Womxn of Color Initiative Welcomes Spring 2019 Visiting Artist

The MSU Womxn of Color Initiative welcomes as its Spring 2019 Visiting Artist, Mayra Santos Febres, an award-winning novelist, poet, essayist, radio and television personality, and professor in the humanities division of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras.

During her four-day visit to Michigan State University, from March 27-30, Santos Febres will engage with students and the community in creative writing workshops, book-making workshops, class visits, a public talk, and a community open mic in Lansing’s REACH Art Studio.

My practice has become more centered in the exploration of the direct connection between race, ancestral memory, and cosmovision that deconstructs European-based ideas of individuality, reason, and racialization.

Dr. Mayra Santos Febres

"Throughout my career as a Latina writer and thinker of African descent, I have come across a paradigm of thought that has seldom been discussed,” Santos Febres said. “My practice has become more centered in the exploration of the direct connection between race, ancestral memory, and cosmovision that deconstructs European-based ideas of individuality, reason, and racialization. I view literature now in a different light. That is what I come to share to MSU."

Born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Santos Febres specializes in African, Caribbean, and feminist literature. She is a Guggenheim Fellow and the Executive Director of the largest literary festival in the Caribbean, Festival de la Palabra. She is the author of more than 25 books of poetry, short stories, essay collections, and novels. Among her most important titles are Sirena Selena (2000), Our Lady of the Night (2006), and La  amante de Gardel (2015). Her works have been translated into Croatian, Icelandic, French, Italian, German, and English.

Photo of a group of people standing and sitting together in a room with wood floors and a white wall with two flags wearing colorful skirts
The Citizen Scholar trip to Puerto Rico where they met Mayra Santos Febres.


"We are thrilled to host Dr. Mayra Santos Febres at MSU,” said Assistant Professor Yomaira Figueroa, one of the organizers of the MSU Womxn of Color Initiative.  “She is one of the most important living Afro-Latina writers and is a person who holds a deep commitment to literacy and education, community and grassroots organizing, and to writing and teaching about the humanistic and transformative potential of literature and the written word. Her organization ‘Festival de la Palabra’ has offered an invaluable experiences to Puerto Ricans, bringing in writers and artists from all over the world to the island to share their work while also showcasing the literary and artistic production of Puerto Ricans on the island, especially women and Afro-descendant writers. Furthermore, the festival activities and readings are made available to thousands of school-aged children across the island, adding experiential learning to an often-gutted humanities curriculum.

“The MSU and intercollegiate team #ProyectoPalabrasPR has partnered with Dr. Santos Febres and ‘Festival de la Palabra’ because we want to create an ethical and long-term partnership with individuals and organizations that take seriously the importance of a radical imagination in the ongoing ecological, social, and political recovery post-Hurricane María. Her visit to MSU will include many activities, events, and readings tht will allow students, faculty, staff, and community members to engage with Dr. Santos Febres in a multitude of settings."

We are thrilled to host Dr. Mayra Santos Febres at MSU. She is one of the most important living Afro-Latina writers.

Dr. Yomaira Figueroa

MSU Students in the Citizen Scholars AL 210 course had the opportunity to meet with Santos Febres during the alternative spring break organized by #ProyectoPalabrasPR. This visit was a chance to share knowledge about Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Afro-Latinidad to the wider MSU and Lansing Community.

All the following events, except for the dinner with MSU students on Thursday, March 28, are free and open to the public:

Wednesday, March 27

  • Creative Writing Workshop, noon-3 p.m., Wells Hall C607 – RSVP to receive a free copy of one of Santos Febres' novels.
  •  Risograph Book Making Workshop, 6-9 p.m., RCAH Art Studio – Each participant will receive a copy of the risograph book made at this event.

Thursday, March 28

  • Dinner with Mayra for MSU Students, 6-8 p.m., Altu's Ethiopian Cuisine, 1312 E. Michigan Ave., East Lansing – RSVP for this free dinner.

Friday, March 29

  • Public Talk: Contemporary Caribbean Fractality and Racial Ecosystems: a Native Perspective, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum – This talk includes a Q&A and book signing.

Saturday, March 30 

  • Second Annual Palabras for Puerto Rico Poetry Reading & Community Open Mic, 6-8 p.m., Reach Art Studio, 1804 S. Washington Ave., Lansing – Sign-up to share your work or sign-up on site at the event. During the event, donations for Puerto Rico Hurricane Recovery will be accepted. For more information, please contact: msuwoci@gmail.com

The MSU Womxn of Color Initiative aims to create spaces for students to be in conversation with each other and engage with women of color faculty, guest speakers, staff, and community members. It is supported by the College of Arts & LettersDepartment of English, Center for Gender in Global Context, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies Program, African American & African Studies Program, American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program, Department of Romance and Classical Studies, and the Residential College in the Arts & Humanities. It is organized by MSU faculty Yomaira Figueroa, Estrella Torrez, Tamara Butler, Delia Fernandez, Maribel Santiago, and Leslie Gonzales. The graduate student coordinators for the 2018-2019 year are Olivia Furman and Briona Jones.