Native Gardens: Digging Deeper

October 30, 4:00 p.m.

Join PlayMakers and featured panelists from campus partners the Carolina Latinx Center, UNC American Indian Center, and the NC Botanical Gardens for a post-show panel discussion following the matinee performance of Native Gardens on Sunday, October 30, 2022. Discussing topics such as nationality, borders, and the significance of native plants, this discussion will dig deep past the topsoil of the play to discuss how playwright Karen Zacarías’ themes influence the panelists in their own work and communities. 

Light bites will be provided by Epilogue Books Chocolates Brews.

GEOVANI RAMÍREZ is an assistant professor of Latinx Studies and Literature in the Department of English at Virginia Tech University, where he teaches and researches on health and environmental humanities scholarship. His current book project “The Burning Question of Labor”, explores the ways Mexican-heritage women writers use the topic of labor in their works to interrogate and re-shape notions of, among other things, class, race, gender. Employing ecocritical and disability studies frameworks as well as ecofeminist theory, his book project reveals the essential role Mexican-heritage women have played in offering conceptual frameworks for understanding Mexican-heritage people’s relationships to labor and laboring spaces, the environment, and health. Geovani’s work has appeared in such venues as UC Berkley’s Ethnic Studies Review, Latinx Talk, and Intersectionality: Understanding Women’s Lives and Resistance in the Past and Present. Geovani’s public-facing, transdisciplinary approach toward the study of Latinx populations is manifested in his latest publication, “Chicken Doctors and the Trials of Transcendence: Unveiling Gallinera/o Illness Narratives.” “Chicken Doctors” is a multi-genre, autoethnographic piece that engages with medical anthropological scholarship to explore the intersections between Latina/o labor, legislation, and health.

JESALYN KEZIAH, MSW, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, currently serves as the Community Engagement Program Officer at the UNC American Indian Center, supporting community engagement among UNC community and all statewide Tribal Nations and Native-led community programs, leveraging resources to support program development, and bridging UNC resources with Tribally self-determined initiatives. She also coordinates the Healthy Native North Carolinians Network and the new initiative to develop an American Indian Cultural Garden, along with other community-oriented programming. Jesalyn is a double graduate of Carolina, graduating with a BA in 2007 as a first-generation college student, then returning after a decade of work experience to graduate in 2020 with her Master’s in Social Work. She is passionate about helping students access and navigate higher education, and serves as Resilience Coach on campus, hosted by UNC Diversity and Inclusion, Carolina Collaborative for Resilience.

DR. DAMON WAITT is Director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden and Professor of the Practice in Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As Director, Damon has broad responsibility for overall leadership and management of the North Carolina Botanical Garden and for ensuring that the Garden fulfills its mission to inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants and to advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature. Damon came to the North Carolina Botanical Garden from the Lady Bird Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas where he served as Senior Director and Botanist from 2001-2015. Damon has served on the Invasive Species Advisory Committee of the National Invasive Species Council, as President of the Texas Academy of Science and is the founding president of the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council. He also served as Chair of the North Carolina Plant Conservation Program and is currently a board member of the Center for Plant Conservation. Damon holds a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Texas in Austin, an M.S in Botany from Louisiana State University Baton Rouge and a B.S. in Biology from Tulane University.

PATRICK TORRES is the director of “Native Gardens”. Patrick is the Artistic Director at Raleigh Little Theatre and has more than a decade of experience as a professional director and theatre educator. His work as a freelance director has been seen at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Southwest Shakespeare Festival, Round House Theatre, The Source Festival, and the Hangar Theatre among others. In 2003, he was selected as a Drama League Directing Fellow and in 2005 was named a Young Leader of Color by the Theatre Communications Group. Patrick also developed the After-School Playwriting Program at Young Playwright’s Theater that was awarded the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady, Michelle Obama in 2011. He has an MFA in Directing from the University of Southern Mississippi.

TALITHA MORENA MONIZ MCMILLION is a LatIndigenous storyteller and dedicated activist. Talitha has worked with organizations including Greenpeace, Charlotte Animal Activists, and an underground migrant assistance coalition for Latin American refugees. In 2019, they were a part of a political delegation to Colombia organized by AfroResistance to build international, working-class solidarity with Afro and Indigenous Colombians. In addition to being an Assistant Correspondent for PETA, Talitha is currently continuing to expand on their research and documentation of how the animal agriculture industry harms Latin American lands, people, and animals. They are presently pursuing a Dramatic Art and Creative Writing double major and Philosophy, Politics, and Economics minor at UNC-Chapel Hill. Before coming to UNC, Talitha obtained an Associate of Arts.

Join us for the discussion on October 30 at 4:00 p.m. Free and open to the public, no registration is required. Haven’t seen the show yet? Learn more about “Native Gardens,” by Karen Zacarías.