Humanities Action Lab Presentation
From October 30 to November 1, Dr. Ricia Chansky, Kiara Rivera, and I attended the Humanities Action Lab’s “Initiative on Climate and Social Justice” convening, including the opening of the exhibition, Climates of Inequality. Taking place in Newark, New Jersey, the project brought together over 500 students, professors, and activists from various communities to share their stories and research. The event was also to promote opportunities to collaborate with each other. The event was also the first time that the Humanities Action Lab (HAL) exhibition was on public display, featuring multiple projects done by the various universities and communities that collaborated to study climate and environmental issues.
The “Mi María: Puerto Rico After the Hurricane” project was shared there, including its multimedia resources, among them, a virtual reality headset that showed 360 videos of places in Puerto Rico affected by the hurricane. The 360 films were narrated by students and community leaders who introduced viewers to issues like water quality and food insecurity after the hurricane. Our project and our teams were also featured in the HAL documentary and their promotional trailer. At the event, we also presented an introduction to our project, answered questions about it, and discussed it with teams from other schools throughout the weekend.
The space was one of open conversation where everyone attending could share their thoughts on any matter that was being discussed such as climate disaster, water quality, housing, air pollution, public infrastructure issues, etc. Throughout those few days, we spoke to other HAL members that shared a common interest in community activism and engaging in meaningful conversations about how we can work together to tackle these climate and environmental issues that most impact those who are the least responsible for them.
It’s not every day that you get the chance to sit down, listen, and discuss with others who are working for something they believe in, work that is often unpaid and solely done for a contribution of good that seeks to undo the bad. This event has inspired me to continue expanding my own awareness of climate and social injustice by not limiting it to a local scale. With this in mind, I hope to learn from other projects involved in HAL and think about how some of their lessons can help me and my fellow students continue working on the changes that our island needs.
By Bryan Ramos Romero
Mi María Children’s book to be published
As part of the Mi María project, Yarelis Marcial Acevedo and Ricia Anne Chansky wrote a children’s book, Maxy Survives the Hurricane/Maxy sobrevive el huracán, which was translated into Spanish by Francheska Morales Garcia and Sharon Marie Nieves Ferrer. The book will be published in a bilingual edition by Arte Público Press’s children’s imprint, Piñata Books.
Mi MARíA INTERVIEWED BY PRIMERA HORA
In recognition of the two-year anniversary of Hurricane María, an article about the “Mi María” project was featured on the cover of Primera Hora. You can read the article here.
VOICE OF WITNESS PODCAST
Students from the Mi María project were interviewed for the Voice of Witness Podcast in recognition of the two-year anniversary of Hurricane María. Listen to the podcast here.
Mi María participants contribute to anansesem special issue
Mi María Narrator Speaks at VOW Anniversary Event
Zaira Arvelo Alicea, one of the narrators whose story was recorded by the Mi María project, was invited to present her story at the Voice of Witness ten year anniversary event in Los Angeles, “Brave Stories, Bold Movements.” She shared the program with Isabel Allende and others who spoke up for social justice.
Mi María contributes to prize-winning student project
A group of students from Brown University have won third place in the annual Columbia University Environmental Policy Competition, sponsored by the Columbia Economics Review, an undergraduate journal. Until they met teammate Estrella Rodriguez of Bayamón, students participating in the competition had little understanding of the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States, especially after Hurricane María. Dana Kurniawan, Madison Hough, Olivia McClain, and Rodriguez met Mi María project director, Ricia Anne Chansky, at the annual Brown University Hack for Humanity in 2019, which was dedicated to Hurricane María. The team interviewed Chansky and referred to findings of the Mi María project in their entry. They were particularly impacted by what they learned about the power of storytelling as an instrument for research in many fields, as Chansky stated that oral history and other biographical research methodologies are exceptional tools for research that are not often integrated into disaster response. They learned that while the hurricane itself was a natural occurrence, the disaster was heightened by the lack of human and institutional response. In light of this research, their prize-winning project focused on the development of solar microgrids that would be developed and maintained on a neighborhood-level independent of large-scale government initiatives.
Mi María on the Radio
During the months of June and July a group of project members were invited to two different radio stations to talk about Mi María: Puerto Rico after the Hurricane. On June 12, 2019, undergraduate student, Brenda Y. Flores Santiago, had a fifteen-minute interview at Radio Isla (WSKN 1320 AM) in San Juan. Radio host, Damaris Suarez, asked Flores Santiago to provide listeners with an introduction of the two parts of the Mi María project: collaboration with the nonprofit organization Voice Of Witness (VOW) on a book and partnership with the Humanities Action Lab (HAL) on a mobile exhibition that’s going to travel through Puerto Rico and the United States. Flores Santiago also shared the various ways in which the public can follow along with the progress of the project—social media platforms and the official website—and encouraged the audience to become involved in the project.
On July 8, Radio Isla del Oeste (WKJB 710 AM), located in Mayagüez, interviewed Flores Santiago with fellow students, Bryan Ramos Romero and Kiara M. Rivera Santiago, alongside Dr. Jocelyn Géliga Vargas—all from the Department of English. Hosted by broadcaster, Julio Victor Ramirez, project participants took part in an in-depth conversation that lasted for two hours. Each member of the project highlighted the role they have taken on as active members of the project, insights on the collected narratives, the work each student has done for the exhibition portion of the project, highlights from the project, and reflections on what the work means to them.