Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Story of a Show: Olmeca in Seattle

Back in August 26th, 2013, the world renowned underground revolutionary artist from LA, Olmeca, touched down in Seattle. He was joined on stage with Sista Hailstorm, Julie C, and Poesia (who also did this flyer artwork to the right) for an intimate show. If you missed it, which you probably did due to that fact that this show was largely overlooked by the Hip Hop community in Seattle, there is video below. But my aim in this narrative is not to guilt you for not coming. Actually, I want to share an important back story to how this event even came about. For me, organizers of the event, and for the author of the narrative below, the beginning of this story started on a rainy night down at Westlake at the dawn of Occupy Seattle, traveled across the imaginary lines we call 'borders' south to Chiapas, the heart of the Zapatista movement, and back up before landing at South Side Commons in Columbia City. I first met Tabs, aka Isolina, one organizer of this event, on one of those early Occupy nights. Actually, the first time I saw her, she was getting arrested by the SPD for sitting on the ground. She became one of the powerful voices advocating the decolonization framework for Occupy, and a big supporter of Hip Hop Occupies to Decolonize early in the game while we were still battling the doubtful for a voice in the movement. I talk a lot about the importance of art and culture in movement, revolution, change. It is, to me, a fundamental aspect of humanity, and thus just as fundamental in inspiring, galvanizing, and organizing the masses, beyond just "a tool of outreach". So I guess, take the story below as a case study, and remember, it's always bigger than Hip Hop. Here it goes, in her words:

"When I reflect back on the journey we took in December 2012, I can hardly believe that was part of my life. It was a shared experience with four other female bodied people. A shared experience, that was potent, eye opening, and an affirmation that our ancestors are with us holding our hands, holding us up, and guiding us through a very tricky world.  We are on a path and we do not know where it will take us.

Much earlier that year a group of folks that had organized a myriad of actions and events, amidst the craziness and hostility that was Occupy Seattle.  That is where it really started.  When our paths crossed and the direction of our lives would move in ways we couldn’t have forseen. We discussed the need for International Solidarity, to share our experience and to listen with an open heart to the experiences of those across imaginary lines, without the misrepresentation of “the media”.  We wanted real stories and we are a group that acknowledges the liberation of all, is through Decolonization.  This was a topic we explored together, most of us people of color, but some of us not. We were learning and searching in our own hearts, and I know this globalized system is not for us, never was, and never will be.

Our intentions grew clear, we sought living examples of autonomy, that were not tendency based. Personally the “autonomy” exercised in the Seattle Anarchist scene was a joke to me. It was just that, a scene, instead of a healthy thriving community. There was no focus on how to build outside of the system, merely romanticizing burning down the system.  Romantic ideas of revolt, but as we know romance can fade.  They so wanted Seattle to be Greece or Spain, but with clouds always hovering close, it’s hard to rile up a crowd here.  
For me, it is all about what you do, more than what you say, because talk is very cheap and it is rare to see talk turned into action that benefits the community and not the individual.  Everyone wants to be down with the black n’ brown struggle, but the practice from many tendency’s, is alienating to those from those communities.  I don’t need someone to tell me about my oppression.  I live it, every day, so thanks but no thanks.  That is not helpful to me.  By the way I don’t consider myself an activist and I don’t claim a tendency. I’m just a human being that is after the truth and I want to live a real life, not just survive in a system.  And I’m down to work, that’s why my focus is growing organic localized food, in the city! Food Autonomy, taking government and corporations out of the food system and focusing on community based gardens that exist on every city side strip of grass. Talk about un-seemingly subversive.  Healthy food is a human right, not a commodity.  A body deprived of good nutrition has the side effect of a lack of will, hmmmm interesting. More Prozac please.  

As the months and meetings went on it boiled down to five people going to Chiapas, Mexico. Our intention was to see autonomy as a living, breathing, working way of life. Not just a theory in a book.  We wanted to learn how to incorporate autonomy within the city and within what we do in our communities.  We were able to stay at La Universidad de la Tierra (the university of the earth), an autonomous university open and free to those that want to learn. A university that acquired land through a donation, the school has everything that it needs to be sustainable on the campus. Everything!  And it is all made with beauty. We were welcomed there with open arms and curious looks.  The university works closely with the Zapatista communities and we were humbled to be able to experience and see what we did.  And we were able to do this because of ARMA, a group from L.A. that organizes brigada’s a couple of times a year to Zapatista communities. Our friend Olmeca was crucial to make our journey happen. He prepped us and helped us and without his good words for us, we would have not been able to have gone. For this we were indebted to him and we wanted to hold him up by organizing a hip-hop show in Seattle. We also wanted to meet him, as only one person in our group had met him before.  We put together our humble show, we don’t have a background in organizing music shows, and we wanted it to be accessible monetarily as well as different age groups.  As Julie C put it, it was a potent group of folks that showed up.  We are sure there will be more shows, as Olmeca created a very special and heartfelt show, and he has a lot to share.

Our group is into building lasting relationships and global community,  whether it be on the West Coast of the U.S. or across the imaginary lines called borders.  We are in a time of darkness in humanity and personally I’m interested in the light that will come after, but it will take work, it will take time, and for it to be healthy change, it takes communities and ego-less solidarity.  We do this for the kids, for the elders, for the communities, and for the ancestors guiding us towards a life of dignity, honesty, and respect. Together we Decolonize.
- Isolina"

Footage from the show:

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