What is the injustice here?
It feels impossible to capture the injustice in totality with my own words. I follow so many eloquent, deeply intelligent people who can put it into words so much better than I ever could. The injustice is incredibly multi-layered, complex and evolving. The war waged on latinx immigrants isn't new to the current administration, but it has absolutely intensified and become more bold-faced and unapologetic. The first layer of injustice is physical. Children, women and men are dying in modern day concentration camps and there has yet to be accountability. People who travel thousands of miles for an opportunity at a better life for themselves and their families are held in camps with care that we wouldn't tolerate in animal shelters. The second layer is social. Socially, a narrative has been created that those seeking asylum, or crossing the border illegally, or those who even have entered the US legally or been born here (!!!) are undeserving and come to this country to steal resources and opportunities that belong to other more deserving Americans.
For each layer, the latinx community must constantly unwrite those untruths. To our own communities and to the outside world. We know that we are hard-working, passionate dreamers who balance being true to our Latin roots with our pride of being Americans. This is why there are shirts that say "Brown and proud" White people are born with intrinsic value, and then that value is confirmed everywhere they go. Television and movies, advertisements, teachers, police officers. All who look like them. People of color have to intentionally instill that message. Write it on shirts. Put it on stickers. Black and brown parents have to hold their children by both shoulders and say "You are worthy. You are smart. You are capable. You deserve a seat at the table." Because everything in society will push the opposite. But the tide is changing. Because we are forcing it to.
What is your role or experience?
I was raised in a religion that doesn't vote and believes in neutrality so voting wasn't something that was very important to me or that I understood the importance of. I very clearly remember the day 45 stood at that podium and said that Mexico was sending over rapists and criminals. I remember feeling that hot, angry cry that you don't know is coming until it's pouring out of your eyes. I registered to vote immediately after that. I'd always felt upset over comments made about immigrants or undocumented individuals, but I didn't have a deep knowledge - it was purely emotional. After 45 was elected, I got politically active for the first time in my life. I deeply felt that it was a time to raise my voice and fight for those whose voice was being silenced. So I immersed myself in everything that I could. Marches, protest, committees in the district where I was employed as a teacher, anything and anyone I could access.
How has creativity or art brought reconciliation for you or this injustice?
I see creativity when I go to a protest and I see signs that make me laugh. Like incorporating RuPaul sayings or something witty. Sometimes you have to laugh at the painful things, otherwise it feels so heavy it's going to crush you. I think that there is a deep history of people of color making humor out of the dark things that have happened and continue to happen to them. Theres that kinship there, when you see a joke or a meme and you laugh like, ah, yeah I feel that. I get it, and it feels good that someone else does too.
There's been times that I've felt so lost and helpless and going to a protest or march and physically being amongst people who hurt just like you do, theres a shared pain. It makes me cry (every damn time), but it also is lifting.
Attempting to become more active in the activist community has also led me to amazing latinx companies that I try to support whenever I have the opportunity. The value of my dollar and where I decide to spend it sometimes feels like one of the few ways I maintain power in this state of things.
What is one practical way you want people to get involved?
Reflect on your community, the people you surround yourself. Do you follow people of color, LGBTQ+, Muslims - people who look and think differently than you do on Instagram? In today's technology, it is so easy to access the thoughts of people of all walks of life. If you have ideas or biases about these groups of people, do you actually know any in real life? Connect with people who challenge you. Who have had different experiences. Who challenge you to get uncomfortable and be accountable. I feel that once those groups of people (immigrants, Muslims, gays, etc.) become real, that hateful rhetoric will shift. Because instead of them just being "those people", you'll see individual beautiful, unique, special people who are worthy of all the respect, love and equality that so many of us get to enjoy without a second thought.
Thank you so much Britt. For those of you who don’t know, Brittany’s and my friendship dates back to high school. She is all of the things you want in a friend; hilarious, loyal, and fierce. She is also an educator, artist, and activist. Even 13 years later, I am still constantly inspired by her.
Brittany was one of the first people I witnessed to publicly defend someone else, even while facing a risk of losing a friendship. She acted out of integrity and defense for someone hurting. It was beautiful and stuck with me. Each of us are human, and sometimes we need to fight so someone can see that.
This print depicts community, solidarity and power. The portraits are inspired by 4 Hispanic women including Brittany, her sister Candice, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and my maternal grandmother. The red abstract figure was created with a fist of solidarity and a heart of resilience in mind. The words “unwrite the untruths” were powerfully written in Brittany’s post. This print is for sale in our “SHOP”. Any profit will be shared with Brittany and the organization of her choice.
Thank you for partnering with RECONFIGURE Art for Hispanic Heritage Month!