I Am Why, an organization led by young women and gender expansive activists, launched an art and social justice book titled I Am Why Reclaiming the Lens in November 2020. On March 8, 2021, the I Am Why Reclaiming the Lens art exhibit will open at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts and runs through April 9th.
I Am Why Reclaiming the Lens invites the viewer to experience the brush strokes and the stories of system impacted young women and gender expansive folks. The portraits in I Am Why Reclaiming the Lens were created at four I Am Why art and writing workshops in 2018-2019 in Boston, Chicago, New York and the Bay Area. Through this interactive exhibit of collaged portraits created by 22 artists, the community is welcomed to join the movement to celebrate, uplift and amplify these voices.
“We are reclaiming our narrative—as artists, as activists and as those oppressed by systems. We are the experts of our struggles and triumphs,” says Alondra Aragon, an artist and editor featured in the book and a curator of the show. “I Am Why reimagines what society can look like with young women’s voices at the center, because we know whoever controls the lens holds the power.”
Thirty four years ago MCCLA held its first women-only art exhibit: Sólo Mujeres. This signature exhibit addressed the need for a venue where Latina artists in the Bay Area could express the achievements made in a male dominated art scene. Over the years Sólo Mujeres has drawn numerous and renowned artists throughout California and beyond, providing a space where emerging and mid-career artists receive artistic and market exposure. 34 years later MCCLA continues to support the advancement of women artists, promoting their voice within the arts and providing the forum to create their own history!
COVID has changed society but I Am Why’s activists continue their fight to change policy and demand reforms to end mass incarceration and state violence. I Am Why Reclaiming the Lens captures a vision that is inspired by and grounded in their lived experience, and calls for an end to the oppression and dehumanization of marginalized young people and young women. This show is an opportunity to see what empowering and investing in young women looks like. Creating opportunities for young women allows them to believe and achieve– they can curate a show, inspire a young sister, and ignite a sense of community among young women. I Am Why is creating new pathways, led by young women and gender expansive activists, to create and lead with dignity and self-respect regardless—indeed because of— their past.
To learn more about I Am Why: