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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

BIEI’s DREAM Monologues translates advocacy through poetry, music and dance

Published: April 25, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc., Top Stories

Brandeis Immigration Education Initiative hosted DREAM Monologues: Moments of Transitions in Chum’s last Wednesday night. The event aimed at creating a platform for sharing and witnessing the stories of Brandeis students’ experiences of being in transition. Whether this means existing in a dual identity, going through family immigration statutes, or even leaving home for the first time.

DREAM Monologues began with opening remarks from one of BIEI’s co-president, Jen Espada ’16. Espada’s words set the tone for the night, commenting on the themes of transition, being displaced and loss that would be explored through the various acts of the night. The performances showed a wide range of diversity, stretching from dance to poetry to song and rap.

The first segment of the DREAM Monologue was a dance performed by Shaquan Perkins ’14 and Stephanie Ramous ’15. The duo danced to a mastermix of hip-hop medleys that included Disclosure’s “Latch,” featuring Sam Smith. Perkins’ movements were intricate and tight, while Ramos was able to showcase her great lyricism and flexibility.

Other performers included LauraBen Moore ’14 whose speech in an ad libitum style spoke on her frustration on the way academic art scrutinizes creativity and the need to defend her art. Moore also spoke on how words alone are not enough to express truth as “a matrix of the universe that we can tap into.” Rohan Narayanan ’15 offered the audience an original poem that was met with much delight by the crowd. Using a strict rhyme scheme throughout, Narayanan shared his experiences of feeling displaced among his friends and the desire to be noticed, heard and understood. Mackalani Mack delivered a rap that paid tribute to his mom and the sacrifices she has made for him. Rapping to a recorded soundtrack, Mack’s piece also centered on finding his place away from home.

Leila May Pascual ’15, also used music as a mean of sharing her narrative. Pascual performed an original song inspired by Professor Mitra Shavarini’s (WMGS) memoir “Desert Roots,” which speaks on her experiences as an Iranian-American growing up in the United States: “I related it to my own experience of coming to the United States when I was eight years old. My family’s original flight from the Philippines to the U.S. was scheduled to be few hours after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. My family came to the US during a time when xenophobia was its peak and fear permeated the country, from the weeks of ‘High Terrorism’ alert on the news headlines to my third grade classmates telling me to go back to the Philippines,” Pascual said in an interview. Her song, titled “Dasal ng Pagala” meaning “Nomad’s Prayer,” was sung entirely in Tagalog and sings of “home” as a place as place of support and love regardless of any storming obstacle.

As each performer took the stage, the performances began to converge onto similar notes throughout the night. Although each of their narratives were uniquely special, the performances spoke to a larger, collective note of feeling the need to be seen, to have their narratives recognized, and their struggles validated.

“These narratives are important because they do not directly tie to immigration but show that everyone can relate to one another. Everyone who performed discussed their own experience of feeling out of place, missing home, dealing with identity issues. BIEI wanted people to be able to share their own stories that could relate to anyone even if it was completely different,” explained co-president Estela Lozano ’16. “It was great to have the narratives because it creates a safe place for students to be able to relate even though we are all so different. We wanted to make the same connection with undocumented immigrants and the situations that they constantly face on a daily basis,” Lozano said.

More than just safe, the space of Chum’s was transformed into an environment where everyone in the room felt free to be honest and open with each other. This atmosphere became increasingly palpable with each act. For instance, Yasmin Yousof ’15 performed a spoken word poem also about the inadequacy of the English language to express herself and her heritage, saying: “English force itself on my tongue, makes me forget how to roll the R’s that my mother taught me.” Yousof also spoke about her father, a devout man of Islam, and how long his beard has gotten. She expresses her worry on how people will react to her father because how prominently Muslim he looks, but does not want to tell her father to shave because she doesn’t want him to think he has a raised a daughter ashamed of her own faith—breaking into tears as she delivered her poetry.

Yousof’s piece, like many of the spoken word performers of the night like Bronte Velez ’16, Cristal Hernandez ’15, reached into an emotional rawness that commanded the attention of everyone in the room. Each performer’s willingness to share their narratives of transition, change and resilience made DREAM Monologues a powerfully intimate evening.