On May 1st, 2010 the people of Los Angeles marched united in the city’s largest immigration rally since 2006. Regardless of skin color, economic status, or social class, Angelenos came together with voices heard throughout Downtown. The next evening, a smaller but equally powerful event went on just miles away. It was called “The Indigo Lounge”, organized by our friend, Zoe Blaq, under her company, Piddle Productions. The theme for the night was the unification of Black and Brown culture through music and poetry. Guests called it historic.
Zoe and I have been in conversation for about a year now, but I formally met her only last week. We knew of each other through a mutual friend, and respected each other’s endeavors. Born in Los Angeles, and raised in Munich, Germany by two artist parents, she knew the importance of understanding culture and embracing others. This in turn led to the goal of her production company – an outlet for dialogue. She’s now got her hand in quite a few things from stage managing a play that she’s starring in to teaching and mentoring inner city kids. You’ll soon find out that she’s got an amazing story, and an unfailing commitment to raise awareness about issues close to her heart.
Before you started Piddle Productions (PP), you worked in the entertainment industry as a writer. How is your art different from that of “Hollywood”?
Piddle Productions brings about culture and gender awareness through eclectic events, film and music. I believe in using media to manipulate common stereotypes that come with identity. It not only provides entertainment, but also community building and social change.
How did you come up with that name?
This is a funny story. When people upset me, I used ramble off a lot of baby talk and at the end I called them a Piddle. I have no idea where I got it from. I still get teased about it today from my family. Perhaps I am coming full circle with what it means for me today. I want to be heard, and it may not be pretty, because life is not always pretty. I guess you can say I piddle in the arts to relay my thoughts and feelings to the masses.
Is Indigo Lounge the main focus for PP?
Indigo Lounge is my main cultural event. However, I continue to work on short films and plays.
Tell us more about Indigo Lounge. When did it start, and how has the response been so far?
I started Indigo Lounge in 2009. My intentions were to create a space for artists from all walks of life to express awareness, activism and education through self expression and music. It has grown into something really powerful and inspirational. I believe people really "get it" when they step into the experience. It is an artsy diverse crowd of young and old unified by one common thread - art.
How do you scout talent for your events?
I usually go to as many poetry spots as possible. I do a lot of research and reading about local artists, as well. I am always exploring new venues and I don't just simply get the most popular poet to perform at Indigo Lounge. It is more about the personal experience I get when I watch them perform. I'm usually the mysterious person in the front observing. Although I am an artist, the event is not about me. I am just a person who created a space for artists who understand and live my vision. Some people call me the female Russell Simmons which is funny, but makes sense because I am not in it to be the star and people say I have a humble disposition.
So in your observations, can you safely say that the poetry scene thrives in Los Angeles? How would you compare it to the other places you’ve been?
The poetry scene in LA is definitely thriving. It always has been. I think other places look to us as setting an example. Whenever people from out of town stop by the Indigo Lounge they are so amazed at the colorful talent and the uniqueness of jamming on stage with a live band. I remember a group of people from Missouri stating that they thought this type of stuff only happens in movies.
Are there any local poets we should look out for?
I am working with a poet /author/ playwright by the name of Evy Trezvant. She has supported Indigo Lounge since the beginning. She wrote a play called "Womban." I read the script and was asked to be part of the play. Not only am I performing, but I am also the Stage Manager. It is a powerful play that takes place in Los Angeles and deals with the female psyche and the importance of working through personal issues in order to heal. This won't be the last time you hear from Ms. Evy. I have a good feeling about this. Micheaux Fortson also known as "Urban Voodoo" is someone to look out for as well. He is a drug and alcohol counselor, public speaker, and organizer of the Young Poet Society.
When and where is "Womban" playing?
You’ve got this play and you also mentioned to me in the past that you’re doing a documentary on Los Angeles. Can you tell us more about the film?
I don't want to say too much. However, I know it has never been documented before. It is about a movement that started in East Los Angeles in the 1960's. It is part of Los Angeles history and culture that has somehow been overlooked.
So that’s the entertainment side of you. I want people to know about what you do for the community.
I’m a mental health therapist in the inner city, where I also tutor and mentor the youth. I am part of an organization called “Young Poet Society" out of Long Beach Community College, in which I write and direct spoken word plays. Right now we are working on another performance for their Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) banquet. It is a story about staying motivated, overcoming obstacles, and striving towards your goal even with little resources. I also help coordinate fundraisers for outreach organizations dealing with literacy in my spare time. I’m currently working on getting funding for a program that combines art therapy and inner city kids.
In your opinion, what are some major issues facing inner city kids?
They do not have many spaces to call their own, especially after budget cuts. They need to be heard and it is important that we give them an opportunity to express themselves in a safe environment. In my experience, I realize children suffer from post traumatic stress symptoms more than we like to accept and we do not have enough creative outlets for them to begin to heal so that they can lead happy, healthy, successful lives.
You’re also an advocate for women. In March, you were a guest speaker for the LA Union Workers’ “Women’s Month” program. How did that go?
I was very honored to have the opportunity to speak at the LA Union Women's Empowerment program. I was asked to talk about domestic violence. Instead of giving a lecture on domestic violence, I gave statistics and read a poem that I wrote called, "Dear Diary" which is about self empowerment. It is about a woman who writes in her diary for her own sanity, and within writing about her experience becomes empowered and has the strength to leave her situation. I have experienced verbal abuse and witnessed friends and family members go through physical abuse. However, we can give the victim as many resources and information as possible, but if they lack self esteem and they are not ready to think as a survivor in order take responsibility on their own, they will continue to go back to the same situation. After the program several women thanked me because they could relate. It is such a great feeling to know that I connected with at least one person.
Amazing. You’ve truly become a positive force in our city. The focus of the e-zine is to survey an artists’ relationship with LA. Let’s wrap with a few questions about “home”. What do you hope for the LA art scene as a whole?
I hope that more artists and artists seekers open their mind and step out of their comfort zone and take advantage of all the hidden treasures of LA.
Who is an LA native hero of yours?
I would say the everyday people who stay focused and continue to strive against all odds. Those are the people I look up to.
What is your favorite spot in LA?
Wow. That's a hard question. I have so many. The spots I like the most are Little Tokyo, Silverlake, and Echo Park. I like to give events in those areas and I love the fact that on any given night you can find something interesting, fun and unique.
I met Zoe during the music video shoot for Bambu's "The Queen is Dead". She makes a cameo joining the roster of other significant women in the arts. You can see why I wanted her to be represented. Next month, Catch Zoe starring in "Womban" at the Complex Theater. And if you're interested in getting involved in the programs or organizations she works with, please visit her website: www.piddleproductions.blogspot.com. She posts updates with information and links for anyone that wants to get involved or has questions.