Photo credit: Leo Docuyanan

Take Five is an interview series asking people what’s up.

Mission Loc@l: You’ve been doing performance poetry and hip hop for a long time.  How do you weave this into the Asian American and Philippine Culture classes you teach at SFSU and USF?

Irene Faye Duller: Performance as a site of revolution, resistance, social change. That we can imagine hope and healing and then provoke others viscerally through all mediums of art. That in the history of the oppressed peoples, we looked to art to remember our value, strength and beauty of a people… what we are capable of. That we are part of a lineage of freedom fighters and romantics and healers.

ML: Tell us a bit about Center for Cultural Innovation.

IFD: I am the program associate for the Creative Capacity Grant. Funding like this helps artists get more business savvy about their artistry. As in “game up” on managing themselves as small businesses. We have accepted since the beginning of time the “starving artist” complex. But art is SO essential, SO vital to us as people, communities. How come we don’t value it more? Artists are very productive, important members of society and CCI recognizes that. So we’re taking on a NEW model for artists, creative entrepreneurs, and arts organizations… where we encourage them to learn business skills like branding, website management, photoshop, excel, fundraising, PR/marketing… encourage them to attend think tanks, national conferences, and take classes that will help maintain a strong ship.

ML: In your previous job with Brava Theater, you regularly attended Mission Community Council meetings.  Sounds like it offered a bigger picture of what’s going on.

IFD: MiCoCo at the time was the gathering of public service and program driven organizations that thrived in the Mission and served the families of the neighborhood.  As we all know, times are rough. Budget cuts everywhere… especially on the city level across the board; from education to arts to after school programming to elderly support, etc. Gentrification is a perpetual curse on the Mission and this is something that we were always dealing with in the background.

Photo credit: M. Johnson

MiCoCo originally was intended to be a space where collaboration can happen among these Mission based organizations, institutions, etc. and just even letting each other know we exist and what we do, and what events were coming up. But the first meetings I, myself,  got to join, there was a serious discussion about the safety on 24th Street. There was a lot of violence (especially right at the Brava intersection of 24th and York Street — shootings every other day).  But not just violence among residents….

There was this looming hostile feeling constantly because of the policing by SFPD. Profiling of people just hanging out on the street. It was very uncomfortable. Even at that time, the police was said to utilize a list of those people who had for a reason or another criminal record, and wanted to enforce that none of these people can be on the block at all. There were hard contradictions everywhere and the divisions between folks were becoming more defined. MiCoCo wanted to get a dialogue among all neighborhood vendors and residents towards real needs assessment for the Mission and its people.

ML: A student of yours was loss to gang violence in the Mission…

IFD: George Hurtado. Gifted and blessed writer. Passionate and hopeful. It was such a tragic moment to have his life taken away in the neighborhood he loved and lived in.  Here was a statement I made to KPFA in 2008:

“George Hurtado like many youth that walk into our lives as students, came in to the YAW [Young Artists at Work] program in Spring 2005 seeking. He was one of hundreds of youth in the city that we work to give voice and volume to. These students come into the classroom broken, disenfranchised, displaced, and in search. And as an arts educator IN THE CITY, you learn that art becomes a tool for survival. George was a dynamic person who came into our lives and changed it forever with his intensity and drive for truth and his need to speak it. And it felt good as mentors to redirect these students’ restlessness, confusion, angst, and energy into forms in which to express and exchange with others positively.

“You always hear afterschool programmers talk about “giving alternatives to youth to keep them off the street”. I don’t feel we did that in our “Kultural Aktivist” YAW program that Spring. I felt like we gave the students a NEW ROLE to play while ON THE STREETS. George brought his reality to the stage, to the airwaves, to the eager ears of others who needed to know that what his family life was like, how his neighborhood breathed, how his generation rolls. George will be missed. but he has a body of word that he left with us that spoke of hope and we should continue to define our purpose as artists in his honor.”

Featuring Anthem Salgado, Meldy Hernandez, Michael Greene and Greg Manalo
Curated and co-hosted by Irene Faye Duller
Wednesday, April 28
Galería de la Raza
2857 24th St. (at Bryant)

Community literary event and open mic dedicated to the full moon. This month’s featured poet-performers combine elements of theatre, spoken word, movement and photography uniquely through a Filipino lens. $5 or free if you bring food dish to share.

Check out poet Barbara Jane Reyes“Shoutout: Irene Faye Duller, Lunada” on Poetry Foundation.

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