Our benefit was last night, and a grand success it was…

As Lillian saidpapel picado

“The Papel picado was like a touch of happiness.”

Also, it was a good learning experience. More dancing! Less talk. Pastor Brian played blues on his harmonica and sang a most amusing ode to “South Central,”

Paris may be more belle

But my heart belongs to South Central… not that I would refuse time in Paris… just to MAKE SURE.

Sister Diane is as always a show stopper. She spoke at evenings end (at speeches’ end really, when talk dulls the ear and feet are eager to dance.) Still, when Diane speaks…. You could have heard a napkin drop.

How does she do it?” I asked Yadira (Nancy, Yadira and I are the old ladies of Esperanza now, Yikes!)“She commands respect,” Yadira replied

None of the Sisters of Social Service seem to age, filled with fierce hope and gentle faith, it’s an iron strong, velvet coated combination. I have a fierce respect.

One of the Highlight’s of the evening for me was seeing and hearing a former student of mine, now a state legislative consultant speak…


Alfredo was a smart, curious chubby lad when first we met. He was about 12, a tad suspicious and carrying a good sized chip on his shoulder.

I was at that time (about 13 years ago!) creating “Cut out Kids.” life-sized, cutout paintings of children on masonite. I painted each child photographed holding up a blank piece of paper. Into the space, the children would paint their own images.


Alfredo, who was a bit crazed about Marvin the Martian, painted his round green visage into the blank.

alfredoKid’s Space Museum, at that time in a small space in Pasadena, hosted our first exhibition. It was a grand opening, resplendent with punch and cookies (the childhood equivalent of wine and cheese.)

I arrived in a school bus, accompanied by Clean and Green Teens (from the LA Conservation Corps’ youth program) and “my kids.”

When we pulled up outside the museum, Alfredo refused to leave the bus.

“I won’t get out,” he said. “This is a white persons’ place.”

“Yes,” I replied (ignoring the fact, as all my kids seem to that I am in fact white) but these white people are hosting a party for us, a party because they like your artwork.”

“I won’t go.”

“Look,” I said. “I’ll make you a deal. Come in for five minuets. If you don’t want to stay after that, you can return to the bus and wait.”

I would never let a child alone on a bus, but I was pretty sure of the enticements that kid space had to offer.

Alfredo agreed. And within 2 minuets, he  was running around, trying on hats and make-believing, like the child he was. Even the older and therefore more jaded teens were running about clothing their hand in puppets, creating, playing and being children for a least one night.

Alfredo was of course recognized, by his cut-out portrait.

“Is this you?” adults would ask.

“Is this your work?”

Alfredo acknowledged that it was. As the night progressed, Alfredo spent more and more time lurking by his portrait.

At last, filled with cookies and punch, tired, happy and proud we returned to the bus.

Me being me, I could not resist a nudge…

“So, what did you think of the white people?”

Alfredo was quiet for a moment.

“Those were O.K. white people I guess.”

For years to come Alfredo was in my program. Coming to art classes and traipsing all about the city on weekend field trips.

Eventually he disappeared into the horizon of adulthood.

Fast forward about ten years… I am leaving Villa Esperanza, the then site of my arts program. A tall, thin, handsome young man is exiting the building.

“Miss Elizabeth,” he cries. “Do you remember me?”

I had to admit ignorance.

“It’s me, Alfredo.”

And then I did. It was hard to see the chubby boy in the thin handsome young man.

 Some people always look the same, but some kids metamorphosis in a matter of months.

“I’m so glad you are still doing your program,” he said. “You opened my eyes. You changed my life. I’m going to Berkeley now.”

Well that was extremely cool!

Fast forward again…it’s October 15th, 2009. Alfredo now a legislative consultant for Senator Dean Flores was a speakers at our benefit… Dancing Under the Stars.

“Remember me?” Alfredo asked. And once again, it took me a moment.

We stood together before his speech, “Do you remember Kids Space? And how you didn’t want to go into a white person’s place?”

He laughed ruefully. “When you grow up like this,” he said holding his hands to his head like horse blinders. ”You are afraid to see.”

“I remember moving into Villa Esperanza, he said. “I was so proud to have my own room. Up until that time, I was not allowed to bring friend home. ‘There is no room for the here.’ My parents said. And I’ll never forget Miss Elizabeth. She challenged us. She took us all over the city on public transportation and then buses. She transformed my horizon …”

And then we danced.dance