Tag Archives: NCLR

Prince and Sheila E

Purple Rain album cover - released in 1984

Purple Rain album cover – released in 1984

Around noon today I took some Tylenol sinus meds, grabbed a mug of hot tea and settled into my recliner with my pup, Lucy. I grabbed my laptop to check a few emails and wait for the meds to kick in when I saw the first post about Prince.  A friend had shared a story that Prince was dead at age 57.  The news was stunning and not quite believable.  Could it be an internet hoax?

With the way social media spreads – wildfire comes to mind – I decided to wait to see if Associated Press and other news sources confirmed the news. A number of times I’ve seen friends post RIPs for actors or celebrities who have already passed on thinking it was recent.  But soon there were more posts and finally confirmation with the report coming from Prince’s publicist.  It was true…Prince was gone.

Prince was my soundtrack in the 1980s with the release of his album “1999.” I mean, who didn’t want to party “like it’s 1999?” His album was released in 1982 so we had plenty of time to plan!  Then he released Purple Rain followed by his movie of the same name.  So much great music and still more to come in his incredible career.

Prince and Sheila E perform at The Alma awards in Pasadena, CA - June 2007 - AP Photo

Prince and Sheila E perform at The Alma awards in Pasadena, CA – June 2007 – AP Photo

I think what I loved the most about Prince is the many collaborations he made throughout his career. All the artist he worked with and who made a name for themselves because of his help.  One artist that is high on my list is Sheila E.

Sheila E is the daughter of Pete Escovedo, a Mexican-American musician percussionist who has performed with Santana. Sheila is from a family of musicians so I guess it isn’t surprising she chose this path too.  It seemed predestined for her in fact.  Her relationship with Prince began in 1978 when they met at a concert where she was performing with her father.  She and Prince began their collaboration during the Purple Rain years (1984) and her vocals can be heard on several of his releases like “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Erotic City.”  Her own first hit was “The Glamorous Life” which was a chart topper in 1984.  She opened for Prince during his Purple Rain tour and was with him through 1989 as his drummer and musical director.  Since this time, when I think of Sheila E, I always think of Prince and hoped to one day meet them both.

Sheila E. ends at the end of the concert she gave for the NCLR conference in Chicago - 2009.

Sheila E. ends at the end of the concert she gave for the NCLR conference in Chicago – 2009.

Fast forward to 2009 and I got my wish – part of it. .  In 2009, I attended the National Council of La Raza conference in Chicago.  NCLR is known for drawing great speakers and performers.  One evening is always devoted to music and this particular time the artist featured was Sheila E!  I was so excited as our group headed over to The House of Blues to hear her perform.  I was able to get very close to the stage with my camera and started clicking away.  Yes, I DID stop to get in a dance or two!  Sheila wore a red form-fitting dress, her black hair was long and wavy and she had a white floral percussion set.  I was mesmerized by her.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune to be so close to this incredible artist…someone who was guided by Prince and worked so closely with him.  It was such a thrill….and then this happened…

Photo opp with Sheila E in our hotel lobby in Chicago after her House of Blues performance.  What a treat!  My friend Isabel Rubio and I were thrilled to meet her!

Photo opp with Sheila E in our hotel lobby in Chicago after her House of Blues performance. What a treat! My friend Isabel Rubio and I were thrilled to meet her!

Back at our hotel, a group of us gathered at the bar in the lobby to enjoy a few drinks after the concert. We were a lively group – well, we ARE Latinos – and then suddenly Sheila E walked in!!!  Everyone got even louder and excited as she walked toward us and was sweet enough to pose for pictures!  I still had my camera with me (when don’t I have my camera with me?!) so I became the official photographer for our lucky encounter.  Thankfully, someone offered to take a few pictures of me with Sheila and my good friend Isabel Rubio.  What a night!  Unforgettable!

I’ve wanted to tell the story about meeting Sheila E for some time now. Today seemed like the right time to share it with Prince’s sudden passing.  We lost a musical giant today, but his influence lives on in the many people who love his music, the artists he mentored and the many who were fortunate enough to collaborate with him.

