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La Llorona | '03 til Infinity

Photographed by Gennia Cui for the Ford Theatres.

Photographed by Gennia Cui for the Ford Theatres.

I vividly recall my first concert at the Ford Theatres in 2003. I don't remember how I ended up there but the theatre has a way of leaving a watermark on one's memory. First, a band called Quetzal opened the show. Fast forward to present day, the now Grammy-award winning Quetzal is still making vital music that weaves together cumbia, rock, regional Mexican folk-music, Cuban charanga and Brazilian pandeira, charged with the band's collectivist political passion. But that night, I just know that for the first time, I felt like I was looking at a reflection of myself on that stage under the summer sky.  Musicians that looked my age and came in all shades of brown skin. I listened to them play and I gazed into the canyon at the trees and something within me opened up.

Quetzal in 1997, photo by Brian Cross

Quetzal in 1997, photo by Brian Cross

There was an intermission. I listened to small talk and hung out with friends. Then the theatre went quiet and Lila Downs took the stage. It felt as if Frida Kahlo herself had reincarnated and began to sing. I felt quiet tears well up in my eyes and I was riveted for the duration of the show. I will never forget that night at Ford Theatres and the way it made me feel. 

Lila Downs courtesy of Getty Images.

Lila Downs courtesy of Getty Images.

Returning to the Ford in 2016, this time as a producer, I had the opportunity to see Lila Downs sing again with Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company. Entertaining and inspiring, Lila Downs is as much a storyteller as a singer. Her music and vocal artistry have many influences and is as varied as the ancient cultures that serve as her inspiration. Lila’s songs are often striking commentaries on social conditions, reflecting migration and the search for roots as a core human need. Many of these same themes inform my own work today.

This summer, I have another opportunity to produce a show at the Ford. I can only hope to create a watermark moment for someone else, to be changed, opened and set on course.

Hollywood, City of Dreams

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You are in Hollywood. Well, maybe somewhere near Hollywood. Close enough to drive. You love Los Angeles with all its glaring contradictions. You are friendly. You smile at people. You go to concerts. You make friends everywhere. Dancers, musicians, artists, photographers. This is the 90s, and there is no Google Maps. You are lost. A lot. Driving through downtown and West Hollywood and Venice and Crenshaw. And there are so many dreams and ideas floating in the air. 

From Bjork in a paper skirt or Meshell on her bass at the Glam Slam in Downtown to listening in awe of Dwight Trible at The World Stage in Leimert Park to seeing De La Soul at The Viper Room - a certain kind of Los Angeles music scene shaped my formative years. And nothing has changed. I am still an avid fan of soulful, eclectic music and intimate venues that get you up close and personal. What a gift to to watch the musicians and artists I've encountered as the years have passed, find success on many levels.

There is a point where one moves from observer to active participant. And that is where I find myself today. I listen to stories on NPR about lack of diversity in the entertainment industry. I see beautiful posts documenting #blackgirlmagic. My heart aches thinking of mass incarceration and listening to coverage of the #blacklivesmatter movement. And I feel lost. A lot. 

Producer, Andrea Miller, pictured with her daughter Selah.

Producer, Andrea Miller, pictured with her daughter Selah.

I could lose myself in daily household tasks. I could sink down and hide inside my own life. But just like water, for me, boundaries are nonexistent. I tap into the dreams and ideas that make up this city called Hollywood. The dreams of my friends. And my own dreams.

Today, I find myself working in partnership with the historic Ford Theatres as Producer and Director of Common Culture: Across the Water. 

Join us and tap into 100+ years of Hollywood history and the countless dreams and ideas floating in the air.

About me: Born to parents who immigrated to the United States from Cape Town, South Africa in the 1960's, my interest in immigration narratives, social activism, liberation movements and living a multi-racial identity has informed my grassroots community work and creative direction. It is themes such as multi-culturalism, global citizenry, and the search for identity and family that greatly influence my work.