Our partners at the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network recently released two videos that we are proud to have collaborated on. Check out the other video case study here. Check out our collective learnings and more behind-the-scenes information here.
The storytelling reflects the values of the RGV-EVN because it is family focused. Our goal is to see the wall be stopped and torn down, but to do that we had to introduce border community values that hold maternal elders in high regard. Our region’s cornerstone lies in the expanse of pure, motherly and unconditional love, and thus, creating a platform for these aunts and grandmothers to sound off on how they have seen the landscape and quality of life change. – RGV EVN
One guiding decision was to use positive framing to talk about what is good about the region before the wall came. This gives an aspirational vision of what RGV wants to get back to. Traditional human rights messaging is often not affirmative and instead is reactionary and addresses only what groups are against or don’t want, rather than what they do want. The message and nostalgic style (communicated through color, music, voices) were based on the cultural values of the region– including the high regard for elders and centrality of their wisdom in organizing efforts. Additionally, the process and product were constructed around the priority of having the border communities speak for themselves as “the border” is so often misrepresented and reduced in more mainstream conversations.
Q+A WITH RGV EVN
What were your initial aims of this project? How did this change throughout the process?
The initial target was US Rep. Henry Cuellar, who is one of the most conservative of Democrats and represents a portion of Laredo and the RGV region. His stance for pro deterrence policy making in technology, plus his narrow loss to Jessica Cisneros in the last election, made Cuellar especially vulnerable to pressure.
Our targets became more fluid as Trump’s tenure came to a close and Cuellar began committing to no more wall due to no more border crisis. It was the impression of the group at that time, that Cuellar was bending to the demands of the No Border Wall effort. Of course, this was very short-lived, and while Cuellar is not begging to build more walls, he is begging for more funding for detention and supporting border crisis narratives that are still undermining the voice of border communities. Ultimately, the video was made in such an open-ended way, that it can be used to target anyone who would claim that border militarization is good for border communities, so we can still use the video, not just on Cuellar, but varying leaders of the Biden administration plus other congressional leaders friendly to Cuellar’s crisis narrative.
How were you able to make the process and product reflective of your goals and values?
The storytelling reflects the values of the RGV-EVN because it is family focused. Our goal is to see the wall be stopped and torn down, but to do that we had to introduce border community values that hold maternal elders in high regard. Our region’s cornerstone lies in the expanse of pure, motherly and unconditional love, and thus, creating a platform for these aunts and grandmothers to sound off on how they have seen the landscape and quality of life change.
What were the biggest challenges you faced with the (a) planning (b) distribution and (c) production process?
The biggest challenge was coordinating multiple ideas regarding targets and issues across a subdivided region. Once we prioritized Laredo as the primary focus for the border wall video, many in the group stopped attending meetings and others stalled on production possibilities despite time constraints. Then, when Cuellar said he was not interested in more wall, we stalled further to reassess the target. Then, as the new POTUS was elected, it rearranged our target priorities again. It was a difficult process working with competing interests and regions.
What other organizing strategies does this video fit into?
Currently the video fits in best with increased calls for funding less border militarization and can be used to call out multiple targets thanks to its open-ended narrative
How do you feel about the final product? What has the response and impact been so far?
We love it. The animations and storytelling have helped people emotionally connect in a way that would not have been possible without these personal stories. People, including organizers in our network, have said that they are moved and were brought to tears. Many elders have related very closely to the stories themselves and agree, it was a much more pleasant place on the border than it is now with all the increased surveillance and militarization.
We have shared the full video as well as shortened versions of it on all of our social media platforms, and it has been shared by our partners at the Texas Civil Rights Project, The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) and the Laredo No Border Wall Coalition. We screened the video at a meeting of our local No Border Wall coalition and members of the group then shared it on their personal social media pages. We also screened it during a Facebook Live on border militarization with journalist and author, Todd Miller.
Expanded advocacy packages for both the No Border Wall and Free Them All campaign are pending completion. These materials, including the videos, will be a part of a toolkit for a larger campaign on detention and border militarization.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Just would like to thank the team at WITNESS for their support and personal touch to working with us. Thanks for being genuine human beings.
Check out the other video here (and the story behind why and how it was made!):