Reflections on Mijente Chicago Convening

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By Lynda Lopez 

This weekend, I was lucky to spend it at the Mijente convening, a space meant to build Latinx and Chicanx power (the “x” makes the terms gender neutral). I wasn’t sure what to expect from the weekend, but I came with an open mind.

I started the day on Saturday by going to the LGBTQ liberation forum. We spent much of the session exploring the question “What does liberation mean to you?” We hear the term “liberation” casually thrown around, but do we ever stop to ask ourselves what it means to us? Hearing varying interpretations, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; or freedom from judgment, challenged me to think less pragmatically when conceptualizing social justice.

With our ideas flowing, we came up with next steps to continue striving towards our communities’ liberation. Groups representing all corners of the country described what they’ll do: incorporating Spanish translation in spaces, inviting intersectionality to anti-gentrification work (my personal challenge), having conversations with our families, etc. This session was a precursor for the rest of the weekend: think critically, but commit to action.

I continued the day with the workshop “How the Dreamer narrative turned into a nightmare” where we delved into harmful and positive messaging in our movements. Whereas the Dreamer narrative often perpetuated the image of a “good” and “bad” immigrant, we’ve seen other movements uphold more inclusive messaging. This session, coupled with the earlier one, made me think critically about how I’m being inclusive in my language and work.

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Examples of poor messaging in our movements.

The question around inclusive movements continued into the afternoon as we held a conference-wide conversation around being pro-Black. A panel of four discussed how the Black experience is intertwined with the Latinx one and the pervasiveness of anti-Blackness in our community. We talked deeply of the Afro-Latinx identity and the constant act of erasure of Blackness in the Latinx community. One woman discussed having to fight to have her daughter listed as a Black Puerto Rican on her birth certificate. At the end of the conversation, I wondered how to go from confronting anti-Blackness to being pro-Black, a necessary distinction to make.

I went home that night overwhelmed, but stirred in a way I hadn’t been stirred in a while. I had originally thought I would only join the conference for a day, but after this day I just had to go back.

The next day, I made it to the conference for the conversation around the 2016 elections. We explored ways to influence the 2016 elections, our vision, and the narrative we want to convey. After a weekend of discussing inclusivity, my small group discussed the importance of messaging for any of the work we do. We don’t want to continue to perpetuate the narrative that some Latinx are more deserving than others, that some immigrants don’t deserve relief. With Black Lives Matters proclaiming that all Black Lives Matter, how can that serve as an example for the values our messaging can convey? How can our messaging usher in a more radical vision of what our future can look like?

With those questions in mind, I went into the last session of the day: confronting anti-Blackness in our families and cultures. Led by Brown People for Black Power, we discussed the history of Brown and Black solidarity in Chicago, which brought up important figures like the Young Lords and Fred Hampton. Some recent examples of solidarity: IACP shutdown and the Dyett Hunger Strike. In our small groups, we shared ideas about how to confront anti-Blackness within ourselves, within our families, and within our communities. There were no cohesive answers, just the beginning framework for a long exploration.

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Ways to confront anti-Blackness in ourselves, our families, and communities.

In many ways the last session was only fitting to the overarching theme of the convening: bridging the gap between Latinx and Black communities through acknowledging intersections, confronting anti-Blackness, and building relationships. As we strengthen our relationships, our movements become stronger.

I have a lot of work to do and I’m going to take the advice of one person in my last session, “To do the work in our community, we need to ask ourselves some tough questions.” Thanks, Mijente for a thought-provoking weekend.

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