Interpreting for Multilingual Justice Workshop

The revolution will be multilingual!

During the weekend of July 23, 2016, I attended the Interpreting for Multilingual Justice Workshop organized by the Boston Interpreters Collective and facilitated by Roberto Cesar Tijerina, formerly of Highlander Research and Education Center. Since then, I have joined BIC as an interpreter/translator as a way to continue growing my knowledge and skills and building the other worlds that are possible around multilingual justice.

Grounded in popular education, where a group builds knowledge based on experience, we shared and analyzed stories, played and deconstructed games, and role-played with a focus on interpreting best practices.

A main take-away was that interpreters are “equal signs.” We do not add, subtract or edit. We interpret in first-person so that people keep their advocacy and self-determination. Another was that the role of interpreter is sacred and not to be combined with any other roles: we can (and should) be advocates, but separate from being interpreters.

This workshop added another layer to my organizing – my work must uphold multilingual justice.

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Intergenerational #RadicalMath Workshop at the #AMC2016

My sister Isabel and I co-facilitated an Intergenerational #RadicalMath workshop at the Kids Space in the Allied Media Conference #AMC2016!

Using the idea that Radical Math is math (patterns, models, amounts, sizes) that analyzes things that are very important in our lives, we looked at self-care within our families and made bar graphs based on our daily routines. Then, compared, contrasted and drew some conclusions and turned the graphs into art by building mobiles!

Details here.

RadicalMath

photo by Kids Space organizer Robin Markle

Educators of Color Conference 2016 #ECC16

Yesterday, I had to honor of presenting a workshop at the first Educators of Color Conference, held at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School and organized by three teachers there. The organizers shared the call for proposals in early March with a wishlist of topics. I saw the call on Facebook. One of the topics was self-care. I decided to answer because I have been actively thinking, reading and talking about self-care as something that is important and needs to be intersectional for the last couple of years, in addition to my personal journey dealing with chronic muscle tension and pain since age 18 and OCD since age 3. I submitted a proposal for “Defining a Personal Vision of Self-Care for Educators,” adapted for teachers from self-care and related events/workshops I have co-facilitated.

On the website linked above, you can read about all the workshops and both keynote speakers. You can also access workshop materials, included those from my workshop. I will be Tweeting and Facebooking particular notes and reactions shortly (I have not learned how to live Tweet – I miss too much).

[It may be in a few days, as my attention and feelings, as those of so many, are now with the terrible shooting that happened early this morning in Orlando. May those who have died rest in power, and those injured recover soon. No to hatred towards LGBTQ, no to racism, no to islamophobia.]

The materials from my workshop, adapted as a series of journal entries that can be done alone or with a group, can be found on the #ECC16 site here.

Returning to #BostonCreates Leadership Council Meetings after the Holiday Break

Tomorrow Tuesday, January 26, 2016 we have our fourth Leadership Council meeting for #BostonCreates. A draft of the “Boston Creates Cultural Plan Framework,” prepared as a result of the information gathering phase from May to October, has been sent to us for review in anticipation of the meeting.

Mayor Walsh is scheduled to speak at the meeting, and we can ask questions.

I look forward to discussing this draft with the fellow members of the Council, the consultants and Chief of Arts and Culture Julie Burros, and to engage the Mayor in discussion around #BostonCreates and how it fits in the larger landscape of our city.

I will post a blog about this meeting shortly.

Leadership Council survey – My answers

1. Your Name

Loreto P. Ansaldo

2. In your opinion, what makes Boston’s cultural life special? What do you especially like about it?

There is so much happening locally; there are people skilled at and passionate about everything and anything. People work hard and want to be resilient. I can always find folks who are willing to engage, push the limits of our local society and ourselves, learn from each other and work together.

3. What would you like to be different about Boston’s arts and cultural life ten years from now?

I would like art not to be transactional – in a city filled with startups, we can often think of the arts as something to be bought and sold: Cultural Capital, Creative Economy, Tourism. Relating arts and culture to money-making models and thinking of how arts can bolster the economy.

In ten years I hope we can intentionally think of arts and culture as both having intrinsic value AND as intrinsically linked to the work of achieving a just world. Arts and culture are incompatible with our capitalist system yet must function within it given our current realities. In ten years I hope we can support creatives (i.e. everyone) to nurture our individual and collective creativity and humanity while building systems where basic needs are met if doing work that benefits communities. Creatives must not live in poverty relying on micro grants, last-minute calls for art, or feeling pressured to say yes to predatory opportunities. It is difficult when folks are just working to survive (in all sense of the word), but if we want to be creatives, this is the work right now. It should not be.

