‘Bad for the Community’ explores Gentrification in Boyle Heights Now and In The Future

by Tom Nguyen

Friday, April 15 was the opening night of “Bad for the Community”, a new play at CASA 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights, written by Josefina Lopez and Oscar Arguello and includes “the voices for and against gentrification.” Many in this community, where I live, are in a state of active vigilance against anything resembling gentrification and the topic has even made the international news like The Guardian‘s recent coverage on the activist groups confronting outsiders.

The first act moves us through many familiar settings here in Boyle Heights: from 2 women (Rachel Gonzalez and Ronni Valentine) on the Gold Line discussing how they unintentionally contributed to gentrification as artists wanting to liven up the neighborhood, to a mariachi player (Ray Rios) lamenting that no one pays for songs anymore in Mariachi Plaza. We then meet a couple, Esteban (Gabriel Guillen) and Sol (Rachel Gonzalez), just trying to survive on their meager pay, long hours and sharing one car, in a neighborhood clearly changing faster than they can cope. Continue Reading →

The Arcs, new project by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, plays first live show at Espacio 1839 in Boyle Heights (Full video)

by Tom Nguyen

I found out yesterday afternoon a new band The Arcs was going to have their first live performance at Espacio 1839 in Boyle Heights that very evening…and not just any new band…one formed by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Now disclaimer: I haven’t listened to The Black Keys since ohhh 2010 but hey I live a few blocks away from Espacio 1839, and I’m not above being a curiosity seeker, especially when a new hipster band decides to premiere at one of Boyle Heights’ bastions of anti-gentrification. How does that even happen? Well apparently El Oms, an artist and good friends with Espacio 1839, did the artwork for The Arcs’ upcoming music video for the song Put a Flower in Your Pocket. The night was a celebration of the completion of the video, which will be released next Friday August 14.

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Rebels, Dissenters, and Visionaries…The People’s Voice is finally heard!

by Cindy Ly

Rebels, dissenters, and visionaries; that’s who is represented in the 10th Anniversary Edition of Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States, an anthology book series that documents, through primary resources, speeches, writings, poems, and songs the voices of those often unheard; the every day heroes who have fought —or are still fighting— for social justice.

In front of a packed house, the 10th year anniversary performance took place in Los Angeles at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. Hosting duties were up to Mr. Arnove as he narrated and introduced each performance, all of them executed by a start-studded cast of activists who moonlight as actors and musicians when they’re not busy inciting revolutions.

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Don’t Miss Kuenta i Tambu’s first LA tour NOW!

DSC04489I first noticed Dutch music group Kuenta i Tambu on Getty’s roster for their Saturdays off the 405 concert series and was immediately taken by their video Jackhammer. Then I noticed them scheduled to headline LA Commons Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks, an annual celebration of African culture. What does an electronic dance group from Netherlands have to do with African culture? A lot in fact! The group’s members are from the Caribbean islands of Curaçao and Aruba and the history of the islands stretches from its indigenous Arawak people, to colonization by the Spanish and then the Dutch, and the powerful influence of the African slaves — the result is a richly unique cultural and musical tradition.

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SLUT the Play a Call to Action for Young Girls against Slut-Shaming

DSC02300-001When Yasmeen Hassan, Global Director of Equality Now, introduced SLUT the Play at its one night only performance at the Hammer Museum on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, she noted that young girls’ voices are often missing or ignored in the public dialogue on sexual violence against women. The play, with an all-female teen cast, ages 13-17, seeks to change that and their message is loud and clear: sexist double standards, victim and slut-shaming, and sexual violence have got to stop.

DSC02244-001The play features The Arts Effect All-Girl Theater Company, is directed by Katie Cappiello and Meg McInerney, and the girls’ powerful, moving performances, in the retelling of a sexual attack by fellow classmates, are based on their own experiences. Raising awareness on slut-shaming and sexual violence doesn’t stop with the play — the girls have started the StopSlut movement to keep the dialogue going, to build coalitions and put on workshops across the country to empower young girls.

The girls are just as outspoken and articulate onstage as off — there was a great Q&A after the play and I was so inspired and proud of these young girls taking charge for themselves and not waiting around for the adults. As one of the adults observed, this is change from the bottom up, not the usual top down of adults trying to lecture the younger generation what to do and how to think. In fact, the Q&A ended with one conservative lady who questioned whether it was impetuous and lacking self-respect for them to be owning their sexuality and being confrontational instead of relying more on their parents or other authority figures. One of the girls quickly responded that “A lot of kids don’t have supportive parents…don’t have any options and they have no one to turn to, so I think the highest form of self-respect and teaching self-respect is to teach these young girls at the earliest age possible that they’re capable of having a voice…and equal in that conversation and what they say is valid and their feelings matter.”

I couldn’t have said it any better — the reality is we live in a patriarchal world, where men get to make the rules, define these strict gender roles, and why we tolerate double standards when it comes to sex, and why there is a pervasive rape culture that easily condones the actions of the attacker while automatically blaming the victim. One challenge these girls faced when starting these dialogues is encountering boys who feel they’re being unfairly targeted in the conversation. I say good! If boys can be made to feel uncomfortable for a few moments, perhaps they will better appreciate the insecurities, sexism and risk of violence girls have to face everyday. In my opinion, we can’t have honest, real dialogue, and hope to change attitudes towards sexual violence unless we have the courage to stand up and question the very systems that perpetuate this rape culture. Men are starting to listen, getting involved and taking responsibility — This PSA with President Obama and others was released on the same day I saw the play:

Film of Cambodia’s Lost Golden Age of Rock n Roll Finally Premieres!

Documentary filmmaker John Pirozzi premiered his long-awaited film, Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten, this past Saturday, January 11, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It is an homage to a musical renaissance that was happening in the 60s and 70s — Cambodian musicians were creating a rich, unique sound all their own, blending Western rock and pop with traditional Khmer folk music. Cambodia’s phrenetic capital was an exciting place to be then, with an active music scene the likes of which the West had never heard before and would not ever again, with the tragic intersection in history with the Vietnam War.

After illegal US bombing destabilized the country, the Khmer Rouge quickly overthrew the country and within a span of just a few years, proceeded to exterminate 2 million Cambodians, a third of the population, one of the worst modern genocides. Artists, musicians and intellectuals were systematically selected to be slaughtered first. Miraculously, a few notable musicians survived and 3 decades later, Pirozzi has been able track them down to preserve their memories of the music and culture both before and during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror.

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Viver Brasil Celebrates 15th Anniversary with new show Intersections/Ajê July 27

Viver Brasil, the venerable LA Afro-Brazilian dance theater company, celebrates its 15th anniversary with a world premiere of its latest production, Intersections/Ajê, at the beautiful outdoor Ford Amphitheater on Saturday, July 27. I am a huge fan of Brazilian culture and a personal friend to many of the dedicated dancers, singers and musicians in this troupe. I can tell you they’ve been rehearsing their tails off for what promises to be a jubilant, thrilling celebration of the music and dance traditions of Salvador, Bahia! So don’t miss it…come be transported to Brazil and join the celebration under the stars! Tickets and Group Discounts are still available but will sell out! Here’s a sneak peak:


20 Feet From Stardom: Must See History of the Black Backup Singers behind all the Iconic Songs – Opens June 14 Weekend with special Q&As!

20 Feet From Stardom is a new documentary that is a poignant, heartbreaking and well-deserved celebration of the backup singers behind the most iconic popular rock and pop songs and the legendary bands they supported. The film traces the history of the huge impact these talented, yet unknown black female singers made to the music and the bands millions of people know so well. Their voices are instantly recognizable but the stories of their contributions to music as well as the sacrifices they made both professionally and personally are untold until now.

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