UCI’s Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation was founded only a couple of years ago, but it’s already managed to make great strides in the direction of its goal of eliminating poverty. The Blum Center works through several initiatives, including the Global Service Scholars Program and their own publication, InSight Magazine. The Center attempts to approach issues from a global perspective and tackle them with empathy and compassion in order to solve one of our generation’s most menacing but overlooked problems, poverty.
In an attempt to get the word out about the vast number of opportunities that the UC Irvine Blum Center has to offer, organizers hosted the Compassion Concert: Perla Batalla in the House of Cohen at Winifred Smith Hall last Friday. Richard Matthew, associate dean for international programs and also professor and director of CUSA and Blum Center, welcomed guests, briefing them about the Blum Center programs and introducing the acts for the night.
After a brief guided meditation exercise led by a UCI alum Gary Dylewski, the audience got to see what everyone in the room had been waiting for, as Perla Batalla took the stage.
Perla Batalla is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter who has earned consistent critical acclaim. As one of the late singer Leonard Cohen’s close friends and frequent collaborators, she gave a moving tribute to Cohen’s legacy, conveying her love for his music and poetry in her own unique cross-cultural style. Batalla was also the perfect performer for an event organized by the Blum Center, since she has her own ongoing outreach programs spread across some of the poorest parts of the country. She also happens to be the recipient of the United Nations’ Earth Charter Award for “extraordinary devotion to social and economic justice” and the Premio Fronterizo Award for “healing work in the world”.
Through this Compassion Concert, Batalla gave the audience insights into her time working and traveling with Cohen and using her cross-cultural experiences to talk about Cohen’s love for the Spanish language and also singing some of his songs in the poetic language.
Perla Batalla was accompanied on stage by a group of musicians each lauded for prowess in their art. This group included Dimitris Mahlid on guitar and oud, Michele Brourman on keys, Bobby Furgo, another of Cohen’s collaborators on violin, and Pete Korpela, a Latin Grammy-nominated percussionist.
The concert epitomized the Blum Center’s mission to get students involved in issues concerning poverty through the activities in which “universities excel: innovative educational programs, basic and applied research, and direct engagement in the areas of policy and community development.” The UCI Blum Center is a part of the system-wide consortium that began with the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley, and now includes all ten of the UC campuses. Through community events like Friday’s, this network of universities is working towards eliminating one of the “world’s most daunting challenges — poverty.”