My Experience at Self Help Graphics & Art and my firing / by Joel Garcia

I’m posting this because I’ve attempted every collateral damage free path there exist available to me to address these issues and I have a responsibility to my community. I also post this knowing that I might lose two of three fellowships I was awarded this past year.

First let me say that I was fired by the Board of SHG and released of my post as Co-Director of Self Help Graphics & Art. There is a lot more to this that I’ll post in the coming days but these are some of the general things that I dealt with in regards to the Board but more specifically the former Board President and current board member Karen Mary Davalos.

On various occasions I was told that I didn’t have the “aesthetic” look to be the “face” of the organization.

That in order for me to be an Executive Director, it was suggested to me that I cut my braid.

It was ok for me to look indian when it was beneficial (grants) but not enough of a human to represent SHG.

I’ve been made to feel and questioned as if I was stealing or something. Now folks close to me that visit SHG have been treated with suspicion.

A camera was installed in the main area (without notice to me as Co-Director) and I had to put tape over the lens because it’s illegal to do that in any common area or without notifying the public as they enter. I was told that it was to protect the prints and I asked if anything had been stolen. Nothing had been stolen. But I was questioned as if I had something to hide not as if I had the knowledge and experience to know that it was illegal to have that level of surveillance. We installed safety cameras in the parking lot but there’s a difference between safety and surveillance. They checked with their lawyer and turns out I was right.

The attached image (the experience of a Black woman from last week) also underscores some of the Anti-Blackness that permeates our Latinx spaces.

At the end of May 2018, the Board, as communicated to me (and Betty) by then Board President Karen Mary Davalos, I was to terminate any working relationship with two community members that we had been employing for more than two years because they wanted to repurpose those resources (money we paid them) for the Capital Campaign. The Board of any organization does not have the power to do that. It is also illegal to use any resources granted for programs to pay for a building.

I opposed that decision in writing (Betty signed the letter) and submitted that letter to the Board. The two community members were terminated, Karen suggested I complete the work the two community members were producing AND to do it for free because well not doing so would reflect poorly on my annual review.

I raised more than $300,000 this past year but my annual review was held up two years in a row cuz well I assume that they didn’t want to pay me what I was worth.

The Board and I had been at odds because for more than 3 years I had been asking for some statement around gentrification and displacement. I was reprimanded (June 2015) for working with youth and helping them organize for more transparency and equity around the Boyle Heights Metro Developments. I continued to do that work within the Building Healthy Communities. Some of that work you’ll find living in Eastside LEADS. I’ve written draft statements after draft statement, I proposed an Anti-Displacement Task Force made up SHG Staff, artists and Board Members, and as of now the Board refuses to say or acknowledge that they have a responsibility to the community. The artists from SHG have asked for the same and communicated that directly to new Board President Endy Bernal. Endy promised to do something about it and here we are, she’s rewarded with this new role and no statement from them yet. Hmm!

In fact I spoke face to face and in confidence with Endy as a way to get the board to do or say something. And she snitched me out to the Board. But they’re happy to have me be the fall guy now that I’m no longer at SHG.

This is just some of it.

Oh and btw that exhibition and related panels currently on display at CSULA, I curated the majority of that exhibition straight down to the living room installation but SHG would rather hide that and let folks believe it was curated by two professors at SHG. All this can be confirmed in emails that exist at SHG.

anti-blackness SHG.jpg