Friday, January 29, 2010

Flowers on Fire, the New Floricanto

Just when you couldn't feel more thrilled about the modern day floricanto at Corazón del Pueblo, the space formerly known as Brooklyn & Boyle and now home to the first-ever Boyle Heights Art, Education & Action Collective, Flores de Fuego comes galloping at you with a third installment that riveted the 100 or so poets, musicians and aficionados gathered for the Wednesday night MICrófino Libre. Maestro raúlrsalinas and world renowned Peruvian poet Cecilia Bustamante must have been peering down in pride. What was especially touching was the presence of high school-aged students from ArtShare LA who delivered spoken word arsenals of consciousness and truth speak like true MVT Def Poetry Jam pros. The experimental piece created by Willy Herron and Sid Medina with additional vocals by Greg Esparza juxtaposed Beatles chord progressions and actual songs with poetry de tu servidor y amigo, yours truly and Brooklyn & Boyle assistant extraordinaire Christy Ramirez, who has grown considerably as a writer and arts maven/up-and-coming curator in the year or so that she came on board as a firme carnala and general all around support system. Audience members asked what we called the ensemble, and I had to shrug my shoulders. We'd only rehearsed once at Will's City Terrace hideaway and even then, inconclusively and incompletely. The Juanita's Restaurant crew, headed up by David and Julio Carrera, dropped in towards the end. From storytellers and blues singers to Kristopher Escajeda on the three-string guitar, from an emotionally taught original delivered with verve and attitude by Angela Flores, who accompanied herself on guitar, the evening unfolded like one of the best peña's or tertulia's you could have imagined. Doña Dora Magaña, a former Salvadorean guerrilla fighter literally stopped the show with her true-to-life story and several poems dedicated to the women in her brigade who gave up their lives fighting for a just world free of oppression and poverty. Really, all of the performances were stellar. Kudos once again to the Boyle Heights Bards, Bus Stop Prophet, Kristy Lovich and John Carlos de Luna, who are coming into their own as the honorary hosts and a major part of spiritual backbone that goes into this bi-monthly expression that has opened a doorway into the psychic healing ward built by poetry and song. Whew! This after a screening and plática to benefit Alex Sanchez and then the very first-ever public showcase for the Garfield High Poetry Club. Thanks to Lisa Cheby for making it happen. People say our young people are politically and socially apathetic but you wouldn't know it based on the kids who came to share. They know what's up and they know what time it is.

So that said, check out the latest issue of Brooklyn & Boyle for more art, community and poetry than usual, more on the reasons behind Corazón del Pueblo and a schedule of upcoming free classes for youth at 2003 East 1st in the heart of the Boyle Heights Arts District. If you can't make one of the many Haiti benefits this Saturday or if you find yourself itchin' to dance late night, stop by a "Corazón del Pueblo Dance Party." You won't be sorry and you'll be helping keep the lights on. Come by the Casa 0101 Annex on Sunday to recover over potluck (tamales y champurrado welcome as per the Candelaria tradition!) It'll be your last chance to see the second annual exhibition dedicated to nuestra señora reina de los angeles... la virgen morena, madre de las américas.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

El Corazón del Pueblo!

Am I not getting something? Será el pueblo tuvo algo que ver? Espero que sí. Or how is it that over 150 people showed up on a Tuesday night to hear the poets? How is it that we had to bring chairs in from elsewhere and still had a standing-room only crowd at the spot? Desde el mero corazón para el pueblo… though Jimmy Mendiola and Oscar Garza might remind me that this phrase comes lifted from a title of a Les Blanc film about conjunto music. And while this may be true, Tex-Mex conjunto doesn’t have the same resonance for the crowd that came for the palabra last Tuesday as it does for the three of us. It was Mexico D.F. meets East Los and luchadores enmascarados with shades of Chile and Colombia and El Salvador for good measure. It was canto a la liberación and barrio autonomy. It was Watts and South Central out in solidarity. It was Richard Montoya and Consuelo Velasco who came to support John Carlos de Luna and Kristy Lovich, who speak love and commitment to the ‘hood and to each other through art and poetry. It was Rubén "Funkahuatl" Guevara puttin' it down as the one true East Side beat hipster who gave shout outs to veteran organizers and activistas who came in from the four directions to support their kids and and in some cases, grandkids. It was the lil’ monsters from 700 Pound Gorilla and it was the chamacas from Gorilla Queenz, who were on their way to San Pancho to open for Africa Bambaataa at a New Year’s Eve show I would have loved to attend. How about that? Da South Bronx was, as such, was none too far away, either. And if I sing the broken-hearted love poem, perhaps one last time too many, I don’t really feel like such a culero anymore. And if the poem is about lost love, la chilanga que se me fue, or if it touched upon missed opportunities or the pain which eventually subsides, we can simply remind ourselves of the words in a poem by one of the beloved Boyle Heights bards, the Bus Stop Prophet, who, in a piece that invokes the "Blueprints of the Heavens," tells us that while life’s lessons can be hard, every hard knock is an opportunity for growth.

Yes, Brooklyn & Boyle as a space has been reborn. El Corazón del Pueblo has emerged in it’s place. The magazine will continue to flourish and grow. The new year is upon us. Make it one you will remember. Make a difference. But remember to dance, to sing, to write, to never be ashamed of who you are or where you come from. Braid your sister’s hair in a good way and tell yourself that peace and prosperity are possible in the world. Love more, live more, forgive more. Like Francisco Hernández, my soul brother, said on New Years Eve. “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

"Flowers of Fire" will return on Wednesday, January 13. Get there early. We may run out of room. As always, it's open mic. On January 23, stay tuned for Ojos de Mi Pueblo, Voces de Mi Barrio, a digital media and spoken word celebration of youth, by youth & for youth. More on this incredible project in a minute. And on January 27, Big Joe Hurt will be there to show us what Chicano Blues is all about. The Boyle Heights bards will be there in force.