For the last 4 or 5 years, I have spent my limited free time researching school uprisings that happened in '68 and '73 on the southwest side of Chicago. One reason I fell into an obsession with this is that the stories I read were gripping, and there was just too little information that people could access. What is out there, two incredible dissertations (by Dr. Jaime Alanis and Dr. Dionne Danns) were not accessible to everyone. Also, I care more about what teens at Benito Juarez Academy High School think about this material than anyone else, which is where I started. I began with the deep translation, from academic writing to visual presentations that would engage the students and connect these events to them and their experiences. The students, under the expert guidance of theri teacher Paulina Camacho, created interpretations and artwork in reaction to the materials, which informed the next iteration of the curriculum, which morphs and keeps on growing. This is not about static archives, in other words.
I am going to try to gather up all of the threads in an effort to organize my thoughts and materials. I also want everyone to have access to this work, and to make a map of the sources, so more people can join in and do this work, because there is a lot of work to be done! Recovering the role of women in the Chicanx mural movement, uniting the historical accounts of Black and Latinx Chicago student uprisings on the Lower West Sides, a curriculum of youth revolt in CPS, interviewing mothers who fought for Benito Juarez Academy High School... don't just sit there! Do something.*
I'm no historian, but I am going to do my best to be clear and considerate. I know a little more about education, visual culture and youth rebellion, and that is what I focus on. I could not shut off what quickly became an obsession, my intuition and excitement have been my guides, but the result of raging enthusiasm turned out to be a file cabinet full of chaos. Please bear with me as I tease apart hundreds of hours of late-night image oogling sessions, cell phone pictures, hand scrawled lists, interviews and conversations.
* Whatever you do or make, you have to share it with the community it belongs to. My guiding light during this project has been Dr. Linda Tuhiwai Smith's book Decolonizing Methodologies, and I've tried to learn as much from these principles as I could. This book asks people to think harder about their research: who we are in service to, and who the work benefits. For example, don't harvest important information from community members to use in your art project and then stick it in a collection where nobody can see it. Don't interview people and then hoard the recordings on your laptop- or worse, at your institution. Same goes for your research paper. Who is raised up when it is sitting in your college's library? The institution. And that's baloney. Get it out there. Anyone can print a zine. Heck, if it's related to this, I will host it on my website. (I'm scolding everyone including myself. Also, don't assume your work does shit for anyone, and get a lot of critical feedback. more on this later.)
All hands on deck!