Ready for your weekly dose of inspiration? Here is one mother-daughter duo – quite literally – changing the world. Through the power of literature and creative writing, Jacqueline Greaves (mother) and Caterina Monda (daughter) are inspiring the next generation of global change-makers. The two launched their initiative, The Flying Whale Project in 2019 with hopes of encouraging young writers to diversify their global perspective. Read on as our Executive Editor, Milan Ball joins Greaves and Monda in conversation on how upbringing, cultural exposure, and literature foster the perfect cocktail for global education.
Changing the World, One Perspective At a Time.
The first flight I ever took, I still recall stepping off the plane in awe that I was truly on another hemisphere. Somehow we shared the same sun, the same moon, the same stars; even the air wafting throughout the world; the same. It’s funny how in all the commonality, we still find ourselves in a world of opposing views. Mother-daughter duo Jacqueline Greaves and Caterina Monda are building a bridge for the daydreamers by way of creativity from the next generation.
Their initiative, The Flying Whale Project launched in 2019 with hopes of creating opportunities for youth to set their minds abroad. Not everyone has the luxury of charting a plane and pursuing the greater community of global citizens, but Greaves and Monda’s unique perspective mapped the perfect template for bringing the nuances of the world to the classroom. The project provides scholarships to young writers inspiring global discovery.
Caterina Monda is the daughter of a Jamaican mother (Jacqueline Greaves) and an Italian father. Identifying deeply with both roots, her background is as picturesque as the scenic views in both countries. I had the pleasure of interviewing the co-founders and exploring the treasure trove that is The Flying Whale Project.
In Conversation with Caterina Monda and Jacqueline Greaves:
First, thing’s first. How did you come up with “The Flying Whale”?
Caterina Monda: This is the part where my mom starts laughing, because the origins begin with my father! I wish we had a creative story to romanticize it, but you see, my father has a love for whales. He was a huge fan of Moby Dick. When playing around with the idea of incorporating a ‘whale’ we were prompted to dream bigger, soaring even…imagine, a flying whale? It never really stuck, but we loved the mystery it created. Being that my mother is Jamaican and my Father Italian, we always had ties to the sky. That’s literally how we concocted the image of a flying whale. It’s our story and there’s not really a deeper meaning than that.
Along with your personal ties, why is it important to bridge the gap culturally between Italy and the United States?
Jacqueline Greaves: At the core of it, culture is not one dimensional. For instance, I think about our first prize winner from last year’s competition. She wrote a wonderful novel reflecting on how Ethiopia was our ‘Italian War’ from 1935 to 1941 and so few people know about it; American or Italian. No one really talks about or understands why there are so many Eritrean or Ethiopians living in Italy and why their Italian is spoken so perfectly, better than some Italians. We really want to talk about these stories.
Ultimately, our plan is to build a balance. We want to connect students, whether it be from Italy or from Delhi to America. To give people them a platform and build with the digital age. We want to create a community that can contribute and then share their stories.
What led to your decision to adopt the responsibility of encouraging the next generation to be globally minded?
Jacqueline Greaves: It is important to encourage reading and writing. Furthermore, it is important to encourage the ability to express feelings; to develop curiosity in order to understand yourself and your place in the world. We want people to realize they have a voice. They need to know about the past and what other people of different cultures are saying or said.
How would you characterize the household you grew up in and the influence it had on your global mindset?
Caterina Monda: We both come from multicultural/multiethnic backgrounds. I am Italian and Jamaican with other ethnic and cultural groups. My siblings and I were constantly surrounded by different types of people, but also surrounded by books – in every possible corner of our home. Being always encouraged to explore new things whether it was art, movies, new expressions and travel.
My siblings and I were encouraged to have conversations – we were lucky that we were encouraged to go for what we wanted to do. No path was set for us, but we kept an open mind and interest to learn about others. We were taught what it means to be people of the world. That is to appreciate the beauty of this world and the varying people in it. We saw the differences and the commonalities and search for that in every aspect of our lives and in others.
Are there any anecdotal moments you can recall that shifted your perspective of what it means to be a global citizen?
Caterina Monda: I live in New York City, so since a very age on a normal basis would take classes at the MET Museum. That was like our playground. I’d see Shakespeare in the Park; go to the ballet or opera at Lincoln Center. We also got to see The Jamaica National Folklore on visits to the USA. We spent our summers in Italy visiting museums, churches, and archeology sites, and plenty of trips to visit family in Jamaica. Just [mentioning] that alone we feel so privileged. I was constantly taking in information.
Additionally, I am lucky that my father and mother always were promotors of culture and for their events like Le Conversazioni and as kids we were always forced to tag along. However, my sibling and I realized quite quickly that it has always been a blessing. We have the possibility of incredible conversations with interesting people such as Derek Wallcott; Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie, and Robert DeNiro. With The Flying Whale and social media, we have an opportunity to reach people that may never have these opportunities or never considered they could have these possibilities. We want to encourage conversation and curiosity. We want to open doors in some way.
What encouragement can you offer to those also looking to raise a change-maker?
Jacqueline Greaves: A mother has to know that the two most important things is to raise strong and independent people who are curious and above all have empathy and that one day she has to let go and make that sacrifice. A mother has dreams and hopes for her children, but she has to give them the tools to fulfill their dreams and hopes, and not hers.
“Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we will get off the ground.” – Zora Neale Hurston, A Biography of the Spirit.
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