[Author's Note: This letter was originally written at 4.00am the first day after #OccupySLU had their meetings. I could'nt have done it without the incredible work of many people around the web who made LiveStreams, UStreams or Vined/Tweeted/YouTubed/Instagramed about it... and it was scribbled on, so I had to kinda organize my ideas. Could've done it earlier if it wasn't for that pesky habit of, you know, working to pay some bills. Special s/out to @TefPoe, @AntonioFerguson, @BellaEiko and @krissmissed: you people are a continued flow of good vibes.]
Bogotá, Colombia, SOUTHAM.
October 14th of 2014
REF: What’s happening on your Campus is incredible and I want to share with you why.
To Whom It May Concern:
#FergusonOctober to me is a lot of things. It can look like a handful to you. Yet in those things, I’ve seen patterns, frecuencies, intensities and vibrations… and it all adds up to “it doesn’t have to be a drag”. A little bitterness makes tea great, and understanding how geometry works heavy lifting can be done in a snap.
That’s the way I feel about this, there are some conclussions about this whole ordeal I can make. So I’ll sum them up as best as I can.
#FergusonOctober gifted me to an incredible view of how the tipping point has been reached. I still feel overwhelmed about is magnificence and power: when people were being arrested in the civil desobedience acts standing in the rain for +4hrs30mnts, clergymen and women were singing about love and hope. When people were marching through St. Louis in droves with their ID’s in their hands, they were talking about BEING more than LOOKS; can you remember the last time you were more focused on being rather than looking like you were something?
Seeing how poorly the St. Louis PD, the POTUS and the Mass Media handled this and how well Streamers, Viners, Instagramers and Tweeters handled the multiple on-the-ground faces of a single event and allowed it to grow and wrap itself around many people not present there in the flesh made me realize how much people can take for granted -specially inmigrants in more industrialized countries that develop a buyer frenzy first and foremost- the use of electronic devices for empowered communicating. And how via those devices we can actually BE, not LOOK LIKE. I. Got. Hooked. On this little fact.
Watching the arrests made my heart sink at times. Why? Basically, open fear about the in-costudy aggression, the manipulation and posible abuse of the people in jail. Yet I know that’s the way sometimes things have to work for lies to be unmasked. I steeled myself and kept in touch.
I knew this was my way of doing the right thing.
But… maybe you are wondering why someone from Colombia, SouthAmerica, is writing this to you, students, hoping to reach you and maybe also some Faculty Members and ocassional let’s-give-a-seminar people at the SLU.
Well, you see, my country has a cultural and economic affair with the U.S. that looks like a reeeeeally toxic/passionate relation. What you decide in your country resource-wise affects us deeply, and I do believe you won’t find a more devoted country to U.S. policies and culture in South America than Colombia, despite the fact that this love doesn’t seem to come back around healthily. (Let me be clear I’m not talking about drugs here, I need you to get that out of this letter ASAP, I’m talking about all the other things people do, regular, working, loving people. Back to the mike.)
It’s more than just the international socio-economic-politic affair the thing that moved me to write. My country is one of the MOST DIVERSE PLACES in the whole world. For being a lightweight in size and influence, we have so much diversity (in terms of race/ecology/geography/culinary costums, et al) that you’d think we are five countries that just happened to be one. And so, in a moment in which in my country we’re talking about achieving peace and starting a healing process as well as a huge unfolding and developing of our talents, which is supposedly to happen in my lifetime, I tend to look for -since I live in such a bubbly melting pot- what influences I’ve gathered that have made some parts of who I am… in order to know which I choose to engage and how to contribute in my lifetime. And do whatever it takes. In stride.
So! Imagine my surprise when I am bathed in this warm, strong, bright and fierce yet sweet flame lit in Ferguson&SLU.
I may be naive to some, but I do believe if white people realizes the size of their influence (a de facto blessing only due to skin color), they can go a long way helping more than themselves, and in their own lifetime be witness and craftsman of an incredible world. And seeing/reading/hearing the #FergusonOctober/#OccupySLU questions (sophomore+seniors+others), I’ve seen that a lot of q’s that the caucasian/middle-high class people on my own country have:
WHAT CONCRET ACTION CAN WE TAKE TO MAKE THINGS CHANGE?
Oooh, so glad you asked! Thought of a few. I hope you’ll feel one of them.
1. DEFEND NET NEUTRALITY IN EVERYTHING RELATED TO #FERGUSONOCTOBER/#OCCUPYSLU CONTENT:
If you can code, you can help protecting the accounts from spyware/spybots/malware/rootkits et al in every page of streams and archives that are happening around this movement. And that’s just one of the things that need to happen. Remember something: the streams/others are all you and me got. It’s no small thing that there has been happening a defeaning silence in hope that things will go away, or that a smokescreen has been projected in order to make people fear and lose it’s focus (#Ebola scare, anyone?). It’s no small feature, then, to help keep any kind of rocks from blocking the stream.
This event, as the #OccupyHK events, should teach you a lot about the relevance of a free content-access world via internet: it’s not anymore about “Formative Years vs the Real World”, it’s about how rooted on the ground your actions are. Dystopian things sound cool, but baby, the comic book characters that live in that world could tell you that things really suck: do you want to live any longer in a world that has such a need-to-know-need-to-pay-basis that can mess up ad libitum the most intimate aspects of life?
Me thinks not.
2. EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT HOW AFRICAN-AMERICANS HAVE HELPED THE GROWTH&DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR CHOSEN MAJOR/STRONGEST CAREER OPTION (STARTING TODAY):
Soak yourself in it. Take your time, but take the dive. And then make small videos about it, or puppets, or economic proposals. Go crazy, let your interest in one aspect of the many contributions take your heart, mind and body places you’d never have the guts to go. And then, share it! :D
The more of your peers know of the willingness or forced participation on it of African-Americans, a whole new universe with less internal gaps can open up to them and clearer, more mature decisions can be made (this ranges from the ballot box, to NGO’s, to bringing out to the light shady/violent things or inefficient+harmful procedures in a company, to joining that amazing start-up that you’ve called ‘hippy dumbasses’ before). And, most books you read about your career path and responsabilities? They do are kinda one sided in this aspect.
If you are learning, make it worth your while!
3. CONNECT WITH GROUPS RELATED TO CRAFTING THINGS FROM RECYCLED MATERIALS AND URBAN LANDSCAPING:
May sound confusing, but stick with me here.
You will be surprised on how making your own things to represent the beauty, anger, fear, hope, any emotion of this birthing inside of you and around you will affect yourself and the people around you. Political Correctness tend to start cracking when you make with your hands something that says “hey, world, this is how I perceived it, can you see it’s beauty too?”. Because connections are made. Because purpouse via what we can make with our own hands goes a long, looong way. And because only when you learn to recycle the things that are discarded you can start to imagine how objectifying *reallly* works.
You’ve been told that the world is yours for using and discarding. You cannot understand how that relates to people until you’ve seen first hand what that all-consuming ambition can do to your own place of living in a physical reality.
Some last thoughts about why it’s important that you know the people that lives, so to say, next to you and your kin.
Colombia and Brazil are the two countries in South America most influenced by African Culture (Yoruba culture gave us so many gifts it’s amazing, for example). Our roots and love, whether we like it or not, appreciate it or not, are intertwined with it. Even if you are not dark skinned, there is no such thing as a Latinoamerican country without some african influence! So keep it in mind when you act like Latinos are some weird 17th dimensional alien to this struggle with no voice or relation to this.
It’s in our blood. It’s in our rythm. Many of us work actively -like Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls found out- so this heritage can thrive. And many of us rejoice that it gives us potential to rise.
We’re watching and scribbling furiously as things go: and we’re not going away. So remember, SLU people, you are part of a WHOLE CONTINENT and by acting local effectively, you also inspire and connect internationally.
From the bottom of my hands&heart, I deeply, deeply thank you for your time reading this. I hope that you understand that even if you laugh your ass off in the face of others, laughter can’t stop a hurricane from lifting your ass up. And if you want to live in a future in which you will not be judged by the color of your skin, it starts with you today. As simple, corny and cliché as it may sound, is a verifiable truth no amount of jargon can deny.
And please: if you feel like it, do a fact check about all I’ve said here. I don’t want to be another piece of hype. :)
I wanted to save my name for last. My name is Felipe Parra, I work trying to make things reasonable in the Art&Design Department with a small book publisher, and I draw/paint/make a mess most of the time. And if I touched your hearts or something, know this: I’m sending you people, part of a country that hosts some of the people that I’ve loved and admire the most, a huge hug, a fistbump, a peck or a nod. Maybe I won’t ever know you, but I do send appreciation.
In short: I’m sending you my sincere strength and love.