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Festival For All Skid Row Artists Brushes Negative Out Of Gladys Park

Ebony Bailey |
November 4, 2012 | 1:16 a.m. PST


(Photos by Ebony Bailey)
(Photos by Ebony Bailey)
The Los Angeles Poverty Department - not to be confused with the police department - recently held its third annual Festival for All Skid Row Artists at Gladys Park. The two-day event featured painters, poets, rappers and others from Skid Row and elsewhere who just wanted to express themselves.

LAPD founder John Malpede and other volunteers from the organization spent months planning the occasion.

“It’s just a nice atmosphere to come and hang out with people,” Malpede explained.

At the festival, people from a range of backgrounds came to see the artists perform on stage. Drawings and paintings from the community were plastered on the walls surrounding the park, and a rainbow-colored wishing tree was planted in the middle for anyone who wanted to write a wish on its branches. Attendance at the event has grown every year, Malpede said.

The event was free and open to everyone. Charles Porter comes to the event every year to show support. He works next door at the United Coalition East Prevention and says he likes events like these that bring the community together.

“It’s a good day to take over the park; if you fill it with positive activities then the negative ones can’t come in here,” Porter said. He says Gladys Park has a history of acting as a hub for drug trade. “So it’s one way to build a strong community.”

Porter, 39, also performed a rap song at the event. He retired from hip-hop years ago but picks up the craft again once a year for the festival.

“It’s just another way to convey that positive message to the people,” he said.

The Los Angeles Poverty Department is a non-profit organization that focuses on connecting art with people and communities living in poverty. Founded in 1985, the LAPD began as a series of workshops, and grew to become what it is today. Each week the LAPD has at least one event in Los Angeles, and also plans a long-term project every year.

It continues to build on the basis that it is the only performance group in the nation comprised primarily of homeless and formerly homeless people, said Malpede. The group does performances around the United States and the world.

“We decided to start this festival just to highlight the positive aspects of the community,” Malpede said.

Artists at the event ranged from people who are apart of the skid row community, to those who just wanted to perform. Crushow Herring went to the event to perform rap, display his art and promote his t-shirt business.

The 35-year-old is a community organizer in Skid Row, and originally came to Skid Row 13 years ago as a street peddler.

“It’s basically a street hustler, someone selling things to survive,” he explained.

He comes back to Skid Row every day to give back however he can.

“This is my community,” he said. “More than anything I enjoy the change.”

After the artists are done performing, they are sent to the back of the back of the park to be interviewed by actress Jennifer Campbell, a volunteer for the LA Poverty Department. After the festival, the LAPD compiles all of the interviews and creates a newspaper about the event to be handed out to community members of Skid Row.

Campbell came to Los Angeles from Chicago 12 years ago when she moved to help her daughter, who had just had a baby. She turned to Skid Row to feed her then-addiction to drugs.

“I came down here where the drugs were,” she said. “Because they were less expensive here, and the police don’t watch as much.”

It was on the very same street in Skid Row where she began to recover from her addiction. She entered a sobriety home on 6th Street, and discovered the LAPD through their theater performances on the streets. Having been interested in the arts since childhood, Campbell began to perform for the LAPD, and has been working with the organization consistently since 2009.

Artist Crushow Herring.
Artist Crushow Herring.

At the festival, she interviewed the artists and performed slam poetry.

As she addressed the audience with her poem, she gave them a glimpse of her life experiences.

“I lost my mind on skid row, but I found it...on skid row.”

Reach Ebony Bailey here.



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