This week’s #WCW Melanie Cervantes carries on a century-long tradition of Latina rebeldes using art to empower marginalized communities and translate their stories of struggle and resistance.
The California Xicana co-founded Dignidad Rebelde, a graphic arts collaboration between her and Oakland-based artist Jesus Barraza, in 2007, acts as the senior program officer at the Akonadi Foundation, which supports organizations working to eliminate structural racism, and manages one of the most badass Latina feminist Instagram accounts on the social network.
Ahead, learn how this mujer crushes the Imperialist White Supremacist Cis Hetero Capitalist Patriarchy one screen print at a time.
What can you tell our readers about Dignidad Rebelde and why you felt the urgency to co-create it?
Initially, our interest in starting Dignidad Rebelde was to create and distribute political graphics and posters that amplified the voices of the most impacted communities working in social justice organizations. We wanted to sustain the tradition of intersecting graphics and organizing, which has a history of more than hundred years in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. We learned from the collective Taller models that came before us about how to bring a handmade process of printmaking to community as a different way to engage and share stories. We were determined to refine a methodology that would work for the new millennium by introducing new forms and utilizing platforms that our elders might have never imagined would exist, such as the Internet and social media. We were determined, as Juan R. Fuentes, a veterano of this work, has eloquently stated, “to use every tool possible in the fight for our collective liberation.”
How did your political consciousness take shape as a Xicana growing up in a small city in the South Bay of Los Angeles?
In 1994, I was a senior in high school. This was the year California Gov. Pete Wilson championed the racist and anti-migrant Proposition 187, which would have required state and government workers to report anyone they suspected to be undocumented to the Attorney General’s office. This was the year the Zapatistas came out of the jungle to declare war against the Mexican State, an act of self-defense, and arose in protest to the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
It was my last year of high school, and I stood on a precipice – not sure what my path would be or that I’d be shaped by these world events. Six years later, when I felt an urgency to do something about the sexual harassment I was experiencing in the service sector and enrolled in college, I was able to think and talk about what I was seeing and how it impacted me. At community college, I did a lot of campus-based organizing with my friends. That’s where I learned about the power of community and organizing. It was in those years, at the dawn of the new millennium, that I realized the problems that impacted many of us require collective solutions.
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