Sunday, June 10, 2007

Margaret Randall: Woman We Love

Maggie says:
I'm so proud to have been part of an amazing night for change last Friday. Amidst friends, music, and community, the SouthWest Organizing Project hosted a Silent Art Auction at the Central Park Deli in the Silver Moon Lodge for a very special cause.

Late next week, a delegation of 100 New Mexicans will travel together across the Deep South, with very special stops along the way to pick up fellow grassroots organizations, arriving in Atlanta for the U.S. Social Forum at the end of the month. The trip's going to be powerful, taking many folks through communities they otherwise might never see first-hand. The Social Forum itself will be an event to be remembered, and I love that the organizers chose the South as their host. Lucky for us, we'll get to experience the tour and the forum through one M's blogging (leave it to Marjorie to ensure wireless internet access on the bus!).

The highlight of Friday's auction was a collection of 19 Margaret Randall photographs from Nicaragua. I'd seen these photos in the shape that SWOP found them in previous to the event - a little bit dusty, a little bit disorganized, and basically the best "under the couch" kind of find a grassroots organization can hope for. That said, I was unprepared for the impact of seeing them displayed together, beautifully matted and framed, and signed by Randall herself. The photos were taken in 1979, just after the Sandinistas came to power, and the imagery is overwhelming. Take a look at the link above to see the entire collection and I think you'll agree.

In addition to the Randall photographs, the other highlight of the auction was a room full of political posters from all over the world. The variety was really amazing, and the collection was pretty outstanding.

For me, though, it had to be a Randall. Right away, one jumped out at me, and sure enough, the bidding escalated... but my shopping instincts took over (not to mention my texting instincts to a favorite co-buyer), and I won it in the end. Here's what I took home:

Tonight, I spent some time adding some nuance to what my winning bid got me (although owning an original photograph that I really adore is enough in itself). What I discovered was truly incredible, because I had no idea just how amazing a woman Margaret Randall is. (It's outrageous this woman doesn't have a wikipedia entry, by the way!) Her story - as told in a documentary I'd love to see, "The Unapologetic Life of Margaret Randall," takes her through chapters of poetry, photography, activism, art, and fiction so "subversive" that the U.S. government tried to deport her. The author of more than 70 books, "Sandino's Daughters: Testimonies of Nicaraguan Women in Struggle," is considered a classic. Happily, I discovered that my photograph appears in her book "Women Brave in the Face of Danger: Photographs of and Writing by Latin and North American Women."

Finally, the photo itself has a wonderful story of its own. Here's what Randall says about the moment she took it:

There was the day I spotted those lines from Leonel Rugama’s poem, jumped out of the jeep and raised my camera to capture the wall with the words “Los heroes, nuestros heroes, nunca dijeron que morĂ­an por la patria sino que murieron . . .” Three women carrying loads of wash walked into the picture plane, and turned and posed just as I snapped the shutter. Rugama had been a 20 year old seminary student when he was assassinated in 1967 by Somoza’s National Guard. Had he lived, he would have been one of his country’s finest poets. Many ordinary Nicaraguans know his poetry by heart.

I'm appalled I'd never before heard of Leonel Rugama, but reading more about him online and knowing the full context of this amazing photo, not to mention the woman who took it, makes me one satisfied SWOP contributor.

For more information on Margaret Randall, head over to the Center for Southwest Research at UNM. The Margaret Randall Papers are housed there, and include a significant amount of material and correspondence from throughout her life, much of it related to her lawsuit against the U.S. government over her immigration status. Now aging gracefully (and spunkily, I'm sure) in New Mexico, Randall recently signed all the mats at SWOP and was generous enough to write a reflection supporting the delegation to the U.S. Social Forum. No question about it; Margaret Randall has officially become one of m-pyre's "Women We Love."

For more information on how you can still contribute to the SWOP delegation, contact the office. And don't forget about SWOPblogger, too! Jo Ann, another woman we love, has been doing an incredible job over there. And I continue to give all the credit in the world to SWOP for being able to pull off such a fantastic night; I can only imagine the goodness that'll come out of the delegation.

PS: I swear the Central Park Deli has the best falafel sandwich in town. I know, who would've guessed?! They also have really kick-ass fries for when falafel's not going to cut it. Go support them when you're craving something good; they were extremely generous to SWOP in hosting the event and couldn't be nicer folks.