Sean Hunter

Rise Up! at JCAL

by Jabari Bruce

November 19th witnessed “Rise Up!” at The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL). The two hour event included a series of plays, dances, and poems addressing the struggles people have – and continue to have –  with mental health.

The first act featured a dance performed by Monica Mtnoga and a slideshow giving information on African American statistics in the United States. The dance was accompanied by the song “Rise Up” by Andra Day. Next up was a recorded story-telling dance – presented over a poem named “Depression” by Bharatanatyaam – performed by Sophia Salingaros and Isha Parupudi. The piece described the struggles of overcoming mental challenges.

Sophia Salingaros and Isha Parupudi
Sophia Salingaros and Isha Parupudi

The performance continued with a short film named “Soft: A Love Letter to Black Queer Men” which described the struggles of being in the LGBTQ community as a black man.

A short film and dance performed by LadyKatie and the Empowered Artistry Students followed. Here, the students and teacher described the obstacles faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. They asked questions such as, “If you could go back in time to your younger self and give advice, what would you say?” The short interview concluded with a story telling ballet piece. A short film, “Anxiety” by Michael Smigiel, showed the vivid point of view of a woman experiencing severe anxiety.

Another short film – “We Shall Remain” – followed. This film featured a narrated poem that questioned the decision making of people who drink and drive. The final short film – “Native American Hotline” – provided a glimpse into the state of Native American mental health. 

The event concluded with live performances of poems from Sean Hunter, dance from Debie Mendoza, spoken word from Antonia Paredes, and a panel discussion with Sade Batchelor, Silvano Cazares, and Aiyana Smith. The panelists answered anonymous questions submitted by the audience.

Sade Batchelor, Silvano Cazares, and Aiyana Smith w/ Rise Up Curator
Sade Batchelor, Silvano Cazares, and Aiyana Smith w/ Rise Up Curator

For more information, log onto on future events.