Art as witness

3rd and 4th grade We are the World artwork exhibited at UUCP in Paradise Valley

As the Unitarian Univeralists open this year’s general assembly in Phoenix, they’re readying for tonight’s parade of banners made by participating congregations. I’m told that many feature some real artistic flair. And that another event, open to the public, takes place later this evening.

It’s a public rally dubbed “Arizona Immigration Ministry Witness: Turning the Tide from Fear to Human Rights” – happening at 9:30pm outside the Phoenix Convention Center. Hundreds of Unitarian Universalists and social justice advocates are expected to attend.

Several people are scheduled to “speak out against human rights abuses in Arizona that are being replicated across the country, including racial profiling, mass detention and deportation, militarization of the border, and anti-immigrant laws” — including Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Boston-based UU Association.

We are the World artwork by 3rd and 4th graders at the UU Congregation Phoenix

Also Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray of the UU Arizona Immigration Ministry, Salvador Reza of the Committee for the Defense of the Barrios, Pablo Alvarez of National Day Laborer Organizing Network and representatives of the SOMOS coalition. Frederick-Gray leads the UU Congregation of Phoenix, where I found the artworks featured in this post.

I first learned the 2012 general assembly was coming to Phoenix while chatting a while back with Arizona playwright James E. Garcia, whose theater company is perfoming as part of the event. Garcia founded New Carpa Theater Company, which focuses on Latino and multicultural theater works, in 2002.

New Carpa Theater Company performs “(In)Justice: A Short-Play Festival” Fri, June 22 at Civic Space Park. Expect “monologues, play excerpts and performance pieces” presented in English and Spanish. It’s part of the UU’s “Community Celebration with Partners,” which also features music by Emma’s Revolution.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation Phoenix sanctuary is often filled with artwork.

Many of the 5- to 10-minute plays feature themes inspired by the civil rights movement, the United Farm Workers Union (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year), and contemporary social justice and human rights issues.

I spent some time reviewing their five-day agenda this morning, eager to find items with an arts and culture twist. I found several “Music and Justice” sessions and exhibitors specializing in chalice art (the chalice is a shared symbol for UU congregations). Also plenty of choral singing.

A “Dance of Universal Peace” takes place one morning in a ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix located near the convention center. That baby features dance “using sacred phrases, music and movement from the world’s traditions.” Sounds almost as fun as the dance I watched Kids Kamp children practice in the UU Phoenix sanctuary this week.

Want to know how a child views the world? Have him or her draw a picture.

José Torres-Tama performs “Aliens, Immigrants, and Other Evildoers: The Latino Immigrant Experience” Friday afternoon. It’s “a bi-lingual, Latino noir, solo performance chronicling the current rise of hate crimes against Latino immigrants.” A discussion of related themes will follow.

There’s also a screening of Ruth Leitman’s “Tony and Janina’s American Wedding,” which follows “a Polish family separated by deportation and their struggle to be reunited in the United States.” And several immigration-related gatherings to which the public is invited. Folks can click here for details.

– Lynn

Note: The American Humanities Festival comes to Civic Space Park in Phoenix on Nov. 3 — click here to learn more.

Coming up: Helping at-risk youth experience live performance, James E. Garcia talks playwriting and social justice

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