Building of a Chicana Consciousness

As a senior in high school I vividly remember the movement that emerged in California to resist the racial profiling, xenophobia and nativism that Proposition 187 stirred in the state. Prop 187 was a 1994 ballot initiative designed make public servants such as teachers, bus drivers and doctors an act as an arm of the migra, asking for papers, in order to prohibit undocumented migrants from using health care, public education, and other social services in the Cali. At the time I lacked any concrete vehicles to really get involved in the organizing but remember the massive student walkouts to protest the attack on Raza communities. One of the most salient aspects of the resistance, to these attacks on communities of color, was the cultural affirmation we made visible every day through the music we listened to, clothes we wore, hairstyles and ways we identified.

In many ways we emulated and carried on the Afrocentricity and Brown Pride of Black and Chicana/o youth of the 1960s. Before embraced my desire to become a visual artist I was a dancer and learned dance from a woman you trained with Martha Graham.  The young black women in my dance class changed out of dashikis, jeans and African medallions and the Raza women changed out of Aztlan Underground t-shirt that declared that “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us” and layers of brown clothes.

This era is commemorated by songs like “Say It Loud! I’m Brown and I’m Proud,” by performance artist El Vez aka the Mexican Elvis. The song pays “tribute to James Brown while delivering political commentary on immigration. “I’ve worked all day with my hands and feet/and all the time we’re running from some governor named Pete/187 tried to keep us down/that won’t happen just because I’m brown/say it loud! I’m brown and I’m proud.”

Solidarity with Arizona, from Oakland, with solidarity and  love

These experiences I had, as a youth, shaped the way I look at the world so when I started to learn about the craziness in Arizona with SB 1070 it was hard not to think back to my teenage years.  So naturally, I decided to lift up one of the slogans that made me feel dignity and affirmation in those years when my community was the focus of this attack.
Once I decided I wanted to revive the Brown and Proud slogan for the purpose of created a poster to affirm Raza all over but to do it from Oakland I knew I wanted to feature one of the young people who has organized here at home.  Thanks to Myspace I snatched a bunch of great photos from the 2007 Oakland May Day march.  The youth I was really happy to have images of were from Huaxtec (now Macehualli), a local grassroots organization.

The illustration I created of my the main character in my  Brown and Proud poster is a portrait of a young Xicana named Leslie. You can see the source photo that I used as reference for the illustration.  I also wanted to use a stylized butterfly that is based on glyphs found in Azcapotzalco an area of what is now Mexico City.  I used the butterflies to symbolize how migration is reflected in the natural world.

Bringing Brown Pride to the Streets

In order to spread this message of cultural affirmation we printed 150 small posters of each of our designs with the always supportive-worker owned, green, union print shop-Inkworks. Thank you to Inkworks who also gave us a discount on the run! In addition to this offset we decided that we wanted to organize a community art night for the members of our local May Day organizing committee, Oakland Sin Fronteras.  Thanks to our hosts, EastSide Arts Alliance, we were able to bring a multi generational group of people together to print t-shirts, bandanas, banners and over 400 posters and picket signs.  We filled the streets with beauty by putting art into the hands of the people and by then end of the day there were no posters left –only lonely picket sticks left neatly abandoned in a pile for us to pick up and reuse.

Now we are gearing up to print another large run of posters to send to Arizona from Oakland, with solidarity and love.