by Megan Amal
Editor’s note: At AFO we strive to show the intersection between art and activism, and also all the struggle and affirmation of life that come from these activities. I am delighted that one of our staff writers, Megan, has let us inside her vulnerable and thoughtful creative process through this Dance-A-Day Diary. Megan shows us what it feels like to keep engaging with your art. It’s messy, it’s dull, it’s a struggle, it’s wrought with expectation and anxiety, it’s joy, it’s strange, and it’s often surprising what you end up with.
For the year of 2016 I made a plan to dance every day, record it, and share it online. My goals were to ensure my creative output, use the internet, transform my understanding of the passage of time, and become less precious about the work I produce. In the first months of this project I met goals and lagged behind, I’ve felt proud and felt ashamed, and I have danced erryday.
I made this daily commitment because, as a recent graduate and someone new to the big city, I’m often anxious to make the “right” choices in my time. I no longer have an institution tracking my progress and organizing the application of my knowledge and passion. When I moved to Chicago, in September of 2015, I was lucky enough to quickly find paid work dancing and teaching, but I still felt seriously adrift.
At the new year, after a few months of hustlin’ and bad weather, I decided to make a dance erryday for 2016. Now, a few more months into living in Chicago, I’ve made over 100 dances. Here are some of the videos for you to check out.
Hello AFO community members!
We are so excited to be back and at it. We all had a busy holiday season and have been talking time out to wake up from winter.
Now that we are back, we have some new things to share!
First, we will be doing one publishing cycle per month. This is to help keep us organized and ease up the load on some of our team. So we hope you will look forward to the first Friday of each month!
Second, we added a new section "WTF Is Going On" which is reflections on current events.
And last, we are looking for guest writers! If you have something to say about current events, self love, food, or have something you'd like to review, contact us! We look forward to hearing from you all!
We hope you enjoy what we've put together!
We would like to welcome Aki to the AFO writing team! Aki is an artist and believes that art in a variety of forms will be key to breaking down so many of the systems that oppress our communities, personally and collectively. Check out their full bio here.
This Día de los muertos, Reject Appropriation, Honor the Holiday by Listening and Showing Solidarity
by Tara Miller
Día de los muertos is fast approaching on November 1st. Many Americans celebrate this holiday to varying degrees, either as part of their personal cultural background and history or their personal take on the holiday as learned through school, popular culture, reading, movies, or conversations with friends. While it is possible to interact with and celebrate this holiday meaningfully if it is not part of your personal cultural background, many gringos do so disrespectfully.
This article outlines ways in which “celebrating” Día de los muertos without engaging with and learning about the communities that have celebrated the holiday historically can be appropriative rather than appreciative.
Appropriation is taking something for your own use without asking permission or giving credit to its origins. Appropriation takes parts of a culture, simmers them down to what white people will enjoy, and makes capital gains. We have such a big problem with cultural appropriation because it is a modern-day form of "Columbusing," (claiming the discovery/ownership of something (land, culture, traditions) that already existed)) and white erasure. In the context of culture, appropriation is even more painful when a community’s customs are used when thought of as “sexy,” “exotic,” or “spiritual” but the pain and suffering of the people is ignored or perpetuated.
APPRECIATE by taking the time to support and participate in events organized and performed by those for whom Día de los muertos is part of their cultural background, learn the histor(ies) of the holiday, and support issues members of the communities face beyond the November 1st and 2nd celebration—especially those perpetuated by United States imperialism and white supremacy.
One such issue, which many communities are drawing attention to this year as part of their celebrations, is the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico, in September last year. While the students are still missing, it is clear to human rights organizations, students, parents, and individuals all over the world that police, the Mexican federal government, and likely other governments were involved in this violent act. Since their disappearance last September, the students’ families and communities have been appealing to the rest of the world to listen to their demands and put pressure on their leaders to get answers.
Show solidarity this Day of the Dead by engaging with and listening to communities. You can start by reading these stories about immigrant women in family detention center beginning a hunger strike, serious injuries of workers in Reynosa’s factories, and the Las Piñatas public art project.
Definitely watch the short film below —a beautiful portrayal of how powerful the celebration can be, especially for those who have lost loved ones.
And if you’re in New York, consider volunteering to run with Antonio Tizapa, father of one of the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa, in the New York City Marathon.
To learn more read this short article on the origins, practices, and traditions of Día de los muertos.
This is NOT How to Solve Problems, This IS the Problem: Response to footage of Officer Ben Fields Attacking Young Black Female Student in School.
by Aiano Nakagawa
Many of you have probably already seen this video. I saw it about 12 hours ago and since then have seen it reposted and shared multiple times. This information and footage needs to be shared, and this officer, Ben Fields needs to be fired. He should not be in any position of power and should NOT be allowed around children, period.
Beyond the atrocious abuse of power, police brutality, and assault of a young Black female student, the video brings to light a conversation we need to be having. We need to start talking about how having police officers in schools robs students of crucial learning opportunities.
Let me explain, having cops in schools enables educators to practice "zero tolerance" policies, which impose automatic punishment for any infractions against school rules regardless of any extending circumstances. Instead of schools using conflicts as opportunities to model how conversation and effective communication can RESOLVE conflict, schools are letting the police handle it. The zero tolerance policy robs students of the opportunity to learn and practice how to work THROUGH conflict. "'Zero-tolerance' policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in schools lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school" resulting in many students (disproportionately students of color) having a police record before they've even turned 18, making it more difficult to get into college and/or a find job. This is how the SCHOOL TO PRISON PIPELINE operates and is why we need to practice RESTORATIVE JUSTICE which focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, and the involved community.
I understand there is a consequence for every action, it is a rule of nature, but I also understand that there is a big difference between consequence and punishment. Zero tolerance policies model that the consequence to breaking the rules is automatic punishment (expulsion, suspension, detention, etc.) The key thing missing in this idea is the understanding that a consequence for breaking the rules is an opportunity to learn how to clearly communicate, listen to others, resolve conflict, and be better equipped to handle conflict in the future.
Children experience conflict, it happens. Adults experience conflict, it happens. There will always be conflict. Students aren’t just in school learning academics, they’re in school learning social skills, how to interact with their peers, and how to deal with conflict when it arises. This is why we need to model that the way to deal with conflict is not through zero tolerance but WITH tolerance, understanding, and clear, effective communication.
I also want to add, that the argument I'm making is based on how we deal with conflict when it DOES arise. In this video, in the moments we see, there is NO conflict and the student is sitting quietly. Unprovoked abuse, harassment, and violence from cops is not uncommon at schools. Schools are supposed to be places to learn, be challenged, and grow, none of that is possible without safety, including safety from police. How well would you learn if you were feared for your safety as you sat in class?
So now take a look at this video... This is how officer Ben Fields deals with a “defiant” student. This is not an appropriate response or "solution to the problem." THIS IS THE PROBLEM!
"Officer Fields has a history of attacking students, who say they’ve complained about him for years. He’s currently facing a lawsuit from another student who says Fields targets Black students. And Fields was sued by a couple who say he attacked and arrested them without provocation. This time, Fields’ violence was caught on camera, and it’s clearly unnecessary, malicious, and brutal."
Trigger Warning: this video contains violence.
The Spring Valley High School incident shown above is not an isolated experience.
In the past 5 years, at least 28 students have been seriously injured and one has been killed by school cops in the U.S.
Click the photo below to learn more.
by Aiano Nakagawa
So a few nights ago I got word that Mills is planning on cutting the Dance B.A. The Mills Dance Program is the longest running dance program in the country and offers a brave space for dancers of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, sexualities, and backgrounds to find their creative voice and learn about the social history and impact dance has had throughout history.
In their mission statement Mills claims to "educate students to think critically and communicate responsibly and effectively, to accept the challenges of their creative visions, and to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to effect thoughtful changes in a global, multicultural society." So why are they trying to cut the dance B.A.?
As a dancer, there's so much more than meets the eye. When some see us dancing around a room or on stage, they don't get the whole picture. People can't possibly understand the intimacy, connection, empathy, and awareness that comes with knowing your body and others in the way we do.
How can we move towards a better world? Why not start by understanding ourselves and having an awareness of others to the extent of being able to fully trust another to hold all your weight? Dancers are able to anticipate movement in others before they've even moved. We're able to detect the slightest change in energy and have been trained to notice the smallest of changes in ourselves and in others. Dance allows us to engage and be in charge of how we move through space and interact with others. Dance offers tools and vehicles to become a more aware, empathetic, and enlightened person.
So the dance department isn't making Mills enough money? Well we don't dance to make money. That's not what it's about. As dancers we are some of the most undervalued artists in the world and for an institution to claim that they "provide a dynamic learning environment that encourages intellectual exploration" they sure seem to taking the side of those who believe that the arts have no value or potential to unleash radical social change.
Please click here to sign the petition and show your support for a program that has deep roots in dance for social change and in supporting dancers of all backgrounds.
"The UN Women, along with the European Commission, the Belgian Development Cooperation, and UNRIC had organized a Comic and Cartoon Competition on Gender Equality. The competition invited young European comic and cartoon artists and art students, aged 18 to 28 years, to picture their understanding of women’s rights and gender equality through cartoons and comics. A panel of eminent jury selected the finalists and the winner."
Click here to see the cartoons, and learn about the thought behind these cartoons.
We are honored to have Megan Amal Rogers join our AFO writing team. Megan uses art as a means for personal, social, and political transformation. She is a dance artist and community educator who works to challenge dominant and oppressive structures. Megan will be covering arts and activism in the Chicago area (and beyond). Check out her full bio here!
Did you know these 6 phrases have racist origins?
1. "The peanut gallery"
2. "No can do."
3. "Long time no see"
4. "Sold down the river"
5. "Hip hip hooray"
6. "G*pped" or "G*psy"
Learn the origin of these phrases in the video below.
Always be open to unlearning/relearning & changing your mind based on newly acquired information.
We are so excited to announce our newest AFO team member, Tara Miller. We are so honored to have Tara join our team of writers. Tara is a Portland, OR based writer and will be covering arts and activism in the Portland metro area (and beyond).
Learn more about Tara and read her full bio here.