Ahalia Persaud '15 on Synthia Saint James

May 27, 2015

Synthia Saint James Ahalia Persaud

Today we sit down with Ahalia Persaud ’15, to talk about her experiences during Synthia Saint James’s visit as the Eileen Friars Leader-in-Residence.

Tell us a bit about your major and how the Eileen Friars Leader-in-Residence week tied in to the work you'd like to do going forward?

I [graduated] with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a minor in Arts Administration. I am interested in working with communities of color, people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, abilities, ages, sexual orientation, and other oppressed groups while engaging them in the arts.

I have a passion for the arts, whether it be visual [or] performance, and I appreciate when social justice issues are presented in art. The Eileen Friars Leader-in-Residence week allowed me to engage with a renowned multicultural visual artist and attend the panel of other women of color in the humanities to discuss the intersections of art, media, and politics...

What is your favorite memory from the week with Synthia Saint James, and why?

Frankly, I enjoyed the entire week with Synthia Saint James. However, if I had to choose one favorite memory, it would be the first time I met her, which was at her Painting for Healing and Self Expression workshop. When I introduced myself to her, she showered me with love and kindness. She gave me all the information that she could give me to get in contact with her, what was happening for the rest of the week, and then proceeded to tell me pleasant stories of where she lived, [and] places she visited like Guyana, where my parents originated from. Very few people know about the country, so I was surprised when she mentioned that and I felt connected to her since that moment.

How do you define leadership, and how does Saint James embody that for you?

A leader is passionate, open-minded, creative, adventurous, and able to embrace their mistakes and humility. Saint James is the epitome of those characteristics. Not only did she discover that she was an artist as a toddler, but she tackled many challenges and learned different trades and skills while maintaining...her passion [to paint].

Why is it important to recognize women in non-traditional leadership roles, such as those in the humanities?

It is imperative that we acknowledge women in non-traditional leadership roles in the humanities, especially women of color… because there are young women like me who think and thought that the only options for me were traditional roles like being a lawyer, doctor, etc. I learned much later that is not true. Highlighting these positions …make it possible for others to dream BIG, create, and do the things that they want to do, knowing that they have a support system behind them.

What would you say to students who are considering attending next year's Eileen Friars Leader-in-Residence programming?

Next year I encourage students to network and make the most out of the [time] with the Leader-in-Residence because you never know what previous experiences the Leader has, who the leader knows, and how much impact that week’s programming is going to have on you -- even if you think that there is no relevance to you. This is a unique program that Simmons has and I hope that more students will engage with this opportunity.

I am truly blessed to have met Synthia Saint James, and I am glad to call her my friend and a person that I admire.