Filipino Artists Come Together to Fundraise for a Community Organizer
Jackson Heights, Queens – Filipino hip-hop, punk and spoken word artists converged at Terraza Café last Sunday, August 5, 2007 to fundraise for Berna Ellorin, a community organizer diagnosed with brain cancer, and to support Anakbayan New York-New Jersey and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), grassroot organizations based in New York and New Jersey.
Manny Palatulan, Koba, Deep Foundation, Kimmie David, Melanie Dulfo, Hanalei Ramos, Romeo Roy, KADENA, Mike Swift, Kiwi formerly from Native Guns and Blue Scholars were the performers for the event.
"Cancer in my head can be compared to cancer in the Philippines because the way cancer works is that bad cancer cells attack and destroy the good cells in the body. The biggest cancer right now in our homeland is the Philippine Government under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration wherein it kills good citizens of the country." Berna Ellorin explained before she thanked everyone for coming.
"She has served as an inspiration to us in the community for her dedication in serving her fellow Filipinos, in uniting and making them aware of the different issues affecting their lives, and for her strength in fighting the cancer, not only the one plaguing her body but also the one that is destroying the Filipino society. This is what the event is about -- unity, dedication and strength." Christina Hilo of Anakbayan NY/NJ stated.
Berna Ellorin is a community organizer of 10 years who works for Filipinos and fights for their issues. She has also been instrumental for the immigration campaign in the New York City. She is currently the secretary general of BAYAN-USA, an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. Ms. Ellorin is also an advocate for human rights in the Philippines, wherein as much as 863 extrajudicial killings and 196 disappearances and/or abductions have occurred since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office in 2001.
With over a hundred guests, the 3-hour event, which started at around 9 in the evening, raised over 900 dollars in hopes of supporting Berna Ellorin's medical expenses as she undergoes radiation and chemotherapy. She was diagnosed with brain cancer last June 25, 2007. She has undergone a major surgery and is currently being treated through radiation and chemotherapy.
On a lighter note, one interesting thing about the event was the venue itself with the hanging stage. Terraza Café has been infamous for its stage, made of planks of wood joined together and supported by more than two-dozen steel wires, more or less 15 feet from the ground suspended in mid-air.
"It was scary at first, but with the crowd's energy and hearing them cheer for you, you would forget that you were playing on a stage hanging in the air suspended on metal strings. I would actually love to play there again." Alan Alda, of KADENA said.
The event was organized by Anakbayan NY/NJ, a comprehensive Filipino youth organization hailing back from the Philippines aiming to build unity among Filipino youth with its chapter in the New York-New Jersey area, and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), a mass-based women's organization serving New York City and its surrounding areas dedicated to respond to global and local Filipina and Filipina American issues.