“There are no accidents. And if there are, it’s up to us to look at them as something else.  And that bravery is what creates new flowers.”  RIP Prince.

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Countdown to Fiesta 2014!

1512135_10204822064940779_4302687539356264370_oThe 12th annual Fiesta – Alabama’s largest celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage, will take place this Saturday, September 27th in Birmingham’s Linn Park!  What a journey this has been!  I was a founding board member of this event 13 years ago as a member of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Hispanic Business Council (HBC).  The event was created as a way to award scholarships to Hispanic students in the state.  To date we’ve awarded over $50,000 in scholarships and hope that amount will continue to grow as we grow the event.

Fiesta was also created to showcase the best of Hispanic culture and to show that not everyone who speaks Spanish is Mexican. Back when the event was started, that was quite the issue.  But another founding board member, Mike Suco, said it best…he said, “I’m Cuban, but it doesn’t mean I eat salsa!” That quote has stuck with me all these years.  There are so many stereotypes surrounding the Hispanic community in the Birmingham region.  Fiesta exists to help dispel many of those by bringing the Birmingham Latino community together to showcase the best of what each country offers.  To me, it’s the heart of what Fiesta offers to Birmingham and the state.

I remember the first Fiesta in 2003 like it were yesterday…we were so excited about the event but thought we would only have an attendance record of about 2,000 people max. Imagine our surprise when we had about almost 7K people come through!  I remember walking through Linn Park that day, snapping pictures (as the “official” Fiesta photographer), and being absolutely giddy – along with the other board members – about the number of people we were seeing come through!  It was clear to us then that this event was not only something that the community needed, it was something the community was embracing as well!

One of my favorite aspects of Fiesta each year is taking photographs. I get to see and photograph people reconnecting, sharing stories and making new connections.  I remember the first year taking pictures with film!  I think I took about 15 rolls of pictures that year.  Now, with digital photography and all its capabilities, I average about 1,000 pictures each year!  And while I love going through my photos at the end of the day…I LOVE seeing what other photographers capture at Fiesta these days.  It’s great to flip through Facebook and see Fiesta photos each year.  More proof that Fiesta is an event NOT to miss!

Hope you will come out this year – our 12th year – and experience what Fiesta has to offer.  One special note – McDonalds is our Title Sponsor this year!  And they are bringing their Fiesta Tour to Linn Park.  Such a treat and something you won’t want to miss – I saw the tour at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) in Chicago a few years ago and was so impressed!  The Fiesta Tour showcases Latin artists such as Gloria Estefan, Selena and Celia Cruz.  You really need to see this!  We are forever grateful to Birmingham McDonald’s owner Santiago Negre, for making this possible!

Tickets are $5 in advance and $8 at the gate. Fiesta starts at noon and runs through 8 p.m.  See you there!

Here are a few shots of Fiesta through the years…

Fiesta 2004 - then President Mike Suco speaks to the media during Fiesta's 2nd year.

Fiesta 2004 – then President Mike Suco speaks to the media during Fiesta’s 2nd year.

Fiesta 2008 - Wrestling makes an appearance at Fiesta with the Blue Demon!

Fiesta 2008 – Wrestling makes an appearance at Fiesta with the Blue Demon!

Fiesta 2008 - getting a hug from my Cuban friend Lizette at the Cuban booth in the Cultural Village.

Fiesta 2008 – getting a hug from my Cuban friend Lizette at the Cuban booth in the Cultural Village.

Fiesta 2008 - one of my most favorite photos from Fiesta and most often used in Fiesta advertising.  The colors are incredible!

Fiesta 2008 – one of my most favorite photos from Fiesta and most often used in Fiesta advertising. The colors are incredible!

Fiesta 2010 - with Fiesta Board member, Chris Miller when the event was held at Regions Park in Hoover, AL

Fiesta 2010 – with Fiesta Board member, Chris Miller when the event was held at Regions Park in Hoover, AL

Fiesta 2010 - in front of the Coca-Cola/McDonalds Main Stage with my daughter, Anna Marie.

Fiesta 2011 – in front of the Coca-Cola/McDonalds Main Stage with my daughter, Anna Marie.