De-Bug in DC Video by Jean Melesaine, K. Weston Fellowship
Womyn's March in San Jose, Oakland & San Francisco
Sixteen images of Women's Marches in San Jose, Oakland, & San Francisco by Crystal Cisneros Villa and Vanessa Palafox, music "Where Did Our Pride Go" instrumental by Thee Baby Cuffs with The M-Tet.
When Women March
I wasn't just sad that Trump won, it deeply bothered me that people voted him in; I felt betrayed. If his position were any other job, he would be fired for discrimination, sexual harassment, lying and just being a horrible human.
On Saturday January 21st, a crowd of 25,000 people gathered in my city to stand together! The city of San Jose takes pride in diversity, we accept our LGBTQ community, we know this city was built by the hands of immigrants families, we protect religious freedoms, we respect our women, even follow their leadership and we love despite our differences. When I saw the rally, I saw families standing up and saying, “Not my President,” chanting: "When women unite, they stand together and fight!"
Image by Vanessa Palafox
The smiles, hugs and fists in the air shifted my stress to strength. In that moment I realized that we are going to get through the next four years together! Yes, our government is flawed, but don't sleep on democracy! We the people should not be intimidated by threats or policies, we should exercise our constitutional right and protest and petition policies that are not fair. Not only did I witness the start of a great movement, I participated in it. As I panned through the crowd my heart and mind were at ease knowing we stood together in unity.
Ever since I can remember I felt I was born in the wrong era, I felt out of place, I felt I was called to fight and defend something. I've always dreamed of standing up and marching like the leaders of the past Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Muhammad Gandhi and Dolores Huerta. The faces of these heroes are painted on the walls of my city because we never want to forget what they did. Buildings and monuments were built to honor the sacrifice of peaceful demonstrations they embodied."I choose not to live in fear.
I have faith that if we continue
to fight and stand together
we will have victory..."
With this action, I got a taste of that and it was so beautiful to do it alongside my friends and family. I was moved to see my city streets filled with strong, intelligent women, relentless and not afraid to be "Nasty Women." The streets were filled with pink hats and the men and children who stood behind them. It honestly was a moment that I will never forget. Nothing could stop us, we were full of zeal and unashamed of who we were.
In the next four years, I choose not to live in fear. I have faith that if we continue to fight and stand together, we will have victory over the chaos happening in the world. I will be more alert to potential danger and remain a safe place for people to come to. I plan to continue marching and protesting with others, rejoicing in times of hope, patient in time of tribulation, but continuously praying and loving my neighbor! I am called be a peacemaker and live peacefully among those around me. Looking back at the peaceful protests, victory didn't come over night – it was through perseverance, peace, patience, and unity that the world saw the truth. Evil cannot be overcome with evil but with love.
Womyn of the Resistance
Graphics from interviews at the Women's March in DC by Quynh-Mai Nguyen
Text from graphics above: "I've been working on the fight against fracking and extreme energies in Indian Country. A lot of women have been stepping up to the plate and just handle it. We have these four years now, we're just trying to be tight and stronger in community. Don't lose hope, don't lose faith, we can do it collectively, we just have to keep pushing." - Kandi Mossett, Hidatsa Siouan Tribe - North Dakota
"I've raised nine kids who are following in my footsteps in social justice. I'm proud of who I am. I'm Muslim. I'm a woman. I'm a mother. I'm Palestinian. No one will defeat me. I'm not going to apologize for that. In this march, I made sure to have representation of women of color. They did not have their voices heard in past feminist movements." - Samia A. - Palestinian-American Activist - New Mexico
"Womyn of the Resistance" comes from the shining hope that this era would bring us to stop idolizing the superficiality of celebrities and finally recognize and admire the organizers who have been doing the work. Instead of quoting ridiculous soundbites and creating memes of celebrity fumbles, we'll be quoting the empowering life lessons of our mothers, aunties and sisters. Instead of recognizing celebrities for profound speeches during awards ceremonies, we will be recognizing the cultural leaders and activists in our community who put in time, blood, sweat, and energy in keeping us safe.
To be quite honest, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the mass of women in solidarity at the Women’s March on DC. It was the individual connections I made with POC womyn who traveled to DC to show face and protest in a crowd of whiteness that made this experience empowering, inspiring, and healing.
Are there womyn leaders in your community that need to be recognized? Email us at [email protected] and tell us who. You might find them in this series.
Where My People At?!
Inauguration day in Washington DC was one of the moments in my life where I was completely confused. Back home in San José, I cannot say I live in a bubble. With my different lines of work, I see the diversity that is vibrant in culture and art but I also see the ugliness that comes from police brutality, racism, and inequity for those who want to call San José home.
