On the Road Again...

I'm getting ready to embark on a number of trips outside of town. I'll be in New Jersey this coming Monday, February 11. I return after a few days, and then I go to San Francisco for two weeks – to be part of the Mosaic Foundation's Koures Youth Symposium in Santa Rosa, CA (Tia Chucha's Young Warriors is bringing to young leaders as well), which culminates in a public event at the Brava Theater in the Mission district of San Francisco on February 24. I will also take part in programs sponsored by Intersection for the Arts and the Mission Public Library. In addition, I'll be visiting New Folsom prison near Sacramento, a youth detention facility in the Bay Area, and the juvenile halls of San Francisco and Alameda counties. You can get more information on my events page of my website: LuisJRodriguez.com

Then in March I will be visiting universities, high schools, poetry centers, elementary schools, and more in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan. I'll be gone through the end of the month. In addition, I have some local schools – primarily those coming to Tia Chucha's for field trips (we have about two a month during the spring).

Traveling about a third of the year, I'm able to sustain my family and to help with Tia Chucha's – it also allows my wife Trini to devote more than 40 hours a week to Tia Chucha's without pay, but also for me to write, accomplish my commitments to Tia Chucha's, other community work, and, most importantly, to spend time with my family.

Recently, I spoke at the New Roads School in Santa Monica, invited by a good friend in a seminal rock & roll bad of the 1960s (I'll keep his name private for now), whose son goes to this school. With a roomful of students, we had a great discussion about gangs, drugs, how to overcome obstacles, the arts, and life in general. I also went to a Creative Writing class of another friend, Mel Donalson, at Cal State University, Los Angeles, where I got to speak about writing in different genres, the fiction dynamic, and my own writing process.

I also had an amazing time at Wilson High School in El Sereno/East LA where I spoke to several assemblies of students. On the walls in the auditorium, the students had placed posters and artwork with scenes from my book “Always Running.” Several young people even got up to read poetry and essays -- and there was two girls who announced that they stopped doing drugs after reading my book. I was very moved.

For Martin Luther King's Jr. birthday commemoration, I co-hosted with Elaine Swann a concert at Golden Hall in San Diego, CA with the incomparable Odetta, and various local singers, dancers, poets, and speakers. Some 600 people came.

I also did three events at the Getty Museum at the Getty Center around the fantastic photo exhibit by one of Mexico's leading photographers, Graciela Iturbide (the exhibit ends April 13, 2008). Her work captures the images of mostly indigenous people of Mexico, including the Tehuanas of Juchitan, Oaxaca (Zapoteca indigenous people), a place close to my heart when in the early 1980s I took part in uprisings against the Mexican government including when farmers, workers, students, and indigenous communities took over the city hall and demanded equal representation. It was quite a time – they were quite a people.

Graciela spent many years among them and these photos are internationally acclaimed. She also spent a couple of days in East LA and was one of the few Mexican photographers to capture the Cholo cultural phenomena of Chicanos in the 1980s – mostly women, many of whom were born deaf after a particularly powerful epidemic hit East LA's Mexican community in the 1960s.

I ended up speaking to a group of college and university professors as well as teachers at the Getty earlier in January. Then at the end of that month, I spoke to a group of students, black and brown, from Locke High School in Watts (the school was actually built on top of where my oldest sister once lived, and where I stayed a couple of summers when I was a kid).

This exhibit also allowed the Getty Museum to organize a panel of Chicano artists and writers to discuss art, Chicano life, and the Cholo culture, among other things, in the context of Iturbide's work. Visual artists Ernesto de la Loza and Alma Lopez as well as novelist Yxta Maya Murray were on the panel that I moderated to a fairly packed house on January 27. Powerful ideas, visions, and even critiques (in particular about museums, the Getty included) were on the table. However, we also affirmed our Chicano realities and the diverse means these are expressed in Chicano art, especially over the past 40 years. It turned out to be a rich and powerful discussion, including with the audience. I thank the Getty for inviting us to have this exchange.

Finally, I want to draw everyone's attention to an important upcoming event with the theme of “Common Roots, Common Dreams: A Celebration of the Commonality of Black and Mexican Culture & History.” With all the recent media attention on Black & Brown conflicts, this is in honor of what actually unites us and the reality that African Americans and Mexicans are more united than divided. Sponsored by Rock A Mole Festivals, CDs & Films, the event will be held Sunday, February 17 from 6 to 10 PM at Industry Cafe & Jazz, 6039 Washington Blvd. in the heart of the Arts District of Culver City. Food, beer and wine will be available.

This is a free event – Rock A Mole (rhymes with guacamole) festivals generally are. I'll be one of the hosts, and will do a poetry collaboration with one of LA's best performance poets, BessKepp. Also on hand will be new music with “Ten East” jazz band and a traditional Mexican band, “La Santa Cecilia;” a short play, “The First Embrace” that will depict Mexico's embrace of fugitive slaves despite enormous pressure from the US during the mid-1800s; a beat box chorus with both break dancers and traditional Mexican dancers; the world premiere of a new poem by Mike the Poet celebrating the ongoing synergy between Black and Mexican culture; and a killer house band with Fre Ballesteros (my favorite saxophone player in LA) of the Boxing Gandhis on sax, Michael Suicer of the Ray Charles Orchestra on drums, Boudro of the Gladys Knight band on bass, and G Mack of Polyester Players (who's played with the likes of Mary J. Blige) on guitar (singing will be one of my favorite singers in the city, and the creator of the music for my CD “My Name's Not Rodriguez,” Ernie Perez – musical director is Carvell Holloway, who also did the great trumpet solos on my CD).

To top it off some of the best African American and Mexican/Chicano poets and rappers will be performing, including TamaraBlue, Metaphysics, Sarah Cruse, Busstop Prophet, Ant Black, and Redemption (Redencion of Guanajuato, Mexico), among others. For more information, go to [email protected].

Don't miss this!

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