Freedom From Want

UnbenanntDisrupting the Dinner Table/ Freedom from Want – a performative set-up in Los Angeles around the dinner table, the centerpiece of a house as the most prominent symbol of domesticated cultures.

Freedom from Want refers to FDR’s New Deal programs, where he placed a high priority on securing “freedom from want”. It became the third of the Four Freedoms series of oil paintings by Norman Rockwell depicting a family gathering around the Thanksgiving dinner table. Roosevelt also commissioned the activist, field worker, gambler, and writer Carlos Bulosan to write an essay ‘Freedom from Want’. Bulosan died ten years later in poverty at the age of 43.

Taking Rockwell’s painting as a starting point, we’ll celebrate Bulosan’s birthday on Sept 11th with a performative dinner party to revisit labor rights, art/activism, and the refusal to work. It will bring together a diverse group of activists, union organizers, scholars, workers, gangsters, hobos, gamblers, and artists of different generations. In cooperation with Father Tom Carey and the Church of the Epiphany in Lincoln Heights, this invention celebrates the writer/activist per se, to examine the phenomenon of the ‘archetype’ of the socialist writer, the proletarian writer, and the debate around militant versus non-violent labor movements. The Church of the Epiphany in Lincoln Heights played an important role in the struggle for Latino rights during the 1960’s and 1970’s lead by Caesar Chavez and the catholic, non-violent UFW (United Farm Workers). The church also served as headquarters for the militant brown berets’ ‘Social Action Training Center’.

In preparation for the birthday party, I intend to reinstate and update the ‘Social Action Training Center’ with its original agenda from 1966: “to fight police harassment, inadequate public schools, inadequate health, inadequate job opportunities, minority education issues, and the lack of political representation” with a workers’ writing workshop and publication.

The storytelling workshop will guide participants to write literary non-fiction, portraying people and situations. The workshop emphasizes writing as the seemingly dominant art form of political thinking and aims to revive and update the idea of proletarian literature. The workshop participants will write about themselves by writing about others: family members, neighbors, or people and situations of personal interest.

Inspired by Reports from Labor, a popular radio show which ran from 1948 to 1950 hosted by maritime worker, labor activist, and radio personality Jerry Tyler, the 21st Century Fox Den will produce an improv-based live radio variety show and radio podcast. Immigrants, workers, activists, writing students, young poets and singer-songwriter, as well as renowned writers and scholars will contribute to Reports from Labor, echoing the works of Jerry Tyler, Carlos Bulosan, Sanora Babb, John Steinbeck, and Paul Robeson.