Accomplished Playwright Lisa Collins Uses the Art of Storytelling to Bring Racial Consciousness in HWY 8

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Storytelling has existed for centuries. Before it was to explain a phenomenon, then it transitioned to commentary or raising awareness in society. Lisa Collins is an Ed.d. scholar who uses the art of storytelling to raise racial awareness. She understands the sentiments of people of color, especially Black Americans in a white-dominant society. Her recent stage play, HWY 8, highlights the need for oneness and connection in a multicultural society.

Lisa began writing after completing her degree in Education Leadership with a research study on racial trauma. Although her research findings were highly authentic, they didn’t convey to the general public. Lisa decided to showcase her findings in daily conversations through storytelling. 

According to her Instagram post, HWY 8 is a stage play in a town in Eudora, Arkansas. It’s about an attempted sexual assault case related to one of the respected church-going families. The play is a commentary on the reality of Black communities and works to center the need for healing in communities. 

Lisa observed that the biggest issue in every field or industry is racial relations. She served at many public schools for years to make a difference. Her personal experience in education as an educator, academic director, school administrator, and teacher revealed that her racial challenges began by not knowing enough about her racial relations in predominately white organizations. When Lisa raised her voice against the racist practices in school systems, she received pushback and suffered health and financial consequences from being a truth-teller. 

As a black woman who moved her bi-racial family to the only state to join the union as a white-only state, Oregon, she saw how typical racism was in the city. She sensed it through her daily professional life; how people looked, talked, and dealt with her and how it affected her mental and physical well-being. Dr. Lisa decided to do research on herself through autoethnography. She faced her racial trauma by finding solutions and racial healing strategies. 

In her TEDx Talk Healing From Racial Trauma, she says, “I wrote about my lived experiences, and as a result, it changed my life. The way I show up in the world today; the amount of care and love I have for myself and others is a direct result of this research.” 

Her playwriting inspiration comes from her lived experience of watching communities in trauma response. Through HWY 8, Dr. Lisa focuses on a cycle of racial harm and trauma. It talks about things that people avoid talking about or avoid. It raises questions like “Why are you not focusing on it?” and “How can we heal from a past harm?” 

Lisa is optimistic that raising these questions and discussing them through stage plays and filmmaking can bring a change in society or at least initiate a debate among the public. 

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