Without Extreme Faith


Without Extreme Faith
by Molina Speaks

     Inspired by the words of Junot Diaz
     Americas Latino Festival, Denver 2013

“This is no keynote, just an artist”
taking shots—
shots at those calling 
at the stories
we all tell
to deniers

There is a fire burning in the ghettos of time
nobody sees their faces anymore—
the poor
disappeared from Public Space
space disappeared
from public life
there is no public 
in the network republic 
of nanosecond time.  

Coming of age in the 80s
brought up on punk and hip-hop
they thought 
the 90s would be like the 60s
the zero zero decade was to be the 70s
so is this the 80s again
obama, reagan? 

Trillions of dollars spent
on de-motivation 
minds bent only to the market
youth speak fluent dystopia 
without Rage
one cannot
be an artist 
without extreme faith. 

Education fails kids
as politicians fail civics fail cities
and passionate teachers
teach the physics of civics
to youth 
who intrinsically know
there is no longer such a thing.

“The world will have a hard conversation 
with you
whether you like it
or not,”
progressives rot
without alternative pathways:

“The white bankers know 
they need diversity training
while the cultural radicals
refuse to acknowledge
systems they recreated.”  

“The only way to survive”
is to gather resources
to care for our bodies
to speak our stories
to see marathons
not fuses 
and brave steps forward
in simple solutions:

“A ten year moratorium
on men’s leadership roles”
why not?  Because

a 3000 year old civilization
could travel forward
to see us doing 
what they were doing
what we are doing—
a calendar society
owning people
counting nature
resource by resource 
creating artifacts
of repetition 

Another civilizational moment
is possible
beyond demonstrations
within imagination.

Disrupt the networks.
Break the class divisions.  Whenever possible
forgive yourself and have patience.

You cannot be an artist 
without extreme faith.

Arts Fuel Student Dialogue About Sustainability

Manhattan Middle School – Boulder CO, November 13, 2013

Through a collaboration with Marda Kirn and Eco Arts Connections, I visited Manhattan Middle School in Boulder CO.  I performed acapella raps for several groups of students, and wrote a verse about culture and sustainability with a group of mostly Latino students over breakfast burritos and OJ. 

I facilitated a 70 minute workshop in Mr. Arbuckle’s 7th grade social studies class.  They have been talking about “sustainability” and how to make the world a healthier place that people can enjoy for a long time.  My focus was to broaden the definition of “sustainability” to include personal, cultural and artistic considerations.  I focused my commentary on the idea that the personal is political, meaning that everything we do impacts the broader social environment, and that even kids vote everyday: what kind of clothes they wear, what they eat, the language they use, the music they listen to, how they treat people and animals, how they take care of their bodies, and environmental choices like whether or not to recycle.

We discussed the arts and how the arts relate to democracy, and also sustainability.  I wanted them to feel, see, create, and experience a human process of collaboration,  change, and exchange.  Students were broken up into groups of five.  Each group was given a large piece of butcher paper and markers.  They were instructed to: 1) Think broadly about sustainability; 2) represent their ideas through lines, shapes and color (without feeling like they had to draw anything concrete); 3) to include words, and to see “poetry” in the simplest of words.

Students were not allowed to talk or converse with each other about design.  They were instructed to begin creating together, organically.  They were given 10 minutes.  Without knowing so in advance, they were asked to leave their creations and rotate to another group’s canvas.  They were instructed to observe for one minute.  Then they began interacting with the canvas in front of them, with these instructions: 1) Continue the story; 2) Challenge the story.  There were four groups, and they all had about 5 minutes to work on each canvas. 

I began to write poetry and rap lyrics on the board, inspired by their work.  They were given an open invitation to come up to the board individually and interact with the words. 

We spent the last 15 minutes debriefing the exercise.  I used Visual Thinking Strategies to facilitate the conversation.  Students observed their collective work.  They were asked to describe what they saw and heard, and to ask questions about the process.  They wondered aloud about what sustainability means, what it means to be human, and why some students chose to set trees on fire, represent blood, or write negative ideas in an otherwise beautiful representation of human creativity. 

(I forgot to point out, perhaps because I was not conscious of it in the moment, that we were using a lot of resources, in paper and ink, to explore sustainability.  I think… this is ok… Human….) 

“Wow, what did we just do?” one student concluded.

“What in the world are we doing here?” another asked.  Great question.

Students inspired these words, which I wrote on the board:

Words become diagrams, whispers on butcher paper
free energy tracing tree lines
and arrows, I
climb Manhattan
with young captains
of Design.

What’s sustainable? In my mind I see a star
The sun will plant the seed, the poetry deep in me
The tree will hold the rain, the water will cleanse my frame
I evolve, revolve, walking 365, my dream is to stay alive…

Stay alive.