Mission United Por Vida: Hard French’s ¡Miercoles Gigante! @ El Río (8/19)
The power of one image has defined this entire summer on 24th Street and likely will for many to come, temporal as it may be. When Manuel Paul’s Por Vida was unveiled on June 13th, not only did it provide the perfect bookend to Amy Martínez, Vero Majano and Kari Orvik’s Q-Sides, but almost instantaneously became as iconic as more permanent neighbourhood works, such as the recently restored Golden Dreams of the Mission. The imagery of both struck a nerve so deep inside and resonated so much with people that it seemed to herald a Pride season unprecedented in showcasing the queer POC community so often sidelined from the mainstream and being quickly eclipsed in it’s own city. But as those of us who swelled with elation at recognizing our stories and ourselves brought to living colour, it inspired fear in others, as all truths often do.
Social media has become the new white sheet in it’s ability to provide those who live in fear, self-loathing and terror the ability to slander, intimidate, and try to silence that which doesn’t fall in line with their manufactured narrative. As Golden Dreams was having new life breathed into it, Por Vida was being repeatedly destroyed by paint, threats and fire.
Behind all of this, the Galería de la Raza, custodians of so much of the Mission’s cultural soul and heritage stood steadfast in its mission, to give voice to the people, la raza, to shine light on the experience of not just some, but all. In the weeks after the first vandalism, they bore the brunt from all sides. Leering threats under cover of night, discrediting from trolls and the like, vandalism, arson and finally, the insinuation from the landlord and some tenants from the building in which they are housed, that, as victims of violence have so often heard before, they brought this on themselves. Could they just close? Not make waves? According to them, the vigils and calls to action had essentially ignited the mural on their own.
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Like the true curators of the Latino/Chicano art experience that they are, they hosted a forum in late July to provide a dialogue, a space where the impact of the installations could be discussed, to even allow the works’ virulent critics a chance to air their discontent. Predictably none of them showed, but many did, including Paul, as well as local community activists and artists such as Nancy Pili, Juan Fuentes, Joanna Bermudez- Hernández, Kookie Gonzáles, Luciano Sagustume, and Joey Terell.
Unlike the contrived, patriarchal, disingenuous image of who and what the Mission was that was trying to be, broadcast by a few on the likes of Facebook, the true narrative bubbled to the surface of who we were are and where we come from. The history of the Gallería and it’s early showcase of queer Chicano artists; it’s roots from the nurturing help of our gente in Los Angeles; and the recollections of so many queer tíos, tías, primos, mother and fathers who raised and fostered so many for decades in the Mission (and also the memory of how many we lost because of ostracism and division)- all this came in glaring contradiction to the accusations and threats; the lie that the queer experience was not part of the Mission’s collective history; that these were the handiwork of outsiders and culture vultures.
Fire is a devastating force, but always after, there begins new growth. The cowardly scorching of this work has galvanized the Mission anew in strength not unlike that of the loving abrazote they wanted so desperately to delete. That embrace that triggered painful recognition of their own buried desires has only soldered our links to each other.
This Wednesday night, as Hard French has more estrellas than there are in heaven descend upon the iconic El Río, we are uniting in our numbers to save our friends on the brink, the Galería de la Raza, as they have often and continue to save us from a future where our history, culture and heart are forgotten.
¡Miercoles Gigante! A San Francisco Nightlife Fundraiser for Galería de la Raza
Wednesday, August 19, 2015 @ 9:00 p.m.
El Río…..your dive!
3158 Mission Street (@ Precita)
[Outer Mission/ Bernal Heights]
$7- $20 (sliding scale)