Tag Archives: iran

art and activism: a review of “signs of change,” exhibit ongoing at carnegie mellon university

dear readers,

i was just in pittsburgh, pa, where i saw the steelers win and where i laid eyes on an amazing graphic art and activism exhibit called, “signs of change.” keeping reading for a review of the exhibit and to check out pics of the rare movement posters currently on view at miller gallery (carnegie mellon university).

alcatraz and AIM

signs of change exhibit: AIM take-over of alcatraz, "supplies needed."

opening quote #1: frederico, of the argentinian stencil crew “run don’t walk,” takes us to school on why we need to engage in arts-based activism. “when you are in the streets all day, you see an invasion of the city by these ads,” he says. “when you paint in the streets you are taking the streets back, making the city yours.

sovereignty at home and abroad

vietnam and aztlan: solidarity

opening quote #2: professor singh brings us home with, “these gorgeous expressions of rage by torchbearer creators are not taught in our schools. ” (both quotes are excerpted from a book review i wrote for wire tap magazine and the nation, read the whole piece: here. )

young lords poster

young lords: health, food, housing, education

what is the exhibit, “signs of change,” about: “signs of change: social movement cultures 1960’s to now.” the description on the program reads, “hundreds of posters, photographs, moving images, audio clips, and ephemera bring to life over forty years of activism, political protest, and campaigns for social justice.”

opening poster

signs of change exhibit: opening poster

where is the exhibit now: miller gallery, carnegie mellon university (till march 8, 2009). it was at exit art in nyc (9.20.08-12.6.08) and, after being in pittsburgh, will be at the arts center of the capital district in troy, ny (3.27.09-6.5.09).

guest curators of the exhibit: dara greenwald + josh macphee

ezln

ezln mujeres: dignidad, rebelde

my take: the exhibit manages to be exhaustive without being exhausting.

the walls are jam packed with colors, shapes, ink breathing in a new world. josh macphee has his hands on an emerging intersection, namely, art and activism. macphee is out there collecting art based activism the world over, documenting, and loving what he does. the love shows. “signs of change,” is a bullseye sharp exhibit, spinning webs of history, knitting years of yarn, spitting pure and rare movement history through posters from movements spanning 39 countries and 4 decades. succinct placards, with dope breakdowns of movement history, dot the wall at about hip height, around one placard for every 4 posters. slow down with this exhibit, fight the urge to speed through because its images you’re looking at- new york heads, i know how it is, but leave your brisk concrete walk in the closet with them salt coated tims, take your time with this exhibit and you won’t be sorry.

much love to my girl, dj baglady, who spun at the winter harvest reception and who shouted out my parents with a personal invite to the pittsburgh affair. also, love to josh macphee. last year, i wrote a review of “realizing the impossible,” his recently released collection of anarchist art and art history. i learned a lot from that book and at “signs of change,” so im digging his approach.

feel free to take a second, relax, bask in the photography love from yours truly, political poet: roopa singh.

8 photos from “signs of change.” (images and commentary: roopa singh)

1. a comment on class: we have found new homes for the rich.

lets talk about class

signs of change exhibit: lets talk about class

2. starbucks workers: we have the right to organize.

starbucks workers organize!

starbucks workers organize!

3. a mural in ireland honors the struggles of others in palestine and south africa.

ira solidarity with paletine and south africa

mural in ireland: ira solidarity with paletine and south africa

4. unite: south africa emerges from beneath apartheid.

simple and effective

anti-apartheid struggle in south africa: simple and effective

5. we care about iran.

iranian civil rights struggle

iranian civil rights struggle

6. just cause: what will happen to black west oakland?

just cause raising awareness on gentrification in west oakland

just cause raising awareness on gentrification in west oakland

7. chile: it only takes one match to start a fire.

chilean peoples struggle

solidarity with the chilean peoples struggle

8. lgbt rights: every star is a sun, every sun is a world won.

keep shining movement stars

keep shining movement stars

stay tuned for more.

peace,

r.singh

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bhajans and boys: a three (3) part series

Part 1: Prashaad and Giving Up the P (Story Below)