Specifically, I’d like for us to address race with clear language and plans – not carefully walk around racism and inequality in general – and how artists of color, specifically those who are community artists (i.e. their work is for benefit of community and for social justice) are left out of the conversation. When we have “open meetings where all are invited,” focus on brand over deep community outreach, and have no place where we intentionally center artists of color, then, by the nature of our systemic oppressions, we leave them out, because those who show up when there is lack of sincere and true inclusion are those with most privilege. We just have to look at the meetings for #BostonCreates and our Leadership Council itself: I attended several #BostonCreates meetings this summer and fall, and the most diverse was the East Boston meeting (on the day where all meetings were concurrent). The rest were mostly white or white-passing folks with formal education.

Last, another cautionary note is that if we are to learn how to be more inclusive, we must not rely on folks of color to do the teaching. In our capitalist system, we should think of this work as consulting and must be compensated. Artists of color who are struggling to pay their bills do not have the time nor energy to teach society about racism or how to be good allies, nor should they be expected to. There is a wealth of writings to learn more about this.

Here are two articles for entry points:

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-do-white-people-think-people-color-are-obligated-teach-them-about-race

http://the-toast.net/2015/07/13/emotional-labor/2/

4. What do you think are the three most important issues to address in Boston’s cultural plan?

  1. Erasure of artists of color, POC in general, low-income folks: While some #BostonCreates meetings have been diverse, many have not. Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury were the three neighborhoods under-represented in the survey. Are we surprised?
  1. Not centering artists themselves: The creatives who actually make the art are often left out, especially those with less access, those who are struggling to pay their bills. These folks do not have the time to volunteer for #BostonCreates and are skeptical that this process will do anything positive.
  1. Displacement and well-intentioned ideas of “providing opportunities” are related: Let us not be complacent that gentrification is inevitable and therefore the related displacement. Let us not fall into the narrative that we need to provide “the poor folks” with more opportunity. Both are part of our hierarchical and patriarchal systems of oppression. Supporting each other to remain in our homes, celebrate our cultures, be creative, and share (sharing with awareness and respect, not as appropriation) is what we need to figure out.

5. What would be a bold, “stretch” goal for Boston’s cultural future?

I think my answer to 4 is bold.

6. Are there any barriers or obstacles to consider in developing the cultural plan?

Yes. A mentality of privatization (current trend nationally and locally citywide) and a lack of connection to social justice models (in general outside of social justice spaces).

One of many writings that can be an entry point: http://www.indigenousaction.org/accomplices-not-allies-abolishing-the-ally-industrial-complex/

7. Do you have any individual concerns or particular issues you want us to be aware of at the start of the process?

I have outlined them here and in my initial letter to CPG. Thank you for this space to write more and for the amplified opportunity to speak openly as part of the Leadership Council.
I write all this with a lot of love for Boston and as a white-passing teacher/artist/activist POC with a lot of privileges that allow me the bandwidth to engage in #BostonCreates. I moved here from Chile at age nine and have lived in Dorchester, West Roxbury, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Allston and Hyde Park. Boston is home, and I will keep working.

Initial Response to Being a Member of the #BostonCreates Leadership Council

I just had a conference call with two of the consultants working on #BostonCreates. Below is a letter I send them earlier today with my initial thoughts on the Leadership Council, of which I have been chosen as a member. Meeting notes and next steps to follow.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dear David and Josiane:

Thank you for agreeing to speak with me today about Boston Creates. I am filled with a sense of energy, caution and commitment both as a member of the Leadership Council and the community at large during this process of assessing the role of the arts in our city and shaping our collaborative work going forward.

The Values of Boston Creates

As speakers shared during our first Council meeting last Monday, June 1, the values for Boston Creates include transparency and accountability, and I take these seriously. As a step towards holding myself up to these standards, I am sharing my experience on the Boston Creates Leadership Council on my public blog, including my application to be part of the council and this letter.

The Boston Creates values, as shared at the first Leadership Council meeting and first community Town Hall at English High School on Tuesday, June 2, are:

Diversity – Equity – Respect – Imagination – Innovation – Fun – Creativity – Access –

Accountability – Transparency – Collaboration

I approach my participation in this Council with both skepticism and hope. Many folks are skeptical of and cynical about government, and with reason, because government does not represent everyone, and systemic oppression silences, criminalizes and others many communities. As someone from a young community organization with a small budget, which cannot yet pay us two co-founders a salary, and often collaborating with artists who create beautiful and socially conscious work yet struggle to pay their bills, speaking up about proper representation is of utmost importance. Despite the myriad of struggles, I am also hopeful that this process could be transparent and inclusive and uplift the transformative work folks are already creating every day. I personally know and have collaborated with some of the leaders of this process and know they hold these values closely. Therefore, the values of Boston Creates must indeed be the pillar of this process for all of us involved.

