The image I chose is from the Casa de Unidad boxes at the Bentley Historical Library. First off, I just want to say that I kind of loved being at the Bentley, and it was the first time I felt like a "real" college student. Something about doing research and handling documents got me feeling all academic. I picked Casa de Unidad because of their affiliation with CLAVE, and therefore relevance to the interview Jasmine and I are doing with Mary Luevanos. I wanted to stay in the realm of arts education in Southwest Detroit because I thought it might be cool to get an idea of what kind of work goes on in the community. There were several images in the box that I looked at, but this one in particular really stuck out to me.
There was no information given on this photo in the actual archive, but it was surrounded by materials on some of Casa de Unidad’s arts outreach events, so I think it may depict the crowd outside of one of their festivals. What first stuck out to me was the juxtaposition between the vibrant pieces of art visible on the right of the photo and the fact that everyone is bundled up against the chilly Detroit weather. It made me happy to think of people willing to brave the cold as a community in order to celebrate art and culture, and it speaks to the importance of events like these in maintaining a sense of cultural pride and togetherness. I think that must have been what initially drew me to the image. I also immediately noticed how predominantly female the crowd is in this particular picture, and part of what made the image special for me was the fact that it captures a community of women in the arts, either as artists and creators, or as participants and appreciators. It is also refreshing to see so many different age groups represented in the picture. There are children, parents, teenagers, and old people who have all come together to celebrate a common culture, and it’s interesting to think of art’s capacity to make that happen. For me, it speaks to the power that art and expression can have as a tool not only for bringing people together, but for mobilizing them under a common cause or idea, and that helps me see the work of arts outreach workers and educators, especially those who work in or are part of marginalized communities, in a new light.
One other thing that is only somewhat represented in this image but is important to note is the role of cultural tradition in the art itself. In the tapestry-esque piece near the top of the photo, there is the faint image of the Virgen de Guadalupe, which was one of the first things my eye went to when looking at the picture, despite how faint it is. Just noticing that small detail helped get me thinking not only about art as a tool for bringing people together, but as a way to keep cultural values and traditions alive. Arts outreach groups like Casa de Unidad and CLAVE have the ability not only to foster a sense of community through art, but also to ensure that important cultural values and traditions are represented in the art they help put out there.
I watched the interview with Rose Marie Roybal, and it took 2 viewings and a couple of rewinds each time to really wrap my head around everything that was going on. I think that may just be the nature of oral histories, where tangents develop and inspiration strikes in a way that doesn’t necessarily provide a clean throughline to the interview and makes it hard to follow, but also develops ideas and stories in a way that might not have happened in a more formal setting. However, even with the kind of tangential nature of the interview, I kept having moments where what she was saying clicked in my brain with something I remembered reading or hearing about in class. The biggest thing that stood out for me from the interview was the role of education in upward mobility and social justice. Roybal talked a lot about her experiences with the GI Forum, a group that encouraged young Chicanos to stay in school and fought to make it easier for them to attain higher levels of education. She also recounted her days as a student, and being told time and again to study, get a good education, and work hard in order to have the life she wanted. This attitude in particular intrigued me because of the educational hardships that many Chicanos faced in public schools at the time.
In the documentary Chicano! they talked a lot about unsatisfactory educational conditions forced on many Latino students and the activism that arose around trying to fix it. However, Roybal didn’t really address this aspect of the educational system when she spoke about her experiences, which made me wonder whether different parts of the country differed in their approaches to education. She talked more about the young Latino men who came to her school and encouraged her to work hard in order to be successful. She said that they, in their suits and with their high-powered jobs, were an inspiration to her, and she went on to work with some of them on educational outreach when she got older. It seemed to me, from watching the interview, that education was a huge tool for disenfranchised youth to gain power, and I had no idea about the amount of stress that was put on educating people within communities in order to challenge the current social structure. From what Roybal said, they seem to have been working within the existing system and, as she put it, not trying to overthrow anything but gain success in an already established society.
While this seems like a much more effective way to gain ground for young Latinos, from what we have read both on Chicana feminism and on different civil rights movements of the time, subscribing to a system that automatically places you in a second class status is not going to help change the way society sees you. I think that, comparing more radical groups that sought to change the system so that all people had the same opportunities to groups that tried to advance themselves by adhering to the already established system winds up showing how limiting the system can be. In my own personal understanding of civil rights movements, the more successful fights that have actually changed people’s perceptions about marginalized groups as opposed to just easing the legal strain on them, have occurred by taking apart the existing system and examining how it oppresses certain people. This idea of working within the system also reflected itself in Roybal’s recollections of the GI Forum families and the traditional gender roles that played out within the organizations in which she worked. She recalls people having traditional, conservative values and the women being okay with simply being helpers. When compared to some of the more radical movements of the time, like the Brown Berets, it is interesting to note that many of these groups, though they did want to overthrow the system, adhered to the same gendered practices as some of the less extreme groups, which calls into question just how radical you can be if you still subscribe to established social norms like gender hierarchies.
Just on an unrelated production note, I found the shot to be a little too close in on Roybal, but it did help lend an air of intimacy to my experience of the interview, which is interesting to note when framing a shot. The sound quality did kind of bug me, since there was kind of a buzz in the background the whole time, but otherwise, very simple and direct choices were made in framing and lighting that I thought served the interview pretty well.