Way back in the early 1980’s, many of us who started CIRCA-Pintig were “fresh-off-the-planes” so to speak. Several of us came to Chicago to reunite with family members who had left the Philippines in the 1970’s due to the political repression and economic instability under the Marcos dictatorship. Coming to the U.S. was a desperate survival move.
The need to survive marked the new life that we had to build in Chicago as well. Thankfully, we had families and extended families who took us in and supported us until we could make it on our own. They are the true foundation and inspiration for all that we do in CIRCA-Pintig. Our work is our way of honoring them by sharing the gifts of life and love that we received over three decades ago.
In 2021, CIRCA-Pintig will be celebrating its 30th anniversary of community engagement and cultural work. While the original founding members have been involved in activist community work way back in the 1980’s, the core programs around education, advocacy and organizing through community theater were formalized only after its official incorporation as a nonprofit organization in 1991. CIRCA stands for Center for Immigrant Resources and Community Arts. Pintig is a Filipino term for “heartbeat” or “pulse”. CIRCA-Pintig’s work may be summed up in three foundational principles – educate-organize-mobilize (E-O-M).
CIRCA-Pintig or CP for short, is Chicago-based but has informal chapters in New York and Las Vegas. Its mission is to engage community members in addressing critical needs of immigrant communities in creative, participatory and empowering ways. As its name underscores, CP’s mission is two-pronged. The Immigrant Resources (IR) focus is on providing access to much needed resources and services through grassroots activities and campaigns primarily for, from, and by immigrant communities. The Community Arts (CA) focus is on developing, nurturing and popularizing community arts aesthetic and pedagogy that speak of the immigrant experience within the changing multicultural American landscape as well as celebrating the histories and artistic legacies of America’s diverse cultural terrain through participatory art creation.
In the past, CP’s work has mostly focused on education and advocacy through community theater. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on new challenges to the communities that we have and continue to serve as well as to our community work itself. This has necessitated a shift in our priorities from advocacy alone to the urgency of adding direct services as well. Acting quickly to respond to emergency challenges of COVID-19 in March 2020, CP started flexing its direct services muscles by starting with its own membership and outreach base by organizing the delivery of meal donations to ER front liners as part of the “Meal Trains” and by sewing protective cloth masks for caregiving and support staff in a nursing home where a few supporters work.
Hence, for the first time in its 29-year history, CP is boldly embarking on a new direction by adding direct service programs in its mission and focus. By leveraging its home-grown methods and infrastructures that have served CP in the past, coupled with its broad outreach as well as its current leadership, CP is ready to take its work with its new direct services programs into greater heights.