AUSTIN — Texas Folklife, in conjunction with local cultural leaders and community groups, has produced four audiovisual public service announcements (PSAs) utilizing folk-based music, dance, visual arts, and oral history to explore issues of vaccine equity and encourage local communities of color at high risk of COVID-19 to better understand and trust the vaccine. Portions of this project were supported by funding from Austin Public Health.
“For personal and family health, many people put trust in faith leaders, traditional healers, family doctors, and other leaders from their own communities,” said Charlie Lockwood, Executive Director of Texas Folklife. “With ‘Hechos, No Miedo / Facts, Not Fear,’ we hoped to recognize the impact community-based artistic public health messaging can have on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, and to understand the complex barriers affecting equitable access to the vaccine. We worked with many community members, grassroots organizations, and artists to explore the power of language and culture, and understand how cultural expressions can aid in community health and well-being.”
The PSAs provide helpful information and seek to combat misinformation that has spread rapidly during the pandemic, in a manner that is both culturally and linguistically relevant to specific communities. Prior to production, Texas Folklife undertook an extensive community survey to better understand attitudes toward the vaccine, where and how communities access healthcare news, and to identify which information sources communities trust (including media, but also family, friends, coworkers, clergy, and community members working in healthcare).
The work of muralist Raul Valdez appears in one of the PSAs. “I jumped at the vaccine and am fully vaccinated,” Valdez said. “Happy to be a part of this project as I’m seeing many in the Latino community hesitant about the vaccine or overly confident that they will be fine. It was great to work on something that was culturally respectful and relevant while also giving complete autonomy to the artist and video team.”
The production by Black artists for Black communities features a brief discussion between community members about the vaccine, directed by musician and filmmaker Mobley. “Making this piece ended up being a really cathartic experience,” he said. “We got together, rolled the cameras, and had a wide-ranging conversation about what it’s been like to be Black during this pandemic and what we feel like our responsibility to each other is. I walked away from the
shoot deeply moved by what had been shared … every second of the conversation was worth hearing.”
The four PSAs are:
1. A Spanish-language message for recent Mexican immigrant populations featuring the Huapango music of Los Trovadores de Raul Orduña, dancers from Ballet Folklrico Lo Nuestro, and murals by Luis Angulo (known as Uloang) and Carmen Rangel (both originally commissioned by the No Seas Wey campaign). Produced by eight-time Lone Star Emmy winning director, producer, and educator Chelsea Hernandez of Panda Bear Films, who was behind the documentary Building the American Dream.
2. A mixed English- and Spanish-language message for a younger Latino/a/x audience featuring the Son Jarocho music of Güateque Son and dancers from Ballet Folklorico de Austin. Produced by Joe Rocha of KLRU, Austin’s PBS station. Rocha has produced nationally aired projects such as “Austin Revealed.”
3. A Spanish-language message for an older, well established Chicano audience in Central Texas, featuring the Conjunto music of Johnny Degollado (“El Montopolis Kid”) and Jean Jacques ‘J.J.’ Barrera, and a mural by Raul Valdez. Produced by Gabriela Kane Guardia, with videography by Chris Sibley of Papalote Productions.
4. An English-language message for Black and African American audiences directed by Mobley, featuring musician and filmmaker Megz and others in a dialog about the vaccine and the Black experience. Jacob Weber served as director of photography and editor, while The George Washington Carver Museum provided the setting.
Balancing Texas Folklife’s 36-year history of arts and culture work and the collaborators’ own lived experience, this effort was also informed by expertise from a variety of local community health workers. The project sets the stage for future endeavors that explore the power and potential of traditional arts in community health.
ABOUT TEXAS FOLKLIFE
Texas Folklife (TXF) is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to presenting and preserving the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State. TXF is designated by the National Endowment for the Arts as the official folk and traditional arts organization for the state. Since 1984, TXF has honored traditions passed down within communities, explored the importance of traditional arts in contemporary society, and celebrated the state’s vibrant heritage by providing arts experiences enjoyable for all generations. For more information, visit http://www.texasfolklife.org.
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