On 26 September 2014, forty-three students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College disappeared from Iguala, a city in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. Two students’ bodies have been recovered, while forty-one students remain missing. In Los Angeles, mourning for the students has taken the form of what we call “anti-memorialization,” where traditional forms of memorialization are upended through informality, ephemerality, art, and the digital in order to politicize and bring attention to an injustice. While informal memorials have existed as long or longer than their formal counterparts, anti-memorialization moves these informal memorials into the contemporary reality of a digitally networked world, pushing private mourning to public activism. Among these informal efforts reflecting ongoing calls for justice, one piece, part of an exhibit sponsored by Boyle Heights-based arts organization Self Help Graphics and Art, was entitled 43: From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson. The exhibition anti-memorializes not just the forty-three students from Ayotzinapa, but victims of police brutality in the United States as well, linking the two social movements across national borders.
A Boyle Heights children’s storytelling hour resulted from a collaboration between six UCLA researchers and Libros Schmibros, an independent bookstore and lending library in Boyle Heights, which took place over four months in 2016. The project explored how small-scale staged literary interventions like a storytelling hour could have a productive impact on a community. The initiative came about as a way to promote something called “literary justice,” which is premised on the idea of a culture that embraces stories as a part of life as part of a community-building effort. It is achieved when all members of a community have equal access to books and stories, stemming from numerous studies that demonstrate that a person’s access to literature is a strong indicator for a host of quality-of-life measures. This effort in Boyle Heights aimed to show what happens when, instead of going to a public library to make use of it, here the public library comes to the people.