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 working class voice in Los Angeles.
And what a powerful thing it is to call J.T. an experiment for the working class. Just 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.
I’m also 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 create space for 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.
Moreover, I can see that just as it has been for me personally, it’s also true that many of the youngsters at schools today may not exactly know how they’re being marginalized, although they do understand that something is tragically unfair about their environments.
And so, as I was fortunate enough to meet people from so many different walks of life through the course of my education who’d encourage me to see a different side of the world, I want to serve as a motivating source for the next generation of individuals who will make L.A.’s schools, governing offices, and much more.
I now see this “working class 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 token, in 2014 voters in California passed Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for petty drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, lowering the potential number of people sent to California’s overcrowded prisons instead of treatment centers or clinics.
And while L.A. hasn’t yet committed itself to ending homelessness on its streets, I’ve got a feeling that we’re getting there.
One step in commitment at a time,