Wednesday, January 31, 2007

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MusicaHumana Blues(MHB) at La Pena in Berkeley, California or Demanding Non-Decorative Culture

Tonight we took East Oakland on the instruments of musicaHumana~Blues to La Pena in Berkeley to open for the Chiapas Support Committee's reportback from the recent New Year Encuentro in Chiapas convened by the beloved Zapatistas.

MHB is a self-made trio of Andrew Kong Knight (violin), Jose Palafox (percussion, cajon peruano), and Arnoldo Garcia (new blogger, guitar and other stringed instruments) performing covers with our own arrangments and original music and songs in the vein of Latin American rhythms, traditions and with liberation lyrics and dreams. MusicaHumana Blues along with headRush crew stalwarts Rosa Gonzalez and Xago, composing el Teatro del FEO, with Daniel Camacho at the canvas, Mari Rose Taruc were the heart of La Carpa del FEO: Fandango in East Oakland tour during March through May l;ast year. We had poets, dancers, Fuga!, Los Nadie, jaraneros from east San Jose (Son del Oriente, now I believe called El Colectivo) play jazz and son jarocho during different points in El FEO tour.

MusicaHumana Blues performed three songs. The program started late. The auditorium was relatively empty at 7:30 pm and they were having technical problems with the projector -- until they went close by to borrow one from a nearby Chiapas Support Committee family. One of the emcees, a woman whose name I don't know, beautifully changed our name to Blues Humana, which I like. Our music as MHB flowers out of blues, rancheras, cumbias, huapangos, son jarocho and huasteco, rumba, huaynos, rock-n-roll, jazz-tinged or jazz-crazed -- in order words a mixtery, a mestizaje, of musics.

We performed "Un hombre se levanta" by the renown Cuban nueva trova composer and singer extraordinaire, Silvio Rodriguez; "Corazan Maldito" by Violeta Parra, who was responsible for giving impetus to the New Song Movement of Latin America after she went into the countryside to record and rescue (literally) music played by Indigenous and farm worker communities, many of these musics ancient in root and the heart of Andean and Chilean cultures; and a rallying song from the 1936 Spanish Civil War, "A la huelga" done in our own inimitable style of rock/cumbia/rumba punked up.

As I was introducing "A la huelga" -- as the last song of our meager set -- describing its context and relevance for the ongoing organizing and discussions in the immigrant rights movement's preparations for the May 1 mobilizations, a proposed economic boycott, someone (an emcee/member of the Chiapas Support Committee) said loudly enough that this was the last song. Unfortunately, I did not hear him (he was stage right), I am deaf on my right side. But everybody else heard him. Not only that but while we were performing they were tryin to fix the glitches that came with setting up the new projector.

This brings us to the title of "demanding non-decorative culture" -- that we were spoken loudly like during our performance (and I can understand the technical problem fixing, even if it meant turning on and off the projector -- I was unaware of all the commotion) was rude and an example of the longstanding attitude of organizers and activists towards cultural work. Both are cultural, except that which we call "cultural work" means the arts, music, painting, poetry, singing, etc. The purveyors of culture are there to entertain, while the serious work of politics is serious, organizing, not flowery, but concrete, etc.

The challenge is how both cultural work and organizing culture can meet with respect and mutual understanding at the middle and in the middle of poltiical and community struggle, that one without the other means certain debilitating and oft-times mortal weaknesses.

We have to learn to pay attention to a song, a poem or a painting with the same intensity as we listen to a speaker, view a film, dialogue. We cannot expect comprehensive social transformations, progressive, democratic, human rights, radical, community based if we cannot be whole.

You cannot make human revolutions with politics and bread alone. A poem lasts longer than a speech; a painting, a mural (look at the front of La Pena, with Victor Jara's truncated hands, his song unfinished but unending) lasts longer than a politically charged sign or banner, than the resistance movement that gave birth to the mural in the first place. A song can teach more about human conditions and inspire energy, struggle and dreaming than reading a book. This does not mean we do not want to hear speechs, learn how to speak in public and in private, that we shouldn't make signs with slogans and demands, organize movement-building, or that we should not read books with in-depth analyses and broad and deep perspectives. However, we cannot afford to do one without the other.

What we want and struggle for is access to sustainable, socially just, community based cultures and transformations that benefit the poor, the landless, the homeless, working class bums, migrant farmworkers, Indian peoples, women, children, the elderly, the non-English speaking non-U.S.- citizen who can't vote day laborer, and restoring the natural world to its rightful power. We can organize for the type of country we want but only by using both strategies, separate, equal, mushed together, mixted in equal and generous portions. To be healthy and to be sustainable, we have to be whole as individuals, as organizations, institutions and movements, as workers, as non-workers, as communities. This means having politics with culture and culture with politics that listens, is respectful, takes its time, does not go faster than the slowest member of the movement or neighborhood, stays close to the land, the community and thrives in collective dreaming with song, words, with political and non-political analyses, not by bread alone.

When we perform we bring years and years of practice, of investment in quality intruments, practice, listening to ourselves what we're saying with our music. Musicians from the movement usually practice more what they will do in front of an audience or at a mobilization, a march, than most speakers. A song packs metaphors, energy, wisdom, inspiration and fun into three minutes; very rarely can speakers at forums, at events like last night at La Pena, at marches, accomplish such impact in the same amount of time. Speakers usually create impressions, impacts; a good song leaves behind a crater. We want both to be the same but different; not separate, not alone, but in constant conversation, dialogue and cross-fertilization.

The Chiapas Support Committee has to be commended for always inviting MusicaHumana Blues and other performers, musicians to their events. They use film, video, they put the artisan craft of Mayan communities at our reach and bring together people who are community in spite of sometimes feeling like we are not part of a community. sharing a dream, supporting the Zapatistas. expressing solidarity, giving support to Indigenous communities across borders -- which makes as more of a community than less. These aspects of community are strengthened by the mutual interaction of politics and culture. We want a different world, a world where all worlds fit -- as the Zapatistas declared. These means that we have to put culture in front. What lasts longer, what cannot be erased is human community, human culture, human memory. This takes a lot of words, a lot of talking and listening to each other. Songs and poems, paintings expand and deepen the potential of our political movements' desires and demands. We have to start somewhere, respect and listening is a good place to begin the great human revolution needed to save humanity from inhumanity, from itself!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

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We listened to Daniel Camacho talk about his exhibition "Looking for Hope," viewed up close the images. The paintings were some 2' by 5', beautiful earth tone colors, welcoming shades and images of community dancing round the lights, electric and candle light.
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Finding Hope, Finding Community in Art

Tonight a small group of people came together to the opening of an exhibition of paintings by Daniel Camacho, called "Looking for Hope: The Paintings of Daniel Camacho," hanging in the windows of the Cesar E. Chavez Branch Library on East 12th Street, right around the corner from the Fruitvale BART Station.

Daniel Camacho's paintings are rooted in the motifs and images of community. He explained how it is "easier to organize when you have a community." He briefly explained the symbolism behind his work: one painting shows a type of electric light-bulb with a group of people in a circle holding hands in the interior of the buld. Another shows hands and a cascade of candles glowing in shades of darkness of deep blues. Daniel talked about the metaphor of lighting a candle as a symbol of hope and sprituality. This exhibition of his art directs itself explicitly to the violence East Oakland has been suffering over the last twelve months. His art, he said, does not offer a solution or pretends to. His art is a reflection, a type of midfulness I would add, about overcoming and stopping the violence by rebuilding community.

When the community itself is under attack within and without, then the task to to save the community in order to be able to organize more easily for those ideals and goals that art, poetry, culture, human community and the work of Daniel Camacho yearn for, dream, struggle. Daniel Camacho's paintings is more than a tool or a support, his art speaks for itself not only against violence, but more significantly, Daniel's work speaks for and is rooted in community, in collective processes for social change, for an art of the commune, as Mayakovsky would say again tonight from the depths of the 20th century.

There was only one criticism tonight, at the opening reception for "Looking for Hope: The Paintings of Daniel Camacho." It is that Daniel Camacho did sign one single piece of his paintings. He replied: anyone can use the paintings, they are for everyone. Public art at its best.

Look out for Daniel Camacho's work, hanging on light poles on East 14th (aka "international boulevard"), gracing archway entrances and sidewalks of the plaza between E. 14th and E. 12th, straight across from the Fruitvale BART Station, being carried in marches demanding a new citizenship and jsutice for undocumented immigrants, by organizations fighting racism, community groups supporting the Zapatista Indian communities demands and dreams of self-determination, autonomy and equality for Indian culture and rights everywhere or at public schools and other unexpected but public, community spaces.

