Sounds of California: Boyle Heights (2020-2021) is a project led by ACTA in collaboration with the Community Power Collective and local residents to record, compose, present, and archive the local soundscape, focusing on themes of anti-displacement and belonging.
This work builds on a decade of work in Boyle Heights and has 3 main components engaging primarily the base communities central to the organizing work of the Community Power Collective within social housing, street vending, and food sovereignty. The first component emphasized the importance of controlling our own narrative through a community documentation team. We trained local residents in basic documentary practices to collect stories and sounds in Boyle Heights and nearby neighborhoods. The collection is shaped by their own perspectives, experiences, and daily realities. It contains dozens of photos, videos, and audio recordings, documenting community traditions and celebrations, such as Dia De Los Muertos, the assembly of anti-eviction and police brutality protests, public performances, and mutual aid efforts at Mariachi Plaza, and individual interviews of community members.
"I like walking down the sidewalk on Chavez and seeing the different businesses. Hearing the sounds of people cooking, the conversations, the street vendors passing by offering their products."
Alex Guillen, Local Artist
The second component commissioned 10 local artists with long connections to Boyle Heights to compose an original song about its history and cultural heritage. We created a 5 episode program called Rola del Día to debut each song by pairing two artists in conversation and presenting their songs through lyric videos. Radio Bilingüe created programs from these five events to be aired in the Fall of 2021. The songs named the sites and sounds that make Boyle Heights stand out as a hub of culture, the historic communities that have shaped it, gentrification, personal narratives of music making and migration, and other stories.
The third component was a series of 10 collective songwriting sessions in collaboration with CPC’s base communities, along with other groups working in health equity, youth development restorative justice, and others. The traditional practice of collective songwriting contributes to strengthening community agency and belonging through active participation in the process of gathering, composing, and organizing. The songs covered violence against women, youth power, the immigrant experience, and other themes.
The Sounds of California: Boyle Heights program was produced in partnership with Community Power Collective, Radio Bilingüe, and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage.
The Sounds of California: Boyle Heights program was made possible with support from the California Arts Council, California Humanities, and the James Irvine Foundation.