I have been trying to explore themes in the course of my life that occur more than once, and that can stimulate a good degree of thought on my part. One of those has been the passing of activists and visionaries. I started listening to Jazz around the age of sixteen. With Jazz, I felt embarrassed anytime I tried to write or talk about it because I didn’t feel I had the vocabulary. With music in general I could only express that a song made me feel giddy, dark, or uncomfortable. Elementary. And with Jazz, I admitted to myself that I felt like I was missing something, and I would often joke that it was because I was possibly atonal. Since then, I have allowed those feelings of “not getting it” to dissipate. I am not setting up a moral-of-the-story scenario, I just believe Jazz is stimulating because of what I have seen and heard: musicians talk to each other, call and respond, they improvise a part of a piece, improvise a whole piece, reflecting their mood and it’s an amazing conversation to hear and watch. Austin Peralta was considered a prodigy piano player and he was constantly active, playing shows locally and internationally. At his live performances, I would sometimes close my eyes and just listen– and when the piano playing started to get crazy awesome, I would open them again and look for him, allow my mind to connect the piano notes floating all around me to the image of him smiling, moving his fingers quickly, methodically. There are also marveling examples of youth around me changing the landscape of the status quo. It has made me wonder about the capacity of such phenomenal youth because I am one those that frequently sets up roadblocks, obstacles, on the journey of realizing my own creativity.
The Brainfeeder music label is independent of giant music labels, and they signed on someone such as the young Austin Peralta, in an age when Jazz is far removed from the mainstream. I feel like so much music and art, Jazz is a complex manifestation of the struggle communities experience under different mechanisms of oppression. I keep thinking about Austin Peralta, I don’t know why, but I can’t help but wonder whether his death is affecting me in more ways than I can perceive. As an undocumented youth, I have been involved with social-political activism at different levels. My consciousness of being undocumented began with, “I don’t have papers, I can’t tell anyone… things will change soon”. Things have changed. There are those who have been braver than I and have been arrested to expose an unjust system that criminalizes displaced immigrants and families. My smaller roles in the undocumented movement have led me to really believe in the power of our own personal narratives. I am anxious to take a more active role in my own narrative, and that of the movement. There are plenty of examples in our movement, of brave conscious youth working to demand our rights at rally’s, protests, sit-in, nd organizing via the internet. A while back, my partner’s interest in technology, the narratives of technology, the battles on the internet about information, the battles about the internet and information, became one of my interests. The internet has a lot to do with organizing: signing petitions, connecting different networks, strategizing using Facebook and Twitter. Thus it became important for me to understand the issues surrounding the internet, the very platform that was aiding in our dissemination of information about the destruction of undocumented or mixed status families and record high deportation numbers under Obama. Maybe it’s self-serving that I began to read about net neutrality, data mining, clouding, privacy or lack-thereof, but I knew that there were important issues that could hinder or help organizing. I don’t even know when or why I started reading about Aaron Swartz but I felt the importance of his work, and he was in tune with social justice. A young programmer, a prodigy in his field, and socially conscious. In many ways, he understood and was a part of those platforms where people could distribute information. I have never been a smart prodigy kid like Austin nor Aaron, but I felt and could perceive the importance of the internet– some assumed maybe it was too big, too much to focus and organize (this should sound familiar to those organizing their underrepresented communities) people on the internet. The destruction of SOPA/PIPA proved otherwise. I remember reading about the JSTOR papers he downloaded and distributed because I frequently get frustrated at my lack of access to academic papers and knowledge. For trying to release knowledge to the public, the federal government opened a case against him, at one point trying to imprison him for 35 years. The access of information is a key issue.
Peralta, along with Brainfeeder, created its own sort of culture, like many other good, independent, music labels; artists are constantly creating, bringing people all over the world into their vision. Aaron Swartz also connected folks, while working on different campaigns for change, including organizing information and people on and via the internet. Our undocumented movement has been doing both of the above, for years, maybe it’s why I can’t help but make connections. I write about these individuals because they keep coming up in my mind, and I need to understand why they were so interesting to me, and what there is to learn. These past few months have been hard on someone like me, jobless and also having to move out of my home of 12 years, and much much more. It’s the end of January, I will be attending a Tribute to Austin Peralta in Venice.