Georgetown University


Written and performed by Mélisande Short-Colomb, a direct descendant of the Mahoney and Queen family members enslaved and sold by the Jesuits to keep Georgetown operating, Here I Am (HIA), an original multimedia theatrical production created by The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University, offers both a powerful chronicle of the continuing legacy of slavery in American society and a deeply personal window into this complex and multifaceted history. The stirring story of Colomb learning of her link to Georgetown and then deciding to attend—as a 63-year-old freshman—the institution that enslaved her ancestors, provides an empathic pathway into understanding the legacy of slavery today.

Principal Investigators

Mélisande Short-Colomb

Community Engagement Associate, Georgetown University

Mélisande Short-Colomb, a descendant of the Mahoney and Queen families enslaved and then sold by the Society of Jesus in 1838 to ensure Georgetown’s solvency, began her relationship with Georgetown University in 2017 when, at age 63, she entered the College of Arts and Sciences as a freshman. From the start, Meli found her Georgetown home in the Laboratory for Global Performance & Politics (The Lab), where she now works as community engagement associate. Meli has written and performed the one person play Here I Am, under the direction of Lab co-director Derek Goldman, and backed by an eight-person artistic team. Here I Am weaves together narrative, music, and imagery, inviting the audience on an experiential journey exploring Meli’s loving and complicated relationship with the institution that enslaved her ancestors. Meli is frequently invited to speak about the GU272 and reparations, and her story has been widely covered in the media. Her talks vary from testimony before the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, to speaking at the Brooklyn Historical Society, to a TEDx talk. Meli has been featured in print in outlets from the Washington Post and the New Yorker to the AARP journal. A native of New Orleans, LA, Mélisande retired from a lengthy culinary career, most recently as chef instructor for Langlois Culinary Crossroads, to relocate to Washington to attend Georgetown University. Her family includes four adult children and much-loved grandchildren, and scores of newly identified GU272 extended family members.

Derek Goldman

Co-director, Georgetown University

Derek Goldman is chair of Georgetown University's Department of Performing Arts and director of the Theater & Performance Studies Program, as well as co-founding director of the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, with the mission to harness the power of performance to humanize global politics. He is an award-winning stage director, playwright/adapter, scholar, producer, and developer of new work, whose work has been seen around the country, off-Broadway, and internationally. His work has been seen at theaters such as Steppenwolf, Lincoln Center, Arena Stage, Baltimore Center Stage, Folger, Round House, Everyman, Mosaic, Theater J, Synetic, the Kennedy Center, Ford’s Theater, McCarter, Segal Center (Montreal), Olney Theater, and others. He is the author of more than 30 professionally produced plays and adaptations, including work published by Samuel French, and he has directed over 100 productions. His engagement with global performance in recent years has taken his work to Sudan, Cambodia, Bangladesh, China, Poland, South Africa, Australia, Peru, Bulgaria, Japan, Armenia, Chile, the Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, France, and throughout the UK, among other places. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Theatre Communications Group (TCG); vice-president of UNESCO’s International Theatre Institute, and founding director of the Global Network of Higher Education in the Performing Arts. Other upcoming/current projects include the original stage production Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski, starring Oscar-nominated actor David Strathairn, scheduled to resume live performances this fall at leading theaters, and the forthcoming feature film version to be released later this year; as well as his ongoing work on In Your Shoes based in the "Performing One Another" methodology he has developed over the last decade around the world (recently profiled on PBS Newshour and in the Washington Post). He holds a PhD in performance studies from Northwestern University and he received the President’s Award for Distinguished Scholar-Teachers at Georgetown.

Ijeoma Njaka

Inclusive Pedagogy Specialist, Georgetown University

Ijeoma Njaka is an experiential learning designer, educator, and writer who serves as the Inclusive Pedagogy Specialist at the Lab as well as the Senior Program Associate for Equity-Centered Design at Georgetown’s Red House. Throughout her career, Ijeoma has specialized in inclusive pedagogy and anti-bias education for student, faculty, and staff audiences. In her work, she draws from arts and museum education, engaged humanities, and speculative fiction to facilitate learning, agency, and social change. Prior to joining The Lab, Ijeoma worked at Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship, where she coached faculty in inclusive teaching practices while also creating and facilitating workshops in topics such as building anti-racist institutions and positive racial identity development in the classroom. In spring 2019, she curated “(In)Visibility at Georgetown: Past, Present, and Future,” a public, on-campus art exhibit highlighting the work and experiences of marginalized students at Georgetown. Ijeoma holds an MA in Learning, Design, and Technology from Georgetown University as well as an AB from Brown University.

Cynthia P. Schneider

Co-director, Georgetown University

Ambassador Cynthia P. Schneider, PhD, teaches, publishes, and speaks about the importance of culture in diplomacy and international affairs, while putting these ideas into practice everywhere from war zones to Hollywood writers’ rooms. At Georgetown, Prof. Schneider teaches in the School of Foreign Service and co-directs the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, an interdisciplinary initiative with the goal of humanizing global politics through the power of performance. From 1984 to 2004, she taught art history at Georgetown, and wrote books and organized museum exhibitions on Rembrandt and seventeenth century Dutch art. Dr. Schneider co-directs the Timbuktu Renaissance, a Mali-based platform for countering extremism and building peace and sustainable development through a focus on culture, which grew out of her work leading the Arts and Culture Dialogue Initiative at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy. She also co-directs the Los Angeles–based Muslims on Screen and Television (MOST Resource), which works with TV and film writers and producers to develop authentic and nuanced characters and plots involving Muslims and Muslim majority regions. As US Ambassador to the Netherlands (1998–2001), she led initiatives in public and cultural diplomacy, biotechnology (organized major international conference Biotechnology: The Science and the Impact, the first of its kind in the State Department, as well as a conference at the EU in partnership with Margot Wallström, EU minister of the environment, on biotechnology and the environment), cybersecurity (organized a conference with Rand and Shell on cybersecurity, featuring Esther Dyson), and military relationships and sales (awarded the Pentagon’s Exceptional Public Service Award). Prof. Schneider has published on current issues in popular and policy outlets (USA Today, Los Angeles Times, CNN, Foreign Policy, Business Insider, Huffington Post), and has spoken around the world on topics involving foreign policy and politics and culture, including at TED. Her current book (in progress) is Culture Matters: Re-Imagining Diplomacy. Ambassador Schneider has a BA (1975) and PhD (1984) from Harvard University.