Part 2: God’s Corner (Come back Wednesday, October 15, for Part 2)

Part 3: Souls Sung Clean (Come back Friday, October 17, for Part 3)

***

Dear Readers,

Bhajan’s and Boys Intro: Somewhere between the 80’s and the late 90’s, Mira Mesa, my hometown, grew a Little India. Desi’s took over a strip mall section off Black Mountain Road, just before the Miramar Airforce Base. Now Mira Mesa, and the City of San Diego in general, has a Hindu temple, desi dinner spots, desi snack spots, a desi grocery store (we do love our food), and clothing boutiques (and we sho know how to dress).

But when I was growing up in San Diego, my family would drive two hours to Los Angeles to buy spices on Artesia Blvd. The closest thing to Little India in the whole damn city was the Hare Krishna temple in Pacific Beach. We’d go there sometimes. Me pressed back against my mother’s legs as the pale, sari and dhoti clad people danced alarmingly. They’d circle up tight, and then speed up wide, until it was almost as though they were chasing each other in a huge, raucous game of Duck Duck Goose. And then they fed anyone who walked through their doors. Their generosity was appreciated. But their quasi-desi khana was to my moms home cooking what sugar substitutes are to sugar.

Thank god for the Trekannand’s. Every Thursday night Prem Uncle, Sheila Anti, and Deepak, their son, would open up their Mira Mesa home to any and all (but mainly desi folks) for bhajan. The pooja ceremony would start at 7pm. Final aarthi plus prashaad had us leaving around 10pm. In between we sang and sang.

The Trekannand’s were like the Jackson 5 of San Diego Hindus. Prem Uncle sang and played harmonium. Sheila Anti sang a steely backup and played light precussion, mainly tambourine and manjira. Their son Deepak played and played the tabla from when he was young and learning till he was grown and fluent. Together, they led the high and low notes of our prayers.

After opening their home to San Diego for decades, the Trekannand’s moved back to Pune. San Diego is not the same without them, those cultural pioneers.

This story, “Bhajans and Boys,” is going to be told in three (3) parts. Part one (1) is called: Prashaad and Giving Up the P. It is a true coming of age story, of me, an Indian in America. Come back for Part 2 on Wednesday.

Enjoy.

***

bhajans and boys: a three (3) part series

part 1: prashaad and giving up the p

by roopa singh

“prasada: in its material sense, prasada is created by a process of giving and receiving between a human devotee and the divine god.”

here’s a clue. if someone hands you a plate of prashaad, you Have To Eat It. you have to Dive in to it while they are watching. why? because it shows that you are not above honoring custom. and it proves that you love the gods and the gods love you back. or something.

clue number two. if you absolutely cannot finish your plate of prashaad, either pawn that sucker off to your dad (if he’s there) cuz lord knows he’ll eat it, or ask your mom (if she’s not busy) to hold your plate for you for ever, or, worse comes to worst, leave the offending plate on an end table by one of the Nana Ji’s when he’s not looking. whatever happens, do not get seen throwing away a plate of prashaad. total cultural suicide. an absolute no-no.  especially for an American born, hip hop dancing, lamba chora Desi girl like me.

Prem Uncle and Sheila Anti had one son, Deepak. i just knew we were gonna get married. the three of them, the Trekannand family, hosted bhajan at their suburban track home every Thursday night.

every Thursday for years, the quiet block would jam to high heaven for hours, and their doorstep would be littered with shoes.

thick strapped beige chapaals with toe loops for the Nani Ji’s. thick strapped black chapaals with no toe loops for the Nana Ji’s. black and brown loafers for the Uncles. maroon slip-on’s and glittering heeled chapaals for the Anti’s. sneakers with internal weight activated lights for the little ones. nikes, reeboks, jelly sandals, and miniature versions of Uncle and Anti shoes for the big kids.

showing up to bhajan late meant wading through the swamp of these shoes.

