Happy Latinx History Month: 3 Latinx Artists Students Should Know

It’s Latinx Heritage Month and (some) schools are honoring the contributions that Latinx people have had on our country and beyond. As one of my school’s administrators, I expect all teachers to expose our students to the histories of communities of color throughout the year. In addition, we celebrate the various heritage months, such as Latinx Heritage Month. This year, every class is spending the heritage months honoring the contributions of artists of color.**

Below, I have included three Latinx artists that I recommend teachers to expose their students to. I have not included Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera, because if I were teaching, my students would already know who these iconic figures are by this time of the year. In addition, it’s important to expand students’ database of famous people of color so that they understand that there are more than 1,2, or 3 famous people of color who have had remarkable accomplishments. The list I have included is simply the beginning…

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Autorretrato, 1952
  1. Rosa Rolanda. Rosa Rolanda was a Mexican-American artist who was born in Azusa, CA. A contemporary of Frida Kahlo, her paintings often feature children, images from folktales, and herself. Rosa was also a subject of many stunning photographs. One of the most recognizable photos, is by Edward Weston. The photograph was featured on an edition of the book Caramelo by Mexican-American writer, Sandra Cisneros.

 

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Rosa Rolanda, on the cover of Sandra Cisnero’s Caramelo.

 

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2.Jean Michel Basquiat.  Jean Michel Basquiat was half Puerto Rican and half Haitian and grew up in New York. His art- abstract, sometimes aggressive, and controversial-is attractive to children. The attraction, however, is not necessarily because they think it’s pretty. His art- some featuring dinosaurs, others featuring kings- is familiar to them. When I show his art to elementary children, it often brings up interesting questions around what constitutes art and what doesn’t. What makes art “pretty,” and what is art?

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I asked a second grader what was happening in this photo, and his response was: “Two Kings Fighting.”

 

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Favianna Rodriguez in front of one of her iconic Migrant Butterflies.

3. Favianna Rodriguez. Born, raised and currently living in Oakland, CA, Favianna Rodriguez is not only a local treasure, but she has made a name for herself as an art/activist. Favianna uses her skills to speak against and for the social issues she believes in. Favianna identifies  as an Afro-Peruvian and often uses the features of indigenous and African people in her art. Her work addresses racial justice, sex positivity, and immigration rights. Her Migration Butterflies have become iconic throughout the country and in Mexico, reminding people that migrating from place to place, country to country, is not only natural, but beautiful. Go to her tumblr page to view her art and learn about the work that she does for communities of color: http://favianna.tumblr.com/.

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One of my favorite posters that I have hanging in my office.

 

**We have a theme for each Heritage Month to avoid students only being exposed to the same “key players.” (As a fourth grade teacher, I noticed that the only leaders of color my students knew were Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez). By having a theme for each Heritage month, we’re ensuring that students are learning about different people and a different aspect of each marginalized group  every year, while bringing cohesiveness to all of the classes. Having the same theme for each heritage  also shows the connections that marginalized communities have with each other. 

Black Women… Beyonce’s Lemonade

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I just watched Lemonade, and before I can get into my first reactions to this musical film, I need to get one thing off my chest:

formation

Fuck Jay Z & fuck forgiveness.

Okay… now I can begin.

“Formation” marked a turn to Beyonce’s image and career. As she fearlessly proclaimed and reclaimed her Blackness, and stood up for the dignity of Black women and Black lives, she carved a new place for herself as an artist.

Two months later, she brings us Lemonade. A film. A musical. An album. An invitation into Beyonce’s most vulnerable self, and a love letter to Black women’s past, present and future, it’s both heartbreaking and beautiful. Visually, it’s breathtaking, lyrically it poetically justifies Beyonce as an artist who’s untouchable and constantly redefining herself. Lemonade transitions Beyonce from a sexy pop icon, to a deeply refined artist.

Before yesterday, we didn’t know what Lemonade was going to be. I don’t think any of us were prepared to have Jay Z’s infidelity confirmed and detailed in this visual album. Lemonade reveals the darker side to the Carter’s marriage. A marriage that has always been posed as sexy and powerful has been uncovered as deeply flawed, and, quite frankly, trope-ish . Even Beyonce, with all of her beauty and significance, hasn’t been able to escape the tradition of men stepping out on their wives over and over     again. Beyonce’s response to her pain is raw, complicated, and whether or not I approve of her “final warning,” it’s honest.

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But is this solely an album about Beyonce and Jay Z’s less than perfect marriage? It’s easy to get lost in the devastating details Beyonce lays out for us. Comparing  J to her daddy, recalling the various women she’s seen in her hallways, along with the sleepless nights waiting for him to come home or return her phone calls, we feel sad for Beyonce. Not because her vulnerabilities have exposed her weaknesses, but because they reveal something we’ve never truly seen from her: human pain.

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In the song, “Anger,”  we hear Malcolm X summing up the reality of Black women:

The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.
The most unprotected person in America is the black woman.
The most neglected person in America is the black woman.

