Category Archives: Social Justice

“Dreaming of Utopia in a Pragmatic Present: Works by Julio Salgado and Jesús Iñíguez in Conversation with Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia”

By Ryan King

Introduction

In response to grassroots pressures and organizing by undocumented communities, various U.S. federal and state agencies are enacting new immigration policies for the first time in decades. Almost all of these recent policy changes are highly pragmatic and offer limited administrative relief.

Undocumented communities, organizations, and artists actively critique these limited forms of administrative relief. In this article, I look to how two undocumented artists, Jesús Iñíguez and Julio Salgado, demonstrate the pressing need for administrative relief while remaining critical of its troubling limitations. I situate Iñíguez’s and Salgado’s contributions with José Esteban Muñoz’s meditations on gay pragmatism and queerness as two binary approaches to politics. Muñoz offers important perspectives on dreaming, political action, and compromise. Throughout this article, I consider how Iñíguez and Salgado queer how Muñoz approaches the politics of gay pragmatism vs. queerness. Iñíguez and Salgado urge their viewers to consider what types of liberation are possible in the present moment and also highlight the need to push meanings of what can be considered possible in the present moment.

For context, let us consider two programs of administrative relief. The first program is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which has been administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security since June 2012. DACA provides temporary deportation deferral for undocumented residents who entered the country under the age of 16 and meet a lengthy list of additional criteria.[1] The second program is California Assembly Bill 60 (AB 60), which has been administered by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) since January 2015. AB 60 permits eligible undocumented residents in California to apply for driver licenses. Both of these programs provide important yet limited administrative relief for undocumented communities.[2] Neither of these programs provides a pathway to citizenship; they may be productively contrasted to attempts at broader (but still limited) legislation, such as the DREAM Act.[3]

I center my discussion on three works produced by Iñíguez and Salgado. These works visualize utopian dreaming, the pragmatic urgencies for administrative relief, and the difficulties that arise from participating in pragmatic politics from a critical standpoint. The three works are: Homoland Security, a digital drawing by Julio Salgado[4]; episode one of Undocumented and Awkward by Iñíguez and Salgado; and episode eleven of Osito, also a collaboration between Iñíguez and Salgado.

  1. Homoland Security by Julio Salgado

Homoland Security (see http://juliosalgadoart.bigcartel.com/) reshapes and re-imagines the presently-militarized U.S.-Mexico border. In this futuric border scene, programs like AB 60 and DACA are not necessary because this border privileges movement and aesthetic performances of queerness — important especially for Trans and Queer migrants of color whom are among the most marginalized by present border conditions.

As Muñoz writes, “The present is not enough […] The present must be known in relation to the alternative temporal and spatial maps provided by a perception of past and future affective worlds.”[5] The present temporal and spatial maps at the border are saturated with security and militarization, yet the absence of security culture in this drawing is striking. By depicting a border scene absent of security and militarization, Salgado takes to task Muñoz’s call that “the present is not enough” by re-imagining spatial and temporal maps in this utopic border scene. Importantly, Muñoz also links “homosexual pragmatism” with homonormativity.[6] In this drawing, Salgado rejects pragmatic immigration politics and homonormativity through the non-homonormative bodies he draws. The horizon is prominently displayed in this drawing, which can be read as a provocation to consider Muñoz’s conceptualization of “queerness as horizon.”[7]

“Homoland Security” works to represent the grassroots dreaming of undocumented and UndocuQueer, organizers, communities, and artists. This drawing is legible as a heuristic piece that reflects futuric politics which are grounded in a consciousness of the past and present; a politics that uses this consciousness to push what is possible in the present moment.

The following cultural production outlines how the day-to-day benefits of DACA and AB 60 complicate the refusal of these programs based on a political premise.

  1. “Episode 1” of Undocumented and Awkward by Julio Salgado and Jesús Iñiguez[8]

Undocumented and Awkward by Julio Salgado and Jesús Iñiguez is a comedic web series that examines how being undocumented creates uncomfortable, unsafe, and awkward moments.[9] This episode was produced in late 2011, about three years before AB 60 took effect.

Far from Homoland Security’s utopic border, the episode opens in a nondescript parking lot outside of a bar. Jesús is on the phone. It becomes clear that he is being stood up on a blind date because he could not enter the bar where they were supposed to meet (the bouncer did not accept his consular ID card as valid identification). The phone call ends when Jesús’ date cancels the date because Jesús could not enter the bar.

