Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 26

I’ve seen how little by little, people are now are embracing more the isolation that’s been popularized through this public health crisis. This is best demonstrated by the prevalence of the face mask, the new symbol of acceptance for a more precarious reality. I think of people in Beijing, China, who came to terms with precarious conditions years ago once realizing their city’s air was one of the most polluted in the world. 

But it’s now clear that China isn’t the only nation that can act swiftly and with authority towards a serious public health threat. For this reason, climate change, and curbing carbon emissions worldwide, should be a renewed issue that all the nations of the world should pay attention to with refreshed eyes.

After witnessing the quickness and consistency with which the entire globe has treated the threat of COVID-19, can the presidents of the world’s nations, particularly this one, continue insisting to people that climate change is another “hoax” we should pay no mind to, or which at the very least we shouldn’t take some precautions for? 

Throughout this crisis, an abundance of data, from reports of the Black community’s disproportionate death rate in relation to the disease, to reports of the shortage of access to testing in places like South Central Los Angeles and Palmdale, where Latinos make up the majority of the population, demonstrate how existing healthcare inequalities are only exacerbated by public health threats which, income brackets notwithstanding, pose a risk to every member of society. 

If given a true moment to pause, can the president of this nation–in the case he is reelected–genuinely walk away unmoved by what the crisis has revealed about our inertia towards radical changes in society? More importantly, can the president see how despite a response which was globally slower than it should have been, nations everywhere have managed to enact serious policies to curb the damage wrought by this pandemic? 

This leads to another question our elected officials and voters everywhere must ask: how committed are we to the differences that divide us, separating rich from poor?

I think of Mitch McConnell, who in my opinion has been the most dangerous member of Congress for over a decade now, placing the health and well-being of American workers in harm’s way at the mercy of corporate executives and hedge fund managers. Clearly McConnell has not been shaken by this moment in our nation’s history to move in support of transformative and overdue changes to our way of life here–universal healthcare access, a new federal minimum wage, gun safety legislation, student debt forgiveness being a few that come to mind–so we have to ask: what’s left?

Love it or hate it, it appears that all we have now is November. I wish there were a better answer, but for now we’ve got to make do with what’s in front of us. Something I’ve come to know well over the course of time.

Let’s get to it, Los Angeles.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 24

I’d like to dedicate today’s writing to any human being out there besides myself who’s had a difficult time of late due to the health crisis. Although I’ve frequently written about this moment in our nation’s history as something of a collective experience, it’s still true that there are many out there who don’t have the privilege to reflect on time in this way.

In the world before the shutdown, some of my favorite pastimes included boarding the Metro 704 bus across Santa Monica boulevard, or the Metro 754 bus south of Vermont avenue. There was also the Red Line, which I sometimes loathed and sometimes loved, but which was crucial for connecting to Koreatown and Union Station, transporting my footsteps to these and so many other different swaths of L.A. Now, the only time I’ve come together with any of these services has been through the photographs I’ve taken of them while walking along the intersections.

I can still walk, another privilege not everyone has, which makes it more accessible for me to keep up with a new routine despite the challenges. I stroll to places like Villalobos Market, as well as Jons for tortillas and jamón. When time permits, I like to scour the nearby Pacific French Bakery or Guatemalteca Bakery for the conchas I continue holding so dearly.

Nowadays, each of these places are transformed as grocery stores and bakeries all over the world might be, but they are still what they’ve always been: tiny places still storing a world of goods for a people to continue living, for a culture to continue surviving.

When a friend and I spoke for my podcast recently, she mentioned that on seeing the liquor stores and the neon lights illuminating the storefronts, she knew she was in my vicinity. Until she made that comment, I hadn’t stopped to realize just how much I actually reflect these humble establishments. I wonder for a moment exactly when each of these places first came to be, and just how many people’s lives they’ve touched over the years, how magnified that process is now. I see them with renewed eyes, and it’s a privilege to be able to recognize them as stalwart pillars in the community clothed in humble dress; as old and new pueblos in Los Angeles for the way people make them, and for the way they make people.

