Albuquerque Cultural Conference

Day 1 of the conference

Run to Phoenix-button

There was a lot of excitement in the air at the Harwood yesterday. Highlights for me included hearing Roberto Rodriguez talk about running with his students from Tucson to Phoenix in 115 degree weather to protest HB 2281, which bans ethnic studies in Arizona. This run inspired others, called barrio runs, that activists – adults and youth – have used to raise awareness about issues such as obesity and domestic violence. Roberto also shared a poster with an image that will stay with me for a long time. It shows a brown child being checked with a metal detector for weapons by a white police officer before a Tucson Unified School District board meeting. The officer is bending way over because the child he is frisking is so small.

It was interesting to hear panelists’ experiences over the decades with living near and crossing the border and how much it has changed. A tension presented itself between the desire to dissolve borders and the need to keep and respect them. A lot of the people who were talking about the situation in Tucson and the militarization of the Mexican-American border seemed to feel like the borders they come up against are artificial, legal constructs that are used as a strategy for oppression and dehumanization. Native panelists and participants, however, urged everyone to remember that borders are imperative for Native people struggling to keep their land, and that the law is a vital tool in the struggle. Panelist Antonia Darder in “Building a Culture of Resistance”  spoke to how critical this type of conversation is to the process of empowerment for oppressed people. She referred to Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and the relationship between action, reflection and dialogue. In particular, she reminded us that context is essential, and urged us to ask ourselves how we inadvertently forget the struggles of oppressed people. Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz reminded panelists and audience members to keep in mind the native context, and she suggested that the next conference focus on native issue.

It’s Sunday morning and people are starting to arrive for Day 2. Can Tucson happen here? To quote Sofia Martinez, it already has…

-Bronson Elliott

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