Los Angeles Does Have Writers

It was a literary smorgasbord attending Lit Fest in Pasadena, California this past weekend. Above, pictures of a panel discussion between Olga García, Daniel A. Olivas, Michael Sedano, Melinda Palacio, and René Colato Lainez, all of La Bloga, or what Michael Sedano refers to as “the world’s longest-established Chicana Chicano Latina Latino literary blog.”

Sedano kicked things off with a discussion of La Bloga’s origins, telling of how the blog first came onto the scene in the early 2000s when the web was still a nebulous space for just a handful of “bloggers,” or literary enthusiasts with webpages.

Imagine that.

What followed were engaging reflections by each author about the extent of their writings on La Bloga, and how their work on the website has also branched out into several books, publishing titles, workshops, and more throughout Los Angeles, California, and around the world.

The writers also told of travails with the written word, the continual learning or ‘updating’ process of marketing their work, and even about how Facebook has actually banned La Bloga citing its security systems, which the whole world knows are obviously impenetrable.

In other words, the discussion was a home-run for the city of Pasadena, and by extension, for Los Angeles. The event was also certainly this Chicano literary geek’s homecoming wish come true, and after gaining the panel’s permission to snap a few photos of their lively conversation, I shivered just so slightly as I told them about JIMBO TIMES: a website dedicated to Los Angeles, the pueblo, by yours truly, where the photos would be featured.

The panelists nodded and smiled with their approval, and right then and there a part of me knew that Los Angeles had again just grown by leaps and bounds before the stars.

J.T.

La Gentrificación del Pueblo Continuará

 

 

Hasta que el pueblo se levanta y dice ya basta.

A walk through any pueblo is the most powerful way to take in its totality. This afternoon through my own, at the intersection of Madison avenue and Willow Brook avenue, I took a moment to photograph the complex above, which is now in the process of redevelopment. Around the abandoned buildings, power lines neighbor nestles of leaves from bevies of trees branching out through the air. Facing east of the complex, less than a minute of walking distance, is Lockwood Elementary school. Where my old friends and I went to school, and where now even some of the children of those old friends go to school.

Today Lockwood Elementary is no longer just one school, however, but ‘two in one,’ as the site is now split between the traditional Los Angeles Unified School District program (LAUSD), and a charter school overseen by Citizens of the World – Silver Lake Charter (CWC), which serves ‘qualified’ students whose enrollment is based on a ‘lottery’. The irony here is that Lockwood is actually not located in the famed Silver Lake area, but instead in what’s known to the English speakers of the neighborhood as ‘East Hollywood’. This is the kind of contradiction that took years in the making. I can show how.

When my friends and I finished fifth grade at Lockwood, our next stop was Thomas Starr King Middle School (King MS) for the sixth through eight grades. King was located East of Virgil boulevard on Fountain avenue, and at just under a mile away from Lockwood, if one made the trek to King MS on foot from say, the old complex at Madison and Willow Brook Avenues, they might reason that the school was actually better situated to serve students located in the Los Feliz area. An urban policy planner might reply to this contention that it’d be an easy fix, however, since all that the parents of the complex at Madison and Willow Brook Avenues had to do was drive their kids to King. Of course, that just meant that the parents had to be able to afford a car, which wasn’t always the case for many of the single mothers who oversaw so many of my peers and I. Even so, at just under a mile of walking distance to the school, the daily trek doing so couldn’t be the end of the world, right? Some parents did it. Indeed, some had to. There wasn’t a whole lot of support for them otherwise.

When my peers and I finished at King MS, what followed for us was John Marshall High School (JMHS) for the ninth through twelfth grades. At just about two miles walking distance from the old apartment complex at Madison and Willow Brook avenues, Marshall was significantly farther east of Virgil boulevard on Tracy Street, and unlike King, which another urban policy planner may argue was located at a ‘border’ point between ‘East Hollywood’ and Los Feliz, an which thus could serve both areas, Marshall HS was definitely located in the Los Feliz area. As such, it was definitely designed to serve the students of parents within that area.

Even so, somehow my friends and I still made it in through the gates at Marshall, either by carpooling with one parent or another, or by the Metro 181 bus for those of us who could catch it early enough in the mornings. But only 48% of the class that my peers and I entered into Marshall with would walk out of the school with their diploma.

Was it planned? With ten years of hindsight from the day of graduation, what I can say is that it certainly wasn’t planned against. That is, from the time my peers and I were at Lockwood, all the way through our time at Marshall, there wasn’t exactly a cultural plan from the urban policy planners around us and the rest of the leadership associated with them to get my peers and I through the neighborhood successfully onto college and back. Was it their job in the first place? One may well argue that it was not, but it’s precisely that same lack of accountability which leads me to believe that in a significant way, the neighborhood surrounding the old complex at Madison and Willow Brook avenues, like pueblos all across Los Angeles, was either supposed to get with the program, or just get lost. That is, parents in our vecindad were supposed to run with the market, or get Left Behind.

Similarly, today’s redevelopment of the old complex at Madison and Willow Brook avenues is a matter of getting with the program. Except that the program of the new complex at the intersection will be one of sleek buildings, the flaunt of which will be accentuated by bold fonts, and the grounds of which will be guarded by steep fences shrouding the complex into seclusion and high visibility all at once, thereby earning its ask for the unenviable rent prices it’s destined for; rent prices that virtually none of the trabajadores now reconstructing the complex day by day, nor any of their vecinos in the pueblo surrounding the complex, will be able afford for them and their children, or even their children’s children.

Asi es. Y asi sera, me dirian tantos compadres en los trabajos por ahi. Pero asi es hasta que nosotros decimos no mas, Los Angeles.

There is reason to nevertheless be hopeful. Everywhere in Los Angeles there is growing A Resistance to precisely this kind of old order of power, as well as to the poor planning or altogether lack of planning that’s stifled pueblos like those of my peers and I, and our movements, throughout The City for decades.

I’ve got a feeling, then, that even at the intersection of Madison and Willow Brook avenues, even if asi es, y asi sera, a resistance to pricing out the pueblo and its children will grow there too. It may not do so overnight, nor even over the course of tomorrow. But it will rise and make its voice known, one day at a time.

Indeed, it has to, Los Angeles.

Asi es. Y asi sera.

J.T.

Get Literary, Los Angeles

Following another lightning round of work for the day, it should have just been another chill bike ride home. But a force came over me as I decided it was time to give something else a try, at last. Just as I was about to make the swerve onto the ole block, I decided to keep going in a stroll through la vecindad. I’d gotten an idea. As I came across intersections through the neighborhood with an outpost or magazine box for the free literature, I stopped, took off my backpack, searched through the folder inside which contained a couple of prints, and then grabbed the prints, taking them out and dropping them off into the boxes. I did this at nine intersections throughout the neighborhood, and the results were printed copies of JIMBO TIMES’s Los Angeles Students at all of the following cross-streets:

Virgil and Normal (1 Post: 2 copies)
Virgil and Monroe (1 Post: 2 copies)
Virgil and Clinton (1 Post: 2 copies)
Vermont and Clinton (1 Post: 2 copies)

Melrose and Vermont (3 Posts: 6 copies)
Vermont and Normal (2 Posts: 6 copies)
Vermont and Santa Monica (3 Posts: 6 copies)
Virgil and Santa Monica (1 Post: 2 copies)

Virgil and Lockwood – (1 Post & The Mini-Library: 2 & 2 -3 copies)

Halfway into making these ’rounds’, I realized something about it all. It was a job. A job that used to exist in days before I came onto the scene when the world was a slightly more literary place. Or at least before all of it became digitized, relinquishing the power of the print into the depths of the past.

Rather than dropping off copies of the New York or L.A. Times, however, I dropped off copies of these JIMBO TIMES. And then something else hit me: I want to make more of these rounds for The L.A. Storyteller. I know that the path towards such future rounds–that is, on a sustainable basis–could be quite long, but then, how I could not give it a shot? Through all these years, the power of the written word has only grown on me, convincing me once and for all that reading and writing are mediums by which a people or pueblo can become aware of their environment in ways that are invaluable to them. And even if Los Angeles never quite had much of A Literary Intellegentsia, as Freire would note, the past does not represent a world we’re consigned to indefinitely, but a possibility incumbent on those of us in the present to uplift for the future.

We’ve got to do it, then, don’t we, Los Angeles? As with all things, one step at a time. But let this be a step towards just that. We are not afraid of a challenge when we know it’s in our veins to take it on. Indeed, that is why we are here.

Let us take it on, then, Los Angeles. Get literary.

J.T.