by The Sixth Sun Media Project
In Watts, California, police simply have bigger problems to deal with than artist-activists, community leaders, and students from George Washington University joining together to change the world one wall, one community, and one city at a time. And so, a barren alley provides an open setting for a collection of human beings to express their art without fear of prosecution.
In this first day of a week-long public art project collectively organized by members of the Sixth Sun as part of an ongoing, multidimensional campaign against the forces behind the anti-immigrant movement in the United States, a tiny alley in between 112th and 113th is transformed into a 30’x12’ concrete canvass that will embody an undying struggle for equality.
The morning begins with energy, as three young men study a wild graffiti piece on a wall. Hector says, “It’s got to go!” They each nod in agreement. A fresh coat of bloody magenta base is immediately used to cover an old burner done by an extraordinary LA-based graffiti writer.
Hector paces back and forth, persistent, focused; he is flooded with creativity. The sketch he produces reflects not just the primordial being symbolic in the Xicano idenity as members of a Raza Cosmica, but it is also a glimpse at the man Hector sees in the mirror everyday—that of a former gang member, of an active graffiti head, and of a father.
“Tuff,” Severino asserts. They all smile. Not another word.
The message rendered by this scraggly sketch is a metamorphosis, a coalescing of three faces: the first representing an ancestral identity; the middle depicting a mask stemming from the prison and gang connections associated with Xicano culture, with cracks that signify the active breaking of these stereotypes; the image at the center, an inner layer, depicting a modern man, a character that captures the spirit of history that illustrates how our present challenges exist as a continuation of a People’s struggle for liberation.
No color yet. No definition. Only lines.
Smiles and high fives pass between every individual present and even passers-by—an infectious sense of community that spreads through one of the most gang-ridden neighborhoods in South-Central Los Angeles.
At this moment they are all equals. They all see their faces on this wall. They all speak with equal importance.
Moments later, a blue van pulls up. Twelve students join with new energy; they have arrived from DC to support people and groups involved in community activism, youth advocacy, grassroots organizing, and other forms of public service.
Mario and Severino take “center stage” and offer an overview of both the cultural topography over which the project is being laid and the deeper relevance behind the theme “No Human Is Illegal.” They also describe and detail how white nationalism is behind much of the anti-immigrant movement in the United States today.
What could be an intense moment is then broken by laughter and the child-like spirit that seems to permeate the seemingly simple act of applying paint to a wall. “Doesn’t matter what you do, I’ll fix it,” states Hector, reassuring the students that there is no wrong way to express themselves. A frenzy of work ensues, creating the base of the mural.
Early the following morning the next phase of the project begins. Life is carved with every spray. Eight hours later, the stagnant base is transformed into images that express the journey of all immigrants across all borders. Four days of hard work is nothing when compared to the resonant qualities that this mere application of paint has and will continue to yield.
“It’s ready,” states Hector.
The familiar van pulls up, carrying some rather ecstatic looking students. The power of the human voice and laughter overtakes even the music being played. Wonderful conversations concerning change echo down this once dark alley, revealing the faith in what is surely to be an uphill struggle—but one worth undertaking.
Everyone dips their hand in some paint, and then personalizes the mural with a print in an effort to say, “I was here; I had a part in this moment of change.” The bond that was formed will last a lifetime for many of the participants. More so, the understanding that, no matter what, we are all brothers and sisters and, at the end, we are all humans is what will truly endure.
Find more pictures of “No Human is Illegal” and follow the Sixth Sun Media Project here on Facebook.
From Watts, California, another public art project by the Sixth Sun was launched against the anti-immigrant movement in the United States and in favor of global change. Dedicated to the human race, “No Human is Illegal” was painted in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. from the perspective of the Xicano Movement. By Hector Gardea with assistance from Severino Chavez, Rodolfo Campos, Arthur Argomaniz, Mario Rocha, and twelve students from the George Washington University’s Alternative Breaks Program (LA ’12), the mural came to life on MLK Day 2012. Special thanks to the Center for New Community and others fighting for the rights of all people and against the anti-immigrant Tanton Network. Deport Hate, Naturalize Love! “No Human is Illegal.”