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Lisa Gray-Garcia collaborating with Community Defense Inc.
Award: $35,000 Literary Arts Grant awarded in 2001
Presented: In a series of events through July 2002

A collaboration between Lisa Gray-Garcia, co-founder of Poor Magazine, and Community Defense Inc., “Poverty Heroes” drew together homeless and very poor participants with writers who led creative workshops in homeless shelters, group homes, and welfare offices.  At each workshop location, Community Defense, Inc. also provided an on-site legal clinic for participants.

The collaborative partnership grew out of the lead artist’s life experience. At a critical juncture for her, Community Defense Inc. represented Lisa in court, and succeeded in commuting a possible jail sentence into community service. In assigning her service project, she was asked what she could do, to which she answered she was a writer.  Lisa Gray-Garcia went on to become a literary and performance artist–author of Criminal of Poverty–as well as an editor and teacher, who has dedicated her art to creating new channels of access for low income adults and youth to have their voices heard.

Gray-Garcia describes the poverty hero as one whose bravery, wit, and tenacity is demonstrated in surviving an existence fraught with misery and suffering. Poverty Heroes workshop material was broadcast over a 12-month period on KPFA 94.1 FM.  Collaborators also developed an interactive on-line column and presented spoken word performances. At the project’s culmination, collaborators published, The Poverty Hero, an anthology of original literary and visual art featuring writing by Ashley Adams, Joseph Bolden, Lisa Gray-Garcia, Lucia Gonzalez, MariLuna, Isabel Estrada, Rodrigo Jimenez, Connie Lu, Leroy Moore, Anna Morrow, Vlad Pogorelov, Liz Rodda, and Valerie Schwartz.

Community Defense Inc. is a nonprofit legal defense organization serving homeless, very low and no income San Francisco Bay Area residents.