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Humanity in harmony

Culture festival raises funds for children in Africa and the homeless in Glendale.

May 06, 2009|By Veronica Rocha

Frank Bravo has always known his mission in life was to help refugee children and families in need.

Although the Glendale Community College nursing student is not quite finished with his studies, he has already begun to do his part to help the community.

Bravo, 34, is vice president of the college’s Rotaract Club, which is part of the larger Rotary International Club, and through the group’s efforts, he is able to provide aid to local organizations such as Path Achieve Glendale, the city’s largest homeless services provider.

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“It’s something I have been very interested in since I was a child,” he said.

Bravo and his fellow group members joined the school’s Save Uganda Club to put on the Humanity in Harmony Arts and Culture Festival on Tuesday afternoon at the college’s Plaza Vaquero.

The event served as a fundraiser for African children in war-torn communities as well as Glendale’s homeless population. Proceeds from the event were earmarked for the Life in Africa Foundation and the Path Achieve Foundation.

The free festival offered up a selection of student artwork, jewelry, cultural displays, clothing and a silent auction.

Poets Gabriela Garcia Medina, Cory Cofer and Kat McGill performed spoken-word poetry for students. The four are veterans of HBO’s “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry.”

Their poems offered words of encouragement and described personal struggles with race, poverty and schooling, said Richard Cortes, the club’s advisor.

The club got a grant to pay for the poets’ appearance, he said, adding that students were being educated through the poetry.

Poetry allows students to have an open dialogue about different cultures and economic groups, he said.

“This form of literature can attract a lot of young people,” Cortes said.

Glendale student Blaze Brooklyn was drawn into the festival after hearing McGill’s poetry. Brooklyn, who lived in New York for most of his life, said he had never seen cutting-edge performances like those on Tuesday.

“It’s totally a different vibe,” he said, adding that the performance brought the college community together.

Each poem that Cofer writes is intended to provide his listeners with a different message about his life and ideals, he said.

Cofer, who is a special education teacher in the Inland Empire, talked about the struggles of disabled people and his own efforts to graduate from college in his poetry.

“It’s therapy for a lot of people,” he said.

The college’s event allows students to get involved in the arts, which McGill said are often the first school programs to be cut from teaching curriculum during tight budget years.

Poetry gives students a chance to find their own voices and uncover their emotions, she said.

Bravo has been able to find his voice through volunteering.

He hopes to one day travel to other countries and provide medical aid or food to parents and children.

“I feel it’s my duty to go and help,” Bravo said.


 VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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