Fireworks grew out of the anti-imperialist activist work that was being done by Prairie Fire Organizing Committee (PFOC) in the 1970s through the1980s. Our posters are a visual history of what was going on at that time. PFOC embraced the importance of art and culture as a tool for building a progressive movement. Our mission was to agitate, organize, and bring awareness of the inequalities and social justice issues of the times.
We began silk-screening in people’s houses, then eventually created a neighborhood workshop where we invited the community to come and work on art projects with us. We formed quilting bees and brought together billboard alteration teams. We taught women’s self-defense classes, made stencils for public walls, and formed poster distribution teams to post our posters in public spaces. Every project was a place to discuss politics and create opportunities for activism.
During this period, anti-colonial and national liberation struggles were being waged both around the world and here in the US; and women and LGBTQ people were fighting for equity, liberation, and leadership across the globe. Fireworks members in San Francisco and Los Angeles designed and distributed more than 150 posters which reflected and supported these struggles. Some posters spoke to the moment, such as stopping the KKK from marching in San Francisco. Others opposed apartheid in South Africa and supported international anti-colonial struggles in Africa and Latin America. Still others addressed long-term systemic problems around women’s liberation and LBGTQ issues through posters organizing for actions around “Women Take Back the Night,” International Women’s Day, and Gay, Lesbian and Queer marches. Posters addressed on-going police and government oppression and the need to resist it. We produced many posters about the FBI and Federal Grand Juries in the early 1980s, when activists in the Puerto Rican independence and Black Liberation movements were being jailed for refusing to cooperate with federal grand juries. One of those posters, “Build a Wall of Resistance, Don’t talk to the FBI,” has been reprinted many times over the last several decades because grand juries are still being used as a tool to intimidate and jail progressive activists.
We were a collective and the production of all our posters was a group process of discussing the issue to organize around, what the poster should say, and the graphic image to be used. While most of our work was done directly as Fireworks, we did some work in collaboration with other groups and artists doing direct action and organizing around the issues we supported. Most importantly, all the members of Fireworks were both artists and organizers and were members of these organizations. In addition to collaborating with other artists, Fireworks Graphics Collective signed our work as Fireworks Graphics Collective, Fireworks, Fireworks Graphics, Fireworks Grafix, Fireworx, and Graficas Guazabara. Other artists that have worked with us are identified in the field “Primary Artist” for each poster.
Members of the San Francisco
Members of the Los Angeles