Last Fall JT Roane and Huewayne Watson, of the Black Arts Collective of Philadelphia and Real Revolution, spent two weeks living and making work in South El Monte. Taking advantage of El Monte’s Centennial celebration, they worked with over 100 youth at South El Monte High School to collaboratively construct alternative historical narratives. Huewayne introduced students to the language of cimarrones and maroons to help them develop a critical vocabulary from which to conceptualize alternative histories in alternative spaces. Students shared a number of stories relayed from grandparents, parents, and neighbors about all pasts that would likely never find home in an academic textbook for high school students. JT and Huewayne used these stories to construct and tell a counter history of the place from the perspectives of students of color who live in El Monte and South El Monte, one that differs significantly from El Monte’s official museum which suggests that the place should be narrated exclusively in the voice of “pioneers” and their descendants. The following day they invited the same high school students to participate in an after school photo shoot/ dance party/ hike in a river bed that is part of the waterways where legendary Mexican “bandito” Joaquin Murrieta is believed to have hidden from white vigilantes.
They will be showing photographs from this project-including photographs taken by South El Monte High School-at Columbia University’s conference History in Action: Historical Thinking in Public Life, to take place March 8th and 9th. Exhibit will be at Friday, 6:15, at French House, the building in front of Philosophy hall. The conference will bring together graduate students, professors, and non-academic professionals with university training “to take stock of the place of historical thinking in public life and assess the roles and responsibilities of the historian today.” Schedule looks great, if you are in NYC go check it out. Schedule here.