Two major events happened on Saturday, May 21 (and none of them had to do with the end of the world). My oldest grandson, Ricardo Rodriguez, age 18, graduated from high school, Forest Lake Christian Academy of the Orlando, Florida area, this past Saturday. I couldn’t attend, but my spirit was with him every step of the way. I’m so proud of Ricky, as we call him. He’s intelligent, artistic, and passionate. He plans to attend college and major in graphic arts. He’s spiritually grounded and a blessing to the world. I love you Ricky. Also on Saturday, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore, held it’s 6th Annual Celebrating Words Festival (Written, Performed, and Sung), co-sponsored by the LA City Department of Cultural Affairs with support from local businesses, markets, politicians, and many others (MeCha, AB-540/Mission College, Jackson Browne Guacamole Fund, LA City Councilmember Richard Alarcon, Ralphs, Fresh & Easy, Xokolatl Café, The Home Depot, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, State Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, LA City Councilmember Tony Cardenas, State Senator Alex Padilla, U.S. Congressman Howard Berman, Tenoch Printing, and more). Most important was the community who showed up and took part —families, poets, writers, artists, vendors, activists, musicians, regular folk, and danzantes (various danza groups took part in the opening ceremony with our resident Mexika danza group, Temachtia Quetzacoatl). Held for the third year at Mission Community College in Sylmar, CA, we estimated some 600 people came in and out all day long. It was a nice sunny day with all forecasts of heavy clouds and possible rain not happening. Our stage was alive, hosted by our longtime friends Felicia Montes and Lalow. We had Cuban and other Hip Hop (Las Krudas Cubensi, Ixkimilli), Dance (Temachtia Quetzacoatl and Zadonu), Spoken Word (Sean Hill, Luis M. Rodriguez, Eyerie Zenzele, and others), Stories (Michael Heralda/Aztec Stories), Music (Mike De La Rocha, Hijos de la Tierra, and the much beloved band La Santa Cecilia), among some other great acts. This year for the first time, we had author reading panels, organized by the novelist Reyna Grande, that included topics on comic books, children’s literature, crime/mystery novels, women’s stories, writing for TV and film, and issues like the intersection of reality & fiction and how to get published. Authors/artists included Javier Hernandez, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Naomi Hirahara, Dr. Ana Nogales, David Bueno-Hill, Melinda Palacio, Dani Dixon, Crista Flanagan, Philip Victor Colon, Leslie Schwartz, Susan Straight, and many other amazing people. For the first time we also had a Children’s/Teen Reading Tent with the likes of Antonio Sacre, Laura Lacamara, Rene Colato Lainez, James Luna, and others. And our vendors included artists like Lalo Garcia and Rick Ortega, hand-made jewelry and other art from Arte Las Guayabas, Urban Xic, Mexica Blign and Torodetupac, Voces Indigenas, Arte de la Tierra, and many more. Organizations that were represented included Young Warriors (with founder Mayra Zaragoza), Buen Pastor Mural Project, San Fernando Valley Green Party, Bikesanos del Valle, Pacoima Beautiful, Self Help Graphics, and El Nido Family Source Center. And, of course, we had books—with our regular booth from Tia Chucha’s and other sellers in and around the area. I have to say how strong the community spirit was. Like every year, there were no fights, no hassles, no harsh words. Kids, teens, adults, and the elderly were all enjoying themselves and having a good time. Some people brought coolers and picnicked on the grass. The staff and security of Mission Community College were supportive and took care of us very well. We were also making the most of life—the world didn’t end. But our job is to keep the world going anyway, not wait like captured souls with baited breath for our material containers to disappear (and supposedly free our souls). People who spend their days just contemplating the end of the world miss the vital messages of the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, the great writings of Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, or Black Elk—to celebrate Creation/Creator, celebrate our earth and the abundance it can provide us, and to celebrate each other, our relations, with respect and dignity. Our souls are already free—we just have make sure that what we do can lead us to the great dances, great songs, great words, and a truly abundant world aligned with the immense possibilities in nature and in spirit. The world may end—and we can live every day with fullness in case it does. But we can’t act as if our true glory is beyond us. Our life is here now, to be lived the way it was meant to be live, including in compassion. The way our elders, ancestors, teachers, and collective wisdom have prepared us to do. If we do go to the other side—the way any of us imagine this other side to be—why not go there truly alive, in profundity and wholeness? So in Celebrating Words we also celebrated life. Words to keep our lives going, our world in step, our thoughts and hearts active to what really matters. I thank all the staff and volunteers of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural (Trini, Karina, Stacy, and Luz), and the Celebrating Words organizing Committee (in particular the committee’s chair, Osbaldo Velasquez) for all they did to make “Celebrating Words” another fountain of the immense dreams we all have for community, for peace, for truly creative personal and social engagement. c/s
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