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  • Podcasting with Latinx Youth

    Of all the things I had imagined happening during the tension and anxiety leading up to the 2016 presidential election I did not consider that I would be facilitating a podcast class the day after Trump was elected president. I drove to Centro Tyrone Guzman (El Centro) anxious, a knot in my stomach and dried tears in my eyes. It was my first of many  podcast session over the course of a year working with Minneapolis based latinx youth. I was tasked with facilitating their exploration of new technologies to find and disseminate their perspective and voice, but this day my work had added purpose.

    I sat in my car wondering how to address the election, feeling very unsure. I read posts from educators describing their approach. There wasn't a real consensus but what I saw most consistently was the idea of stopping the daily motions, setting things aside and acknowledging each other's feelings. So that’s what we did. I grounded the space as best I could with the support of youth facilitators that worked for El Centro. The observations, experiences and reflections of the Latinx youth surprised me. It hurt to hear it.

    One of the oldest of the group, who went to a majority white school, described how white youth had already started chanting, "build a wall". Worst still the school blamed him if he got upset. He, along with the other youth of color, were forced to be quiet in the face of bigotry and hostility. He was asked to be resilient in a way that should be asked of no one.  

     Other students expressed fear and anxiety. The strain on mixed-status families was already present as the youth faced the possibility of the deportation of undocumented family members and for some, the possibility of their own deportation.  I was surprised by how much these middle school youth had observed and absorbed so much. Our conversation centered me. I began to consider what I would be willing to risk and how my life would be directed by being apart of the resistance to Trump with the greatest urgency I had ever experienced. It was the sort of bonding I would have never anticipated: anchored in our shared vulnerability in unprecedented times.

    So here is the product of middle school-aged Latinx youth wadding into introspection to  find an aspect of their voice through podcasting. While their age is evident, their moments of clarity and directness are things that feel hopeful while simultaneously unkind.  Our experience together became a needed space for mutual vulnerability and processing during this new hostile and uneasy time.

    Enjoy!

     

    -Filiberto Nolasco Gomez

  • Reflections on the Deportation Regime

    As our community tries to make sense of the Trump administration and the escalating hostility towards immigrant communities it's important to look back to move forward.

    Professor Jimmy Patiño’s research examines the effects of immigration in the 20th century. His forthcoming book, Raza Sí, Migra No, focuses on the developing political consciousness of Chicana activists as they focused their advocacy against an increasingly violent Border Patrol during the 80s and 90s.

     

    Professor Vichet Chhuon has been actively involved with a Minnesota campaign called ReleaseMN8, which was organized in 2016 to fight the deportation of Cambodian Americans and bring visibility to unjust immigration policies. His writing on this has appeared in a number of forums including the Huffington Post, MinnPost, and Angry Asian Man. His research has focused on Cambodian American identity and academic engagement, and how youth of color feel known in school.

     

     Jimmy’s research and applied to insights offered through Vichet’s recent advocacy allows us to understand how the past speaks to the present and offer some perspective on, “where the deportation regime is at.” We also wanted to expand how immigration works by comparing and developing a dialogue between the Latino and Asian experience. Their conversation can be best described by Jimmy as recognizing “the limits of respectability or assimilation politics.”

    While our conversation was expansive we acknowledged how Trump’s deportation regime is rooted in the mechanisms that were created under the Obama administration. As we continued to explore the unique textures of immigration we were reminded that Asians are the only racial group to date not permitted to enter the US as prescribed by immigration law. Vichet argues that the removal and lack of complication of this fact from the popular imagination is an example of the whitewashing of history by not acknowledging how much Asians were thought of as unfit, thus challenging the contemporary “model minority” narrative.

    In the end, all communities of color are well served to examine their relationship to respectability because as Jimmy describes, “ in our communities there are also folks who are down to play the game to get into the club”. The better we can defend against these tendencies the stronger our movement can become.

  • Support Zapatista Coffee based Cafe in Oakland!

     

     

    The innovative Akat Café Kalli is a community-based café in Oakland, California. They are expanding their vision by directly sourcing coffee from Zapatista growers. To support the project you can pre-order coffee online at www.sinfronterascoffee.com.  If you pre order now the coffee will likely arrive by Mid August. Donations will also be accepted to help Akat Café Kalli purchase its own roaster. 

    Co-owners of Akat Cafe Kalli  Rocio Cervantes Garcia and Jose Rodriguez, answered some questions below about their vision and work. 


