By KYLIE FREYMAN, age 9
Marisa Jahn is an artist, writer and the executive director of two nonprofit media organizations: REV and People's Production House. PHOTO: Ashly Covington
When she’s not sawing wood, drawing, painting or writing scripts, Marisa Jahn promotes literacy in Honduras with Bibliobandido—a masked bandit who terrorizes little children unless they feed him with written stories; informs nannies, housekeepers, elder caregivers, and their employers about the new Domestic Workers Bill of Rights with the “New Day New Standard” hotline; and publishes books about art and politics.
IndyKids: What exactly do you do and hope to accomplish?
Marisa Jahn: I work as an artist, writer, activist and educator. I hope that what I do invites people to think about an issue in a new way.
How many languages do you speak? What are they?
English, Spanish, French and a second grade level of Esperanto [a language created by L.L. Zamenhof].
As a kid, did you believe that you could accomplish anything?
I never really thought about it in this way, but I do tend to not focus on obstacles as much as diving right in. I love a good challenge!
At what age were you thinking about starting this career? And why?
I grew up in an immigrant family and the arts. I was always prioritizing art-making in my studies and activities. [However,] I feel like I had to work twice as hard to make ends meet; I’ve worked side jobs doing construction, carpentry, waiting tables, bookkeeping, a bunch of admin jobs and more. It has not been an easy path to take but extremely rewarding.
What kinds of stories inspire you? What issues are important to you?
Ones that pertain to the livelihood and well-being of women, immigrants, youth and low-wage workers.
What do you write about? What do you like to explore in your artwork?
I take on issues in my art and writing that take on the well-being and livelihood of low-wage workers, immigrants and youth. I try to do so using the best of my imaginative faculties/skills so that I can enliven an issue or provide a new way of looking at it!
How does a kid become a writer or activist?
By trying! Listen to yourself about the issues that get you really, really mad. Then, based on your strengths, aptitudes and interests, look at the different ways that you might influence or change the outcome of that problem. Work with groups or people that are already engaging in that issue to inform yourself. Then dive on in!
What was your favorite subject in school?
I always loved art above all else; but also literature, languages, and history! I actually loved school since kindergarten and didn’t understand why the other kids pretended not to like school…
Please describe one of the biggest challenges that you faced and how you overcame it.
Ah – letting go of what others think that you should do and doing what you think is an important story and an important way to tell that story. Listen to myself, be honest with myself and others about this issue, tackling an issue without censoring myself, and then – failing, failing again in order to improve, get feedback, improve. [Do] not be afraid to fail. But as they say, fail quickly.