Smooth Translation: Everyone is in this together, and things won’t be accomplished without everyone all connected to each other.
Background: This saying was recently incorporated into one of the gestures and sayings used by USC Troy Philippines. Members get into a circle and perform one coordinated clap whilst chanting the saying to symbolize their solidarity with each other and other members of the Filipinx community.
Context: This piece was told to me in person, during a USC Troy Philippines programming event.
This is similar to the English saying, “all for one, one for all” where it promotes the idea of solidarity amongst a group of people. This saying is a direct reference to the political nature of Filipino history and how farmworkers needed to band together. Created by Larry Itliong, he shared his ideas with Cesar Chavez during the Labor Movements of the 1960’s. In this context, it is being used by a college Filipino organization in order to promote solidarity and connection between org members. The political nature of the saying also seeps into USC Troy Philippines’ mission, as the organization also takes measures to advocate for Filipino political issues.
On a sunny Los Angeles morning, 8,000 people marched in protest of president-elect Donald Trump. The course of the November 1st march was from McArthur Park, through the 3rd street tunnel, ending on the steps of a downtown federal building. The march was led by a collation diverse Los Angeles organizations including Union del Barrio, Black Lives Matter Pasadena, Black Lesbians United, the Freedom Socialist Party, and the Palestine Youth Movement. Along with regular members of the headlining organizations, the protest included many novice protestors who were compelled to march by for the first time.
As one can imagine, this massive group of people did not have one single message or platform. Rather they were a coalition of many interest and values, brought together by their shared disapproval of Donald Trump’s impending term. As a result, the chants heard at the march were varied. We’ll examine these chats in particular, and the behavior of people at protests generally as folklore.
Here are the chats I heard:
“The people united will never be divided” (The peo-ple — / u-ni-ted — / will ne-ver be / di-vi-ded)
“Hey hey! Ho ho! Donald Trump has got to go!” (Hey hey — — / Ho ho — — / Don — -ald Trump / has got to go)
“We reject the president elect” (We — — re /ject — — the /pres-i-dent e-/lect — — –)
“Love trumps hate!”
Call and response chants:
A: Not my president B: Not my president
A: Black lives matter B: Black lives matter
A: Sí se puede B: Sí se puede
A: Say it loud, say it clear B: Immigrants are welcome here
A: Say it loud, say it clear B: Refugees are welcome here
A: My body my choice B: Her body her choice
As a member of the crowd affiliated with no organization, my experience was that almost all of these chants were new to me. I learned them as I walked. The chants came sometimes from the people in front of me and sometimes from the people behind. Sometimes two chats would come at the same time or the same chant would be audible from two directions, out of synch with itself. The people in the middle were in the position to make a choice between the two chants.
The chants were brought to the protest, mainly, by leaders who had used them before, they are folklore because they are performed, learned from other people and they evolve over time. And in the march itself, you can expect the more popular chats to be repeated more often.
Since the march, I attempted to find the origin of some of these chants. Here are some of the most interesting finds.
“The people united will never be divided” is an adaptation of the 1973 Chilean song “¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!” (The people united will never be defeated). Since its creation in 1973 as an anthem for the Popular Unity political alliance, the song has been adapted for dozens of other causes around the world. The chant at the LA protest still had the distinctive rhythm of the line “The people united will never be defeated,” although the chant is spoken, not melodious.
A: My body my choice B: Her body her choice
The group who began this chant phrased it as it is above. It was designed to be a call and response in which women call out, “My body my choice” and men respond, “Her body her choice.” That chat is an affirmation of a woman’s right to her own method of birth control, including abortion.
However, several people in the crowd switched the response to, “Their body their choice.” The change from the singular “her” to the singular “their” removes gender from the chant, thereby acknowledging that not all people with a uterus identify as female, and that some transgender men and other people who are not “hers” have the same right to choose.
At the protest, most people continued saying “her body her choice” while others said, “their body their choice.” The change is subtle enough that a participant not familiar with the transgender rights movement might not notice or not understand the meaning of the alternative wording. To me, the original chant embodies the point of view of mainstream feminism or “white feminism” which focuses on sexism but pays little attention to the distinct forms of oppression faced by women of color, trans women, and others. While the second chant seeks to champion a more inclusive kind of feminism.
Q: “What do Dick Cheney and Lord Voldemort have in common?”
A: They both tried to kill someone named Harry!
This joke was told to me by my cousin who (like me) is a big Harry Potter fan. She said she had heard it from a friend who’d read this joke online shortly after Cheney’s accidental shooting of his friend, prominent Austin, Tex. lawyer, Harry Whittington in 2006. The incident took place in a Texas ranch where he and Cheney were out in the woods hunting quail: according to testimony, Cheney saw a quail near Whittington and shot, hitting the lawyer in the face instead. Mr. Whittington survived with no great injury. What caused controversy and resulted in this joke however, is that many people did not believe Cheney’s story since the ex vice-president was a seasoned hunter. To add to the fire, a few weeks after begin shot in the face, Mr. Whittington apologized to Cheney for all the scrutiny and negative conjectures that the media was spreading about him. In return, Cheney accepted the apology, but never issued one back.
Lord Voldemort is the nemesis of Harry Potter in the eponymous novel. He tried to kill Harry multiple times due to a prophecy that foretold his demise at the hand of the boy. Voldemort is also known to be ruthless, conniving and deceitful, qualities that people also attributed to Cheney.
The American embassy used to be situated in a building directly in front of the Matusita house, and it is said that the legends were all invented and fostered by the American mission so as to prevent people from entering the Matusita house and using it as a site to launch terrorist attacks on the embassy itself (during the late 80s unrest due to the communist Sendero Luminoso).
This version is corroborated by multiple facts. First, my mother and her coevals heard of the Matusita stories only in the early nineties, and second, as a consular officer herself, she once heard from her peers at the Ministry that the Matusita legends were a product of “Hollywood at its politically finest”.
This is pre-co-op early days. The year was 2006, so it was one year before the house was created. This was when certain people who were influential to the house lived at what was called the Phi Omega Tau house, or the green house, and so did Strawberry and Wave, who named the Technicolor Tree Tribe from a brain wave she had. (laughs) They lived at the Phi Omega Tau house and they had participated in a free speech zone protest because USC made up this thing, like, a couple years ago where we only had a free speech zone from 12 to 2pm at Tommy Trojan. So they had made this sign and painted it and stuff. After the protest they took it back to their porch and hung it up on their porch and it’s a really nice porch and that they were hanging out on. And so, they were just hanging out on the porch one day and this girl comes by and starts talking shit and she sort of identified herself as a USC college republican and she had a lighter and like tried to set the banner attached to their porch on fire. So, they like brought out a hose and Strawberry was apparently in the background yelling, “if you’re gonna bring fire, we’re gonna bring water!” And they basically sprayed this girl and her dog with a hose and then she came – well, they don’t if she came back – but someone came to the house that night and set the banner on fire and the smoke alarms went off and like they got up and luckily woke up and sprayed the thing out, but there were burn marks all over the porch. Yeah. So they pretty much knew it was this girl, but they couldn’t like call the cops or anything, because apparently like you don’t really invite the cops over to something called the Phi Omega Tau House…because if you know what those Greek symbols mean (laughs) Phi Omega Tau kind of spells out ‘pot.’ That’s Strawberry’s story. I think the girl knew about the protest during the day and like was against that or just this house.
After finishing the tale, my informant went on to say that free speech was ironically practiced by the girl who had thought that the people at Phi Omega Tau shouldn’t have expressed what they believed. This situation is an example of the tension, division, and struggle between people who believe in different ideals and how students opposed to certain USC policies also collide with other students.