“‘Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity’ Stops in Houston,” essay by Harbeer Sandhu, Free Press Houston, September 4, 2012.
“Antena Books / Libros Antena at Project Row Houses,” essay by Allyn West, OffCite, June 19, 2012.
“A Gathering of Small Books this Spring: These Signals, Corollary, New Michigan, Antena/Antena, ‘A Fiery Flying Roule,’” blog post by Jill Magi, June 13, 2012.
“Antena Books: Houston’s Newest Literary Space,” blog post by Krupa Parikh, Open Book, May 14, 2012.
“Unmapping Houston: Artists Navigate the City’s Geography,” article by Nicole Zaza, Arts + Culture Magazine, May 3, 2012.
A testimonial from Fran Ansley:
Attending the 8th National Conference on Low-Income Immigrants’ Rights in December 2011 gave me a chance to see and hear Antena in action. It was a pleasure and privilege to be on the receiving end of their considerable talents. Enjoying the benefits of their hard work reminded me of lessons I learned some time ago.
It was back in the early 1990s when I first found out what a difference high-quality interpretation can make for situations where diverse social justice activists are coming together. In those days my context was a series of worker-to-worker exchange trips between blue-collar workers from Tennessee and their counterparts from the maquiladora region of northern Mexico. I was fortunate enough to accompany some trips from Tennessee to Mexico and to experience being in the linguistic minority in situations where I wanted and needed very badly to understand what people were saying. When interpretation was absent or of poor quality, I was either excluded from the conversation altogether or left with struggling to comprehend through a murky curtain. To the contrary, when the interpretation was strong, I felt what it was like to be fully present, engaged and included, even though I was a stranger to the primary language of the gathering. The contrast between these two positions — being marginalized from the conversation or carried into the heart of it — was like night and day. And of course it was the interpreters who made all the difference.
In the years since that initial introduction I have had more opportunities to see interpreting in practice, especially now that Tennessee has become a new destination for so many Latino migrants. I have concluded that two different but equally important ingredients are required for interpretation to be at its best in social justice contexts of this kind. First, to be excellent, interpreters obviously need to have a high level of technical skill. But that is hardly sufficient. In situations like the ones I am talking about, interpreters must also have a real passion for the task of helping people connect in a real way across serious difference. That task requires communication of emotion, excitement and dramatic line, not just disembodied words drained of feeling. It means a commitment to establishing access for all those present, and vigilantly monitoring whether that access is being maintained. It means working well with meeting planners and teaching participants who are new to the process how they can interact respectfully and equitably in a multi-lingual space. Each situation will have its own power dynamics, with different languages being subordinate or dominant depending on context. Whatever the setting, monolingual English speakers usually bring the most unexamined language privilege, and other participants may suffer as a result if affirmative steps are not taken to protect equitable access to the conversation for all. Being attentive to such matters and helping others to understand them is an important part of the role of an excellent interpreter.
Last December when I arrived at the conference where Antena was providing interpretation, these lessons came vividly back to me. The interpreters were set up almost like a welcoming committee at the door, smiling and connecting with attendees from the first moment. Before the first session got underway they stepped to the podium, introduced themselves, urged everyone to check out equipment if they were not fully bi-lingual, and oriented participants to some of the basic ground rules that can help support democratic practice in multi-lingual environments. From that opening I could see that they had passion for the work and sophistication about what it requires. As soon as they began interpreting, it was evident that they had excellent technical skills as well. Throughout the rest of the day and those that followed, it was a real joy to watch the compañer@s from Antena do their stuff and to see the way they kept the channels clear. May there soon be dozens more like them across the country.