Chicana/o studies wad borne of the efforts of the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) Student Strike at Berkeley in January-March, 1969, which resulted in the establishment of the first Ethnic Studies departments in the U.S. In my first year at community college, in 1995, I took my first Chicana/o history class and learned about historical events never spoken of before in my public school history courses. I started to learn the names of the people who refused to accept the injustices inflicted on our communities by racist laws policies and the people who wrote and enforced them.
I began to learn more about organizers like Cesar Chavez, Reises Lopez Tijerina and Bert Corona and the movements they were part of. And I immediately wanted to know more about the women whose stories were often eclipsed by the overinflated narratives about the men. It sent shivers down my spine to learn about Dolores Huerta, Emma Tenayuca, Luisa Moreno and Josefina Fierro de Bright.
It is in the spirit of the third world Liberation Front and my own ongoing education in Xicanx and Ethnic Studies that I create the type of artwork that I do. I am starting a new series of portrait of organizers, the movements and the history they made in hopes that they might help a new generation of people curious about these genealogies from which we emerge. This portrait is of Josefina Fierro de Bright. I have included a small symbol in the bottom right corner to symbolize the slogan “bread and rose” which appeals for both fair wages and dignified conditions.
“Born in the border town of Mexicali, Baja California during the tumultuous years of the Mexican Revolution, Josefina Fierro was raised in a familial heritage of revolutionary activism. Her father was an officer in General Francisco "Pancho" Villa's northern revolutionary army, a fact that made him largely absent from her life. Raised by her mother, who separated from her husband and immigrated to the U.S. when Josefina was a baby, the language of revolution and social justice was a constant in her young life. Her mother's family was followers of Ricardo Flores Magon, a Mexican anarchist banished from Mexico for promoting radical reforms as part of his Partido Liberal Mexicano, a movement he continued while in exile on the U.S. side of the border. As a "Magonista," Josefina's mother taught her daughter to stand up for the underdog, to speak out against injustice, and to treat others with dignity and respect. It was no surprise that Josefina would eventually use this background as a basis for assuming leadership within the Mexican American community in California as she came of age.
Josefina's successful organizing efforts and her emergence as a key leader in the Los Angeles Mexican community attracted the attention of Latino leaders, especially Luisa Moreno, who were preparing to launch the first-ever national Latino civil rights organization, El Congreso del Pueblo de Habla Española (the Congress of Spanish-Speaking People) The Congress was founded in Los Angeles in 1939, and young Josefina was elected national secretary, the second highest ranking position in the organization. For the next several years, she and her colleagues led a broad-based civil rights movement for Mexican Americans and other Latinos in California and in the Southwest. A fiery orator who could captivate an audience, Josefina traveled throughout California to participate in various demonstrations and activities aimed at bringing down the walls of discrimination against Mexicans in housing, employment, education, and other public places.
She played an instrumental role, in addition, on the defense committee of the infamous "Sleepy Lagoon Case" in war-time Los Angeles (a murder trial involving several Mexican American youth accused and sentenced to prison for a crime they did not commit). The Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee eventually won the release of the defendants from state prison two years after the original convictions. A year later, in June 1943, Josefina almost single-handedly brought an end to the days of rage and physical assault on Mexican Americans in downtown and in East Los Angeles during the so-called "Zoot Suit Riots." With the L.A.P.D. unwilling to stop the brutality in the streets against Mexican American youth, Josefina flew to Washington, D.C. with a Mexican consulate official to prevail upon the Vice-President of the United States, Henry Wallace, to help bring an end to the violence unleashed against her community. Convinced by her graphic, first-hand stories about the beatings of Mexican Americans by servicemen, buttressed by an armful of newspapers she carried with sensational headlines about the riots, Wallace secured a military order that restricted all service personnel to their respective bases until order was restored.
As Josefina's efforts to advocate for Mexican Americans attracted more notice, she was labeled as a "communist subversive" by the California Committee on UnAmerican Activities. After her divorce from John Bright, she returned to Madera where she organized on behalf of Henry Wallace's Independent Progressive party. By 1948, after being hounded by the FBI and fearing arrest and deportation, she decided to leave the United States and head to Hermosillo, the Mexican port city where she lived the rest of her life.”- from the Online Archive of California See it here http://bit.ly/1zveKcI
To learn more about the life and organizing of Josefina Fierro de Bright I recommend the following books as resources.
