Arts & Humanities Initiative

Arts & Humanities Initiative

Background image: Wooden wall with flowers in bouquets across it

CRG's Arts & Humanities Initiative (AHI) is an interdisciplinary think tank created to support critical and engaged scholarship and art forms that engage race, gender, and its multiple intersections with sexuality, ethnicity, race, immigration status, and other issues. 

The AHI fosters an intellectual exchange among scholars, community activists, and artists that can cultivate interdisciplinary modes of thinking and bridge productions of knowledge that are both intellectually and creatively rigorous. 

History of AHI

The Arts & Humanities initiative emerged out of the creative production rooted in the Undocumented Student Research and Action Initiative, which organized two impactful cultural projects: 1) a creative writing workshop that resulted in the student anthology, It Was All A Dream: Writings by Undocumented Youth at UC Berkeley (2014), and 2) UndocuNation, a 2013 daylong symposium where scholars, activists, and artists explored insurgent citizenships and immigration justice at UC Berkeley, the Bay Area, and beyond, and an evening of culture jamming, visual art, and performances, hosted by Bay Area artist Favianna Rodríguez, that explored the consequences of violence against immigrant communities and liberatory visions for interventions based on creativity and art practice.

Wooden wall with flowers in bouquets across it

“They thought they would bury you,” 2014, artwork and photo by Xandra Ibarra. 

Dedicated to the Ayotzinapa Rural Students who went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico on September 26, 2014.

People of AHI

(Bios reflect scholars’ status at the time of their appointment at the Center for Race and Gender.)

Past AHI Scholars

(Bios reflect scholars’ status at the time of their appointment at the Center for Race and Gender.)

Alan with black tshirt on, with hand to chin

Alan Pelaez Lopez

Research Scholar, Arts & Humanities Initiative

Dr. Alan Pelaez Lopez is an AfroIndigenous poet, installation and adornment artist from Oaxaca, México. Their work attends to the quotidian realities of undocumented migrants in the United States, the Black condition in Latin America, and the intimate kinship units that trans and nonbinary people build in the face of violence. Their debut visual poetry collection, Intergalactic Travels: poems from a fugitive alien (The Operating System, 2020), was a finalist for the 2020 International Latino Book Award. They are also the author of the chapbook to love and mourn in the age of displacement (Nomadic Press, 2020). While they are an artist, Alan has also been organizing with undocumented migrants in the United States for over ten years and firmly believes that art is a portal into the future, but which future? That depends on the artist and the ideologies that move them.

You can read Alan’s writing on Teen Vogue, Refinery29, The Andy Warhol Museum, Everyday Feminism, Poetry, Catapult, the Georgia Review and more.

Alan founded and curates CRG's Radical Kinship Series.

Marco looking down with hands crossed

Marco Antonio Flores

Marco Antonio Flores, is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.  His research interests include contemporary queer and trans Chicana/o and U.S. Latina/o arts in visual culture, performance art, and experimental film. Through his interdisciplinary training, he hopes to contribute to understandings of the spiritual, the political, and the aesthetic in Chicana/o Art theories and practices.  He was an active member of numerous campus initiatives and is affiliated with the Center for Race and Gender; the Center for Latino Policy Research; the Performance in the Americas Working Group.

Radical Kinship Series

Since 2020, CRG’s Arts & Humanities Initiative has curated and hosted the Radical Kinship Series. 

The Radical Kinship Series brings together scholars and artists working in various media (visual arts, literature) into conversations to discuss how their art imagines decolonial futures in multiple contexts, including safety and anti-Asian violence, Black trans futures, African identity in Mexico, and abolition from indigenous, queer Black migrant, and trans perspectives.

Upcoming Radical Kinship Series Events

AHI Publications

Title Author Year Publication type
It Was All A Dream: Writings By Undocumented Youth At Uc Berkeley Undocumented Youth at UC Berkeley 2014 Anthology, 2014

Other AHI Events

Event flyer for March 11, 2021 Sana Sana

Sana Sana: Live Zoom Reading & Interview On Poetic Practice and Healing with Ariana Brown

03.11.2021 | 4:00 – 5:00 PM |  Virtual - Zoom Webinar

Join us for a special evening with a live reading and interview on poetic practice and healing with Ariana Brown.  