While Jesús is on the phone, an intoxicated couple passes in front of the camera on their way to the car. The couple communicates that they both have had too much to drink but will drive home anyway. In contrast to Jesús, the couple take for granted their privileged access to a state ID card. This scene points to the cultural, rather than simply pragmatic, need for administrative relief (such as AB 60) that would provide undocumented residents with reliable identification.

DACA and AB 60 open possibilities for Jesús to access the legitimate state ID card that he lacked in this episode. Administrative relief, a form of pragmatic politics, is a method of resolving everyday needs and desires. Importantly, Jesús rejects a normative, assimilationist desire to become like the intoxicated couple (what Muñoz characterizes pragmatic politics).[10] By maintaining that pragmatism does not inherently equate to normativity and assimilation, this episode of Undocumented and Awkward bridges gaps between gay pragmatism and queerness in Cruising Utopia.

Episode 1 of Undocumented and Awkward makes it more difficult to characterize pragmatic approaches as incongruent with futuric, utopic politics associated with queerness. The next cultural production will continue to wrestle with this uncertainty and offer insight into what it feels like to participate in pragmatic politics while maintaining a politics of queerness and utopic dreams.

  1. Concluding thoughts: “Dat DACAmented life” from Osito, by Julio Salgado and Jesús Iñíguez

The final cultural production, “Dat DACAmented Life,” is an episode of Osito. Osito is also a web series focusing on Salgado’s and Iñiguez’s experiences as undocumented Bay Area residents. This episode was published in February 2015, several years after episode one of Undocumented and Awkard. In the time that elapsed between these two cultural productions, both Salgado and Iñíguez applied for and received DACA in their personal lives. This episode offers some of their reflections on DACAmented subjectivity. This episode further complicates an easy separation between gay pragmatism and utopian queerness.

As the episode opens, Jesús and Julio are sitting on the couch in their home and talking; they are trying to reconcile their utopian dreams with their participation in DACA. Jesús and Julio communicate that DACA was won through the struggles of many undocumented organizers – the two emphasize that people are not “given papers,” but that these papers were demanded, fought for, and won. They comment that the terms of DACA are a serious disappointment when compared to the dreams and goals of undocumented residents and organizers. Both Jesús and Julio mention not wanting to participate in DACA because their parents, along with many family, friends, and community members are excluded from DACA. Jesús states that:

“A whole bunch of us, we wanted to be idealistic and revolutionary and not apply for DACA in solidarity with our parents and people over thirty and anyone else who wouldn’t be eligible.” [11]

Julio replies to say that he felt the same way, but his family did not support this point of view and urged him to apply for DACA. Jesús and Julio both express reservations and sadness about participating in DACA because the program serves the federal government’s pragmatic bottom line rather than the utopic dreams that they and so many others fearlessly fought to materialize. The collective is important in this scene and relates to Muñoz’s discussion of the “not yet conscious” in Cruising Utopia.[12] In the reading that I am proposing, Salgado and Iñíguez are expressing a deeply futuric politics that is not yet here. The potentiality of this utopia is eminent, and their melancholic state is reflective of the lack of this politics in the present. Additionally, both Jesús and Julio clearly lament their increased privilege at the exclusion of many of their loved ones.

These three works by Salgado and Iñíguez demonstrate the struggles felt by social actors whose pragmatic politics are intimately tied to the utopian. These cultural productions demonstrate that it is indeed possible to participate in pragmatic politics while understanding that, in the words of Muñoz, “queerness is always on the horizon.”[13] Salgado and Iñíguez make note that doing so is difficult, especially when the present moment offers them limited choices to do otherwise. This arc of cultural productions demands that pragmatism and queerness be viewed outside of a binary. Considering these politics as linked, rather than opposed, allows for more grounded, nuanced approaches to how communities, organizations, and artists are working toward collective approaches to liberation.

References

Iñíguez, Jesús and Julio Salgado. “Dat DACAmented Life.” Osito. 11 February 2015. Accessed via <www.youtube.com>. Also available on <www.dreamersadrift.com>.

Iñiguez, Jesús and Julio Salgado. “Episode 1.” Undocumented and Awkward. 8 November 2011. Accessed via <www.youtube.com>. Also available on <www.dreamersadrift.com>.

Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York University Press (2009).

Salgado, Julio. “Homoland Security.” accessed via <https://queer170.wordpress.com/about-the-course/>.

