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Jose Montoya tribute will take place in Sacramento

The life, art and times of José Montoya -- educator, poet, artist and Chicano political activist -- will be celebrated Thursday night in a free public gathering that will draw actor Edward James Olmos, playwright Luis Valdez ("Zoot Suit") and legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta, among others to Sacramento's Crest Theater.

"My father's sensitivity to all people, and especially to people of modest means, meant to us that we had a mandate to present a large, free, public event," Gina Montoya, one of Jose Montoya's children, said in a phone interview this week.

A foundational figure in California Latino culture in the decades after World War II, Montoya, Sacramento's former poet laureate, died last Sept. 25 at 81.

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Montoya, professor emeritus of Art Education at Cal State University Sacramento, was born in New Mexico but grew up in California’s Central Valley. He joined his family working in the fields when he was 9 years old.

He served on a U.S. Navy minesweeper during the Korean War. Later, after studying at San Diego City College and the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, he began his teaching career at Wheatland Union High School in Northern California.

He was the author of three collections of poetry, including "In Formation: 20 Years of Joda," and was a co-founder of the Royal Chicano Air Force, an influential collective of Chicano artist-activists.

Among the other presenters at Thursday's event will be author Ana Castillo; Jose Montoya's brother, artist Malaquias Montoya; and the late poet's sons, Joe Montoya Jr., founder of Sacramento's Poetry Unplugged, Richard Montoya, co-founder of the L.A.-based performance group Culture Clash, and Vincent Montoya, a musician and singer-songwriter.

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