Help Brontë Rent Equipment For Research in Puerto Rico!
Organized by: Bronte Velez
Hello! I am currently a rising senior at Brandeis University and was just recently approved for my independent interdisciplinary and personally designed major, "Arts, Identity, and Community Building" which I will receive a BFA for in May of 2016. This major stands at the intersection of race and feminist theory, history, and art practice. It examines oppressive events both historical and contemporary including slavery, genocide, colonization, forced migration, gentrification, the prison industrial complex, poverty, and environmental injustice. The major works to identify the patterns within these systems, how communities of color have been affected by them, and how art practice can lead to alternative forms of being. In raising questions around identity, place, and violence it places emphasis on not merely what has happened to these groups, but on how art has served as a powerful means through which these same groups have understood their identity and articulated more just circumstances. It also considers how groups actively facilitate community building in physical space.
This past year, I spent my junior year studying abroad and completing research projects along with creative work. I studied in a program in Fall of 2014 centered around "Art and Social Change" as specific to the Czech context in Prague, Czech Republic for four months and completed a research project entitled, "The Power of the Powerless: A Proposal for Cross-Cultural Hip-Hop Pedagogy as a Weapon of Social Agency for Czech Roma Youth." I just returned to Prague last month on the Brandeis Provost Undergraduate Research grant to continue facilitating my work. This past spring semester I was living in Quito, Ecuador on a program centered around arts as a means of developing identity empowerment and then moving that outside of the self into tangible design and development projects to engage progress on a pragmatic level as well. I have received four different grants this summer to complete research, develop creative work, and facilitate community building.
In route to my senior thesis work around autonomously run POC communities that utilize art as a method of empowerment, creative placemaking, and social enterprise, I am headed to Puerto Rico to complete a research project entitled, "Remembering and Re-Membering: Afro-Borinqueña Identity, The Arts, and Finding the Last Taino Reina of Loiza, Puerto Rico." I proposed a remembering and re-membering project that would explore Afro-Borinqueña identity, including the way identity is constructed via mythology, dance, Black magic and music while simultaneously focusing on personal creative work that is informed by my explorations. I also hope to explore the history of slavery and colonization in the Puerto Rican context and the ways in which arts traditions rose from the bodies of Afro-Borinqueñas as resistance to maintain our heritage, as well as the effects colonization still holds on the denial of and lack of pride for African heritage in the Puerto Rican community. I want to explore art as armor for identity, art as proliferation for identity, and the function of identity building as a tool for cultural empowerment. I believe this degree of empowerment can nourish and lead communities to transcend systemic oppression internally, consequentially cultivating the creative space to manifest that energy into real, alternative forms of existence to live within, outside of the systems that are structurally violent towards us and preventing us from the fullness of what it may mean to be alive.
I am currently applying for the Fulbright fellowship to return to Ecuador and then I will soon be applying for grad school for filmmaking and producing. I have completed and worked on some very important projects throughout my life and have had little documentation of the work I am doing. I have had so many young Black and Brown folks ask me, "How are you doing all of this?! How are you traveling so much?! How can I do what you are doing?!" The weight of seeing yourself reflected by artists, thinkers, and makers that look like you is extremely vital. I want to ensure that I am able to begin fully documenting the work I am doing in order to begin to share my work on a much larger and more accessible platform. When I arrive in Puerto Rico, I hope to rent a DSLR camera and lens as well as a tripod for the time I'm there. The costs for renting this equipment for three weeks incur around $700. The other $300 I am requesting for insurance purposes. I want to realize all of the work I am writing and completing and sharing all of that work with folks who share my existence! Anything helps!