If one were to ask what has driven her lifelong passion for storytelling and visual arts, Querida Sidney’s response would be clear and confident; her belief that the simple act of telling a story can be a radical tool for transforming the world.
Having grown up in the Bronx, Sidney recalled being quite a busy and studious child. Much of her time was split between after-school tutoring and club activities at the Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, as well as involvement in various organizations such as Step Up and Girls, Inc. She also strived to keep herself surrounded by people who shared her mindset and passion for social engagement.
An event that had profound ramifications on Sidney’s perspective in life while growing up was the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
“My family is from Haiti, so the earthquake and its effects were deeply important to us,” Sidney said. “Seeing the destruction it caused and the efforts to help rebuild, it really taught me to appreciate life and keep striving to achieve what I want, no matter the setbacks.”
This lifelong ambition to learn and create has driven much of her involvement in various activities. In the summer of 2016, before senior year of high school, Sidney began an internship at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. This was a pivotal chapter in her life. It awakened her love for visual art.
Though she had always been a visual person, working at the Apollo Theater opened her eyes to what visual expression could truly accomplish and the truly boundless opportunities for creativity that came with it.
“One event I absolutely loved being a part of at the Apollo was the Women of the World Festival in May 2017,” Sidney said. “We hosted guests like actress Gabourey Sidibe, and a major theme for that year was about how society is always on women’s backs, with certain beauty standards and social pressure. It’s so important to have people speak out against that.”
Sidney is currently on the Apollo Theater’s leadership board as the lead video editor. In addition, her role as a stagehand has allowed her to work alongside various celebrities, such as Lady Gaga.
Before officially enrolling in SUNY Plattsburgh, Sidney had visited the campus twice in high school. Both times, she had received a chance to interact with students in the communications department and got a feel for how things worked at Plattsburgh.
“As soon as I officially started attending Plattsburgh, I already became very hands-on and active,” Sidney said. “I worked with others on a bunch of different projects and art pieces on campus. Some projects we did included commercials for made-up products as well as a short documentary about the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Sidney started out as a TV and video production major and then added audio radio studies at the beginning of her second semester. Her interest in media production and determination to excel in this field was noted by Dominique Lewis, the former President of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Lewis has worked with and observed many of Sidney’s projects in media production.
“Querida’s dedication to media is very inspiring,” Lewis said. “She knows exactly what she wants out of life and is a very determined person.”
During sophomore and junior year, Sidney worked at WARP Radio as a radio show host as well as human resources co-director. Later, she was promoted to General Manager, which she said pushed her out of her comfort zone.
“At first, I felt a little challenged because I was not used to being in a position of leadership,” Sidney said. “But I soon started noticing that a lot of people were really looking up to me and relying on me to get things done. That motivated me to keep working and pushing myself. The whole experience really validated my belief in my leadership skills.”
Professor Timothy Clukey, who worked with Sidney at WARP Radio, lauded her charisma and self-motivation as key driving forces behind her success.
“Querida’s infectious smile and organizational skills promote a persona that other students want to work with—because she gets things done,” Clukey said. “It is easy to recognize the elements of future success that are a part of her character.”
Sidney has also been spending time writing short films and is planning on progressing onto feature films in the near future. The films she has written are typically centered around dramatic, mysterious and historical themes.
Some of Sidney’s inspirations in the field of media and creativity include Michael Jackson, because his music videos—or short films, as he called them—all had an important message for audiences.
Also, Issa Rae, whose innovation and originality had propelled her from hosting a YouTube channel to having her own HBO show, and Mara Brock Akil, creator of famed shows “Girlfriends” and “The Game.” However, Sidney emphasizes that in her eyes, inspiration can come from every aspect of life.
“For me, inspiration can come from just about anywhere,” Sidney said. “I can find the motivation to create from all sorts of things, like even the Instagram explore page.”
Sidney’s ambitions for the future are diverse. She plans to do freelance photography and videography for QAS Productions and is determined to create short and feature films, some of which she would like to submit to major film festivals such as Tribeca. Her goals also include participating in humanitarian work and supporting communities that would benefit from her help.
“One of the most important things we can do to empower certain countries and communities is to change how we portray them,” Sidney said. “That’s what I hope my work in media can achieve. I want to portray Haiti and other nations in a way that is more positive and uplifting, and encourages the world to be more active in supporting and helping them.”
Sidney also believes her work can help educate people about countries and people groups that are often marginalized in the formal education system, as well as inspire viewers to do research on their own.
She pointed to the fact that learning about Black history is optional in Utah, as an example of the school system’s failure in properly teaching students about diverse groups, narratives, and cultures. Sidney believes this is why media creators have a special responsibility to ensure their work can help educate and empower people.
“Above all, I want to be able to share my thoughts freely and openly,” Sidney said. “No matter what, I want to share my truth.”