I am writing as a social work professional who has supervised and taught graduate level social work students for over 25 years at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Work. I am also a member of Taller’s Board and volunteer my expertise in a number of ways such as staff training, professional development, strategic plan development, event planning, evaluation etc. Taller’s Board has grown and is stronger today, along with staff and supporters having increased the organization’s capacity in a number of areas critical for all great nonprofits. I have witnessed the unique leadership of Taller’s CEO Dr. Carmen Febo San Miguel and the impact of an extremely gifted, talented and caring staff on meeting community in needs for children, youth, elderly and families. Taller Puertorriqueño is a premier nonprofit. Celebrating 40 years of providing key services to a deserving community that celebrates, promotes, preserves and expands Puerto Rican and Latino arts and culture is no easy feat. While other nonprofits have succumbed to the economic, social and political challenges of the last decade, Taller remains strong and growing. The numerous awards and honors attest to this as we prepare to break ground on Taller’s state of the art Latino Cultural Arts Center, a Philadelphia destination in the heart of this valuable community. Taller’s educational services for children and youth are among the best in the country. This is another critical accomplishment given that the community served is in the poorest zip code of Philadelphia and with a troubled public school system. Through its afterschool, summer programs and homework club Taller contributes to the children and youth’s educational process and academic success. Tonight I will have the opportunity to observe the accomplishment of the current students (elementary, middle, and high school) as they present their semester end program. This is always a highlight as the dedicated work of the students with the support of a talented and committed educational staff are clearly visible. Taller Puertorriqueño is a Best Non Profit in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania and across the nation and deserve the highest distinction among great nonprofits. Please stop by and see for yourself. Elena Marie DiLapi
Taller Puertorriqueño exists in an area where poverty, drugs and teen pregnancy are above the average. Taller provides an alternative to young people. With opportunities to express themselves in art and theater, and with adults who have survived and excelled in a rough environment, youngsters can feel that there is a future beyond the danger and anger they experience in their environment. Soon, with enough money, there will be a new neighborhood center for Taller's activities and neighborhood events. What a bonus it can be for the North Philadelphia neighborhood.
As a non-Hispanic, I have long supported and volunteered for Taller Puertorriqueno because, despite its origins and hence its name, it represents the cultures of the peoples of all our Spanish speaking Caribbean island and Latin America neighbors - cultures whose art, music, dance, literature and architecture are deep and rich. As our own country becomes more Hispanic, it is vital to promote the creative brilliance of our Latin neighbors as a tool for understanding and friendship. For over 35 years and with an excellence that has earned it so many awards and accolades, Taller Puertorriqueno has enriched the Philadelphia region with the gift of the Latino arts.
I adopted Philadelphia as my home after college in part because of the strength of its neighborhoods. Friendships drew me to the Puerto Rican community and then to Taller which well earned its name as "the Cultural Heart of the Barrio". I am drawn to the energy, passion, warmth of their events. I love learning and experiencing the richness of latin culture. I love the mixing of generations. I have such respect for their commitment to staying in the barrio despite the many challenges this presents.
My personal experience with Taller has been a very long and positive one. I was one of the individuals that was originally around when a group of youth were meeting at ASPIRA,Inc. of PA and talked about racism, discrimination and what every other ills existed in the mid-70s. At that particular time, Puerto Ricans were searching for a place to identify with. You had the dominant class, and you had African-Americans, and Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia did not seem to belong any where. Based on the need for Self-Identity, Cultural Awareness, and the need to enhance our self-esteem as a people, the idea of Taller, which means "workshop" and of course Puertorriqueno, identified us. The idea was to have a workshop where young Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia could work together to learn about our rich history, cultural, ancestory, our language, authors, artists, artisans, etc. We wanted to find out who we were. We wanted to be proud of our heritage, and with this pride, we could ignore the folks that constantly called us "spics". Taller has been key in the development and appreciation of culture, language, arts and Latinos as a people. I personally, thank Taller for making me feel so proud and passionate about who I am, and where I came from. If Taller did not teach us that, who would? Not the traditional sources of education, at least not back then. Taller has transcended generations, has struggled to continue to exist and continue its mission. Taller is genuinely the cultural heart of "El Barrio" in Philadelphia, and as an individual who has lived in Philadelphia since the age of three, I give thanks to Taller for instilling in me my cultural pride and identity, which I inturn have passed down to my children and their children. Taller is needed in our community today, as much as, it was needed in the 70s, because although it is a new day, there is a need for positive reinforcements for our youth, a place our youth can feel comfortable about expresssing their creative talents and being encouraged rather than shot down. Taller is a place that our community can say yes to. Taller has been and continues to be one of the organizations, I am most passionate about. Taller has impacted and help raise many community leaders. I know that Taller definitely assisted in my personal growth and development.