s 6th Annual Men’s Leadership Summit, Queer in America: Navigating the Political Landscape (Queens College), and the LGBTQ+ & Women’s health series: The masculine and Feminine paradoxes & Energies (BMCC).  Sam combines art, film, and wit to engage students on LGBTQ+ issues via social media and more. Currently a McNair Post-Baccalaureate scholar, Campus Activity Board (CAB) community chair, CUNY LGBTQ+ advocacy cohort peer, CUNY leadership academy peer, and Co-chair of the CUNY University Student Senate committee of LGBTQ+ equity and gender diversity, Sam hopes to bring LGBTQ+ equity to higher education.

Sam credits his involvement with the lgbtq+ community at John Jay as spectra president and as Peer Success Coach as the inspiration for his LGBTQ+ advocacy project: Q’onnections. A semester-long queer peer to Peer mentoring program that connects LGBTQ+ students and allies with dedicated mentors. Q’onnections provides workshops and programming related to community, advocacy, leadership, and identity. Sam hopes that his work with Q’onnections can be an example of the micro engagement and retention possibilities for LGBTQ+ students. He believes that higher education practices such as LGBTQ+ peer mentoring can provide a larger CUNY-wide community framework to build a dedicated LGBTQ+ pipeline.

Malachi Davidson

Malachi Davidson is a Black man, born and raised in Queens and is an English major and Black & Latinx Studies minor at CUNY Baruch College. Malachi has a deep love of music, writing and stimulating conversations. He is passionate about education and is actively seeking opportunities that would equip him with the qualities of a leader. He has worked on the grassroot level with various social justice organizations in New York City, where he learned first-hand of the impact of activism. 

Through the stimulating coursework offered through the Weissman School of Arts at Baruch and his research as a Black and Latino Studies Archival Scholar, Malachi has been able to explore his interests in creative writing while building a stronger understanding of the history of injustice, both in the United States and around the world. 

Malachi’s project is a collection of essays, short stories, poems and photos that center the experience of Black youth in the United States.

Rafael Dobles

Rafael Andrés Dobles is currently an Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies major at Hunter College, and graduated with an Associate in Science as a Fine Arts major at LaGuardia Community College. If the seemingly divergent degree paths serve as any indication, Rafael is passionate about both visual art/storytelling, as well as exploring the historical contexts and stories integral to his cultural identity. It is his hope that, through the stories of his own, he can continue this cultural exploration, and provide meaningful and resonant insight for himself and any others struggling with the eternal, existential question, “who am I?”

Stardust Drifters is a sci-fi adventure comic centering primarily around themes of identity (racial/cultural or otherwise), especially in relation to systems of oppression. The series centers around Naima Campos, a 17 year old girl living on the galaxy’s largest imperial superpower, the metallic monster planet known as The Imperium. Naima belongs to a race of beings known as the Caonans, a pre-Imperium indigenous people hailing from the humble planetoid Caona. With the Imperium’s mass colonization of the galaxy, the Caonans, along with the galaxy’s other indigenous races, became the victims of mass displacement, disenfranchisement, and erasure. 100 years have passed since the Imperium’s galactic takeover and the beginning of the “Imperium Age”, and things are far from utopian. Society remains systemically stratified, with the Eternals, an enigmatic race of emotionless, ironclad entities serving as the dominant race of the Imperium. Naima struggles with reconciling her identity as a Caonan living on the Imperium, so far from what she was told “home” was. Donning her mother’s Caonan Defense Front jacket, she drifts among the stars on a quest to find her people, her planet, and with any luck, herself. She’ll need more than just luck, however, as her quest draws the ire of many fearsome enemies, not the least of which being the Eternal Acolyte, Dennard. The story of Stardust Drifters, while indeed fantastical, is ultimately a familiar story to any child of the diaspora.

Marisa Iovino

Marisa Iovino is a senior at CUNY Queens College. They major in Women and Gender studies and minor Honors in Social Sciences. They are devoted to examining the body under late capitalism- particularly how the draconian economic system dehumanizes the working class. Marisa is a member of QC’s Transfer Honors Program. Recently they were a panelist at the TRANSForming Feminism event, participating in a crucial conversation about Transgender rights. Marisa has been studying through QC’s Accelerated Masters Program of Media for the past year. This distinct opportunity has cultivated an impetus to detect the esoteric surveillance as technology proliferates. They will carry this interest throughout a Master’s program in Fall 2021. 

Marisa’s background within the Accelerated Master’s Program is the catalyst for their Peer Leaders project: Soup Kitchen. They remain skeptical about the nefarious digital surveillance from esoteric organizations, and their work conceptualizes non-digital mediums for community engagement. 

Soup Kitchen is a platform for marginalized individuals to interact, disseminate information about local events, and institute community. It homogenizes elements of signal and slate, presenting itself as a tool for talking and circulating events. The program’s information is only accessible when the user scans a QR code. This allows the program to be tangibly available instead of existing solely on an arcane app source. Furthermore, relying on a QR code allows users to scramble data if there is a concern about hacking from above. Fliers deploy the app and are hung on boards around neighborhoods – it is truly a community-driven enterprise. The ultimate objective for their work is rendering tools to subvert our ongoing monitoring. They hope to enact autonomy within this technocratic epoch, cultivating a digital space for life in common.  

Sheila Janeo

Sheila Janeo is a senior at Baruch College majoring in English with a focus in composition and rhetoric and minoring in Black and Latinx studies. Her next step after graduating from undergraduate education is graduate school, with the overall goals of receiving her PhD and becoming a professor within higher education. She is the managing editor for the student-run publication, Refract Magazine, and uses her affinity towards writing to initiate change for the community. 

Sheila’s final project is a product of a concept that is so vital in taking the first steps towards a collective liberation: reimagining. Titled Revival Now! People, Not Prisons, this mock project proposal serves as a baseline for the implementation of programs across all CUNY institutions that are geared towards assisting formerly incarcerated individuals with a smooth transition back into society. Mass incarceration has affected millions of people throughout the country, and most specifically, Black and Latinx communities. This includes the 91,000 individuals that are incarcerated in New York State alone. With a population of approximately 294,000 students, it is evident that there are so many people across each campus that have been directly exposed to the traumas of the prison system. Revival Now! argues for a safe space for these individuals to seek out resources that help maintain educational and mental health wellness, assist with employment opportunities and preparedness, and incorporate community advocates in fundraising and revolutionary mobilization. Revival Now! aims to give direction and autonomy back into the lives of people who have been victims of the United States carceral system and promote their physical and emotional livelihood and wellness. 

When thinking about the theme for this year’s CUNY Peer Leaders Cohort, “reimagining”, it becomes evident that dreaming and imagination are so vital in producing radical change. To reimagine a world without prisons, a world where access is afforded to everyone, is the first step in collective liberation. Imagination creates the movement, and the movement creates history. It is up to us to speak up for power and change, to dismantle the carceral system, and to create a world where we no longer are in survival mode, and we can just live.

Moses Matos

Moses Matos is a student at Lehman College. He is undecided as of right now but is very interested in Media Communications. Whether it’s a blog post or talking to friends about music or television, Moses loves to write and have discussions in and out of the classroom. He is taking the necessary courses needed to commit to this major next year. Not only is he excited for this potential major, but the potential of refining his voice and who he is through his interests. 

His passion for having interesting conversations and being there for his friends sparked his idea for his project being his very own podcast. The original vision was to have this podcast be a beacon for those who needed it. What he didn’t expect was to need his own spark and motivation during this crazy pandemic. The focus shifted from being something for others to it being something to keep him driven and proud. Trying to find balance and becoming infatuated with the yin and yang symbol inspired the name and message of the “Keep On Rolling Podcast”.

Tarrell McCall

Tarrell McCall is a student at Baruch College. He is currently majoring in English and Psychology and minor in film. Born and raised in the east side of Brooklyn, Tarrell has always had an interest in people and their life story. He began writing after taking a screenwriting class at LaGuardia Community College. While there, he took the next step and started writing about mental illness and how it affected people of color.

Tarrell’s project for the CUNY Peer Leaders Program is a screenplay titled “Metropolitan”. The story follows a young Ecuadorian woman on suicide watch at a NYC Hospital. While at the hospital, she meets other young adults who suffer from a range of different mental illnesses. As a person who himself suffers from mental illness, Tarrell hopes this screenplay will shed light and break stigmas around mental health. He describes “Metropolitan” as a story about faith and how environments shape who we are.

Julian Mejía and Kristina Graham

Julian Mejía is an aspiring filmmaker based in NYC who is working towards creating his own film production team. He has created his own films and produced the vision of other filmmakers, organizations, and freelanced all while still maintaining his undergraduate studies as a Film Production and Marketing student at Brooklyn College.

Kristina Graham is a student at LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC). She is majoring in Liberal Arts: Film and Television. Kristina is currently a Student Success Mentor and a CUNY Peer Leader for LAGCC. One of Kristina’s passions is storytelling; especially storytelling through the visual arts of photography and videography. She applies storytelling to share her interpretations of the world in general and the complexities of human emotions in particular. Kristina has also started creating instructional videos to support students in their journey through academic experiences at LAGCC. Kristina is preparing to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in documentary filmmaking.

Julian Mejía and Kristina Graham have collaborated on a project titled “Sounds of Quarantine,” an experimental piece which highlights isolation within quarantine. Kristina and Julian have documented their own realities of everyday life by drawing attention to the sounds during quarantine, a time of limited visual experiences. Using tools such as sound and imagery can further convey the feeling of loneliness and drive the narrative of two separate lives. These narratives come together at the end to show that no one is alone. During our times of isolation, we are united by the shared feeling of isolation and the world of sounds.

Teresa Mettela 

Teresa Mettela is a student at the City College of New York with the Macaulay Honors Program. She is majoring in International Studies and double-minoring in Journalism and Sociology. As a freelance journalist, Teresa hopes to shape the pedagogy surrounding WOC entering literary and digital fields. Currently, she writes for a number of local print and online publications such as the Queens Daily Eagle, the Harlem View, the Queens Courier, and the Indypendent. Teresa works with these media outlets to amplify the voices in her community in NYC. 

Teresa’s final project, the gossip book, dives into the mind of a young woman finding her place in the 21st century. This collection of prose is split into three parts: spill my guts, india, and stranger things. The intent of the book is to communicate the complexities and nuances of everyday life. Teresa hopes that her project evokes thinking about how one’s identity is dynamic and ever-changing. It celebrates the good, bad, and the ugly. 

Carolina Rosa Martinez

Carolina Rosa Martínez is an upper senior student at the City University of New York Brooklyn College. She is majoring in English with a minor in Comparative Literature. Rosa Martínez will pursue a Ph.D. degree in comparative literature since her goal is to become a professor, writer, researcher, and translator. Rosa Martínez participated in the Mellon Undergraduate Transfer Student Program (MTSRP) at Brooklyn College with research on English influences in Dominican slang. Her undergraduate dissertation is based on Dominican mythological creatures and oral storytelling. She is interested in continuing her research on Dominican Spanish and Caribbean mythology. Her motivation is to satisfy his intellectual curiosity, make the unknown known and help others both academically and personally.

Rosa Martínez’s project, College Life, is a series of podcasts with advice and information for freshman and transfer students at CUNY. Inspired by her student experience thus far, Rosa Martínez gathered a set of important topics that she wishes she knew more about at the beginning of her journey. When she moved to the U.S seven years ago, she wanted to go to college but the language barrier and her lack of understanding of college bureaucracy delayed her plans. The project’s goal is to help students to have a better experience. Rosa Martínez talks about choosing a major, academic advisement, CUNY First, financial aid, scholarships, college as a support network and an opportunity nest, time management, stress management, the importance of physical and mental health, leadership within and outside of the college community, the language barrier, family, housing, and workplace. The podcast is focused on delivering information on resources, tips, and strategies that will help students succeed in college from a firsthand experience. Rosa Martínez seeks to impact other people’s lives positively through encouragement, inspiration, proactive thinking, and support.

College Life 1 [English]: Hello guys! I hope all of you are doing okay. When I started college I was super lost. The podcast focuses on resources, tips, and strategies that will be extremely helpful for you to succeed in college. This is the first episode!!! And my first solo podcast ever! Here, I briefly talk about Choosing Your Major, Academic Advisement, CUNY First, Financial Aid, and Scholarships. In the following episodes, I will discuss time management, stress, taking tests, and much more! There is also a Spanish version of it coming up soon!! Stay tuned!

College Life 1 [Español]: ¡Hola, chicos! Espero que todos estén bien. Cuando comencé la universidad no sabía qué hacer. El podcast se enfoca en recursos, consejos y estrategias que serán de gran ayuda para que tengas éxito en la universidad CUNY. ¡¡¡Este es el primer episodio!!! ¡Y mi primer podcast en solitario! Aquí, hablo brevemente sobre cómo elegir tu carrera, asesoramiento académico, CUNY First, ayuda financiera y becas. En los siguientes episodios, hablaré sobre la gestión del tiempo, el estrés, la realización de exámenes y mucho más. ¡Cada uno tendrá una versión en inglés y español! ¡Manténganse al tanto! 

College Life 2 [English]: Hi guys! I hope you are doing okay! This is the second episode of College Life!!! A podcast with tips, strategies, and resources for CUNY and all students. This time I touch on time management, stress management, the importance of physical and mental health, and leadership within and outside of campus. I invite you to listen to these tips and try them. I hope you find something that works for you and helps you to have a better college experience. In the following and last episode, I will talk about the language barrier, family, work, housing, and much more. It will have a version in English and Spanish! 

College Life 2 [Español]: ¡Hola! ¡Espero que estés bien! Este es el segundo episodio de College Life!!! Un podcast con consejos, estrategias y recursos para estudiantes de CUNY y en general. Esta vez hablo de la gestión del tiempo, la gestión del estrés, la importancia de la salud física y mental y el liderazgo dentro y fuera del campus. Te invito a escuchar estos consejos y probarlos. Espero que encuentres algo que te funcione y te ayude a tener una mejor experiencia universitaria. En el siguiente y último episodio, hablaré sobre la barrera del idioma, la familia, el trabajo, la vivienda y mucho más. ¡Tendrá una versión en inglés y español!

Sharifa Thompson

Sharifa Thompson is a senior undergrad at Brooklyn College and is majoring in Psychology, with a minor in Criminal Justice. She is an aspiring Clinical Psychologist and storyteller. Through this project, Thompson has gained a larger understanding of how the individual self and the grander society have a symbiotic relationship with one another, manifesting in a work which will resonate for years to come. She draws deep inspiration from cultural critics and race theorists, such as Angela Davis, Kimberle Crenshaw, and Ta-Nehesi-Coates. She hopes to create more work in the future focused on the politics of black bodies–encompassing race, gender, and class– and the criticism of deeply indoctrinated American values and beliefs.

Thompson’s project focuses on concepts centered around blackness and features a collection of short stories, poems, and other written pieces. The commonly woven themes throughout her pieces discuss issues and topics such as radicalism, the criminal justice system, police brutality, and black masculinity. She finds importance in this work because it serves as a viable outlet for her to creatively voice her opinions and thoughts. In a broader context, her work is important because it serves and adds to the growing body of work in African American literature. Furthermore, Thompson’s work continues to highlight concepts of anti-blackness and systemic racism, which are essential to address in order to implement lasting societal change. Her goal in presenting such a body of work is to challenge widely popularized misconceptions and to shed light on issues that inextricably affect all of us, consciously and unconsciously.The Stories of Now

The Stories of Now:

Alice Varghese: “A Conversation on Mental Health in the South Asian American Community”

Alice Varghese is a student at Brooklyn College. She is majoring in Cultural Anthropology and minoring in Global Studies with a concentration in Human Rights. She served as Global Medical Brigades President and created a new service orientated club, Concern Worldwide, during her time on campus. Alice was a recipient of the Goldsmith Award from the Macaulay Honors College in 2019, and has pursued various internships that are involved in public and global health. One of Alice’s passions is volunteering and interacting with her community, and she has dedicated many hours to her local nursing home, soup kitchen, school, and parish. She aspires to work in public health and policy, and is looking forward to obtaining her MPH in the coming years. 

Alice’s project is an integrative look on mental health in the South Asian American community. She includes a personal reflection and interviews of multiple first-generation South Asian Americans in order to highlight the unique plight this community faces. Alice hopes to shine light on the immense stigma and lack of community support many face while grappling with two different cultures, overwhelming expectations, and one’s own sense of worth. She hopes her presentation will encourage productive conversations around the topic of mental health, and looks forward to more South Asian Americans finding their voice and embracing the mental health journeys we all ultimately find ourselves on. 

Alexis Ward

Alexis Ward is a senior studio art major at Queens College. She is a writer and visual artist of African American and Puerto Rican descent who’s work prioritizes the diaspora. Alexiscelebrates the beauty  and rich heritage of both cultures and confronts inequalities inflicted outside and inside the communities such as racism, colorism, stubborn traditions. She seeks to stay in tune with who she is, where she comes from as a Black female artist and storyteller, taking up space one word, one sentence, one bold brushstroke at a time.

Alexis’ project addresses the subject of Misogynoir, when sexism and racism overlap. The title, What Is Misogynoir, touches upon common stereotypical and derogatory depictions directed toward and against black women outside and even inside the Black community. Essentially, it’s how a Black woman can’t take up the same space as Black men nor can they take up the same space as White women. It’s vital that this term is defined, described, because intersectionality is real and we can’t address one facet of a Black Woman’s identity and ignore the other. Alexis takes Misogynoir and fleshes it out for viewers to understand, address, relate to in their own lives.

Bios and Project Descriptions

Kyra Abbu

Kyra Abbu is a Daedalus and McNulty Scholar at Hunter College under the CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Program. She is pursuing Computer Science: Public Health Data Science and Cognitive Science. Upon graduation, she aspires to become a Technical Product Manager, with the mission to increase access to high quality healthcare for the underserved through data science. Kyra was born in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines and raised in Valencia City, Philippines. For most of her early life, her family struggled with accessing adequate healthcare, requiring them to travel for at least three hours to receive proper care. When she was thirteen years old, her family moved to the United States but the healthcare barriers turned into race, language, and unfamiliarity with the system. Therefore, Kyra’s aspirations are an outcome of her family’s personal struggles and she hopes to eliminate these barriers.

Kyra’s project is a publication she co-authored with her colleagues at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and RAND Corporation. They explored Latino adults’ access to mental health care, comparing between Latinos and non-Latinos, across Latino subgroups, and based on immigration-related characteristics. Kyra’s public health interest traces back to her time interning at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and discovering the challenges in data disaggregation. She wanted to immediately use her technical background in finding solutions to the problem, which led her to this publication. Kyra hopes for this work to result in solutions to help the underserved gain access to high quality mental health services.

Natasha Adams

Natasha Adams is a Creative Writing student at Brooklyn college (BFA Fiction). Born and raised in Brooklyn, she returned home to begin writing her family’s history and her critical engagement of popular culture. She writes about the African diaspora, ritual, and how the personal impacts the political. Her work is inspired by the current rise of social justice movements, the political history of the 1960s, Afrofuturism, and the relationship between race, class, and gender. The rhythm and spirit of her writing is informed by ‘ancestors in her line of work’ and includes Sonia Sanchez, Octavia Butler, and Toni Morrison. 

Natasha’s showcase is a play about post-colonialism, ancestral reconciliation, Afro-Carribean identity and the call of ritual. The premise of the play is based on deconstructing the colonial gaze and adding subjectivity to Caribbean immigrant experience as not a singular story, but a complicated journey that touches on the question of what it means to be human in the 21st century. This project aims to bring post-colonial subjects out of abstract constructs and on the stage as complex subjects who have intersecting desires, hopes, aspirations, and fantasies, while shedding light on the tension between immigrant and citizen.

Ramesh Beharry

Ramesh is a civic professional, Marine veteran, and undergraduate senior at CUNY Queens College studying economics, political science, and comparative literature. Ramesh is currently exploring human-rights discourse and questions about what unites us, how we reject or accept people into our communities, why is it hard for us to sustain solidarity and ally-ship with each other, and what the harm we do to each other fundamentally reveals about us. Ramesh volunteers for Mount Sinai’s advocate program for domestic violence and intimate partner violence survivors.

Ramesh’s project is a combination of written and podcast-style reflections about this exploration of community solidarity.

Valeria Cruz

Valeria is a transfer student from Queensborough Community College, who is currently a senior in Queens College majoring in Environmental Science. Upon graduation, they will be a graduate student in Hunter College for the Urban Policy and Leadership program to pursue an M.S. with a concentration on climate change in urban environments. Valeria has always dreamed of teaching and hopes to become a professor one day. Born and raised in Guatemala, Valeria is bilingual, fluent in spanish, and wants to tackle climate change through intersectionality. 

Valeria’s project focuses on tackling Climate Change, one of the most pressing issues facing the world as it encompasses every facet of inequality. Valeria’s project is reimaging the city through a holistic solution that involves all members of a community. Through this project, Valeria expects participants to see how health equity leads to climate justice by investing in the sustainability of marginalized communities in the city with one policy. American diet habits and guidelines are based on a limited population that does not truly represent the diversity of its constituents. Marginalized communities often face higher disparities on health markers, with lower income individuals suffering from higher rates of chronic diseases and conditions. Due to the erosion of cultural heritage, which can include health habits that have now been lost, as well as lower quality products allowed to be sold in the US, immigrant’s diets and health slowly fade through time and generations. We know this city is a city of immigrants, so why not pay homage to the rich culture that we can already find in every street corner? We need ethnic based nutrition programs that place an emphasis on appropriate diets, and a respect and admiration to the land for which the food grows.So, what can be the solution? Urban farms run by high schools. There is no way to make people care where there is no space in their life other than surviving. In this program, Valeria envisions the city investing in marginalized communities that have been declared food deserts and build urban farms near/in local  highschools. A nutrition/health based education is to be offered in the winter months followed by a growing season where a ‘farmer’s market’ can be available to the community. Through this program Valeria hopes students can reconnect to the earth by quite literally getting their hands dirty, aside from the access to nutritious, organic food it can be a solution to cutting the middle men, creating a sustainable market, and uniting communities for a shared purpose, to eat!

Melkisedec Francois

Melkisedec (Mel-key-se-dek) Francois is a sophomore at John Jay College for Criminal Justice (JJC) currently majoring in Law and Society. Mel grew up with the certainty that he would become a lawyer one day like ADA Jack McCoy in the Law and Order series. While exploring the legal field working with elected officials, law firms, federal agencies, and competing in Mock Trial, he discovered a duty for public service taking shape. As a Freshman Representative on the Student Council at JJC, Mel was one of the students responsible for advocating on behalf of first year students in campus affairs and accompanied CUNY University Student Senate (USS) in Albany to lobby for increased higher education funding. During the rise of the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter Protests, Mel became the Assistant Political Relations Director for a coalition of youth activists and organizers called Strategy for Black Lives (SFBL). SFBL’s priority is to implement legislation that provides equity and access for Black and Brown communities, also focusing on increased civic engagement, community outreach, and fostering youth leaders. While a part of the CUNY Peer Leaders Program, Mel was arrested during a protest in the Bronx and experienced the very thing he was protesting against: police brutality. As a way to unpack public trauma and analyze it’s role in popular culture, his project is a screenplay titled,“The Once and Future Defendant”. 

The screenplay follows 52 year-old Elijah Marcel in the year 2055 during a job interview of sorts, the interviewers are elected officials, the room is the United States Senate floor, and his “application” is for Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. After decades of an apolitical career in public service, his confirmation by the Senate is a safe bet, until a Senator begins a line of questioning into Elijah’s time as a young activist during the summer of 2020. As the eyes and opinions of a nation focus on one protest in the Bronx 30 years ago, questions turn to accusations as every witness has something different to say. The purpose of this screenplay is to illustrate and critique the exploitation of trauma (in media), New York City Protest Culture (the empowering and the toxic), and due process in an age of exhausting outrage and hyperpolarization.

Akampreet Kaur

Akampreet Kaur is an undergrad graduate from Queens College who majored in Elementary Education and English. She is an aspiring Elementary teacher who hopes to encourage her future students to be their authentic selves and embrace their individuality. 

Akampreet’s project, “The Teapot & Her,” focuses on her journey of being an immigrant in New York City. Being multicultural, she hopes to share her experience of being both an Asian and an American within her project. “The Teapot & Her” is a poetry collection which explores her identity of being a human, female, student, teacher, and much more. She hopes others can relate to her poetry and recognize that although we all might have different experiences, we all have similar struggles that make us human. 

Alexandra Martinez-Gonzalez

Alexandra Martinez Gonzalez is an undergraduate student at Baruch College. She is majoring in Literature and minoring in Marketing. Alexandra is also a proud member of The National Society of Leadership & Success (NSLS). Alexandra’s key passion is literature, so she finds herself reading or expressing her thoughts and emotions through writing most of the time. She aspires to work at a publishing company after graduating and hopefully publish a book of her own one day.

Alexandra’s showcase is to organize a book drive. Her goal is to share books written by and about Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), and the LGBTQIA+ community with marginalized groups and neighborhoods. The target audience is those within BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities who find it hard to see themselves in literature. It is essential to make people aware of harmful books that negatively connotate those communities and direct them to more adequate books. Alexandra has collaborated with the Color Club (@colorclubnyc) to make the project a reality. The tentative date for the book drive is yet to be determined. Still, they hope to have everything ready this fall as they continue to accept donations.

Mahir Sadad

Mahir Sadad is a Macaulay Honors student at Queens College, CUNY and is majoring in Political Science. His favorite family quote is “we’re scholars from cradle to grave.”  Through his education, Mahir aspires to explore the intersection of justice, society, and technology. In his spare time, Mahir can be either found testing out baking project, or dabbling in art

Project Muhajir, Mahir’s culminating work at CUNY Peer Leaders, derives from the Hindi-Urdu word for traveler, a historic term which was eventually applied to refugees fleeing as a result of the partition of the Indian Subcontinent. Parallels in themes of uncertainty, journey, and destiny can tie together the immigrant and refugee experience. As a result, through a series of anonymous essays, Project Muhajir aims to explore one lens of the contemporary South Asian-Americans experience.

Taylor Savage

Taylor Savage is a student at Lehman College with a major in Healthcare Services Administration and a minor in Public Health. She aspires to become a Nurse Practitioner and healthcare educator. 

Taylor is a strong believer in being as kind to yourself as you are to others and her final project focuses on the best ways to be supportive friends to ourselves as we experience daily life struggles. She also highlights the impact of the pandemic on mental health and the most effective ways to deal with stressful unexpected events. The experiences of several individuals during the pandemic will be explored and their views on what self-care strategies helped them to continue striving to their next hour, week and month. 

Kia Thomas

Kia is a recent graduate of the City College of New York. She has a bachelor’s degree in Black Digital Studies, an interdisciplinary major developed at CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies. A Harlem native, Kia has a deep passion for history, particularly that of the African Diaspora. She is a writer, poet and part-time singer. She is an aspiring journalist who aims to center the narratives and perspectives of Black people of all ethnicities in their respective communities. Her inspirations include Zora Neale Hurston, Ida B. Wells, Shonda Rhimes, Billie Holiday and James Baldwin, amongst many others. She hopes to extend the legacy of Black Americans achieving “wholeness” by seeking their truth in creative ways.

Kia’s project, Through the Fire, spotlights the story of Rose Butler, an enslaved woman living in New York City convicted and executed for attempting to set her “master’s” house on fire. The first part of the project is a podcast episode, and the second part is a four-part fiction narrative. A life-long true crime fan, Kia overviews Rose’s life, her crime, her trial/sentencing, and the implications of her case in a podcast. In the narrative, Kia highlights themes of Black liberation and civil disobedience through a dramatized version of Rose’s story. Kia aims to shed light on the deeply troubling history of slavery and “emancipation” in New York City, which is typically seen as a hub for abolition, freedom and colorblindness. She believes it is imperative for all people to understand the context of their social landscapes in order to truly embody principles of antiracism. More importantly, she believes Black people are entitled to their stories. As recently as her mother’s childhood, Black Americans have been taught they have no history. Kia believes recognizing Black American history alongside Black American present is the only opportunity to achieve a deeper understanding of what liberation truly is and how it can be actualized.

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