Ariana Brown is a queer Black Mexican American poet from the Southside of San Antonio, Texas. Ariana holds a B.A. in African Diaspora Studies and Mexican American Studies from UT Austin as well as an MFA in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh. She is the recipient of two Academy of American Poets Prizes and a 2014 national collegiate poetry slam champion. She has been writing, performing, and teaching poetry for ten years. Ariana’s work investigates queer Black personhood, affirmation and care for Black gender marginalized people, and loneliness. In January 2020, Ariana released Sana Sana, her debut poetry chapbook from Game Over Books. She has also recorded a digital EP titled LET US BE ENOUGH, available on Bandcamp.

LISTEN - Click to hear "Sana Sana"

WATCH - Click to view "Sana Sana"

Flyer for AHI 2-6-2020 Event

When They Are Here: Screening & Conversation with filmmakers Ivy & Ivan Macdonald

02.06.2020| 6:00 PM| Multicultural Community Center (MCC), MLK Jr. Student Union

When They Were Hereis a documentary film project that shines a light on the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls throughout North America. Following the screening, filmmakers Ivy and Ivan MacDonald will invite audience discussion on their work with Indigenous families, oral histories, and Indigenous forms of storytelling.

Co-sponsored with the Native American Studies, Joseph A.Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues, and the Multicultural Community Center.

Flyer for Indigiqueer Futures

Indigiqueer Futures

11.06.2019 | 6:00 – 7:00 PM |  Multicultural Community Center at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union

How can poetry interrupt settler futures? How do we honor indigiqueer loneliness? What does an indigiqueer future look like?

Billy-Ray Belcourt and Lehua M. Taitano in conversation, moderated by Afri-Indigenous Poet & CRG's Arts & Humanities Initiative Research Scholar, Alan Pelaez Lopez.

Billy-Ray Belcourt (he/him) is a writer and academic from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He is a Ph.D. candidate and 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar in the Department of English & Film Studies at the University of Alberta. A Rhodes Scholar, he holds an M.St. in Women’s Studies from the University of Oxford and Wadham College. In the First Nations Youth category, Belcourt was awarded a 2019 Indspire Award, the highest honor the Indigenous community bestows on its own leaders.

Lehua M. Taitano is a queer CHamoru writer and interdisciplinary artist from Yigu, Guåhan (Guam) and co-founder of Art 25: Art in the Twenty-fifth Century. She is the author of two volumes of poetry—Inside Me an Island(WordTech Editions) and A Bell Made of Stones (TinFish Press). Her chapbook, appalachiapacific, won the Merriam-Frontier Award for short fiction. She has two recent chapbooks of poetry and visual art: Sonoma (Dropleaf Press) and Capacity (a Hawai’i Review e-chap).

LISTEN - Click to hear "Indigiqueer Futures"

Flyer for AHI 10-17-2018 Event

Alternative Migrant Futures Through Poetry with Sonia Guiñansaca, Yujane Chen And Alan Pelaez Lopez

10.17.2018| 3:00 – 4:00 PM | Multicultural Community Center at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union

Sonia Guiñansaca
 (NYU’s Hemi 2017-2018 Artist in Residence) is an internationally acclaimed queer migrant poet, cultural organizer and activist from Harlem by way of Ecuador. A VONA/Voices and BOOAT Alumni, Guiñansaca has performed at The Met, El Museo del Barrio, The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, Galería de La Raza, and more. Guiñansaca– who is currently the Managing Director at CultureStrike–has co-founded and helped build some of the largest undocumented organizations and artistic projects in the country, and has emerged as a national leader in the undocumented/migrant artistic and political communities.

