by Members of the ¡Mira! Collective
¡MIRA!, a collective of women-identified artists based in Southwest Detroit, is distributing radical coloring books to teachers around the city and internationally, this Winter and Spring. Guided by a collective visioning process, !MIRA! put the book together during a series of art and political education workshops held at the Campbell branch of the Detroit Public Library over the course of last year.
After early formations to support migrant justice and bring attention to violence against Southwest Detroit women in 2012, ¡MIRA! (which means ‘look!’ in Spanish) began to coalesce in 2013 amid the crisis of Emergency Management to resist the financial takeover of the city. Our art reflects the struggle against water shutoffs, gentrification, and the foreclosure of Detroit’s many other worlds.
We pressed shirts with the message, “From Gaza to Hart Plaza, There’s No Water in La Casa,” to highlight the international struggle for water rights from Detroit to Palestine. Our art has shown up in spaces like the Homrich 9 direct-action to stop water shutoffs, and other public events where it was important to voice anti-capitalist affirmations of our existence and spaces of life.
We invited community members to draw and submit hopeful and defiant images of change and rebellion to inspire a younger generation. Following an event featuring Baba Charles Simmons’s oral history of the Rebellion, youth and elders from around the city sketched images from his talk, and also contributed other drawings. What resulted was an 80- page coloring book that celebrates an array of Detroit’s struggles, communities, and radical imaginations.
Many artists’ collectives develop their skills as individuals and use the collective body to distribute their art. ¡MIRA! uses the collective to generate and weave ideas together, sharing skills and common visions around which we create together. Horizontal practices of dialogue around ideas and art allow collectivism to be central to our work.
We intentionally designated !MIRA! as a woman-identifying space that includes queer, trans, and other non-binary identities because often in the street art scene and elsewhere, we felt a dominance of cis-male hetero energy that has, in subtle or obvious ways, silenced people. For similar reasons, we also make it a part of our practice to welcome children and feed one another, removing two major barriers to women’s and parents’ ability to share spaces at the end of a long day.
The other major aspect of our work as a collective is that we are not for hire. Though all of us are involved in other aspects of movement work, we assert the belief that we are not service workers for the movement. It’s a hard stance to take because we’re always being asked to produce art for the movement. However, we want to create art — not on commission for a march or campaign — but to cultivate and realize our own radical imagination.
In the age of Trump, we have to intensify efforts that lift up images that hype Black, Brown, Queer, Left, Crip, Hijabee, and Native Folk living amazing and magical lives in order to decolonize, demilitarize, and decriminalize our bodies, communities, and Earth. What are we when we are thriving? What are we when we are radiant and whole? What does radical love look like? In this coloring book and our ongoing work, we celebrate real people and ancestors waging fierce grassroots organizing struggles here in the city.
The ¡MIRA! Radical Kids Coloring Book is available now on a sliding scale, $10-$20, at www.miradetroit.org. Educators and teachers are eligible for a free ‘copyleft’ edition, with generous support by AFSCME Local 1640. All funds collected return to the collective to fund more radical Detroit art!