Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural was honored last Wednesday as one of two nonprofits Bruce Springsteen mentioned onstage to some 15,000 plus fans at the LA Sport Arena. We were also able to have a table and donation buckets in which many of Springsteen's fans graciously donated. And, Trini and I had primo seats (just behind Tom Morello) and a chance to visit briefly with Bruce backstage. He greeted us like old friends--and I have to say I have more respect for him as a performer, activist, and person. The last time I saw Bruce with the E Street Band was twenty five years ago (Trini and I did see Bruce two years ago at his one-man show at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood). This was during his "Born in the USA" tour. Then like now, Bruce allowed nonprofits to solicit funds during his concert, mostly food banks and those assisting the many victims of the deindustrialization during the Reagan Administration that led to millions of jobs lost. I was volunteering for the United Steelworkers Local 1845 Food Bank--one of the largest in the country, feeding 6,000 to 10,000 families a week. This union local served for decades the steelworkers at Bethlehem Steel. I worked at Bethlehem in their millwright's unit for four years. After the mill closed, I helped with the Local's efforts, including taking part in theater/poetry workshops, led by my good friend Susan Franklin Tanner. Then Local president George Cole, the master mind behind such amazing actions, is still a good friend and supporter--without him, the paths of Bruce and Luis Rodriguez may not have crossed. I first met Bruce during one of our poetry/theater workshops. He came to take part, with the LA Times in tow. I read a poem that I dedicated to him called "Bethlehem No More." He was attentive and when I finished reading, he looked at me and said, "only you could have written that poem." I have had some amazing experiences meeting important performers and impacters of popular culture like Bruce, but that is one of the all time highlights of my life. Luckily the LA Times captured it in an article that appeared soon after our meeting. I must also say what an amazing concert Bruce and the E Street Band presented to the fans this past April 15. The energy was high, more of a revival of hopes, big dreams, and the connections we all need to make today as this country battles its way through economic, social and spiritual morass. Bruce's songs have always been about breaking the mold, about not accepting the small lives many of us were born into, to go where the creative roads take us, to push further into a fuller life, but also into a much more democratic, expansive and encompassing country. In this age of change, in this age of a new imaginations, the Obama age, he is truly the poet-bard most aligning with the necessary ideas, and necessary justices, equities, fullness, that we need to regenerate and progress. I'm honored to call Bruce a friend. He's also been a financial supporter of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural for a few years now. He joins other amazing personalities who've assisted Tia Chucha's like John Densmore of the Doors, Lou Adler, Adrienne Rich, Jack Kornfield, Richard Foos, Dave Marsh, Jesus Trevino, Cheech Marin, Tom Hayden, among others. Giving to an independent cultural space and bookstore like Tia Chucha's is giving to the developing imagination, expression and empowerment of poor and working class communities. I truly believe the arts is the most effective means to renew and revive communities hit by economic uncertainties and social neglect. We have helped do this in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, a large community of some 450,000 people. For more than seven years in Sylmar, Lake View Terrace, and back in Sylmar, the community has had arts workshops (music, dance, theater, writing, painting, and more), a weekly Open Mic, film nights, author readings, and community dialogues. We also established the first and only literacy & performing arts festival there called "Celebrating Words," which we will hold this year on June 27 at Mission College. And we'll hold again our annual benefit event at the Ford Amphitheater this August 2 with poets, our Aztec Dance group, Temachtia Quetzacoatl, Filipino performance and dance, and bands like La Santa Cecelia and Very Be Careful. You can find out more as always at www.tiachucha.com. Again, it's people like Bruce that help make this happen. I'm so grateful that time, distance, and even celebrity has not severed these ties that loss and hard times helped forge. c/s
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