The Cultural New Deal is Making Its Way Through with Full Force

Cultural New Deal BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of kqed.com

2020 has been the year that put the world’s flaws under a microscope. Having to stay in quarantined has allowed many to put things into perspective and look closely at things often neglected for far too long. 

Aside from enduring a global pandemic that has made all of us uncomfortable, we witness the intensity of militarized state and vigilante violence unfairly targeting the Black community. We are now feeling the pieces of a suffering environment tumble over us; and, of course, how can we forget the economic crisis many of us are currently experiencing? In other words, the veil of ignorance has finally been lifted, and many are realizing how much needs to be done.

However, this is not the time to complain or point fingers. It’s time to start working on actual change. Luckily, organizations such as The Center for Cultural Power know how effective action can be. They’ve strapped their boots and have gotten to work. 

The Center’s team and their determination have led them to create a call for a Cultural New Deal, which proposes a new way to move towards new understandings of how to build a culture that is inclusive, sustainable, and leads us toward justice and freedom for all.

BELatina News recently spoke to Favianna Rodriguez, the President and Co-founder of The Center for Cultural Power, and her passion is unparalleled. You’ll read it in her responses and how she reflects on The Cultural New Deal. It’s inspiring if you ask me. 

The following is what Faviana Rodriguez, who is also a visual artist, had to say about a few topics:

On The Center for Cultural Power

Faviana: The Center for Cultural Power is a national organization that activates artists around social justice issues, including racial and gender justice and climate change.

On the artists involved

F: The Cultural New Deal is really meant for all types of artists. It can be dancers, performers, writers, television writers, or any creative mind. We are making the case that for years, the cultural sector has been dominated by white voices and leadership. Yet, we have organizations that are run by POC and serve POC are taking a big hit. This can’t be it. Artists deserve more. 

On highlighting culture

F: The basis of society is culture. Really! Culture shapes our imagination. It really helps us see what’s possible. Especially right now. There are so many people who are currently being entertained through their screen more than ever, so it’s imperative that we use this moment. We need to demand change! We can’t go back to a system where 96% of filmmakers are white in Hollywood. We can’t go back to that. We need to urgently move resources towards BIPOC-run organizations and those who are prioritizing those voices. It’s very clear that we have a lot of work to do when it comes to having an anti-racist country. There’s still a lot of stories left to tell. 

On unveiling their plans to the nation

F: We are organizing and putting out ideas together to the overall cultural sector. What we wanted to do was to create a multi-racial statement that embodies everyone. We are a huge industry. We are theater; we are visual arts; we are publishing; we are part of the museum culture. We are a large sector and our goal is to put a stake on the ground and say that this is the standard that we are demanding. We want power. We are currently circulating these demands and getting support. Then, we are going to continue to apply pressure and propose our ideas to art institutions and politicians. I know that oftentimes people think of the arts as sort of a “cute thing.” But, without the arts, we wouldn’t have a society. The arts are what shapes society. 

On how the nation would look like if The Cultural New Deal takes off

F: What would it look like? Like more jobs. Right now, two-thirds of artists are unemployed. Two-thirds! That means that there’s a lot of artists in this country who are struggling financially. We’d like to put artists to work, very similar to the original WPA that happened many years ago. Artists were painting murals, they were making posters, and they were doing so much in service to the country. They were teaching people how to do things like sanitation, how to read, how to garden it was a time where improving the quality of life of Americans was important. Here’s the thing: We are not only asking for an investment in the arts, but we are also asking for divestment in the systems that have hurt us. The police have overwhelmingly hurt our community as well as prisons. So, we want to divest from systems of punishment and harm and invest in systems of creativity. That will lead to new jobs. We also mention the environment. We are very aligned with the Green New Deal. These initiatives are designed to actually put people back to work. But, we must think about one thing: We can decide to bail out big oil or corporations, or we can decide to bail out the people. 

On the inspiration behind The Cultural New Deal

F: Well, I’ve been an artist for 20 years, and I have worked with many amazing Latinas. I started to be an artist when I was a child. However, there was no art in my school. The only reason I got to learn about art was because there was a free community program in my town. I also didn’t get to go to art school because nobody would accept me. I only got a free ride to UC Berkeley through math and science. Throughout many years, I have confronted barrier after barrier. I’ll say that I am one of the most successful Latina artists in the arts. I’ve collaborated with Ben and Jerry, I run a national organization, and I’m involved in national politics. But, even for me, it’s challenging. The barriers that Latinas face in the arts is extreme. This is why I’m committed to this because I’ve realized that this was not one individual person. It’s about a system that has not invested in us. 

On suggestions for others to join the cause

F: First, as a Latina, we really need to support Latina artists. Especially Afro-Latinas and Indigenous-Latinas. We need to understand that the arts are the most important way that we can share our stories. By doing this, we can actually share our beautiful rich history, which is so hidden. To get there, we need to support the arts and support Latinx artists. Number two, speak out! Whether you go to a museum, checking out a show, or maybe you’re taking a dance class ask where the Latinas are. Do they have Latinas? If not, why not? We need more people demanding that Latinas have more visibility in culture, and that includes television content. Number three, support the arts overall. I see people saying: “Oh, we have to worry about education; we have to worry about immigrant rights, climate change.” And yes, we do. But people need to understand that all of those issues will be transformed when we are sharing stories about how this affects our communities; when we talk about the fact that climate really affects the Latinx and Black communities because that’s where most pollution concentrates. Then, we are telling a different kind of story. We are not just talking about melting glaciers or polar bears at that point. We are actually talking about human beings who are breathing dirty air because of the inequities in the system. Same thing with immigration. Where are the TV shows about undocumented people? We only have one or two on air, yet there are about 11 million undocumented people in this nation. Ultimately, really support the arts, invest in artists, and support by buying art. That’s the only way we can all survive.