I am a host facilitator for the San Antonio Intensive.How did you prepare for this week-long convening?
I began with ILI almost a year prior to the week-long convening during a retreat in Los Angeles with my co-facilitators, Lynette Two Bulls, Mehanaokala Hind, Nijeul Porter and Carrie Brunk. We met for the first time and took our first steps in establishing conocimiento, a value in Latinx communities that conveys knowledge—of each other and of self. Conocimiento is an important first step before conducting any endeavor—familial or social. Getting to know each other and where one is coming from allows for the work to be rooted in our journeys and stories, and out of that, the nuances and intentions of one another can be known and understood. After my fellow host facilitators conducted their Intensives in Lakota Territory and Hawaii, Carrie, Nijeul, the partners and fellows came together approximately 3 months prior to our San Antonio intensive to prepare and plan.
Since I was new to the ILI Family, it was important for me to try to understand all that had come before me before embarking on the design of the curriculum. This being the 2nd cohort, and everyone having worked or been together previously, I was a newbie and had a bit of a learning curve. The ILI Family, however, was very generous and collaborative. I believe in the value of the process and letting things unfold organically, but there is also the need to try to soak in as much information as possible so that I might contribute a strong framework to the continuum.
Conocimiento is an important first step before conducting any endeavor—familial or social.
There are three core values that are rooted in Latinx and Latin American communities and through which I live and work by:
- Conocimiento, (explained above)
- Convivencia: Co-existence, living together, building community; and
- Confianza: Mutual benefit, trust, the idea that I’m not good until you’re good.
Although I knew these values in my bones, having grown up in East Los Angeles, I first heard them explained in 2003 by Dr. Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, during my participation in the NALAC Leadership Institute. These were values built into our everyday lives, but to hear Dr. Ybarra-Frausto frame these social contracts was very powerful for me. I use them as part of my own personal values and approach, as well as in the work I do in arts and culture management.
Another value that was critical for me to aspire to was inclusion. As I approach it, inclusion is:
- The act of ensuring that everyone is brought along in the process, and
- The degree to which socially marginalized groups are empowered to participate fully in the decision-making processes of an organization or group.
From the very beginning, communicating with the amazing NALAC team, my co-facilitators, and the fellows was fueled by aspiring to bring everyone along. No process is perfect, but the intention and desired impact was clear from the very beginning.
My personal practice around inclusion isn’t perfect—I try to communicate honestly about my ongoing struggles with using ableist language like “crazy,” and using appropriate gender pronouns and gender-neutral language. I want to be a good ally to others, and I believe that part of being a good ally is owning my own imperfections and committing to doing better, which is what I do when I fumble.
How does the idea of “Interculturality” overlap with your work?
Interculturality has been an indelible part of me and my place in the world. What ILI is doing is so inspiring. Growing up in Los Angeles in what was a 99% Mexican American/Chicanx community, my mother always encouraged learning about and participating in diverse cultural practices in Los Angeles, which for me, included being exposed to Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl in kindergarten, learning and practicing the art of Hula as a young girl in a backyard dance studio, and riding the bus to Little Tokyo during Nisei week with my grandmother.
My work is centered on artists and the arts and culture ecosystem. The projects I undertake include community engagement in the arts; building cultures of strategic thinking within arts and culture organizations; and advancing best practices around cultural equity and inclusion in the arts. An underlying strategy in my work is empowering and placing artists in leadership roles for efforts both within the institution and outside of it. Because Los Angeles County has been ahead of the country in its diverse demographic make-up since the 1980s, interculturality is a practice that is central to our region—at least among artists. In my experience, artists’ projects and events have been the most consistent in successfully activating intercultural experiences and spaces. As an Arts Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles, this is one of the things about my city that I am very proud of.
SanAnto is a place that has a long history of indigenous, Mexican American and Chicanx resistance, which continues today. It is also a place of prolific creativity and artistry with so many amazing artists and artist-run spaces.
As Vice Chair of NALAC’s Board of Directors, I visit SanAnto (as Latinxs lovingly refer to San Antonio) often—it is truly a special place. Its Mexican, Mexican American, Chicanx and Latinx history and culture is deeply rooted and proudly felt. I remember my friend Manny Castillo (rest in power), founder of SanAnto Cultural Center, taking us around the Westside to all of the old school gente spots including the famous Conjunto spot, Lerma’s. It’s gone now, but he and Lerma’s remain close in my heart and memories.More broadly, SanAnto is a place that has a long history of indigenous, Mexican American and Chicanx resistance, which continues today. It is also a place of prolific creativity and artistry with so many amazing artists and artist-run spaces. There’s a reason why, until recently, Chicana writer and recipient of the National Medal of Arts, Sandra Cisneros chose San Antonio to build her house and live. Being so close to the border and the Rio Grande, SanAnto can make you feel sin fronteras, while at the same time rooted on one side of a geopolitical border. The power of the land, however, holds you in that tension and makes you feel like home. Interculturality can be like that.
I really wanted to have a conversation about what an intercultural framework and methodology might look like. We had an exercise with Partners and Fellows that asked them to conceptualize a visual representation of an intercultural model or structure, and then populate the model with a methodology. I had designed this session as part of the curriculum, and was inspired by ILI Fellow, Marshall Tramell during his Ignite Talk—a 4-minute presentation on the fellows work. Marshall had created an illustration based on African drum circle formations as an organizing principle. I adapted the session outline, invited Marshall to give a brief review of his approach and illustration, and had Partners and Fellows start there—with a visual representation of what their intercultural framework might look like. The results were thought provoking and reflective of what intercultural work is in its abstract form.My co-facilitator, Nijeul Porter, said something during one of our sessions that has really stayed with me, I think it was something like “…the importance of mining our own archival histories.” ILI Partners are such a gift to us. They are individuals who hold an enormous amount of history and experience, and they are an invaluable source of our archival histories. The ILI Fellows were mostly younger, under 40, individuals who I felt so in awe of because of their confidence, knowledge, and courage to speak out in solidarity with themselves and for each other. The Fellows represented the best of young leadership with a spirit of resistance and a much-needed articulation of the injustices that we face collectively. My grandmother had to hide her indigenous ceremonial practices, but I imagine if she and women like her had had the freedom to be who they were, and do what they wanted, without the threat of judgment or rejection, they would be what I saw and experienced from the Fellows during ILI San Antonio.