    1. How did you get connected to growers in Chiapas?

     

    We had been to Chiapas a number of times before. This time it was through the context of coffee that we wanted to connect.  We reached out and eventually had a chance to go visit the Zapatista cooperative.  This past January we had the privilege to work part of the coffee harvest and learn first hand about the coffee and how it relates to autonomy.  We have been doing coffee talks called, Cosechando Autonomía in public spaces such as libraries, flea markets and farmer’s markets with the goal of further connecting a solidarity economy

     

     

    2. As Oakland is becoming increasingly impacted by gentrification how does this cafe respond to that?

    We moved to Oakland in 2012 from across the bay in San Francisco.  As migrants/xicanos and community/cultural workers there, rents became less affordable and we were not able to stay.  We found ourselves in a situation where, as working class migrants and xicanos/Mexicanas and as newcomers to our neighborhood, we had to be part of the solution.  We hosted workshops that shared skills, music, art and events that informed of the empowering actions happening in the community. The community also organized their own events and gatherings at the café. Akat Café Kalli became a place of connection for us and our community. We have been about creating positive impacts and relationships in the community since day one. Now we aim to create sustainable incomes with opportunity for growth.


    3. Have you met many Latin American coffee growers in Oakland? That is to say folks that have migrated and grew coffee in their native lands.

    Yes, we have met folks from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras.  Some are working in coffee and others in different industries. We are working to connect more with those folks who have had a connection to growing coffee and now find themselves in other industries.  There is a growing opportunity for them to share their coffee experience and directly impact their communities back home. It is also key to build a stronger community together here as well.

    4. What does it feel like to be in your cafe?

    We have been told many times that folks feel inspired by what we have built so far.  Not by any measurement of economics, but by the fact that we have been about building this coffee space in a good way, one based on collaboration and participation.  We call this an autonomous coffee space. It is safe, rebel, dignified and community-oriented with so much to learn and contribute.

     

    5. How has working directly with growers changed your perception of coffee?

    Its all about the relationships.  When we worked part of the harvest, we saw a dedication present in the coffee growers and all their relations which includes but is not limited to the land, community, the struggle, autonomy, self-determination and tradition.  Applying those values to our own geography, we see that coffee can be shed of its colonial legacies and be used to benefit the people working the land and the coffee shops. It starts with shifting the value back to the relationship.


    6. What does "Akat Café Kalli” mean?

    Akatl is Reed in Nahuatl, awareness, flexibility and perceptive of energy and the deep root which connects the earth and the sky.  Kalli in Nahuatl means a space for learning or creating; a foundation or house. 

     

    -Filiberto Nolasco Gomez

  • Chicano Batman's Freedom is Free

    The Chicano Batman Sound

    The first time I heard Chicano Batman I was struck. Their sound felt familiar and warm: this was what I had been waiting for since I was a young Chicano learning guitar and exploring the blended sounds of my Los Angeles working class neighborhood. I started El Huateque to explore the Latinx experience in Los Angeles, and has since expanded. Interviewing Chicano Batman seemed like a good place to start since they represent so much of what the LA is. So, three years ago,I had the opportunity to interview the men of Chicano Batman which came to be one of the first El Huateque podcasts.


     

    Then and now it is hard to categorize their sound. Reviews alternate between funk, psychedelic, neo-soul, alternative, and some other catchphrase. Bassist Eduardo Arenas best described it as ,“a 1980s backyard carne asada and their soundtracks.” That sentiment was immediately reinforced by my favorite memories of grilling on Easter weekends with my old Mexican father and his crew..

     Their sound also expresses the tension of being Latinx in the United States. As Bardo described in our podcast, growing up in La Mirada, California he needed music to survive the largely white community and not be subsumed by it. Drawing from our Latinx heritage for strength and expression while at the same time recognizing that we are shaped by the structural and interpersonal racism in the United States creates a tenuous blend.

    Freedom is Free

    Their most recent release, Freedom is Free, draws from the same familiarity that excited me.  That said, it’s not a recycling of their style but rather an evolution of musical technique and composition along with a needed centering of their political views. This foursome has a strong political perspective. Their immense talent combined with an insurgent political voice makes this album one of the most important for our community in our resistance to Trump.

     

    The shift in the sound and the increased visibility of their political identities is evident. For example, lead singer Bardo Martinez’s esoteric musings in Cycles of Existential Rhyme contrast sharply with the sentimental expressions of loss and mourning in Friendship (Is a small Boat in a Storm). Bardo is not alone. After having  produced a couple of cumbia tracks on prior albums, Eduardo Arenas makes a tremendous impression with the epic and path-breaking track La Jura.

    La Jura

    I lost a friend recently. I was in the process of listening to the album several times as I mourned her sudden death. My mourning helped me appreciate the grieving in the music, the strong sense of loss.

