Excerpt from the Lower East Side Biography Project
Steve Zehentner: Producer, Director of Photography
A little bit Basque, a little bit Indian and a little bit African, Alfredo Irizarry is a Nuyorican born in New York's Spanish Harlem who in the 1950's at the age of five moved to the lower east side, where he has lived ever since. A Vietnam Vet, and fierce urban activist, Alfredo comes from a long line of community activism and remembers the stories of his grandparents and the armed struggle to free Puerto Rico.
One of social critic and anarchist philosopher "Paul Goodman's kid's", Alfredo attended the famous First Street School, and the inspiring story of this free school was chronicled by George Dennison, in "The Story of the First Street School." Later after Goodman's death, his "kids" continued his legacy with the creation of the Second Avenue cultural center C.U.A.N.D.O. (Cultural Understanding and Neighborhood Development Organization)
Alfredo, a writer and poet, is a wonderful storyteller who was a friend of "Puerto Rico's Plato" poet Jorge Brandon, considered the father of Nuyorican poetry. Mix in a little Buckminster Fuller, Bimbo Rivas, Armano Perez, Chino Garcia, and the story of CHARAS, in Alfredo Irizarry's story, you can experience first hand some of the formative history of Loisaida.
The Alfredo Iriazarry Biography is a part of The Lower East Side Biography Project and was directed and edited by Kathryn Lewis in collaboration with Penny Arcade, Steve Zehentner and Dean Lance.The Lower East Side Biography Project was created in 1999 by performance artist Penny Arcade and video producer Steve Zehentner as an ongoing biography series and oral history archive. The LES Bio Project’s biographies and archive work to ensure that future generations have access to the mad souls of invention and rebellion that built the Lower East Side’s international reputation as an incubator for authenticity and iconoclasm in art, culture and politics.
The project seeks to stem the tide of cultural amnesia by bridging the cultural gap between long time residents and newcomers to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of New York’s Lower East Side. To this end, the LES Bio Project has a community-media training component where young filmmakers are trained in production and post-production technologies and then become shepherds of an individual oral history that they edit into a 28-minute biography. Since its inception, the LES Bio Project has trained over forty individuals, completed over sixty 28-minute programs, and videotaped dozens more interviews and live events.
The completed biographies cablecast and stream live every Monday at 11 p.m EST, in Manhattan on Time Warner 34, RCN 82, FIOS 33, and live stream on Manhattan Neighborhood Network Community Channel One.
View the current cablecast and livestream schedule on the project's Facebook page.