Preshona Ambri is a non-traditional, multimedia teaching artist / "artivist" whose purpose and mission is to spread the stories of people of color - and women of color - on this planet. An immigrant who would grow to become familiar with love, loss, survival and healing, Preshona followed the rabbit hole of her life to meet the teachers who would show her what she could do with it...
2. Her first teacher came to her in undergrad, when an Ethnic Studies requirement at her liberal arts college unexpectedly veered her down a path of history and sociology. [Featured: Dr. Shawn Ginwright, Head of Africana Studies Department, San Francisco State University - Preshona's Ethnic studies Professor and Undergraduate Advisor]
Also featured: Aldo Billingsley, Preshona's influential Theatre professor at Santa Clara University - who showed her that acting is far more about being than it is about pretending.
3. Then she discovered a scholarship to study abroad to El Salvador, to learn from the people there. Casa De La Solidaridad. Having learned deeply from immersion, Preshona would then seek out the Borderlinks program - to re-unite with family she never knew. Her heart grew.
4. Originally wanting to be a writer, actress and filmmaker, Preshona's course began to change as she uncovered, more and more, how the world had not been very fair to people of color on this planet.
The War Gauged on Black
Painting by Kehinde Wiley
5. Then, as she began reflecting on her relationship with her own melanin, she started to realize how she had internalized white supremacist standards for so long - from the generational practice of skin-bleach in her family to the lack of representation in her family's doll collection - to even the instinctual quieting of speaking non-English languages in public.
6. As Preshona began unraveling the history of the world, she would come to learn about Black & Chicano history legends like Malcolm X and Luis Valdez. She would meet young people from emergency living consortiums, afterschool programs and even a Covenant House - all of whom became like siblings and tribe to her: all of whom would remind her of herself, with only slightly different chances. Then Youth UpRising found her. And the creating began to happen.
Picture stories of people’s histories.
Teatro Campesino is the guerilla theatre lbirthed from the Farmworkers' Movement in 1965
After a family tragedy moved her back to the east coast, she was brought to work in case management - and with young men in a correctional facility in DC. It was there that Preshona would decide to become a Social Studies teacher, using her penchant for multi-media and theatre to bring all of these stories to life. That is, until a Social Studies teacher showed her the Eurocentrism of typical K-12 S.S. curriculum.
And so Preshona would become
the non-traditional, teaching artist.
It began with her teaching in the correctional facility: a class called "American History X". Her students:
The One Love Co-Op is a consortium of artists/artisans, healers, vendors and educators of the diasopra - united to spread truth, love and co-operative economics. I Am Sun is the baby of One Love, formed to work directly with the youth, in order to show them all of their true powers. #XMen
7. Then the idea came to extend the curriculum out to the community, through positive, monthly/bi-monthly gatherings that she and her friend called "One Love" events. In them, artists, healers, vendors and families alike would be invited to build, co-op and heal around divisive issues in the community. These would be presented by digital storytelling compilations which Preshona would work on, monthly. Participants would be encouraged to respect one another, only speak from experience, and then break bread, dance, hear local musicians and support co-operative local economics. So was born One Love=True Change Inc., co-operative gatherings & programming designed to bring people together to rejoice, heal, and build around our differences, with resolution and love. And from these events, birthed I Am Sun, curriculum designed with Common-Core and college-preparatory exams in mind, that embrace the diverse and often untold experiences of people of color in our world.
Preshona's passion inevitably fashioned her into a magnet for programs that celebrate truth-telling, diversity, culture, and radical love. From Soul 57 to Children's Defense Fund to Roots Public Charter School to Kuumba Preparatory Academy to Kids and Culture Camp, Sankofa Homeschool Collective and most recently Kamali Academy -- Preshona’s brand of theatrics, curation, writing and multi-media arts made her a shoo-in with many youth - who loved her energetic style and relatability of explaining complex world topics. Her philosophy became “If history is boring, that means we’re not teaching it right.”