Whether an original play written by a California prison inmate sentenced to solitary confinement or a storytelling event featuring reflections on life in the sex industry, La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley has consistently provided a stage for powerful and entertaining performances deeply rooted in social justice. The center launched in 1975, with the founders modeling it after the Chilean peña tradition of creating gathering spaces for artists of multiple disciplines to collaborate and socialize. The organization has endured and thrived over the last four decades, becoming one of the most reliable and prolific performance spaces and cultural centers for progressive art and community organizing. The venue now presents more than two hundred events a year with both emerging and established artists — in addition to leading an arts education program and housing Los Cilantros, an authentic Mexican restaurant. At a time when there are increasing fears that gentrification is threatening the cultural diversity of the East Bay, La Peña provides a critical space for artists of color and marginalized communities to get the creative platform they deserve.
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