On Saturday, October 4 and Monday, October 6, YAYA had the pleasure of coordinating two events with the Feminist and Antimilitarist Youth Network (Red Juvenil Feminista y Antimilitarista) from Medellin, Colombia that traveled here to embark on a U.S. speaking tour called La Red Tour. The purpose of their tour was to spread awareness about the conditions in Medellin and to share the importance of their work building youth resistance and civil disobedience against the paramilitary groups that plague poor communities and inflict particular violence on women and girls. Between the two events Patricia and Gina conveyed the past and present struggles in Medellin, how and why the Red was implemented, and specific tactics and strategies they use combat the oppressors.
During the first workshop on Saturday at the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, FL 20 participants were engaged in how to conduct street theater or, as they referred to it, theater of the oppressed. Patricia made it a point to acknowledge that we were creating a feminine space although men and masculine folks were allowed to participate. We were encouraged to be vulnerable and embrace emotions while discussing the three toughest moments of our lives with the partners we were given. From there we were to create sculptures by positioning each other’s bodies to represent the pain we felt or triumph we experienced in overcoming pain. Then we were split into two groups to construct theater pieces that demonstrated a problem faces by communities here and a potential solution to that problem.
Since it’s such a huge issue that both the HCC and YAYA address my group chose the issue of deportation in undocumented communities. Our piece displayed a family getting pulled over by police while driving and the father later getting detained by ICE for not having a driver’s license. The remainder of the family rallied the community together to stop the threatened deportation of the father. In Medellin youth will create these theater pieces and perform them in the streets as a direct action tactic to gain the attention of the people in power they are demanding changes from. This is similar to how YAYA will hold rallies at Wawa gas stations in support of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and their campaign against RJ Reynolds Tobacco urging them to fix their supply chain that exploits farm workers in tobacco fields.
Part of why YAYA helped coordinate events with the Red was to bridge the similarities in our work that engage youth and then learning from our differences in approach. The second event, which was a presentation done by the Red at the University of Central Florida, put their approach to their work more into context. We were given more of the history of the presence of the very politically conservative paramilitary groups in Medellin and how youth have to join the military at the age of 18 unless they can buy their way out. Then the issues of human trafficking of women and girls and the rate of femicide were elaborated on. These are some of the issues that fuel the work of the Red and manifest into artful street performances with the purpose of effecting real change to end violence.
It was constructive to learn new and different attention getting approaches that youth are enacting in another part of the world. What was even better was thinking through some of the ways YAYA can potentially some new creative approaches that are appropriate for our work in solidarity with farm workers. It was great to build this new relationship with Patricia and Gina from the Red and I am thankful they came to Orlando to share the message and art form of their work. Thank you also to the HCC for hosting the workshop in their space and the Student Labor Action Project at UCF for supporting this by providing a space on campus for the presentation.