As far as the whiteness that was expected of the Women's March on DC, my perspective has always been this: if they don't invite you to the party, you got to crash it and make yourself heard. If it's not brown enough then you gotta show face. I didn’t know what to expect.
"I caught some Trump supporters
secretly snapping photos of me...
because I was some kind of Asian."
My trip was that of tension, with some parts anxiety, curiosity, and adrenaline. It started in the plane ride with a few ladies mean muggin’ my way to a man who did not want to rub shoulders with me for a good duration of the flight which sucked for him because I have some broad-ass shoulders. I would soon be landing in open territory full of visitors from red voting states knowing very well that I would not be able to identify anybody from the Bay without actually engaging with them. Even then, I didn't feel comfortable engaging with just anybody because every person wearing red left you questioning and it couldn't be automatically assumed that people of color were anti-bigotry. That was one of the more confusing parts. The moment I saw Obama’s helicopter leave DC, I looked to the open streets where scattered protests were coexisting with people with red caps who were celebrating and boasting, there was Trump swag sold on every other corner, and even Asians for Trump were present. I found myself emotional because it sunk in that I was standing in a glimpse of the next four years.
So I set out to do what I could I do: to find and connect with those that felt like home.
Vendor at Womens March On Washington - Image by Quynh-Mai Nguyen
This photo was taken after engaging with a lady vendor while she was taking a break from selling at her food cart. As I asked her questions about how she felt being at the march, I quickly became distracted and disengaged as I heard snapshots from behind my shoulder. Immediately I flashed back to my transfer flight getting to DC, where I caught some Trump supporters secretly snapping photos of me... because I was some kind of Asian.
If you're going to promote diversity, please engage with us. Don't turn us into a photo op and leave. From what I've seen, a lot of POC in the march were hustlers feeding the resistance, trying to make ends meet. So when you see an Asian lady with a rice hat, don't just snap and leave, why not talk to her?
This photo speaks to more than just something out of a national geographic. It's like looking in a mirror, seeing an aunty or a neighbor back home. This photo is the reality. It is not an exotification for your IG.
I Unexpectedly Gained a New Compassion for White Women
For the first time ever I sat with the suffering of white women – it changed me.
One of the things I was most excited about for the historic women’s march in DC was a gathering the following day called the Peaceful Expansion – a ceremony for women.
The thought that white women suffer had never even crossed my mind. The oblivion that I imagined they live in because the color of their skin has afforded them a different experience from my own (and yes, I am aware of my complete generalization) did not include deep hardships – not when the color of their skin gave them a privilege over how they get to conduct themselves, how they treat others and are treated in return. No matter how woke of a white woman I have come across, the ability for them to understand and know the experience of living in brown skin is a divide that would never make them woke enough.
How does someone understand that you have always watched your back? That everyday walking out of your home there is a feeling of being unwelcomed, of not being celebrated or valued or even seen. That since you were a child you knew that strangers did not treat you the same, did not like you simply for the color of your skin, for your father’s last name? That it takes too long for so many of us to take a real pride in our culture and so we want to linger there even as it may isolate us more. That we grow up believing white skin is beautiful even when the hearts beating inside those bodies are not, and that to finally arrive at a place where we recognize our beauty, call ourselves beautiful is to overcome psychological, hegemonic warfare. These are the types of things I would imagine do not cross young blond haired blue eyed American women’s minds.
I almost didn’t make it to this gathering because time was short and I hesitated even more knowing that the majority of the participants would be white, as these type of circles usually are. I didn’t want to keep being surrounded by white women the day after a march with the most white people I had ever seen in one place. However, I didn’t want to let any uncomfortableness keep me from gathering with women carving out space for spiritual practice in such a critical moment.
As I listened to women very briefly share their reasons for joining this circle I began to feel the familiar response to some of the women’s perspectives, in particular the white women – annoyance, anger, disbelief crept up as it repeatedly had during the last few months since learning that Trump would be the next president. I had barely been able to contain my disdain for most things that came out of white women’s mouths during these recent months, especially from "allies" – I was done.
My heart was heavy, my chest felt crushed, this hippy line of “just listen to the other person and come with love” was not what I had come to hear. However, our facilitator was someone who I deeply admire and so I willed myself to follow her direction of deep listening, of vulnerability of recognizing this and every moment as an invitation to evolve, to not disconnect.
I know it was easier because the space had been made for this purpose, but not screaming was hard, not quelling my emotional reactions and not calling out some women’s sudden realizations allowed me to have a sudden realization, too.
I felt like I was gaining an understanding that I just hadn’t allowed in and that especially recently had been met with: I won’t go there. Eventually we all have to go there. I’ve always known that we came to this world to help each other.
Muralist Jessica Sabogal wheat pasting her design in Washington D.C. - Image by Jean Melesaine
My belief in liberation tells me that my liberation is tied to everyone’s liberation and therefore it is tied to white women’s liberation as well. We cannot leave them or any group out because we move together. And so now when I am choosing to interact with white women I am hoping to hold the compassion that I would want for myself. The ceremony created a space where I was able to see myself in the other women, to acknowledge my own privilege, to remember my connectedness to EVERYONE and to embody my spiritual ideals. The pressure on my heart and across my chest lifted, I clearly heard, “It is gone” and I was so grateful. I am recognizing that white women came into those bodies to tackle deep work – that we all have come into physical bodies to tackle deep work that may and will look different, but the destination is the same.
The willingness to be vulnerable always leads us to find new pieces of our humanity - leads us directly to expansion. Not everyone is ready and willing and it is not our jobs to force anyone to be. May those of us ready for the task take up the responsibility of more fiercely bringing this world to peace.
San Jose Protests on Inauguration Day
-Video by Adrian Avila and Rosa Castañeda
STAND! A DAY OF ART & SOLIDARITY
On Monday, January 16th San Jose’s multicultural arts community gathered to champion diversity, learn, teach and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. STAND!: A Day of Art and Solidarity was organized by myself and arts leaders from the Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute (MALI), a leadership development program for people of color deeply engaged in local arts. Our goal was to use art-making and performance to defend the values of diversity, inclusion, and tolerance that are already under attack in the wake of November's election.
Over the past 9 years MALI’s focus has been helping multicultural arts leaders grow and sustain their practices through learning to collaborate across cultures. After the election we immediately sensed that it was necessary to now use this
network of over 100 cross-cultural leaders to aid in resisting the coming destructive Trump administration agenda.
In my 15 plus years of nonprofit arts work, I have organized a number of conferences and events but none had the emotional impact of STAND! Local arts leaders graciously volunteered their time to teach workshop offerings like Dancing to The Beat of our Stories, We Have a Dream Acting, Lokahi: Unity through Hawaiian Chant & Lei Making, and Standing with Standing Rock Screen Printing, to name a few.
Images by Rogelio Barrera Jr.
Every workshop was designed to reinforce the values of diversity, inclusion and tolerance through hands-on art-making. During the lunch hour, some of the South Bay’s best performing artists sang, danced, and gave voice to the hope and inspiration our communities will need in the coming years. In an especially powerful moment, members of Taiko Peace led 150 attendees in a recitation of Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion.
Through my work with MALI I have come to understand two critical insights that will be useful during Trump’s presidency and beyond.
The Power of Art
Art has the unique power to move hearts and minds in a way rational argument and policy cannot. Our political system has generated a disastrous outcome that has put communities of color, Muslims, and LGBTQ people in danger. In this context, it is the artist who will be a crucial and necessary part of affirming our humanity. Through song, dance, poetry, and visual art we can celebrate our own cultures and the cultures of others.
The Power of Solidarity
In my time working with Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute, I have come to know classical Indian dancers and African drummers, Latinx futurist DJ’s and Japanese Taiko players, Asian Pacific Islander poets and undocumented Mexican Folkloric dancers. The local multicultural arts sector has begun to achieve a level of diversity that our tech sector only talks about aspirationally. It is art – not policy or political ideology – that is the connective tissue between our communities and cultural expressions. As we collectively face the threats posed by Trump, it is important that we do so together; San Jose’s multicultural arts community is already leading the way. Part of MALI’s guiding principles have always been “getting out of silos,” to stop working in isolation, fixated only on the narrow set of issues that affect “your” community.
When we realize that the movement for Black lives is about freedom for all people, and that transphobic legislation is an assault on us all, we will begin to live in Martin Luther King’s vision of America. In a time when fear, cynicism, and division are at an all time high, let us look to the multicultural arts community for strength, inspiration, and models for how to work together for the freedom and dignity of ALL.
-Top image by Diane Solomon
San Jose Based, The Philty Dronez Release "This Place Full Of Tears"
All proceeds will be donated to efforts to combat the current immigration ban - more info at: https://thephilthydronez.bandcamp.com/
New release from Turbo Sonidero - "La Kumbia Del Trompas" (Feat. Talacha)
Photo Essay of San Jose's Women's March by Ronald Orlando
Click here to view gallery