A night of poetry or in the words of the event producer, Abel Salas, “a poetic rapture” took place in El Sereno on March 17th to commemorate the 77th birthday of the late and legendary XicanIndio poet Raul R. Salinas. Held at Dose of Art Gallery on Maycrest Ave., the event was coordinated by Abel Salas, publisher of Brooklyn & Boyle: a local and independent arts and culture periodical, focusing on Boyle Heights and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Raul R. Salinas was an influential mentor to Abel back in his hometown of Austin, TX. An accomplished poet and dedicated community activist, Raul’s published work reflects his personal struggles and victories (including winning a landmark prison rights case) while serving time inside America’s prison system. After his release, Raul gave his focus to Chicano and Native American causes. He co-founded the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee and also took part in many other notable human rights cases. Raul finally settled in Austin, TX where he opened Resistencia Bookstore and Red Salmon Arts which became a cultural and political hub for East Austin’s Chicano community. Raul died in 2008. Since then, Abel devotes himself to representing Raul’s energy whenever possible. Abel, a former resident of El Sereno, took part in several writing workshops held at Eastside Caféchospace a few years ago. He also organized another poetry event in El Sereno on Valentine’s Day 2011 at Mama Churro Y Mas. Abel is no stranger to the Chicano / poetry activist scene, having traveled himself to Washington DC and other cities to raise awareness and protest the anti-immigration legislation in Arizona.
Abel, with the cooperation of Angie De La Torre and Melissa Chinchilla (operators of Dose of Art Gallery) curated the event billed as a “San Patricio Celebration”. Angie and Melissa are also known as Dose of Info, the organizers behind the El Sereno’s Farmers Market. Angie De La Torre also sits on the arts committee for the NC-32 Neighborhood Council. The girls are hoping to host more art events like Abel’s and possibly introduce writing and art workshops to the community at their new gallery/venue. Several photography and art installations are currently on exhibit at Dose of Art Gallery.
The poetry celebration opened with Arturo Gonzalez who also works as District Director in Councilmember Jose Huizar\ s office. I was surprised to hear that Arturo was also a poet and looked forward to hearing him read, but unfortunately arrived forty-five minutes late and missed it. Abel Salas was kind enough to bring me up to speed on the line up, informing me Iris de Anda read next. Iris is one half of Las Adelitas, a cultural and revolutionary fashion company based out of El Sereno. Iris, along with Las Adelitas, can be found every Friday at the El Sereno’s farmers market selling their unique gifts. Next were a story telling and a Native American songs performance by Olivia Chumacero; Abel followed with a poem by Raul Salinas: Un Trip Trough the Mind Jail. I arrived when Abel was half way through his reading of Salinas’ poem, his homage to his mentor, to a standing room audience. The gallery, packed with listeners, was a nice cross section of our community, spanning several generations. Abel then introduced Jonathan Gomez, a first runner up in the recently created Raul Salinas Chapbook Poetry contest sponsored by Red Salmon Press (Raul\ s imprint in Austin, created out of his Resistencia Bookstore) and Calaca Press in San Diego. A brief intermission was held before Chilean born and internationally known writer, Roberto Leni took the room, reading from his original works. Leni was also a guest author at the 2010 Latino Book & Family Festival Los Angeles. Next, Christy Ramirez shared some hand written journal entries composed on her daily train rides. Abel cites Christy as an influence with his Brooklyn & Boyle periodical. I shared 3 of my own poems before my husband, Dennis Cruz, closed out the night with three hard hitting pieces that left the listeners in wonderful awe. Dennis is also a published poet and his book No One: Poems can be found at www.theblackboot.com. All attendees of the event were in agreement the next day that the energy that filled the room charged everyone just in time for Friday.
Abel, already achieving sustainable success with his ‘Corazon Del Pueblo’ community art space in Boyle Heights, hopes to curate more poetry events in the El Sereno area. Corazon Del Pueblo also hosts dance classes, cultural events as well as daily workshops and weekly poetry happenings. As evidenced by the huge turnout, El Sereno welcomed Abel with warmth and appreciation, and look forward to his future events.
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