It is our intention to support by building and mending bridges, to begin a healing process and to address the concern/issue of Olmeca crossing boundaries from mentor to mentee with women in Tucson Arizona. We a group of community members from Los Angeles write this letter with the intention of being transparent, inclusive, and accountable to the larger community as we share this process which is coming to a closure.
*We want to take this moment to clarify the process as it relates to the concern.
*Although we’ve faced challenges and a bit of communication struggle, the process was a call to duty and we chose to work through this process out of respect for the community we work with. In addition, this process in all its forms was a necessary step for bringing closure regardless of its length.
* In addition to Olmeca’s situation, this experience and collective process has helped everyone involved by reflecting on our understanding of roles in positions as leaders, educators, organizers, and artists. Through this process we developed agreements amongst the participants that we hope we can adopt as a group and serve as an example for others who relate to this experience. Although we have not finalized these, we are working collectively to holding ourselves accountable to revisit and agree to follow them.
* We want to refute any rumors and misconceptions that have arisen.
*Because the process has been difficult, we acknowledge those community members who decided to be part of this process and want to honor them and thank everyone who came together. Overall, we recognize that this is for the well being of our community here in Los Angeles and that of Tucson, Arizona.
*With that said, we would like to share the process resulting from these dialogues:
The process took place for over a period of 1 year and ½. Initially, there were internal phone calls, dialogues, and e-mails in three occasions before a larger circle was invited to participate to dialogue that included a larger community of artists, community organizers, teachers, and other leaders:
1. Address it with the people involved.
2. Decide to sit with your community and create a safe space. We decided that it would be best to create the two safe spaces. One for each side affected. Then one larger space for the community to come together and share their piece. Since this issue took place in Tucson, Two spaces were created in Arizona and two spaces in Los Angeles.
3. We acknowledge that after several attempts of wanting to resolve this issue in a healthy way, Olmeca’s intention to put an end to rumors and misconceptions and answer any questions resulted in him calling the last meeting by inviting community to a collective process where he later agreed to participate in whatever process the community would agree too.
4. Four rounds of dialogue occurred, beginning with a recount of what happened, and people’s personal feelings about it. It is important to note that participants prepared themselves knowing that this would be a difficult process.
5. Although we realize that this is ongoing, our last meeting brought closure to a community process by simply listening. This allowed some to heal, purge and let go of emotions, ill feelings, and counterproductive comments to move forward and bring forth this statement.
6. While this is an ongoing process, we acknowledge that Olmeca has gone through an internal process to address the issue such as going to counseling, not going to Tucson, and overall taking a step back from organizing and participating in doing shows in relation to Ethnic Studies.
7. As part of the process of moving forward and closure, Olmeca has recently been invited to continue working with community at Tucson Arizona.
In the following section, Olmeca shares his reflection as it relates to the issue/struggle:
This is about my wrong doings…about losing sight of ones role in the community and failure to see ones position of privilege. This is about how we can disrespect each other as men and women and individuals in a community that is striving to create a space of rebellion and healing. As people of color in the struggle we are constantly under attack. So, this is about correcting the wrong, amending the heart, and ensuring we walk together thru a process so that we don’t perpetuate the problem or leave room for outsiders to further instigate.
My disregard for my role in the community during this time and my position in the community placed a burden on muxeres in Tucson, the community in struggle in Tucson and my own in Los Angeles. Although, I did not cross sexual boundaries, I crossed the boundaries as a mentor and community leader and disrespected boundaries in a community space.
Understanding the impact of my actions, I have been reflecting and participating in collective reflection to ensure those affected are respected as the healing process continues.
For the 1st year or so, I took a step back from creating music, writing and networking. I went to independent counseling to get deeper understanding and reflect on my actions. Throughout the process I sought dialogues to reflect and get a perspective from close relatives who were affected and who had heard of the issue. I went to Tucson and met with the muxeres directly. We made agreements. They included; not performing for Ethnic Studies; seeking counseling and not participating in Tucson or spaces where some of the women affected may be present. Honoring those agreements, I also opted out of participating in anything having to do with Ethnic Studies. Even if we agreed that fundraising was okay, my participation in fundraising didn’t keep people from asking questions or questioning whether or not they should be involved. It was better for me to opt-out of that work than to jeopardize it by participating.
At the same time, there were heavy misconceptions about my actions and they needed to be addressed. I called for community dialogues in L.A. to listen to the community’s concerns, feelings about the issue. My family was also affected. I realized that my doings didn’t grant degradation to my character at this level or humiliation to my family or those who were participating in this process.
Dialogues with my community in L.A. have been medicine both for myself and the community as a whole. The muxeres in Tucson have been thru a lot and I am humbled by their process. They held me accountable and I have nothing else to do, but grow as a man, community member and honor their palabra. I hope that thru this process, we can all continue to gain knowledge about ourselves and grow stronger as a community in struggle.
This statement is to address community who has either been affected by this issue or have misconceptions or misinterpretations in regards to the issue. The women in Tucson have acknowledged this process and welcome Olmeca back into their community. We would like to note that this closure is still in process and ask that those involved in this process not be asked to delve into details and allow for closure to take place here in Los Angeles and in Tucson.
We reiterate and acknowledge that agreements were created out of the community dialogue. Therefore, we also want to honor the process that was created. Having shared the reflection and the end of the process, we ask community to refute misconceptions, support the process in Tucson and Los Angeles and respect Olmeca’s participation in this process.
We hope all those who read this honor the pain of the muxeres affected in Tucson, and in their choice to not remain silent or be silenced as it was difficult, emotional and an issue that was imposed on them. The community of Tucson, Arizona, including the muxeres, youth, and teachers share this difficult experience and it is important for our community to acknowledge and learn from it.
Community of Los Angeles
*This came about because in July of 2010 while in Tucson with Olmeca, myself along with my compañera and another artist discovered that, Olmeca was attempting to start relations with one of the young mujeres from a Tucson student group SJEP, that Olmeca was asked to speak too, serve as a mentor and be an example for. We confronted Olmeca about it that night and asked him to quit what he was doing. Upon returning to Los Angeles we received news that he was also having inappropriate conversations and making disrespectful advances torwards two other young mujeres from the same student group. Once again we confronted him about this in late August, 2010. After a long heated meeting we made acuerdos that night in which we asked him and he agreed to respect the mujeres’ space and time of healing and allow them the opportunity to address this situation with their community, peers and Ethnic Studies staff. Within two week’s time he broke those acuerdos, placed the 3 young women and their peers in much more difficult situations, added further stress to a community that was already burdened by the Ethnic Studies struggle. From that point forward I choose to confront this openly, without a template to address these kinds of issues of men in power, overstepping boundaries and abusing power dynamics in their best interest. I made mistakes in not addressing this in a much more open platform, but that happens when individuals are trying to silence things “for the good of the movement”. Regardless no matter what repercussions we suffered along with loss of friendships here in LA, blacklisting or whatever resulting effects came of us addressing Olmeca’s actions, I stand behind holding him accountable to not only his disrespectful actions towards the 3 young mujeres but also the stress and burden he added to the community of Tucson.