This year’s CUNY Peer Leaders Showcase highlighted a range of interests and passions around the theme of “Accountability and Advocacy.” The Leaders worked on projects throughout the 2021-2022 academic year and on Friday, May 13th they showcased their projects in a lightning round format.
The first round of presenters focused on mental health and self-care. Aaliyah McCoy played a snippet of “The Butterfly Effect”, her new podcast focused on internalizing music, mental health, and how to maneuver through life. Katelyn Madera showed parts of “Lying to My Therapist” a compilation of poetry and art for a currently untitled poetry book to spread mental health awareness for students who have been experiencing: burn-out, imposter syndrome, depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Nina Hogan’s “Being a Woman in a Misogynistic World” highlights information about sexual violence and abuse. Including how survivors should be taken seriously, how to end the shame of an act and offers resources. Ruksana Ruhee’s timely “Living with Grief” is a multimedia piece based on the notion of how grief is a universal emotion, whether it is a physical death or heartbreak. It can make one feel very lonely, miserable, broken, and is something that is very difficult to cope with. Favour Anyalewechi’s project focuses on mental health especially the power of saying, “NO!” This project shows how mental health isn’t just only about depression or what society depicts, but also how we interact with others.
Our next round of presentations focused on social justice initiatives. Haunter (Sam) Ascencio’s “Lessons in Q’onnecting” project include the creation of Q’onnections, a paid stipend queer peer mentorship program, and spearheading the creation of John Jay’s new LGBTQ+ center. Dawn Ressy’s “4,645” is a play about social justice viewed through an intersectional lens on the body politic of brown, black, female bodies more specifically those impacted by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2018. Lionel Colon’s online hub for high low income and minority school students aims to increase the accessibility of careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Ayah Djelil project sheds light on the current affairs and the history of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the several misconceptions that are portrayed by western societies (including stereotypes portrayed by the media, educational systems and academia, social institutions, etc.) in refuting the orientalism imbedded within these societies.
Our third group of Leaders presentations focused on identity. Ian Fernandez presented “Beast,” a monologue and rap song he is writing for a musical he wishes to make in the future regarding his experience working at an upstate sleepaway camp as a bunk counselor. Avii Van Praagh project is a collection of written works exploring gender identity, mental illness, and banal societal expectations under American neo-feudalism. Ellie Hubbard’s “Emancipation of Female Sexuality” is a photo series that aims to remove the shame of female sexuality imposed by the patriarchy. It celebrates open sexuality, healthy sex, consent, and many other important components of sex. Malachi Davidson’s “Statement of Purpose” is an EP of self-produced Hip-Hop songs and poems centering his personal experience as a Black man. Malik Brizan-Reed’s “What’s Special about House Music?” is a necessary ethnographic article that goes in-depth about what House music means from a personal Black perspective. While explaining how he has navigated life on the rhythm of House, the history of this repetitive music and how it has evolved into today’s world will be discussed. A discourse about “white-washing” and the “Gay-stigma” surrounding House music will be explained and much more. Sayquan Wooden shared a poem from “The Modern Sense,” a collection of poems, collages, photos, and essays that focuses on themes of identity, creative expression, existentialism, community, and societal change. This project serves to deconstruct & represent the different aspects and realities of these topics in relation to himself and his creative craft. Vaishali Patra’s “views from the other side” Vaishali’s project is a poetry collection revolving around the theme of identity, specifically intersectionality. Tori (Victoria) Caserta’s “The Shadows We Don’t See at Night” is a series of short stories focused around the experiences of one main character who’s just trying to survive the world as a teenage addict in an effort to shine light on the stigmatized stories we often don’t hear until a person’s “gone too soon” because of the disease of addiction.
Our last two, but most definitely not least, presenters focused on Afro-Futurism and New Age concepts and identities! Jasmaine Brathwaite’s The Divine Story: Afrofuturism is a foundational explanation of Afrofuturism, the genre of her next novel. The dissection of story, time, and wisdom as a literary tool will hopefully bring new light to an imperative creative process within literature. Xueqin Ruan’s “Double Mission” is a collection of essays, poems and photos that shares her twin flame journey. This project is important because many twin flames feel so lonely in this world due to people’s lack of understanding. In this project, she will introduce twin flame groups, starseeds, and lightworkers.
The Leaders wanted to bring attention to the issues that they are passionate about. This 2021-2022 academic year has been a challenging year for many, nevertheless they explored various topics and issues that resonate with them and that they wanted to express in developing their Humanities themed projects. Please be sure to check out the showcase if you missed it and the leader’s projects on our website https://cunypeerleaders.commons.gc.cuny.edu which will be posted in late May.