Twenty-three Filipino high school youth from Long Beach and Carson performed together at the Westside Christian Church on Saturday to celebrate Filipino culture through dance, music, theater, poetry and multimedia in the third annual Pilipino Cultural Night of the Sama Sama Youth Program.
The PCN was the culmination of the seven-week summer program organized by the Filipino Migrant Center and Anakbayan Long Beach.
The Sama Sama summer workshops started in 2009 as hip hop workshops organized by Anakbayan. Through the years, it has developed into interdisciplinary workshops to cater to the broader interests of the youth. It was only in the last three years that the program organized the cultural night to share what they learned with the community.
“The program empowers all young people to use different art forms to express themselves, think critically about important social issues, and work together to make changes in their communities,” said Sama Sama facilitator Theresa Jaranilla.
“It is important because it is the only program of its kind serving Filipino youth and their families here,” Jaranilla said. Westside Long Beach has the highest concentration of Filipinos in the city.
“They don’t really teach Filipino culture in Cabrillo High School,” said Kassandra Gomez, a student from Cabrillo High School. “The things we learn in Sama Sama makes us proud to be Filipino.”
The theme of the program was “Lakas ng Pagkakaisa,” or “Strength in Unity” in Tagalog, and including workshops on “various forms of expression, such as theater, visual art, hip-hop, spoken word, and poetry,” according to the group’s website.
“Instead of trying to change things on your own, it’s better to come together and talk about it with other people and find what you are willing to fight for together.” Gomez explained in a video presented during the Cultural Night celebration. “When you are together, it makes you more powerful and have a stronger voice.”
During one of the summertime workshops youth each told their family’s migration stories.
“It’s important to know what other people have been through before they moved to America from the Philippines,” said Micka Draculan, a participant who attends Carson High School. The group of young people eventually combined the various stories into a short skit about the struggle of a families adjusting to life in the U.S.
During the summer sessions the group discussed how violence affects the Long Beach Filipino community.
“There are a lot of gangs and violence in Long Beach, and you have to find the place or area where you feel comfortable and safe,” said Gomez.
It is not much different in Carson, according to Caroline Padilla of Carson High School. “You always get warned not to walk around by yourself,” she said. Padilla and Gomez collaborated in a poetry performance about standing up to violence in their cities.
Facilitators from Anakbayan Long Beach, CA State University Long Beach (CSULB) Pilipino American Coalition, and Habi Arts acted as mentors during the summer and helped put the culminating performance together.
“[Youth] helped each other through difficult skit scenes and tough dance moves for more than just the final product,” said Joses Magno, a facilitator from Anakbayan Long Beach. “They wanted to see their friends succeed and feel good about themselves. I don’t think community and collectivity could be exemplified any better.”
The Sama Sama youth group has big plans for the upcoming school year. They plan to continue working together across the South Bay of Los Angeles to build a Filipino youth alliance and develop a new focus on college readiness through a potential partnership with CSULB’s Pilipino American Coalition.
“We also aim to develop the next generation of Filipino community leaders,” said Eric Tandoc, an organizer with the Filipino Migrant Center.