Tag Archives: sb1070

Art and Activism


Oakland   Every once in awhile if you are searching for new paths, you are going to have to change directions in order to find the way.  At least that’s what I thought in agreeing to go to a day-and-a-half conference in Oakland on art and activism, organizing and culture.   An invitation from old friends and comrades, Gary Delgado and Gina Acebo, was too good to pass up since I needed to be in the Bay Area anyway, and it was a fascinating day.

Jumping to the bottom line, despite meeting a great bunch of talented, committed, and razor sharp artists and cultural workers, there is still no denying that there is a huge gulf that would have to be bridged to create genuine dialogue much less fruitful collaboration.  Nonetheless there were scintillating hints time and time that it could be worth the effort.

It was also fascinating to just be a part of the process and get a sense of the many ways that all of us as blind people are still groping at the elephant.  Listening to Jeff Chang of Stanford and a great panel of folks talk about the impact of Culture Strike on the immigration reform efforts around the DREAM Act and SB1070 in Arizona was significant, but essentially in their attempt to evaluate the impact of their contribution they were describing one room of a giant house without fully understanding the rest of the architectural layout around them.  It was also struck me as interesting that understanding the cultural process and how it evolved and created change, they were oblivious to the similarities of the same evolution and development on the organizing and political process believing it was simply marked by court solidarity events and feeling that cultural change preceded social changes rather than being inextricably linked together.  As I said, this was too short a meeting for people to really be able to learn a common language and see the linkages, but an education regardless.

Jeff Change of Stanford talking about Culture Strike

Among the highlights were seeing how guerilla artistic interventions had been so effective in the demystifying the Japanese experience at the Asian Art Museum, listening to a digital games designer who developed games that looked at gender roles and change, hearing the passion of labor photographer and journalist David Bacon for his efforts to effectively tell the stories of organizing today, participating in what seemed a hokey exercise that turned very powerfully into a lesson about how different experiences and work could connect in the same narrative, and more.

Big props to the organizers who pulled the pieces together with nothing but their own commitment and the willingness of all of us to come together (what a relief not to have outside funders involved or in the room distorting the discussion!).  This is the way conversations start and changes in perspective – and direction – develop.

Anna's digital games for social change

Connecting experiences into a story

David Bacon talking about labor photography and journalism

Gary Delgado one of the conference organizers



The Rubble around SB1070 Injunction

ARIZONA-DEMONew Orleans The good news on the judge’s issuance of an injunction is that: boy, this was a close call and could have been soooo much worse!  But, let’s be honest, we’re trying to pull “gold out of the garbage” as our ragpickers say.  There’s still no reason for great joy and celebration because the opposition will be scheming at how to come closer next time, the appeals will be queued up a mile long, and we lost important issues here even while we are claiming a “win” on what is now routinely being called, the “most controversial” elements.

So local police will be enjoined from asking every conceivable person that they think might be illegal to show papers and stand to be arrested.  The judge correctly saw through the governor’s baloney that local law enforcement offers were so well trained that they could avoid discrimination.  Can you say the words, Sheriff Arpaio, and still repeat that sentence with a straight face, Governor?  They can’t hold people for deportation by the feds based on SB1070, but we still have DHS Napolitano’s 287(g) for that mischief.  Various civil penalties cannot be converted into crimes and everyone with a tan will not have to carry their paperwork to prove citizenship, but as today’s rallies in Phoenix “against the hate” make clear, these are symbolic victories when the anger at immigrants is being fanned to a vengeful and violent level of anger and potential attack.

Washed away in the headlines are huge concerns about the future of day laborers, which the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network has indicated could cripple the ability for day laborers to find work and lead to huge legal oppression everywhere in the country.  This was a confusing piece of the injunction story.  The judge enjoined the efforts of Arizona to essentially drive day laborers off of the sidewalks and any public areas where they could look for work, but allowed the language that was based on the old ACORN v. Phoenix suit to stand which allows day laborers to be harassed and arrested if they seem to be a traffic nuisance.  NDLON has correctly worried that day laborers would now be walking a tightrope thin line in trying to both protect their livelihoods and at the same time avoid arrest and prosecution (and therefore also potential deportation depending on the charge and jurisdiction) because traffic safety would trump everything and everybody.

I’m not whining.  We desperately needed to win this injunction, so all good there, but “happy” and “celebrate” are not two words that come easily in this moment when so little is solved, other rights are eroded, and the forces of hate and repression are still gathering mightily in cities and states throughout the country with no real relief in sight.