|Artists in Rebellion: Defending, Defining and Creating History|
Artists are a tremendously important part of the movement to close the School of the Americas.
Olmeca is a bilingual hip-hop artist/producer, who will be one of the musicians during the SOA Watch November Vigil. Read his take on creative expression as a transformative organizing tool:
As an artist, I’ve found that art transfers messages to the mind, body, and spirit. Experiencing the civil rights movement through the voice of Nina Simone, social unrest in Latin America through the heart of Mercedes Sosa, the revitalization of Afro-Latinx culture through Toto La Momposina, Mexico’s plight through Los Tigres Del Norte, or US war on the poor through hip-hop are ways in which I found clarity. This is a compelling narrative from those on the margins of society, victims of imperialism and those who counter the status quo and colonialism by resisting through their creative expression.
Art (creative expression) is the language for the cultural history of a people. It is also key to the transformation of marginalized communities. As we exercise creative expression, we are also defending, defining and creating history, a history that, because of colonialism, has been left out of the dominant narrative. Linda Tuhiwai Smith would suggest the dominant narrative of European colonialism to be “the intersections of imperialism, knowledge and research, and the different ways in which imperialism is embedded in disciplines of knowledge, morality and truth.” It is the foundation for systems of power and the basis for our cultural norms.
Transformative organizing is a process that honors the experience of the marginalized by placing value and importance on one’s cultural and socio-economic reality. When we engage in this, we contribute not only to the process of decolonization, but also to the creation of, as the Zapatistas would say, “a world where many worlds fit.” Creative expression is a powerful vehicle for this.
Doing political work, organizing, activism, etc. are processes for political/cultural/social change. Yet, when they do not address colonialism, they do not challenge power. In fact, we can say that we, at times, perpetuate it. We fortify the institutions through our very own hierarchical organizational structures and processes. Other times, we replicate oppression with our very own socialized instinct to exercise power dynamics detrimental to finding balance and validation amongst people, experiences and identities. As an activist, I’ve found art creates a safe space to challenge power dynamics. Nina Simone said, “in order to be a full artist, one must reflect its times.” To do otherwise is to avoid reality and in essence, the heart of inspiration. Thus, one would draw inspiration from illusion as opposed to a reality that can nurture imagination.
Some organizers make the mistake of separating or calling this type of art “entertainment.” It will always be work to help inspire and imagine… a much-needed quality in our organizational spaces. I go as far as saying that art is a simple extension of the work and the conversations being realized within de-colonial work. Art and culture challenge homogenization because it creates spaces where different identities can come together and share experience. And is this not an important step to challenging power and colonialism?
As artists in rebellion, we invite the “others,” the marginalized, the non-conformist to be part of the long-term vision that includes them. As we understand it, we, the others, are what make the world function and we are the ones with the capacity to change it.
With migrant parents, Olmeca grew up in L.A. and Mexico, a reality that brewed his music mix of genres and cultural sensitivity. He coexists between hip-hop and latin alternative audiences. Olmeca has toured Canada, Latin America and Europe building a network of supporters as an independent artist. He is credited for supporting a new phase in Latin alternative music in the US that mixes hip-hop with Latin American sounds.
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The Spring issue contains mobilizing information for the SOA Watch Border Convergence, which is taking place from October 7-10, 2016 at the US/Mexico border in Nogales, and also focuses on recent developments in Latin America and within the SOA Watch movement.
Click here to download a PDF version of the Spring 2016 issue.
As this issue of Presente went to print, our hearts were heavy. The assassination of our dear friend and comrade Berta Cáceres, and the increased repression against social movement groups, have left us shocked and saddened. SOA Watch Latin America liaison Brigitte Gynther traveled to Honduras the morning after she learned about the assassination and has been coordinating SOA Watch’s response together with our partner groups on the ground. If you do not already receive Urgent Action emails from us, please click here to sign up now.
The recent decision by the U.S. judge in North Carolina to extradite one of the perpetrators of the 1989 massacre at the University of San Salvador gives us hope that justice will prevail in the end. It will take all of us to create change! Please join us as we mobilize to the U.S./Mexico border from October 7-10, 2016!
Other articles in this issue cover a protest by SOA Watch in Chile against US bases in Latin America, the FBI surveillance of SOA Watch, updates from Colombia and Mexico, news about the first Border Patrol agent to receive training at WHINSEC, background information about Direct Action, the Youth Encuentro in Guatemala, and more.
Download this issue of Presente here.
Interview with Father Fausto Mila in Honduras
SOA Watch participated in the International Human Rights Encuentro in Honduras in February 2012. Laura Jung spoke with Father Fausto Milla, a religious leader in the Honduran movement who has been persecuted by the State of Honduras.
By Pablo Ruiz, Equipo Latinoamericano of SOA Watch
SOAW Chile achieved an important victory; to declassify the names of over 760 Chilean soldiers who took courses at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC during the past decade.
For more info about ¡Presente!, go to About US.
I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A challenging new documentary has quickly become one of the
widest-reaching films to encapsulate the history of the SOA Watch
An in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed in 2002.