One Saturday in August of 2016, a team of about a dozen young radio reporters set out to interview Boyle Heights residents and record the stories they heard along one of the neighborhood’s most emblematic streets.

The resulting audio documentary –”Sounds of César E. Chávez Avenue”– will have its premiere at a “listening and viewing” party on Sunday, February 25, from 4 to 7 pm, at the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory.

The nonprofit, which trains youth in various areas of content creation at its headquarters at the former Paramount ballroom on César E. Chávez Ave., commissioned the 26-minute documentary.

The voices featured range from a street vendor near Breed Street to Tomás Delgado, the owner of the famed Candelas Guitar Shop. Among the highlights, musician Raúl Pacheco from Ozomatli telling his daughter Alma about the history of the Paramount building.

The youth reporters worked with three veteran journalists and radio producers –Sara Harris, Adolfo Guzmán-López and George Sánchez-Tello– to produce what one of them is calling “a time capsule” of turn-of-the-century Boyle Heights.

Listen to the documentary here:

“It was a snapshot, nothing more than that,” said Harris, adding that the event on Sunday will reunite the participants in the documentary with the producers and reporters and offer local residents an opportunity to record their own stories.

The listening party will give them an opportunity “to take a look at it and say, wow, where are we now?,” she said.  “And how can we continue to augment the rich value of documenting and telling the stories of  a street like César Chávez that goes so far, not only in space but in time.”

“Sounds of César E. Chávez Avenue” was funded in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles as part of its Great Streets initiative. The Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory has formed a Radio Collective with other local organizations to produce programming for its low-power station, KQBH-LP, 101.5 FM.

Harris said the documentary was part of the conservatory’s “renewed vision” to offer job opportunities as well as engage the community “from a social justice perspective.” She said the format of the audio documentary is an ideal way of focusing on the stories told without visual distractions.

“There is a value to listening and not looking,” Harris said. “When you listen, people get to say what they want to say. When you look, you often see something people had not wanted you to see.”

The Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory is at 2708 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue.

Photo above: Tomás Delgado, owner of Candelas Guitar Shop on César E. Chávez Avenue. Photo by Adolfo Guzmán López.

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Antonio Mejías-Rentas

Antonio Mejías-Rentas is a Senior Editor at Boyle Heights Beat, where he mentors teenage journalists, manages the organization’s website and covers local issues. A veteran bilingual journalist, he's...

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