Guess what? Black/Latinx solidarity and youth justice organizing in Chicago isn't going to research and teach itself. This is why I do the work I do, and why I’ve focused on the 1968 Harrison and '73 Froebel School uprisings in Chicago. I will keep putting schools and school children at the top of my agenda. It’s time to shift our thinking from school-as-job-training to schools as sites of social transformation!
I want to forward this cause. I want to make an augmented reality app that will revive this history. Here’s my short video explanation. To venture into the realm of AR and apps is a big move for me, but by bringing this research to developers, there’s a chance to see it come to life. Interactivity and gamification and action-research curriculum are next on the horizon. This project could become a model for future engagements between artists, schools and developers. Let’s do it.
I want to thank everyone who has supported this work so far. I am eternally grateful to Mariame Kaba, Anne Brod, Mark Jeffery, Cathy Moon, Hilesh Patel, Paul Durica, Abigail Satinsky, Tirtza Even, Bill Ayers, Frances and Arthur Marroquin, Savneet Talwar, Meaghan Pabellon, Daniel Tucker, Rebecca Zorach, Laura Nussbaum-Barberena, Jody O’Neill, Michael de Anda Muñiz, Jim Egge, Maria Cotera, Adam Greteman, Henry McDonnell, Amber Ginsburg, Salome Chasnoff, Paola Aguirre, Salvador Jimenez-Flores, Karyn Sandlos, Emily Jones, Tatiana Gant, Dianna Frid, Caitlin Bruce, Aram Han Sifuentes, Hinda Seif, William Estrada, Tempestt Hazel, Aurora King, James Jankowiak, Paul Coffey, Maria Gaspar, Brian Nelson, Olivia Gude, Meg Duguid, Sarah Ross, Claire Pentecost, Anthony Rea, and the anonymous donors. What a powerful and motivating vote of confidence.
I’ve been working with Paulina Camacho and her students since 2014, researching the history of the 1968 Harrison and 1973 Froebel School uprisings, and responding to rapid displacement of working-class people from the neighborhoods. My motivation comes from the near-absence of Chicago’s Mexican and Mexican American histories in formal archives and libraries. With the students, we turned to the neighborhood is a text, and the people are an archive. We spoke with elders and gathered oral histories. We searched through neighborhood newspapers. As artists, we learned to look for what was missing, to using what Saidiya Hartman calls critical fabulation, and what Andres L. Hernandez calls historical f(r)ictions. This work continues to feel urgent because of the rapid and visible decimation of the living library that has been our only resource for this history. When developers displace people, our living libraries are dismantled, and some are lost. This work is in response to immense losses caused by gentrification, and- in spite of it.
A related social media project I’m working on called Chicago Raza Research Consortium (a play on the name of University of Chicago’s incredible Black Metropolis Research Consortium) was just mentioned in the New York Times on September 10th in an article entitled Preserving Latinx History with Vintage Photos. This is a national phenomenon: grassroots community archiving by Latinx people. Many of us have begun to connect our underrepresentation in institutions and media, and even hate crimes against us (like the mass shooting in El Paso, one of the oldest Mexican American communities in the nation) to the LACK of representation in nation’s shared public memory. For families like mine who have been here since Texas was annexed and the border crossed us in 1848, this absence is especially pronounced. Recent rhetoric and the uptick in racist violence has been frightening, but it is not new. I’m redoubling my efforts, building our archives by searching online, looking in garages and talking to people, seeking to recover, name and re-present images and histories of Latinx people in Chicago. This project is completely self-funded, done anytime when I’m not teaching or in my office at SAIC.
This was also the case with the 5 year action research project at Benito Juarez, which took place on Fridays, evenings and between semesters. I sought and continue to seek support, partnerships and comrades in this effort because there is so much more to do.