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Equality is important and everyone deserves the biggest slice of it. The color of your skin is not an indicator of the quality of person you are. Your sexual preference is not an indicator of the quality of person you are and your gender is not an indicator of the quality of person you are. Our culture and experiences are the foundations that make us into who we are and it’s important to make others feel like their experiences matter. Art Y Pan Dulce, an art show based out of the DFW area, inhibits and supports those aspects; focusing on the POC community, as well as women, trans and queer. Show coordinators, Mariah Garza and Susana Edith, discuss why we need shows like Art Y Pan Dulce and what it’s done for the community.

WHEN DID THE IDEA FOR ART Y PAN DULCE ARISE?

Maria: “Well, I had another art show and then me and my friend Susana, we were talking about having another art show because she was the first one I had. We were like ‘oh we should have conchas or something there.’ Susana came up with the name. We mostly thought that it was really dumb that there were never really people of color in art spaces when most of Dallas is like Hispanics or people of color in general.”

Susana: “Mariah had hosted a show probably a few months before I came up with the idea for Art Y Pan Dulce. It was a QWOC show, so it was just for women and the queer community to actually be involved in something like that. She was more involved in the art show community before I was and invited me to the show to spit some poetry. I liked the idea and I liked what she did. We had a conversation about how there was a lack of platforms for women of color, for queer people of color, for the POC community in general. I had this zine, Lucha Dallas, and I presented the idea to her earlier about having art shows where I can also help promote it. She was on board with helping me since it was my first show. I thought, if I put on these art shows and provide a space for communities to come together to showcase their work, I think everyone would get behind it. I talked to Mariah since I was in New York; she helped me do the legwork, like go look at the space since I couldn’t be there. As far as the name goes, I remember I told my mom ‘I really wish I had some pan dulce right now’ because it’s not the same New York. You don’t get it fresh like you would in Texas. I started thinking ‘you know what I’ve been seeing a lot of lately? These conchas, like that image, has been extremely prominent now, especially in the feminist movement amongst Latinas. It’s like the whole idea of the concha and being a chingona. So I was like why don’t we make it Art Y Pan Dulce, like we can give away conchas for free. Everybody loves conchas and everybody likes art! So that’s basically how the name came to be and how the whole show came to be.”

HOW DID YOU GUYS GO ABOUT SECURING THE BEST SPACE?

M: “Susana knows someone who has a bakery and we were gonna do it at his bakery, but it was pretty small. She was living up in New York at the time, she moved back and forth a lot and she told me ‘oh there’s this place called the Meet Shop you should check it out. It’s this new place that just opened you should see if it’s a good size and everything.’ I went and it was really cool. They had a library full of Chicanx literature and they had a bunch of Chicanx decorations everywhere and Ofelia, the lady that owns it, was super nice. There was a really big backyard and we just looked at it and thought it would be a good place because she’s all about safe spaces.”

S: “An elder of mine who worked with mecha, a student-run organization when she was younger, told me about Ofelia and what she was trying to do with space. She introduced me to her and Mariah checked the location out, since I was in New York. We chose this over other locations because it was run by a mujer and the energy of the venue was good. We wanted to be able to help a DIY space as much as they helped us by providing the space. I think Ofelia has seen a lot of traffic since then.”

The significance of this art show is to give these communities recognition they aren’t usually granted. We’ve seen this often and perhaps even more within the current administration; the POC, trans, and queer communities are usually portrayed in a negatively skewed way.

SO, HOW HAS THE ADMINISTRATION MADE YOU FEEL OVERALL?

M: “Really tired. I’m just tired of hearing about all of it like I know that’s bad but I’m just sick of it. Every time I hear Trump’s voice I turn it off like I don’t need any of this right now. It’s just really exhausting. For a while I kind of felt like a sense of giving up, kind of…. like we did all this stuff and it didn’t do anything, but I don’t know, I guess now it just means we have to keep trying harder.”

S: “As far as this administration I don’t think it’s anything new, I think it’s just more ‘in your face.’ Government wise and administration wise I think everything is pretty much the same. It’s not like I’m excited about the administration and the stuff Trump is trying pass, but I am excited at the potential the community has, due to this administration. I think being an activist and being part of a grassroots organization, we’ve seen more people expressing genuine concern and wanting to sign up and be involved in things. So I think, in that aspect, it’s pretty good because we have more people actually waking themselves up and wanting to know what’s happening and wanting to do something about it.”

