CalArts community organizes walk-out as part of nationwide inauguration protests

CalArts students gather on a field on campus during a walkout on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 in response to the inauguration of President Donald Trump. They chanted "No Trump, no KKK, no facist USA," and "The people united, will never be divided." Katharine Lotze/Signal

As Donald J. Trump took his oath of office to become 45th President of the United States, community members and California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) students participated in a campus solidarity walk-out as part of the nationwide #J20 Art Strike.

“This is what we’re all about, coming together and creating and thriving in the face of adversity,” said Malik Drawhorn, a CalArts design and production student and the student representative to the CalArts Board of Trustees.

The walk-out was organized by CalArts students Ana Cecilia Alvarez, Beth Fiedorek and Alexandra Leon when they heard of the nationwide #J20 movement.

“After the election we were all pretty upset but we had to continue in school,” Fiedorek said.  “Me and Alex realized that it wouldn’t be OK just to continue on… so we organized the walk-out.”

Standing for inauguration day on Jan. 20, the #J20 Art Strike began on social media and grew to include museums, concert halls, studios, galleries, theaters and non-profits closing.  Participants chose to either shut down or walk-out of their establishments on inauguration day as a method to “combat the normalization of Trumpism.”

On CalArts campus Friday morning, the sentiment was the same.  Fliers for the walk-out stated that students would be “organizing and preparing for resistance” against an “incoming president who rode racism, sexism, xenophobia and bigotry to the White House.”

Students were moved to tears as they heard community members and students speak during the demonstration’s open platform session.

Speakers shared poems, personal stories, philosophical teachings and words of encouragement as they touched on the topics of art, language, nonconformity, progress and unity.

“I think it really sort of brings back the idea of the CalArts community that we really support each other and that we can all congregate in one place and reflect back to the rest of the world what our views are and what our values are, which is important and needed for morale,” Drawhorn said.

A consistent theme throughout the demonstration was the need to stay united and continue organizing, marching and talking with people of different backgrounds during the next four years.

“We have a massive challenge ahead of us and the only way to get to through it is if we come together, organize, vote, run for office ourselves, because we are the future,” said Philip Germain, a College of the Canyons student who attended the CalArts walk-out.  “The future is bright, we just have to fight.”

A grandmother in attendance briefly walked to the center of the gathering to tell attendees that they are the future and to “keep up this fight.”

Attendees also read an excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s April 16, 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in unison as they hugged one another.

The final demonstration before the walk-out was a dance performance choreographed and conceptualized by eight dancers who were part of a two-work course based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses and other writings.

Collectively, the group created a piece performed on dirt with rose petals and nude outfits to represent Ovid’s stories about rape and womanhood, and to characterize Trump’s comments toward women during the election, according to the dancers.

“I’m glad we’re in an environment where we can have an outlet to use our art and make change,” dancer Odessa Uno said.

Fellow dancer Catalina Jackson-Urueña said the piece was important for the women, who wanted to use their art form to enact change.

“Being women in life and using dance to say something about what’s going on is very powerful for me,” she said.

Students then braved the rain as they walked from the CalArts entrance to the soccer field, chanting “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” a phrase first uttered by Green Day at the American Music Awards in late-November.

“What we’re focusing on is that today is not everyone’s ideal, it is some people’s ideal, but either way we’re going to spend it together and we’re going to fight for the rights of our fellow students and fellow people and that’s why we’re here,” Drawhorn said.

This is not the first act of solidarity on the CalArts campus surrounding Trump’s election and inauguration.

On Wednesday, students, teachers and alumni participated in #J18, a nationwide education movement, where they conducted workshops about the “role of critical thinking and academic knowledge in challenging Trumpism.”

And after the election on Nov. 9, the CalArts community joined together for a meeting to unify and fight back for what they believe in, according to Drawhorn.

“Probably one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen was the community coming together,” Drawhorn said.

As the next administration takes office, CalArts students said they will continue to take part in demonstrations, voice their opinions and support one another.

“It’s humbling in a lot of ways,” Drawhorn said.  “We can take part in something that places around the world are also driving forward and having a voice in.”

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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