Community Building Day: Honoring Our Ancestors

By:  Olivia Laramie

On Oct. 30, writer and dramaturg Priscilla Page joined students at CMASS for a Community Building Day to engage participants in writing about their family traditions and cultural practices. Page is a lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst theater department.

 With calming music playing in the background to aid students in their reflective writing, Page began the workshop by instructing the group to write down twenty “I am from” statements. These statements could be as general or as specific as each writer wished, so long as there were twenty.

Participants struggled with Page’s next task, which was to write down 20 moments or events that they believed impacted their lives. She surprised everyone when she then asked the group to cross out half of the items listed. “It doesn’t mean they are not important, but maybe not as important to your being,” she said.

Following Page’s guidance, each participant ended up with a list of only three pinnacle events in their lives that shaped their character. Later, they chose one of the three moments to free-write about for 10 minutes.

Following each exercise, Page would read a passage from different books. Passages consisted of free-writes, essays, and poems by various authors.

Page’s final exercise aimed at harnessing the most creative parts of the brain. Participants were assigned a partner and tasked with sketching one another’s faces. Once everyone was drawn, Page asked the group to close their eyes and imagine  a person they know – the first person who came to mind. Page asked them to take a  “polaroid snapshot” of the person and write about what they saw.

Page’s workshop helped participants open up in their writings, reflecting deeply on their own lives, something that college students often find very little time to do.