Mar and Nestor interview Melanie Cervantes about her decade long work in philanthropy, her art collaboration called Dignidad Rebelde, and her favorite pan dulce! As artists and people working for social change, we want to dedicate this episode to the black lives we have lost recently, but also in the larger fight for freedom. May they rest in power!
Turning to the present, Dignidad Rebelde is an Oakland-based collaboration of Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes, which updates the aesthetic and political heritage of Emory Douglas. Influenced by his distinctive thick outlines and pattern/plain combinations, Dignidad Rebelde’s prints “translate people’s stories into art that can be put back into the hands of the communities who inspire it.” Although Dignidad Rebelde works with many social justice organizations, the most relevant in terms of radical imagination is Critical Resistance (CR), which ex-Panther Angela Davis co-founded in 1998. Understanding that shared beliefs give rise to reality, CR seeks “to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe.” Stimulating new thoughts about security, CR’s radical vision of safety based on social justice is starting to displace the chains that clank through our public imaginaries.
Melanie Cervantes, cofundadora de Dignidad Rebelde en la Bahía de San Francisco, impartió talleres y charlas a estudiantes y gente de la comunidad en Sonoma State University y el Centro Comunitario de Roseland, este jueves 24. Dijo que la gráfica con características políticas ha sido integral a los movimientos sociales en Latinoamérica por más de 100 años. Mencionó por ejemplo al mexicano José Guadalupe Posada, quien con imágenes satíricas impresas en periódicos mexicanos del siglo 20 permitía a la gente iletrada entender los sucesos del momento por medio de caricaturas.
This week’s #WCW Melanie Cervantes carries on a century-long tradition of Latina rebeldes using art to empower marginalized communities and translate their stories of struggle and resistance. MORE: Woman Crush(ing the Patriarchy) Wednesday: Isa Noyola The California Xicana co-founded Dignidad Rebelde, a graphic arts collaboration between her and Oakland-based artist Jesus Barraza, in 2007, acts as the senior program officer at the Akonadi Foundation, which supports organizations working to eliminate structural racism, and manages one of the most badass Latina feminist Instagram accounts on the social network. Ahead, learn how this mujer crushes the Imperialist White Supremacist Cis Hetero Capitalist Patriarchy one screen print at a time. What can you tell our readers about Dignidad Rebelde and why you felt the urgency to co-create it? Initially, our interest in starting Dignidad Rebelde was to create and distribute political graphics and posters that amplified the voices of the most impacted communities working in social justice organizations. We wanted to sustain the tradition of intersecting graphics and organizing, which has a history of more than hundred years in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. We learned from the collective Taller models that came before us about how to bring a handmade process of printmaking to community as a different way to engage and share stories. We were determined to refine a methodology that would work for the new millennium by introducing new forms and utilizing platforms that our elders might have never imagined would exist, such as the Internet and social media. We were determined, as Juan R. Fuentes, a veterano of this work, has eloquently stated, “to use every tool possible in the fight for our collective liberation.”
On August 26, Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire after seven weeks of fighting. Thankfully, Operation Protective Edge has ended, or at least is in remission. Last month, my post, “The Gaza War—Through the Eyes of Israeli Illustrators and Art Directors” took a look at the conflict from the point of view of four Israeli artists who have been participating in Guy Morag’s International Plain Notebook Project and made notebooks in July and August. Their work is reminiscent of the “War Is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things” poster created in 1966 by Another Mother for Peace in response to the Vietnam War. On the Palestinian side, the view was and is significantly different. Instead of visual odes to peace, war protests, and images of life inconvenienced and interrupted by air-aid sirens and trips to shelters, there is stark anger and enmity—in the colors of the Palestinian flag.
The spectrum of styles and media has expanded to include graphic design and screen printing, as seen with Melanie Cervantes’s and Jesus Barraza’s bold, one-dimensional posters lining the corridor leading into the main exhibition. When Ms. Cervantes, 37, first connected with Chicano art, she said the thrust of the social movement was over, but was still being fought. “It was an unfinished struggle,” she said. “We needed to protect and continue those gains.” Though Chicano art has been shown in formal exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and at the Pompidou Center in Paris, Ms. Cervantes said it was “emotional” nonetheless to see their work honored in a museum in France. Ms. Cervantes bases some of her work on cultural elements like the Day of the Dead, the Mexican interpretation of All Souls’ Day. But her work also includes social messages about women’s rights and the Arab Spring protests.
Alors que se poursuivent, à Ferguson (Missouri), les manifestations provoquées par la mort du jeune afro-americain Michael Brown le 9 août, Standard a rencontré à Oakland les affichistes engagés Melanie Cervantes et Jesus Barraza, héritiers des Black Panthers, mobilisés contre la violence raciste aux USA. Le musée d’Aquitaine expose les pochoirs de cette jeunesse chicana qui se bat à coups de slogans pour une « dignité rebelle » dans une Amérique où tout n’est pas noir ou blanc.
Third Woman Press Collective (TWPC): Melanie, we know you’re really busy, and we thank you for joining us this week. Let’s start off by talking about your group, Dignidad Rebelde. Can you tell us a little more about it? Melanie Cervantes (MC): Sure! Dignidad Rebelde is a collaborative space for building community and producing art. We believe that art can be an empowering reflection of community struggles, dreams and visions. Following principles of Xicanisma and Zapatismo, we create work that translates people’s stories into art that can be put back into the hands of the communities who inspire it. We recognize that the history of the majority of people worldwide is a history of colonialism, genocide, and exploitation. Our art is grounded in Third World and indigenous movements that build people’s power to transform the conditions of fragmentation, displacement and loss of culture that result from this history. Representing these movements through visual art means connecting struggles through our work and seeking to inspire solidarity among communities of struggle worldwide.
Membres du collectif Dignidad Rebelde à Oakland (Californie), les deux graphistes, qui revendiquent leur identité chicano, sont bien contents de « partager cette image avec le monde » à travers l’initiative de l’Humanité. « Faire de l'art, ça aide à se dire qu’on n’est pas totalement impuissant, qu’on participe nous aussi à la lutte », considère Melanie. Comme quelques autres, cette affiche est librement téléchargeable sur leur site internet pour que les militants et les sympathisants puissent les mettre aux fenêtres ou les faire circuler dans la rue. Mais voici quelques autres images envoyées par Melanie Cervantes.
But the message would be a bit hollow if the production was not also looked at as potentially activist or political, right? The message of a political poster, for example Melanie Cervantes’s Brown and Proud, pictured, is political because it relates to the autonomy of a group of people. This example is out of Dignidad Rebelde, the graphic arts collaboration between Oakland-based artist-activists Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes, who “believe that art can be an empowering reflection of community struggles, dreams and visions,” and who “create work that translates people’s stories into art that can be put back into the hands of the communities who inspire it.”*** The making is political because it comes from a 100-year-old printmaking tradition where individuals or groups create a work that urges liberation, made in a non-exploitative way, via collective process while poaching the tools of industrial mechanics like screenprinting, graphic design, and photocopying.