San Francisco State University freshman, theatre major and poetry slam champion, Jasmine Williams, talked to us about why she returned to her high school to talk to the next generation about a career in the arts.
Alliance: What got you so passionate about the arts?
JW: Well to be honest, when I first signed up for a theatre class in tenth grade, I took it because I just needed a few more credits and I figured it would be easy. But then, when I got in there I got introduced to all this new stuff – improv, performing, writing — that’s when I started writing poetry, and I grew to love it.
Alliance: Was it harder than you thought it would be?
JW: Yes! The teacher expected us to really work for the class! We had to write our own plays and put them on at the end of the semester. We had to do our own lighting, costume design –- whatever the audience saw, came from what we did. If we wanted to look good, we had to make ourselves look good.
Alliance: But since you were there they’ve cut most of the arts classes?
JW: Yup. No more theatre or dance, and the band is gone, too.
Alliance: So what made you go back and talk to students there about a career in the arts?
JW: Well our high school holds an Alumni College Fair each year, where they do workshops about applying for college and different careers. I remember going when I was in high school and there was no one there to talk about the arts!
I always want to contribute to my community, so when they mailed out the list of workshops this time, I said, you know what – I can really contribute now.
I emailed the high school and they agreed it was really good idea. They allowed me to take charge of the workshop. I invited two friends to come and speak about different art forms – painting, photography, design and fashion.
Alliance: What happened?
JW: It was amazing to see so many eager students there. I didn’t expect so many! The night before we only set up about thirty chairs, but then we had to bring out twenty more chairs and there were people standing. For each of three workshops!
Alliance: What was your message about the cuts to the arts programs at the school?
JW: We talked to them about that! They could see how much the programs had meant to the three of us – that we’d taken the time to come and talk to them on a Saturday. We told that it’s up to them because it’s their school. They can sign petitions, do a boycott, they can fight to get those classes back. You have to work to get those teachers back. We stressed that if they really want to have arts classes they have to work for it, no one’s just going to give it to you.