OF all the beautiful things to recommend Lavie to readers of The Southern Star let’s start with her name.
The name was chosen by her Irish Traveller mother who shortened ‘C’est la vie’ to give her daughter an anointed start in life.
Lavie’s surname Olupona comes from her father, who is from Nigeria, and she identifies as Irish-Nigerian.
What brought her to the attention of The Southern Star is the fact that Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns heard one of her poems – Let Our Voices Be Heard – at the Traveller ‘Pride in the Park’ event last October.
Holly was so impressed she asked Lavie if she would come to the Dáil to recite the poem to mark International Women’s Day.
With generosity of spirit, Holly not only identified Lavie as having a unique voice and a message worth hearing, she wanted to walk her through the corridors of power and introduce her to colleagues.
During her visit, Holly arranged for her to meet Senator Eileen Flynn (Ind), who is herself a member of the Travelling community.
What struck a chord with Holly was Lavie’s anti-racism plea:
Wake up, wake up,
Use your platforms to spread the word.
We need to come together, let our voices be heard’
Describing Lavie as ‘a passionate young woman with plenty to say,’ Holly said, ‘the Dáil should be filled with people like her every day.’
Lavie’s actual voice is a clear, full, sound that burbles with an almost tangible interest in life – la vie.
In time, the fourth-year student at Clonakilty Community College is hoping her voice will count for something, too, in the world of journalism.
It’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a 16-year-old student but with Holly as an early guide, Lavie is confident of finding her level.
Like any reporter-in-waiting worth her salt, Lavie is a good student in the subjects that matter – English, Irish and history.
What inspires her about journalism, she said, is the way reporters bring stories to life through writing and videos.
She has already had some experience of videography, having been part of a group of eight teenage Traveller girls and young women who worked on a film project with Toma McCullim of Float Like a Butterfly fame.
Speaking to The Southern Star after her journey to Dublin with the seven of her fellow film-makers, Lavie said: ‘It inspired me to continue to believe in the things I believe in.’
She said her visit confirmed for her ‘it does not matter what your background, race or ethnicity is – you can achieve whatever you set out to do.’