LAWRENCE — Mayda de Valle has been on Broadway, HBO and performed for the Obamas at the White House. But yesterday, before 500 students at Lawrence High School, the nationally-acclaimed poet and live performance artist said she felt “at home.”
“I love coming to schools where there is a ton of Latino people in the audience. Because I don’t have to explain it. I feel at home now,” said de Valle, 34, a south side Chicago native who now lives in Los Angeles. She said she started writing poetry at 14.
A first-generation American born to Puerto Rican immigrants, de Valle told the students about her journey; how she defied conventional job logic and decided to pursue a career as poet and artist. She recalled breaking the news to her mother, who wanted her to go to law school, “have insurance and a 401K,” she said.
“All the white hair she has, I gave it to her,” de Valle said of her mother, drawing laughter from the students.
But she loved art, writing and poetry and knew that was her calling. After graduating from Williams College, de Valle left for New York City to pursue her dream as an artist.
“Artists are the visionaries. Artists create a picture of where we can be,” she said. She encouraged the students, who hailed from St. John’s Preparatory School, Haverhill High School and Lawrence High, to follow their hearts and dreams. “We are not often encouraged to pursue the things we love because we have to pay the bills,” she said.
However, “if there is something that moves you to the point of being obsessed with it, than do it,” she urged.
She pointed to renowned leaders Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa. None of them were “practical people,” she noted.