“On the Latinx Voice”
written by Gilda (Gigi) Pedraza, Executive Director, Latino Community Fund Georgia
When I moved to Georgia in 2002, I was advised there were only two types of people in the state “Blacks and Whites” and that nobody would knew what to make of me. While the advice was well-meaning, it was clearly not true. Georgia and specifically Metro Atlanta was and continues to be diverse in a number of ways.
What was true, I realized, was the limited representation of those diverse communities and intersections had in the city. To some, it may have looked like we did not exist, simply because we were invisible.
As a lover of art in all of its forms, I explored a number of festivals, galleries, concert halls, streets and again, could not find the voices, the faces, the words, the talent of my community, the Latinx community and all its complexities in the city.
Slowly, and asking around, I learned about stories about a Latin American Art Circle once vibrant and hosted by Kennesaw University featuring Jorge Arcos among many others, I stared in awe at the incredible metallic compositions of Pedro Fuertes, I heard about a virtuoso that played the violin, Maestro Juan Ramirez and went to hear his “huapangos”, I visited the homes of visual artists Felix Berroa and Carlos Solis, I read about the story of Yehimi Cambron and saw her award winning documentary, I enjoyed the performance of Nadia Mara with the Atlanta Ballet, I felt a tug in my heart during a spoken-word performance and a young men said: “Because I am a Mexi-Can, not a Mexi-Can’t” and all the sudden 15 years had passed and not many things had changed for Latinx artists, they were still here, still doing fabulous work, still struggling to share their talent with the world and at the very least the state.
Pictured above: members of the LCF Board
In 2017, Living Walls decided to dress empty walls along Buford Highway with art from people of color, especially from communities often times marginalized: Latinx, LGBTQ, Women, Pan-Asian. It was the first time I saw the greatness of Estrella Sanchez, a translation activist represented larger than life, saying “Aqui Estoy”. Our stories were seen, for many, for the first time in a big format and that meant, we existed for all. The Latino Community Fund (LCF Georgia) was excited to be part of the process and we worked hand in hand with the organizers to arrange conversations and visits to some of the anchors along the corridor to help inform artists on the realities of one of the most diverse corridors in the world. Its struggles, but also its successes and potential.
The “Off the Wall” project presents a unique opportunity for the city to embrace who we really are, together. To use the power of visibility in a public space to make our stories real to millions of people. Murals build a sense of community; they are welcoming and walkable. They create value because they bring us together, in conversation and deep reflection.
The Latino Community Fund (LCF Georgia) is excited about participating in the process, nominating Latinx artists, bringing to the table diverse perspectives and hosting conversations on the complexity of our Latinx experience in the South, and specifically in the Atlanta.
We are looking forward to the art, the colors, the questions, the ideas, the voices that will, for the first time, speak from walls in the City.