Yujane Chen (2018 Winter Tangerine Fellow) is a queer, disabled, non-binary Taiwanese im/migrant alien and child of the diaspora. They are an alum of Brave New Voices 2017 and Kearny Street Workshop’s APAture 2017. A Bay Area transplant by way of southern California, they are currently working towards a B.A. in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, where they are a student organizer for poets and underrepresented communities of color on campus. They serve as an Emerging Poet Mentor with Youth Speaks.

Alan Pelaez Lopez (CRG’s Arts & Humanities Research Initiative Fellow) is an Afro-Indigenous writer and visual artist from Oaxaca, México. Their poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and appears in POETRY Magazine, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Everyday Feminism, Rewire News, and more. They currently teach, create, mourn, ache and love in Chochenyo Ohlone Land.

Hosted by CRG Arts and Humanities Research Initiative's Exploring Queer and Trans Migrant Narratives Series.  Co-sponsored by the Multicultural Community Center, Rising Immigrant Students in Education, and the Ethnic Studies 5th Account.

Flyer for AHI 9-26-2018 Event

El Cato del Colibri: Screening and Q&A with filmmaker Marco Castro-Bojorquez

09.26.2018| 3:00 – 4:00 PM | Multicultural Community Center at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union

In an intimate and deeply personal documentary, immigrant Latino fathers across the  U.S. recount the impact of their children’s coming out. Through raw and heartfelt testimonies these families delve deeply into issues of immigration, prejudice, and isolation, while thoughtfully asking questions of their communities, culture, and even their religious beliefs. The result is a powerful lesson on solidarity and humility in a film that both heals and inspires. 

El Canto del Colibri premiered at Frameline39 in June 2015 and played at over 30 international film festivals, including screenings in Ecuador, Mexico, Spain, and throughout the United States. Winner, among others, Best Documentary Audience Choice Awards at the CinHomo Muestra de Cine. LGBT Valladolid, Spain and Best Documentary by the Jury at Can [be] Gay: 3º Festival Internacional de Cine LGBTIQ de Canarias, Spain.

Hosted by CRG Arts and Humanities Research Initiative's Exploring Queer and Trans Migrant Narratives Series.  Co-sponsored by the Multicultural Community Center, Rising Immigrant Students in Education, and the Ethnic Studies 5th Account.

Flyer for AHI 12-7-2017 Event

Poetics Of N(eg)ation: Articulating Refusal

At “Poetics of N(eg)ation: Articulating Refusal,” poets will explore what it means to articulate a kind of refusal that is urgently needed from communities who may not be part of the “national” imaginary. This event is an intimate reading delivered by each poet followed by the poets asking each other questions about their work and forming lines of affinities that undo one-way contact. This curated reading aims to ask: What does it mean to be a poet and craft articulations, stories and narratives that may have no audience? and, What happens when other artists are the audience?

Jen Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Comparative Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, but her mind and heart are often traveling the lands of her ancestors in what’s now called “Alaska.”

Luis Lopez Resendiz is a poet from the Ñuú Savi nation. He was born in Tijuana, México and is a fourth-year student at UC Berkeley majoring in ISF. Luis is also the California regional coordinator of the Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales (Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations, FIOB). In his poetry, Luis projects stories of the migration of the Ñuú Savi people and the fronterista community where he grew up.

Jennif(f)er Tamayo is a queer, migrant, Latinx poet, essayist, and performer. JT is the daughter of Nancy, Flora, Leonor y Ana. Her books include [Red Missed Aches] (Switchback, 2011) selected by Cathy Park Hong for the Gatewood Prize (2010), Poems are the Only Real Bodies (Bloof Books 2013) and YOU DA ONE (2017 reprint Noemi Books & Letras Latinas’s Akrilica Series). Currently, JT is studying the liberatory possibilities of voice and voicing. You can find their writing and art at

Sarah Whitt is a poet from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a Ph.D. student in the Department of Comparative Ethnic Studies. Her work is deeply concerned with the fraught relationship between popular, media-driven misrepresentations of Native American identity within the American imaginary at the turn of the twentieth century, and the ways in which these erroneous depictions inflect the tenor of the master historical narrative and undermine Native claims to sovereignty and cultural integrity.

