Pitzer Alum Kimberly Bautista Talks Healing Through Activism and Art

On Thursday, filmmaker Kimberly Bautista PZ '07 spoke at Pitzer College about her experience of healing from sexual trauma through arts and activism.

After graduating from Pitzer, Bautista has devoted herself to social justice work and the arts. During her time as a media studies and Spanish major at Pitzer, Bautista co-founded Speak Out For Them, a campaign to raise awareness about women murdered in Juarez, Mexico, and a video pen-pal web program between young women in Quito, Ecuador and young Chicana women in Pomona, California.

Bautista credits her time at Pitzer as the starting point in her career as an activist and advocate.

“In many ways, my transnational solidarity specifically around the issue of femicide began when I was a student here at Pitzer,” Bautista said at her talk.

Bautista’s interest in the stories of Guatemalan women began when she saw two documentaries in college. Both dealt with the subject of femicide in Mexico and Guatemala. Watching these documentaries inspired Bautista to start an organization on campus that aimed to bring awareness to this issue, and later on, to create her own documentary.

Bautista later connected with an organization in Guatemala that connected her with Rebeca, who would become the central subject of Bautista’s documentary “Justice For My Sister.”

“Justice For My Sister” follows Rebeca in her search to bring justice to the man who killed her sister. As a result of this journey, Rebeca emerges as a community leader with a forceful message: justice is possible.

“I wanted to make a film that really centered around the narrative of resilience and the activism that people are compelled to partake in out of necessity,” Bautista said.

“Justice For My Sister” was very well-received and won several awards, including the HBO-NALIP Documentary Filmmaker Award, Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Latino Independent Film Festival, and the Camera Justita Award at Movies That Matter Festival in The Netherlands.

While she was in Guatemala making her documentary, Bautista was robbed and sexually assaulted in the place she was living. She finished making her film, but after this experience of intense sexual trauma, she knew the film needed to be more than just a film.

“I really wanted to be able to create community and create networks of solidarity to connect people to resources,” she said. 

Bautista’s experience of sexual assault led to the creation of the "Justice for My Sister" Collective – a grassroots, multi-sectoral outreach campaign led by survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse to prevent gender-based violence using the arts, according to the Justice For My Sister Collective website.

The Collective has a chapter in Los Angeles and in Guatemala City, and runs workshops to teach filmmaking skills to women and LGBTQIA+ youth of color as a format for self-expression and a place to advocate for issues important to them. According to Bautista, the Collective wants to create safe spaces for healing and education for marginalized communities.

The Collective also offers several kinds of workshops in California and Guatemala, including workshops on violence prevention, as well as filmmaking and storytelling workshops.

During her talk, Bautista spoke about the need to change the social narrative of victim-blaming. She showed several videos with themes of expectations around gender roles, gendered violence, sexual harassment and ending victim-blaming and holding aggressors responsible for their actions.

Bautista said that the social awareness of students and other young people is a promising developement.

“What inspires me is young people and seeing how much more woke young people are nowadays," she said in an interview with TSL. "It's so massive. Seeing how young folks dominate and disrupt discourses and are forcing paradigm shifts, I have a lot of hope.”

Bautista’s activism and creative projects are a part of her healing process. Also crucial to her healing process is self-care.

“My experiences have helped me see my capacity for healing and for love,” she said.

You can follow Bautista on instagram at justice4sister, thesweetspot_crew, or artevistafilms.