Bay Area Art Queers Unleashing Power and Street Cred are a loose collective of artist activists with a long history of liberating public spaces and creating images that challenge attempts to control of our lives by corporations, government and the assumptions promoted by mass media. Our work addresses an evolving series of campaigns aimed at disrupting the status quo by awakening people’s consciousness. We are Advertising for the People.
We believe that all public spaces including public transit and should be welcoming and safe for all members of our community. The hate-filled messages purchased by Pamela Geller’s AFDI defame and vilify Muslims and are harmful and offensive to residents and visitors in San Francisco, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Since the City will not take action against these ads on City buses, we have.
Our goals are:
(1) To reconfigure texts and images that are harmful, inciting, misleading and dangerous. Hate speech leads to hate actions. Anti-Muslim violence is prevalent in the United States and on the rise.
(2) To interrupt the normalization of anti-Islamic rhetoric and actions. Our art is designed to help people understand that Islamophobia and other hate speech should not go unchecked and that we have the power to disrupt these racist and hateful discourses.
(3) In the case of this most recent campaign, to identify the person who is intentionally fueling and inciting hatred in our communities.
There are plenty of quotes from the Bible that could be used to paint Jews and Christians as violent and dangerous. There are plenty of individuals whose actions could be used to further that impression. It’s hard to believe that pictures of Bernie Madoff or Timothy McVeigh, with words suggesting that all Jews are corporate criminals or all Christians are mass murderers, would be allowed to be displayed on City buses. Geller’s anti-Islamic venom is no more acceptable than those misrepresentations would be.
We support the first amendment and also look to The European Court of Human Rights which has recently broadened its definition of hate speech to include speech “that might be offensive to individuals or groups”. We also appreciate the cultural shift in this country that recognizes language such as the “N” word and imagery that promotes negative stereotypes as something that is extremely sensitive and not to be paraded in public space for sensation’s sake.
As long as these advertising outrages continue to appear on our streets, we will continue to reconstitute them to reflect something more truthful, just, and ideally fabulous.