NOTE: Mays' writing workshop scheduled for March 21 has been postponed.
CHADRON – Chadron State College graduate Jovan Mays memorialized another CSC alumnus, the late Zack Muma, in November 2019 when he presented “The Constellation Zacharias,” his second TEDx Mile High talk.
Mays, who is the Emeritus Poet Laureate of Aurora Colorado, a CSC Distinguished Young Alumni Award recipient, author of three books, Youth Voice Coordinator for Aurora Public Schools, and curator of Aurora Story.org. As a CSC sophomore in 2007, Mays met Muma when he was in middle school. They spent hours together including social activities where Muma’s personality shined. Mays, who also helped monitor Muma’s Type I diabetes, said they shared dreams and insights into life.
In August 2013, before his sophomore year at CSC, Muma died due to complications from Type I diabetes. Muma’s mother, Crystal Gibson, also a CSC graduate, was hospitalized for treatment of her injuries from a car crash while driving Muma to the hospital.
She said when she watched Mays’ live performance, she was caught up in the energy and emotion he creates on stage.
“I could see Zack through Jovan‘s eyes and feel the bond and the love he has for him. Jovan captures the essence of Zack’s soul in his poetry and performance,” Gibson said.
The TEDx piece dedicated to honoring the quirky and creative Muma was cathartic for Mays. He likened the experience to a scene from the movie “Saving Mr. Banks” when Walt Disney explained to P.L. Travers that she should give herself time and space to grieve.
“It’s a moment of enlightenment for her when she realizes that imagination can be used to restore order and remember appropriately,” Mays said. “Performing ‘The Constellation Zacharias’ was super heavy. It’s about how to embrace the journey. On a production set you can re-record, but for a live event. You need to be on and prepared.”
Mays was prepared. For about six years, he had performed the piece about Muma approximately 50 times at high schools and middle schools.
“I felt called to write it 97 percent in one sitting. Other pieces are built, expanded, and trimmed. This one hatched. It was a very emotional experience,” Mays said.
Mays recalls his writing process vividly. He had arrived early for a presentation in late 2013 at the Asian Pacific Islander Center. Still reeling from Muma’s death, he began writing while listening to the soundtrack of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a coming-of-age film about a forgotten community near New Orleans.
“It was like the music was pushing my pen. More writers should use it,” Mays said.
Mays is passionate about healing through writing. In January, he presented a TEDx Adventure titled “Re-Collect: Exploring the intersection between grief and creativity,” in Denver
Mays will present a free workshop about how to use imagination and creativity to deal with grief and loss at the Bean Broker in Chadron Saturday, March 21 from 10 a.m. to noon. In addition to Mays performing the piece about Muma, the workshop will include a discussion with Gibson.
—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator