PHX: The Latinos of Stylos – Project of the Year

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Truphx, Fuerza Local, Phonetic Spit, and Banned Plays are all nominated for the Stylos Project of the Year award. These projects are ambitious, but without the ambition and drive these projects have pushed into Phoenix, where would we be? Especially as a city that’s sometimes unfairly defined by the media. Yes, many politicians here are skewed, probably from the heat-daze and lack of water, but that shouldn’t obscure the accomplishments of those who dedicate themselves to making Phoenix into a strong cultural center.

TRUPHX is a blog about Phoenikeros, made for consumption by those outside the city and state lines of Arizona. It is easy to set Arizona aside as the “dry hate” state, simply from reading the news headlines, and what the national news media reports about our state: Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer, border fences, SB 1070, and immigration raids. Yes, all of those exist, but Hector Raul Primero of TRUPHX wanted to show what marks the true complexity of any city: the idealists, the dreamers, living and coexisting along with those headline names above.

He started the project last year out of the frustration he felt one day while watching the news. All news was bad news, and “if it wasn’t SB 1070 or Governor Jan Brewer, then it was Sheriff Joe Arpaio, or immigration raids,” he added. He perceived this as the perspective most people around the country must have about Arizona. He wanted to create a path to show people who Phoenicians really are, to inspire locals “to hold their heads up high just like New Yorkers, Bostonians and Los Angelenos do, instead of being embarrassed by those giving the city and state a black eye.” He came across some large PHX letters that were being stored by friends downtown, and he got the idea to take pictures of people with the letters that were doing positive and productive things around the city. So far he’s interviewed names most Phoenicians are proud to be connected with: Joseph Benesh of the Phoenix Center for the Arts, Djentrification, Furious Styles Crew/Cyphers, and the co-owners of The Lab.

Fuerza Local is the twin organization to Local First, which has made a stamp on the Phoenix community by strengthening and supporting local business, and encouraging Phoenicians to shop local. Fuerza Local is working to connect Latino small business owners with resources, opportunities, and networking, in order to encourage their businesses to grow, and in turn to keep our tax dollars local.

Phonetic Spit has made a name for itself locally for its ambitious spoken word performances, which creates community through literacy and writing for youth. The program is led by Tomas Stanton, who is able to inspire audiences with his own poems and performances, which center around issues of creating safe spaces for youth to express themselves, along with focusing on local, political, and cultural issues that surround not only the Phoenix community, but also national and global issues.

Banned Plays brings plays to the Valley, such as the recent And Then Came Tango, which was performed at the Phoenix Hostel and Cultural Center. The play raised awareness of the diversity of the shift in the way we look at the term ‘family.’

Mary Stephens of Banned Plays said the project started as a response to the outlawing of certain “ethnic” programs being taught in Tucson schools, and across AZ. This elicited the desire for her to take action, so when she heard that books had been removed from classrooms, she said, “I wanted to create a space where we could bring people together around these issues.” Instead of focusing simply on the books, she focused on the plays as a way to perform and engage the art as means of social protest.