New and longtime friends and participants of ACTA programs gathered on March 2nd for our LA Traditional Arts Roundtable Series at Trópico de Nopal Gallery Art-Space in Echo Park. The Los Angeles series of roundtables is generously supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. Participants visited with each other, enjoyed tacos and pan dulce, and shared perspective on what it means to carry on, or support the sustainability of a cultural art form in today’s unique social and political climate.
Our facilitator for the evening was founding ACTA Board Member Joel Jacinto, who is the former executive director of Filipino community organization Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), and founder of Filipino cultural dance troupe Kayamanan ng Lahi. Joel guided us through a number of orienting questions as we introduced ourselves, our cultures, and our communities, asking: How do cultural practices give you guidance?; Who are your partners and allies?, and What do you want to say to ACTA?
We also broke bread, feasting on the home-spun food of Boyle Heights cook and street vendor, Caridad Vásquez. Caridad prepared incredible tacos with fresh tortillas, copa de frutas, flan, and refresco de ensaladas for participants to enjoy together. Cardidad has earned respect and admiration for her engagement in the fight for vendors’ rights, which she does in conjunction with the East LA Community Corporation and other local organizations. Caridad was an ACTA participant in the Building Healthy Communities Boyle Heights – Engaging Cultural Assets project. She was identified as a cultural treasure and participated in songwriting workshops and is even featured in one of the songs composed to support the street vendor’s campaign. In a recent profile in Lucky Peach magazine, she said, “I like this work. I like working for myself. I like being independent, paying myself and being the boss, employing people who need work. But it’s illegal! It’s stressful to work like this. To worry that the city may come at any hour.” On January 31, after a long fight, L.A. City Council members voted to decriminalize street vending, and establish a system of regulation. We thank her for sharing her food, her work, and her story with us, so that we might find ways to continue to support L.A.’s hardworking street vendors and their important food traditions.
Seated to the left of Caridad was vogue dancer Sean Milan Garcon (far left) representing former ACTA grantee, Reach LA, a community health organization for black and Latino LGBTQI youth that fosters engagement in the arts – including vogueing and hip hop dance. Learn more about Sean and his integral role in Los Angeles’ ballroom culture in this recent LA Times article on vogue and ballroom in downtown Los Angeles.
As Joel led us around the room, hearing from each participant about the expressive cultural practices they’re involved in, we heard from Jane Ka’ala Pang, a retired nurse, working with the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. She left us with an important mantra to take with us into our daily lives: “Without culture, there is no health.”
We hope you enjoyed the gathering and flow of ideas, the energy of the room, and most of all, the affirming and nourishing share of the wonderful array of traditional arts work everyone does in the LA region.