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The Purpose of Our Journeys

Updated: Oct 22, 2019

She wore a feather as her crown and an embroidered belt to represent the multifaceted aspects of her identity and cultural heritage. Daveya Nyalleli Rojero Sohappy of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe celebrated her fifteenth birthday yesterday.

When I arrived to take Daveya's photos to celebrate her Quinceañera, there was a debate among her cousins as to the type of jewelry she should wear on her head. After trying a few things, nothing felt right. "I wear feathers when I dance," she said. So she took out a wooden box where she kept a collection of ceremonial feathers and gently picked a few to try on. When she saw herself I could see she was immensely pleased. She felt complete. All of who she is was reflected in the image looking back at her on the mirror.

Why TEDxYouth@Seattle?

I debated for quite some time how I would talk about my involvement with TEDxYouth here in Seattle. Last year, having just relocated back to Seattle after spending 4 years in Singapore, I wanted to curate my return home. I was coming back from living abroad with a renewed sense of purpose and a strong desire to live a more intentional and purpose-driven life. I wanted to find in Seattle, a tribe of like-minded people similar to those I had met while I lived in Singapore. When I thought of how I met that tribe, I immediately connected the dots of my involvement with TEDx chapters, both here and back in Asia, and that's when the idea of co-creating a workshop came to be.

Mary Gomez Camba at TEDxNTU 2017 | Singapore

I AM WHAT I SEE / I SEE WHAT I AM is the last entry in a journey of discovery that started when I attended a TEDx event in Singapore, and how a story I heard at that event changed my life and my views of storytelling. I have since participated in TEDx events as an attendee, a speaker, an official photographer, and now as a co-creator and youth mentor. My journey has taken me from being a spectator, a collaborator, a volunteer, and now a co-creator.

When I designed this visual storytelling workshop, my goal was to introduce a thought-provoking challenge to my students; we will tell a youth perspective story with a single image. We were going to spend 8 weeks learning the how to and the whys so that our final product could tell THE STORY with just one image.

We failed!

Youth. OMG, being a youth is not easy. There are so many emotions, so much learning, so much unlearning, so many unexpected roller coasters, so many options. The world is new and the possibilities are endless. The essence of being a youth CANNOT be encompassed with one image. Youth means being multifaceted, growing, exploring, curiosity, discovery.

We Are Our Stories

What is the purpose of the stories we tell ourselves, our friends, our family, on social media? How do we choose which stories are worth sharing on a TEDx stage?

When I was taking Daveya's photos yesterday, I remember telling her about one of our speakers who is also a member of the Muckleshoot Tribe. "I know Rosalie Fish! Everyone knows Rosie," Daveya said. She was proud to hear that a member of her Muckleshoot community would be featured on stage. <Find out more about Rosalie Fish here >

When I think about Daveya's story, I think about a youth who has weaved a collage of all the stories that make up her identity and bravely and purposely chosen to celebrate what it all means. Her story, just like Rosalie's, is also inspiring and worthy of sharing. Every story, when created with authenticity, can inspire us to travel outside the confines of our comfort zone and provide us with an opportunity to grow and learn, and to focus on what matters.

"You are the first Native American Quinceañera I have ever photographed. Your story is also inspiring," I tell Daveya.

Daveya Nyalleli Rojero Sohappy dances to her internal music. The tune is made up of words in Twulshootseed, Spanish, and English. She loves to dance and twirl at a powwow as much as her hips naturally respond to the gentle rhythm of Latin music. Seeing Daveya celebrate the intricate weave of her cultural heritage inspired me to write about her story, to celebrate it, to invite you to feel curious about her, and about the many stories that make up the fabric of our diverse communities.

When I think back to the original goal of capturing a story with just one image, I recognize the value of seeing our life stories as a collection of photos - a collage. And while I could have just used one image to tell you Daveya's story, adding other images made this story much more enjoyable to read and understand. In that sense, I AM WHAT I SEE / I SEE WHAT I AM has indeed surpassed its purpose. We are more than just one image.


So, WHY TEDxYouth@Seattle? Because it's time to tell, celebrate, understand, and amplify stories of inclusivity, authenticity, resilience, and purpose.

What do you think It's Time for?

Mary Gomez Camba

Founder, The Think Visual Project

TEDx Speaker

TEDx Youth Mentor

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