"Looking for Hope: The Paintings of Daniel Camacho" can be viewed from today January 30 through February 28, 2007. In Daniel Camacho's paintings you will room for yourself, finding community and hope for all.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

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Looking for Hope: The Paintings of Daniel Camacho

Daniel Camacho is a mobile mural painter and all round community artist. Daniel brought his canvass murals to display at all of the 2006 tour of La Carpa del FEO: Fandango in East Oakland. He presents images of the Zapatistas, working class positive images, deep universal art of the land and her peoples. Daniel believes art does not need slogans, art needs its own unversal politics of liberation and freedom to speak for herself. You'll see Daniel Camacho's artwork being carried proudly, they are art and they are banners, which transcend the historical moment because his artwork acts as a mirror and a hammer shaping reality, to paraphrase Bertold Brecht.

In the weeks before the historic May 1, 2006 mobilizations across the U.S., where cities everywhere, Oakland included, experienced the biggest marches in history. Daniel, a few activists and organizers got together one Satruday and painted a banner, many stencils and signs proclaiming rights, ideas, equality, justice, a new citizenship that includes everyone and using art, spontaneous art because most of us there had never painted. The most exciting part of this preparation of banners and signs was that many passerbys, mainly day laborers, came and picked up brushes and painted like professional artists. Women, elders, youth, artists and activists put together in a matter of hours a beautiful banner and signs that were proudly carried a week or so later in San Francisco and Oakland.

You can see Daniel Camacho's public art hanging from light-poles along East 14th Street (aka International Boulevard in East Oakland). Camacho also put his versatility at work in the the "Placita," or the area in front of the Fruitvale BART Station. Mosaics on the ground, bas-relief on the Fruitvale plaza's entrance poles and now an exhibition of his work at the nearby Cesar E. Chavez Branch Library at 3301 East 12th Street (one block west from the Fruitvale BART station's entrance).

"Looking for Hope: The Paintings of Daniel Camacho" will have an opening reception Tuesday, January 30, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the Cesar E. Chavez Library. Come meet the artist, be in good company, art, culture, community, words, poetry. Everything will be ready and everyone should come by after work. Feel the paintings, take home the good vibes and images that speak and color for a different, better world, where there is room for all.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

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Plans & Dreams for a new East Oakland

We are talking again about launching another Carpa del FEO: Fandango in East Oakland later this spring! In 2006 one-hundred and forty eight young men of color -- African Americans, Latinos, Indigenous immigrants -- and others died in violent shootings. The press, those concerned might say: drug-related, turf wars, drive-by's, gang violence, black on black, brown on brown, black on brown, brown on black, brown and black on immigrant.

The 148 deaths are a milestone in the implementation of Reaganonomics, U.S. version of neoliberalism in its 26th anniversary in east Oakland and elsewhere.

The 148 deaths represent 148 families in mourning, in anguish. 148 nieghborhoods with a disappeared neighbor. 148 fathers, sons, uncles, cousins, friends lost forever. And then you multiply 148 by workplaces, stores, schools, churches, businesses, communities and the violence has a crippling impact, a crater of an explosion we must not ignore.

When we began La Carpa del FEO, our goal was to start retaking our neighborhoods, our communities, from those who come from the outside and even from the inside but who do not have our tranquility, our stability, our health and interests in mind. They become land dealers, social speculators, gentrifiers, big-box hearted, displacers, police-mentality leaders passing themselves off as concerned citizens who want the best for the community -- while they line their pockets with money, property and dirty deals.

Instead of offering jobs, they offered 100 new police officers. Instead of offering hope, they gave illegal police stops, racial profiling. Instead of offering safe spaces, they closed down schools. Instead of providing treatment, they offer coercion in jails and prison.

We need cultural centers, plural! We need bowling alleys, after-school art workshops and places where anyone can hang out, talk, hear music, do your homework over tea, coffee, dessert, soft drinks, pleasant and healthy spaces where anyone can spend some time and walk home safely.

So El FEO is planning a new tour. Our goal is not too far away. We have a new mayor in Oakland, Ron V. Dellums, who has given his word that together we can create a a new and hopefilled city.

El FEO stands for a community of communities; where we can be who we are freely, without fear, coercion, intimidation. To do that we have to have courage to be community, to do things together, to talk away our problems and differences. To resort to peaceful dialogue and words first. To resort to music, poetry, hip-hop. son jarocho, huapangos, blues, rock-n-roll, jazz, improvise our way out of the violence, the illnesses, stop treating each other and anyone else as strangers in our own communities and neighborhoods.

In lak es:tu eres mi otro yo: you are my other I