Today we’d like to introduce you to Brandon Ramirez.
Hi Brandon, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Finding home has always been a unique struggle for me. Coming up in LA during the 2000?s made it difficult for my family and I to find an actual roof over our heads but there was always something to be grateful for at the end of each day.
It?s so fucking hard for me to talk about myself because I don?t perceive of myself as a single ?thinking thing? or ?doing thing? wrapped up in my own corner. I feel that I myself am the community that raised me ? the literal and figurative homes into which I was invited into.
I am my beautiful mother who almost died giving birth to me, I am my beautiful father who has poured a whole life of work and wisdom to bring me from elementary school to college. I am the amazing community of friends who walked into my life with open arms and bright eyes ? ready to play, create and thrive with me.
In just the past 18 months, I?ve been able to sow the seeds of liberation within myself and my community (which is also me). Through direct praxis, I?ve worked with other passionate souls as part of Amnesty Youth (namely, the inspiring Shaheera Abbasi) to create space for political education, conversation and action against our corrupt high school administration which turned a blind eye to our issues. And through the personal praxis of art-making, I?ve worked with the four souls that made up Rend (the band et al.), Evelyn Ramirez and Nick Mu?oz on a number of formative releases that have brought us all forward in our own co-cultivation of home.
Now fully immersed in the practice of teaching, working as a music teacher at an afterschool program in East LA and chasing a teaching credential at CSUN ? I?m hoping to help steward the spaces where our young will build their own homes. To exist beyond the walls of oppression and desperation is to cultivate home on the ground right underneath us, no matter how volatile it may be.
Never a finished process, I consider my story to be that of everyone else?s ? infinitely entangled in a constant struggle for liberation of our minds, art and community.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
In the words of the great Angela Davis ? ?freedom is a constant struggle?. My struggle has been, and will forever be to exist as a fat-bodied, Latino, Gay man.
Most of my life, I always perceived these intersections as identities I had to reshape, projections to be hidden. Always trying to find clothes to make me look slim, pretending to not know Spanish and quite embarrassingly confessing fake love for girls in middle school for heterosexual validation. These attempts, however stupid, have opened a window for me to truly be alive ? to recognize the beauty that this universe has afforded me and to live my truth.
Under the weight of our rapacious, individualist society ? it?s easy to fold in such ways. But as I?ve grown through my immersion in art-making, teaching and home building, I?ve found that self normalization is an easy drug to get hooked on.
Not that I?ve reached nirvana or whatever, this is after all a perpetual and active process. However, finding ways to liberate myself through self-love, communitarian love, art, music and sharing (?teaching?) has shown me that I need not wait for some day-to-come where I can be fully liberated.
My liberation is here, always being constructed with every breath.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My work is ever-changing, quite in character I think! Right now, I?m working as a music teacher at Stevenson Middle School in East LA. Although I don?t spend 8 hours a day, five days a week with my kids ? being able to facilitate a soulful immersion into the joy of music has opened my heart so, so wide.
In many ways, my past work in managing Rend and collaborating with my friends in art-making reminds me of my teaching practice. To cultivate spaces where the mind can run free and practice liberation is the greatest honor and privilege I?ve ever had. In both these practices, we?ve found ourselves boxed in through lack of resources, equipment and literal physical space ? but against all odds, we?ve found ways to continue our radical, liberatory practice of art-making.
The beauty of teaching and art-making manifests itself not in the sterile expectations of excellence and ?betterment?, but in its ability to reflect the most visceral parts of our lives back to us. Even spending just 3 hours a day with my young musicians, I?m amazed by how much wisdom, joy and insight they bring to our space. I feel as though I?ve lived my whole life with my young musicians ? because they, just as every other co-cultivator in my life have taught me so much, and through each other we destroy the student-teacher dichotomy to foster each other?s freedom.
The pandemic age has been a powerful tool for shifting as we all shape together, but there is no ?return to normal? in education. These outmoded systems of feeding so-called knowledge to our young become even more exposed when so-called teachers appropriate them for use in artistic education. Artistic education is human education, the ultimate form of expression that arguably, cannot be taught ? only mindfully nurtured. I feel that my work carries an innate radicalism, and I try my best to cultivate that in all its forms.
Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
As a younger person, I always had a red card on the behavior chart and got ?talks too much? on my report card for five consecutive years. Maybe to some, that is not something to be proud of but I consider that character to live with me still. I never saw the value in simply ?doing as told?, because that is an act of raising seeds of obedience and uniformity, as opposed to seeds of a true sensation. Maybe that?s why I?ve cultivated my life?s garden around art?
I?m so thankful to have been at home in the world for my whole life, even if I was told as a younger person that it had to be different ? once a troublemaker, always a troublemaker.