Street Poets is finally putting down permanent roots here in the South Los Angeles community we’ve served for the past 25+ years. Thanks to generous capital grants from the Annenberg Foundation (Explore.org) and another prominent Los Angeles-based foundation, our poetry and music-infused arts intervention organization has purchased a 4,860-square-foot building as the future Street Poets Center for Community, Culture & Wellness. Ideally situated across the street from John Adams Middle School just south of downtown Los Angeles, the center will include a recording studio, media lab and community space for youth poetry performances and writing circles, as well as African and Mexica/Aztec dance and drumming workshops.
“If Street Poets had been here in this community when I was growing up, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have joined a gang and taken such a hard road to get to where I am today,” says veteran Street Poet David Sanchez, who now runs his own organic gardening business. “15 years ago, I had to get locked up to find Street Poets. With this new community center, we’ll be catching lost kids like I was before they get caught up in the System. I’m just grateful I’ve survived long enough to be a part of the solution, and in the same neighborhood where I used to be a part of the problem.”
Former gang member Jason Quezada, who also met Street Poets as a youth while serving time in a Los Angeles County Probation camp for boys, knows John Adams Middle School well. “I got kicked out of there for fighting when I was like 13 years old,” he remembers. Now a successful construction contractor, Jason cut the deadbolt on Street Poets’ future home when our Founder Chris Henrikson and architect Eli Garsilazo managed to lock themselves out the day after Escrow closed. “There is definitely poetry in the fact that our organization, first born behind bars and barbed wire, had to call on one of our formerly incarcerated alumni to break into the building we’d just purchased,” Henrikson mused.
P.S. Camp Miller, the L.A. County probation facility that once detained Street Poets David Sanchez, Jason Quezada and countless other wayward youth including current Street Poets board member Taylor Code Maxie Jr., is now closed for good. “I never thought I’d outlive that place,” Taylor said, shaking his head in awe, “let alone be around to help create an inspiring alternative to it.”