Cinco de Mayo Event Features Art, Activism

Amy Hirsch

An enthusiastic crowd gathered in Plaza Vaquero on Cinco de Mayo and was treated to a carnival-like event, including inspiring poetry performances, all for the benefit of the Life in Africa and Path Achieve Foundations.

Varied and colorful displays including arts and crafts, clothing and food items were on sale with proceeds going to the support of those organizations.

In describing the purpose of the festival, Crystal Weaver, president of GCC Rotaract, said “The event is to promote social harmony between different cultures and to get to know about the opportunities to get involved with the humanitarian organizations.”

The poets, sponsored by the Rotaract Club and Save Uganda Club, have previously performed on the Russel Simmons HBO Def Jam Poets Show (hosted by hip-hop artist Mos Def) and on a number of college campuses. A lively rap-type style kept the close attention of the audience.

Gabriela Garcia Medina, who left Cuba as a child, gave a motivational hip-hop style poetry presentation emphasizing the strength of self-empowerment even when hardship and poverty seem to be insurmountable barriers.

Explaining the benefits of her art form, Medina noted that “It is acceptable to young people, promotes social literacy, and a new urban way of speaking truth and sharing history.”

Simply Kat (Kat McGill) and BessKepp (Cory Cofer), who works as a special-ed teacher when not performing, also kept the crowds captivated by their presentations.

In describing the origins of his work Cofer said “Everything I write about is what I have experienced or lessons that I’ve learned .. I want to let people know that you can express yourself through art.”

According to its mission statement, the primary objective of Life in Africa Foundation is “to uplift and secure the future of Africa’s most vulnerable youth.particularly in African communities affected by war and disease.”

Currently assistance is being given mainly in Northern Uganda where 1.7 million people have been displaced during the conflict between the government and the rebel LRA forces. The UN Undersecretary General of Humanitarian Affairs has described the area as “the world’s worst place to be a child and one of the biggest scandals of our generation.”

The Life in Africa program is focused particularly on the thousands of Ugandan children, often orphaned, who have been terrorized and mutilated in ways that would be unimaginable to those here.

Assistance is being given to rebuilding communities through programs strengthening family groups, education, agriculture and basic economic development.

The other organization being supported through this event, Path Achieve Glendale, is a local group of volunteers and donating businesses with a mission to assist the homeless with various services including “transitional and permanent housing to help families and individuals out of homelessness.”

Fundraising supports emergency and special holiday meals, as well as maintenance of a 40-bed shelter which serves a fraction of the 300 adults and children who are homeless in Glendale every night according to the estimate of this organization. Many donated items including warm clothing, blankets and children’s school supplies are also distributed to those in need.

“Rotaract’s goals are community service, international service and professional development,” said Weaver.

Those interested in the programs supported by the Glendale Rotaract Club are invited to attend meetings, which according to Weaver, are held every Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. in SR115.