Edge 69, the Casa Libre reading series of emerging and younger writers, continues tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m., with Jia Oak Baker, Roberto Bedoya and John Myers, at the 228 N 4th Ave. literary arts center. Suggested donation is $5.
Reading tonight is Jia Oak Baker, author of a forthcoming chapbook, Crash Landing in the Plaza of an Unknown City, from Dancing Girl Press and recipient of the 2013 Tucson Festival of Books Literary Award; and John Myers, a social worker and writer living in Tucson with his partner Brian Blanchfield, who has work published inPank, Ilk, Spork, Abjective, Frigg, Handsome, Word For/Word, The Bakery Poetry, among many others.
But I'm particularly excited to see Tucson Pima Arts Council's Executive Director Roberto Bedoya. A writer and arts consultant who has worked on projects for the Creative Capital Foundation and the Arizona Commission on the Arts
(Creative Capital's State Research Project), The Ford Foundation (Mapping Native American Cultural Policy), and more, is also the the author of the chapbook, The Ballad of Cholo Dandy from Chax.
One topic Bedoya has written extensively on is placemaking and creative placemaking, and recently swimming through the Facebook internets was a beautifully written essay from Bedoya in Creative Time Reports titled "Spacial Justice: Rasquachification, Race and the City," that looks at gentrification, placemaking and the Chicano practice of Rasquachification and how placekeeping could expand racial justice.
I don't know what Bedoya is sharing tonight, but I know this essay—you can read it in its entirety here—is a great reminder for Tucson's own struggles with gentrification, and a good reminder om how we need to work to hold it all together with "rasquachismo":
The scholar Tomás Ybarra-Frausto describes Rasquache as a Chicano aesthetic with an “attitude rooted in resourcefulness and adaptability yet mindful of stance and style.” Evoking rasquachismo from an artist’s perspective, Amalia Mesa-Bains calls it “the capacity to hold life together with bits of string, old coffee cans, and broken mirrors in a dazzling gesture of aesthetic bravado.” When I think of rasquachismo, I think of repurposing a tire into a flowerpot that you would never find at Home Depot. Such an object signifies the imaginary structured by resourcefulness, and prompted by poverty, which is distinct from the imaginary imposed by the monetization of neighborhoods, a prevailing objective in urban development.
Rasquachification messes with the white spatial imaginary and offers up another symbolic culture—combinatory, used and reused. The Rasquache spatial imaginary is the culture of lowriders who embrace the street in a tempo parade of coolness; it’s the roaming dog that marks its territory; it’s the defiance signified by a bright, bright, bright house; it’s the fountain of the peeing boy in the front yard; it’s the DIY car mechanic, leather upholsterer or wedding-dress maker working out of his or her garage with the door open to the street; it’s the porch where the elders watch; and it’s the respected neighborhood watch program. Rasquachification challenges America’s deep racial divide through acts of ultravisibility undertaken by those rendered invisible by the dominant ideology of whiteness.
Rasquachification is also what the community activist Jenny Lee calls placekeeping—not just preserving the facade of the building but also keeping the cultural memories associated with a locale alive, keeping the tree once planted in the memory of a loved one lost in a war and keeping the tenants who have raised their family in an apartment. It is a call to hold on to the stories told on the streets by the locals, and to keep the sounds ringing out in a neighborhood populated by musicians who perform at the corner bar or social hall.