SONG and the folks from AgitArte recently had the opportunity to begin the journey towards a very beautiful collaboration. AgitArte, in their own words, are a group of folks who work in communities threatened by under-development, displacement and gentrification, using the arts and cultural work to educate and to organize for social and economic justice. At SONG, we are amped to step up our cultural work game, and who better to do that with, than with these folks? Dey and Jorge of AgitArte came to Atlanta to facilitate a training with SONG members and staff around the work that they do and how we can incorporate helpful aspects of that into our ongoing organizing work.
The training was super engaging and a ton of fun! There were discussions and presentations with examples of AgitArte’s work: large-scale puppetry for demonstrations and actions, cantastorias, (a tradition of story-telling told via songs, paintings, and illustrations), and various kinds of performance. Dey and Jorge worked with us over the course of three days to teach us not only how to write our story but how to tell it in such a way that breaks down lies and stereotypes, gives our people truth and liberation, and holds public figures accountable. Theater exercises were woven into the training—activities that got us up and moving around and gave us a taste of what it’s like to do some of this in real-time. Then they walked us through brainstorming how SONG wants to utilize these tools: What narratives and voices are we trying to lift up? What political interventions are we trying to build? For SONG, it is clear that through cultural work we want to:
1. Build popular education and political education
2. Showcase and focus our history and legacy as LGBTQ Freedom Fighters
3. Create a vision of a South free from fear
Once we got through these thought-sessions, we got into it! We crewed up into teams and with Dey and Jorge’s beautiful guidance, as well as our own brilliant crew’s mad talent, started making a cantastoria, created the Kindred Choir that will be signing along with it, and began the construction of a giant puppet head! The training flowed organically with each of us giving our energy and input into every team, even if just for moments- so most everyone got a taste of each piece of the work.
This training re-emphasized that movement work should be as multi-faceted as we are as leaders. This training is part of SONG’s ongoing commitment to equip our members with the tools to that help lift up and develop the stories of work liberatory work all across the region. Cultural work is an important strategy to include in organizing because it not only makes it more fun but can also make it more sustainable. Through this approach we have ability to bring more of our full selves and corazones into the grind. The cultural work aspect of organizing also creates possibility for a broader audience to be engaged and, therefore, a larger potential of bringing more folks into our big gay family and onto our team. Ya’ll know the saying, la cultura cura? It means culture heals, and we know that if we are fighting for Queer Liberation in our Lifetime, healing, taking care of not only ourselves but also really truly looking out for each other, needs to be a top priority. This fabulous collaboration with AgitArte is a part of that.
Rebeca Esaclona Rosas and Cassandra Calin are SONG members living in Georgia and Virginia, respectively.
Stay tuned for more from SONG’s upcoming Cultural Caravan coming to a city or town near you!
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