I learned at a young age that domination employs its heaviest attacks by crushing the human spirit. When you can convince people that they are hopeless, you can shatter their identity and more easily persuade them against seeking the healing and reconciliation necessary to resist subjugation. Growing up in an emotionally abusive environment as a consequence of domestic violence invoked in me a deep yearning to understand how cycles of power and dominance are perpetuated. The more aware I am of how they function, the more equipped I can be to break these generational patterns of oppression. Though feelings of discouragement arose in my journey, the Afro-Brazilian Martial Art of Capoeira was the outlet that uplifted my spirit when I was distraught, and affirmed my identity in its most fragile phases. While studying Visual and Performing arts at the University of Southern California, this reinvigoration compelled me to create a spoken word video on Capoeira as part of a passion project called “Break The Boxes” during my junior year. With social justice at its center, I aimed to illustrate how understanding the human experience as complex is integral to building self-confidence in those who’ve felt defeated, and restoring hope in our most vulnerable populations by exploring themes like Freedom and The Future. As a scholar, artist, and activist I am committed to amplifying the narratives of those whose stories remain untold, and devoted to doing so by learning about the marginalization of people from all cultural, religious, and racial backgrounds.
Working with Level the Playing Field, a local non-profit in Oakland, California over the past four summers reinforced my calling to serve underrepresented communities, and equipped me with the tools needed to execute a Break The Boxes educational curriculum with local youth in Salvador Bahia, Brazil this year on a Fulbright Creative and Performing Arts research grant. I gave creative English, Poetry, and Capoeira workshops with a focus on critical pedagogy to empower youth in and affected by the prison system to value their lived experiences and find purpose in their pain. This experience taught me that the principles of vulnerability and transparency are crucial in identity building and laying foundations for peace, restoration, and transformation. Safe spaces create room for people to authentically share their truth. Once people genuinely listen to where another person is coming from, they can more intimately feel ones’ reality in conversation with their own, and arrive at mutual understanding; Exposure breeds empathy. When we honor the experiences of those who’ve been silenced, we guard their human right which they’ve been denied for so long, to live and exist freely. I am eager to expand my scope of how I can give back through Break The Boxes.
Studying origins of Capoeira in Salvador Bahia, Brazil (the birthplace of Capoeira) over the past eight months has opened my eyes to how marginalized communities here are still severely suffering repercussions of colonialism, and inspired me to learn more about human rights for people globally. By engaging with and learning from people through Break The Boxes I’m confident that I will continue to gain invaluable insight on identity formation, and expand my vision for global healing and reconciliation tremendously.