In Los Angeles, where people daily crush engines rushing past such pueblos in a scramble for their freeways, and where they rush past the silhouettes whose steps extend the life of these pueblos, like photosynthesis, pumping fresh air into the entirety of the land, I hope they can see it all just a little more clearly now; this is our home, our vecindario, overseen by flocks of angels in fluttering strides at every corner.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 12

Because more than one reader has asked, it’s a relief to note that Doña Ana was able to find some toilet paper for herself and her boys not too long after her cuento was shared on the blog. She has been home with her boys the last two weeks, taking the precautionary measures extra seriously. In addition to her duties looking after her sons, Doña Ana also manages her blood pressure for type 2 diabetes; needless to say, illnesses already take an extra toll on her immune system, so she is simply not taking any chances with coronavirus.

All across Los Angeles are mothers sheltering in place with their mijos, watching diligently for their needs by the minute, and rising to meet each call with grace that is also fierceness that is also deep compassion and communication.

Since our report yesterday, an additional five cases have been recorded in East Hollywood for a total of ten (10), while the adjacent Silver Lake area has reported an additional eight (8) for a total of eighteen (18) cases there. The numbers will keep growing through the next few weeks, but there’s reason to be hopeful.

L.A. continues to lie like a ghost-town, and while I know that our officials have to be cautiously optimistic, meaning that they should say little at this point over the effects of the stay at home orders, it’s clear that in Los Angeles–as everywhere else the restriction of movement has been taken seriously–the orders will have a positive effect in slowing the rate of the spread.

Even so, already the city is changing immeasurably. Already it is becoming something that will also take time to unravel from when the winds turn back in the other direction. Doña Ana is looking after her and her kids’ well being with vivacious fervor. She is adapting to meet the moment by taking on a set of new customs given an unsecured environment. These new customs will not simply vanish into thin air once the worst of the coronavirus passes.

All of society can be thought of as a child; once that child is taught a new behavior, the longer the new behavior is maintained, the more it stands to become a part of that child’s permanent character. Humans aren’t born to be afraid just as they aren’t born to discriminate against each other, but they learn these things over time.

I heard recently that a society is based–most of all–on trust, a trust in institutions. When a couple trusts that they can live within a certain area, they take their chances and move in there. When a set of parents trust the schools within their range, they take their chances and allow strangers at those schools to parent after their kids for a while.

With this health scare, however, trust is ebbing out with each day. Trust is changing. And it won’t simply crawl right back in haste. To the science which will show that diseases like the coronavirus are manageable with enough purposeful planning, many people will turn away. To the invitations to socialize with others for the benefit of time as a community, more people will choose to save the hassle and spend time at home instead. To love, people will ask themselves, do I want love, or life?

Our society will feel lonelier as a result of being changed by this collective experience. It will feel traumatized. But it’s perhaps exactly then that we can begin a process of collective recovery inclusive of all of our well being. What a time to a just be a witness for all of it. What an extraordinary time. Here’s to JIMBO TIMES being here.

J.T.

40 Cuentos

Did you hear about the blogger from Los Angeles turned fashionista?

It’s Los Cuentos.

In these last days of winter, I’ve got on hand my first bulk order for Los Cuentos hoodies by Jimbo Times. 40 hoodies, that is.

I’ve now got to sell all 40 hoodies before the first day of March in order to keep the production going! Can you help me do it? Colors come in Black and Maroon, and are available in small, medium and large sizes. You can place your order HERE.

If the hoodie’s not for you, you can get one for your friends or family! It’s a comfy, cozy and resilient piece to get through winter with.

Each sale earns yours truly a humble profit to keep the site and podcast running, but it’s not about the profit. It’s about the challenge; it’s about the unending call to adventure and success in Los Angeles despite any odds to the contrary!

So, what do you say L.A?

Let’s get the world Cuentos!

J.T.

Deed Restrictions in Los Feliz and East Hollywood

Red Car On Santa Monica Blvd - 1940
Red Car on Santa Monica Boulevard, ‘East Hollywood’; 1940

T-RACES, or the Testbed for the Redlining Archives of California’s Exclusionary Spaces, is a powerful map and treasure cove of historical documents showing how cities like Los Angeles were developed over the course of the 20th century, particularly during the years just before World War II. The archives contain ‘area descriptions’ of L.A. neighborhoods as seen by city and county officials of the National Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC); to learn more about the HOLC, readers can visit Design and Violence, where my treasure hunt for the documents began.

I’ve gathered a few of the area descriptions of the “Los Feliz” and “East Hollywood” neighborhoods, respectively, all of them dated from 1939. It’s fascinating to see the old vecindades distinguished by their racial and class makeup. For example, in the Los Feliz neighborhood, the absence of “foreign families” or “negros” based on the “deed restrictions” banning their presence, as well as single-family residential zoning, lead to a “high green” or attractive rating for the HOLC:

“[In Los Feliz] …Deed restrictions cover both improvement costs and racial elements. Zoning is single-family residential. Conveniences are as available as is desirable in a multi-car garage neighborhood. This area was subdivided some 15 years ago, and was engineered and platted to contour resulting in well arranged and improved streets. Construction, maintenance and architectural designs are of the highest quality. Population is of a high character and many of the city’ s wealthiest citizens reside here. Values shown above are somewhat conjectural as size and location of homesite affects prices. This also applies to rentals as quality of tenant is a large consideration. With a convenient location, ideal building sites and high caliber deed restrictions, this area should continue indefinitely to attract a substantial type of resident. On the basis of present development and future prospects area is accorded a “high green ” grade.”

By contrast, in East Hollywood, for the ‘concentration of Jewish families’, along with 5 & 6 room dwellings, or apartment buildings with 5 to 6 units, a “medial yellow” or “only fairly” attractive grade is accorded.

“[In East Hollywood] …There are no deed restrictions and zoning, while mainly single-family, also permits all types of multi-family residential structures in different parts and is also “spot zoned” for business and provides for numerous institutional developments. Two of the largest hospitals in the city are located within the area. Conveniences are all readily available. This area was originally largely occupied by the old Sullivan Farm and was subdivided approximately 25 years ago. Divided by and surrounded with business thoroughfares this far-flung area contains a miscellaneous array of multi-family residential development; however, the pre-dominating type of residence is 5 & 6 room dwellings which are generally of standard construction and fairly well maintained. It is said to be one of the community’s best rental districts. Rumors of scattered Japanese and Negro residents were not confirmed as none were located except upon the business thoroughfares. There is a concentration of Jewish families between Melrose and Santa Monica Blvd. east of Western Avenue. The population in general is heterogeneous, as is also the aspects of the improvements. There is a fair percentage of owner occupancy and many homes are still occupied by original owners. There is a decided trend at present toward business and income properties; however, it is thought that the major part of the area will remain predominantly single-family for many years to come. The area is accorded a “medial yellow” grade.”

Such standards beg the question, just who is the HOLC describing these conditions to?

That is, just who determines that ‘negros’, ‘foreign’ and ‘Jewish’ people and their dwellings reduce the overall quality of life? In literature it’s called the white gaze, or the white imagination that dictates a certain narrative or reality.

With these frameworks in mind, I was excited to read about just how the vecindad my family and I would come to call home during the eighties when mom and pops arrived here fared ‘in the ratings’.

In the eyes of the HOLC, the neighborhood was considered ‘blighted’ for 15% of its residency consisting of ‘foreign’ families, and for 10% of it consisting of ‘negros’, as well as for the neighborhood’s multiple family dwellings and bungalows. This led to a “medial red” or mostly unattractive rating.

“[In East Hollywood] …The few deed restrictions which have not expired are irregular and largely non-effective. The major portion of area is zoned for single family dwellings, but multiple family dwellings are permitted in scattered sections. Conveniences are all readily available. This district was subdivided over 25 years ago as a popular price home district and has largely maintained the characteristics. Many of the improvements are of substandard construction and maintenance is spotted, being generally of a poor quality. Scattered throughout the area are a number of small “B” grade apartments, bungalow courts and other multi-family dwellings. The population is highly heterogeneous with more than a sprinkling of subversive racial elements, there being several concentrations of Japanese and Negroes within the district. There is also quite a Jewish population adjacent to the synagogue which is located in the northern part. While by no means a slum district, the area is definitely blighted and is accorded a “medial red” grade.”

On the one hand, it’s astounding to think that there used to be more Japanese and Black people in the neighborhood. On the other hand, it’s sobering to consider how World War II and the Japanese interment which followed removed such communities from the area. When one considers these events and the subsequent or concurrent modernization that followed or accompanied the war, such as the building of the first freeway in America in the Arroyo Seco Parkway in 1940, one can see how modern development has always been a matter of some violence on communities and restrictions of their space for the benefit of others.

It’s rarely ever easy to take another field trip through the historical foundations which led to our modern dilemmas with access to space. But in order to know where we’re going, we have to know where we come from, Los Angeles.

J.T.

Redlining in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles we know in the 21st century is not just some place that arrived from out of the blue one summer day, but an environment built out through specifically racist laws, designations, and customs over decades of policy, especially during the 20th century. During the 1960s, subsequent waves of civil unrest against such policies struck in several U.S. cities, among them Watts, Newark, and Detroit.

In 1965, a traffic stop by white police officers in Watts led to the arrest of two Black men, Marquette and Ronald Frye, and even their mother, Rena Frye, which angered a nearby crowd of predominantly Black residents, who witnessed the police officers roughhousing the family. When more officers arrived, who used their batons to threaten the crowd back, they fanned the flames of what would turn into three days of a war-zone in Watts, leaving 34 people dead, including at least 26 civilians killed by the LAPD and the National Guard, overwhelmingly Black but also Latino residents, whose deaths were deemed by police forces as justifiable homicides.

Two years later, in 1967, John Smith, a Black cab-driver in Newark, New Jersey was arrested and beaten by white police officers after “driving around” a police car, “double-parking,” and “using offensive language,” according to the department. The injuries to Smith were obscene and required hospitalization. In response, fellow cab-drivers, along with witnesses of the beating and other supporters, took to the city to cry out against the Newark police department’s abuse of power. Rioting would lead to 26 people killed by police officers, mostly African-Americans, while another 750 were injured and over 1,000 were jailed, according to historians.

Were these events strictly a matter of protesting police violence? They were not, because police violence had a certain way of being located in a handful of neighborhoods over others. Enter the redlining practice.

In L.A., as in “sister” cities, redlining was a discriminatory practice of denying loan services or assistance to African-Americans and other minorities based on how “desirable” or white the areas where their homes were located appeared on a racial map, shown partly below.

Redlining Los Angeles - UCLA Luskin

The Home Owners Loan Corporation designated minority neighborhoods (those shaded in black and gray in the map in this section) as being unfit for home financing, which, with racially restrictive covenants, excluded people of color from the housing boom that afforded many white households their first house.

SOUTH LOS ANGELES | SINCE THE SIXTIES BY PAUL M. ONG, ANDRE COMANDON, ALYCIA CHENG, SILVIA R. GONZÁLEZ

How were such racial maps created? As Mike Davis points out, the racial makeup of many neighborhoods in L.A. were formed by racial covenants, or Klansmen sympathizers and supporters in Los Angeles who exerted pressure on Blacks and Asians to keep out of what were then white neighborhoods in the city. These covenants were most active during the early 1920s up until just before the 1950s. Thus, for African-American children born in Watts during the 1950s, the predominantly Black and under-served population of their community wasn’t spontaneously or deliberately located there, but were restricted to make their living there over time due to racist policies, as well as racist judges looking the other way.

The Kerner Report

Less than a week after civil unrest in Newark, and less than two years after the war-zone in Watts, a police-raid at a Black-owned night club in Detroit led to the arrest of up to 85 African-Americans, which then quickly escalated into racial rioting throughout the city. After five days, at least 43 people were killed and thousands more were injured.

In response, president Lyndon B. Johnson called for action, including the formation of the Kerner commission, whose task was to examine the root cause of the rioting, as well as ways to prevent more such violence going forward. Among the commission’s findings, when it came to the issue of housing inequality in the United States, it found that:

“[C]ondemned by segregation and poverty to live in the decaying slums of our central cities, the goal of a decent home and suitable environment is as far distant as ever”

U.S. National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, 467

That condemnation was due precisely to redlining, as redlining concentrated home loans in predominantly white neighborhoods while restricting them from those of ethnic minorities, leaving only poverty to concentrate in the latter. Enter the resentment. Then, the rebellion.

In 2018, any Angeleno taking a walk through neighborhoods like Watts can still feel the legacy of L.A.’s redlining and the relative lack of accountability concerning the issue, as well as the anger and frustration towards such acts of sabotage and abandon against a people and their community.

Yet with reports such as UCLA Luskin’s South L.A. Since The Sixties, which examines how much “progress” the city has made in Watts and South Los Angeles since the Kerner report and other studies examined the underlying issues, the spirit of Mike Davis’s City of Quartz lives on. From there, our work can continue.

So lets inform ourselves before continuing with more work, Los Angeles. It’s the next thirty years of the pueblo that are waiting on us.

J.T.

