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Fighting Back with Our Art: A Letter to the New Administration

Rally On Steps Of California State Capitol Protests Passage Of Prop 8. | Photo: Max Whittaker / Stringer
Rally On Steps Of California State Capitol Protests Passage Of Prop 8. | Photo: Max Whittaker / Stringer

The following commentary is one in a series from KCET and Link TV writers and contributors reflecting on how the incoming president will shape, change, and redefine the future of California.
 

Dear members of the new administration,

This American wants you to know that I will not put up with your shenanigans. 

This gay Arab American Muslim man wants you to know that I will not be categorized nor classified nor put on any list to be watched by you. My power cannot and will not be threatened by the likes of you.

This queer artist of color wants you to know that LGBTQ artists will not be silent. For every law that you try to repeal, laws which we have fought and died for, laws that protect our rights, you can be certain that we will respond and we will make noise. For every new law that you try to pass down, laws that try to infringe and take away rights that we have, you can be certain that we will respond and we will make noise.

If new judicial appointees have the audacity to threaten the legality of our same sex marriages, then you can expect us to fight back with our art. If the new vice president continues to advocate for "conversion therapy" for our LGBTQ teens, then you can expect us to fight back with our art. If congressional leaders choose to deny us citizens access to affordable healthcare, putting our health at risk, especially those of us living with HIV, then you can expect us to fight back with our art.

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If you manipulate the laws in a way that sends even more people of color to jail, and by extension, more of us queer and trans people of color to jail, placing us at even greater risk of violent crimes being enacted against us, then you can expect us to fight back with our art. If you continue to put more money into building prisons rather than building schools, then we will fight back with the art we create inside those prisons.

For those of us on the outside, we will take to the streets. We will engage in radical street performance. We will create queer art in the most public of forums for everyone to witness. 

We will call upon the work of our most radical muses and be inspired by them. We will call forth the spirit of Brazilian theater artist and educator Augusto Boal, for example. We will take his "Theatre of the Oppressed" techniques and use them to inspire those of us who feel disenfranchised and marginalized to take action. Through participatory performance, we will share strategies to combat the oppression we face in our daily lives. Together, we will rehearse for the revolution. We will identify who our allies are, who our oppressors are, and we will work together to become agents of change. No matter what brutal rupture goes down, we will have the tools we need and we will be ready to fight for our liberation.

We will also be inspired by the work of ACT UP, the group most responsible for mobilization around AIDS in this country. While the government turned a blind eye to the growing AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, and while LGBTQ people were dying by the thousands, ACT UP's public demonstrations brought the AIDS crisis to the attention of the national media. As a result of ACT UP's radical street performances, featuring dramatic limp bodies and powerful melodic chants, more attention was given to AIDS research and people living with HIV/AIDS were given access to FDA-approved life-saving drugs.

AIDS protest in front of the White House. ACT UP activists stage a die-in on the lawn in front of the Capitol building.  | Photo: Jeffrey Markowitz/Sygma via Getty Images
AIDS protest in front of the White House. ACT UP activists stage a die-in on the lawn in front of the Capitol building. | Photo: Jeffrey Markowitz/Sygma via Getty Images

You will continue to see us stage dramatic performances in public spaces. You will see us occupy Wall Street again, and march on the steps of the Supreme Court again, and gather by the millions in the mall in Washington again. You will watch our queer bodies demonstrate and you will hear our queer voices chant. You will listen to our stories and you will hear our messages, and we will repeat them until you can no longer drown out the sound.

We will create art to honor those we have lost and those we will continue to lose in the struggle. We will erect bold and striking sculptures in town and city squares to celebrate the heroes who have led the charge. We will paint rich murals on cracked facades of government buildings in memory of those who have perished. We will make powerful music and we will create soulful dances and we will write beautiful words in tribute to those who have sacrificed everything in the battle towards justice.

I want you to know that we will not be afraid. We will not give in to the culture of fear that you have created. The hate-mongering that you have been feeding on will not get you what you want. 

You will not achieve success.

You will never be able to keep us apart from our greatness.

We will never let you keep us from working our magic, from seizing our power. 

We'll see you every step of the way these next four years. Watch your back.


Sincerely yours,

Ramy Eletreby
 

 

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