    La Jura may be the most polemic song within Latinx music in recent memory.  Gentle and melodic, the lyrics are pure beauty; assertive and weighty, they tell the story of a young friend assassinated by police. It bridges amazing musicianship with a narrative that questions the role of police and highlights the brutality of state violence. The narrative form has a classic, familiar tone, evoking the most sentimental of ballads passed on to us by our parents. La Jura is the emotional center of the album. It captures the melancholy of moving on but being held back by the pain of the loss.

     I have always been amazed by Chicano Batman’s attention to detail and the sense that they are continuously honing their craft. To the last detail, in La Jura the keyboard functions to remind us of the sound of a siren approaching. It conjures the chaos of the moment when police take the life of one of our own.

     Chicano Batman teaches us that we have come a long way from the raw emotion and defiance of Rage Against the Machine. Rather, La Jura moves us past the rage of the experience and into the tenderness of the open wound as we continue facing state violence and are likely to experience more both within the bounds of Trump-fueled hate in the United States and in our beloved Americas. As a people in Diaspora we carry so much pain.

    The Politics of Latinx Music

    Many articles reviewing this album seem to be surprised by the political assertions of Freedom is Free. What these writers fail to see is that being unapologetically Latinx is a definitive political choice. A common refrain I carry from my time in Guatemala is, “our culture is our resistance” and Chicano Batman holds firmly to their Latinx heritage to make a commentary on society. As individuals they all have a political perspective and sensitivity about the experience of the contemporary Latinx diaspora in the United States as well as the experience of our peoples in the Americas. Their cover art reflects this. A female deity figure rising above the history of Latinx peoples, the bloodshed, and the state terrorizing us in what could be both Latin America and the Latinx diaspora in the United States.

    There is a precedent for this political voice in Latinx Music. Chicano Batman’s 2014 release, Para Agradecer, references Mercedes Sosa, an icon of the 1960s-70s folk music movement Nueva Cancion. Musicians identified with Nueva Cancion blended overtly political lyrics celebrating the power of mass resistance to state terror with the folk sounds of those that suffered violence the most. Their collective style would stand up to dictatorships and because of their perceived subversiveness few would survive. Through times of trouble these musicians expressed the beauty and the belief in a shared resistance against state terror. Victor Jara, Ali Primera, Violeta Parra, Inti Illimani, these musicians found their voice observing the effects of state terror in their respective countries and throughout the Americas during a time of seemingly endless violence. Our heritage is this sound and music and I am glad Chicano Batman has embraced it.

    They are not alone in diving into the rage and the tenderness. Chicano Batman has introduced  me to the vibrant emerging Chicanx/Latinx music scene stepping forcefully out of my native Los Angeles and a similar but smaller movement in Chicago. Bands like Quitapenas and Dos Santos have expanded the politics and sound of Latinx music in the United States. There is incredible music on the horizon that will hopefully help us imagine and together birth a better future.

  • Our Culture is Our Resistance

     

     

    Dear fellow Latinx Peoples,


    In the media and in this country we are raised to be believe that all we are good for is to labor for white capitalists like Donald Trump. That we are "at risk communities" needing white intervention. That in order to be successful we have to strip away our heritage and consent to whiteness.


    But fuck that. We have fought the colonization of our lands and minds for over 500 years defending ourselves against every colonial empire thrust onto us by Europe. Our tradition and heritage is one of resistance and militant action. Our societies have produced complex languages and methods of expression that don't rely on the written word but instead on how we relate to one another in community, story and song.


    The work of our ante pasados produced the most radical constitution on the planet: the 1917 Mexican constitution, which guaranteed, ejido, collective land rights. (These rights were significantly weakened as the Mexican government prepared for the implementation of NAFTA)


    In the face of dictatorships we have produced song to express the beauty and the belief in our shared resistance.


    We are the children of fighters and our legacy asks us to endure in the belly of the beast, here in what is now so obviously, the most racist society on the planet. In this, let there be no doubt that the American dream rests on a vision built off the stolen  land of native peoples and the enslaved labor of black folks


    Our generation has made its own mark as we fight the oppressive religious structures of our parents to embrace our queer and trans community. We have the ability to be intersectional, to feed the promise of a worldview and application of our heritage with our own voice and spirit


    We have learned that words move mountains and our moments of solidarity can take on any empire and any delusional "leader." 


    To my non Latinx POC community ... sup... I love you very much and I love the fight we have formed together. There is beauty in our struggle but pain with every step and breath we take.


    Know that the one truth I hold is that our future is tied to an intersectional understanding of how we relate to one another and that white supremacy needs to be dismantled


    And know that the only warmth I find comfort in is the space we hold together in our tears and our hopes. Our shared love will carry me as we get beaten, arrested, targeted, and deported. In short made disposable by the state and its white supremacists


    I will rise and love with you or I will die trying.

     

    Filiberto Nolasco Gomez

    El Huateque

    #dumptrump2017

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