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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Lea Troutman at 4:30PM

Written by Lea Troutman, Film, Photo and Visual Arts '21, FLEFF Blogging Intern, Baltimore, MD

My morning conversation with Cynthia Henderson was filled with both laughs and tears, as we discussed her life, her family, and her career.  

Cynthia Henderson was recruited to work at Ithaca College and for many years she was the only African American professor. 

When asked how she disrupts her environment, Henderson laughed. She said, “just being who I am.” 

In her first year, she endured discrimination and hate speech. She said, her very presence here on this campus is disruptive, she challenges the norms of Ithaca and the expectations. 

Cynthia Henderson is known for her social justice impact. In 2007, Henderson founded the program, Performing Arts for Social Change (PASC).  

PASC ‘s “mission is to raise awareness and educate by giving a voice to important societal issues that are often overlooked” through performing pieces “that serve as teaching moments” for the performers and audiences.  

Henderson believes in entertainment with a purpose. She uses her talents and training in theater to have a positive impact on the world.  

PASC has covered topics such as, AIDS, education, women's empowerment, poverty and racism. “We do this by working with communities and creating pieces that are inspired by their words and specific to their experiences,” Henderson says on their website. 

Similarly, to these topics in PASC, in FLEFF 2019, Henderson will be preforming for the film EL ULTIMO MALON on Saturday April 6, live with the Could Chamber Orchestra at Cinemapolis. She will be opening for the film, to set the tone for what is to come covering the topics of oppression of indigenous cultures.  

When Henderson has a role to take on, she holds herself accountable for researching and understanding the characters or in this case the Mocovíes’ stories that need to be told.  

Henderson dislikes bullying and the fact that indigenous peoples across the globe have been “civilized” by the people in power.  

A powerful and striking question Henderson asked was, “Who says they aren't already civilized?”  

She compares the Mocovíes to Japanese Internment which directly relates to my personal life. I really appreciated the time and care Henderson puts into the research and the dedication to giving the oppressed and overlooked a chance to have a voice. She does this within every role she takes on. 

Apart from the social justice impacts she has made on her community; family holds a significant place in Henderson’s life and was one of the first topics we discussed. 

When asked about her favorite performances one of them she mentioned was, Sarah in Children of a Lesser God.  

Henderson’s favorite performances were due to family. In her role in Children of a Lesser God, she performed in sign language, which she described as “her grandmother’s language.” 

Henderson was taught sign language by her Grandmother and even learned true ASL. She described how special these moments were for her with teary eyes and how proud her Grandmother was meant a lot to Henderson. 

Besides family, theater, another significant factors in Henderson’s life plays a huge role in what she stands for. 

Theater pulled Henderson out of poverty and gave her family a better life. “I’ve seen the world because of theater,” Henderson said. She feels grateful for what theater has allowed her to do in her life, so Henderson gives back through PASC and her work in FLEFF.  

Through Henderson’s inspiring story, I left our interview feeling motivated and excited for what is to come at FLEFF. Cynthia Henderson is one of the many passionate and strong faculty on campus that we are lucky to have. 

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