By: Zoë Muntaner
Through the years, people asked me to blog about any of my many passions. It took me a while to finally commit and launch something sustainable with meaning and purpose. Thanks to everyone that read the inaugural post and to the many who encouraged me to write it. I’m profoundly grateful and humbled by the praise and road ahead. With purpose, I will give voice to the less fortunate and push the boundaries of our thinking with compassion. My aim is to bring light and awareness to issues vital to our community and the world at large. Your feedback is always welcome and brings hope that one single person can make a difference. In the words of Activist & Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousafzai: “When the whole world becomes silent, even one voice becomes powerful”
That was the meme I used to tweet about the Santa Monica Democratic Club presentation & discussion of the Downtown Community Plan (formerly Downtown Specific Plan) this past Wednesday at the Santa Monica Main Library. The panel included Santa Monica planning director David Martin, community activist and Ocean Park Organization board member Mary Marlow who co-chairs a neighborhood group subcommittee studying the DCP, and architect Ron Goldman, a member of Santa Monica Architects for a responsible tomorrow (SMart) which is also studying the DCP. Although they brought flash drives with their respective presentations, no one brought a laptop and mine was designated to make the visuals available to all. Hence, now everyone not present that night can view the presentations by clicking on the names here:
You be the judge of what you envision Downtown Santa Monica should look like for future generations. I respect my readers too much to encourage support or boycott petitions. I also respect the democratic process that allows citizens to take control of their desitny and encourage active participation in the political process. Anyone who discourages the activism of its citizens in the process is not a friend of democracy. My job is to present information and data, your job is to analyze it. DIVERSITY MATTERS is about sharing different perspectives of our own humanity and how we approach the daily task of living while affirming our personal and political identities. I am inspired by grassroots organization, the mobilization that evolves our democracy. Bernie Sanders Campaign is an example of how committed citizens can transform the political culture and create revolutionary results. In our city, Residiocracy proved to inspire residents through the Hines referendum and now they are trying to repeat the feat with the Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE). I dig living in a city of engaged political discourse. As a Sander’s newsletter in my inbox read: “Our power comes from a simple, timeless truth: when people come together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”
ROBERT FRANK @ BERGAMOT STATION
Bergamot Station Arts Center continues to be a hub of artistic activity unrivaled not only in the city of Santa Monica but in the Western United States. Robert Frank, one of the most important visual artists, (His photos bookend this post.) has created an exhibition of works presently on view at building g-1 home of the old Santa Monica Museum of Art. This show is compiled of the artist’s photographic prints, books, and films. It is a most amazing feat to have an exhibition of this importance and magnitude at Bergamot Station, and for this we must thank Shoshana and Wayne Blank, the founders of Bergamot Station Arts Center; Richard Ehrlich of UCLA; Steidl Publishing House; and the Steve Tisch foundation, all of whom had the vision and fortitude to bring to our city a world class show that will be traveling to 40 other international museums and institutions. The exhibit is the brainchild of Gerhard Steidl, Robert Frank’s longtime friend and publisher. In New York Gerhard Steidl gave a Master Class to students and post doctoral candidates -“How To Make A Book” and offered critiques to any interested students. The exhibition was was a smashing hit! Thus our mandate is clear: to duplicate if not surpass it in LA at the Santa Monica Museum space at Bergamot Station. Robert Frank: Books & Films 1947-2016 runs through April 16, 2016. Do not miss it!
At a time when the city of Santa Monica, owner of most of the land the arts center inhabits, is contemplating a plan to turn the center into an office building and hotel complex, it is very important to note that the artist, his collaborators, and supporters chose Bergamot Station because of its worldwide reputation for being an accessible and open arts venue for all to come and appreciate and enjoy for free. Robert Frank’s most iconic body of work, ‘The Americans’, photographs made on several road trips throughout the United States in the 1950s, is best known for its portrayal of the inequality of race and economics that existed in this period of American history. Right now, in 2016, we, Americans, are confronted by such very similar issues.
The City of Santa Monica has long had the reputation of being a haven for those committed to racial, economic and cultural diversity. I fear this is no longer true. The city seems bent on becoming an enclave of the wealthy and privileged. Do we really need another hotel / office business park? When all is said and done, a forward thinking city needs to realize that investing in the cultural life of its citizens is also the best investment for the economic life of the city. At this moment, we are at a critical juncture. The galleries at Bergamot Station have a vested interest in continuing to bring to the our audience significant, far-reaching and diverse exhibitions and events that enrich and enhance our collective lives in our city. The Robert Frank exhibition is a most fine example of what they strive to accomplish day in and out. Robert Frank has stated that his intention with this exhibition is to make young folks aware of these works. When asked what advice he would give a young photographer, he responded -“keep your eyes open”!!! That advice also applies to Santa Monica residents that concern themselves with the dramatic changes to the character of our city and the direction the Planning & Community Development Department is taking. The second day of the exhibition I witnessed hundreds of students from all parts of Los Angeles County at the center. This is community at its best. Diversity lives at Bergamot Station.
MARIMBA MADE ME DO IT
Last Sunday I went the Main Street Farmer’s Market to get groceries. The sun was hiding behind clouds but the atmosphere was celebratory and joyful. At this point, I’d like to introduce another member of the Santa Monica community, Venice HS teacher and community organizer Marcy Winograd. Marcy and I met up at the busy Main Street Farmers Market last Sunday.
Marcy shared with me: “Standing there at the Farmer’s Market, a few blocks from my home, I felt as though I was at the intersection of African, Latin, and American traditions” as the talented Masanga Marimba band captivated the crowd with beats and song from Zimbabwe and Latin America .”
(Remember that I’m Latina, I hear Latin sounds and I am trasported, anything can happen when I hear Afrocaribbean sounds, so I allowed Marcy to tape me and share in Facebook to much of my embarasment.)
Back to Marcy … “According to the band’s website (masanga.com), “The word Masanga comes from an African word that means coming together of rivers …” and indeed the lyrics and music brought people together of diverse ethnicities and ages. This wasn’t just a venue for adults but children, too, for in between jam sessions, when the band took a break, girls and boys, toddlers among them, practiced percussion, experimenting with their own brand of Marimba as their wrists went wild. Kudos to Dr. Ric Alviso, a CAL State Northridge ethnomusicologist and professor of World Music, for assembling this rare 9-member ensemble and bringing the beats to Santa Monica, and a special thanks to City staff for inviting Masanga for a repeat performance.”
Until next time, join the Diversity Bandwagon!