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Yo Soy Lola Continues to Empower Latinx Artists

Spoken Word Artist Celeste Cruz, performing for Yo Soy LOLA
Spoken Word Artist Celeste Cruz, performing for Yo Soy LOLA By Elissa Salas
By Jacob R. Jimenez, Contributing Writer

This weekend, Latinx artists kicked off Yo Soy LOLA’s 2019 LOLA Week with an intimate, multidimensional performance, “Las Que Señan,” at a sold-out American Repertory Theater in Cambridge.

Yo Soy LOLA (Latinas Orgullosas de Las Artes), a project of the Social Good Fund, seeks to embolden current Latinx artists to pursue an education in the arts. Every year, the team uses the gala and other events to raise money for three $3,000 scholarships awarded to young Latinx artists in the Boston area.

This Friday alone, “Las Que Señan” raised $3,300 in donations towards the 2019 goal. That was particularly exciting as this is just the start of LOLA week. Fundraising will continue throughout the remaining two events — in addition to an earlier spoken word evening entitled “Untamed Tongues” this past Sunday; “Rising,” a panel discussion Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 4 p.m. at Lesley University; and “DURA,” a visual and performing arts gallery Saturday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. at The Arlington Street Church. While LOLA’s mission is focused on the Latinx community, Ana Masacote, a member of the leadership committee since its inception, spoke on Lola’s mission.

“Lola shares really important messages to the community. And not just to the Latinx community, because LOLA belongs to everybody,” Masacote said. This sentiment manifested itself in this weekend’s gala. The show consisted of two acts: The first was an all female one act play about a Puerto Rican family’s immigration to the United States, and the second was a compilation of spoken word, instrumental, flamenco, and drag performances. No one artist was confined by the stage; instead, the performance flowed into and around the crowd giving an inviting, interactive experience.

“Act one is about the Afro-Latinx family just living their dreams trying to figure it out,” Tatiana Gil, the playwright, said. Gil has been a part of the LOLA movement since its inception, first as a committee member, theatrical consultant, and playwright, but now solely as a playwright. Her first one act play was a response look at the Orlando massacre. This year, the committee gave Gil a prompt to go with the overall theme of Resilience throughout LOLA week.

“The prompt was about the masks that we wear. And so what I pulled out of that was assimilation.” Gil said. “I think I was given a prompt about how do we navigate the world as Latinx folks as Latinx identifying folks, and what’s the shit we have to move through in order to achieve our dreams?’ And I extrapolated that, I made it about dreams.”

Walter Kikuchi, who works for the partner abuse survivor non-profit La Red, appreciated Gil’s work. “I thought really brilliant. Extremely moving,” he said. “It was amazing to see an immigrant story as well as the children of immigrants and the way that they promote change in their communities.”

But the show didn’t stop there. After a dance-break intermission with the full cast of the first act, a powerful exhibition of five other artists closed out the night. Phree, a spoken word artist featured multiple times in the second act, Lauded LOLA for putting on the show.

“The movement is very powerful in being able to give platforms to Latinx bodies — and Latinx bodies to be inclusive to all bodies, and not just gender conforming identities,” Phree said. With poetry about generational trauma, identity, and resiliency within that, they resonated well with other members of the cast and audience. “It truly is a family here; the family is beautiful,” they said.

Committee members Carla M. Sanchez and Amanda Bravo, who were instrumental in founding Yo Soy LOLA, gave praise for the gala and progression of Yo Soy LOLA’s mission.

“It has grown from in every aspect: in the amount of scholarships we raise, in the amount of people we have involved in the production, in the amount of events we have...This year we were able to pay people on a stipend base because of our grant from the ‘Boston Foundation’ grant,” Bravo said.

Sanchez was also excited about the growth of LOLA over its three years, particularly in its fulfillment of uplifting Latina artists.

“I also see our team and the people who are performing at our events get a platform elsewhere. We are seeing people get booked for more shows. We are seeing people actually start getting jobs in the industry instead of having that 9 to 5 somewhere that they don’t want to.”

Gil had even broader ambitions, saying she envisioned Yo Soy LOLA to expand cross-country and affect the lives of Latinxs throughout the United States.

Following the show, DJ La Nena invited everyone to be a part of the family via a dance party with the audience, cast, and committee members. Victoria B. Cejas, who drove over an hour to see the show, expressed her expectations for the show.

“Joy. And a celebration. And comfort, right? Because I listen to the salsa and I feel like I’m home,” she said.

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