This year I have been active about discussing alternative models of having relationships, considering that the dominant model we hear about relationships does not work for many of us. In fact, it does not work for about 50% of the population, if you take a look at how high divorce rates are. I have also been more active around learning more about my own sexuality, and challenging ourselves, as people of color, to reconsider sexuality as something that is constantly changing, adapting, being reinvented.
In our own communities (black and brown) I feel that we often regergitate heterosexist, oppressive models around sex, for example, in many brown families young women are not talked to about sex unless the message is "Don't have any!". There tends to be an emphasis on "waiting for marriage" for young Latinas, I mean, I definitely got conditioned that way, not by my parents, but by all the culture around me. I was also not encouraged to learn about masturbation, about open relationships, about questioning whether I liked men or women - I was conditioned to believe that I would fall in love with one really awesome guy, have babies with him and be monogamous, and that that should be one of my main life purposes. That's not where I am today, and at age 30, all I hear at family parties is "Favi when you gonna have your own babies! Cuando te casas??
When it comes down to men of color, immigrant men, and Latino men in particular - I have often seen the model of keeping stuff on the "down low", that is, the fact that men sleep with other men but they dont' talk about it, they don't ackowledge it, it's kept on the "down-low." This sort of behavior actually encourages dishonesty and self censorship, and it reinforces the whack heterosexists models that exist in our communities.
I understand why sex is still something we dont' talk about openly in our communities. I believe it has something to do with our own internal oppression, that is, we are so disempowered in our daily lives through racism, that we have to exert power in our own relationships, and that power is usually is around controlling our lovers, or viewing them as property, or not being open to the fact that our lovers may in fact have very complex sexual desires that we need to nourish and support. I think that people's sexuality DOES change, with time, with new experiences, so why not embrace it - having a fulfilling sexual life is also about self liberation. Its about understanding your own boundaries and things that you like, enjoy, learning how to negotiate for the things you want and desire, having the courage to ask for those things.
Imagine for example, if I was in a domestic partnership for 10 years and after 10 years my male partner tells me he wants to sleep with other men. What would I do? Well, in my new sex-activist self, I would tell him he should experiment and I would ask that he be safe and honest with me, and that he should explore that side of his being. I don't think I would be able to tell him to repress that side of him, I mean, that would probably make him unhappy, and when you love someone, I think you should encourage them to be happy, fulfilled, and open to the wonderful experiences that life brings. Its hard, yes, of course, but ALL relationships are hard. I can already imagine how much negative crap I would get from my own family and friends, the other day I was telling my mother I was dating a bi guy and she was like, "Que cosa!? Dios Mio!" My brother is gay, so my mother actually is a very open woman, but for some reason she could not see how I could be in a relationship with a guy that liked other guys, and girls. What matters is that I am comfortable with where I am at the decisions I make, I believe that being sexually liberated is part of my own liberation as a woman of color. You have to liberate your chonies (underwear) before you liberate your people!
Well today, I ran into an article about the fact that young Latina girls are having WAY more babies than any other teenage group. Does that surprise anyone? Considering that our cultura can be so closed about these topics. What would happen if we taught our young mujeres how to negotiate safe sex, how to say yes or no depending on how they felt. When we impose an abstinenc-only model, a model that says that you are some kind of whore if you have premarital sex (watch some novelas and you will see what I'm talking about), then we are actually disempowering our young mujeres. We are not giving them tools for them to make good decisions. So what happens is they end up getting pregnant with one of the guys they are first sexually active with. I see this all the time. You know, how in our familias the girls can't go out unless they are chaperoned by the brother, by the younger sister - all of this policing does what? It tells young women that we dont' trust them, that we see them as pretty little flowers that will be devoured by their male counterparts. This is sexism at its best. The messages that young Latinas end up getting is that sex in an evil thing, that it should ONLY happen between two married people, that if they engage it in, they are breaking cultural traditions. What we should be doing instead is empowering them to learn how to love their bodies, to be able to negotiate for what they want, including safe sex. This will not only prevent pregancies, it will prevent sexual violence.
The article reads:
The survey also found that 84 percent of Latino teens and 91 percent of Latino parents believe that graduating from college or university or having a promising career is the most important goal for a teen's future.
So where is the disconnect coming from? The survey hints that it stems, in part, from conflicting messages about sex and contraception.
