Cahuenga Public Library in Los Angeles; Fall 2017
Cahuenga Public Library in Los Angeles; Fall 2017

The single mothers, their fidgeting children, the grumpy teenagers, and the young adults using the printers. It is the Senior citizens enjoying their classes downstairs, folks with special needs finding accommodations, and the infrequent visitors who used to come to the branch more often. It’s also the various other patrons of the library who breathe life into it day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out.

They are the people I have in mind every time I so much as utter a word about anything relating to Cahuenga, and they’re also ‘there’ when I think about what ‘looking back’ at my time organizing for the branch will look and/or sound like. When the question comes up, as in: just who planned the first ever Open Mic Hour at Cahuenga, and for what purpose? I want to be sure that people know I was mindful. Daringly mindful, in that through any bit of my planning I kept things ‘in-house’ in a reasonable fashion because I said I would do so. And because I had to do so.

I want people to know that I treated the Cahuenga branch library like the place I call home, because while the branch is actually not mi casita and the patrons in it are not my family, I hold Cahuenga in esteem as if it were my humble abode, and as if the folks in its community are in fact the people I’m held accountable to. This is why, ultimately, I view the Friends of Cahuenga non-profit group which is assisting me in the planning as a public good to the neighborhood, belonging to its people, and myself as a member of the group a trustee.

I’m stating this because at one point in the planning process for the Open Mic this actually meant voicing an opinion to the group which strayed away from the norm of how things usually go in the world of non-profits. To provide you with the proper context for this situation, all you have to know is that when it comes to the work of services, or work for the community that isn’t supported by large budgets and professional staffing, there’s a way in which help from anywhere is help enough. As such, what often happens with events like the Open Mic at Cahuenga is that when just about anyone volunteers their support, it’s taken almost for granted that such support is accepted.

I made sure that this was actually not the case for the Open Mic at Cahuenga, however. A few weeks into the organizing of the event, through a forwarded email or two in planning for the event, someone from outside of ‘East Hollywood’ actually offered their help to set up the Open Mic. Although I was initially receptive to this offer, after some careful consideration, I ultimately had to thank the person for their time and inform them that I was looking for help ‘closer to home’. That is, ‘home’ as it’s described above in the description of the library.

My reasoning in this response was very simple: before accepting an offer of support for work I’m involved in from any source I don’t quite know, I’ve got to have a solid understanding of just where that support comes from, its background, infrastructure, and how these things align or misalign with the values of JIMBO TIMES, which are to celebrate the pueblos situated in Los Angeles. I would expect no less from anyone claiming to serve me and my peers from a position of power; as one Uncle Ben once said, with great power, comes great responsibility.

There is a long history, a legacy of “help” all across the globe that isn’t quite helpful after all. And so when it comes to vulnerable communities like those I’ve got in mind through Los Angeles, my knowledge of the way that “help” is not always helpful makes it critically important that I be mindful as I develop more work for the communities I mean to uplift. I’ve also found through the years all across this Wonderful City that nine times out of ten, when “help” for a community comes from within that community itself, the community is better off than when ‘outsiders’ take those positions temporarily before vanishing into abyss.

This isn’t to say that it’s a golden rule that organizers in L.A. keep organizing for events like the Open Mic ‘in-house’ all the time, but it is to say that when we value something like our pueblos, it’s important to keep the pueblo close at all times, with all matters, and for all intents and purposes.

This is how we roll Los Angeles. Now, let’s have an amazing time.

J.T.

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