The Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, in partnership with the UGA Graduate School, UGA Arts Council, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and Flagpole magazine, has awarded 34 micro-fellowships in its Shelter Projects program. The $500 fellowships support graduate students and community-based artists and practitioners in the creation of shareable reflections on their experience of the current pandemic through the arts and humanities.
Artist Statement: Daja M. Rice is a third year MFA Acting Candidate at UGA. She has spent most of her career performing on the theatrical stage and enhancing the personal, professional and artistic development of youth through the performing arts. Being called to be a “light in darkness,” Daja lives and works by a standard founded on Christ principles and embraces opportunities to create meaningful art with conviction, integrity, and passion.
STILL is a short film that follows a single character’s swift journey to embracing her new normal of stillness during the current pandemic. It includes inspirational narration that Daja hopes will compel viewers to look at stillness as more than confinement, but as an opportunity to ground ourselves in the basic gifts of life: family, friends, health, quality time, etc. It suggests that we all “still” have these crucial elements of our lives to celebrate.
Flagpole: Tell us a little bit about yourself! What is the focus of your research as an MFA candidate in Acting at UGA?
Daja M. Rice: I’m a teaching/performing artist and published author. I obtained my BA in Theatre Education and Performance from North Carolina Central University, toured nationally with Missoula Children’s Theatre Company, and I’ve dedicated most of my career to performing on stage and enhancing the artistic development of youth through the performing arts. I am currently in my third and final year of my graduate program at UGA as an MFA Acting Candidate. While at UGA, I have focused on the practical research of the Black Aesthetic and how it informs and influences Black Acting Methods.
Flagpole: “STILL” encourages us to reframe the pandemic as an opportunity to ground ourselves and refocus on the basics of life. What sort of activities have helped you find comfort within stillness? What advice would you give to someone who might be struggling with isolation, grief or anxiety within their own stillness?
DR: During the pandemic, I’ve enjoyed spending quality time with my husband at home and with my friends and family via Zoom or phone calls. I also leveraged this time of stillness to self-reflect and assess and reclarify my goals for myself.
The second part of this question is so loaded, and I think it would be misguiding, insensitive and ineffective to try to provide a “one response fits all” answer. So, I’ll say this: Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel currently. Take inventory of what you’re feeling and if you don’t like it, be honest with yourself about why. If you don’t know why, talk to a trusted friend, or utilize the university’s counseling resources for one-on-one help with sorting out the complexity of your thoughts and feelings. Then, once you’ve done all that, be intentionally responsible for doing the things that make you feel how you want to feel: at peace, secure, loved, connected, etc. Because this pandemic is NOT the end of the world, and it is NOT the end of you. You are going to make it through all this, and you are going to be okay.
Flagpole: I came across your campaign, Vote Like A Girl, which celebrates the centennial of the 19th Amendment and women’s constitutional right to vote. What motivated you to launch this initiative, and what impact do you think it’s had so far?
DR: I have an initiative, Daddy’s Girl, which focuses on the uplifting, encouragement and empowerment of women through Christian principles. Most of my following are Black millennial women, and with the presidential election coming up, I wanted to make sure that they felt just as empowered to vote as anyone else. History and statistics have proven that women (specifically) make a difference when they feel empowered to do so. Women show up and participate when they have a stake in what is happening.
I wanted women of color and every other woman to know that this centennial year of women’s right to vote is not the “White Woman’s Anniversary,”—it’s every woman’s anniversary! And in commemoration of this amazing mark in history, and in light of our nation’s climate, there is no better time than now for us all to band together and do what we do best: empower, uplift and encourage each other to show up and make a difference and let our voices be heard loudly and clearly that change cannot and will not happen without us!
What I love most about this campaign is that it is not exclusive to the Black woman, the Christian woman or any marginalized group of women, but it is for all women. And through this campaign, I hope that women will not only feel empowered to vote but feel proud to know that we were all in this together—that in a time when discord and separation are prevalent, we found the strength in us to get on one accord for a greater purpose. To find out more information about Vote Like a Girl and purchase VLAG Swag to wear on your voting day, you can visit www.dajamrice.com/vote.
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