We had the good fortune of connecting with Alkaid Ramirez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alkaid, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I wanted to bring a net good to my community. I studied psychology in college with the hopes of being able to help folks with their mental health or benefit society by bringing in new research that could lead to new treatments. However, reality hits you when you realize that these benefits are behind materialistic obstacles such as a lack of resources to access healthcare facilities. I refer to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when thinking about this, It takes fulfilling many basic needs to be able to find yourself in a place to be able to reach help at an institution, needs such are housing, food and basic income. However, those needs are often not met by a majority of working class folks, especially in marginalized communities such as the ones I am a part of and live in. I know my folks would benefit from therapy or services like that but we are often in survival mode, working our butts off in low wage jobs to bring food to the table, keep the lights on and pay rent. We cannot even fulfill our basic needs. However, the use of Mutual Aid and organizing on a community level to help reach those needs and fulfill our needs one household at a time. In learning that, I decided to dedicated time, effort and labor to those endeavors AND THAT is what fuels my work as an artist. By creating work that platforms the community, promote grassroots movements and plugging in these ideas in different spaces, our work is able to deprogram toxic individualism and promote community building.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I practice documentary photography, using the medium to capture the integral scenes, stories, and civil unrest in my community that contribute to larger conversations about social inequality and inequity. My work also focuses on actualizing my own identity as a child of resilient immigrant parents , and a second generation Chicano who subconsciously assimilated into colonized spaces and now activity working to decolonize my identity. I began to create work in college and began to use it to build narratives when I moved back home to Anaheim. It was a struggle at first to begin creating significant work, having to combat with my own image of self, challenging my values and convictions, finding what really matters to me and if it really matters at all to the world, or the viewer. Along the way I found that I had assimilated into a way of thinking, consuming and acting that was not true to my core values. I combated with psychological dissonance for a while, ironically looking back at my psychology notes ( I was a psych major) to find a way to fix it. Once I connected myself with more like minded, activist, artists, organizers and other folk, I found community. In creating mutual aids and building up the community, I found that I my core values of helping other came in helping close the large gap of material inequalities in the most immediate way we could.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If I had a friend come over for a week, I would definitely take them to all the touristy spots that are around Anaheim like The Packing House, Downtown Disney and Downtown Anaheim. I would want to get those places out of the way first and then indulge them in the culture that is Downtown Santa Ana. We would do the art walk, show them around to the other studios and introduce them to all the folks in our mutual aid circles. They include talented artists, photographers, DJs, Activists and philosophers. LA would be a good place to also take them and have them visit some art spaces of they are into that, and if not, Long Beach is a good spot to get a drink and see the beach.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to recognize a couple of organizations and folks who have helped me throughout my process and growth as a person and an artist. I want to thank my parents and my family for supporting me every step of the way and encouraging me to express. I most definitely want to give a thanks to the folks at OC Protests (@ocprotests), Anaheim Autonomous Coalition (@anaheimautonomouscoalition) and UCI4Cola (@uci4cola), for excepting me with open arms and giving me so much inspiration to express through my work. Without mutual aid, the process reexploring/decolonizing my identity, how to make real material changes in the community, and learning how to grow with my practice, would not had been possible. I would also like to give a personal shout out to my partner, who has encouraged me and stuck with me through my progression, never leaving my side and always leading me in the right direction.
Swapmeet Still life #1 Alkaid Ramirez