|Song of Unity by Osha Neumann, Anna de Leon, Ray Patlan, and O’Brien Theile, Berkeley, CA|
A few years ago, when I was teaching a graduate seminar in “Liberation Arts and Community Engagement” in a Theater of the Oppressed program at USC, one of the students asked a question that surprised me. She said that the goal of participatory theater work in Brazil had been to contribute ideas and imagination to building popular political movements, but no such movement had existed in the United States in her lifetime, so she didn’t understand what these organizations look like and how they start. After that, I redid the syllabus to include films and readings on the formation of new social movements. For this web page, I decided to include from past activist movements several publications that I had a hand in producing either as editor or co-writer. I thought it could be interesting for those curious about what it was like to participate locally and internationally in an idealistic period when large numbers of people came to believe that social change was necessary and possible. Such projects evolved organically in many different regions with varying degrees of understanding about goals and theories. Some were surprisingly successful.
Today, looking back, these activities are sometimes understood as “prefigurative projects” emerging in the United States as a result of post-WWII anti-colonial movements worldwide and from the civil rights, student, women’s, indigenous, farmworkers, and new left movements of the 1960’s and ‘70’s. Prefigurative projects are a form of activism that attempts to create alternative social relations and institutions in order to express long-term goals within present practices. Prefigurative projects hold a tension between older highly structured forms of political organizing that often sacrifice local and democratic considerations for the sake of a revolutionary future, and the need to experiment in the present with more participatory and liberatory forms of relationship and institution building. Prefigurative projects imagine new political and cultural meanings, often through the arts or through new types of infrastructure or education, and then circulate these ideas to wide public networks. Liberation theology activists in Latin America called such activities “prophetic” because they call a community to hear its conscience.
Sample Liberation School Catalogue, San Francisco, 1972, a multi-year volunteer “free school” involving hundreds of Bay Area participants.
Sample Program, La Peña Cultural Center, Berkeley, CA, Cultural Production Committee and Community Chorus, 1979.
Script for La Peña Cultural Productions Committee multimedia musical theater Program, “Canto Libre” 1980. Co-written with Aurora Levins-Morales and Kathleen Vickery.
Script for La Peña Cultural Productions Committee multimedia musical theater Program “La Poblacion” 1981. Co-written with Aurora Levins-Morales and Kathleen Vickery.
Selections from 8th Anniversary Calendar La Peña Cultural Center, Berkeley, CA, 1983.
Selections from 9th Anniversary Calendar La Peña Cultural Center, Berkeley, CA, 1984.
Selections from 10th Anniversary Calendar La Peña Cultural Center, Berkeley, CA, 1985.
With Paul Chin, “Resistance Culture Grows in Chile” Jump Cut No. 29, 1984. Article about the first National Cultural Workers and Artists Congress held in Chile since the U.S. sponsored coup in Chile in 1973, outlining 10 years of resistance to the Pinochet dictatorship.
With Paul Chin, “Culture As a Subversive Expression” KPFA Folio, Vol. 36, Issue 3, 1984. Another article about experiences at the first National Cultural Workers and Artists Congress.
“Vigil on the Tracks”, KPFA Folio Vol. 40, Issue 8, 1984. Article about a Nuremberg Action Group blockade of the Concord Naval Weapons Station where anti-personnel weapons were being shipped to El Salvador.
“Tortured Activist to Talk About Repression” In El Tecolote, December, 1988. Article on new coalitions and demonstrations in Guatemala City.
With Grant Fisher, “National Dialogue Inaugurated in Guatemala” In ReportOn Guatemala, Vol. 10, Issue 2, 1989
Yearly Reports, Capp Street Foundation Central America Program, 1986-1988. (50MB file. May take a while to load depending on your connection speed.)