The white walls of the gallery are always being talked about, but when I saw a white wall are on the street it just made me think about the possibilities. The wall is at the intersection of East 14th and Fruitvale, part of a construction site repairing a building that had burned recently. It just seemed to out of place there, but perfectly in its place because it’s just a wall at a construction site. I brought some posters and put them up there, it just seemed the perfect place to share some art with the community. Not sure how long it’ll stay up, but hey it was a cool opportunity to share stuff there and I hope people walking by liked it.
Impromptu Dignidad Rebelde exhibit in the Fruitvale on Fruitvale and International Blvd.
We were invited to participate in this years MACLA's Chicana/o Biennal. MACLA invited to Celi Herrera Rodriguez to participate and selected us as artists to collaborate with. We were really honored to work with Celia and particiapate with
We were invited to participate in this years MACLA's Chicana/o Biennale. MACLA invited to Celi Herrera Rodriguez to participate and selected us as artists to collaborate with. We were really honored to work with Celia and participate with an awesome group of artists and Joey Reyes an awesome curator to helped bring everything together.
Work by Juana Alicia, Carmen Argote, Jesus Barraza & Melanie Cervantes as Dignidad Rebelde, Adriana Garcia, Wayne Alaniz Healy, Ester Hernandez, Judithe Hernández, Miguel “Bounce” Perez, Tony de los Reyes, Celia Herrera Rodriguez, Sonia Romero, Alex Rubio, Ana Serrano, Shizu Saldamando, Patssi Valdez, and Linda Vallejo
An exhibition and public forum to reflect on the critical edge and aesthetic interventions within contemporary Chicano art. Curated by Joey Reyes.
Collaboration Installation at MACLA Chicana/o Biennal
Melanie Cervantes, Jesus Barraza, & Celia Herrera Rodriguez
There is a connection between making our relatives visible, specifically as the indigenous Peoples they are underneath the banner of Mexicanidad, and the murder of the young people in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. In a rally in San Francisco last month (11/13/14) to protest the murders and disappearances of activists and community organizers in Ayotzinapa at the hands of local government (in tandem with the local occupying drug cartel) the protesters chanted “¿Por qué?, ¿Por qué nos asesinan? si somos el futuro de América Latina.”
“Why are you killing us, we are your future?” is a real question. These young people were studying to become teachers. Actually struggling to become teachers against the enormous odds of entrenched political corruption that is the outcome of the neo-liberal policies introduced by the United States into Mexico that have taken a stranglehold of it’s economy and society. Again the question arises: why are the police forces that occupy every major urban area in the United States so intent on killing youth of color? Are the policing forces really so afraid, and if so, of what?
Our collective work as visual artists has been focused on making visible what is present and not always seen. In this case our common relatives, indigenous peoples of Mexico who have found themselves extracted from their homelands due to economic pressures and policies. They brought us here to the US to ‘have that better life, and to get an education’ that they knew would make a difference in our collective future. We look back at them, because they are what is left of our homeland, and because the way we remember is by touching home-ground. This being an almost impossible privilege these days, when homeland is secured by policing armies and their allies the drug cartels. Yet we look into the faces of our relatives and we remember them and ourselves. We also remember the larger ‘manda,’ that of freeing ourselves and our peoples from this destructive force that has no future.
So we connect Ferguson to Ayotzinapa, to Oakland, Richmond, and San Francisco.** Each of the cut paper pieces represents one of the murdered in Ayotzinapa, and the white figures represent the missing (un-numbered as of yet). The deer in the center, embodies the ‘heart of deer,’ the one that sacrificed self for our survival.
Each of the ‘bundles’ underneath the images of our relatives, hold what our relatives left us, what they held onto and ‘nos encargaron.’
This street sign was installed at the corner of 24th and Folsom in the SF Mission District last May 2014. It stayed up for about two weeks before they were taken down.
Eviction Zone<- 1 Square Mile ->
In 1 square mile from this point there have been over 1,077 no-fault evictions since 1997*
*Data does not include all evictions from buyouts, eviction threats, and rent increases that have forced thousands of residents out of their homes.Data provided by the Anti Eviction Mapping Project and collected from the SF Rent Board