The single mothers, their fidgeting children, the grumpy teenagers, and the young adults using the printers, the Senior citizens enjoying their classes downstairs, the folks with special needs finding accommodations, and the infrequent visitors who used to come to the branch more often, as well as 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 or took part in planning the Open Mic at Cahuenga, and for what purpose? I want to be sure that they know I was mindful. Daringly mindful. That through any bit of my planning I kept things ‘in house’ at a reasonable pace because I said I would do so. And because I had to do so.
I want them to know that I treated the Cahuenga branch library like the place I call home. While the branch is actually not mi casita and the patrons in it are not my family, I hold it 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. Ultimately, the Friends of Cahuenga is a public good to the neighborhood, belonging to its people, and I can only try to honor this wholeheartedly as a member of the Friends.
At one point in the planning process for the Open Mic this actually meant voicing an opinion that strayed away from the norm of how things usually go in the world of “giving back.” Some context is in order here: when it comes to the work of services, or work for the community and other work that isn’t supported by large budgets and huge 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.
This was not the case for the Open Mic at Cahuenga, however. At one point, through a forwarded email or two in planning for the event, someone from outside of ‘East Hollywood’ actually offered their help in its background setup. 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 actually searching for help ‘closer to home’. That is, ‘home’ as it’s described above.
My reasoning in this response was very simple: before accepting an offer of support for work I’m involved with 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, its 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 that isn’t quite helpful after all when it comes to vulnerable communities like those all across Los Angeles, the knowledge of which makes it crucially important that I be mindful as I develop more of my work in outreach for these same communities moving forward. I’ve also found through the years all across this Wonderful City that when help for a community comes from within that community itself, nine times out of ten that community is better off than when ‘outsiders’ take those positions temporarily before vanishing into the abyss.
This isn’t to say that it’s a golden rule that organizers in L.A. keep things ‘in-house’ all the time, but it is to say that when we value something like a pueblo, it’s important to keep that pueblo close at all times, with all matters, for all intents and purposes.
This is how we roll Los Angeles. Let’s have an amazing time.