Maya’s Declaration, a story from Jo Salas | Maya's Gifts

Maya’s Declaration, a story from Jo Salas


From the time she was a toddler Maya was a regular and enthusiastic audience member at our Hudson River Playback Theatre shows where people are invited to tell their personal stories and see them enacted on the spot. Maya always sat in the front row, always spoke up, always with a huge Maya-smile on her face.

When she was seven she and Elise came to a performance for Human Rights Day. It opened with readings from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After the readings, Maya raised her hand. She was not smiling. “I heard a lot of ‘he’ and ‘him’,” she said. “But no ‘she’ and ‘her’.”

She was absolutely right. Visionary though the Declaration is, its language is completely sexist. And seven-year-old Maya was affronted. She understood the relationship between language and justice. We reflected her comment in action, to her satisfaction.


Jo Salas is a dear, dear family friend. Maya loved attending the shows of Hudson River Playback Theatre. This photo of Jo and Maya was taken at a school presentation during second grade. Jo had supported Maya in a project on Australia in which Maya nailed the Aussie accent.


  • Oh Elise,
    To see Maya in this photo with her Australia shirt in front of the cave paintings display brings back so many wonderful memories of that year. In my heart she is still that little Sprite, full of wonder and light. She was always excited to participate in every activity and always so present. And she’s present for me still-as I teach and learn with my children and look at them with new eyes and a new heart, working to provide them with the space and time to be and grow. I am so thankful that you are sharing these stories and photos.
    You are in my daily thoughts and prayers,

    • Yes Lilly,
      I’m so glad that this photo touched you. You gifted her and she continues to gift you. I’m with you. Maya’s being is and always will be present with me. Thank you for holding me in your thoughts and prayers.
      Love, Elise

  • Maya was such a wonderful audience member at the many HRPT performances she attended. I remember how attentive she was, her eyes shining with interest. Once, years ago, we performed for the YMCA after-school program at Duzine in our No More Bullying series. Maya raised her hand easily (already knowing us as she did) and came up to tell a story about how her dog Jason was bullied by another neighborhood dog. Her strong sense of justice was evident at such a young age which continues to inspire me. I miss her and think of her often. Much love to you, Elise & Mathew.

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