Tia Chucha's Benefit #2

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, August 6, 2008 07:56pm | Post a Comment
Early last year, Tia Chucha’s Café, a café and independent bookstore run by author Luis J.Rodriguez and his wife Trini, was force to shut its doors in the city of Sylmar because their landlords tripled their rent. That summer a fundraiser was held at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood to help pay for a new center to open in the San Fernando Valley. This year, another fund raiser was held on Sunday to help with the cost of buying a building.

Tia Chucha’s isn’t just a bookstore or a café, but a cultural arts center for the people of the San Fernando Valley. According to their website, they hope to “promote the continued growth, development and holistic learning of our community through the many powerful means of the arts. The Centro provides a positive space for people to activate what we all share as human beings: the capacity to create, to imagine and to express ourselves in an effort to improve the quality of life for our community.“
The benefit was held once again at The John Anson Ford Amphitheatre. On the bill was a diverse yet unified group of artists, including community activist Nobuko Miyamoto, comedian Ernie G, and the drop-dead funny political satire of Opening People's Minds. The mostly Asian sketch comedy group had me in tears with their dead on interpretations of immigration and differences in culture. If you have a chance to check out their work please do; they were worth the price of admission alone.
They were followed by the legendary Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, who played all the hits, including "Express Yourself," "Love Land," and "Tell Me What You Want Me To Do." I stood in awe backstage watching the band go from hit to hit without as much as a break! 

I was there that day to back up my friend Olmeca on the bass. We went on after Charles Wright and Olmeca’s energy was so abundant he got the whole audience to rush the stage. I have to admit, I had trouble keeping up. It’s been a while since I played a show with this much energy.

Next up was East L.A.’s own Upground. The once young lads (they started gigging while in high school) are now young men and their music runs the gamut, from high energy Ska, Cumbia, 80’s New Wave to Chicano oldies. It’s no wonder they have so many fans from different age groups.

The best was left for last. Backed up by Upground was Cheech Marin of Cheech & Chong fame. Rumor had it that Tommy Chong was going to be in attendance to join Cheech, but that never happened. Nor did the appearance of Bruce Springsteen, who is a big supporter of Tia Chucha Café. Too bad-- we could have a "Born In East L.A"./"Born In The U.S.A" medley. What we did get was Cheech performing Cheech & Chong classics such as "Me & My Old Lady," "Mexican American" & of course, "Born In East L.A." At the end all of us who performed got to join in the big ending chorus. I was next to Cheech, Luis & Ruben Guevara (Of Ruben & The Jets fame). It was like I died and went to Chicano heaven.

Luis Rodriguez has a great blog on his website where he writes about ongoings in various barrios in the city and of his travels. He wrote about the event as well and added this, which I think summed why this event needed to exist:

"Today many independent bookstores, cultural spaces, and art galleries are being forced to close, with high rents, high-end developments, and the vagaries of the marketplace. Early last year, Tia Chucha's was forced to move out of our Sylmar space when our landlords practically tripled our rent. We moved into a smaller space in Lake View Terrace to keep the momentum going.

In the LA area alone we may be losing Self Help Graphics, Avenue 50 Studio, Acres of Books, and lately Antigua Cafe was forced to move. In the past few years we've seen the closing of the Midnight Special Bookstore, Luna Sol Cafe, Bohemias Books, 33 & a 1/3 Books, Carlota's Passion Art Gallery, Dutton's Bookstore, Under the Bridge Bookstore, and others.

Tia Chucha's benefit is a big step toward keeping our space alive -- with the goal of finding a bigger and better permanent or semi-permanent space in a year or two. But it's also about safeguarding and expanding neighborhood arts, cultural spaces, workshops spaces, art galleries, and the ever-vital independent bookstores."

Relevant Tags

Tia Chucha's (1), Luis J. Rodriguez (2), Cheech Marin (3), Olmeca (2), Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band (1)