Endnotes

[1] Information on DACA may be found here: http://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca

[2] Information on AB 60 may be found here: www.ab60.dmv.ca.gov

[3] Information on the DREAM Act may be found here: https://nilc.org/dreamsummary.html

[4] Homoland Security is available for purchase from the artist at: http://juliosalgadoart.bigcartel.com/

[5]Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There or Queer Futurity. New York University Press (2009). pp. 27.

[6] Ibid. Muñoz. pp. 30.

[7] Ibid. Muñoz pp. 32.

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XbnTK6udQA

[9] All episodes of the web series are available online at no cost to the user. To find the videos, please search for the Dreamers Adrift channel on YouTube or visit www.dreamersadrift.com directly.

[10] Ibid. Muñoz. pp. 20.

[11] ibid. Iñíguez and Salgado. “Dat DACAmented Life.”

[12] Ibid. Muñoz. pp. 20.

[13] ibid. Muñoz pp. 11.

Ryan King is a graduate student in the Feminist Studies Department at University of California, Santa Cruz.  He is primarily interested in the politics of desirability and intimacy in virtual spaces and the politics of space and movement in contexts of neoliberalism and gentrification. He has thought through these research interests in two major research papers to date. The paper “Re-imagining Bodies, Reifying Borders: The Politics of Desirability and Space on Grindr” examines how and why GPS technologies, borders, desirability, visibility, white supremacy, transphobia, ableism, and further factors construct a “citizenship of desirability” that Grindr users participate in to access their desires. The paper “Dreaming of Queerness in a Pragmatic Present: Julio Salgado and Jesús Iñíguez Complicate the Divide Between Queerness and Gay Pragmatism in Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia” takes a look at how undocumented artists speaking for themselves offer insight into the challenges and possibilities of using their agency to access rights in a DACAmented age that distributes administrative relief unevenly within undocumented communities.

Reports from May 2015 Indigenous Knowledge Gathering in California

group moving and dancing through room

Photo of Indigenous Knowledge Gathering by Agos Bawi. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Movements in Motion by Angela “Mictlanxochitl” Anderson Guerrero

On May 2nd, indigenous communities, scholars, and activists were invited to the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco to build understanding around culturally competent integration of indigenous knowledge in the academy. A student-initiated event aimed to raise awareness and attention to the value of culturally competent curriculum and programming at CIIS and other universities. The Indigenous Knowledge Gathering was an experience that inspired dialogue, tough questions, and movement to honor the history and sources of indigenous knowledge. Huge awe for our volunteer team who showed up at 8 a.m. and stepped into action to welcome and invite everyone into CIIS. The day was organized to facilitate dialogue and to build community with all types of knowledge keepers. No papers were presented, but each of the presenters were asked to share their testimonies, which in return help ground our self-reflection as a group and dialogue.

Wicahpiluta Candelaria, Carla Munoz, and Desiree Munoz welcomed all of us into Ohlone territories with songs of mourning and joy to start the day. Monique guided and weaved together the stories shared by Ohlone participants Corrina Gould, Nicholas Alexander Gomez, and Jonathan Cordero of their connections to the land and the transformative possibilities of bringing Native people to the table for equitable say and involvement involving the land, indigenous knowledge, and traditions. Laura Cedillo fired up the dialogue by challenging us all to think about the benefits of indigenous knowledge cultivated in the academy?

To slow down and encourage the dialogue to linger among participants, Corrina Gould blessed the mid-day meal that was prepared by Seven Native American Generations Youth Organization, or SNAG. We were honored to be the first to see the unveiling of the SNAG mural, which will travel with Bay Area urban native youth to Hawaii for the cultural exchange with Native Hawaiian Youth from Halau Ku Mana Charter School in Oahu. Huge thanks to Sylvie Karina and Ras K’Dee for sharing the native foods and allowing us to experience the art of the hawks wings wide open carrying all of our traditions.

Jack Gray and Dakota Alcantara-Camacho ushered in the connections starting to form with a powerful dance, O Hanau Ka Maunakea, inviting all of us to swiftly come together in circles of 10 and to share a story of who we are. There are no words to describe how ancestors, sounds, movement, testimony came through the space. We as a gathering started to really to get know one another and our collective intentions. This sharing became the basis for each group’s creation of actions they hope to see move forward. [Living Report and Dissemination To Be Shared Soon!]

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s presentation on “Positioning Indigenous Knowledge in Higher Education” was a moment of poetic justice because it brought into an academic space an indigenous people’s history that validates our stories, traumas, and hopes for all of our peoples. Roxanne also helped contextualize the powerful action of the gathering within CIIS, an academic institution, as a radical moment that she hopes ripples into other institutions.

To bring the dialogue to a pause so it could sit within each of us as we head home, Rulan Tangen and Jack Gray gathered everyone on the ground for our intentions to be heard and to begin to take shape. What followed was transformation, activation, provocation, identification, communication, decolonization, indigenize-nation. The Indigenous Knowledge Gathering committee passed out medicinal tea by Cultura sin Fronteras and white sage seeds were gifted as thanks.

But we were not done… we had to celebrate! After amazing collective clean-up/break-down effort, we were greeted by jams of Ras in the First Floor. Kris Hoag aka “Kwaz” who came in all the way from Bishop Paiute Tribe, gifted us some of his beats from his heart. Then there was dancing and Chhoti Ma dropped in to share more hip hop medicine, then more dancing.  Visiting San Francisco State students and members of Student Kouncil of Inter Tribal Nations or SKINS, Carlos Peterson-Gomez, and Nancy Andrade were inspired to drop some more beats that invited more dancing.

To close it up 14 hours later, we circled up and Antonio from the community shared songs from the Peace and Dignity Run. Pomo Joe and Ras offered Pomo songs of goodness and wellness and a few more hugs of gratitude for all that was given and received were exchanged before we dispersed under the Full Moon light.

Gathering and work will continue…  Please stay posted via our Facebook page Indigenous Knowledge Gathering and our website: www.indigenousknowledgegathering.com.

Angela “Mictlanxochitl” Anderson Guerrero was a lead organizer for the event described in this post. She is a Doctoral Candidate in East West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies whose dissertation is titled “Testimonio and Knowledge Production Among Transterritorial Mexican and Mexican American Indigenous Spiritual Practitioners: A Decolonial, Participatory, and Grassroots Postmodernist Inquiry.” She is a Council Member of Circulo Danza de la Luna Huitzlimetzli in Austin, Texas, and is finishing her nine year commitment with the Circulo Danza de la Luna Xochitlmetzli in Mexico. Previous positions include Center for Metropolitan Chicago Initiatives, Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame; Integral Teaching Fellow at CIIS: Emerging Arts Professional Fellow in San Francisco/Bay Area. She received an M.A. in Public Policy and a Certificate in Health Administration and Policy from the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Public Policy in 2004.

speakers at talking session

Photo of Indigenous Knowledge Gathering by Agos Bawi. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Medicine in Knowledge by Susy Zepeda

Attending the First Annual Indigenous Knowledge Gathering at CIIS was exactly what my spirit needed as I work to find my ground and honor past, present, and future ancestors on my path. I was pleasantly surprised to find a critical yet warm space where the knowledge honored and spoken came from the heart of Indigenous peoples.  Participants were invited to be fully-embodied in non-hierarchal space, through eating amazing earth-centered food, building community with each other through sharing story, and listening in an accountable way.

The deep lessons of how to exist and live in a respectful way on Ohlone land and collaborate with Native and Indigenous local communities were insightful and instructive.  Corrina Gould, Nicholas Alexander Gomez, and Jonathan Cordero offered interruptions to the usual “othering” that tends to happen in western-centered scholarly work with Indigenous peoples—instead their assertions spoke to the urgency of taking up this work in ways that are accountable to ancestral knowledges, the earth, and all interconnected beings, as well as facilitative of the complexity of  being present as a vessel for transformation. As a queer Xicana Indígena scholar-activist, critical thinker, and practitioner of curanderismo, this gathering was medicine for my whole being.

The collective space created by Jack Gray, Dakota Alcantara-Camacho, and others who offered words, ceremony, movement, and song opened a path for participants to show up for ourselves and each other through small talking circles that facilitated instant heart connections and desire to learn more about each other’s histories and struggle. Roxanne Dubar-Ortiz’s sharing from her 2014 text, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, offered both wisdom and knowledge about the unseen genocidal and “transcommunal”[1] histories, highlighting the importance of world-wide decolonizing efforts that must also address oppressive dominant social and state structures. The closing movement and creativity brought the gathering full circle. We  all left full of wonderful energy and language to continue the important work of decolonization, solidarity, and loving our whole complex selves.

~Ometeotl

Susy Zepeda,is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UC Davis.  She is affiliated faculty with the Mellon funded Social Justice Initiative and the UC Davis Race Project. Zepeda is part of a writing collaborative, the Santa Cruz Feminist of Color Collective and a member of the Mujeres Talk Editorial Board.  She is currently working on her first book manuscript.

Photo of Indigenous Knowledge Gathering by Angela Anderson Guerrero. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Photo of Indigenous Knowledge Gathering by Agos Bawi. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Learning and Practicing Indigenous Intellectual Traditions by Alicia Cox

The First Annual Indigenous Knowledge Gathering at the California Institute of Integral Studies was a landmark in attempts to reposition indigenous knowledge in higher education. As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz stated in her talk, the history of the United States has conventionally elided indigenous perspectives and perpetuated systems of colonization and genocide. Even the “integral” philosophy on which CIIS is founded is one of bridging “Eastern” and “Western” thought with no regard for the intellectual traditions of indigenous Americans. As a researcher and teacher of Native American and Indigenous Studies, the gathering invigorated and inspired me. I look forward to attending this event for years to come, and I urge readers to do the same or, better yet, gather indigenous intellectuals at a campus near you!

The opening panel featuring three Ohlone scholars was particularly instructive. Corrina Gould gave an overview of the Indian Relocation Act of 1956 and the Termination Era of U.S. Indian policy that encouraged thousands of Native people to move from reservations to urban centers like San Francisco. In Corrina’s words, “Indians from elsewhere . . . were unaware of the existence of California Indians.” Subsequently, Indians from all over worked together to create organizations in the Bay Area such as the United Indian Nations, the American Indian Child Resource Center, and Indian People Organizing for Change. The latter organization has been especially instrumental in raising awareness about issues affecting Bay Area indigenous peoples, such as the destruction of shellmounds and other sacred sites by corporate and governmental construction projects. Since the Ohlone people are not recognized by the federal government, they are working to regain stewardship of their Native homelands by creating a cultural easement, a Native women-led urban land trust. IPOC is seeking volunteers to write grants, develop a website, and provide maintenance and upkeep services once the land is granted. Please visit ipocshellmoundwalk.homestead.com for more information or to donate funds.

The second session was led by Maori Contemporary Dance artist Jack Gray from Aotearoa. During the lunch break, Jack, who is a friend of mine, asked me to sing a song to help open the next session. This was not part of the program, and I was hesitant due to performance anxiety, but I understood that improvisation—a flexibility around the spirit of what is happening—is part of the indigenous intellectual tradition that Jack was offering. To rouse and ready the audience to receive the gifts of the gathering, Dåkot-ta Alcantara Camacho, a Chamorro Contemporary Hip-Hop Theater artist, chanted a welcoming song that honors a great navigator for the knowledge/spirit it takes to travel the seas. I then sang “The Trail of Tears Song” in Tsalagi (Cherokee), Eastern Band dialect, to thank Creator for life and the food, material and spiritual, that nourishes it. Several participants from the Transformance Lab that Jack and Dåkot-ta had co-facilitated the previous week at California State, East Bay, then led the audience in chanting and movement, helping us harness the power of gathering, sharing, and performing to awaken the latent energy and transformative potential that exist in all of us.

Alicia Cox completed her Ph.D. in English with a concentration in Native American Studies at the University of California, Riverside, and she is currently a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests include Native American literatures and gender and sexuality studies. She was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and she presently resides in Oakland, California.

References

[1] John Brown Childs, Transcommunality: From the Politics of Conversion to the Ethics of Respect (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003). 

Reports from NWSA “Feminist Transgressions” Conference

Photo by Susy Zepeda. CC BY-NC-ND.

Photo by Susy Zepeda. CC BY-NC-ND.

Feminisms in the World

by Susy Zepeda

In November 2014, I attended the National Women’s Studies Association conference, “Feminist Transgressions” in San Juan, Puerto Rico along with scholar-activists in the fields of women and gender studies, feminist studies, queer studies, and critical race studies. Critical discussions of transnational feminist methodology, a stellar plenary panel on “Imperial Politics,” and the reformulated practices of solidarity emerging through out the conference space made this gathering a particularly memorable one in terms of critical feminist history.

