Shruti Purkayastha is a cultural worker who creates in the intersections of theater, organizing and healing. Her current home is with TeAda Productions, working as a community organizer and project director. With Pop-Up TeAda, Shruti played the roles of lead artist, teaching artist, producer, actor and organizer. Currently, she is working closely with the UCLA Labor Center to produce and facilitate a healing arts workshop series called CreAtive Self-Care. She has developed theater and storytelling based healing and popular education programs with several community-based groups, including Gender Justice LA’s Theater of the Oppressed, Dignity and Power Now’s Freedom Harvest, and projects with the Labor/Community Strategy Center. Through a project called LACE (Liberation Arts and Community Engagement) Center, she supported grassroots Theater of the Oppressed groups in L.A. like Changing Ways and Teatro with TRUST South LA. She graduated with a Master’s in Applied Theater Arts in 2012, where she was trained in a broad spectrum of techniques, including Theatre of the Oppressed, Theater for Education and Development, Theater and Healing, with a strong basis in Liberation Psychology. Through this program, she trained with the Center for Theater of the Oppressed in Rio De Janiero, Brasil engaging with transnational social movements, Forum Theater, and the Aesthetics of the Oppressed methodologies. She is currently working on a interdisciplinary art project called Living Mythologies, highlighting stories from her communities of queer trans people of color.
CreAtive Self-Care workshop series was born because we needed it. And continue to need it. As a theater led by and for people of color, we are constantly navigating funding cuts, violence and trauma in our communities and struggle to carve creAtive space with the rigors of the day-to-day. But, when we DO come together to create, beautiful and healing expressions have the potential to emerge. CreAtive Self-Care is a reminder of that-- when we slow down, open space to be mindful and creative, to share our stories and bear witness, a community of care and healing can emerge in the process.
We are so grateful to have a vibrant and growing partnership with the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, located by MacArthur Park. Our stories at TeAda intersected with Victor Narro, longtime L.A. organizer and author of Living Peace: Connecting Your Spirituality with Your Work for Justice. He found himself burnt out and in the hospital after years of grueling community organizing schedules. He realized that the martyr culture of organizing was not truly serving our social justice movements, and began advocating for self-care practices that are supported in community.
Together, we develop practices based in mindfulness meditation of Thich Nhat Hanh, expressive theater games and exercises for voice and body, and dialogues about social justice themes. From honoring water to setting boundaries, from environmental justice to gender justice, we hold space to connect the healing work in our bodies to our relationships with each other, with social justice, and with the earth. Through the process, we tap into our stored creative potential, discovering voice within ourselves as a community.
CreAtive Self-Care is a space to restore, to appreciate ourselves and each other, to find gratitude in how we walk, how our feet connect with the earth. As a community practice, we look forward to building CreAtive Self-Care in Los Angeles area, and can’t wait to share space with you soon!
Victor Narro has been involved with immigrant rights and labor issues for many years. At the UCLA Labor Center, he provides research and capacity support for policy and organizing campaigns that focus on impact issues affecting low-wage workers and immigrant communities. Victor is also a professor for the Labor and Workplace Studies Program at UCLA; a lecturer for the Chicano/a Studies Department; a lecturer for the UCLA School of Urban Planning; and a adjunct faculty at UCLA Law School, where he teaches a class entitled, Community Lawyering and Low Wage Worker Organizing.
Prior to working at the UCLA Labor Center, he worked in organizations including Sweatshop Watch, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Victor is co-author of Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America’s Cities (2008), and Wage Theft and Workplace Violations in Los Angeles (2010). He is also co-editor of a recent book, Working for Justice: The L.A. Model of Organizing and Advocacy (Cornell University Press, 2010).