By Anya Shukla
Adem Wijewickrema’s aunt, a photographer herself, gifted him his first camera when he was only five years old. He’s been taking pictures ever since: of the places he’s traveled, cars, and the city. In eighth grade, Wijewickrema also started a photography business; now, he gets booked for birthday parties, car shows, sports videos, and even a New York Times bestsellers’ food showcase event.
Additionally, Wijewickrema leads the 60-person photography club at his high school. He starts the year off by asking members to bring in photos for him to critique, then he teaches students about camera basics, like f-stop and shutter speed. Afterward, the club takes field trips around the city to practice what they’ve learned.
“There are not a lot of people my age who actually have a camera and can call themselves a photographer: everyone just takes photos on their phone. So the fact that there are sixty kids coming to me—week after week—who are interested in this… it means a lot to me.” Wijewickrema said.
By Anya Shukla
This week, I checked out Tacoma Art Museum's (TAM) “Black Artists” collection. According to the TAM website, pieces by black artists only make up 1.76% of the museum’s 5000 art pieces. Therefore, the organization is working to critically engage with and remedy this inequality; this collection is one of the ways it is doing so.
While I liked the collection as a whole, I especially enjoyed the following three pieces by black artists, all of whom produced work in either the 19th or 20th century. And to flex my writing muscles, I thought it would be fun to create mini-reviews—each approximately 250 words—of the paintings I admired. (Because I am kinda scared of copyright infringement, I haven’t provided pictures of the art pieces I’ve reviewed. Instead, I’d encourage you to click on the links to see each one for yourself.)
By Anya Shukla
Denisse Aguilar Sarmiento steps onto a dimly lit stage, takes a deep breath, and begins speaking, voice shaking.
“Dear people who say immigrants take everything away from us, / meet my dad. / He didn’t finish college / because his mom died. / He came to the United States / hoping that he could find a job to support his family. / And yes, / just like you read in some history textbooks, / he worked in the fields, / in a vineyard.”
Over the next five minutes, Aguilar Sarmiento performs her original spoken word poem, "Dear People," which describes her experience as a Mexican-American. Her voice grows in intensity as she describes her family, her neighborhood, and the internal conflict she feels as a child of immigrants. When she finishes, the room stays hushed for a moment, then explodes with applause. She receives a standing ovation.
By Anya Shukla
The two minute and 29-second video starts in the dark. “Other people don’t have to remember to forget,” the voiceover half-whispers in Spanish. Noses and ears bloom in and out of sight as the camera, focusing and unfocusing like a dilated eye, circles several people. The speaker continues: “Check their pockets for everything they need to bring out: money, keys, ID, and a strategy to present themselves.” The video’s subjects stay stock-still, the lack of light and strange camerawork obscuring their faces. They stand like statues: static, with unnerving immobility. “The movie started without me, and around me.”
An elegant, multifaceted piece, Rodrigo Valenzuela’s Tertiary explores the role of people of color in cinema and television, art forms where racial minorities are often underrepresented. For example, according to a study by UCLA, only 18.7% of broadcast scripted leads went to people of color, while racial minorities make up 38.7% of the American population. Tertiary delves into the sociological and psychological impacts of this relegation of racial minorities to the background.
Meet our latest Refocus interviewee: Sofia Dominguez, a Latinx actress and playwright! Sofia recently won ACT Theatre's Young Playwrights Program for her ten-minute play, "Estrella." Her play sheds light on the experiences of undocumented immigrants and their families; through this piece, Sofia hopes to dispel stereotypes about the Latinx community.
While, unfortunately, this play cannot be produced through ACT Theatre this year due to coronavirus-related health concerns, you can support Sofia and her work by watching the video below.