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Annual exhibition honors Teco’s cómplices, highlights visual contributors of 2019
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Acción Latina’s 6th annual exhibition, the multidisciplinary “Cómplices en la Resistencia,” reflects the power of photojournalism, emphasizing the importance of thoughtful and compassionate reporting, particularly in a field that tends to elevate some voices and subjugate others. 

Curated by El Tecolote Photo Editor Natasha Kohli, the show’s title is a nod to the Indigenous Action’s 2014 zine, “Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing The Ally Industrial Complex, An Indigenous Perspective & Provocation,” a revolutionary guide that identifies points of intervention against the “allyship industrial complex.” The term refers to the problematic approach of activists who address “community issues” from a capitalistic and exploitative lens, often seen in photojournalism and visual storytelling.

The provocation challenges so-called “allies” to rethink their intentions in community organizing and nonprofit work, and to consider the difference between acting for others, with others, and acting for one’s own interests.

“The risks of an ally who provides support or solidarity (usually on a temporary basis) in a fight are much different than that of an accomplice. When we fight back or forward, together, becoming complicit in a struggle towards liberation, we are accomplices,” the text reads.

According to the text, “allyship” is passive participation in the anti-oppression struggle, the person who wishes to “help” folks in the fight for liberation but at their own convenience. They are the “floaters” who jump from one issue to the next but withdraw once meaningful action and discussion extend beyond their comfort zones. 

Accomplices actively disobey colonial structures and ideas, utilizing their privilege for the betterment of all groups who face intersecting forms of oppression. Unafraid of personal or professional backlash, accomplices strategize with, not for, and listen with respect while holding themselves accountable and responsible in the process.

“The people that I feel most inspired by are those who are willing to sacrifice everything for what they believe in, those willing to put themselves in an uncomfortable and unknown place because they know it must happen for people to pay attention,” Kohli said. “This is how revolutions begin, how history is made, and how someone’s frame of thought changes. It’s not by staying comfortable.”

Featuring work from 26 volunteer photographers and illustrators, “Cómplices en la Resistencia” focuses not only on the struggles and fights, tragedies and traumas among communities of color, but showcases their celebrations, accomplishments and triumphs, a mission that El Tecolote has upheld for nearly 50 years. The bilingual publication, along with its many contributors, continues the struggle against colonization, determined to uplift the historical and personal narratives often invisibilized by forces who seek to silence them.

“We are accomplices in that we’re in this for the long run, we’re in it until the end, we’re in it no matter what,” Kohli said.

Previously known as the annual “Latino Life Photography Exhibition,” the show is the only ongoing photography event in the San Francisco Bay Area that highlights the Latinx experience. This year’s exhibit is unique in that it documents diverse backgrounds locally, nationally and internationally—from the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border to the Guatemalan Mam community of Oakland to the artist behind the aesthetic of the Black Panther Party newspaper to shedding light on missing and murdered women in First Nation communities. 

“To be an accomplice is to recognize that your own community’s struggle is not the only struggle. There are a lot of similarities and parallels in the struggles of other minority groups that reflect your own,” Kohli said. “We can learn from the ways other communities are solving problems, how they dismantle, rebuild, and heal collectively.”

Kohli hopes the exhibit will prompt conversations about political activism, and encourage people to not only question their motives but challenge the way they do things in and beyond their communities. As the text concludes:

“Direct action is really the best and may be the only way to learn what it is to be an accomplice. We’re in a fight, so be ready for confrontation and consequence.” 

“Cómplices en la Resistencia” is on display now at Acción Latina’s Juan R. Fuentes Gallery—located at 2958 24th St., San Francisco—and it will run until January 14, 2020. Exhibiting artists include: Gabriela Alemán, Bhabna Banerjee, Emily Barresi, Jocelyn Carranza, Mike Chen, Chris “L7” Cuadrado, Nick Derenzi, Alejandro Galicia Diaz, Ivan Hernandez, Amarah Hernandez, David Mamaril Horowitz, Gabriella Angotti-Jones, Mabel Jiménez, Brianna Kalajian, Lara Kaur, Ekevara Kitpowsong, Natasha Kohli, Beth LaBerge, Valeria Olguín Ontiveros, Amanda Peterson, Dane Pollok, Drago Rentería, Carla Hernández Ramírez, Sophia Schultz Rocha, Alexis Terrazas, Adelyna Tirado and Mark Jayson Quines.

Story by: Casey Ticsay

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