I first met David Hernandez at La Gente, a storefront community organization in Lakeview on Halsted Avenue in 1974. I was taking a Spanish conversation course there on Saturday mornings, taught by my friend Jerry Schenwar. I was hanging around after class talking to Jerry, when David walked in. He was going to be doing a poetry reading that evening at La Gente, so he invited us to attend.
Jerry didn’t make it that night, but I did. I was blown away by the power of David’s words, capturing the rhythms and cadences of those mean streets that he called home in Chicago’s Puerto Rican barrio. David, who was a year or two younger than me, in his mid-twenties, truly was a poet, and I envied him for his achievements at such a young age. That night I bought his book “Despertando.”
Over the years, I bumped into David a few times at both political and cultural events. He read poems at Mayor Harold Washington’s inaugurations and funeral. He had good street cred, and was admired greatly both in his own community and citywide. He died last year at the age of 66. This year, on December 6, David will be inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. For more information on the induction ceremony go to www.chicagoliteraryhof.org