Community members gathered at Chicago History Museum (CHM) July 22 for the debut of the locally produced documentary Seguimos Aqui: Pride, Pandemic and Perseverance as well as a conversation with that film's primary collaborators.
Seguimos Aqui emerged from a collaboration between CHM (as part of its ongoing Out at CHM initiative), ALMA (Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action) and Chicago-based ShoeBox Productions and Organizing. The film focuses on four LGBTQ Latinx Chicagoans as they navigated the COVID-19 pandemic over 2020-21.
Among the film's subjects are local activists Reyna Ortiz, LaSaia Wade and Luis Lira as well as entertainer Alma Vasquez, a.k.a. Nissa Conde.
Participants in the July 18 forum reflected on how the film resonates as the public sphere increasingly discusses the nature of equity, a figurative conversation that has only been heightened as the nation struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Co-Director Emmanuel Garcia called Seguimos Aqui a document of how BIPOC LGBTQ individuals in Chicago worked at "saving themselves" during the pandemic.
"The pandemic was harsh for all of us," Garcia said. "But it definitely hit harder in communities that were already marginalized."
He gave as examples undocumented persons who were unable to access relief services and young people who were bullied either in the home or through online classrooms.
"We also saw that trans women in particularBlack and Brown womencontinued to experience violence," he added. "…For us, for me, it was important that we are talking about the impact of COVID and the struggles of our communities, but also the ways that we have come together, to mobilize, to make positive changes in our community."
Co-director David Moran spoke further about the "power and privilege" that come when people have the ability to shape narratives. He said that the film reflected a different perspective on problems that have already been shown.
"To me, being able to listen to people's stories and finding that connection, regardless of how different our lives can be, is where we start making empathy," Moran said. "That's the beauty of media."
Moran admitted that production was "chaotic" given the uncertainty around how the pandemic would play out, but ultimately the team's principals were up to their tasks.
Kim Hunt, executive director of Pride Action Tank, said the film illustrated how "our relationships shouldn't be transactionalthey should be transformational." She called the film "a beautiful, beautiful gift" for the community.
"The intentionality that was brought to this project from all these parties is something to be commended as well," Hunt said.
Following the talk ALMA Board President Julio Rodriguez said that his organization's mission is "all about visibility." He spoke of his organization's continuing strengths but acknowledged that the amount of work community members, service providers and advocates must put forthand the lack of reciprocal engagement from politicians and other authoritiesto sustain the community "a travesty."
"In 2021, Reyna is on the West Side of Chicago trying to create a building to house young people, who just want a place to be themselves," Rodriguez said. "LaSaia is trying to build a center one block at a time. But is the City of Chicago coming to her aid? Not likely. Where are the resources that will help our community into the next decades?"
He added, "This is about demanding action."