Students Collaborate with La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in Student Activism Exhibit
By Carla Juarez, Development Assistant
“Ain’t no power like the power to the people, cause the power don’t stop!”
"Say What? Can’t Hear you! "
With signs that read, “No Human is Illegal,” “Right to Education, Right to Dream,” and “Viva DACA,” Jasmine prepares herself to be seen and heard because, as she recounts, she had an important message that people should know. When asked who needs to know, she responds with a determined look, “Everyone.”
Jasmine is among a group of HOLA’s Visual Arts students, who feel it is their duty to speak up against inequalities they see affecting their community. The Westlake and Rampart District is one of the nation’s most densely populated neighborhoods with less than 14% holding a Bachelor’s degree. A predominantly Hispanic and immigrant community, social issues such as the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) have been a looming threat for those in the neighborhood. These students, therefore, felt compelled to lend their voice to the DREAMers, a targeted group who now face deportation. Despite the challenges students see daily, their community remains resilient, with a thriving culture, energy, and kinship. At MacArthur Park, located just a few blocks from HOLA’s campus, you can find ongoing soccer league matches, local citizens exercising in the early morning, food and local vendors selling alongside the park’s Alvarado strip, and children playing after-school.
Despite their young age -most of them in middle or early high school- these students knew they had power in speaking up, and the Visual Arts program at HOLA gave them a platform to do so. Working with HOLA teachers, Pearl C Hsuing, Raul Baltazar and Dusty Tailor, the students designed posters to use in a protest performance that took place in MacArthur Park. With messages of support, resilience, and action, the students were able to design a performance that was unifying and powerful to their community. They supported each other along the process. On the day of the protest, Jasmine walked to the front and started engaging both her peers and passersby in the park. She observes that certain parents are overwhelmed by the conversation around DACA and will usually push it to the side, but on that day, she reached out to the parents. She recalls talking to a couple of families about the message of resistance and hope, and receiving appreciation, agreement and solidarity in return.
Ahyleen, a middle school student, remembers car after car honking in support of their protest. As they moved through MacArthur Park, they chanted “Ain’t no power like the power to the people, cause the power to the people don’t stop!” They climbed benches. They thumped and shook their instruments. They shouted proudly what they felt needed to be said to those DREAMers and their families living in uncertainty. Ahyleen, a smart and spunky girl, recounted that day, still with a smile on her face, “It’s important to show I care even though I’m not going through it,” she says. This tradition of solidarity and protest harks back to the 1968 East L.A. Walkouts, where students demanded for the right to education, fair treatment, and better school conditions.
The protest art by HOLA Visual Arts students is now on view at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes as the institution presents ¡Ya Basta! The East L.A. Walkouts and the Power of Protest, a retrospective which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the East Los Angeles walkouts. Because the exhibition brings to the forefront this important moment in the history of civil rights to a new generation of students, the partnership with HOLA can highlight recent student activism and the longer history of Latinx protest. Hopefully, the striking images will inspire intergenerational conversations about the past, present, and future of Latinx activism.
¡Ya Basta! The East L.A. Walkouts and the Power of Protest runs through Jan. 14 at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, 501 N. Main St. or lapca.org.