“The Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute (MALI) is comprised of 200 people, including local artists and small business owners of color. We want to highlight our collective disappointment and indignation about this latest Visit San Jose video.”
At Friday’s Art/Life Forum, I was humbled to see how art, culture, and social justice intersect. Our community’s first line of defense is self-expression — be it dialect, attire, poetry, music, or art-making. Art is a way of reclaiming our humanity and celebrating our work as individuals and communities. It is a powerful beginning.
I call out this beginning because, if we are to truly challenge oppressive systems and hold those in power accountable, we must go beyond representation. We must demand an equal share of power. Without such equity, our governing bodies — like planning commissions — will not reflect the beautiful complexity of our community. Rather, they will remain white and affluent; and this is a problem for communities like East San Jose that are in the advance stages of gentrification and where cultural erasure is actively taking place.
For the past 10 years, the School’s Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute (MALI) has worked with 119 leaders of color in Silicon Valley. We have brought the margins to the center by putting equity at the forefront of our work. MALI creates a pathway for them to assume positions of power, and for those that came in with influence, shows them how to use their power to shift systems to be more equitable.
On Friday, Demone Carter, our Senior Program Manager, announced a new iteration of MALI, MALI Pathways. This “MALI 2.0” will include a pathway to advocacy. MALI has a decade of challenging power structures, and it will lead this work for the School.
The School of Arts and Culture at MHP is at a crossroads. We find ourselves at the epicenter of rapid transformation. And, as a cultural institution in the Eastside, we have an obligation to expand our equity work agency-wide. We will occupy a seat at the table where conversations regarding space and development are taking place. We commit to voice, be heard, and affirm those decisions that uplift our immigrant and artistic community.
The School will center this work in our values: Culture, Heritage, Inclusion, Place, and Service. We will play a role in how our community is shaped through core partnerships with sister agencies and local government.
The team at the School of Arts and Culture is playing to win.
The Si Se Puede! Collective (comprised of Amigos de Guadalupe, Grail Family Services, School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza and SOMOS Mayfair) acknowledges the tragic death of Bambi Larson and our hearts go out to her loved ones at this difficult time. At this very difficult and sensitive time for the family and the community, it is incumbent on all of us to wait for the facts to develop. It is important not to rush to judgment.
We know that the current Administration has exploited tragedy to further divide communities, one against another. Singling out part of one person’s identity is dangerous and advances a dangerous agenda. For our Black, Latino, Muslim, and other children of color, this type of exploitation creates such a fear that children cannot learn, and families are driven underground, citizen, resident, or not.
Our County’s immigrants – whether documented or undocumented – are an intrinsic part of who we are. Using this tragedy to demonize immigrants is not only morally reprehensible, but also irresponsible, as it stokes fear and hatred towards our immigrant community. The fact is that overall, immigrants enrich our county and make it safer. A 2018 study found that, “increases in the undocumented immigrant population within states are associated with significant decreases in the prevalence of violence” [Cato Institute].
The Si Se Puede! Collective is dedicated to making our community a safe place where all residents, regardless of background, can live free of fear. As such, it is quite troubling that the focus of Larson’s death has been the immigration status of the man said to have perpetrated the crime. By solely focusing on his status, both the victim and the immigrant community at large are hurt.
We all need to come together to create real solutions that heal the pain of violence. Policies that keep law enforcement out of deportations are part of the solution. These policies help victims and witnesses come forward without fear of deportation and thereby protect due process and safer communities for everyone. It is why counties like Santa Clara have maintained their policies despite misguided efforts to change them.
All of our local elected and law enforcement officials must continue to understand the importance of these policies and not fall into the federal government trap to exploit tragedy for divisive purposes. This tragedy cannot become a political tool. Our city needs to support immigrant communities such as Mayfair.
For more than a decade, the School’s Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute (MALI) has offered a leadership development program for people of color deeply engaged in Silicon Valley’s arts, culture, and entertainment sectors. To commemorate over a decade of local impact, the School commissioned acclaimed folklife scholar, Dr. Maribel Alvarez, to write an academic brown paper to explore the influence of MALI on the arts and cultural sector in Silicon Valley, and speculate on the future of the program.
Our brown paper -- We Are Enough: Equity, Inclusion, and Emergent Leadership in Silicon Valley’s Multicultural Arts Community -- puts MALI into perspective, and discusses the collective power of developing over 100 leaders of color in the last decade.
Demone Carter, MALI alum and Program Manager, had this to say:
“While the arts sector is still wrestling with how to authentically speak to tenets of diversity, equity, and inclusion, the MALI program has been engaged in a decade-long experiment in hyper-local leadership disruption.”
I am incredibly grateful and humbled for the opportunity to lead the School of Arts and Culture at MHP as its new Executive Director.
As the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico and El Salvador, I know firsthand the impact that arts and culture can have to build pride, preserve our heritage, and fuel community and economic development.
I joined the School during an exciting time. Having completed a year-long strategic plan, the School is poised to deepen our impact in youth programming, the leadership development of local artists, and the activation of a local gem that brings thousands of people from different walks of life together.
My predecessor and mentor, Tamara Alvarado, set the stage for us to take the next step in the evolution of the School’s work to:
Become an expert in the leadership development of multicultural artists
Develop an advocacy arm to champion our local creative community and neighborhood
Convene and celebrate community through culturally relevant and accessible programming
The release of the School’s MALI Brown Paper is a testament to the caliber of our work, the passion and expertise of our Team, and what the future holds for the School. It is our hope that you will Join Us in this movement.