In the bigger picture of MAPP’s work in creative education, community development, and around issues of social justice and human rights, we will never forget the personal stories that unfold in the midst of our movement. In fact these stories are the beat of the heart of our work.
We want to take a moment to highlight one of our Mentor Artists – MAPP young writers, My’kel Johnson. She is the daughter of education specialist Verna Johnson and Nez Perce Tribal Chairman Anthony Johnson. Just over 10 years ago I met these two amazing people at an Indian Educators Conference hosted by CD’A Tribe Director of Education Dr. Christine Meyer on the Coeur D’ Alene Reservation. In a performance held at the C’DA tribal longhouse, Verna and Tony were impressed by the performances of plays written by CD’A Tribal School youth and performed by professional actors, through our MAPP program. Verna approached my producing partner Myra Donnelley and me right then and there, and determined that we had to bring this to the Nez Perce Rerservation as soon as possible.
We went into development (funding), and approximately 2 years later we were able to produce our first MAPP program at Lapwai High School on the Nez Perce Reservation.
There was a 12 year old girl in that first program. She was full of energy and enthusiasm. Though most of the young people in the room were a few years older than her, there was a maturity in her thinking and an extraordinary commitment to the creative work we asked for, that inspired us all. That first play, about the moon and a young wolf, expressed beautifully the sense of responsibility this girl felt for her family and her community.
For the next 6 years, she would return to our yearly programs and we would watch her grow into a stunning young woman. She continued to write heartfelt plays that expressed her hopes and dreams. Below is an example of her unique and powerful voice: