Monthly Cultural Corner - February 2024

February 6, 2024

Black History Month Cultural Spotlight Compilation

The month of February celebrates and acknowledges so many wonderful things that when it came time to think of a person for the February, cultural spotlight, I was torn.  Should I focus on a Valentine spotlight, maybe someone who demonstrates gratitude and unity or someone who is a part of PLC’s Black History Month.  I then decided to choose someone who exemplifies all of these.  Better yet, let’s have a few spotlights.  I am proud to cast this month’s spotlight far and wide as we celebrate and recognize Sean Alred, Kishi Gonzales and Karina Wynn!

Sean Alred

My name is Sean Alred. I am an Assistant Project Manger for Abbey Road. From 1994-2005 I worked under the Penny Lane umbrella as an Instructional Aide at New Directions School, and from 2005-2020 I worked as a QI/Program Manager in Housing Services.

I was born in Nashville, TN and moved to Long Beach, CA at the age of 4 in August of 1975. I am the youngest of 2 children and my sister and I are separated by one year. My father relocated our family to California to record an album with the Dynamic Five, "Love is the Key", for the United Artist record label, which was released in 1978, and is currently a collector’s item because it is extremely hard to find. One original copy of the album recently sold in Japan for over $6k.

I sort of followed my father’s love for music and performing, becoming a breakdancer as a teen, a touring back-up dancer and Soul Train dancer as a young adult, and a radio DJ since 2004. I consider myself an (untrained) chef and a pit master. I also owned and operated a catering company for several years with my wife. As a child and as an adult, my house has been filled with music, food, and friends regularly.

In 2018 I made the decision to return to school to finish my college degree for myself as well as an example for my son who graduated high school that year. I’m proud of myself for earning both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

I’d say my family culture revolves around hard work, friendship, fellowship, the arts, and constantly seeking out knowledge. I’m still big on Southern Hospitality from my Nashville roots and have made it a point to pass that down to my son because I believe that the way I treat people has opened many doors and experiences that have enriched my life.

Kishi Gonzales

My name is Kishi Gonzales and I am a Case Manager for Permanent Supportive Housing in the AV.  I have been with PLC for 7 years in June.  I can say I am truly blessed to be a part of multiple cultures. My parents had 5 girls which we were called the rainbow tribe due to our various skin tones. As a child I was raised in Chula Vista where my family would go to TJ (Tijuana) most weekends to either purchase household items, medicine, or to have lunch or dinner. We would drive to the LA area to visit my grandmother in the Aliso Village projects now known as Pueblo Del Sol. My grandmother would always have tamales or fried tacos for us to eat when we visited, and my mom would make a pot of greens for her. To this day I make these same dishes with homemade refried beans and rice for my children at least once a week.

My family loved to travel. We did a lot of traveling up the coast for camping adventures or out of state like Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, and Puerto Rico to visit family. My stepfather (Poppie) carried on the tradition of traveling and introduced us to the Ethiopian culture. In addition, I also learned my family originated from Louisiana which is also known as “The Boot” home of the famous GUMBO and KING CAKE.  My paternal and maternal family (cousins and aunts) still reside in several parts of Louisiana. In my adult years I married and had 9 wonderful children, 2 boys and 7 girls. When my youngest was a year old I moved my family from California to Louisiana, where I taught in their school system. I embraced the state for it was like fulfilling a dream and my inner country girl spirit. My children endured a little culture shock because they had to get used to state mandated uniforms, proper language greeting “yes ma’am, yes sir,” and even the paddle for discipline in some schools. I can remember my children’s first day returning from school, they were so shocked. They all came storming in the house saying, “momma guess what we ate for lunch, we had greens, shrimp and jambalaya with strawberry milk, or we could choose Kool-Aid.”

In our down time we would drive into Lafayette to eat fried gator or coon (raccoon) or New Orleans aka NOLA to go purchase beignets (fried like biscuits covered with powder sugar) and coffee with chicory at Cafe Du Monde. I enjoyed making my family crawfish etouffee or cooking up sausage with some good ole’ potato salad.

In the summer we would go to the Blue Bayou Water Park. At Christmas time in Baton Rouge there is a huge celebration of floats like Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday - festival with vibrant colored beads, bands, and King cake is eaten.) The festivities would parade through the streets and toss several beaded necklaces and other trinkets.  

I eventually moved back to California and applied at Cal State Bakersfield where I was able to obtain my BA and decided I was just not satisfied and wanted to further my education and applied at Purdue University where I received my master’s in public administration and Master of Science in Human Services. My retirement goal is to move back to Gonzales, Louisiana in Ascension Parish but in the meantime, I will continue serving my family all those exquisite foods and travel, travel, travel!!!

Karina Wynn

My name is Karina Wynn, and I am a Case Manager for Permanent Supportive Housing in the AV.  I have been with PLC since November 2023.

I was born in Glendale, CA . My parents purchased their first house in Palmdale, California when I was about four years old.  Years later my parents decided to sell their home and relocate to Santa Clarita, CA. My mother said it was love at first site, she knew this home would become “The Wynn Residence”. I didn’t think she knew this home would become THE family home, but God saw differently. It’s small but has accommodated a large growing family. The walls are etched with memories of Christmas gift openings, new year’s eve countdowns, Easter egg hunts, 4th of July BBQs, engagement announcing, and baby showers. Traditions are more than just daily rituals for African American families; they are a way to connect with the richness of African American culture and celebrate heritage.  

Ida Wise, is my 3x great grandmother who left her family in Georgia in the late 1800’s and settled in a small town called Mart, Texas. She realized early on that purchasing land is powerful, so she worked hard and saved and was able to purchase 113 acres.  She used every acre and began a lucrative business selling watermelons and hay barrels. Her earnings afforded her financial stability, jobs for the “colored”, and a cemetery for “black only” population. It is her spirit of perseverance that reminds me to keep a “yes I can” attitude when I am faced with my toughest battles.

When I think of Black history month, it means recognizing people who have been overlooked and undervalued. When President G. Ford recognized Black History Month in 1976, he urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every endeavor throughout history. There is no greater feeling than those who give you your flowers.

My Favorite Mantra

I want to thank Karina, Sean and Kishi for their willingness to share their culture with us.  Thinking of the month of February and all that it brings, a few things jumped out at me where Sean, Karina and Kishi demonstrated the different aspects of the month, all while celebrating Black History.  As Sean shared his story, I heard his familial history being played out.  The music made by his father and Sean’s ability to continue to share music as an integral part of the Black experience in America.

Kishi’s story, like so many Black and African American families, amplifies love as she shared her family’s cultural roots, the enjoyment of different foods and the traditions that are celebrated.

Karina’s appreciation for the Wynn Residence is palpable as I recall times in which Black and African American families were unable to have homes of their own.  There is love, laughter and celebration in that home and tradition is steeped into their daily routines.

Black and African American families thrive when with family.  They embrace traditions and dance to music that tells their stories.  While I know that this is true of many cultures, this month we celebrate the African American story and we celebrate it here at PLC because we know that without you this agency would not be the same.

-Judy Grant, Penny Lane Centers

Check out some more photos below!