Monday, June 4, 2012 (The Bronx, NY) - Piri Thomas was not in the Hostos Community College Repertory Theater on May 23rd, but judging from the response of the crowd as dancers, poets, actors and other artists channeled the late author’s work, his spirit was everywhere.
The event, “A Tribute to the Life and Times of Piri Thomas,” honored the enduring legacy of the author of the classic autobiography, Down These Mean Streets (1967), who died last October.
Thomas was born in Harlem in 1928 to a Puerto Rican mother and Cuban father. He wrote novels, plays, short stories, poetry and music that continue to have a huge influence on the Latino community today.
Hostos President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez attended the event, as did the late author’s wife, Suzie Dod Thomas, who made the trip from her home in California to join the celebration.
Dancers performed visual and rhythmic interpretations of Thomas’ writings, and a clip from the documentary, Every Child is Born a Poet: The Life and Work of Piri Thomas, was screened. Jonathan Meyer Robinson, the film’s director and editor, was also present along with several Hostos faculty, administrators and board members.
Hostos Board Member Elba Cabrera and noted poet and author José Angel Figueroa served as masters of ceremonies. During the screening, the audience roared its approval and reveled in one of Thomas’ favorite literary endings, “Punto!”
Down These Mean Streets is Thomas’ “coming of age story” in El Barrio. It chronicles his experience of being poor, being involved with gangs and drugs and serving time in prison for shooting a police officer.
Thomas eventually turned his life around and became a role model for minorities in El Barrio and other under-resourced communities.
The event also honored the life and work of poet Louis Reyes Rivera, who died this year.
President Matos Rodríguez said: “What we are doing here today is paying our respect to an educator, activist and writer…and we are also creating a cultural collaboration with other artists. We are delighted to be part of the program.”
The event was sponsored by Hostos Community College, the Hostos Center for Arts and Culture, Boricua College, El Centro de Estudios Puertorríqueños at Hunter College/CUNY, Latin Education Network Services and the Tribute to the Life and Times of Work of Piri Thomas Committee.
About Hostos Community College
Eugenio María de Hostos Community College, part of The City University of New York (CUNY) system, was founded in 1968. In addition to associate degree programs that facilitate easy transfer to CUNY’s four-year colleges or baccalaureate studies at other institutions, Hostos also has an award-winning Division of Continuing Education and Professional Studies that offers courses for professional development and certificate-bearing workforce training programs. In four decades, Hostos has grown from a class of 623 in the fall of 1970 to the spring 2012 enrollment of over 7,000 students. The college also serves an additional 10,000 students through its Division of Continuing Education and Professional Studies. For more news and stories about Hostos Community College, visit www.hostos.cuny.edu.
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