Although nearly half of the Latino teens surveyed said their parents
influenced their decisions about sex, and three-quarters had gotten The
Talk, only half of those that got the talk heard anything about
contraception. The survey had two other interesting results.
The survey also found that:
- 74 percent of Latino teens believe that parents send one message about sex to their sons and a different message altogether to their daughters, possibly related to the Latino value of machismo.(Favi says: "Uhhhh yeah.....whack!")
- Latino teens believe that the most common reason teens do not use contraception is that they are afraid their parents might find out. (Favi says: Exactly! We need to stop being sex negative and instead be sex positive!)
The image above is one of my new etchings by the way....
This year, much of my art work has tackled the topic of food because it is an issue that tremendously affects la Raza. Latinos compose a large majority of the workforce in the agricultural sector as well as the meat and poultry industries. The sheer numbers of Latino workers shows us that we essentially feed this country. Meanwhile, Latinos are getting bigger and unhealthier at alarming rates, facing a host of food related diseases, including malnutrition and obesity. On a global level, the WTO’s food policies are affecting farmers back in our homelands. The domination of genetically modified seeds, along with unfair trade agreements such as NAFTA, are destroying the way of life for farmers all over Latin America as well as strangling bio-diversity. The U.S. model of big agribusiness is hitting our people hard from many angles, from how we work to what we eat to how we grow it. Meanwhile, back home, Latino youth grow up in urban food deserts, where access to clean, healthy and whole food is rare. This unsustainable food situation is beyond craziness!. The dominant model of globalized, industrialized food is costly for the earth, for the farmers, and for ourselves.
Vandana Shiva writes that one of the most divisive issues around food is the myth of “cheap” food, the concept that industrialized food systems produce more food, and thus, should be favored over small, biodiverse farms. Latino worers are particularly affected in this area because industrialized food consistently translates into more accelerated modes of production, an increase in more stressful conditions for the workers, the use of pesticides and chemicals to accelerate the growth and size of the end product, and an emphasis on profits. It also can mean the use of GMO’s, which indeed use a lot more chemicals and also obligate farmers to buy the seeds from the corporations each year. In other words, “cheap” food is not cheap, not for the workers who participate in the production, not for the earth that absorbs the waste, and not for the health of the consumer.
A new paradigm for food that considers the Latino worker, grower, and consumer is what is needed. As Latinos, we must understand how much is at stake for us as a community when we are affected not only in the production of the food, but in the ripples that are felt throughout our native lands that can be linked directly to our consumption patterns. In other words, the Latino food consumer must be informed about the global implications of the U.S. current food policies and practice. Food activist Vandana Shiva writes, “Eaters have a critical role in creating a sustainable, just, and healthy food system. By eating organic, we are saying no to toxins and supporting the organic farmer. By rejecting GMO’s, we are voting for people’s right to information and health. By eating local, we are taking power away from global agribusiness and strengthening our local food economy.”
Our gente needs to be educated about a more a sustainable and healthy diet. "Latinos and their children have been particularly affected by the growing prevalence of overweight and obesity. In 2005, at leastone in four Latino adults living in the U.S. was obese. More than one in six (16.8%) Hispanic high school students is overweight. Hispanics’ rates of being overweight are significantly higher than White high schoolers (11.8%) and about the same as Blacks (16.0%) of the same age. Even at the preschool level, Mexican-Americans are more likely to be overweight (11%) than their non-Hispanic Black (8%) and White (10%) counterparts. As the largest racial and ethnic minority population in the United States, Latinos are also the youngest; more than 34% of the U.S. Latino population in 2004 were under the age of 18." (From ObesityDiscussion.com)As Latino children are a major segment of the Latino population and make up a significant portion of obese or overweight children in the U.S., this problem needs to become a major focus for all of us organizers.
The poster I did about Maiz will be on exhibit in the group show, "El Maiz es Nuestra Vida" (the Maiz is Our Life). The planting of transgenic maize in Mexico is a historic crime against the peoples of maize, against biodiversity and food sovereignty, against ten thousand years of indigenous and peasant agriculture that bequeathed this seed for the well being f all the peoples of the world. Corn Farmers are the keepers of tradition. Corn Farmers are the protectors of biodiversity. The fact that the Mexican government, along with the NAFTA administration, willfully designed an economic policy to drastically reduce the number of small farmers who are the keepers and original developers of such a valuable resource, is unconscionable.
