As the fight
for LGBT equality rails on in Washington with Don't Ask Don't
Tell, and in California
with its Prop 8
trial, a group
of artists and activists in Los Angeles have taken it into their own
hands to move the California agenda forward. Taking the lead from the Manifest Hope campaign, which was largely spearheaded
by the work of Shepard
Fairy and his self
described art-pusher Yosi
Sergant, the Manifest Equality art exhibit is a much anticipated
"welcome home" for Sergant.
After his very
public separation from the National Endowment of the
Arts, Sergant only
that while his work on the campaign left him rejoicing, it also left
him feeling like he hadn't done enough to help the No on Prop 8 campaign
"Thugs Eat Ice Cream Too" by Patrick Martinez
Equality Gallery in Hollywood, set to run from Wednesday March 3
to Sunday March 7, certainly marks a shift. In
what used to be an old abandoned Big Lots, Sergant, along with his partners
in art-pushing Jennifer Gross and Apple Via, unveiled to the public
an array of art focused on a call-to-action aimed at changing
public perception towards political reform on a local, state and national
Alfaro, a Los Angeles
artist whose piece sold before opening night and who also showcased work
in DC for Manifest Hope, was compelled to submit a piece because of
a female friend who once confessed she didn't feel she belonged because
of her sexual orientation.
"No one should
be made to feel that way," Alfaro stated as he made the comparison
that the Latino community is facing similar struggles in efforts to
obtain comprehensive immigration reform, "There are people out there,
and in DC that want to make us feel different, when we are not - we
are all humans, we are all created equal."
If Los Angeles
is to set the stage for change, perhaps LAPD Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz, who attended as a guest and private
citizen, summed it up best, "I've been married for 33 years, if
a couple of guys or a couple of girls want to get married, how does
that in any way affect me? Asking simply to be treated like everyone
else - how can anyone argue against that?"
a human rights activist who was recently portrayed in the movie Milk
by Emile Hirsch, was amongst the speakers and invited guests of event
sponsors, the Courage Campaign for the special Tuesday private viewing.
a time in my life when I felt I could not go further" Jones began
telling the crowd of hundreds, "It was 1987 and almost everyone that
I knew was either dead or dying from HIV. My heart was filled with hatred
and fear and despair. Hatred for the straight world and the politicians
who were allowing HIV to kill relentlessly without responding, fear
for what was going to happen to me, and despair that the world would
never wake up in time to do anything about it all."
thoughts, Jones created the Aids
to celebrate, honor and remember the life of those who died of Aids.
As he recalled, in the late 1970's, he was young, white, and gay in the
Castro District of San Francisco, but through this art, the quilt reached
people all over the nation who longed to be connected as they mourned
their loved ones.
the exhilaration, passion and stage presence only a true organizer possesses,
Jones told the moving story of an African American woman in her late
cared for her son until his death from AIDS, and who alone, with her grief, took a Greyhound bus from Kentucky
to San Francisco to add a piece of cloth to the quilt.
my son," she said as she gripped a piece of cloth in her hands.
At Manifest Equality, these stories hang at every wall and every corner. Art spins
in the music, it's performed by artists, and it's retold through
activating the human memory and remembering the struggles for justice
and the lives it's claimed. From freedom rides, to sit-ins, to twitter
and facebook, organizing community is at the core.
is perhaps what the Obama Generation needs to reactivate a base that
Sergant was very much a part of.
were excited by the Obama campaign will get involved again; make calls,
knock on doors, register to vote, hold elected officials accountable"
reads a Facebook message from Unai
a community organizer and friend of Sergant's.
HOPE and CHANGE was not about one man, it was about our causes, our passions, and our belief that the American Dream is not dead. This nation is as much mine as yours, and my name, my skin color, my gender, my religion, my accent, my sexuality cannot subtract from this fact. Either there is equal protection under the law, and consenting adults can marry one another, serve openly in the military, visit one another in the hospital, and leave their worldly possessions to one another, or the Constitution is worth no more than it was when some were counted as three-fifths human.
is not just about art. It's about being civically engaged Americans
who have a direct say in the policy that affects our lives. It's about
accountability, progress and believing that America's future is brighter
than its past.
As Jones so
eloquently stated, "We are gay and straight together, we are fighting
for LGBT equality - but we stand as part of a broader, deeper, larger
struggle across this planet...for all of us."
Follow Wendy Carrillo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/wendycarrillo