Jansikwe Medina-Tayac with camera

Lights, Camera, Activism

A conversation with filmmaker Jansikwe Medina-Tayac ’25

By Bridgette Ramirez | Fall 2023 Issue

With fists raised and throats sore from hours of rousing chants, protesters marched down the street as they waved signs of every kind—from fabric, to foam core, to cardboard with colorful marker drawings. The daughter of a Piscataway mother and a Colombian father, Jansikwe Medina-Tayac ’25 has been surrounded by such ardent activists ever since her parents took her to her first protest as a baby.

A media studies major at Pitzer College, Medina-Tayac has continued the traditions inspired by her parents by becoming an activist filmmaker. In spring 2022, Medina-Tayac took the course Digitizing Testimonios: Chicanx- Latinx Documentary Storytelling, taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Chicanx Latinx Transnational Studies Lani Cupchoy, and produced the six-minute film Jornalerx about the experiences of San Bernardino jornalerxs (day laborers). The film went on to receive much critical attention.


As she planned to film Jornalerx, Medina-Tayac connected with the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center (PEOC), a haven for day laborers to find safe work at a fair wage and learn new skills. The PEOC organizers referred her to those who were fighting to establish a similar center in San Bernardino.

“Because of my organizing experience and family background, this felt comfortable,” said Medina-Tayac. “You must be mindful of what you put out. These workers are extremely vulnerable. I trusted myself to pay attention to what the organizers and workers wanted versus imposing my own idea.”

Jornalerx spotlights workers who faced a police raid and thousands of dollars in unfair tickets as they advocated for a day labor center. Medina-Tayac’s film brings to light the injustices that many undocumented workers face.

Cupchoy encouraged Medina-Tayac to submit Jornalerx to the 13th OC Film Fiesta, an award-winning selection of films, documentaries, and activities that connect Orange County residents with their international, multicultural heritages. Medina-Tayac was one of four Pitzer student filmmakers whose work was chosen by the Film Fiesta.

Medina-Tayac strives to make her work accessible and free for anyone to watch. “I’m not in it for accolades,” she said. “Capturing injustices on film exposes the systems of oppression we’re facing and lets us see it with our own eyes. At Standing Rock, there were people documenting what was happening, so it spread to more people.”


Because of her Indigenous and Latinx background, Medina-Tayac feels a personal dedication to amplify and advocate for these communities. She is a Native Indigenous Initiatives coordinator through Pitzer’s Community Engagement Center and the co-president of the Native Indigenous Student Union (NISU).

“There are not many Native students,” said Medina-Tayac. “It’s been important for me to help create space where Native and Indigenous students feel safe.”

In addition to NISU, Medina-Tayac credits Cupchoy and Visiting Associate Professor of Media Studies Gina Lamb for strengthening her sense of belonging at Pitzer. Cupchoy and Lamb taught her new skills, encouraged her to submit to film festivals, and talked to her about job opportunities.

“Pitzer is special in that my professors and I have a close relationship and they know who I am,” she said. “I’ve been able to find awesome mentors here.”