Where Mess and Masterpiece Meet

His name is Banksy.

For years, nobody actually knew who he was. There was only his graffiti to go by, artfully profaning the buildings, streets and subway systems of Britain.

One of modern history‘s most talented and incognito insurgents, Banksy’s is a legacy of revolution and fearlessness, of upheaval and political oppression, of normativity and why we should question it.

Nobody actually knows who Banksy is. But according to the most recent and in-depth investigations, he was, by all accounts, a product of public school and middle-class suburbia.

He was probably something like you.

He was another boy in the rank-and-file of British social assent, and he left it all behind.

Celebrities like Gwen Stefani and Brad Pitt now fork over millions of dollars for his paintings. Britain itself bears the marks of his revolt against conformity and oppression.

The frenzied search goes on for concrete confirmation of Banksy’s identity.

But Banksy’s entire artistic career turns on a determination to keep his “real” identity hidden. Why, then, are we so intent on ferreting out his personal information? Why are his “real” name and his schooling and his parentage so much more important than the art itself?

The fault lies not with Banksy, but with us. Banksy sacrificed his claim to renown so that another identity might be made clear: that of a revolutionary prepared for combat with his native culture. For so many years, we have missed the point. 

Banksy took himself out of the picture so that his art might be the focus. He doesn’t need you to know his name. A name is just a name.

An identity is what you make of your life.

Citizen Sanctuary

The Sanctuary Movement was a religious and political campaign that began in the early 1980s to provide safe-haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. It responded to restrictive federal immigration policies that made obtaining asylum difficult for Central Americans.

Between 1980 and 1991, nearly 1 million Central Americans fled to the U.S. In El Salvador, the military killed over 10,000 people. In Guatemala, government-backed paramilitary groups killed 50,000, disappeared 100,000 and perpetrated 626 village massacres.

Congress forbid foreign aid to countries committing human rights abuses, and it is well documented that the U.S. provided funds, training and arms to the Salvadoran and Guatemalan governments throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

 Because admitting these governments’ abuses would bar the U.S. from providing further aid, the Reagan administration instead argued that Central Americans were “economic migrants” fleeing poverty, not governmental repression.

Sanctuary formed as a reaction to these policies. In 1980, Jim Corbett, Jim Dudley, John Fife and a handful of other residents of Tucson, Arizona began providing legal, financial and material aid to Central American refugees.

Their decision to do so—and therefore openly oppose federal law—was inspired by a mixture of shocking refugee stories, personal encounter, political sympathies and religious conviction.

Movement members likened Sanctuary to the “Underground Railroad” of the 19th century: Refugees coming through Tucson would make it to Nogales (the nearest border town in Mexico) and find refuge at El Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora Guadalupe (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe) Catholic Church. With help from the head priest at Our Lady, they would travel across the border to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, whose steeple was visible from Mexico. There they could find shelter, food, legal advice and perhaps a little money. The two churches kept in constant contact, and priests and lay people traveled frequently between parishes.

36% of Sanctuary congregations were Catholic, 22% were Presbyterian, 36% were Quakers, 28% were Unitarian, 2% Jewish, 10% came from university campuses and 1% from seminaries.

Secular groups also embraced the Sanctuary Movement, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, legal aid groups, liberal members of Congress and student organizations. Sanctuary supports wrote articles for The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine. The entire city of Berkeley, California declared itself a sanctuary.

Writer Barbara Kingsolver popularized the movement in her 1998 novel The Bean Trees, in which she provides a fictional account of a Sanctuary member housing refugees in her Tucson home.

Many of the Sanctuary supports were prosecuted or thrown in jail.  Our government, in maintaining economic ties with oppressive regimes, oppressed its own people.

This is a story that needs to be told.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

QUESTION authority figures

KNOW your country’s history

EXPLORE news from unbiased sources

WITHHOLD judgment

Spoken Word Salvation

His name is Propaganda.

His mission is simple: Take the message of Jesus Christ to the streets.

A far cry from the “frozen chosen” stereotype of the Protestant church, Propaganda (real name Jason Petty) spits spiritual rhymes worthy of the spoken word elite. In Petty’s mixtapes, theology and musical theory combine to produce songs at once jammable and profound.

White-collar denizens of the conservative religious hierarchy may well balk at this unconventional method of proclaiming the gospel. Truth be told, however, Petty’s music is reaching an audience too long excluded from the love of God.

Who did Jesus himself hang out with?

Page after page of the Bible reveals Him spending time with sinners, with tax collectors, beggars and prostitutes. With the very people who, in today’s society, would be least likely to listen to the mediocre white-bread soft rock clogging Christian radio’s airwaves.

Petty’s raps put the language of Jesus Christ into the language of the people who need Him most.

Culture clash? Yes. Does it work?

You bet.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: 

TALK to the people in your community and your church

VOLUNTEER at a local shelter or soup kitchen

LISTEN to Propaganda’s music and follow his blog at http://www.myspace.com/propaganda