The other two pieces I did deal with the fight against the privatization of water. This piece below was done for the 2009 Swarthmore College Intercultural Center Awards.
You can see photos from the process for the "Water is a Weapon" piece. Scroll to bottom.
This week I watched the new movie, Sin Nombre, directed by Cary Fukunaga (trailer above). The film is about an Honduran teenager Sayra (Gaitan) who begins the journey of heading to El Norte, and her life intersects with a young man, Willy, who is trying to leave the life of being a gang member with the Mara's (Mara Salvatrucha). I really enjoyed the film because it showed the characters of two brown folks, a woman and a man, within the complexities of their political situations. You saw the intersection of gangs, drugs, violence, immigration, and an overall failed policy when it comes to dealing with people who travel north in search of work. So often I see movies about Raza and they are very predicatable, their characters too two-dimensional, and the plots so stereotypical. This was a refreshing change. Although the film was violent, I thought it was very accurate.
The fact that the U.S. has militarized the border has set an example for many other countries, Mexico included, and has made crossing an extremely risky act - this is laid out well in this film. I also like to see another type of crossing besides the one we are used to. Usually, we see the story of crossing from Mexico into the U.S., but this time you were able to see the journey starting from Central America, much of it based on train hopping. I had never heard of this type of crossing until I lived in Mexico City. My friends who were working for the PRD, the government that runs Mexico City, were doing groundbreaking work by establishing transitional homes (Casas Migrantes) for the immigrants who came from Central America. They said they were doing this because the Mexican government had a horrible track record when it came to the treatment of immigrants from south of the Mexican border. My friend Benjamin, would tell me how many people would become dismembered during crossing on trains, and how often families were separated, that little children could not keep up with the speed of the trains, and how many of them became orphaned from the process of crossing.
This movie showed this reality, and it intersected it with gangs. Its important to note how influential gangs are in Mexico, El Salvador, and other countries in Central America - places where gangs have HUGE influence and power, and so this movie did a great job of showing this. I liked that they showed just how large MS is. I have known this from stories from my artist friends in Central America, but I had never seen it documented in a feature film like this. The gang paradigm I'm used to seeing a lot of is Norte and Sur.
My friend Xico just told me about the documentary Sin Nombre was based on, a docu called "De Nadie." You can see the whole docu on YouTube. I saw it and it broke my heart. It made me sad to see the lengths that people go through to find work. You can see the full docu here.
The only other time I had seen the strength of the Mara's was through documentaries such as Fruits of War by Josiah Hooper, a docu that follows four reformed gang members who escaped to the United States as child refugees from El Salvador's bloody civil war. They settled in the tough east side of Los Angeles, eventually becoming involved in street gangs. When they are deported back to El Salvador, they discover a country ravaged by war, and face a new wave of violence as the LA street gangs take root in their homeland.
Much of the capital that holds gangs together and gives them their purpose comes from the drug trade. I was surprised to see this article in which former Mexican president Vicente Fox, calls for the legalization of Marijuana. He says this because since 2006, the drug trade has caused 10,000 deaths in Mexico alone. He "joined three other ex-leaders of Latin American nations calling for the decriminalization of marijuana."
Read full article, "Former Mexican president calls for legalizing marijuana"
On Tuesday, my parents called me at least 5 times during the day to scold me about the crazy things I do for art. I'm 30 years old - but I'm still my parent's daughter - as a brown woman you hear it from your folks a lot. Your mama is always your jefita (translated this means "boss"). My parents were on their way back from Tijuana, carrying 25 cardboard tubes of posters in their van - but not just any posters! These were posters about immigrant rights, deaths at the border, and queer migrant rights!
The story begins in May 2008. I was in Mexico City attending the TIGRA conference which brought together over 300 organizations from around the world who were fighting for immigrant rights. I had coordinated a project in which five artists, myself included, developed five poster designs that reframed the theme of immigration. Our posters attempted NOT to react to the rhetoric that frames immigrants as "illegals", but to instead introduce a reframing of how important immigrant workers are to the entire world. The intent of the project was to distribute a set of posters (20-30 posters) to each of the conference participants, so that they could help distribute these to their collaborators around the world. The project was a huge success, but at the end of the conference, I was left with a stack of posters that reached higher than my waist (from the floor that is). You can see all the posters by clicking here.
So I desperately searched for options to ship the posters back home, but customs is a pain and so sending the posters directly to the US would have cost over $1000. So instead, I sent them to Tijuana by bus, with the hopes that I would one day come rescue them on one of my many trips to San Diego. They sat that bus station for a couple of months, and finally my friend Esperanza rescued them - she kept 25 tubes of posters that each weighed about 20 pounds, she kept them for over 10 months.
I would repeatedly ask folks that I knew were going to TJ to pick them up for me, but folks would say, "no mames, a ese barrio yo no voy," (translated, "you crazy, I aint going to that hood."). I eventually figured out that Esperanza's hood was one of the more dangerous ones in Tijuana. My parents made a quick trip to Tijuana to relax, and luckily they rolled with a posse, so safety in numbers. They complained to me that they were in the hood of "El Pozolero" (The Stew Maker) who was arrested in January 2009. The Times online described him: "He would dispose of the enemies of a notorious drug baron by dissolving them in tubs of acid. Over several years he claims to have “disappeared” 300 enemies of Teodoro García Semental, a former henchman for one of the largest cartels in Mexico and now in a bloody struggle for supremacy over the trade." I was in disbelief when I heard this, I was not only afraid for my parents, but also disheartened about the degree of violence that occurs along the border, usually because of drugs. Who buys the drugs that keep the violence rampant? U.S. Americans do.
(I have to take a deep breath before I keep writing and so should you)
My parents made it back safely, and my friend Esperanza, my former student in Mexico City where I met her, was delighted to meet them. I want to say that despite the violence that happens in Mexico, and actually all over the world, including my own neighborhood of East Oakland, people have the ability to be happy and to have hope for the future. I know that Esperanza is a great artist that finds the beauty in everything around her. These first three photos are hers and you can see more of her work by clicking here. I myself have been impacted by the violence of my own community, and perhaps one of the hardest moments for me was when my neighbor of 18 years of age was killed last year when he was walkign his dog. Marco Casillas rest in peace.
Despite the violence, I have never lost hope of how beautiful my community is, how rich it is from the many people who come here from places all over Latin America, the stories they share make me inspire me. I see little things here and there, like how much work people put into making their homes pretty - growing pretty flowers in their yards, making gardens - in a community that most of us don't walk outside past sundown. This is my life, the circumstances under which I was brought into this world, and so my responsiblity is to share those stories and I'm blessed with a gift to do so, which is my art. (photo to the right is of a street vendor in my neighborhood) These thoughts were echoed today by a man who I have respected for years, but only today was able to meet, and that is Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado. He talked about the dignity that people have even when they are the margins, even when they are in the worst of conditions, they have a human capacity for love and hope that transcends even the harshest of circumstances.
The conversation that Salgado had today was an intimate one at the Brower Center (where my office is moving to by the way), where his work is currently on exhibit. He and his wife/collaborator/art director, Lélia Deluiz Wanick, talked about the journey the two of them had together as two people in love, who could align their dreams and not only create beautiful art, but also a beautiful contribution to the planet that is Instituto Terra. Instituto Terra seeks to rebuild the forest ecosystem of the area through different forms of intervention and by restoring the ecological processes and contributing to the maintenance of the local biodiversity.
(photo to left by Salgado) What affected me most about Salgado's talk, was how, through his career as a photographer, he was able to see the world, visit various countries, connect with various people, and to arrive at the conclusion that the degradation of people was always linked to the degradation of earth. It was thanks to the support and partnership with his wife, that he was able to achive great success, and together they transformed that success into a project that was about rebuilding pachamama (mother earth). They were able to return water to a place that was dry - that's how amazing this project is. I hope to do the same in my life, to be an artist than can see the world and learn from it, so that I can help in the building of transformative projects, whether that be a cultural center or a school or an art institution, I want to build something that has a bigger impact on people's lives and on the earth. I am grateful that I have the supportive family that I do. And of course i hope to find a supportive partner. This is harder for me to imagine, but only because the usual model I see is that of the artist husband with a supportive wife. When I think of woman artists with a supportive male spouse, I only think of Frida and Diego....and as for Diego, well his support of her was not what I would ask for, I mean he repeatedly cheated on her. But he DID support her creativity.
