Month: September 2013

4 Documentaries Every (Person) Educator Should Watch

Many activists and educators are demanding for a public school curriculum  that produces a critical and relevant education, especially for those students who have historically been marginalized within the school system. For those of us who are disrupting the systemic failings of public schools and challenging the normalization of pushing students of color out of a high school(/higher) education, it is important to look for every available resource that might develop a more inclusive and engaging environment for learning. Whether through mentorship, teaching, or expanding your own cultural consciousness the following documentary trailers should serve useful in your effort towards unpacking privilege and understanding the strict binary systems of race, gender, and sexual orientation that exist in (settler) society, as well as within the classroom.

1. Precious Knowledge

Truly a remarkable film about the end of the Mexican American Studies programs in Arizona. This film reveals how politics shape the classroom, how history and literature are not neutral subjects, and how students can become empowered through education.

2. Under the Bridge

Under the Bridge is a powerful documentary about the struggle for the creation of Chicano Park in San Diego, CA. Throughout are history lessons in the Chican@ Movement, decolonial practice, protest, and a revelation in the need for space in order for culture to thrive. Under the Bridge presents a beautiful lesson in using art as a decolonial methodology as Chican@s reclaimed land, placing artistic cultural symbols that laid claim to the stone pillars and walls that have been erected by colonization and capitalism.

3. Two Spirits

An extremely moving and sorrowful story about the horrific murder of Frank Martinez. However, the valuable lesson in Two Spirited people provides an interesting commentary on the false gender-binary established by colonization. One of the most important films in regards to the intersectionality of race and (trans)gender.

4. Miss Representation

Miss Representation should be seen by young women and men alike. It critiques the sexism and misogyny within the American patriarchy by critically examining the media’s role in consistently disseminating sexualized images of women. Kwame Appiah’s discussion of ascription comes to mind, as these limited scripts presented in media provide young women with limited views of their own future, not to mention the limited perspective that men have of women after constantly seeing women through sexist prism.

 

A Recipe Towards Decolonization

(Decolonization is the act of disrupting  the various systems of oppression and repression. It is the dismantling not only of the legal and physical barriers that limit colonized peoples, but also it is the radical process of removing those ideological and mental barricades that continue to colonize our thoughts. Mental decolonial praxis demands that individuals and whole groups of people participate in the reclamation of history and cultural traditions. It necessitates the disruption of historical and cultural colonization, which has displaced peoples from knowing their ancestry. This post is in honor of those who cry out, “¡Ya Basta!” as they seek the knowledge, wisdom, and practices of their elders.)

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“The recovery of the people is tied to the recovery of food, since food itself is medicine: not only for the body, but for the soul, for the spiritual connection to history, ancestors, and the land.”

-Winona La Duke

I recently stumbled upon  Luz Calvo and Catriona R. Esquibel’s  “Decolonize Your Diet,” on Mujeres Talk. They believe there is a need for radical decolonization in the way in which we think about food. According to Calvo and Esquibel,  “personal food choices…[are] political acts” and as such, we must “[r]esist cultural imperialism by reclaiming ancestral foods.” This is imperative due to the historically exploitative practices of the American agriculture industry, the cancerous chemicals that migrant farm workers are exposed to (many of which are  Mexican@), the reality of GMO’s and the diseases perpetuated by the American food industry, as well as the displacement of cultural knowledge by depending upon corporations for growing and supplying food. What’s more, Calvo and Esquibel problematize the argument that health is linked to income by stating:

there is one notable exception to the equation of poverty = poor health—public health scholars have found that recent immigrants from Mexico have very low rates of mortality, infant mortality, and illness compared to other groups. Public health scholars have dubbed this phenomenon “The Latino/a Paradox.”(1) Recent Latino/a immigrants, mainly from Mexico and Central America, have better health than Latinos and Latinas who were born in the US. The health of recent immigrants rivals the health of the [w]healthiest Americans!

This presents a rather perplexing issue within our health care system, as the United States views health through a capitalist lens wherein wealth equates to a healthier lifestyle as well as the ability to afford better health care. But what the above quote truly reveals is the way in which indigenous and decolonized diets work as preventive care. It also underscores how the Mexican@s/Chican@s/ Xican@s/Latin@s living in the United States have a larger chance of having health issues stemming from colonized food industries.

For instance, people of color are transformed into diabetics through the food industry in the United States, not through pure genetics. Ameliamontes.com has a pretty concise summary of Michael Montoya’s Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality.

This book is a phenomenal read that explores how diabetes is constructed through other factors rather than simple genetics.

This book is a phenomenal read that explores how diabetes is constructed through other factors rather than simple genetics.

Accordimg to Ameliamontes:

“Genes do not cause chronic disease,” Montoya writes.  “Genes in certain bodies under certain conditions contribute to disease susceptibility” (187).  This may explain why in a family of 3 children, two have diabetes and one will not develop the disease.  It is not simply about blood but about a number of other factors (diet, exercise, living conditions, etc.) having to do with societal and political constructions.

Montoya’s book which was just published (University of California Press) is an excellent study in how our society is creating a population highly susceptible to chronic disease– whether or not you are of Mexican or Indian descent!
Making the Mexican Diabetic provides excellent arguments that point towards decolonizing our diets for our own health, but also in understanding how colonization has clearly led to the creation of health problems in our people. By returning to diets that do not contain high-fructose corn syrup, GMO’s, and heavy pesticides (among other things) we can begin to unravel the dependence upon a food system that does not have health in mind. It is also the first step in reclaiming our peoples health by participating in traditional food preparation–a holistic approach to decolonizing our minds, bodies, and souls.
(if you’re interested check out the decolonize your diet Facebook page to try delicious and healthy decolonized food)

 

Fall Reads: 6 books to decolonize your mind

In that practice of striving to disrupt oppressive-repressive discourses and decolonize the mind, I’ve decided to post 6 books that changed my life–some of these are banned from being read by high school students in Arizona. I realize many of these are pretty much a no-brainer for those of us who are already attempting decolonial praxis in our daily struggle, but nevertheless I feel deeply indebted to these authors for impacting my life with their radical words, ideas, and their overall activist approach towards writing.

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Drink Cultura: Chicanismo by Jose Antonio Burciaga

This is probably the least difficult and fastest read on this list. Funny and informative, Burciaga’s autobiographical essays explain Chicanismo and Chicano identity through his eyes. This is important because too often we get history and stories told about us by the colonizer, so it’s always good to find books that explain through their own voice.

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Queer Latinidad: Identity Practices, Discursive Spaces by Juana Maria Rodriguez

Rodriguez complicates what ethnic/racial/gender/sexual identity is by analyzing how it is constructed in various social settings and how it is reinforced by these spaces, as well as how we maintain identit(ies) through performance. Her case studies are extremely informative and worth a read!

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Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968-1980 by Kimberly Springer

Inspirational work that details the inner-workings of Black Feminist Organizations. Springer lays out the rise and fall of these important groups, such as the Combahee River Collective. This book serves as a blueprint for organizing and is especially important to those of us interested in building coalition and consciousness raising groups to enact change within our communities.

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Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity by Chandra Mohanty

Mohanty is amazing! By combining feminism and decolonial theory we are given a third world feminism that challenges the hegemonic whiteness that is found within feminist thought. Essential decolonial reading for all–including men.

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Disrupting Savagism: Intersecting Chicana/o, Mexican Immigrant, and Native American Struggles for Self-Representation by Arturo Aldama

Aldama’s work broadens the understanding of Chicana/o identity, situating it within the context of indigenous experience. By beginning with the colonial power structure defining indigenous people’s as savage, either noble or fierce, we are given a deeper understanding of how conversations in the media today develop a binary of white superiority and Chicana/o inferiority. Aldama’s book is extremely refreshing when we consider how compartmentalized Chicana/o and Native American scholars/studies can be. Definitely worth reading if you’re interested in the intersection of Chicana/o and Indigenous identities, histories, and shared realities.

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Borderland/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua

Such an important foundational text on Chicana feminism and border studies. Anzaldua speaks to the experience of countless Chicanas and those of us living in-between society’s strictly defined boundaries of race, (trans)gender, and sexual orientation. If you haven’t read it yet all I can say is, “JUST READ IT!”