Tia Chucha's Tardeada & Silent Auction: A good time had by all

Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural held its first major Tardeada & Silent Auction at the home of our long-time friend, John Densmore of the Doors, on Sunday, July 20. It was amazingly bright and warm with a nice ocean breeze all day. Tia Chucha's development director (and organizer of our fundraisers) Ruben Guevara worked hard on this event for several weeks—including spending most of Saturday and Sunday morning getting things set up and ready. Ruben, for those who don't know, was part of Ruben & the Jets with Frank Zappa in the early 1970s and founder of the band "Con Safos" in the 1980s.

Ruben is also an amazing producer of benefits and shows. For the tardeada, he had help from Tia Chucha's staff: my wife (and our operations manager), Trini; our program coordinator, Frank Escamilla; our publicity/outreach person, Arlene Mejorado; and our new music workshops coordinator, Karina Ceja. I also want to acknowledge a number of volunteers (such as Walter Little, Maria Moncada, and others I apologize for not remembering), including Tia Chucha board members Dolores Villanueva, Julie Chavez Harmon, Carla Bykowski, Michael De La Rocha, Ron M. Daniels, Mary Archibald, Angelica Loa, and Victor Mendoza.

My daughter Andrea was also a great help (thanks m'ija).

About 80 people showed up to bid on amazing Chicano art and photography by artists like Chaz Bojorquez, Man One, Carlos Almaraz, Wayne Alaniz Healy, Raoul De La Sota, Brandy Maya Healy, Richard Durado, Elsa Flores Almaraz, John Valadez, Andres Montoya, Margaret Garcia, Leo Limon, Yreina Cervantez, George Rodriguez, Harry Gamboa, Joel “Rage” Garcia, William Loya, Linda Arreola, Reyes Rodriguez, Sonia Romero, Oscar Magallanes, Shizu Saldamando, Herbert Siguenza, and Raul Caracoza.

We also had a brand new acoustic guitar signed by Los Lobos; a hand-made art book of “Making Medicine” by Luis Rodriguez from C&C Press; a personalized hat, shoes and other items from Chaz Bojorguez; the "Lion King" character with Cheech's signature; and other rare and creative items.

Our hosts were John Densmore and Cheech Marin, both of whom greeted the guests and spoke about the power of arts in our lives. Ruben did his famous poem, "Con Safos" with John's drumming to the side of him (the performance kicked ass). I got a chance to speak about how the arts is the best way for a person to enter into their own depths, their own lives, while also being the best way to enter into the world. I know that the arts can save lives—it saved mine many years ago when I was a gang member and drug addict. And I've witnessed the arts change lives for more than 30 years as an activist and writer for social justice, equity, and a cooperative world (as well as a gang intervention specialist in Chicago, LA, other parts of the US, Mexico, and Central America).

We also had a moving presentation by the founders of Young Warriors, now a youth empowerment project of Tia Chucha's: Mayra Zaragoza, 17, and Brian Dessaint, 19.

Many of the guests included producers from Sony Pictures and the TV show “Law & Order.” A CEO of one of LA's leading health services organization was there (and bidded on many items--gracias) as well as musicians like Jackson Browne. We had a good cross-section of progressive Westside people and people from East LA and the Northeast Valley (LA's largest communities of Mexican/Central American descent).

My friends Cookie Carosella of Tuff Cookie Productions and John Padilla of the Variety Boys & Girls Club in Boyle Heights were also present (Cookie made a good presentation about the documentary film we are working on called “The Long Run: Finding the Life You Were Meant to Live,” which discusses LA gangs and solutions to stopping gang violence in our city, not just the problems).

Also present were a mother and son from Denmark (very enthused about the art) and my friend Horst Tonn, a professor of American Studies at the University of Tuebingen in southern Germany (I stayed there a few years ago, doing talks and readings--Horst has also amassed a strong collection of Chicano books and films at the university).

In the end we raised more than $25,000. Even with cuts to artists and expenses that we still need to make we did quite well. We want to continue being a presence and destination for progressive donors and lovers of Chicano art wherever they may be.

In these days as we lose buildings housing venerable institutions like Self-Help Graphics in East LA, Tia Chucha's wants to be an example that the arts can thrive as a well-oiled nonprofit organization, community empowerment gathering place, major bookstore, and center of healing social change. We wouldn't exist if not for Self Help Graphics and other community-based arts organizations. We have the duty to make it, even in these hard economic times (it's always been hard for artists, que no?).

I want to thank the staff, the board, the volunteers, the artists, our amazing hosts John and Cheech, and the many guests who came and also bidded for being part of this dynamic and growing community arts phenomena named for my favorite aunt (and renown “crazy relative”), Tia Chucha.

We now move forward to Tia Chucha's annual benefit event at the Ford Amphitheater in Hollywood on August 3. Cheech and John will perform (with friends) as well as Hip Hop sensation Olmeca; political comedy performance group, Opening People's Minds; singer/performer Nobuko Miyamoto; Chicano ska-funk band, Upground; our own Danza Azteca group, Temachtia Quetzacoatl; and the fantastic “old” and “new” school funk of Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. This event is hosted by Chicano comedian and friend of Tia Chucha's, Ernie G.

I will also be there to read poems with my wonderful companion, Trini Rodriguez.

Please get tickets by going to www.tiachucha.com or to www.FordTheatres.org.

Ay nos vemos!


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