Los Angeles is Better for its Graffiti

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Although many business owners, police officers, parks and recreation teams and other professionals might disagree, to a young person in The City with a passion for self-expression, the art of graffiti is unquestionably a respectable and dignified way to get started.

In my teenage years I was a little writer or “tagger” myself before becoming a literary one. Marking my name out there in trailblazing fashion was an ambition that I shared with my peers at the time, and why wouldn’t we be ambitious about it? We were in the City of Stars, after all, surrounded by billboards from Calvin Klein and Coca Cola, which took their space above us regardless of how we might have felt about it.

Even beyond the billboards, however, American culture was just as crazy about “disruption” then as it is today. That is, the idea of American exceptionalism, or the sense of doing it anyway was just how my peers and I cut ourselves a piece of the American dream in our own little way. I can see no reason why it’d be any different for those still out there taking their space in this fashion today, letting their contemporaries and anyone else know with each ‘tag’ that:

They were here; that they made it; and that they are still going.

Of course, as time passed, graffiti art became for me just one of many ways to express myself. The fact of the matter is that after so many of the young graffiti writers around me were criminalized, I had to make a choice. I could either continue to subvert the laws and write my name out until the law of the land forced me stop, or I could just let it go and find something else to do. I chose the latter. Today, the one thing about graff that’s clear to me is that if you want to do it, it’s best to get the proper permissions first.

But it’s a lengthy process to come of age in the City of Los Angeles no matter what we do. As such, JIMBO TIMES salutes the graffiti writers of L.A., old and new alike, wherever they might be in their journey out here. Without them and their ambition, L.A. could only be half as glitz and glossy.

J.T.

MacArthur Park is Critical to Los Angeles

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Situated at a central point of Los Angeles, MacArthur park is a mostly neglected landscape that many people in the city nevertheless rely on. To my knowledge, since as far back as the 1980s, its lengthy green pastures and the enclosed concrete within have set the stage for generations of Centro-Americanos to hang out and assess life in L.A.

Over ten years ago, it was also a major site for L.A.’s biggest mass mobilization ever, when the 2006 Marches in support of undocumented immigrants made their way through its green space. I took part in those demonstrations, and in doing so, discovered a piece of myself within el pueblo that I carry with me to this day.

Only the next year after L.A.’s largest mass demonstration for immigrants ever, in a subsequent march known as the 2007 May Day March, which stood for the same protections as the previous demonstrations, the park would be the epicenter of a brutal crackdown on protesters and activists at the hands of then police chief William Bratton’s LAPD. Police officers fired over 100 rounds of projectiles directly into the peaceful crowd, descended on journalists with their batons, and kicked mothers and children who didn’t scurry quickly enough at their call. Although the department eventually admitted its breakdown in the face of peaceful demonstration, no subsequent reports of chiefs at fault being disciplined or a policy overhaul were ever made known.

Today the park is home to many of L.A.’s ‘homeless’ population, whose encampments are situated in and across 35 acres of greenscape; while the greenery still glistens with life, the park’s restrooms–like much of the ground surrounding them–are in need of deep washing; and apart from sanitation, the park also needs more spaces devoted to the surrounding neighborhood such as recreation centers, spaces for the elderly, and playgrounds for youth.

Walking through MacArthur’s vast and fragmented terrains, one might almost forget that it’s smack-dab in the middle of a city yearning to be known for its innovation. It’s then that one realizes that it’s actually past time to apply some innovative solutions to rein in the park’s neglect. But make no mistake about it: the descendants of those Centro-Americano workers–including those activists and protesters from 2006–still have the park in sight and are not short on ideas about its future. Stay tuned.

J.T.

Los Feliz: Perspective

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These photos were taken in the neighborhood of Los Feliz in north central Los Angeles, where lofty architecture promises a luxurious lifestyle for those who can afford it. As a humble photographer from south of Los Feliz, I cannot afford it! But I can sure appreciate the artistic dimensions, and when I document and share it, I create my own personal moment with the promise, which is its own form of living luxuriously.