South Los Angeles since The Sixties

UCLA Luskin - SLA.png

“More than a half century since the Kerner Commission, the history of
South Los Angeles continues to be laden with broken promises and only
modest improvements. Despite the huge efforts of residents, activists
and others, the burden of under-investment and neglect continue to
limit economic opportunity for too many Angelenos. This prescient
report serves as an important reminder of the profound challenges
that remain.”

We have to know this, Los Angeles.

J.T.

Twenty (-Six) Years After the L.A. Riots: How Things Have Changed

(Originally published April 26, 2012)

The time could not be more fitting. I just got home after one of those more frustrating nights, or, you know, one of those nights where you just want to burst through your door to run to your bed and take hold of your pillows. Not because you want to cry into them, but because you want to scream into them.

Or you know, one of those nights where you just really need a good walk, or just a really good drink, or just any god-damn really good something because god damn it can be so fucked up out there sometimes. You know, one of those nights where you have to tell someone what the hell just happened to you.

Yeah, let me tell you.

Earlier today I posted a couple of articles about the Los Angeles riots of 1992. It came to my attention that twenty years ago, just this same weekend, the streets of my beloved city burst into flames and destruction following the outrageous verdict of the Rodney King case.

I was probably what, a single year old, in a cradle somewhere, crying.

It’s likely. But what I’ll tell you with certainty is that I wasn’t crying about the apocalypse right outside of the apartment at the time. What I’m sure about is that I wasn’t crying for Rodney King, or for any of the families who had their business looted, or for any of the racist jurors who denied Rodney some dignity. No way.

But tonight, twenty years later, I do precisely just that.

Because well, when I had a moment to really think about the city today, and when I had a moment to place into perspective all of the madness we’ve been through together, when I thought about our time on these streets, not to mention our time through its schools, with its businesses, and elsewhere, well it started to really hurt.

The fact of the matter is, L.A. hasn’t learned anything since Rodney King in 1992.

Nothing has changed.

Nothing.

And that might sound a bit extreme, and just a little pessimistic, but this is where we seriously have to stop bullshitting ourselves when it comes to “anniversaries” like these. Honestly, when it comes to reflection and critical thought about such tragic moments, those of us who consider ourselves students of history should have enough respect for the real people who suffered the real horror of the spaces in times that we only know as stories, to state what the real situation is today, no matter how unpleasant the truth might be.

The truth today being that despite all this time, we as a people in Los Angeles haven’t learned jack shit.

That nothing has changed, and that in fact, things are arguably worse now than they were before.

Because while conditions in L.A. in 2012 might seem like they’re better than they were in 1992, racial tensions today are as high as they’ve ever been, with not only the police department and their injustice system still targeting people of color based on racial profiling, but with so much of white supremacy firmly intact in and out of L.A.’s jail cells.

Consider this. From 1992 to 1997 alone, incarceration in California rose by 30 percent, and what did those prisoners look like? Those were Black and Brown people of California, with the former being sent to our state’s prisons at a starkly higher rate.

Think about that for a second, as tonight, at this very moment right now, there are more Black and Brown people sitting in California’s prisons than any other ethnic group of this state. Does that feel at all animalistic, or teeming with animosity somehow? It is.

And think about those Black and Brown skinned people a little more for a second, and imagine what those cells look like, and what those cafeterias look like, and what those yards look like.

They stand divided, separated by race, always just a hair away from erupting into some of the ugliest melees the ground of this land will come to know.

In fact, it’s only been a little over two years since a prison riot in Chino left over 55 people critically injured from severe stabbing wounds involving over 250 brawling inmates. What do you think those hospitalized people looked like? They were Black and Brown men. They’re always Black and Brown in California. So for anyone wondering if racial tension and hostile policing in L.A. continues, it’s crystal clear that they are still firmly in place here, it’s just that they’re more concealed now is all…

Except, most people we know won’t find out about situations like these, or if they do find out, they won’t really care because, well, that’s what happens when you get incarcerated, right? That’s why you should be a good citizen and just get a good job and obey the law, right?

Well, don’t we wish things were so simple, because unfortunately the fact of is that prisons exist far beyond the steel bolted doors of California’ jail cells. Unfortunately, prison as a policing and power culture is everywhere, and most destructively, it’s in the blind mind of the arrogant White man who’s had to care for absolutely no one’s reality in Los Angeles but his own.

