ITHACA, N.Y. — No Más Lágrimas, or No More Tears (NML) Voices of Youth initiative is creating enrichment opportunities for young people in the community after a year of pandemic-induced isolation. 

With sponsorship from Rural Humanities at Cornell and the Department of Comparative Literature, Cinemapolis will be hosting a series of three free movie nights for youth between the ages of 15 and 22 on April 17, May 8 and June 12. These are private events and spots must be reserved in advance with NML, as the cinema is not yet open to the public and does not currently have the safety protocols in place to manage walk-ups. These screenings, which have been made possible through an award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, are just one part of NML’s outreach efforts — the group also focuses on providing food and resources to the greater community. 

“The movies themselves are (…) just for fun,” NML Volunteer Carolina Osorio Gil, a longtime community organizer and MS/PhD student in the Department of Global Development at Cornell, said. “It’s not just about doing volunteering or educational classes (…) it’s also really important to make sure that there are (safe) options for fun and hanging out.” 

“Our programming is really trying to center youth,” she continued. “The act of bringing young people together to watch the movies is an attempt to create a space for youth voices to interact with each other.” 

It’s been almost a year since NML officially became a nonprofit, but the organization has been committed to supporting community members for well over a decade. 

Voices of Youth is a second-generation project spearheaded by Anacheliz González, a young Afro-Latina visionary and the daughter of NML Director Ana Ortiz. González and her team have been working alongside Ortiz, Osorio Gil and Debra A. Castillo — professor of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature at Cornell University. 

Although NML cannot advertise the movies being shown, they are seeking the feedback of attendees prior to each of the screenings. Based on this input, NML will select a movie for each group of youth. 

But these screenings aren’t the only events that NML will be hosting for young people in the coming months. 

“With the private movie events, we hope to create opportunities for youth to gather safely under Cinemapolis’ very careful adherence to NY state guidelines, while also having a great time after a year of pandemic-induced isolation,” Professor Castillo said. “The movie series will also serve as an introduction and springboard to other projects, including our planned creative arts summer, followed by a Fall 2021 exhibition of youth art.” 

González said that it was important for her to make the exhibition requirements flexible to the artistic inclinations of its participants. 

“I was very (forthcoming) when I was making this art exhibit to include as many different art forms as I could,” she said. “We have people who were talking about pottery, I myself do fabric and I have a sister who does digital art.” 

Artwork by Anamarieliz Rodriguez-Ortiz

To lessen the barriers young people may face in entering the exhibition, González explained that NML will be providing supplies for creative youth to produce their artwork. Participants will have between two and three months to create their projects, which will be exhibited during National Hispanic Heritage Month. A catalog will also be available for artists looking to sell their pieces, though young people involved in the exhibition are not required to do so. 

Collaborators like Osorio Gil have willfully assumed more supportive roles, allowing youth leaders like González to take the reins of NML’s youth-centered community organizing. 

“For me, as the university partner and Latina PhD student at Cornell, it’s really important for me to support the learning and professional success of other Latina women, young women and girls,” she said. “My goal is to not even really attend the movie nights — I’m not a youth — so we really want this to be about youth for youth by youth.” 

In addition to the Cinemapolis screenings, NML will expand its physical movie showings for young people to the South Side Community Center gymnasium and West Village Community Room — a recently renovated space that volunteers use to distribute food on Mondays and Fridays. 

“We’re definitely growing,” González said. “Slowly but surely.” 

Cinemapolis, which is located at 120 E Green St, will host these movie nights on April 17, May 8 and June 12 at 7:00 p.m. For more information and to reserve your spot, contact email nml.voicesofyouth@gmail.com or call NML at (607) 339-8344.

James Baratta

James Baratta (@jamesjbarattata) is a freelance journalist from Long Island, New York. He will graduate from Ithaca College in May 2022 with a B.A. in journalism and a minor in sociology.