Culture Undiscovered: Local to Global Justice Story Time

A few weeks ago, I blogged about bell hooks and her inspiring keynote address on race, gender and why The Help shortchanges the very people it seems to be most concerned with. For me, this raised the question of how best to tell the stories of groups that have been (and still are) marginalized, in the United States and abroad. Now put that thought on hold while I bring you up to speed on what I did this week — I promise, this will all come back around again.

Local to Global Justice is an ASU-based organization that seeks to educate ASU students and members of the community about issues of social justice while promoting equality, diversity, freedom and basically everything good. Their annual Teach-In unites students, faculty and community activists to connect local social justice issues to larger global ones. Their website describes the Teach-In as a way to “recognize that everyone has something to teach and something to learn.”

This year, Local to Global Justice’s Teach-In screened award-winning films like “América’s Home,” showcased local Native American artists and musicians, hosted workshops like “Grant Writing and Beyond: Fundraising 101,” and even found the time to offer morning yoga and spiritual singing classes. The weekend’s offerings were a welcome reminder of the small but present minority of politically active people who are profoundly committed to issues of race, class and gender.

Anzoategui performing her one-woman show, "Ser." Photo from thesmilingspiderblog.com

Sunday’s keynote speaker was Karen Anzoategui, an Los Angeles-based actress whose “queer transnational solo show” managed to cover everything from love and loss to family, national identity and truth itself. Anzoategui’s show, “Ser,” tells the story of an Argentinean girl in a primarily Mexican Los Angeles neighborhood; her love for soccer, her inability to truly feel at home, and her need for a sense of belonging are all set against this already-tense backdrop. She tells her story through the familiar format of the soccer game, and talks to legend Diego Maradona (in the form of a soccer ball).

Anzoategui is dynamic and instantly magnetic, and portrays the range of emotions associated with her unfailingly complex narrative. She is heartbroken at one moment, in despair the next, and then gleeful and proud, all in a way that is brave and painfully real. So real, in fact, that when Diego Maradona (aka her soccer ball) tells her, “If you don’t see me play, let me live in your memory,” the scene manages to remain poignant instead of ridiculous.

Ultimately, her show fit right in to a weekend designed to showcase that everyone has something to teach; her story highlights the complex ways that race, gender, class and sexuality intersect in a way that leaves some voiceless. In telling her story Anzoategui reclaims her voice, which brings me back to my original question: how do we tell the stories of those that have been silenced? One obvious solution that this show offers is to let them tell their own stories. They may be a far cry from The Help, but that’s exactly what we need.

Email me at jlpruett@asu.edu.