Mainstream rhetoric has made a concerted effort to polarize African Americans and Latinos, emphasizing differences in language and religion, while designating one or the other as the “favored minority” at will. In Witness, Amalia Mesa-Bains and bell hooks invite us to reexamine this politically popular binary and consider which differences are manufactured and which are real.
In Witness, Mesa-Bains and hooks explore their own similarities and differences, sharing the ways their childhoods, families, and work have shaped their political activism, teaching, and artistic expression. Drawing on shared experiences of sexism, classism, and racism, hooks and Mesa-Bains show how people from divergent cultural backgrounds can work together for radical social change.
While the black/Latino divide and the increasing cross-community political collaboration has been addressed in progressive newspapers and magazines, Witness, an inclusive call to reflect and act, is the first of its kind to look at these issues in depth. And Amalia Mesa-Bains, a pioneer scholar and producer of Chicana art, with bell hooks, one of the most acclaimed of African American theorists—prove an unparalleled match for the job.
bell hooks is one of the leading public intellectuals of her generation. She has written extensively on the emotional impact of racism and sexism, particularly on black women, as well as the importance of political engagement with art and the media. In her recent work on love, relationships, and community, she shows how emotional health is a necessary component to effective resistance and activism.
Amalia Mesa-Bains is an artist, curator, and writer who has initiated comprehensive exhibitions of Latino art, including Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation and Mi Alma, Mi Tierra, Mi Gente: Contemporary Chicana Art. Her artwork incorporates various aspects of Chicano/a history, culture, and folk traditions, exploring religion, ritual, and female rites of passage. She won a MacArthur Fellowship in 1992.
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A cultural critic, an intellectual, and a feminist writer, bell hooks is best known for classic books including Feminist Theory, Bone Black, All About Love, Rock My Soul, Belonging, We Real Cool, Where We Stand, Teaching to Transgress, Teaching Community, Outlaw Culture, and Reel to Real. hooks is Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies at Berea College, and resides in her home state of Kentucky. Amalia Mesa-Bains is an artist and cultural critic. Her artworks, primarily interpretations of traditional Chicano altars, resonate both in contemporary formal terms and in their ties to her Chicano community and history. She has pioneered the documentation and interpretation of Chicano traditions in Mexican-American art and is a leader in the field of community arts. Among her many awards is the distinguished MacArthur Fellowship. She is Professor Emerita in the Visual and Public Art department at California State University at Monterey Bay.About the Author:
San Francisco resident Amalia Mesa-Bains is an artist, scholar, curator, and writer who has been involved in the Chicano artist movement since the 1960s. A leading installation artist and MacArthur awardee, Mesa-Bains incorporates Chicano culture and folk traditions into her work, utilizing themes inspired by Catholic rituals, Mexican pre-Christian religious imagery, Chicana history, and female rites of passage.
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