While these powerful words most certainly can be directed to Jay Z’s treatment of Beyonce, it doesn’t stop there. Later in the album/film, we also see the Black mothers who have been disrespected by our judicial system. In “Resurrection,” women hold photos of Black men who have died. Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, Gwenn Carr, mother of Eric Garner, and Lezley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, are shown holding photographs of their murdered sons.  Their presence in the film is significant, because it brings to light the Black women who have often been forgotten and silenced in the midst of the Black Lives Matter Movement: the Black mothers.

In the forefront of infidelity, shameless behavior and the systemic mistreatment of Black women, we see the other women. Not the women J’s been creeping with, and not only the women who’ve been mistreated, but the women standing next to, behind, and before Beyonce. Black women– in all of our pretty shades of brown and beige– stand, sit, dance together.They hold hands with each other. They look out for each other. They hold each other. These women are from our past, these women are from our now, these women are our future. I find these women to be the lemonade made from the lemons of our realities.

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Getting Into Formation with EXTRA Black Beyonce

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I’m not part of the Beyhive. I’ve followed Beyonce since the “No, No, No”era, but haven’t praised every move she’s made. During this 19 year distant relationship, I’ve freely critiqued artistic choices she’s made along the way, while dancing my ass off to many of her songs (I used to clear the dance floor for “Crazy In Love.”) There have been moments (i.e. when she culturally appropriated herself into Coldplay’s music video) when I’ve wished she’d use her talent and her fame differently. And when I say differently, I mostly mean that I wish she’d called us to get into Formation a long time ago. But, I won’t sulk about how long it took her to get here. In fact, I think her timing of being unapologetically EXTRA Black (hot sauce bag, swag) and EXTRA proud (you mix that Negro with that Creole makes a Texas bama) is appropriate. We needed this.

Whatever the reason is behind her shying away from race politics in the past, I’m glad she showed up. My students look up to her, and so do many people of all ages. And whether it’s right or not, celebrities have the platform when it comes to naming what matters. They are the ones archiving our voices and concerns. In this video, Beyonce puts her stamp on many important things that matter, but have been ignored or mocked:

  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Black Lives
  • Police Brutality
  • Baby hairs & Afros
  • Long braids, colored wigs, and many other creative Black hairstyles
  • Cornbread(s) & collars greens

And, now, at the club, tons of Black women who’ve been hiding behind their Negroness- because that’s what we’ve been taught to do- will be proudly be shouting, “I like my Negro nose/ with Jackson Five nostrils,” and that’s fly. #BlackPower

 

What I’m Dancing To… Thanks Missy!

This blog was supposed to be a woman’s perspective on Hip Hop. I usually begin my, now, rare posts on Hip Hop with this sentence, to remind myself where ShesGottheMic began. It’s now morphed into many things since then– partly because of my boredom with the current state of Hip Hop, but mostly because my thoughts, which were once focused on the representations of women in Hip Hop, has shifted, and become more layered and complicated, to put it simply. But, there are still moments when a Hip Hop artist inspires me to geek out on the culture that defines much of my adolescence and college years, and I’m reminded why I wanted to start a blog that entirely focused on Hip Hop.

A couple of months ago, it was  Kendrick Lamar who inspired me to go back to my Hip Hop roots. This time, it’s Missy Elliot’s newest song, “WTF (Where They From)” featuring Pharrell Williams. While Kendrick’s, “Blacker the Berry” reminded me that one of Hip Hop’s most powerful tool is its ability to document the times and produce a message, Missy’s “WTF,” reminds us of Hip Hop’s roots– to make people dance and have fun.

Now that she’s back (we missed you Miiiisssyyyy!!!), she’s brought us a song that can’t be listened to sitting down (I’m listening to it right now as I type at a coffee shop, and my booty is definitely moving). And the video… Missy Magnificence! Aside from reminding us that she’s still got it on the dance floor (you make 44 look glorious), her Afrofuturism/ comic book-esque/ Roundtheway Gurl style remind us that her creative energy doesn’t stop at beat making, but is carried out into the details of her videos (I once read that the ideas of her music videos were replicas of dreams she had). And did you see the Missy and Pharrell marionettes?  Magic and creepiness at its finest.

Thank you Missy Misdemeanor for your  return!

Its been 7 years since you left us with one of your jams. I’m sure in that time, you’ve changed, I know that I’ve changed, but one thing remains the same. When I finish watching one of your videos, my only goal is to hit ‘da club.

Traveling While Black: A Few Words for New Mexico

It’s the last day of National Poetry Month, so I thought I’d share a poem I wrote in response to my my trip to New Mexico earlier this month. Nothin’ serious – just a painting of my own. 

The simple beauty of New Mexico

Woos me under the influence 

To pick up a brush and paint.

To experiment with blending desert and sun.
But I’m no visual artist

(Simply romantically involved

With others’ portraits and abstractions).

I

paint with words-

hidden deep between pages of journals,

sometimes,

exposed for the world

that chooses to read.