wednesday morning I met James in Center City around 10. from there we drove deep into North Philadelphia. we were visiting three different community/cultural centers – Raices Culturales Latinoamericanas, Taller Puertorriqueno. and Ayuda Community Center. upon pulling up to Raices, our first stop, we were greeted by this man. he was giving a guitar lesson outside of the office. Raices offers a number of similar programs – dance lessons, cooking tutorials, and Tertulias, which comprise lectures and discussions on cultural topics and an open mic portion for poetry and music – to members of the community.soon we were met by Melissa Yarborough, the program manager (and, coincidentally, a Bryn Mawr grad). she showed us to the gallery and dance studio upstairs and introduced us to Veronica Castillo-Perez, the executive director. together they explained the mission of the organization and the programming. we learned about the Latin Roots and Rhythms Festival and saw some of the traditional costumes worn during the event. from Raices we traveled just down the road to Taller Puertoriqueno, a sister organization that began as a grassroots collection of Latino artists and activists in 1972. we spoke to Daniel de Jesus, the special events and visual arts manager at the Lorenzo Homar Gallery at Taller. he lead us on a tour of the current exhibition, “Dignity Transforms,” a group show featuring Betsy Casanas and Pedro Ospina. Daniel was a master gallery guide and an astounding community organizer. on August 13 he will open an exhibit of artwork from the youth group at Taller. our final visit was to the Ayuda Community Center. Michaelanne Harriman, the community arts director, showed us to the gallery and informed us of the on-going projects at Ayuda. they do a lot of work with community murals, recruiting local children to devise plans and execute images in community spaces.
these community centers are vibrant, their staffs are energetic, their work is remarkable. for more information on any of these groups, visit their websites: