As soon as you walk through the Eastside Café in El Sereno you're immediately transported to a "safe zone". For 11 years Eastside Café has been a cultural haven to the community of the east side where every Third Thursday of the month an open mic is held for poets, writers and musicians. Tonight was a very special open mic hosted by sister poet Iris De Anda who has authored Codeswitch: Fires From Mi Corazón and brings that cool vibe with her sage and all that positive energy I so much needed tonight.
We spoke about everything from the missing boys from Juarez to sexual abuse to Vagina Monologues to No Se Habla Español among other themes that kept everyone wanting more. This is my second time here and I must say that the place has an incredible energy or force that attracts poets and inspires people to grab the mic (tonight there were many first timers) who give their hearts and soul up in that mic.
Later in the evening after the chairs were folded, the lights turned off and the sage put out, I had a chance to ask Iris a few questions about Eastside Café (eastsidecafe.org). Here's an except of what we discussed:
VICTOR: Why Eastside Café?
IRIS: Eastside cause we are on the eastside. It's called Eastside Café but it's never really been a café.
VICTOR: How long you've been hosting their open mics (third Thursday at 8pm)?
IRIS: I've been hosting 11 open mics, tonight was the 11th. Although I have been volunteering here for 5 years, I decided to do a monthly open mic to bring local poets and artists together. I've been hosting the writers underground since January 2014.
VICTOR: What made you start this?
IRIS: I didn't start it. It was a group of people that would gather every Sunday at someone's house nearby to dialogue and create community. The storefront was acquired in 2002. Still I just wanted to provide a space for my community to share poetry which is so healing.
VICTOR: One thing about Eastside is the energy and positivity that is so palpable as you walk inside.
IRIS: It's all corazón. Love that built it and keeps it going. No grants, no government. Just the people... The way it should be.
VICTOR: How can people help Eastside Café and other places like it to continue giving back to the community?
IRIS: Donating money. Donating your time by classes that people want to attend such as yoga, San Jarocho, guitar lessons, writing workshops, etc. Support your local Eastside Café.
VICTOR: Thank you so much for your time and for hosting the Writer'sUnderground open mic non stop for 2014. Hope to continue coming in 2015.
IRIS: Wonderful! Thanks for being there, Victor! See you next month!
NEXT SHOW: December 18th, 8pm
Eastside Cafe: 5469 Huntington Drive N. Los Angeles, CA 90032