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The arts of resistance
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Afro-Colombian men and women in their twenties are leading a movement to resist violence and displacement. JRS has partnered with their group in an effort to prevent the use and recruitment of children into armed groups.

Calling themselves Faces and Footprints, this collective of musicians, poets and painters inaugurated their organization after a brutal massacre of athletes and artists in the Punta del Este community of Buenaventura. One of the artists described with horror the kidnapping and dismemberment of the young community leaders of this neighborhood.  

In 2005, 12 youth between 17 and 23 years old were playing their regular soccer game. An armed group promised that if they played for them, they would be paid. The young men were loaded into a truck and driven away. Their bodies were later found along the highway every few miles, showing signs of torture. There was no explanation.

"We decided we must find a way to resist," said one of the founders of the collective. "We use music, art, poetry, hip-hop and dance. Our goal is to show the young people of our city that there are better people to admire than the guerillas, gangsters, and paramilitaries who run our town. We resist. We resist the violence. We fight for peace," he said.

"I have seen dead bodies, seen dead friends, seen friends disappear and their heads or hands show up a week later," said another member of the group.

"There was a time when all I thought about was alcohol or weapons,” he continued. "I’m a singer, and I was told by a man in the neighborhood that I should come to a workshop to learn how to record. I was interested, but also bored."

Then he went to a conference in Bogota, and saw young people talking about change and improving the world. "I thought, 'damn, what am I doing with my life?’' I came back and started to write. I started to put all my energy into rebuilding the community, resisting the social control we are under today."

The members of Faces and Footprints are leading an outreach effort to elementary aged children in Buenaventura, employing audio-visual tools to teach children about their right to live in peace, free from fear.  

These young men and women struggle for a Buenaventura where their voices are valued and where they are free from the horror of massacres and targeted assassinations.

"We seek to give voice to our reality," says another founder of the group, a young woman in her late 20s. 

"We call on the pride we have in our ancestors who were once enslaved but who built this city. This is our home, and we want a brighter future — a future free of homicide, of racial injustice, of displacement. We don’t believe that is too much to ask." 

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