- Associated Press - Monday, November 19, 2018

DALLAS (AP) - A helicopter hovered above Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff as protesters marched down the street holding anti-Donald Trump signs. They shouted “Whose streets? Our streets!” Dallas Police corralled them and arrested several.

The Dallas Morning News reports hours earlier, Trump - who announced his candidacy by referring to Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers and later accused a federal judge of Mexican descent of being biased against him - had been sworn in as the president of the United States.

As this was happening, sisters Eva and Pat Arreguin huddled inside the Oak Cliff Cultural Center with the center’s manager, Rafael Tamayo, to hatch out a plan for how they could provide more artistic space for Dallas Latino artists and other marginalized communities.

Talks of launching a podcast had been going on for months, but at that meeting, the trio arrived at a three-pronged approach: podcast, parties and art shows.

So for the past year and a half, De Colores Collective has set out on a mission to create a safe space for all communities of color and members of the LGBTQ community by recording a biweekly podcast, organizing themed art shows and throwing parties like the popular Selena214 series.

In that time, Trump has repeatedly called for building a wall along the Mexico border, ordered Central American families seeking asylum separated and placed in detention and rolled out a new set of rules that could sharply limit the number of legal immigrants moving to the U.S.

The spotlight the president placed on Latinos and communities of color, Tamayo said, only intensified and increased the uneasiness that local artists, family and friends were feeling.

But even before they formally launched De Colores, Tamayo said, local artists and Latino residents talked to him about the lack of available studio space in the Dallas, not being included by the mainstream Dallas arts community and not being seen by city leaders.

“If you know what our community is going through, then you understand that De Colores was needed more than ever,” Tamayo said. “They say that during times like these, some of the most significant artworks are created. And people are taking this time to express the things they feel in their hearts because they feel so disrespected and attacked.”

Growing up, Eva said she didn’t feel like the music or art worlds weren’t representative enough of Latinos.

“We’ve all spoken about how art was a savior for us, whether it was as youths listening to music and it feeling like expression when you didn’t know what to say,” Arreguin said. “A lot of times, through art, you’re able to escape your reality and see something beautiful again. A lot of times, for people of color, the norm is being at the bottom.”

The podcast, hosted by Tamayo and Eva, is a free-flowing conversation about race, art, politics and music and features area artists, musicians and activists. In April, the podcast hosted Shea Serrano, a two-time New York Times best-selling author, to celebrate its first anniversary. The podcast draws an average of 700 to 800 listeners per episode, with some reaching almost 1,200 listens.

Their themed art show series called Grey Space, usually held at the cultural center, has focused on different topics, including Black Lives Matter, LGBT issues and mental health.

Dallas artist Giovanni Valderas, who grabbed headlines late last year for his Casitas Tristes art project, said what he appreciates most about De Colores Collective is how the trio unapologetically approaches difficult subjects about Dallas’ history, race and even colorism within the Latino community.

“It speaks to Dallas that there is an unwillingness to confront our history and how we’ve treated people of color. There is fragility, but the moment we start to talk about it, that’s when we start to heal,” Valderas said. “If we have more voices like Eva, Rafael and Pat, then younger Latinos and everyone else can learn about this and be better.”

Angela Faz, another Dallas artist, said she participated in De Colores’ Orgullx art show in August, one that heavily featured artists from the LGBT community. Faz said she met several younger Latino Dallas artists who had never before been able to showcase their work.

“Because Rafa (Tamayo) works for the city, he creates that access and opens up the Oak Cliff Cultural Center to these artists,” Faz said. “It was a CV builder for a lot of people, something to put on their artistic resumes. They are planting seeds all over the city.”

Going forward, the Arreguin sisters and Tamayo said they want to continue what they are doing, though they would like to grow into their own space, actually make money and commission artists to create works. Eva added that she would also like to have a bigger conversation about the trans community on the podcast and other projects.

Eva said she looks back to the day Trump was inaugurated. She said she felt broken then. But right as she and Pat were walking into the center, they saw a truck full of “raza,” driving down the street, smiling and blasting music.

“In that moment, it was clear why we were going to do this. There’s so much complexity to our culture, and we’ve never been able to tell it,” Arreguin said. “We are here and we are not leaving and whatever (Trump) stands for is not going to define us.”


Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

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