Perhaps the most vivid and relevant discussion to the current moment was an inspiring, yet extremely complicated and eye-opening discussion on the possibility of passing a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions resolution by NWSA members. There were several panels that offered space for critical discussion on the politics surrounding the underpinnings of this solidarity work, a key one being, “Solidarity Delegations to Palestine & Indigenous/Women of Color Feminists: Reflections, Impact and Assessment” featuring Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, Angela Davis, Gina Dent, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, and Barbara Ransby as former participants in solidarity delegations to Palestine. Briefly mentioned, yet illuminating, was the need for collaboration among social movements based in different geopolitical locations to be more connected due to implicating imperial logics—particularly highlighted were the cases of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, and the targeted arrest and imprisonment of Rasmea Odeh[1], associate director of Arab American Action Network (AAAN), who has since been released due to mass protest and organizing.[2]

The plenary session titled, “The Imperial Politics of Nation-States: U.S., Israel, and Palestine,” featuring Chandra Talpade Mohanty as moderator, and Islah Jad, Rebecca Vilkomerson, and Angela Davis as panelists continued this critical discussion by involving over 2,000 NWSA members in the rethinking of critical feminist solidarity politics.  It was perhaps Rebecca Vilkomerson, from the organization Jewish Voice for Peace[3], whose disruption of whiteness through her own life testimony and activism that gave new life to a much-needed discussion on revised racial and solidarity politics in this organization. She questioned accusations of anti-Semitism while asking: who can speak for Palestine? Angela Davis echoed these critiques by suggesting we methodologically pay attention to the “intersectionality of resistances” as we contemplate how police in Oakland are trained by Israeli military.

For a conference that has been widely critiqued for upholding white heteronormativity, and western-centered practices, among other injustices[4] it was great to walk into a space with gender neutral restrooms that read: “Baños de Género Neutro.”  This conference experience seems to be a reflection of changing energy and politics due to the leadership of radical women of color in the last decade or so in this feminist organizing space.[5]  The photo booths near the registration table were an ingenious part of this gathering to document the critical feminist gathering moments in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[6]

Theory and Activism

by Theresa Delgadillo

The NWSA Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico drew over 2,000 participants and presented a special opportunity to learn more about feminist movements in Puerto Rico, but it was also a conference schedule filled with panels, workshops, roundtables, and discussions on feminist research around the globe. As outgoing NWSA President Yi-Chun Tricia Lin wrote in her welcome letter to the event: “the conference endeavors to take up the histories, geographies, affective dimensions, and political stakes of various feminist insubordinations in the spaces they occupy: intellectual and institutional, local and global, public and intimate, by choice and under duress.” The focus on “transgressions,” therefore, was an invitation to participate in analyzing actions and interventions of multiple kinds and in varied sites. The number of panels focused on Chicana and Latina Studies research seemed higher this year than in previous years, and so the conference presented an opportunity for networking both within and across fields. I took full advantage and attended, among others, a panel retrospectively examining the significance of the work of Barbara Smith (a co-author of the Combahee River Collective’s statement), a panel of women from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques (for many years, used by the U.S. for bombing practice) who have shifted into activism around economic opportunity in light of development trends on the island, Latina scholars presenting research on queer arts activism in Puerto Rico and Latina media pioneers in the U.S., and Asian American scholars examining affective labor and human rights discourses within Asian diasporas. NWSA was a place to engage with rich and interrelated work. At the 2014 American Studies Association conference it was reported at the evening keynote address that one session on the “keywords” trend in critical studies had proposed the elimination of “intersectionality” from the keywords vocabulary. However, at the NWSA conference the influence of the contributions of women color to critical theory were recognized and rigorously engaged across disciplines, geographies, and fields.

________________________________________________________________________

[1] For the words “Rasmea Odeh” please link: http://www.thenation.com/article/188033/will-rasmeah-odeh-go-prison-because-confession-obtained-through-torture#
[2] for the words “mass protest and organizing” please link: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/15-powerful-ways-student-activists-stood-palestine-2014
[3] for the words, “Jewish Voice for Peace” please link: http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/
[4] Sandoval, Chela. (1990). “Feminism and Racism: A Report on the 1981 National Women’s Studies Association Conference.” Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color. G. Anzaldúa. San Francisco, Aunt Lute.
[5] The 30th Annual NWSA Conference, “Difficult Dialogues,” with keynote speaker Angela Davis resonates this shift.
[6] Photos can be found the National Women’s Studies Association Facebook timeline.  Also, available is the bell hooks keynote at: http://www.nwsa.org/

Mujeres Talk About Ferguson, and Beyond

The year 2014 ends with our eyes turned to the aftermath of the events at Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere, where police violence against black and brown communities of color is being increasingly challenged through mass mobilizations. Angry, but also inspired, we at Mujeres Talk have collected our thoughts below, as part of the urgent discussion now surging into view about institutionalized violence against people of color.

