Internship spotlight: Pooja at Intermedia Arts

This semester, I am interning at a local premier non-profit, multidisciplinary, multicultural arts organization called Intermedia Arts. Intermedia Arts supports a broad spectrum of artists, with a particular focus on voices you are unlikely to hear anywhere else. They are a nationally recognized leader in empowering artists and community leaders to used arts-based approaches to solve community issues. Their core values of supporting artists, providing a platform for activism, creating a safe space and building meaningful relationships immediately attracted my interest. Throughout my time here, I have noticed progress in my journey of realizing what equity means to me and the community I am a part of; Intermedia Arts’ perspective is that equity is a journey–it is an active and dynamic process. Intermedia Arts is engaged in sharing power, access and resources with the artists and communities they serve.

My role as an Arts and Media Intern involves public relations duties such as making press releases, blogging, coordinating social media and pitching new ideas with an event planning team. This past weekend, I assisted running an event named FREE CECE! honoring Chrishaun Reed “CeCe” McDonald, a black bisexual transgender woman, who fought for her life against wrongful imprisonment and racial biases and inequalities present in America’s criminal justice system. CeCe’s story became an international campaign to gain her freedom, and garnered significant support from media and activists, including actress Laverne Cox. Cox signed on as executive producer of the film, FREE CECE!, committed to exploring the role race, class, and gender played in CeCe’s case. In the end, CeCe emerged not only as a survivor, but also as a leader. To learn more about CeCe’s case,  read here.

Here is my reflection of the event:

The pre-party purple carpet and strings of purple lighting set the perfect tone for a special evening ahead. Each corner of the Intermedia Arts’ gallery echoed party-time! FREE CECE was my first event attending as an Intermedia Arts’ Leadership Intern as well as participating as an assistant and usher; the vibrant, electric energy had me grinning ear-to-ear. CeCe McDonald is an unforgettable presence. Swaying her hips and hugging every soul in the room, she celebrated the friendships around her. I remember thinking; this community is like no other. Guests began walking the carpet, talking personalized photo-shoots with Min Enterprises photography, and mingling with glasses of champagne at hand. I joined in welcoming guests, jamming to the beats by DJ Mickey Breeze and DJ Michele Be and watched the gallery crowd with a full attendance.

As I exited the film screening, almost everyone around me exclaimed, “Blown away, huh?” My expression must have said it all. Andrea Jenkins moderated the post-screening discussion with the fabulous panel of Director Jac Gares, Cece McDobald and Laverne Cox. Jac Gares wished to release the film during the election year to encompass the time of change, and a time of evaluation of the culture and beliefs of our country. Directed by women, this story is meant to expose the oppression experienced by transsexual women, and especially black bisexual trans women. The journey of CeCe McDonald was beautifully told­­–raw and true as CeCe grew to embrace her role as a leader through her victimization in an unjust, white supremacist society. Laverne Cox’s support and leadership in the FREE CECE movement sparked vast inspiration and motivation during the process of granting CeCe freedom; her presence ignited so much love and the recognition of the power and strength trans women are capable of. During the film and discussion, I watched the community listen, and I truly realized the power of that simple act. None of the authorities stopped to listen or truly understand CeCe during her trials and fight for her life. None of the authorities treated CeCe with human dignity. As our Intermedia Arts community listened, we created a space of respect and honesty­–a space for righteousness.

Gathering with such supportive members of the LGBTQ community and artist-activists in the Twin Cities, made me inspired to want to devote time and effort to better serving people who face such types of oppression and injustice, due to our corrupt and flawed system that claims to protect everyone’s rights as citizens of the United States. A main takeaway: stand tall, use your voice and fight back. CeCe is an inspiration to us all; she is “the girl who lived.” Cece has joined the fight to end wrongful imprisonment and increase education about the biases and inequalities present in America’s criminal justice system. Likewise, we can revolutionize thoughts and conceptions around transgender people, racism and gender inequality by promoting education and activism. I will remember CeCe as a role model who teaches me to unapologetically value my life, every single day.

Find an interview with the Director of the film FREE CECE! Jac Gares Here.