Hosted by CRG Arts and Humanities Research Initiative's Exploring Queer and Trans Migrant Narratives Series.  Co-sponsored by the Multicultural Community Center, Rising Immigrant Students in Education, and the Ethnic Studies 5th Account.

LISTEN - Click to hear "Poetics of N(eg)ation: Articulating Refusal"

Flyer for AHI 10-26-2017 Event

Black Migrant Writers Respond

10.26.2017| 4:30– 6:00 PM | Multicultural Community Center at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union

“Black Migrant Writers Respond” is an intimate conversation and public reading with guests Kemi Bello (poet and cultural critic), Ola Osaze (non-fiction writer and community organizer), and Jaselia Gratini (poet, photographer, and entrepreneur) reflecting on what it means for them to create art in the midst of catastrophic violence against Black bodies and heightened xenophobic legislative policy. This conversation explores the ways in which Black immigrants are often left out of the immigrant rights movement and the ways in which the needs of Black immigrants often differ to those who are non-Black. Through this analysis, the writers explore the ways in which Blackness unsettles scholarship of illegality, undocumented life, latinidad and indigeneity and further nuances our understanding of race, migration, and queerness.

Hosted by CRG Arts and Humanities Research Initiative's Exploring Queer and Trans Migrant Narratives Series.  Co-sponsored by the Multicultural Community Center, Rising Immigrant Students in Education, and the Ethnic Studies 5th Account.

Flyer for AHI 4-28-2017 Event

Forgetting Vietnam, A Film by Trinh Minh-Ha

04.28.2017| 5:00 PM | Multicultural Community Center at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union

a film by Prof. Trinh T. Minh-haGender & Women’s Studies and Rhetoric

Touching on a trauma of international scale, FORGETTING VIETNAM is made in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the end of the war and of its survivors. Vietnam in ancient times was named đất nứớc vạn xuân—the land of ten thousand springs. Using  images of contemporary life that unfold as a dialogue between land and water, influential feminist theorist and filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha’s lyrical film essay draws inspiration from ancient legend and from water as a force evoked in every aspect of Vietnamese culture, creating a third space of historical and cultural re-memory—what local inhabitants, immigrants and veterans remember of yesterday’s stories to comment on today’s events.

Born in Vietnam, Trinh T. Minh-ha is a filmmaker, writer and music composer, and Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley. Trinh Minh-ha has traveled and lectured extensively – in the States, as well as in Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand – on film, art, feminism, and cultural politics.  She is also the recipient of many distiguished awards and grants.  Among her many influential films, publications, and multi-media installations, Trinh T. Minh-ha is the author of Lovecidal. Walking with The Disappeared (2016), D-Passage. The Digital Way (2013), Elsewhere Within Here (Immigration, Refugeeism and The Boundary Event, 2010); The Digital Film Event (2005), Cinema Interval (1999), Framer Framed (on film, 1992), When the Moon Waxes Red, (on representation, gender and cultural politics, 1991), Woman, Native, Other (on post-coloniality and feminism, 1989), and En minuscules (poems, 1987). 

Flyer for 3-2-2017 CRG Forum

Migrating the Black Body: The African Diaspora and Visual Culture

03.02.2017 |  4:30 - 6:00 PM | 691 Barrows Hall

A roundtable with Prof. Leigh Raiford, African American Studies) and Prof. Heiki Raphael-Hernandez, University of Maryland

Migrating the Black Body explores how visual media-from painting to photography, from global independent cinema to Hollywood movies, from posters and broadsides to digital media, from public art to graphic novels-has shaped diasporic imaginings of the individual and collective self. How is the travel of black bodies reflected in reciprocal black images? How is blackness forged and remade through diasporic visual encounters and reimagined through revisitations with the past? And how do visual technologies structure the way we see African subjects and subjectivity? This volume brings together an international group of scholars and artists who explore these questions in visual culture for the historical and contemporary African diaspora. Examining subjects as wide-ranging as the appearance of blackamoors in Russian and Swedish imperialist paintings, the appropriation of African and African American liberation images for Chinese Communist Party propaganda, and the role of YouTube videos in establishing connections between Ghana and its international diaspora, these essays investigate routes of migration, both voluntary and forced, stretching across space, place, and time.