Leadership Council Commitments and Expectations

After our first Council meeting, I feel that the current expectations of the Leadership Council are not enough. If we are to take advantage of the potential of this Council in ways that benefit our communities and ensure the Council is representative of all of Boston, our role cannot simply be symbolic and must be substantial and meaningful.

Our commitment thus far is to attend four meetings where we will review the research gathered during the summer months, “prioritize” the resulting action plan, and “vet and endorse” the final plan presented to the mayor.

Meeting dates:

  • Monday, June 1, 2014 (7-9a): Introduction to the Boston Creates process (was not mandatory because of short notice)
  • Tuesday, September 29 (8-10a): Look at research gathered over the summer by the 16 Community Teams
  • Tuesday, January 26, 2016 (8-10a): Comment on preliminary draft of Boston Creates plan & prioritize the action plan
  • Tuesday, March 29 (may be 28), 2016 (8-10a): Adopt and recommend a plan
  • June: Announcement of a plan for the mayor to sign

Four meetings, even with prior access to materials and time to read them, are not enough to comprehend the scope and depth of our city’s needs around the goals of Boston Creates.

During our first Council meeting last week, one of the speakers did mention these four meetings were the initial commitments and more might be added as needed. I do understand the intention of not wanting to place too many demands on a group of volunteers. However, this is too important. When our society at large already does not value the arts as vital and transformative, we can surely find a balance in our commitment to this Council to ensure meaningful contribution. I strongly urge that we add not only more meetings but also other ways to engage. If part of our role is to suggest priorities for the city to focus on and vet and endorse the plan, then we absolutely must participate at the grassroots level and be immersed in the process.

As is, these four meetings by themselves, with no other commitments, place the Leadership Council in its own silo because we are removed from the core part of Boston Creates: the community outreach and research process.

At our first meeting, we were encouraged to be involved and charged with the following roles, but without a system of accountability to clearly define and ensure our responsibilities:

  1. Ensure broad community engagement and representation within and across sectors
  2. Be a sounding board for policy recommendations, prioritize the actionable plan and edit
  3. Share this process with everyone in our networks and build capacity for implementation

At the first Town Hall, we were not asked if we were present in the room or to raise our hands (the Steering Committee and Community Team leaders were). Was it an oversight? Was it a decision not to announce to community members who the individual Leadership Council members were? Would it have been surprising if any of us actually attended? I recognized at least two people from our first Leadership Council meeting in the audience. There were definitely some of us there ready to participate in community.

Also, the Boston Creates website has as of today not yet been updated with the names of the Council members. We were told at our first meeting that our names would be shared publicly later that day. At the Town Hall, someone asked who the people are “vetting and endorsing” the plan. The answer vaguely referred to the Leadership Council members. Such an interaction between a community member and someone in a perceived position of power increases distrust for processes such as this one. Our names, affiliations and specific commitments must be available for all to see.

Privilege and Responsibility

As Leadership Council members, we have the city-appointed privilege of “vetting and endorsing” the final plan that the mayor will sign. Many council members represent the 5% (estimate from data shared at our first meeting) of local arts organizations with annual budgets of over $1 million. Therefore, we must recognize all our privileges and embody the values throughout the process and ensure we represent our community members. We must be deeply involved with what our community members are sharing: thoughts, needs, recommendations, frustrations, and hopes.

In the spirit of transparency, these are some of the privileges from which I benefit: white skin, legalized US citizenship, middle class upbringing, perceived elite higher education.

Proposed Ideas:

I propose the following as ways to help ensure that the participation of the Leadership Council fulfills the values of Boston Creates:

  • Leadership Council members attend a certain number of Community Team events during the research process (example: if there are 200 Community Team events, attend 5)
  • Pair Leadership Council members with Community Teams. There are 60 Council members and 16 Teams, which results in 3-4 Council members per Team.
  • Plan one or two informal get-togethers over the summer for Council members to get to know each other more (not all of us already know each other) and include break out conversations around the themes and specific community feedback emerging from the on-going research.
  • Council members vet the survey that will be distributed to the community as one of the test groups (I participated as one of 20 community members who test the survey at the Town Hall) to experience what questions are being asked.
  • Social media: Create a hashtag for Council members to post about #BostonCreates and for folks to follow our personal opinions. Share our Twitter handles publicly and enable ways for us to connect across other social media among ourselves. If relationships among members and between members and the community are transparent and encouraged, the Boston Creates process can only benefit.
  • The application completed by all Council members to be part of the Council shared publicly so that community members can read more about our backgrounds and hopes for this process. As a document sent to the City for review, it is already part of the public domain.

Thank you again for your kind attention. I look forward to our conversation today and continued work over the next 12 months.

Warmly,

Loreto P. Ansaldo