July 8t​h​, 2019 

Hi, my name is Kymberley Leggett and I went on a GCC trip to Brazil this past May and June, where the topic was Theatre and Incarceration. I graduate this August with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and minors in Music and Community Action & Social Change (through which, I earned a certificate in Poverty Solutions, Action, and Engagement). It’s a mouthful, but to sum it up, I really enjoy studying people, the arts, and social justice. My studies came together so beautifully in my trip with the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) that I did it twice! The organization combines the arts and social justice to understand the complexity of humans and the criminal justice system globally. Throughout the state of Michigan, students and volunteers in PCAP facilitate weekly arts workshops in prisons and a youth facility, as well as a re-entry workshop. The organization also hosts the largest exhibition of prison art annually, showcasing work from prisoners in all facilities across the state. It is a truly fantastic organization that everyone should know about! Last year, PCAP introduced me to the trip and I learned so much about Brazil, its people and culture, that I just had to go back for more this year!

To explain what, exactly, it is that we did on the trip to Brazil, students facilitated theatre workshops for at least one semester, then traveled to Florianopolis and Rio de Janeiro as an exchange with students from two universities, the University of the State of Santa Catarina and the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro. In these two cities, students attend theatre classes and performances and explore the theatre for social justice programming that the universities offer: Theatre in prisons, musical theatre in hospitals, theatre with the elderly, clowning in hospitals, and theatre in living communities. The prison, hospital, and struggling

neighborhoods are all places that are difficult. What is so great about the programming offered at the universities, though, is that the students offer the people in those places some time to escape, a new friend, or a new skill. There is a challenge, though, in knowing the conditions that those communities live through and knowing that anything could happen at any moment and you cannot break out of character or let your emotions get the best of you...you must continue. Learning the differences and similarities of all the programs has helped me to understand not only how the arts impact all of our lives, but how they have a place outside the studio/stage and their importance. It has perfectly married all of my studies into one!

July 17t​h​, 2019 

I am a black woman who was very hyper-aware of my race while abroad. My first time going to Brazil, last year, I was surprised to find how bad racism was towards blacks. I hadn’t realized that slavery ended so late in the country (1888), so of course the lingering discrimination would still be potent. Going back to the country this time, I paid more attention to how much African influence there was around. Of course, a large percentage of the population is black, but so much of Brazilian culture stems from African roots, despite all of the racism targeted toward those with darker skin. Samba and Capoeira, two of Brazil’s most famous dances, are rooted in African culture, and there is so much more! It upsets me to see my distant relatives give so much to be imprisoned, put on the street, and discriminated against the way that they are. It is the Afro-Brazilians that have contributed so many of the things that make the country beautiful to me. I wish I could go back in time and thank them myself!

As for my mental health on the trip, I struggled through it, but made it to the end! The winter 2019 semester took a huge toll on me. I was still battling out some family problems that carried over from the prior summer, I was working multiple jobs, doing band (which is like a job in itself), attending student org meetings, trying to complete all my requirements for graduation, applying for jobs for after my return from traveling, and trying to spend time with friends who would be gone after I returned, all while still taking classes full time. The semester was a non-stop rollercoaster and I didn’t have much time to process it all before heading to Brazil. I took all of that baggage and stress with me, which, admittedly, made it harder to focus and truly enjoy the trip as much as I had before. Days spent at the beach, watching the waves and feeling the breeze, definitely allowed me to clear my head a bit. Some nights though, I just did not have the energy to go and spend time with our hosts. At the time, I hated myself for choosing the nights in, but looking back at it, it was the best thing for me and I don’t regret putting myself first. It allowed me to enjoy what I could and make the best with what I had. Going to a country so different from our own, I think everyone has moments where they need to collect themselves. Thankfully, I was surrounded by a group of people who supported me and helped me get through the adventure with some laughs and smiles.