Speaking of supportive people who you love and who love you, the pictures below are of my mother on May 1st 2009, the day of the Immigrant Rights marches. My mom ran home right before the marches were going to being, and pulled two of my large pieces off the wall, and proudly displayed then during the march. She even was interviewed! (she's the one in the red) I 'm honored to have a supportive family, I'm thankful that my mother and father taught me to be strong, to not be afraid, and to always look forward and fight for our people. Arribas las familias! Arriba las madres!
A big shot out to CodePink for the action they did this week at the AIPAC gathering. Medea Benjamin, Desiree Fairooz, and other women from CodePink interrupted the meeting by unfurling banners and standing on top of tables. Today I read an article from Medea that made me very sad, but also inspired me to take action around pushing for this country to cease investing in the Israeli military machine that is committing genocide against the Palestinians. This article in Common Dreams is moving, please read it here.
WHO IS AIPAC: AIPAC is the most visible organ of the so-called 'Jewish lobby.' It is widely believed that the 'Jewish lobby' has a vast influence on US foreign policy, and that in consequence US foreign policy is pro-Israel to the point of absurdity.
Here is an excerpt:
"Shut the f--- up. Shut the f--- up." one staffer yelled, red-faced and sweating as he ran beside me. "This is not the place to be saying that shit. Get the f--- out of here."
What makes my heart ache is thinking about the traumatized children I met on my recent trip to Gaza, and how their suffering is denied by the 6,000 AIPAC conventioneers who are living in a bubble-a bubble where Israel is the victim and all critics are anti-Semitic, terrorist lovers or, as in my case, self-hating Jews.
I found it fascinating that AIPAC's executive director Howard Kohr opened the conference admitting that there was now a huge, international campaign against the policies of Israel. He painted a picture of 30,000 people marching in Spain, Italian trade unionists calling for a boycott of Israeli products, the UN Human Rights Council passing 26 resolutions condemning Israel, an Israeli Apartheid Week that is building a global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
My friends at Dignidad Rebelde just sent me news that Lincoln Cushing's new book is being released today! I have a piece in this book, Green Is Not White.
Agitate! Educate! Organize!
American Labor Posters
Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher
$24.95, Cornell University Press, 2009
East Bay book release premiere
Thursday, May 7, 2009 6:30-9:00 PM
Alliance Graphics, 1101 8th St, Berkeley, CA (510) 845-8835
Hosted by Alliance Graphics / Middle East Children’s Alliance
San Francisco release premiere
Wednesday, May 27, 2009 7:00 PM
Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia St.
This is a fundraiser for Modern Times -
all proceeds to support the store
From Lincoln's site...
"Despite the existence of labor images going back to some of the earliest examples of representational art, very little has been done in this country to acknowledge the contribution labor posters have made to our national culture. Other countries, including Germany, England, and Australia, take this genre seriously, but ironically it has been up to foreign scholars to produce some of the best research and successful publications on our own culture. The few books that treat these posters are either broader art exhibit catalogs or illustrated sections of books on specific labor themes, such as the history of the Industrial Workers of the World. No single U.S.-published title exists which offers a broad survey of this specific art form. The graphics themselves have experienced the general fate of other “oppositional” cultural documents, where low social status has resulted in public neglect.
Agitate! Educate! Organize! - American Labor Posters, by Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher, begins to fill this void. Educate! Agitate! Organize! includes over 200 full-color images (from a database of over 800 posters) and roughly 20,000 words, plus a bibliography and index. The book features many important labor archives and special collections such as those listed here. Images are clustered into annotated subject areas, such as “Dignity & Exploitation,” “Race & Civil Rights,” “Internationalism & Peace,” “Organizing & Solidarity,” “Strikes & Boycotts,” “Democracy, Voting & Patriotism,” and “Heroes, Martyrs & History.” For each image the historical background is supplemented with aesthetic analysis that helps readers understand the social forces represented in the graphics as well as the cultural origins and design strategies. Although a few of the posters are by well-known artists such as Ben Shahn or Rockwell Kent, most are by less-known professional artists and amateurs. The scope includes historical and contemporary examples.
And, unlike almost every other full color art book published these days, this book is printed at a North American union shop. (YEAH LINCOLN RULES!!!!!!!)
This project is endorsed by the California Labor Federation.
Lincoln Cushing and Tim Drescher
Agitate! Educate! Organize!
822 Santa Barbara Road, Berkeley, CA 94707
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