The "Life Through My Eyes" was a tantalizing poetry and spicy spoken word extravaganza and part of a performance art project that I designed, directed, and hosted for two years. The youth poetry jam featured Northeast L.A. youth, ages 12-20, performing powerfully poignant and original works about life in the barrio as I presented slices of our neighborhood life from The Yowling & Other Sounds from Highland Park.
For those interested in what the next generation had to say, this was the event to attend.
I began my search and development of young talent by conducting poetry workshops tied to California state academic standards and curriculum to over 1,000 students at Franklin High School 2003-2004 and about 600 students at Eagle Rock and Franklin High Schools 2004-2005. "She captivated them immediately with her poetry presentations," said Mentor English Teacher and GATE Coordinator Maria Soldevilla. "Students could relate to the local community inspired poems."
From there I selected only the cream of the crop youth poets to develop their personal themes, written technique, and performance style more intensely at afternoon workshops I specifically tailored for them first at Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock (2003-2004) and then at ROCK Teen Center (2004-2005). Both in-school and after-school workshops and the community performances were made possible by a City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs (CAD) grant of $10,000 awarded to me to bring performance art into my local community.
My primary aim was to bring healing and hope and to show people, youth in particular, that they can make beautiful art from the brokenness of real life. Some students rapped, others did spoken word, and one even rolled in on his skateboard! At times I played background guitar or drums while they took the limelight. Both "Life Through My Eyes" youth poetry jams were a big hit!
In 2004 we packed Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock with over 120 people and Trader Joe's and Iglesia Bautista Shalom (Shalom Baptist Church) provided refreshments. In 2005 more than 140 people piled into the Twentieth Century Women's Club and 15 stores, bakeries, and restaurants promotionally tied in with food and drink. Hot new band Divine Calling rocked the place with some sizzlin' tunes both years.
Then Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa's office awarded all youth poets official certificates of recognition from the City of L.A. for their participation. In 2005 Congressman Xavier Becerra attended and surprised me with a Congressional Recognition for my work. The whole thing was pretty cool.
Other artists participated as well. Theresa Antonia of TCcreative snapped promotional photos, and the eyes depicted on the "Life Through My Eyes" event postcard were drawn as a labor of love by Florentino Sandoval, a budding neighborhood artist and current visual set artist for The Yowling. Click on the Poetry Gallery link to the left and read "The Jornalero" to learn where he started.
for artists who want to give back...City of L.A. Cultural Affairs Department link
for cool youth programs...ROCK Teen Center link
for cool artsy stuff...Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock link