Nicholai Cardona is a student at Miami Dade College where he is evolving into a powerful voice in the chorus condemning human rights violations while simultaneously celebrating uniqueness using creative writing.
It is a tightrope that requires balance and composure to successfully walk, but he does so with remarkable ease.
Cardona was born in Miami and lives between Vizcaya and Little Havana. He began writing at age 12. His first known work was a short story that he wrote for a creative writing class at school. He does not keep any of his work even though he acknowledges that it would help him chart his development as a writer.
“I’m so embarrassed by all of that stuff,” he said modestly.
At Miami Dade College Interamerican Campus, he has met two professors whom he credits with having the greatest influence on his decision to pursue writing as a career — Omar Figueras and Cathleen Chambless. They teach his favorite classes.
Cardona likes Figueras’ Creative Writing. Chambless’ class on Dystopian Literature is something that he enjoys because although the genre depicts dark settings and situations there is “always a kernel of hope.”
In addition to his class work, Cardona has won a 10-week paid internship with the program called “The Humanity’s Edge.” He is working on digitizing newsreels from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s from WTVJ. He takes the film and corrects for color, contrast and sound. It is painstaking work, but he modestly answers that it sounds more detailed than it is. The internship is with the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Pictures Archive. He mentions that archival work is something that he enjoys and is considering for his future.
It is with Urbana that his voice sounds loudly and clearly in the interests of the marginalized. Urbana is a print journal and a website created and maintained solely by students at the Campus. He has to wear many hats at the Urbana.
“I am an English editor and I’m implanted on the design team as well,” he said.
On the journal, students submit their work and the best work either in English or Spanish gets published. He has to choose. His philosophy behind his artistic work centers on his desire to communicate.
“Art as a whole can be a megaphone to amplify the voices of people who aren’t heard often or at all,” he said.
As an editor at Urbana, he can allow those voices into the forum.
“As a writer, a gay person, and an autistic person, I think that it is important to amplify my own voice while also amplifying the voices of my peers who tend not to be heard,” he continued.
His fervor for social justice does not stop there. Another outlet for it is a club I n which he participates called Hermione’s Army. It is a Harry Potter-themed club that stages, hosts and coordinates events to inform the public on issues surrounding human rights.
For example, in October 2018, the club staged a “human rights haunted house” where perpetrators of human rights abuses like Venezuela and Nicaragua were exposed. Proponents of conversion therapy and those who run the child detention centers also were described in that effort.
To see his work, visit the website at Urbanalit.com.