Friday, July 12, 2013

Ironies of activist anthropology

So, here I am in a session on collaborations and activist scholarship, but only half paying attention to the presentations because I am in the middle of doing some activist scholarship myself. There are some funds available through an organization called Guatemala Human Rights Commission, for people who do human rights work -- Guatemalans living in the U.S., and also people in Guatemala. The deadline for this fund, called Voiceless Speak Fund, is July 31. I was aware of it but it wasn't clear from their website whether the applicants had to have some kind of legal status in the U.S. -- and it wasn't clear whether they only accepted applications from Guatemalans living in the U.S. I have in mind a couple of people -- two in Guatemala and one in the U.S. -- and decided that I really needed to find out so we know whether we can pull together the applications in the next few weeks (they are not that detailed but still, one has to have a plan). So, luckily people from GHRC answered their email very rapidly, informing me that U.S.-based applicants did not have to have any particular legal status, and that they did accept applications from Guatemala. So, that clarifies a little bit of what I will be doing in the next few weeks. I had already planned to spend a day with one of the women in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, a leader of the mining resistance, developing an application on her behalf. And there is a young man in New York, whom I had met in Guatemala two years ago through my work in community radio. He was a volunteer at a radio station called Nojibal Estereo in the Boca Costa, and then came to the U.S. without documents because his family was in a desperate situation. We reconnected in New York (he lives in Brooklyn, ironically, not far from me) and has been eager to find a way to continue doing socially meaningful work of some sort -- doing something for "the community" broadly defined. It's been hard for me to help him a lot, because I don't really know the immigrant justice organizations in New York, but I've recently connected him with folks in a community coalition in Sunset Park that I've been part of (an offshoot of the work I've done with Occupy Sunset Park), and I've been in touch with the folks from Cultural Survival, which works with the community radio movement in Guatemala, to see if there is some way that he can help do advocacy work for Guatemalan community radio in the U.S. Ironically, of course, I am in Guatemala and not in Brooklyn, but hopefully via email and Skype and Facebook we can work this out.

And then I thought of another person, someone I just met here at the conference, who is from a K'iche' community in Santa Lucia Utatlán, and has done a book called Voces Rompiendo el Silencio, containing oral histories about the war in that community. Here is a link to a free download of the book. Voces Rompiendo el Silenco download

He already travels to the U.S. at least once a year to talk about this process, and I suggested that he think about applying for this fund to do work specifically with Guatemalan Maya migrant communities in the U.S.  So, we'll see where this all leads, but it looks like I'll be extra busy these next few weeks... 

But unfortunately sending these emails and chats distracted me from paying sufficient attention to the panel on activist scholarship and collaboration.

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