“big brown hiking boots?”

must be that tall white man came again. sitting in the back, nodding and singing loud, even not knowing the words.

you add your shoes to the swamp. push wide the unlocked door to enter the tall ceiling room.

inside it looked just like zoya’s house. which looked just like sahil’s house.

suburbia.

zoya was my persian best friend. her dad was a taxi driver and back then they had this same two story house. back before his gambling lost them the house and all his medallions. back then we would watch MTV and BET for days in the same back room that the Trekannand’s had converted into a temple. back then zoya was always always in hip hop chat rooms on this new thing called aol, tearing up heads all over the country with her lyrical skillz. and I’d be writing on the sly, in my journal, or half practicing new step moves to show the team. when we weren’t watching tv.

back then, zoya was always on the brink of rage, punching holes in walls, screaming her guts out. they had fled what had been a good life in Iran. and sometimes her whole shell shocked family would duck every time the door bell rang.

i’d look around at them, bone still behind the sofa, and be like, “um, I think it’s the mail man…do you want Me to get the door?”

yo mtv raps, duran duran, blind melon, bone thugs, b-e-t’s the quiet storm. tv keeping us calm for hours. sometimes i’d get lucky and zoya’s mom would practice doing nails on me while we watched, layering my fingers thick with acrylic for hours until they were done and I had ghetto fabulousness all across my wing span.

inevitably the nails would fall off the next day, too thick. eventually, zoya’s pearly and lacy and tight mouthed mother would give up the salon track and work fast food, jack in the box and later, mcdonalds, bringing home american treats for her family before the daughters, zoya and soraya, fled the tense nest.

there were 5 models of homes in our southern cali neighborhood. a military town, so nothing too extravagant, but the Trekannand’s house had one key difference. the Trekannands had added on a room in the back, just to hold all the people who flocked to them for Thursday night bhajans.

we drove there dutifully, part of the flock. my mom and i. me reluctant at first. reverential at last.

we always passed jeanette’s house on the drive to bhajan. jeanette was my best black friend. she lived right around the corner from the trekannands.

jeanette had finally done it with larry, her man. she told me so in my backyard, arms stretched up, hanging onto the sliding glass door frame like otherwise she might blow away with the force of it.

“you did?” I couldn’t believe it. before me?

I quickly found me a man too. montrel. we met over the phone through friends of friends, phones and pagers. then, days later, we met at a gas station on the corners, aka the four corners, aka the four corners of death. that was back when southeast san diego was gangland and the intersection of imperial blvd and federal blvd was known for being lethal, an asphalt and concrete burial ground. bodies and dilapidated taco shops.

we met at the pay phones by where cars pulled up for air that cost a quarter. he looked good but vacant. just like i’d thought.  lips like soft like sun rays. eyes half closed to life. i just wanted to get this virginity thing over with. he would do just fine.

zoya and her sister had drove me up to southeast. on our way to the gas station we passed 47th street. i talked and talked of the 3 men i had in the palm of my hand on that one street, 47th street was my Shit.  i crowed, hadn’t given up the P to nary a one of ’em, and still had them risking to be with me.

there was michael, who i met at burger king, which he called “burger bing” cuz he was a hardcore blood like that (not) and thus would not pronounce the “see” or “kay” sound for nothing. michael was the first dude i let eat me out. he had “whoomp there it is,” by tag team on repeat the whole time. i preferred 95 south’s “whoot there it is,” it was way better to step to. but we managed to hit that third base, sweet and sticky contortionists in his white girl’s red sports car. the cop who eventually knocked on the steamy window wasn’t an asshole, but i was pretty mortified nonetheless.

then there was tony. a grave and gentle young man, who i had met in the living room of my homegirl nzingha’s house. nzingha’s mom was always home but never outside her bedroom, so it was like nzingha’s own place. her little brother pooty could spin some mean cartwheels on the front lawn. tony, who stayed on the phone with me all night long when that’s all i needed in the world. a lifeline. tony, who watched me seriously and kindly while he pushed two fingers inside of me and slowly, pumped.

***

Stay tuned for more on Bhajans and Boys from ya fav political poet, roopa singh.

Part 2: God’s Corner, coming at you this Wednesday. See you then!

Peace,

roopa singh/N

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