While posts have been far and fewer this month, I can assure the people of J.T. that their friendly local neighborhood writer hasn’t actually been away, but that in addition to Starbucks, I’ve also been on a super-secret assignment as of late.
I’ll detail the specifics of the assignment when the time is right, but for now, what I can say to the people is that it has everything to do with L.A., and everything to do with yet another crucial part of what’ll make The L.A. Storyteller a premier source for the ‘third world’s’ voice in Los Angeles.
And what a powerful thing it is to call J.T. an experiment for the third world. Just earlier, it dawned on me how only a few years ago, any discussion about “where I came from” was one I avoided more often than not.
During college it was easy, after all, to talk about anything except myself. There was an English course to discuss, or a philosophical argument to pose. There was news to review with friends, or some traveling to chat about. It was all fascinating subject matter, of course, and I couldn’t count how many passionate conversations I enjoyed with so many people, but what I didn’t realize while I was having those conversations was just how much my perspective was actually influenced by the environment that I was born and raised in.
I always knew I came from ‘the hood’, but I didn’t exactly view ‘the hood’ as anything more than a fact of life. Or, I didn’t view my upbringing as anything which was truly unfair, but as something which was just unique in its own regard, like anyone else’s upbringing.
I still view things this way, but I’m more interested than ever in how the different backgrounds in L.A. got to be this way. I’m interested, for example, in just how LAUSD’s 2008 class graduated only 48% of its students on time.
I’m similarly interested in how over 58,000 people ended up on L.A.’s streets and parks. I wonder during which mayoral administration homelessness took off so much, and just how shelters and civic groups have failed to catch up throughout the years.
In the same sense, I’m interested in the link between L.A.’s role as the largest jail system in the country, which books over 171,000 people annually, and the 450 hoods claimed by over 45,000 gang members throughout the county.
Critics and sociologists have long recognized a ‘school to prison pipeline’, but with J.T., I’d like to develop discussions that consider the individuals referenced by such phrases as actual people, not as statistics. I’d like to do this for the simple reason that I’ve been one of the statistics described above who’s also met a number of other people with stories that have been ignored, neglected, or flat out denied by our society. With this experience in mind, I feel it’s only right to talk about my people with the same honor and respect with which we speak to each other every time we cross paths.
As it has been for me personally, many of the youngsters at school, like the homies from the neighborhood or the homeless on the streets, may not exactly know how they’re being marginalized, although they do understand that something is tragically unfair about their environments.
In turn, as I was fortunate enough to meet people from a different side of the tracks who’d encourage me to see a different side of the world, I want to serve as a source for the next generation of individuals who will comprise L.A.’s schools, its governing offices, and the myriad of great things these organizations can accomplish together.
I see a ‘third L.A.’, then, not as a hopeless world, but as a sleeping giant, filled with the potential to create a world in the 21st century which the people of the 21st century deserve.
After all, it was just in 2013 that LAUSD increased its graduation rates to 66%! By the same change of the tide, in 2014 voters in California passed Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for petty drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, thereby reducing the potential number of people sent to California’s overcrowded prisons.
And while L.A. hasn’t yet committed itself to ending homelessness on its streets, I know that I’ll never forget the friends and neighbors on the street. I might be just one person, but one day at a time, I meet another individual, and together we all grow consciousness for the parts of ourselves from the other eyes of our community; one step at a time.
With More Soon,