Claiming Our Voice Panel Discussion and film screening with Gulnahar Alam (lead organizer and founder of Andolan: Organizing South Asian Workers), Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel (filmmaker & director of Claiming our Voice), YaliniDream (performance artist featured in the film) and Sheila Bapat (author of Part of the Family? Nannies, Housekeepers, Caregivers and the Struggle for Domestic Workers' Rights) offer remarks on domestic workers' rights. Learn about the challenges and successes of South Asian worker organizing efforts in the United States. The discussion is moderated by Preeti Mangala Shekar. This event was co-sponsored by Reimagine Race, Poverty and the Environment and ASATA (Alliance of South Asians Taking Action) and held at Oakstop Coworking in the heart of downtown Oakland.
Art, Cultural Resistance & Transformation
Dance Mission Theater's Krissy Keefer voices her opinions and concerns about the current social and economic conditions in San Francisco’s Mission district and DMT’s commitment to its vibrant community at the intersection of arts and politics.
Interview with Krissy Keefer
Christine Joy Ferrer: Tell me a little bit about who you are, and your role at Dance Brigade’s Dance Mission Theater.
Krissy Keefer: I am an artist, an activist, and a mother. I’ve been running Dance Mission since 1998, but I’ve been an artist my entire adult life. A group of women [and I] formed the Wallflower Order Dance Collective in Eugene, Oregon and performed all over the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Canada doing very bold feminist dance theater. That’s a 40-year career at this point. I’ve been creating social justice art for nearly all of my adult life. I run Dance Mission with those principles and out of a strong feminist belief about equity and fairness and multiculturalism. I really try to dig into the hearts and minds of struggling people everywhere in order to create the kind of art I make.
About five years ago, more than anything, I wanted to be a journalist who truly represented the voice of the people. A job at a corporate, mainstream publication never appealed to me. Today, I’m honored to have worked as the web and design editor for Race, Poverty & the Environment, a journal that has mirrored my passion for a myriad of issues in the realm of social and environmental justice. And it’s also great being able to say, I worked for Urban Habitat, “an organization that builds power in low-income communities and communities of color.“
But for 2013, I want to do more. It was Grace Lee Boggs that said, ”How we change the world and how we think about changing the world has to change.”
Excerpted here are the voices of young activistas who redefine what it means to be part of the new majority as women of color.
We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For
Activistas from the New Majority
By Christine Joy Ferrer
At the Empowering Women of Color conference in March this year, I was moved to hear Grace Lee Boggs, in an open dialogue with Angela Davis, say that we must re-imagine everything; change how we think, what we do, to re-invent our society and institutions in order for revolution to happen. And as I listened to female MC and rapper Rocky Rivera give short glimpses into the revolutionary lives of three iconic women activists—Gabriela Silang, Dolores Huerta, and Angela Davis—in the 16 bars of “Heart,” I wondered who would be our next movement builders.
According to a report from United for a Fair Economy—“State of the Dream 2012, the Emerging Majority”—by the year 2030, a majority of U.S. residents under 18 will be youth of color. By 2042, blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other non-whites will collectively comprise a majority of the U.S. population. But numbers alone are not enough to shift the political and economic landscape if income and wealth remain overwhelmingly in the hands of a small group of whites. Although there have been many social and economic gains made for all races since the Civil Rights Movement, people of color continue to be left behind. The stark disparities that exist today in wealth, income, education, employment, poverty, incarceration, and health are the remnants of hundreds of years of racial oppression. To create a new world, we must sever the connection between race and poverty.
Excerpted here are the voices of young activistas who redefine what it means to be part of the new majority as women of color. They have chosen to confront the challenges plaguing their communities and build to eradicate institutionalized confines, while engaging in the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice. In their fight for liberation, they embody that famous quote from African American poet June Jordan: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
“It is important to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world." - Angela Davis
I have had the opportunity to visit four Occupy sites: one in Philadelphia, two in New York, and one in Oakland. There’s an enormous amount of energy. There’s an enormous amount of excitement. It’s quite different from the way we are accustomed to building separate movements and then finding ways to create what we generally call coalitions and alliances. And while the [slogan “We are the] 99%” is a fiction, it’s a fiction that is useful, and it is one that we should take up and re-craft. My message to all of the Occupy sites is that it is important that this 99% slogan is inclusive from the outset—that we have to be aware of the extent to which it is shot through by racial difference and economic difference.
In February 4 this year, a long-dormant block on Oakland’s 14th Street came alive as throngs of people—newly-elected Mayor Jean Quan and City Councilmember Desley Brooks among them—flowed out the doors at the Joyce Gordon Gallery for the opening reception of “Aerosoul 2,” a Black History Month event honoring African American urban calligraphers and style writers (otherwise known as graffiti artists).
Down the street, another gallery owned by Gordon was showing blown glass art by Aziz Diagne and further down, the recently reopened Events Center was holding a live rehearsal by the youth group, Pop Lyfe.
At the same time, just over a mile away, members of Oakland’s international street dance phenomenon, Turf Feinz, were wowing astonished crowds with gravity-defying moves at the Oakland Museum. And in the Uptown district, a large crowd had gathered to view a 100x100 foot projection installation known as the Great Wall of Oakland. Just south of that, public art and music performances, gallery openings, and burlesque shows were engaging hundreds at Oakland’s monthly Art Murmur.
On an Eco-bus tour of Detroit during the 2010 U.S. Social Forum, 17-year-old Janice Nyamakye strives to capture everything with her video camera: the tour guide’s comments, the city sights, as well as the ‘sites’—a dirty incinerator, salt mining operations, and power plants—all located in low-income communities of color. The tour informs Nyamakye’s own work in environmental remediation back home in Worcester, Massachusetts where she has been involved with Toxic Soil Busters (TSB) for the past four years.
As an organization, TSB effects improvements in the lives and environments of urban youth by employing them to first test local soil for lead levels, then remediate and redesign affected environments as needed. “We are a youth-led cooperative business,” says Nyamakye proudly. “The youth do everything.” As a videographer, she uses media to connect different EJ communities and amplify the message of youth working for environmental justice. From California to Massachusetts, groups like TSB, Grind for the Green (G4G), and Third Eye Unlimited are using new outreach methods to successfully reach a new generation of information-seeking cyberkids. And increasingly, youth interested in acting for environmental change are finding outlets through national organizations like It’s Getting Hot In Here (itsgettinghotinhere.org) and SustainUs: US Youth for Sustainable Development (sustainus.org).