LEIGH RAIFORD is associate professor of African American studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle and coeditor of The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory.

 is professor of English at the University of Maryland University College, Europe and professor of American Studies at the University of Wurzburg, Germany. She is the author of The Utopian Aesthetics of Three African American Women (Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Julie Dash): The Principle of Hope and editor of Blackening Europe: The African American Presence. The contributors are Rushay Booysen, Kiersten Chace, Cedric Essi, Cheryl Finley, Robeson Taj Frazier, Sonja Georgi, Robin J. Hayes, Carsten Junker, Charles I. Nero, Irina Novikova, Tavia Nyong’o, Joachim Ostlund, Alan Rice, Julia Roth, Reginold Royston, Karen N. Salt, Darieck Scott, Krista Thompson, Pia Wiegmink, and Lyneise Williams.

LISTEN - Click to hear "Migrating the Black Body: The African Diaspora and Visual Culture"

Flyer for AHI 5-2-2016 Event

Lingering Latinidad

05.02.2016 | 2:00 - 4:00 PM | Center for Latino Policy Research, 2547 Channing Way @ Bowditch St.

This collaborative event between queer Latina/o scholars Joshua Guzmán, Christina León, and performance artist Xandra Ibarra will investigate how the emerging field of Latina/o Studies is indebted, enabled, andpushed forward by questions of theory and aesthetics. Focusing on the recent release of a special issue of Women and Performance edited by Guzmán and León entitled, “Lingering in Latinidad: Theory, Aesthetics, and Performance in Latina/o Studies,” the editors propose that if latinidad is to enact a problem for gender, sexuality, the nation-state, and so on, then lingering becomes a critical practice of meditating on the possibilities of a problem or impasse. Exploring how latinidad functions as a problem within the aesthetic field, they ask: What forms are activated by the identiatrian that in turn “trouble” the aestheric realm? Are minoriarian performances potential vexations to the dominant culture? And how might aesthetics account for these disturbances? These questions are illuminated by the aesthetic praxis of local queer Chicana artist, Xandra Ibarra, and her 2015 photographic series entitled, “Ecdysis: The Molting of a Cucarachica,” which is also featured in the special issue. The art featured on the right, entitled “Carcass,” is a photo from that series.

Hosted by thee Center for Race Gender, the Center for Latino Policy Research, and the Queer and Transgender Advocacy Project at the Graduate Assembly.  Co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Sexual Cultures, Gender Women’s Studies, and the Teatro Project at Cal.

Image for AHI 9-5-2015 Event

Imaginary Activism with Guillermo Gómez Peña

09.04.2015 | 7:00 PM| Durham Studio Theater, UC Berkeley

The role of the artist beyond the art world

A spoken word monologue by Guillermo Gómez Peña
Opening remarks by Prof. Laura E. Pérez, Department of Ethnic Studies

In recent years, Gómez Peña has explored two distinct territories in his solo work: The ongoing rewriting and reenactment of some of his classic performances (he calls this his “living archive”), and writing and testing brand new material dealing with radical citizenship and what he terms “imaginary activism.” In both cases, the artist’s unique format for revealing to an audience the process of creating, languaging and performing material becomes the actual project. It is precisely in his new solo work where his literature, theory, pedagogy live art come together in a wonderfully strange mix. Not one solo performance is ever the same.

