Windsor Bloco
Events for Sonoma County Library as part of the Tengo La Voz program

Number of Events: 5
Number of students served: 515

Program Description:
Five branches of the Sonoma County Library hosted the mostly-Latino teen group Windsor Bloco in March and April of 2008. This group of about 10-15 local teens perform cultural drum music with accompanying dance, in a style that originated with African rhythms, migrated to Brazil and South America, and has now evolved into its own Sonoma County traditions. The program, called “Drums, Not Guns,” was written by the kids who perform it, and was very well received at each branch where it was performed.

Performances:
Sonoma Valley Regional Library 65 attendees; audience was described as “a nice mix from the schools, the Latino community, from Sonoma Valley residents.”
Healdsburg Regional Library 60 attendees; primarily teens and adults
Rincon Valley Regional Library 50 attendees; primarily teens and adults
Guerneville Regional Library 40 attendees; primarily teens and adults. A very eclectic audience, including one man who brought his own drum! Very positive reaction from both staff and public.
Northwest Regional Library 300 attendees; including teens, parents, and younger children. Larger audience because it was held outside, in parking lot of Coddingtown Mall, in conjunction with our Día de los Niños program.

Program Description:
Five branches of the Sonoma County Library hosted the mostly-Latino teen group Windsor Bloco in March and April of 2008. This group of about 10-15 local teens perform cultural drum music with accompanying dance, in a style that originated with African rhythms, migrated to Brazil and South America, and has now evolved into its own Sonoma County traditions. The program, called “Drums, Not Guns,” was written by the kids who perform it, and was very well received at each branch where it was performed.

Achievements:
This was a great opportunity to spotlight local Latino youth who are using music and dance as an avenue for self-expression, and who embrace the idea of giving back to the community through performance. It was also a good experience to bring this kind of celebration of culture to communities in Sonoma County who are not as diverse in make-up, and to see those community members embrace both the culture and the message of the program.

Reflections:
I attended two of the events (Rincon and Guerneville), and was very pleased to see both the audience reactions and the diversity of the audiences. I was also pleased to see that events held AT the library branches (rather than going out into the community) were so well attended. The Bloco group liked to take the show outside, which helped in gathering a crowd who then was an enthusiastic audience.

Attachments: Flyer PDF file

Pictures from Windsor Bloco Event

Luis Rodriguez Visits
Events for Sonoma County Library as part of the Tengo La Voz program

Number of Events: 5
Number of students served: 375

Program Description:
Author Luis Rodriguez visited Sonoma County for a period of two and a half days, during which we held one public event at a library branch, and we held a series of writing workshops IN the local high schools. We had provided class sets of Sr. Rodriguez’ popular memoir of his experiences as a gang member to all the schools in advance of the program, so that as many students as possible would have the chance to read the book before his visit.

Events:
Rohnert Park-Cotati Regional Library 120 attendees (standing room only!)
Wednesday, May 7, 7:00-9:00 pm Public “Town Meeting” style community event. Audience was a mix of teens, teachers from area schools, community members, and Sonoma County residents.
Cloverdale High School 60 high school students
Thursday, May 8, 8-10:00 am in a writing workshop/inspirational talk
Los Guilicos Juvenile Detention Ctr. 80 incarcerated youth
Thursday, May 8, 1-2:30 pm Inspirational talk (no writing component). Audience was everyone in the facility but 4 who were not allowed to attend.
Rancho Cotate High School (Rohnert Park) 55 high school students
Friday, May 9, 8:00-10:00 am in a writing workshop/inspirational talk
Casa Grande High School (Petaluma) 60 high school students
Friday, May 9, 1:00-3:00 pm in a writing workshop/inspirational talk

Achievements:
This program was aimed directly at the target audience of the grant, and it paid off tenfold. At the school visits, we had a waiting list of students to get into the writing workshops, and at the public event we had standing room only. The message that Sr. Rodriguez delivered at all of his appearances was very much aligned with the goals of our grant, so I feel we nailed this one on the head.

