A Victory for Community Arts at the Ford Amphitheatre

The day started out badly--we had two flat tires on the mini-van that carried our books and other boxes for Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural's benefit event at the 1,200-seat Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood. There was also a major accident on the 101 freeway just where the Ford Theatres are located that caused a back up for around 12 hours (the accident involved the death of an off-duty police officer and a 13-car pileup). Still, last Sunday, July 29, we managed to pull off an amazing fundraiser. Everything eventually fell into place and, despite the traffic issues, we had what looked like an almost full house. All the acts came through like champs and then some (we had two encores for the bands Upground and Tierra, both of whom had people rocking in their seats or dancing in the aisles).

Our host was the incomparable Ernie G., one of LA's rising young Latino comedians. He was right on, and for his 15-minute monologue he had everyone in stitches. We also featured Tia Chucha's own Aztec Danza group, Temachtia Quetzacoatl, which opened the event. We had the agit-prop comedy theater of the world famous Culture Clash (they were fantastic). We also had the conscious indigenous Hip Hop of Xela, formerly of Chihuatl Tonalli (Woman's Energy), and El Vuh ("The Book" in Mayan). And besides the amazing Chicano Ska sounds of Upground and the Old School Chicano R&B sounds of Tierra, we had Ollin perform an exciting and innovative set combining Mexican, Irish, German, Japanese, African, and who-knows-what-else music that wowed everyone. I also read a poem after Trini and I greeted the audience. And we had a special performance from Tia Chucha's long-time friend John Densmore (of the Doors), who did poetry with another drummer that truly brought home the meaning of Art and Culture as the path to peace, unity, and deep understanding.

It was a victorious evening for community-based and neighborhood-rooted cultural spaces and independent bookstores. Lately in Los Angeles--but also around the country--we have lost many formerly venerable bookstores and cultural venues to big development, gentrification and high rents. In February, Tia Chucha's was forced to move from the space we had for five years after the landlords practically tripled our rent to make room for a multi-million laundromat. But we decided not to give up--we are now in a temporary location in Lake View Terrace (sponsoring music workshops, Aztec Dance, Mexikayotl indigenous thought, Open Mics, author readings, and more). And we are working diligently to find and establsh an even bigger, better and permanent Tia Chucha's.

The community deserves better. It deserves more. We want to be an example of fighting for the imagination, cultural expression, and truly liberating holistic literacy. We can't just settle for "survival" skills (or barely surviving). We need to truly impact our communities with the fullness of intelligence, creativity, imagination, and skills that is possible when all community members are treated as full and complete human beings.

We want to thank all our supporters, friends, and family who showed up on July 29 (I know we had people from as far away as the Bay Area, maybe even farther). We also want to thank LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslasky and the LA County staff who showed up as well as the LA City Department of Cultural Affairs and the Community Redevelopment Agency (who've also supported us). We want to thank our many funders such as the DCA, CRA, LA County Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, the Panta Rhea Foundation, the Thrill Hill Foundation, Attias Family Foundation, Middleton Foundation, Youth Can Service, the Center for Cultural Innovation, Not Just Us Foundation, Toyota Sales, the Liberty Hill Foundation, the Border Book Festival, among others. In addition, we give thanks to our many individual donors, notably Bruce Springsteen, John Densmore, Dan Attias, the Luis and Trini Rodriguez Family (Andrea, Ruben, Luis, and Catalina), Suzan Erem, Cynthia Cuza, Mel Gilman, Dave Marsh, Denise Chavez, John Randall, the Luis & Trini Rodriguez Family, and many others.

We want to thank our many collaborators, including LA Commons, Northeast Valley Health Corporation, El Centro de Santa Ana, the Council of Venues, Teatro Chusma, Tres Chingazos Theater Collective, the EARTH Theater Company, John Trudell, the many LAUSD and LA County schools who've come for field trips to Tia Chucha's, and more.

A special shout out to our founding partner Enrique Sanchez, and his family, as well as our amazing staff: Melissa Sanvicente, Silverio Pelayo, Arlene Mejorado, Blanca Boche--and our past staff members over the years (too many to name here). Also our numerous volunteers and instructors. You're all the best (including our former program director, Mike Centeno). And we wouldn't be here if not for our hard-working board members and fellow co-founders Angelica Loa and Victor Mendoza (and Tia Chucha Press and all our wonderful authors and volunteers).

Special thanks to Ruben Guevara--our benefit event producer and long-time friend--as well as John Cantu and George Rodriguez for recording the event. We want to thank the Ford staff (tech, sales, office, marketing, books, and more), in particular Community Bridges and the tremendous efforts of Lissette Alvarez.

And we want to thank our many friends in the Pacoima Community Benefits Agreement Partners of the Price Pfister Development project; the Young Warriors (now organizing to create a new model of youth awareness, engagement, and organization in Pacoima); the San Fernando Sweat Lodge Circle; the Council of Venues; Rock & Rap Confidential; Divine Forces Radio (Fidel Rodriguez and all); Imix Bookstore; Homeboy Industries (Father Greg Boyle, Fabian Montez, Pascual Orozco, and others), Homies Unidos (Alex Sanchez and others), the Community Engagement Advisory Committee (of LA City's Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence and Youth Development), and many others.

And, finally, a most heartfelt thanks to the whole San Fernando Valley community, but also from our many friends in East LA, South Central LA, Pico Union, the Westside, the Harbor, San Gabriel Valley, and beyond. We will continue. We will not give up. Tlazhokamati... Muchas Gracias... Thank You.

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