Gómez Peña has spent many years developing his unique solo style, “a combination of embodied poetry, performance activism and theatricalizations of postcolonial theory.” In his ten books, as in his live performances (with his troupe La Pocha Nostra), digital art, videos and photo performances, he pushes the boundaries still further, exploring what’s left for artists to do in a repressive global culture of censorship, paranoid nationalism and what he terms “the mainstream bizarre.” GómezPeña examines where this leaves the critical practice of artists who aim to make tactical, performative interventions into our notions of culture, race and sexuality. Most recently has also been exploring the poetic and activist use of new technologies and social media.

Guillermo Gómez-Peña i
s a performance artist, writer, activist, radical pedagogue and director of the performance troupe La Pocha Nostra. Born in Mexico City, he moved to the US in 1978. His performance work and 11 books have contributed to the debates on cultural gender diversity, border culture and US-Mexico relations. His artwork has been presented at over nine hundred venues across the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Russia, South Africa and Australia. A MacArthur Fellow, Bessie and American Book Award winner, he is a regular contributor for newspapers and magazines in the US, Mexico, and Europe and a contributing editor to The Drama Review (NYU-MIT). Gómez-Peña is a Senior Fellow in the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, a Patron for the London-based Live Art Development Agency and in 2012 he was named Samuel Hoi Fellow by USA Artists.

Organized by CRG's Arts & Humanities Initiative Research Scholar Marco A. Flores and Stephanie Sherman. Presented by the Department of Ethnic Studies and the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies in collaboration with the Center for Race and Gender and UC Berkeley’s Arts Research Center. Co-sponsored by the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley, Asian American Asian Diaspora Studies, Center for Latino Policy Research, Center for the Study of Sexual Cultures, English Department, Ethnic Studies 5th Account, Gender Women’s Studies Department, History of Art Department, Queer Transgender Advocacy Project (QTAP) at Graduate Assembly, Spanish Department, Teatro Project at UC Berkeley, Townsend Center for Humanities

Timeline of AHI

2021 - 2022

2021 - 2022 included  another year of the "Radical Kinship Series," curated and hosted by CRG's Arts and Humanities Initiative Research Scholar, Alán Pelaez Lopez.  This year's series focused on scholars and artists on the undocumented and unauthorized migration. 

2020 - 2021

Starting in Fall 2020, CRG introduced new series "Radical Kinship," curated and hosted by CRG's Arts and Humanities Initiative Research Scholar, Alán Pelaez Lopez. Radical Kinship Series hosted conversations that confront how we fail and succeed to show up for one another in the midst of violence. 

2017 - 2018

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan established the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities as a means to utilize “the power of the arts and humanities to contribute to the vibrancy of our society, the education of our children, the creativity of our citizens, and the strength of our democracy” (PCHA online). On August 18, 2017, 16 members of the committee resigned to protest Trump’s presidency, which has been theorized as one that necessitates the controlled image of racialized, gendered, and foreign-born communities as “dangerous,” “terrorist,” etc. The resignation brings to light the power of cultural production in politics and makes us ask: What is art?; Can art alone change culture?; And, why have art pedagogies been marginal in the critical humanities and critical social sciences?

To address these three questions, AHI is organizing Poetics of Resistance, a poetry series in which poets of various races, genders, ages, migration status, and occupations are invited to be in conversation with one another. This series will be curated and thematized in a way that brings a new critical lens to humanities scholarship.

2016 - 2017

After being officially established in 2016-2017, the Arts & Humanities Initiative organized a book roundtable for the anthology, Migrating the Black Body: The African Diaspora and Visual Cultureedited by Prof. Leigh Raiford, African American Studies, and Prof. Heiki Raphael-Hernandez, University of Maryland, as well as a campus screening and discussion of Forgetting Vietnam, a lyrical film essay by Prof. Trinh T. Minh-ha, Gender & Women’s Studies.

2015 - 2016

With the leadership of Marco Flores, a former CRG research scholar who led the organizing of the above cultural projects, CRG also co-organizeImaginary Activism, a 2015 performance and theater workshop by Guillermo Gómez Peña, and produced the 2016 forum, Lingering Latinidad, a collaborative event between queer Latina/o scholars Joshua Guzmán, Christina León, and local performance artist Xandra Ibarra.