In this talk on Open Line Media News with hip hop activist Davey D, Jeff Chang, Jeff Biggers and Favianna Rodriguez wax philosophical about the nexus between culture and politics. Chang, Biggers and Rodriguez have all made their mark as creative workers, authors, artists, critics and historians, sometimes all of the above. Here, they relate their experiences in the trenches of the immigrant rights movement–Biggers’s expose on the dirty politics of Arizona’s nativism, Rodriguez and Chang tapping into street art and hip hop culture to sharpen youths’ political perspectives.
They also speak frankly about the limitations of conventional organizing, as well as the emerging prospects for new models of seeding and fostering creative change. At one point in the conversation they challenge the hegemony of the punditocracy, recognizing that even prominent liberals in the news media fall into the same trap of gravitating toward powerful figures. Unfortunately, while it may be good for satire, smacking down the political establishment can’t replace the heavy lifting of activism–going to the grassroots and thinking critically and openly about how to reach out to new communities and forge new coalitions.
In the immigrant rights movement in particular, there’s a dynamic tension–though not necessarily a trade off–between working through the mainstream channels (like lobbying for the DREAM Act, or urging reporters to “drop the I-Word“) and changing the game on the ground by building new institutions, new avenues of public protest, and pursuing ground-up resistance (see: an Occupy encampment, going undercover in a detention center, or a grassroots alternative university, or straight-up taking off in a renegade pro-migrant caravan). CultureStrike operates at that cusp between the aesthetic and the political, and whether it’s through books, workshops, murals or performance art, we’re always learning about how to make rebellion a beautiful thing.