What happens when a city’s past comes to life in the present? In this unique collaboration between ALOUD, KPCC/LAist, and the Los Angeles Public Library— curated by scholar Josh Kun — we make sense of LA’s history by sourcing archival material from the Los Angeles Public Library to inspire new artistic interpretations, reflections, and conversations. Merging live performance with lively discussions, Evoke LA puts contemporary LA artists in conversation with leading historians and journalists. We will delve into the stacks and experience the city anew, inspired by the legacy that's come before.
From the archive to the stage, welcome to Evoke LA.
A photograph taken in 1986 of a mother and daughter walking down 7th St. is the inspiration for this conversation. Honduran-American, L.A. raised musician and composer Empress Of (Lorely Rodriguez) and Pitzer College professor Suyapa Portillo Villeda sit down with KPCC/LAist Immigrant Communities Reporter Leslie Berestein Rojas and series curator Josh Kun to talk about the history of Honduran immigration to Los Angeles and the influence of Honduran women in the city’s history.
Empress Of performs a song the photo called to mind, one written and originally performed by her father; she also performs her own original song “Woman is a Word.” Professor Portillo Villeda provides context on Central American life, politics, and struggle in Los Angeles, and shares personal experiences evoked by the photograph.
Photo Credit: Steven Gold, Shades Of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Central Americans, West 7th Street
The sheet music for “Lord, Don’t Move That Mountain,” written and published by pioneering L.A. based African-American gospel music composer and publisher Doris Akers with gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, serves as the connection point for this conversation.
Singer Maiya Sykes reinterprets and reflects on the composition in a special performance. Historian Tyree Boyd-Pates joins Maiya, curator Josh Kun, and KPCC/LAist host Austin Cross for a discussion on the evolution of gospel music across the history of Black Los Angeles.
Hear the episode on 89.3 KPCC on Thursday, March 3 at 9:00 p.m. and Sunday, March 6 at 9:00 p.m.
In 1969, legendary L.A. restaurant La Fonda pioneered the concept of mariachi dinner theater, pairing an evening show by venerable L.A. ensemble Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano with the restaurant’s Mexican and Mexican-American dishes. For this episode, a 1980s menu from the restaurant was given to Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, L.A.’s path-breaking queer and transgender mariachi, led by director Carlos Samaniego (he/him). He imagines a concept for his own dinner theater, one shaped by the music and story of Mariachi Arcoiris.
Joining the conversation are acclaimed historian Natalia Molina, who has just finished a book on her family’s former Echo Park restaurant the Nayarit. Along with host Erick Galindo and series curator Josh Kun, the group gets into the intersection of food and entertainment and what restaurants tell us about histories of community-making in Los Angeles. They share personal stories of meals and music enjoyed at La Fonda and how those experiences were formative to their paths. Mariachi Arcoiris perform a mariachi classic and one of their own compositions, an anthem for a new generation of mariachis.
Southern California Public Radio (KPCC, LAist & LAist Studios) is a member-supported multi-platform public media organization that operates KPCC 89.3, LAist, and LAist Studios. SCPR’s mission is to strengthen the civic and cultural bonds that unite Southern California's diverse communities by providing the highest quality news and information across multiple platforms. We are a public forum that engages its audiences in an ongoing dialogue and exploration of issues, events, and cultures in the region and in the world. We seek to provide greater understanding and new perspectives to the people of these communities and their leaders.
ALOUD is the Library Foundation of Los Angeles’ series of bold and powerful programs. This series brings world-class authors, artists, scientists, activists, and more, together for conversation and performances to libraries and other venues across the city. These free events are constantly evolving through new ideas that are informed by the changing world and the audiences we serve.
ABOUT THE LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY
A recipient of the nation’s highest honor for library service—the National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Los Angeles Public Library serves the largest and most diverse urban population of any library in the nation. Its Central Library, 72 branch libraries, collection of more than 6 million books, state-of-the-art technology accessible at lapl.org, and more than 18,000 public programs a year provide everyone with free and easy access to information and the opportunity for lifelong learning.
This project is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Department of Arts and Culture.