March 27, 2023
Joelle Fernandez and Frankie Hebres of I’m From (Vol. 1).
Joelle Fernandez and Frankie Hebres of I’m From (Vol. 1).

ST. PAUL, Minn. (July 19, 2016) — Last summer, Joelle Fernandez was fresh out of college and had no job whatsoever.  Instead, she devoted those three months to writing a grant for the very first time for $8,000.

Receiving the Cultural Community Partnership (CCP) grant from the MN State Arts Board (MSAB) meant that Joelle and her partner, Frankie Hebres, would be able to direct and choreograph a dance and spoken word production about different stories of immigration and identity in the Twin Cities. While on vacation in Los Angeles in January, Joelle and Frankie peered down at their phones to see an email titled, “Cultural Community Partnership Grants Awarded.” The contents changed their future.

I’m From (Vol. 1) consists of nine adult artists, 10 kid artists and 10 volunteers all from different cultural backgrounds. The children in this show represent one’s roots and home country. Some of the adult artists are paired up with one another to tell their stories. For example, Herbert Johnson and Andy Asong-Morfaw are both black, but have very different stories. Herb was born and raised in the U.S. and does not know his family’s history past his grandma. Andy, on the other-hand, was born in Cameroon and immigrated to MN as a teenager.

“Through hip hop, we want to further the conversation on immigration, to inform our communities that the Twin Cities is home for many refugees and immigrants, to take action when it comes to justice, to give a platform for professional dancers to be seen AND heard, to give the artists an opportunity to research more about their immigration story, and to pay homage to where we all come from,” Joelle said.

“A lot of the choreography, formations, and song choices are inspired by Filipino folk dances. I was born in Manila, Philippines, but moved to Minneapolis when I was six. I was taught to assimilate so that I could fit in,” Frankie said. “For me, this was also an opportunity to learn more about my culture. During the process of this show, I was able to harmoniously fuse two parts of my identity: hip hop and Filipino.”

I’m From (Vol. 1) runs from July 29-31 at The Wellstone Center in St. Paul, MN. Tickets cost $10/person and there is free parking. After each show, there will be a discussion and fresh lumpia (Filipino egg rolls). To learn more and buy your tickets for I’m From (Vol. 1), please go to

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