Why I am Involved with SJAF

“I’m a Gay Poet Warrior. I have no choice but to be involved with the Social Justice Art Festival!

In all seriousness, violence is a reality in my life that I do not have the privilege of ignoring. I am the target of intimidation, verbal abuse, physical assault, death threats, and violence in its many other forms–not because I am in the wrong place at the wrong time, but because of who I am.

I reject the idea that violence exists “out there” and on the national news yet is locally absent. People are surprised to learn how often I’ve been a victim of homophobic violence. People are surprised that I was physically assaulted this past October, right here in Ann Arbor, less than a mile away from the site of the Social Justice Art Festival.
People are surprised with the non-indictments, racist police murderers, Islamophobic hate crimes, gender-based beatings
. . .

We who know violence as a reality are waiting to be surprised. I believe that the Social Justice Art Festival is an opportunity to surprise ourselves by creating unities among our communities. When we gather in a space filled with art related to violence, vulnerability, and social justice, I believe we will see something greater than individual snippets of peoples‘ experiences; I believe we will see how the works of art speak to each other. By entering this artistic dialogue, perhaps we will begin to discover ways in which otherwise divided communities might unite against violence.

In a way, many of us are already united–through no choice of our own–by violence. It is one thing we have in common; we all have a vested interest in eliminating violence from our respective communities. I believe that if we tell our stories through art, we can identify and disrupt the systems of oppression that channel violence into our communities. At the very least, the Social Justice Art Festival is my attempt at active solidarity against violence.”

– Brian Minalga
SJAF Committee Member