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At Dance Mission, Migrant Workers Share Stories of Self-Empowerment

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A woman in long hair pulled back a blue turtleneck motions with her hands in front of a large green bush, outside
Lorena Carrillo of La Colectiva de Mujeres de SF is among the farmworkers and domestic workers taking part in a night of music, dance and experimental theater at Dance Mission Theater. (Enrique Pedrozo)

Activists and ecofeminists have discussed the parallels between the violence of women, working class migrant communities and nature for decades. Humankind’s harmful practices against nature are not unlike those perpetrated by capitalism against the laborers who work the land, advocates say.

The crossroads between land and laborers might be reaching a watershed moment in San Francisco: In 2021 labor rights advocates hailed a new local measure that makes it easier for domestic workers to take paid sick leave. And just this past August, the owner of one of the city’s most prominent taquerias launched a campaign to support farm workers’ voting rights.

On Sept. 24 at Dance Mission Theater, the intersections between labor rights, environmental protection and women’s rights are brought to the stage in a new multidisciplinary theater work, Our Work, Our Dignity.

The performance showcase is the culmination of a 2018 collaboration between Dance Mission and Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, a program whose mission is to create healing and empowering spaces for female domestic workers through leadership development, yoga and performance opportunities.

Directed by Venezuelan performing artist Andreina Maldonado, Our Work, Our Dignity brings together San Francisco immigrant worker-led collectives and artists for an evening of performance meant to humanize the fight for environmental and labor justice. San Francisco’s immigrant domestic workers will share their own stories of migration and self-empowerment through music, dance and experimental theater. Audiences can expect live music from San Francisco latin fusion band Inti Batey and storytelling from workers in the California Domestic Worker Coalition.

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“These artistic tools are critical in changing our perspective towards a vision where we determine the future of our communities, and our bodies,” says Maldonado.

A group of 14 individuals are sitting and posing while wearing masks in what appears to be an art studio.
‘The use of theater, dance, and music allows immigrant communities and women to express our struggles in a liberating way,’ says Andreina Maldonado, director of ‘Our Work, Our Dignity,’ whose team is pictured above. (Jose Lobo)

Participating organizations include the San Francisco Day Labor Program and La Colectiva de Mujeres, two immigrant worker-led collectives of Dolores Street Community Services, located in San Francisco’s Mission District.

La Colectiva de Mujeres is a worker-led domestic worker collective that provides labor resources and job opportunities to primarily immigrant women—while using nontoxic chemicals to keep its workers and clients safe.

“(Our Work, Our Dignity) will heal our wounds through a collective process that celebrates diversity and interconnection, shared leadership and aging with dignity,” Maldonado says.

Our Work, Our Dignity premieres Sept. 24 at Dance Mission Theater in San Francisco. The program will be in Spanish with English translation. Details here.

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