Residents hold the KEYS to Transform Oxnard into a Premier Art City of California
By Armando Vazquez, M.Ed.
Oxnard is poised to be one of the most innovative, creative and active art cities of California. All we need is to create the critical mass needed to move the community to urge the Oxnard City Council to make a bold decision regarding the proposal that we have the city to acquire the 425 South B Street Building (formerly the old Social Security/Southern California Gas Company building). This building belongs to the taxpayers of Oxnard. That’s why we have made a firm bid to the city to acquire the 425 South B Street Buildings. Starting this month January, 2017 the City of Oxnard through its Successor Agency offices (formerly the Redevelopment Agency) must begin the liquidation of 52 properties and parcels that it currently holds in its portfolio.
A consortium of community stakeholders, including artists, educators, civil rights advocates, along with parents and students have joined forces with the non-profit Foundation, for Educational and Employment Resources Development (EERD) @The Café on A/ Acuna Art Gallery, to engage the current city council members for the express purpose of acquiring the property. As fate would have it, The Foundation EERD has lost its monthly lease after close to two decades of occupancy at the 438 South A Street location, locally known as the Café on A. So it is imperative that we must relocate to continue our programming.
We have read the City of Oxnard’s Master Plan that embraces arts as a primary economic and community safety driver; as well as the legislative language of the state of California that mandates that the Successor Agency must include in its deliberation and liquidation decisions that non-profit arts and cultural organizations who have demonstrated historical success and community arts programming in the acquisition of available properties.
For more than two decades of culturally sensitive and congruent work, the Café on A/Acuna Art Gallery has been providing world class arts and cultural concerts, shows, forums, classes and entertainments to the greater Oxnard community. Today the Café on A/Acuna Art Gallery, in partnership with Las Salseras and the One Love Dance Company, give daily programs of exercise/dance/movement. Over 75 farm and factory working women and their families share civic involvement on their own unique terms. In the past year we have provided more than 10,000 volunteer hours of health and empowerment to our most needy immigrant farm and factory working women and their families.
The Café on A/Acuna Art Gallery has the honor and distinction of being the meeting place for youth that are struggling in school and need remediation and tutoring that is provided through the KEYS Leadership Academy providing educational assistance and guidance on a daily basis to any youth that walks into our building. We have provided at least sixteen thousand volunteer hours of remediation and tutoring to over 2700 youth throughout our two decade history. Hundreds of our KEYS’ youth “graduates” now are attending or have attended and graduated from local and national colleges and universities.
Over the years the Café on A/Acuna Art Gallery has hosted some of the most important and memorable art shows, receptions and performances in Ventura County. In the past two decades we have hosted art exhibitions for Los Four, Margaret Garcia, David Flurry, George Yepes, Jacquie Biaggi, Felipe Flores, Smiley, Billy Bejerano, Marion Sargent, Michelle Flores, BJ Halloran, Govan, to name just a few of the artists. We have had author readings and book signing events that include Rudy Acuna, Michelle Serros, Rene Corado, Tim Pompey, Amada Perez, T.J. Gunderson, Cheech Marin, Leo Hernandez, Paul Flores, and Ruth Jones to name a few. We have hosted world class performers, musicians such as Phora and Reverie, Aztlan Underground, Mariachi La Flor de Tololache, The New York World Sound, Cadoan, the great Leon Chavez Textiero, Gil Valencia, Memo’s Reggae Familia, Judith Reyes and many more.
We were the meeting, organizing and mobilization place for the two year long struggle against the imposition of a Civil “Gang” Injunction in Oxnard. We have held countless Immigration rights meetings, forums, and mobilization/organizing meeting for our immigrant community. We have been the home to the first elementary charter school organization and mobilization committee that sowed the seed of educational self-determination and empowerment for disenfranchised Latino parents
The Café on A/Acuna Gallery is the current home for the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health (OMMH) Coalition that has championed on a local and state level the efficacy of community defined practices which are ethnically and culturally congruent with our diverse Oxnard population. In the area of environmental awareness we began the first certified swim lesson program for non-swimming youth and their parents. To our astonishment our survey revealed that 97% of the youth and parents we worked with did not know how to swim. We now have a corps of youth and their families actively involved in community gardens, home conservation work and taking on community project such as the restoration of Ormond Beach, and Public Restroom accessibility for the homeless as community service projects. The Oxnard Police Department has acknowledged that the KEYS leadership Academy has been a vital community “release valve” for youthful angst and an indispensable safety and social justice partner to traditional community safety institutions.
The Café on A/Acuna Art Gallery has worked diligently with the most marginalized and disenfranchised populations in Oxnard, and we have had tremendous success with thousands of at-promise youth and their families to become contributing community members. We feel we have earned the right to request from the Oxnard City Council that they make available for immediate occupancy the 425 South B Street building that we are currently negotiating to acquire. The Café on A/Acuna Art Gallery is a legacy non-profit organization with ties to our Oxnard community; we have earned the right for serious occupancy partnership with the city of Oxnard.
We ask all of Oxnard, where would the community be without the programs and services provided by the Café on A/Acuna Art Gallery? Who will fill the safety, educational and cultural support vacuum?
Armando Vazquez, M.Ed. is Executive Director of Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition