Symbols of Solidarity
Updated: Oct 1, 2020
Duwamish Territory, September 18th 2020
Chile Woke on the Jimi Hendrix 50th Anniversary and the
African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center:
A Message of Support and Solidarity.
"They're hoping soon my kind will drop and die But I'm gonna wave my freak flag high, high”
If six was nine, Jimi Hendrix
This September 18th marks the Jimi Hendrix 50th Anniversary Memorial organized by his niece Tina Hendrix at Jimi Hendrix Park. The celebration is slated, to begin with the Peace and Love March for Equity from Garfield High School, cohosted with King County Equity Now: a symbolic gesture to bring Jimi back home to the Central District, to reclaim and promote his legacy as a pillar of the community and Africatown culture. Not only has the momentum gained by the Black Lives Matter movement pushed this effort forward, but also the return of the African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center outside the former Colman School, adjacent to the Jimi Hendrix Park, reclaiming the building they previously occupied in the mid 80’s to late 90’s in an effort to uplift the community and especially the youth by providing a much needed cultural space. The AAHM&CC returned to its place on Juneteenth this year led by Omari Tahir and Earl Debnam, who have sustained this struggle from its beginning. Throughout the summer, the Museum’s presence has evolved, featuring now an edible garden, a free library, Earl Debnam’s painting studio and gallery and diverse cultural activities. Chile Woke is now working in partnership with the AAHM&CC in order to present an open air art exhibition on September 29th: Symbols of Solidarity. This collaboration compels us to send out this message to the community on this very significant date.
For the readers that do not know us, Chile Woke is a women powered project based in Seattle, a curatorial platform promoting the work of artists and photographers developing projects related to the social and political crisis happening in Chile since October 18th 2019. We are two Chilean feminist art workers finding a way to serve the cause of social justice and respect for human rights through bonds of international solidarity. This past July, we presented the exhibition The Uprise of Chilean Graphics and Street Photography at the Volunteer Park Amphitheater, an effort to bring art to the public beyond the closure of museums and galleries caused by the pandemic.
Coming from Santiago, September 18th holds a strong historic weight for us. Even though the Independence of Chile was declared officially on February 12th 1818, Chilean history has agreed that on September 18th 1810 the independence process began, as that day the criollos (sons of Spanish colonizers) established an autonomous government. But as we continue to examine through the history of our young Republic, we realize this day stands for the beginning of a patriarchal, settler colonial state that continued what the Spanish Empire had just begun. The State of Chile has since put all its efforts on violently occupying native land: from Wallmapu, Mapuche territory that extended over both sides of the Andes and was attacked almost simultaneously by Chilean and Argentinian armies; then the very south of the continent, where borders were open for European settlers to take over Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, causing the genocide and destruction of the way of life of Kawésqar, Yámana, Selknam and Tehuelche peoples. In this same colonial spirit, the northernmost regions of Chile were incorporated as sovereign territory after the War of the Pacific, fought against Peru and Bolivia over nitrate rich coastal regions, the Atacama Desert and the Andes, all indigenous land disputed mercilessly among the young greedy settler states. The State of Chile has constructed its structures of oppression through the systematic disrespect and denial of native peoples, as well as political repression and violence against their leaders and communities. Our museums and history textbooks speak of our indigenous peoples as if they did not exist any more, while the media spreads narratives that criminalize their cause and leaders. Those textbooks that we grew up with would also deny the presence of members of the African diaspora, though since the XVII century they came to be 25% of the population in northern cities like La Serena, while their population was less numerous in the south. As art workers and activists, we oppose celebrating a settler state and we take this opportunity to intentionally change the sense of this September 18th.
We believe art becomes particularly relevant in situations of crisis and social turmoil, especially when combined with a generalized disbelief in political parties and representatives. Art has the power to express a collective emotion, and to call upon the public to engage in a reflexive exchange. It has the power to put things into reality that were not there before, imagining and shaping the future. And it also has the capacity to go beyond the limits of other fields of knowledge and serve as a fertile ground for untold stories and histories to emerge. Thus our work has been inspired by different museotopías, a concept created by the Peruvian curator Gustavo Buntinx bringing together the words museum and utopia to talk about different museum related works of art that have emerged in Peru since the 80’s, inspired by the long absence of a museum dedicated to Contemporary Art in Lima. Museotopías address the representation spaces lacked by their communities and work on providing that space symbolically, even in the most precarious and ephemeral conditions, telling the stories that we are otherwise being denied.
The struggle of the AAHM&CC connects with museotopías in its insistent effort to give the community the cultural space it deserves to uplift their own narratives. Cultural space that should not compete with affordable housing, where the youth can gather and find multiple means of expression, where they can see themselves represented in all their difference and uniqueness, taking pride of the African American heritage and culture, that has been so long overlooked. That is also why it is so important to bring Jimi back alongside this Museum, since the traces of his legacy in the city have not been kept, even his family has been displaced out of Africatown and his community keeps being underserved.
Today, September 18th, we stand in solidarity and respect with the Hendrix Family, whose loss is felt by all of us who’ve been inspired by Jimi’s visionary talent, and we also stand in gratitude for the beautiful work done through the Hendrix Music Academy to preserve his legacy as a member of the community who’s spirit keeps uplifting the youth. We stand in solidarity with the AAHM&CC on the fight for cultural investment in community, and on their struggle for reclaiming this institution and its elders’ rightful place. We stand for Indigenous, Black, Brown, Immigrant lives: for our truths to be heard and our flags to wave high.