(Photo by Kenny Sheftl/ El Tecolote newspaper)
The Consulate General of Mexico is hosting the Numina Femenina project, which brings 35 artists and 4 curators from 10 countries, including local artists like musician Diana Gameros and painter Ana Teresa Fernández, together in one exhibit.
Working in a wide range of mediums, the artists represent Latinas from the United States and all across Latin America.
The project collaborated with Litquake and the Center for the Art of Translation to bring Mexican literary giants Carmen Boullosa and Pura López Colomé to give readings and lectures as a representation of Mexico’s contemporary literary tradition.
Boullosa, who currently lives in the U.S., is known as groundbreaking feminist author, and was once referred to by renowned Chilean poet and novelist Robert Bolaño as “Mexico’s best writer.”
“Everyday the world becomes smaller … I am a Mexican writer and I live in New York,” Boullosa said. “There’s a lot of back and forth. It’s a reality that we now all share. We are all driving on the same highway, artistically, intellectually. It’s not an easy road, so we work together. I love the idea of participating with other generations and other mediums.”
In a room abuzz with sounds of Spanish and English, filled with Mexican-American professionals in crisp dress suits, Nate Levine shared a childhood story of collecting coins for the poor.
His aim: To illustrate the concept of a tzedakah box and the Jewish tradition of charitable giving.
The event at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco was officially a Jewish leadership training conference, but it also was part of a broader effort to build ties with the Latino community, particularly Mexican-Americans. Finding common ground, on topics ranging from charity to immigration to social movements, emerged as a conference theme.
“We know that they are in this process of political empowerment. How can we share our experience?” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of the Latino and Latin American Institute of the American Jewish Committee, based in Washington, D.C. “This is part of a vision that we have to be closer partners.”
On Saturday Oct. 15 Idan Raichel and India Arie came to Oakland as part of the annual SF Jazz festival. They performed songs from their collaborative album “Open Door,” to be released in the spring of 2012.
Arie twisted and swiveled around the stage in a flouncy dress. Idan fed off of her hippie-dippy energy, even abandoning his piano bench for an electric bass during one song.
They sang together in English, Hebrew, and songs with mixed lyrics from both languages…
The songs were smooth and optimistic. They revealed a new flavor for Raichel, a refreshingly funky overtone.
Could we repair America’s broken criminal justice system and quit our addiction to industrial farming at the same time? Catherine Sneed thinks so.
Since 1992 the Garden Project have helped hundreds of ex-offenders and at-risk youth develop job skills, advance their education, and rise out of poverty. Through the project’s Earth Stewards program participants study basic horticulture, landscaping, and organic gardening. This hands-on learning is combined with classroom education that addresses their needs as individuals.“There is a lot of environmental work and repair that needs to be done. Work that people could do instead of sitting in jail and going to jail,” says Sneed, co-founder of San Francisco’s Garden Project, a project that empowers former offenders and at-risk youth through training and education urban gardening.
When the opinion editor of Israel’s Maariv newspaper, Ben-Dror Yemini, visited the San Francisco Bay Area earlier this year, he gave a lecture tour stretching from the campus of Stanford University to the network of Bay Area JCCs. He talked about the things he knows: Israel, the media and multiculturalism.
“The main problem that I recognize here is ignorance,” Yemini said from across a coffee table in his hotel in downtown San Francisco. He wore a crisp black suit and round, wire-framed glasses. “They don’t hate Israel or love Israel. They just don’t know.”
For all the noise and clout this pundit stirred up, Yemini was a compact morsel of opinion, a small, doughy man, with dark, curly hair and open, candid eyes. When we talked he had already begun to go hoarse as a result of his jam-packed lecture and presentation schedule. His voice was rough and wavering, at some points breaking in a whisper that rolled out covered in the gravel from the bottom of his throat. He leaned forward against his knees as he spoke.
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most covered conflict on earth,” Yemini said. “Not Darfur, Pakistan, Chechnya.” He referred to the conflict as the only conflict completely exposed to everyone. Yet he felt that there is a vast discrepancy between that widespread media image and the reality.
“There is a drive to portray Israel as the new South Africa,” Yemini said. “That image has nothing to do with reality.”
At one his lectures, Yemini asked the audience if they knew that the judge that sent former President of Israel Moshe Katsav to jail was an Arab. “No one knew. And do you know why you don’t know?” Yemini asked. “Because it’s a non-issue.”
“In Israel you can be a doctor, a lawyer, a judge, and you’re Arab. In South Africa there’s no way that a black judge would have sent the former president to jail. I’m not saying we are a perfect democracy,” Yemini said. “I do criticize Israel so much, me, myself. I’m against the settlements. Criticize the settlements and occupation, fair enough. But when you deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. […] Palestinians have the right for self determination but Jews have the same right. Two states, for two people,” Yemini said.
Yemini believes that the media sensationalizes the facts and ends up playing a negative role in the conflict. “They think that the process of demonization will help them, instead of putting pressure on both sides,” Yemini said. When focusing so intensely on Israel, the international media often falls into the age-old pattern of anti-Semitic rhetoric. “Single out the Jews and demonize them and create a danger to the world. Some don’t even realize that they are following the same pattern.”
And Yemini does not exclude Jews or Israelis from the ranks of those that demonize Israel. “Israeli media is left-wing in general. We help the demonization, not intentionally,” Yemini said.
He went on to say that international audiences hear the criticisms from Israelis like Gideon Levy and forget that they are all part of the democratic debate in Israel. “They see the statements but don’t know the context. The context proves the opposite of what you think the statement means,” Yemini said.
Yemini left a successful career practicing law in Israel to do what he does today, writing, speaking, publishing and fighting what he calls “the industry of lies.” “My research is comparative, looking at the big picture,” Yemini said. “What are the real facts? That’s my research. If you know the facts then do whatever you want.”
Yemini estimates that 12 million people in the Middle East have been killed since the creation of Israel, in conflicts among themselves that did not involve Israel. But it’s when Yemini gets to numbers about Israelis and Palestinians that the story gets complicated.
“In all the conflicts and wars and occupation and everything since the start of Israel there have been about 60,000 deaths related to Israel,” Yemini said. “Less than 8,000 Palestinians have been killed in the occupation, mostly combatants.”
Yemini still has other crucial numbers up his sleeve. For example, 76, the average life expectancy for an Arab living in Israel, an older age than the average man could expect to live in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon or Jordan. And 6 percent, the rate of illiteracy among Arabs living in Israel, compared to Jordan where it is 10.1 percent, Lebanon at 13.5 percent, Syria at 20.4 percent and Egypt, where Yemini estimates that 28.6 percent of the population is illiterate. Yemini said that he feels the acute focus on Israel as the cause of Palestinian’s suffering hinders reform and democracy within Palestine.
“You need to criticize from the inside,” he said. “To criticize the settlements does not delegitimize Israel. Israel is not exempt from criticism. I just don’t want double standards.”
I asked him how the Arabs living inside Israel would be able to acknowledge their Palestinian identity while living in a Jewish state.
“You can do both,” Yemini said. “People do it all the time here. You can be American, but you still have an Irish identity.”
My mind wandered to the conversations that I have had with Arabs living in Israel, where the topics of institutional discrimination and societal prejudice always reared their ugly heads.
But Yemini seemed to be on to something about the sovereignty of Israel as a Jewish state not being diametrically opposed to pluralism and multiculturalism. So I pushed him a little further. I asked him about the controversial Nakba law that has been causing such a ruckus.
“I don’t mind about celebrating the Nakba. Freedom of expression,” Yemini said. “But there is a huge difference between public money and freedom of speech.”
But what if exercising their right to free speech cost, for example, Arab educational organizations their access to government funding? Then they would have lost, quite literally, their right to free speech. I asked Yemini if Israeli citizens have the right to commemorate the Nakba. Yemini’s answers swayed back and forth, never landing squarely on either side of the debate. In one sentence, he would express the supreme importance of democratic principles, and in the next, whisper suspicion of any Israeli that would mourn their own state. In secret, he said, they might support terrorists.
Finally, in a high-pitched, cracking voice, an exasperated Yemini cried, “I don’t care, whatever you want! After peace, whatever you want.”
I asked Yemini if commemorating the Nakba would be different after a peace agreement is someday reached. He blinked at me for minute, answering my question with his appalled silence before he even spoke. “Of course,” he said.
With the international media grasping for scandal and the Arab Israeli fifth of Israel’s population still feeling underrepresented, ignored and ostracized, peace with those living beyond the green line still looks a long way away.
(Photo by Zohar Ron Photography)
Monday, Aug. 1 Israeli singer Ravid Kahalani and his nine-member blues band, Yemen Blues, rocked the Independent in San Francisco. Kahalani sings in both his native Hebrew and his family’s Yemeni dialect of Arabic, fusing jazz, Middle Eastern melodies and funky blues into one modern brew.
Watch Ravid Kahalani contribute percussion and backup vocals to the hit single “A Paris” by Francophile Israeli songstress Riff Cohen.
Photo by Leigh
Ramallah / Leigh Cuen for PNN - Armed with a box of black spray paint and a camera, Yousef Nijim and Faris Arouri are fighting for Palestine.
Arouri, a Ramallah native from a political family, helped found and now serves as chairperson of the Peace and Freedom Youth Forum. For the past two years he has also served as the spearhead and photographer for the Send a Message project.
In the beginning, Arouri used his arsenal of family friends and professional connections to get the word out about a collaborative experiment between the PFF and a Dutch NGO to use the Wall as a tool of nonviolent resistance. He spent hours every week calling different media outlets asking for press coverage – not of the armed resistance or settler violence – but of a few men spray painting on a wall. Two years later, international journalists are the ones hounding Arouri for an interview. His unique project has been featured by practically “every major media outlet,” said Arouri, including BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, and Time Magazine. “Media is contagious,” Arouri said. The “Send a Message” website is now receiving messages from across the globe. “We’ve got messages from Fiji,” he said. “We feel great.”
Adi Nes sways when he replies to someone, inclined towards the questioner with the smooth motion of a broken wave rolling forward. There is such an unassuming gentleness to his posture it’s hard to believe this Israeli, with his sleepy smile can count Elton John among the ranks of his patrons.
He is one of the most widely acclaimed Jewish photographers alive today. Nes has photographed iconic images such as his untitled tribute to Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” featuring Israeli soldiers at the dinner table. His works are showcased in museums across the globe, including solo exhibitions at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco in 2004 and yet another solo exhibition in San Francisco at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in 2009.
His pictures capture the scenes of sensitive masculinity that are rarely depicted in art, but are omnipresent in life: brokenness, hopefulness, the vulnerable, loving, and cooperative natures of fatherhood and friendship. These softer aspects never seem to conflict with Nes’ portrayals of dominance, rivalry, violence, and strength. To the contrary, he breathes humanity and complexity into images of Jewish men, surfing the edges between these stark contrasts. On Feb. 1 Nes returned to the Bay Area to talk about his work at JCCs and Hillels from Palo Alto to San Francisco.
After swallowing the last of his pastry, Nes said that his works focus on creations and crises of male identity instead of the familiar images of confident, fully formed masculinity. Whether recreating scenes of ancient myths with Sephardic youth or biblical stories through depictions of urban poverty, his series always utilize a thematic grounding in shared history and spiritualism to investigate contemporary societal issues. Despite the historical inspiration for his work, Nes admitted, “Exploring masculinity is a new and trendy thing.”
(Photo by Leigh of altar in the De Young Museum’s Dia De Los Muertos exhibit,
A young woman grimaced, gesturing to the glittering fuchsia and black false lashes adorning her eyelids. “The first hour it was tickling the top,” she complained. Her human features were unrecognizable beneath the painted skeleton slathered across her skin. She wore a voluminous wedding dress and carried a bouquet of black, shriveled flowers smothered in glitter. “I can’t stand it!” She made a bursting motion with her fingers to illustrate the sensation to the woman standing beside her. The listener’s face was half painted black and bone-white. “..but now,” the skeleton-bride shrugged, “It’s okay.”
The Dia de los Muertos fashion show at Encantada Fine Arts Gallery on Valencia Street was about to begin. November 2nd, Dia de los Muertos, is the Latin@ holiday for celebrating death with symbiotic gaiety and reverence. “It is an indigenous tradition where we honor those who have gone before us,” said Roberto Hernandez, who studied Mexican traditions in Mundo Maya, Mexico and often leads community ceremonies in the Mission district. He wore all white, from his tennis shoes to the white bandana tied beneath his white fedora. The one exception in his pallid ensemble were his numerous dangling necklaces, including a strand of little black skulls.
The CARENCEN Tattoo Removal program was founded in 1998 to address the needs of the Mission’s at-risk youth seeking to move past the negative associations that their tattoos chained them to.
“We don’t turn our backs on people that are willing to change,” said Lizbett Calleros, the program’s coordinator.
Calleros estimates that about 25 percent of the tattoo removal program’s participants are at the lower end of their target-age bracket——only 12 or 13 years old. “When they come in that young its been mandated and they’re already in the system,” Henriquez said, adding that young people who get gang tattoos are often motivated by loneliness or fear and unintentionally put themselves in serious danger both from gang violence and public suspicion.
“The negative stereotypes of tattoos have endless repercussions,” said Calleros. “Racial profiling becomes a cycle. There are a lot of situations in which not having a visible tattoo could be your saving grace. You might not have gotten arrested or you might not have gotten jumped or shot.”
More than 60 student protestors occupied the plaza outside Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office in downtown San Francisco on May 20 to show their support for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which is in danger of lying dormant for yet another year as comprehensive immigration reform takes a backseat to mid-term election politics.
(Photo courtesy of Robert Retana/ El Tecolote newspaper)
Forty-seven-year-old Robert Retana is the only openly gay Latino candidate campaigning this year to become a judge of the San Francisco Superior Court. There are a handful of weighty names and organizations endorsing his campaign, including State Senator Leland Ye, District 9 Supervisor David Campos, and the La Raza Lawyers Association, of which Retana is a former Board member.
This Los Angeles native got his first job as a lawyer working for the Heller, Ehrman law firm in San Francisco after graduating from UC Berkley Law School in 1990. His work there included the successful defense of a Puerto Rican family in the Crocker Amazon neighborhood of San Francisco who were the victims of hate crimes committed by a neighbor. Since then Retana has worked representing both plaintiffs and defendants in civil litigation, including the noteworthy case where Retana represented Dolores Huerta and several other Bay Area artists, protecting the rights of the artists who have created Mission neighborhood landmarks such as the murals on the Women’s Building and the Cesar Chavez Elementary School. During his campaign Retana has tended to rely heavily on his ethnicity and sexual orientation as pivotal qualifications for the position. This diversity-factor may in fact hold some legitimacy considering his substantial involvement in the Bay Area’s Latino-community and his work on the first same-sex domestic abuse cases to be prosecuted by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. However, neither Retana nor the general media have specified why he was overlooked by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appointment secretary in his bid for a gubernatorial appointment to the bench the 2007. Does Retana have what it takes to be an upstanding Judge of the San Francisco Superior Court? Read his Q&A and see for yourself.
(Photos by El Tecolote newspaper/ Leigh)
Galeria de La Raza has provided a venue for Latino and Chicano artists to promote a dialogue of tolerance and social justice for 40 years.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Mission’s own Galería de la Raza located at the corner of 24th and Bryant Streets. Sandwiched in between summer and fall, the Galería declared Sept. 24 through Nov. 21 its “anniversary season.” This celebratory season is peppered with public events and concerts, commemorative exhibits, series of lectures and forums with Latino artists in a variety of fields ranging from literature, to digital and visual arts, and even the release of the gallery’s 40th Anniversary print portfolio. Their custom portfolio includes works by internationally recognized artists such as Rupert Garcia, Enrique Chagoya, Julio Cesar Morales, Ana Teresa Fernandez and Shizu Saldamando.
The Galería was born from a legacy of art activism that began in Latin America and has continued to play a key role in the development of Chicano arts and culture in San Francisco. “This place started because Latino artists didn’t have a place to exhibit their work,” said Carolina Ponce de León, executive director of La Galería for the past 12 years. “It was by Latino artists for Latino artists. It wasn’t even on the radar for the mainstream.” Before the western art world caught Frida-fever, for example, the Galería was hosting exhibits featuring and honoring Frida Kahlo as far back as 1978, and then again in 1987. “Those two Frida exhibitions put Frida on the map here,” said Ponce de León. Two years ago San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art even dedicated a portion of their Frida Kahlo exhibit to the Galería, acknowledging the salient role that it played in San Francisco, bringing recognition and respect to the works of Latino artists.
(cartoon/El Tecolote newspaper)
Earlier this month the federal Senate Judiciary Committee opted not to consider Senator Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) until after the midterm elections. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties nonprofit group, responded to the news by posting an article titled, “Victory: Internet Censorship Bill is Delayed, For Now.” The COICA bill, which the article referred to as “dangerously flawed,” would allow the Attorney General and the federal Department of Justice to require domain registries to block users from accessing certain websites. It would also allow the Department of Justice to blacklist domain names without judicial review that are “dedicated to infringing activities.”
“COICA would make the net non-neutral, by treating Internet traffic differently,” said Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The Internet allows anyone with a good idea — whether that is a new product or a new political theory or a new short film or something else entirely — to have an audience of millions,” she said. “This is a wonderful development.Without a neutral Internet, this wonderful transformative tool becomes much less useful.”
But what is a “neutral Internet?”