In this award-winning episode of the LES Biography Project, you will meet octogenarian poet and community activist Carmen Pabon, "The Mother of Loisaida." Carmen came to the Lower East Side from Puerto Rico in the 1940s. After raising a family as a single mother, she became a community activist at the time when the neighborhood had become blighted by drugs.
A "social worker without a license," she helped create the Charas/El Bohio Arts/Community Center in an old abandoned school building by driving out the junkies. She created one of the earliest community gardens from an abandoned lot on Avenue C in which she would put up homeless families, feed the hungry creating an urban sanctuary for the children, the elderly and local artists and the Nuyorican poets, including Miguel Piñero.
When the neighborhood became a victim of gentrification and the developers tried to kick her out, she took them to court and beat them. The court awarded her a 99-year lease on the property where there is still a memorial to her son who had died of AIDS.
She fought for the community when no one else cared, she's as feisty and energetic a person and humanitarian as you will ever encounter.
The Carmen Pabon Biography was produced by The Lower East Side Biography Project and was written, directed and edited by Dean Lance in collaboration with Penny Arcade and Steve Zehentner.
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The Lower East Side Biography Project was created in 1999 by performance artist Penny Arcade and video producer Steve Zehentner as an ongoing biography series and oral history archive. The LES Bio Project’s biographies and archive will help to ensure that future generations have access to the mad souls of invention and rebellion that built the Lower East Side’s international reputation as an incubator for authenticity and iconoclasm in art, culture and politics.
The project seeks to stem the tide of cultural amnesia by bridging the cultural gap between long time residents and newcomers to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of New York’s Lower East Side. To this end, the LES Bio Project has a community-media training component where young filmmakers are trained in production and post-production technologies and then become shepherds of an individual oral history that they edit into a 28-minute biography. Since its inception, the LES Bio Project has trained over forty individuals, completed forty 28-minute biographies, videotaped dozens more interviews and live events.
The project’s biographies cablecast in New York City every Monday at 11pm EST on Time Warner Channel 34, RCN 82, FIOS 33, and stream live on Manhattan Neighborhood Network Channel One mnn.org/live/1-community-channel
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Writer/Director/Editor: Dean Lance
Producer, Interviewer: Penny Arcade
Producer, Director of Photography: Steve Zehentner
Associate Producers: Dean Lance, Rick Jungers
Camera, Lights & Sound: Aldo Cano, Rick Jungers, Jeffrey Galusha