#BlackLivesMatter

Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo
Washington State University

Black lives matter.  A statement of fact that becomes relevant in its temerity, its urgency, and its ability to express so simply a historical set of circumstances fraught with example after example revealing the opposite to be true. It is a bold response to the reality that negates it and makes its very articulation a necessity.  Black lives matter.  We must state this truth as many times as it is necessary.  Because blacks lives become fragile in the hands of a society that seeks to destroy them.  Black lives.  They should matter.  In Ferguson, MO.  In Sanford, FL.  Anywhere.  Everywhere.  Black lives matter.  And yet.  Black teenagers continue to be gunned down by police officers or vigilantes protected by a system that doubles down on them.  And Baldwin comes to mind: “All I know is, he’s got a uniform and a gun and I have to relate to him that way. That’s the only way to relate to him because one of us may have to die.”  May have to die. Poignant because we know who “the one of us” will be.  Black lives matter.  And yet.  They continue to be extinguished by our institutions.  Black lives matter.  They matter.

#BlackLivesMatter #SomosFerguson Movements

Theresa Delgadillo
The Ohio State University

The recent deaths of black men and boys at the hands of police in the U.S., and news of earlier similar events, as well as the loss of life facing migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border brings into focus the deadly shortcomings of policies that rely on criminalization, militarization, detention, harsh sentencing, and imprisonment. The harsh policing in Black and Latina/o communities of Los Angeles described by Mike Davis morphed into the mass incarceration analyzed by Michelle Alexander and the increased surveillance of Black and Latina/o communities researched by Victor Ríos.[i]  Black girls and Latinas are not exempt from prevailing policies and laws that punish their infractions more harshly – an area of research and policy that The African American Policy Forum is pursuing. Yet this increased turn to criminalization and incarceration also had its complement in U.S. immigration and border policies, where militarization and now massive criminalization and incarceration are the norm. Joseph Nevins analyzes this shift, one that grew increasingly strident post-9/11 – and that has led to the tragic loss of life at the border described by Luis Alberto Urrea.[ii]  Blanca E. Vega’s recent blog on the Latino Rebels site makes the case that Blacks and Latinas/os are allies in the struggle for greater social justice, and takes Spanish-language media to task for not covering black deaths at the hands of police more thoroughly.

We desperately need to question how and why heightened criminalization and incarceration emerge as “solutions” that disproportionately impact African Americans, Latinas/os, and migrants, and how such “solutions” can be undone. At The Ohio State University, we are involved this year in a series of events commemorating the 50th anniversaries of landmark pieces of legislation in the United States: the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act.[iii] Through a series of panel discussions, lectures, and interactive workshops, students and faculty at OSU have been and will be able to re-consider the significance of these two landmark laws; reflect on the movements, events, and consciousness that made them possible; discuss the histories that made them necessary; explore the opportunities they created; and critically assess contemporary inequalities that endure. For me, commemorating both of these events in a year when grassroots movements are once again making us aware of the loss of Black and Latina/o lives reminds me that civil rights and immigration are not merely linked by a shared legislative anniversary, but that instead, that shared anniversary marks a moment of heightened consciousness about the insidious effects of racism and discrimination that can permeate all aspects of U.S. policy.

Susy Zepeda
University of California, Davis

On November 24, 2014 the Ferguson, Missouri verdict to not indict Darren Wilson in the homicide of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown sparked a response that initially resembled the 1992 Los Angeles uprising after the Rodney King not-guilty verdict, yet has quickly erupted into a solidarity movement that surrounds the hashtag #blacklivesmatter and spans across geopolitical borders.  An important connection in building consciousness around racialized and gendered police violence is the Spanish assertion “fue el estado” that has been articulated by activists, scholars, and other social actors who are seeking justice in the September 26th disappearance of the 43 students from a rural teacher-training school in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico.   According to Charlotte María Sáenz, the mainstay of this movement, particularly for the parents has been “Vivos se los llevaron y vivos los queremos” responding in critical disbelief to Mexican authorities declaration that the 43 are dead, similar to the way families and activists have challenged the vast “disappearance” and feminicide of mujeres in Juarez and beyond.[iv]  Another resonating and profound echo of solidarity with the disappeared students have been the words “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds,”  which Sáenz notes was said by the former Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos in honor of “his deceased compañero” Galeano, a teacher who was murdered in Chiapas, Mexico in May of 2014. The likening to seeds illuminates the awakening minds and bodies across imposed state borders that are simultaneously enunciating #not1more deportation, ni un@ más deportación.  All together, these powerfully show the importance of solidarity movements against state violence that are not bound by imposed demarcations.

Felicity Schaeffer-Grabiel
University of California, Santa Cruz

At a recent event organized by Critical Resistance in solidarity with the protests against police violence against black men and boys, Robin Kelley reminded us that the police use the excuse of fear (of black violence) to claim they acted in self-defense. In addition to the hash tag, #blacklivesmatter, which refutes the continued devaluation of black bodies inherited since slavery, Kelley sees these murders alongside settler colonialism where white, middle class or wealthy people intrude into black neighborhoods and then claim they are simply defending themselves from blacks, rather than vice-versa.  This is similar to the scapegoating of Latino/a immigrants as perpetrators of crime and violence rather than groups displaced and killed at the hands of state and cartel violence, policies such as NAFTA, as well as the victims of abuse and death at the hands of the police and the border patrol.  The Organization, “No More Deaths/No Más Muertes” released a report in 2011 that documents over 30,000 cases of abuse and murder by the border patrol. That the state is an arbiter of violence, rather than the force to protect people of color, is at the heart of Critical Resistance’s radical move towards prison abolition that attempts to diminish the state’s intrusion into communities by empowering communities to develop practices, organizations, and new models of social and economic interaction that help people flourish.

marchers with signs and placards on OSU oval

Peaceful march for Justice and End to Discrimination at Ohio State University Oval called by #CBUS2FERGUSON, December 8, 2014.

#ICantBreathe

Miranda Martinez
The Ohio State University

In New York City, right wing pundits and the head of the police union are accusing Mayor De Blasio and those who protest police violence of murder, following the murder and suicide by Ismaaiyl Brinsley of police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn. De Blasio has capitulated to these wild accusations, and requested that demonstrations pause while the city mourns the deaths of the two patrolmen.

It really does take one’s breath away.

Samir Chopra has written about the toxic self-pity that is so embedded in the policing establishment.  Psychically besieged, aggrieved and resentful, many urban police forces blame everything but the practices of law enforcement when their authority is challenged. And it seems to work!  It appears that legitimate collective action by hundreds of thousands who peacefully marched against the status quo must stop every time police representatives claim injury with the blatant aim of disciplining dissent.  Let’s hope that the protests continue going forward because we need to show that black pain matters as much as police pain, and because the campaign to defame legitimate protest by linking it with this brutal double slaying is just another outrageous example of anti-black racism. The conflation of civil rights protesters with a deranged murderer once again demonstrates (if we needed more proof) the instinctive, undiscriminating connection law enforcement officials make between blackness and violent criminality. We have to keep saying it, in the face of propaganda like this: Black lives matter.

Lucila D. Ek
University of Texas at San Antonio
University of Utah at Salt Lake City

The murders of Black children and men continue across the U.S. as Christmas Eve witnessed the shooting of yet another Black teenager by police. In Mexico, Federal Police are implicated in the disappearance and suspected murders of 43 student teachers in Guerrero. Every time I hear or read of another killing, my gut tightens and twists as I think about my Black and Brown loved ones on both sides of the border whose humanity is not recognized or valued by many. Often, I despair that things will never change, but widespread demonstrations against violence and death provide a glimmer of hope. People’s consciousness is being raised as thousands have come together to protest police violence and to proclaim that Black and Brown lives matter. I have to believe that a mass movement for social change is emerging. ¡Ni uno más, ni una más!

 

Endnotes

[i] Mike Davis.  City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles. 1990. Vintage; Michelle Alexander. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. 2012. The New Press; Victor Rios. Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys. 2011. New York University Press.

[ii] Joseph Nevins.  Operation Gatekeeper and Beyond: The War on “Illegals”and the Remaking of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary. 2010. Routledge;  Tanya Maria Golash-Boza. Immigration Nation: Raids, Detentions, and Deportations in Post-9/11 America. 2012. Paradigm Publishers; Nicholas De Genova and Nathalie Peutz, Eds. The Deportation Regime: Sovereignty, Space, and the Freedom of Movement. 2010. Duke University Press;  Luis Alberto Urrea. The Devil’s Highway: A True Story. 2005. Back Bay Books.

[iii] Our colleague in the School of Social Work, Professor Keith Kilty, inspired these events by reaching out to faculty in Asian American and Latina/o Studies, who in turn reached out to faculty and students in History, American Indian Studies, African American Studies, Disability Studies, Sexuality Studies, Women’s Studies, Political Science, and Comparative Studies to plan and organize programs. 2015 also marks the 50th anniversary of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965.

[iv] Rosa-Linda Fregoso and Cynthia Bejarano, Eds. Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Americas. 2010. Duke University Press.