Over the past year, the immigrant rights movement has seen nascent victories and faced monumental political challenges, but its greatest triumph so far has been creating a space for envisioning a more just, inclusive society. And the boundaries of that space have been drawn, redrawn, blurred and exploded by the creative workers who’ve taken the fight to the media, the canvas, the big screen and the digital realm.
CultureStrike founder Favianna Rodriguez has been leading many of these efforts as a community educator and activist, fusing street art with political campaigns ranging from reproductive justice to opposing unjust deportations of undocumented youth. In this new documentary by Voice of Art on the i am Other YouTube Channel, she’s a guide and witness to the journey that activists have pioneered from the southern border to the White House, pushing for a recognition of their dignity and rights. The film highlights the power of culture in changing the public dialogue on immigration issues, as well as efforts to empower immigrant communities to raise their own voices and participate in a political arena that has historically excluded and silenced them.
The film follows Favianna to the Arizona border, where we hear from intrepid civil rights activist Isabel Garcia about the abuse, fear and racial attacks have exploded across the state. Favianna and other artists then hitch a ride on the Undocubus, the groundbreaking protest tour that brought the pleas of millions of undocumented immigrants and their families to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Also featured in the film are CultureStrike’s own undocuqueer artivist Julio Salgado, journalist-turned-activist Jose Antonio Vargas, and hip hop artist Jasiri X.
As Washington moves again toward debating immigration policy, culture–from the depiction of migrants in the news to the graffiti murals in your neighborhood–will play a key role in shaping the public conversation about just and humane reform.
CultureStrike is proud to help elevate and amplify the voices of creative souls who have turned struggle into inspiration. Yet the film is just one snapshot of the lives of these advocates, community members and cultural workers making a difference. As their narrative is still being written, keep watching, and keep in mind a couple of choice quotes:
Favianna’s manifesto for the radical artist:
Art has the power to shape thoughts and change hearts. Art also has the ability to shape our laws, change society, and speak truth to power. … When an artist understands the political landscape and can incorporate that into their art, the art really becomes powerful.
And at the film’s conclusion, Presente.org co-founder Roberto Lovato sums it up:
Very few but the activists and the artists and cultural activists are going to be the ones who help define what being an immigrant really is, instead of what we’re being told by the media, by the politicians, and by the hate groups, increasingly. Any number of artists are going to be the ones who help kind of save the world, basically.
Learn more at Voice of Art, which has also featured the work of CultureStrike partners Gan Golan and Oree Originol among others, and see more films at the i am Other Channel on YouTube. And learn more about the artists involved with the project at Favianna’s blog.