What do Activist Literacies Look Like?

Painting of a woman in cap and gown with the words "undocumented" and "unafraid" in the background.

“UndocuMary” by Alejandro Galeana

What do Activist Literacies look like?

By Alejandro Galeana

If I had to sum up my experience at the JoLLE conference in one word, it would have to be “Amazing.”  I learned so much about other people’s contributions to understanding Literacy.  In my opinion, a lot boils down to social justice and human communication, a passion of mine, and it was very inspiring to learn about the work of K.C. Nat Turner, Glynda Hull, and Christian Faltis.

I love Art and Activism. I am very aware of how pieces of art- visual, musical, and written- throughout time have been greatly influenced by political movements. Every time I join a rally, go to a march, or spread information about the undocumented movement with my groups, GUYA (Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance) and #Undocufiles on Twitter and Instagram, we include some kind of visual art. Recently, I was commissioned by one of my beloved teachers, Mr. Hicks, for a painting. I tried my best to use what he believed in and liked and what I saw in my own head, in order to paint him a piece he’d like. I’m pretty sure he loved it, as he would not stop talking about it all week afterwards and was not shy to show it off to the school.  It now hangs in his classroom.

It was truly an honor to meet Christian Faltis. Interacting with Chris and his paintings was inspiring.  What I really enjoyed about the paintings is how they depicted Undocumented Immigrants, and more specifically, Undocumented Latino lives in the US, the hardships and struggles one must face in a land that is not their own. I spoke with him for a good half hour about art and how he got his ideas for some of his paintings, and what I could do to better myself as an artist, too.

Painting

“Virgen del Barrio.” Oil painting. Christian Faltis, 2011.

My favorite painting displayed that night was one of a tattooed Virgin Mary, “Virgen del Barrio.” Visually it caught my eye whenever I walked around the room. The color was so vibrant against the black background, her tattoos were the element of the painting that really stuck out, her facial expression was edgy, hardcore in a sense, much different from the traditional Virgin Mary I have seen. I loved it.

I was happy to hear about Glynda Hull’s project in Oakland city and also other parts of the globe for children who are interested in understanding Literacy and language. She spoke of a rapper/ activist whose onstage name is Relixstylz. His music was very truthful and well produced with pictures that helped illustrate his message. She also showed us a track that one of her students recorded with lyrics; she rapped about her life and the similar experiences faced by other children her age and race in a poor town with gangs and violence and limited opportunities. It was all very inspiring and humbling, and it made me really think about how much easier I have it in some ways and how I should not take life for granted. It made me feel honored to be involved in my society just as they are and inspired me to do even more.

This is what Activist Literacies looks like to me.

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