WHAT ARE YOU FIGHTING FOR?

M: “Mostly racial and gender equality…. For a really long time I considered myself a “woman”, I think, then when I started exploring my gender more I realized I was queer. That made it even worse, and harder; to have all these people talk down on you all the time. And I don’t know, especially back when gay marriage wasn’t a thing; it’s just weird to see something that was ‘you’ and other people weren’t being accepting. You know it’s something you can’t change, same thing with people of color, like you didn’t do anything so I don’t know why people are so angry that you’re ‘something’ they’re not.”

S: “ Labor rights are one big thing, and not just that, but immigration issues. My family and I have been through various immigration issues so it’s been a big aspect of my life since moving here. Also women’s rights. I’m not just talking women’s rights like how women are viewed in society but also how we are viewed within our own culture; like the Latino culture and dealing with machismo. Mostly I want to fight against injustices because even if it’s not directly affecting me, it’s going to affect someone I know. The quote by Martin Luther King Jr ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ is basically what I keep in mind all the time. If it’s not affecting me it’s going to affect someone I know. If they don’t have access to fight against it and I do, I feel like it’s my responsibility, as a decent human, to fight and use my privilege to be able to better their situation.”

“It’s not like I’m excited for the administration and the stuff Trump is trying pass, but I am excited at the potential the community has, due to this administration … we’ve seen more people expressing genuine concern and wanting to sign up and be involved in thing … we have more people actually waking themselves up and wanting to know what’s happening and wanting to do something about it.”

CAN YOU SHARE WHY YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT FOR MARGINALIZED AND OPPRESSED GROUPS TO HAVE THIS ART SHOW WHERE THEY CAN FREELY EXPRESS THEMSELVES?

M: “It’s just like white bodies and white art is filling all the available art spaces. I feel like a lot of art for people of color is based on what they go through and has a lot of their culture mixed into it. Like a lot of people there [Art Y Pan Dulce] have a lot of Latinx based art that they make and it’s really nice. I feel like they should have a platform, so I give them that.”

S: “People want to use a culture and wear it and consume it, but they don’t actually want the cost of having to recognize the work it takes to be able to put it on. I think this show definitely brings something to the community. It allows you to be in contact with the artists, talk to them, and be like ‘hey why did you paint this? What in your world is causing you to reflect this in your artwork?’ It’s opening a conversation for the community that needs to happen. That’s why it’s important to have this show; to open up that discussion and also let these artists know ‘you’re important too! You’re just as important as any other artist and you need a space to feel comfortable enough to be able to show that.’ ”

Even as event coordinators, the two still find the time to incorporate their own creative works into the show. Susana is in charge of curating the zine, Lucha Dallas, which connects a spectrum of different activist communities and puts them all together in one publication. The zine is intended as a platform for these groups to share their ideas and experiences amongst other groups, hoping to bring awareness of issues going on within each community. Mariah takes photos of her friends, which usually include people of the POC and queer communities, as well as events going on around the area. Her inspiration is sparked by capturing her friends in their element, totally free and enjoying themselves.

WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?

M: “Mostly just to make people who feel like they’re not welcome in art spaces to have a place for them to show off their art with people who are like them. There isn’t really a place for them to get together and that’s how I felt. When I asked people to be in the show and they were agreeing, it was really cool. Whenever we got there it was insane, there was like so many brown people there and it was really crazy cause we all had really similar art and everyone was enjoying all of it. I’m really white passing so I feel like I have to use my privilege somehow and I can use it by building this platform for everyone to get together.”

S: “I have a privilege and I have a voice, so I should do something. I don’t have a privilege in every aspect, like the immigration issue for example, me being documented, that’s me having a privilege. I have a lot of friends and family that are affected by the policies Trump is trying to pass. They would be out there fighting, but some of them are too scared you know? For those people that can’t, I feel like it’s my duty to do it for them. It might be a cultural thing, I know growing up community was really big for me so I just feel like if my community helped raise me and make me this person I am, I have a duty to fight back for them.”

HOW DO YOU THINK MILLENNIALS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

M: “I think a lot of people, like millennials, are really into making change. If you saw the Bernie rallies, it was a bunch of really young people. And I feel like the women’s march, there was a lot of millennials there. If only they put that effort of going to that one march into going to not only other marches for other causes but just getting together, cause there’s a lot of us. A lot of people label us as really lazy, but I feel like if we just get together and try, we can make a change. I guess it’s kind of hard to talk to older people about what they believe in, cause they’re kind of set in their mind, not that they can’t change but it’s harder. So I feel like talking to people our age is easier. Since we can relate to each other easier, maybe we can help change each other’s minds and work together better? I mean, we’re gonna be the people that are in all the offices soon, so I guess just paying attention to what’s happening because a lot of people my age don’t.”

S: “I definitely think, we as millennials in the United States are the least involved in politics. Like if we compare each other with people from different countries, everyone is pretty well informed and everyone knows what’s going on and wants to fight. I don’t know if it’s because we have so much media and distractions from what’s going on; to keep us from being like ‘hey this genuinely matters and I should do something.’ If you’re not a marginalized person maybe recognize ‘hey I have these privileges, what can I do to help my friends or family members.’ Know what you skills are because there’s definitely a spot for you somewhere. If you can’t find it, you should hit me up because I will help you find it. I will give you a job and I will give you a role. Everybody has a role, they just have to figure it out.”

As the days pass, new policies continue to be introduced; and it’s pretty certain each one of those policies makes at least one person want to slam their head against a wall.

WHAT KIND OF AMERICA WILL MAKE YOU FEEL PATRIOTIC AGAIN?

M: “One that isn’t racist, homophobic, anti-immigration or anti-refugee. I mean, I think it’s really fucked up people are being oppressed and violently attacked and killed for being who they are. Like, a few days ago in my neighborhood a gay couple got their rainbow flag outside their house was torn down and set on fire. They were really minding their own business like everyone else, but they were targeted for no reason. The same things with racist attacks. People are literally being killed for not being straight white Christians. Which makes no sense, because apparently we’re supposed to be the country with most freedom, including religious freedom and freedom to marry whoever you’d like.”

S: “If we could get rid of the immigration issue, not only for Latinos, but also for the black community, the Muslim community, any immigrant in general. The class system is another thing, if we didn’t live in such a class-based society. Women’s reproductive rights is another like if the government could just leave me the f**k alone and let me do what I want to do with my body, that would be awesome as well. Those are the most important things to me right now.”

ANY ADVICE TO GIVE FOR THOSE THAT MAY FEEL TIMID OR WEARY IF THEY WANNA MAKE A CHANGE BUT DON’T KNOW HOW?

M: “The only way is to start by educating yourself! If there aren’t any organizations in your area, you can’t take it to the streets for whatever reason (whether it be work, physical or mental disability, etc.) reading and feeding your mind is always a good idea. Start by changing yourself and the ways you think, then you can work on changing the people around you and your communities. You can also watch movies or a documentary like 13th is really big and recent. Reading Marx and Angela Davis are my suggestions, to be honest. There’s a lot of places that need volunteering and if you can’t do that then there’s always calling representatives and telling them to stop being shitty! You just have to find something you’re really passionate about.”

S: “Start with yourself. Figure out what it is you’re good at, what things you can change within yourself. You can’t ask the world to change if you can’t look at what problematic behaviors you have. That’s where it starts. If you need advice, maybe surround yourself with people that are more involved? So they can kind of show you the way. I know there are a lot of events. You can look online, I know there’s a lot of community forums going on and training to help you become an activist.”

There’s a fight to be fought, and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that we can make change. We’ve done it before and we can damn sure do it again. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in all that’s going on; there may be times where you feel like giving up. That’s what makes all of this so worth it. You wanna change something? DO IT. You have the power and fight within you to do something great. If you don’t like the way something is happening, there IS something you can do to change it! This isn’t going to happen overnight, but there’s no better feeling than knowing you are not alone in this fight.

The biggest issue humans face is accepting the fear of the unknown. We think we can prevent evil and injustices by creating cookie cutter versions of what is good and what isn’t. You can’t put a physical description on what a bad person looks like. For all we know, it could be the sweet old lady across the street, the grocery store clerk who always greets you with a smile, or you know maybe an authoritative figure that claims to be the leader of this country…

___

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This story was printed in the DAWN issue.
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