Reflections:
I accompanied Sr. Rodriguez to all his appearances during his stay in Sonoma County, and was thrilled to see the responses he got from the public and the students.

At the event that was open to the public, Sr. Rodriguez spoke to a standing-room-only crowd, with a message about the importance of community building. He spoke for about an hour and then turned the focus back to the audience, by inviting questions, comments, and reflections. All members of the audience, including a high proportion of Latino youth, were all people who cared greatly about the importance of Latino culture and voice in Sonoma County, and the program evolved into a wonderful shared community dialogue.

At Cloverdale High School, the students were primarily Latino (about 90%), and every single one of the 60 students in the workshop had read his book, some of them multiple times. He asked for questions, and the questions they asked showed that not only had they read and processed the book, but they had retained details and wanted to know more, and “what happened next.” Luis spoke for about an hour to the group, and then posed them three writing prompts as follows:
1) You are in a forest. You don’t know where it is or how you got there. There is a path at y our feet. Describe this forest, what it looks like, etc., and describe the path.
2) You come upon a house. Describe this house, who lives there, what it looks like, where is it, etc.
3) Describe the most important person in your life. It does not have to be some that you like, just someone that is important to you.

After the students had written on these prompts for 15 or 20 minutes, Luis stopped them and gave them the following meaning for their writings: The forest & path represent your future, where you are going in life. The house represents where you currently are in life. The important person represents your relationships with other people. He then had students read some of their writings aloud, and I have to admit that I was close to tears in listening to some of them, their writings were deeply moving and insightful. The point he then drove home to the students was that, whether or not they think they can, they all have some talent in expressing themselves through writing, and they can develop it just like he did, by practicing.

At Los Guilicos Juvenile Detention Center, he spoke to the entire population of the facility, except for 4 students who were not allowed to attend due to behavior issues. The program was videotaped so that those students would be able to view the presentation at a later time. At this location, the majority of the teens had NOT read “Always Running” in advance of the program. They did however listen intently and respectfully to his presentation, and when he opened the floor to questions, they did ask some insightful ones. In this presentation, he was a bit more forceful in his message against violence, since he knew that this group was one that had already started down a wrong path. The staff of Los Guilicos told me later that they thought the program was wonderful and that the students got a lot out of it, and that they were all asking for the book afterward.

At Rancho Cotate High School, Luis conducted a program very similar to the one he did at Cloverdale. Once again, every single one of the students had read the book in advance, and they were very excited to hear him and talk to him. This group had more students who aspired to be writers; one girl wrote her responses in poetry format, while another shared her recent article in the school paper she had written about race and culture issues. Once again, the students surprised both themselves and their teachers with the beauty of their writing after the writing exercises.

At Casa Grande High School, Luis conducted the same program once again. By this time, it was late in the school day on a Friday afternoon, and the students were getting a bit antsy, so the overall effect was perhaps not as good as it had been at the other programs. Even so, all the students in the program had read the book, and all asked great questions that showed their interest and the relevancy to their lives. At this school, when it was time to have students volunteer to read aloud from their writings, they were less willing to read, but one girl who volunteered read her piece aloud in Spanish, and although I did not understand all of it, I saw that even the antsy boys quieted down and focused on the beauty of her writing.

I felt that all of these programs were wonderful programs, and I felt we reached our target audience in the best possible way by bringing the programs TO them, rather than expecting them to come to us. Had we held the program in a library branch, we would not have had such a high turnout of teens exactly in the demographic that the grant was written to reach, also, holding them in the schools showed a great willingness to develop and create new partnerships with the schools. I feel that this was a very valuable way to spend our grant funds.

Attachments: Flyer PDF file

Photos of Luis Rodriguez Event
KRCB Television & Radio
Sonoma County Library
Sonoma County Museum