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CFCC alumna creates platform for artists to speak their peace

Mahlaynee Cooper

Mahlaynee Cooper graduated from CFCC in December of 2017 with an Associate in Fine Arts degree in theatre. As a non-traditional student, her adult life left little room for extra school activities. “It’s different when you return to school after many years,” Mahlaynee said. “With my limited time, my priority was to focus and do well.” 

That determination led Cooper to NC Wesleyan College. Mahlaynee credits her instructor (and theatre program chair) Jessica Gaffney, for preparing her to transition to a 4-year college. 

“The staff and instructors I encountered at CFCC have all been extremely caring and helpful,” Cooper shares. “Even after graduation, I have been able to call on my former instructors for guidance and recommendations.”

Gaffney describes Mahlaynee as “an open, caring, and conscientious student, who was always willing to support her fellow students and help out on a production.” Gaffney continues “Mahlaynee was a gift to the theatre program, a consistent force of positivity. Now Mahlaynee is using her art to make the community better and we cannot be prouder.”

Speak Ya Peace

After she began her studies at NC Wesleyan College, Cooper discovered a passion for political science and created a platform for artists to share their messages: Speak Ya Peace NC. The platform, founded in 2019, connects the community through a truthful conversation about the issues that stem from racism as well as “the family of -isms.” Cooper has defined her own -ism. Artivism: fighting injustice through artistic realism and bringing attention to social issues through art. 

Speak Ya Peace

Making a Difference

Speak Ya Peace NC has set out to embody the voice of those unable to speak for themselves, those who are fearful, those who don’t know they have a voice. SYPNC partners with other community groups that focus on issues that affect the Brown/Black communities by promoting empowerment and self-awareness. Moreover, Cooper co-founded a musical group, SolTree Reign, with fellow members of Speak Ya Peace NC.

“We decided to add music to this platform,” shares Cooper. “It made sense to connect music with poets and activists on a positive platform to reframe the mindset of the community.” 

Part of her outreach as an artist and activist include hosting events in the Wilmington art community. Speak Ya Peace NC provides a safe space where artists of all kinds can find support and a stage to express their messages artistically. 

“Art is a discipline that has the ability to teach, heal, and connect,” explains Cooper. “It’s important to have a platform for artists to speak specifically to the issues we face daily in this society.”

Cooper’s inspirations in her fight for civil and social justice include Maya Angelou, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Elie Wiesel. She is developing a website and additional social media platforms to better spread SYPNC’s message. Information about the organization and upcoming events can be found on their Facebook page

Interested in earning an Associate in Arts degree in theatre from Cape Fear Community College? Learn more today.

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