Local Activism   |   Tucson, AZ

Interview with Naomi Ortiz -
On being part of the desert

April 2022​ | Interview by: Raye Winch | Photos by: Rachel Castillo

Naomi Ortiz, latinx person, on a scooter in Saguaro National Park West

Naomi Ortiz (they/she) rides her scooter during sunset in Saguaro West National Park, on one of the few wheelchair accessible paths.

"It seems like local activist groups don't really consider that disabled people are changemakers. And if we're changemakers, then we're valuable to have in the room."

In this interview, Naomi Ortiz, a poet, writer, facilitator, and visual artist shares her experience as a disabled artist and activist, her newest work on connect/disconnect between disability and environmental justice, and in the full version even shares some original poetry!

Links:

Original music produced by Jaime J. Soto

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Naomi interacts with the plants along an accessible path.

Transcripts English

Intro:
Welcome to Amplifying Voices, where we share the stories of people sparking change in our communities. We center the voices of people who are LGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Today we're joined by Naomi Ortiz, a poet, writer, facilitator, and visual artist whose intersectional work focuses on self-care for activists, disability justice, climate action, and relationship with place. What's your experience been as a disabled activist trying to participate in local activist movements?

Naomi Ortiz:
It's really frustrating, honestly, because I never get to have the conversations I want to have <laugh> in these spaces. I really want to be there to learn or to ask my own questions about issues or to offer up, you know, experience or wisdom or thoughts or ideas on a variety of topics. And generally when I'm invited to have space, the space I get to have is around speaking up and for disabled folks. I actually really love learning about plants. I kind of geek out on learning about medicinal values of plants. But those spaces are often incredibly inaccessible. It seems like local activist groups don't really consider that disabled people are changemakers. And if we're changemakers, then we're valuable to have in the room. And for us to get in the room, it's not enough to just say, oh, please come. Actual structural changes have to happen. There has to be an accessible way in, it has to be near public transportation. It has to include things like ASL interpreters or other kinds of accommodations that people may ask for. It needs to include a space for people to be able to ask for accommodations.

 

Raye:
You've been doing activism work for a long time. I'm wondering what advice you have for other activists or artists.

 

Naomi:
I would suggest creating spaciousness in the artistic journey to really sit with your own work because we live in such a comparison world. It's just really challenging to share our work without being sucked into this comparison mindset. And so having a sense of our own integrity in our art and, our writing or whatever your art form is just such an important essential thing.

 

Raye:
Is there any artistic work that you're working on that you're excited about?

 

Naomi:
So, yes, I'm super excited. I am really privileged to have gotten a grant from the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures. They were really excited about the project I submitted, which was Complicating Conversations, which is looking at the relationship or lack of relationship between eco-justice groups and disability justice groups or people, or even just concepts and, and issues and ideas.

 

Raye:
Where can people find more of your art?

 

Naomi:
So, I have a website it's www.naomiortiz.com. And if you go on there and click on art, you can see some of the paintings that I have created. And I think one of the paintings as part of my current series is on there.

 

Rachel Castillo:
Thanks for listening to Amplifying Voices. For the full interview, photos and more visit www.peoplesparkchange.org

 

Music by Jaime J. Soto

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(top) Naomi takes in the aroma of a creosote plant.

(bottom) Naomi sits with the sun on her face.

Transcripciones Español

Bienvenides a Amplificando Voces: Personas Impulsando Cambio. 

Hoy nos acompaña Naomi Ortiz (elle), une poeta, escritore, facilitadore y artista visual cuyo trabajo interseccional se centra en el autocuidado para activistas, la justicia por personas discapacitadas, la acción climática y nuestra relación con un lugar. ¿Cuál ha sido tu experiencia como activista discapacitade tratando de participar en movimientos activistas locales?

 

Naomí Ortiz:

Es realmente frustrante, honestamente, porque nunca llego a tener las conversaciones que quiero tener <risas> en estos espacios. Tengo muchas ganas de estar allí para aprender o para hacer mis propias preguntas sobre temas o para ofrecer experiencia o sabiduría o pensamientos o ideas sobre una variedad de temas. Y, en general, cuando me invitan a tener espacio, el espacio que tengo es hablar sobre personas discapacitadas. De hecho, me encanta aprender sobre las plantas. Me encanta aprender sobre los valores medicinales de las plantas. Pero esos espacios son a menudo increíblemente inaccesibles. Parece que los grupos de activistas locales realmente no consideran que las personas con discapacidades sean agentes de cambio. Y si somos agentes de cambio, entonces es valioso tenernos en la sala. Y para que entremos en el espacio, no basta con decir, oh, ven por favor. Los cambios estructurales reales tienen que ocurrir. Tiene que haber una forma accesible de entrar, tiene que estar cerca del transporte público. Tiene que incluir cosas como intérpretes de lengua de señas americana u otros tipos de adaptaciones que la gente pueda solicitar. Debe incluir un espacio para que las personas puedan solicitar adaptaciones.

 

Raye:

Has trabajado como activista durante mucho tiempo. Qué consejos tienes para otres activistas o artistas.

 

Naomí:

Sugeriría crear espacio en el viaje artístico para realmente sentarte con tu propio trabajo porque vivimos en un mundo de comparación. Es realmente desafiante compartir nuestro trabajo sin ser absorbido por esta mentalidad de comparación. Entonces, tener un sentido de nuestra propia integridad en nuestro arte y nuestra escritura o cualquiera que sea su forma de arte es algo esencial muy importante.

 

Raye:

¿Hay algún trabajo artístico en el que estés trabajando que te entusiasme?

 

Naomí:

Entonces, sí, estoy súper emocionade. Tengo el privilegio de haber obtenido una beca de la Asociación Nacional de Artes y Culturas Latinas. Estaban realmente entusiasmades con el proyecto que presenté, se llama “Complicando las Conversaciones,” que analiza la relación o la falta de relación entre los grupos de eco-justicia y los grupos que luchan para la justicia para personas con discapacidades, o incluso sólo conceptos y problemas e ideas.

 

Raye:

¿Dónde puede la gente encontrar más de tu arte?

 

Naomí:

Entonces, tengo un sitio web, es www.naomiortiz.com. Y si vas allí y haces clic en arte, puedes ver algunas de las pinturas que he creado. Y creo que una de las pinturas como parte de mi serie actual está ahí.

 

Gracias por escuchar Amplificando Voces. Para ver la entrevista completa, fotos y más, visite www.peoplesparkchange.org. Música de Jaime J. Soto

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Naomi touches a prickly pear cactus. She desires more opportunities to connect with desert plants and plant medicine, but is often excluded from such spaces because of lack of wheelchair accesss.

Image Left: Naomi laughs during interview recording in our mobile recording studio, parked in the visitor center parking lot at Saguar West Naitonal Park.

Image Center: Behind the scenes image of Raye while testing audio set up in mobile recording studio.

Image Right: Rachel, project photographer, and Naomi pose for a photo during photo shoot in Saguaro West.