Shyanne Figueroa Bennett '21 was recently awarded a Fulbright for a ten-month trip to Panama.
The Fulbright Program, active in more than 160 countries, facilitates international educational and cultural exchange programs for students, scholars, artists, teachers, and professionals of all backgrounds to study, teach, or pursue important research and professional projects.
Bennett was also the winner of a Dean’s Travel Grant two years ago. Through the grant, she traveled to Panama for two weeks in January of 2020 to conduct memoir research for her poetry manuscript. The Fulbright program will allow Bennet to continue her research and complete her first book of poetry, an extension of the thesis she submitted when she graduated from the School of the Arts.
In an article for Intersected, Bennett writes: "Before this trip, I had spent countless hours researching Panama Canal labor history, and I learned that tens of thousands of Black West Indian workers provided the bulk of the labor in the Panama Canal construction. They received the lowest wages for doing the most dangerous jobs, including laying the dynamite. Thousands of them died. Their bodies are littered across this ‘Wonder of the Modern World.’ This historical reality has been a deep site of mourning for me in my poetry, especially when I thought of how my own great-grandfather was one of those laborers. I became so obsessed in my grief-writing that I built a whole manuscript out of it.”
Shyanne Figueroa Bennett is a Brooklyn poet with roots in Panama, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Her work has been published in Green Mountains Review, Oversound, The Acentos Review, and Recliner, among other places. She graduated with an MFA in Writing from Columbia University, where she was a recipient of a Chair’s Fellowship and a Creative Writing Teaching Fellowship.