This Issue

November/December 2016

Artist Allies: Kat Fajardo

Kat Fajardo

Kat Fajardo is a native NYC cartoonist with an unhealthy obsession with coffee and puppies. She also loves making playful and colorful work about self-acceptance and Latinx culture.

 

CICADA: What are some aspects of Loisaida that made it most feel like home? How did these things change when gentrification began to take its toll?

KAT FAJARDO: I think what I loved the most about Loisaida was despite our different backgrounds, because we all struggled as a marginalized group, we understood and looked out for each other. Because of our cultures, we treated strangers as our own kin, which as a result made L.E.S. (Lower East Side) feel more like home. However, once families began to lose their homes and businesses because of increased rent, that was when our community started to gradually shrink. Suddenly it felt as if it wasn’t our home anymore.

 

CIC: Can you talk a little bit about how you feel gentrification can be combated? How can residents reclaim their neighborhoods?

KF: I think the most important methods for fighting gentrification are acknowledging the reality of it and for transplants to understand their privilege. I feel like visitors look at our neighborhood as a trendy restaurant and bar scene as opposed to a place with history and a home for oppressed people of color. Transplants have to step up by supporting businesses that aren’t damaging our community as well as listening to and supporting the voices of marginalized residents.

In order to reclaim our neighborhood, I believe we should speak up and demand rights whenever we want to start projects for our own community. For instance, a couple years ago our local muralist Chico and the community group Loisaida, Inc. had an opportunity to create a beautiful mural celebrating L.E.S.’s history on the RNC cable building on Avenue C. Sadly, RNC rejected that idea and instead decided to use that space for a “hip” Alphabet City mural by non-local artists. Of course, there wasn’t much talk about that incident in the media because it wasn’t important enough, though residents were pretty upset over it.

 

CIC: How has your experience in Loisaida influenced your work? How can art help bring attention to the problem of gentrification?

KF: Every time I visit my parents back home there’s always a new fancy development popping up in the neighborhood. Though it’s sad that I’m losing my childhood barrio, I tend to use that frustration as fuel for stories about embracing roots and learn more about L.E.S.’s interesting history. One of my favorite comics, which became an inspiration for my piece, is Aatmaja Pandya’s “Phantom” which is an autobio comic about growing up in Queens and going back as adult, facing the consequences of gentrification. Because there are few comics or stories told from the perspective of the victims of gentrification, I think it’s incredibly important to represent more of those voices.

 

CIC: What exciting projects are you working 
on right now?

KF: Currently I’m organizing La Raza Anthology, which is a collection of comics, illustrations, poems and short stories by 30+ Latinx creators discussing topics such as assimilation, racism, feminism, queer and self identity. I’m hoping this anthology will contribute to the representation of Latinxs in the comics and literature industry, which, unfortunately, is lacking at the moment. If I want to read more stories by diverse creators, I have to do my part in making our own history. 

 

 

Art © 2016 by Katherine Fajardo, Text © 2016 by Carus Publishing dba Cricket Media