We spoke to Black Lives Matter organizer Reverend Sekou about activism and the new single “We Comin.” And later we sit down with director Paul Flores and long-time organizer Alex Sanchez about the play Placas.
About Rev. Sekou & The Holy Ghost
The sound of Rev. Sekou & the Holy Ghost is a symphony of gospel, blues, soul, funk and freedom songs laced with sanctified blues and lyrics that range from religious to risqué. The group’s members, Reverend Osagyefo Sekou & Jay-Marie Hill, met at 2015 The Movement for Black Lives gathering, when Rev. Sekou washed pepper spray off Jay-Marie’s face in the aftermath of activists demanding Cleveland Police de-arrest a wrongly detained 14 year old boy back into his mother’s custody. Unexpectedly reuniting just weeks later in Oakland, California, they penned the entire “The Revolution Has Come” album in less than a week. Writer, producer and lead vocalist, Rev. Sekou is a third generation Pentecostal preacher and long time organizer, author and activist, grounded in the tradition of the Arkansas Delta Blues. His grandfather played piano in juke joints for the legends including B.B. King, Albert King, and Louis Jordan. Singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Jay-Marie Hill (she/they) is a Black y Boricua, genderQueer artist, musician, activist and renegade. Born and raised in the Oakland Bay Area, Jay-Marie is a teacher, mentor, arts administrator, artist, musician and provocateur working to deconstruct, liberate and recreate.
The song is available now, as a free download, athttps://soundcloud.com/farfetched/we-comin
In street culture, placas signify an individual member’s unswerving loyalty to the gang and also serve as a mechanism to create a new identity. Using Fausto’s tattoos as a metaphor, PLACAS explores the process of tattoo removal as one possible path for former gang members to move forward. Laser tattoo removal is a complicated and painful procedure that can take years to conclude, and it is especially risky for ex-gang members because their former comrades see it as betrayal and may target those who seek treatment. Partly because of this risk, gang prevention workers, police, probation officers, judges and caseworkers see tattoo removal as a legitimate step gang members can take toward reintegrating into civil society.
Salinas, who was born in El Salvador, said of the play, “Living in San Francisco in the 1980s, a time when the war sent many refugees to places like San Francisco’s Mission District, I saw first-hand how this wave of immigrants impacted the neighborhoods and how the realities of trying to adapt to living in the U.S. impacted Salvadorans. I was almost killed trying to prevent gang violence in front of my home in the Mission, so it is something I have first-hand experience with. I agreed to play Fausto because I’m hoping that by telling his story, it will allow audiences, old and young, to experience and learn about the consequences when loved ones become caught up in gang activity.”
“What a gang member has to go through to be human is huge,” Flores explained in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “There’s a mangled sense of identity, of life outside the gang clashing with the code of the gang. How do you recover from that? How does a man like Fausto recover his humanity after a lifetime of war and violence?”
PLACAS was first produced at the San Francisco International Arts Festival in 2012, and has since traveled to over a dozen cities including Los Angeles, Washington DC and New York. Co-commissioned by four nationally respected Latino arts organizations (MACLA, Su Teatro, Pregones Theatre Company and GALA Hispanic Theatre) through the National Performance Network, PLACAS was developed with the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) as a pro-active community response to the issue of transnational gang violence, presenting positive elements of Central American culture in the context of a hostile, anti-immigrant political environment.