The Serious Side to the Lighthearted Doo-Dah Parade: Rights Group Uses Creativity, Irony to Address Serious Issues

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By ANDY VITALICIO with MICHELLE NATI | Photos courtesy ANN LAU

6:45 am | November 9, 2017


The Visual Artists Guild, a Los Angeles non-profit organization which champions the rights of freedom of speech and expression, will participate in the Pasadena Doo-Dah parade on November 19.

This year, the Guild’s performance will focus on human rights violations in Cuba, specifically the Ladies in White opposition movement and the suspected sonic attacks on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Havana.

“They (the Visual Artists Guild) are in the parade every year, and they always do something really creative. They have a way of putting out some very important and serious information with humor, but mostly just a lot of creativity and irony,” Doo Dah Parade organizer Patricia Hurley said.

Visual Artists Guild’s participation in past Doo Dah parades has brought out human rights issues in China, such as the country’s One-Child policy, the imprisonment of Chinese international artist Ai Weiwei, Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, and the rounding up of human right lawyers. In one such case, human rights lawyer Wang Yu’s son who had escaped to Burma was taken back to China resulting in Wang Yu’s confession on television. During the parade, the Guild’s artists demonstrated how a father watched as his child was beaten until the father went on TV to confess.

“In years past, we’ve had many, many serious issues brought forward in very peculiar, sometimes humorous, sometimes odd (ways), but (they) definitely grab people’s attention,” Hurley said.

The Ladies in White movement was founded in 2003 by a group of wives and female relatives of Cuba’s political prisoners. After mass each Sunday, the women dressed in white to symbolize peace and marched silently to protest the detention of their loved ones. They have often been harassed, beaten, and arrested for simply exercising their universal right of freedom, expression, and assembly.

After the U.S. began the normalization of relations with Cuba in December 2014, 53 political prisoners were released. A number of those who did not leave Cuba had subsequently been taken back to prison.

The other issue the Guild intends to dramatize this year has to do with U.S. diplomatic personnel and their relatives experiencing “hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping” while in Cuba, according to the U.S. State Department. Although the country denies it, it is suspected that they used a sonic attack on American diplomats.

The Guild according to Hurley, is one of the stand-out groups participating in the parade. “I would say the other group that is similar is Amnesty International who always came out with something that was very controversial but brought it out in a very creative way,” Hurley said. “I think a lot of the participants in the parade, like the Grand Marshal and even the Queen, are social activists and that’s something that’s really stand out about the parade this year.”

The Doo Dah Parade will celebrate 40 years of irreverent frolicking on the streets of Pasadena. The 2017 Parade begins at about 11 a.m. on Sunday, November 19, in East Pasadena along Colorado Boulevard.

Also, the Visual Artists Guild welcomes Cuban-Americans to join in their performance at the parade—no experience necessary. They can contact Ann Lau at 310-433-0697.

For more information about the parade, visit www.pasadenadoodahparade.info.

To learn more about the Virtual Artists Guild, visit their website, www.visualartistsguild.info.