Similarly to a prison, it’s disconnected from the rest of the world, where he has little to no space to consider the rest of his fellow human beings. More frighteningly, this prison mentality asserts that in order to do well in this life, he must kill or be killed.

As a result, it is this same prison mentality that has incarcerated the human race more than any other group in time in all the history of civilization, and which has kept L.A. right down in the same conditions since 1992 and even before then, burying us deeper in as time goes on.

This prison mentality has robbed the world of so much of its life, love, beauty and innocence.

And this evening, this prison [mentality] ruined my night.

Earlier today, at around 9pm, at a Starbucks in Hollywood, a Black man wanted to use the restroom. He was a classy gentleman from out of town, probably in his mid to late thirties, clad in that traveling business kind of outfit, with a fine collar shirt, creased dress pants and dress shoes, and who just wanted to charge his phone and relieve himself before he headed back out to enjoy the city for a bit.

I had the fortune of being seated next to him for a moment. I was on my computer, checking a few of my notifications, and actually writing a response to a question about one of those articles I told you I posted up earlier. I was also just browsing for a little bit, just picking up sources here and there, and learning of some of the numbers and dates that I presented earlier in this piece.

Out of the blue, the black gentleman tapped me on the shoulder, and he said, “excuse me my man, I don’t mean to bother you, but would you happen to know the code to the restroom? Apparently you need to buy something to have the access code.”

It’s funny, I didn’t have the code because I actually hadn’t bought anything myself at the Starbucks either since I only planned on sitting there for a moment to write the response and then go home. It was a long Saturday after work.

I thought it was strange that the man needed to buy something in order to get the code, and instinctively, I told him I thought that policy was bullshit.

He agreed with me, and we laughed about it for a moment, before he got up from his chair to go ask someone else. Unfortunately for the gentleman, that someone else didn’t have the code either. I felt bad for him, but what could I do? I just got back to my browsing and brushed the moment off.

About a minute later however, after asking maybe the third person for the code without getting a hold of it, the gentleman came back and sat down right as I spotted someone coming out of the restroom. And well my friends, this someone coming out of the restroom just so happened to be a white man. He was in jeans and a blazer, wearing some expensive boots, and probably in his mid to late forties.

I motioned to the Black gentleman to ask the guy as I figured he had to have known the code to the restroom seeing as he had just gotten out of there, and so the black gentleman went up to the man and began to ask, as politely as he had done so with me, when before he could even finish his greeting the white man cut and waved him off saying he didn’t have the code.

On seeing this: instinctively, I thought ‘fuck that’.

Fuck that because I get paid to be nice to customers all day but I wasn’t at work then and I didn’t like how he responded to the Black gentleman. He cut him off before he could finish speaking, and then had the nerve to stick his hand out to him like he didn’t deserve the time.

And well, something came over me, because I had to call bullshit, and so I looked the white man straight in the eyes and said to him, “You’re a lying piece of garbage, I just saw you come out of the restroom.”

And oh, if you could have seen the look on this guy’s face, you’d think someone had just spit at him.

He said “Excuse me?”

And I repeated what I said, except louder, “YOU’RE A LYING PIECE OF GARBAGE, I JUST SAW YOU COME OUT OF THE RESTROOM.”

That’s where everything just took a turn.

After giving me the evil eye a few times, he headed back to his table and apparently considered his options.

He chose to be a prisoner, as he walked over to one of the baristas, pointed at me and the Black gentleman, and complained.

As he stuck his index finger pointing me out at me from near the counter, I stuck my middle finger out at him. Seriously, fuck him. The Black gentlemen agreed.

And well my friends, of course the barista he complained to just so happened to be a young white woman in her twenties. She looked over at us for a second and got on the phone.

I repeat, she looked over at us, and instead of asking us if there was a problem, she got on the phone.

But whatever, right? What are they gonna do? I hadn’t done anything wrong, and neither had the Black gentleman. In fact, right afterwards, he finally decided to make a purchase so he could use the restroom, buying a cookie for himself.

When he came back to sit down after finally relieving himself, he was laughing at the absurdity of it all, and I told him that I apologized on behalf of my city.

“It’s alright man, you’re cool people,” he said, and just before I was about to ask him for his name, guess who came marching through the Starbucks door.

Two police officers. Both white, both ready to kick some ass the way they like to do.

On making eye contact with them from across the counter the barista pointed at me and the gentleman, and then at the white man. One of the police officers went over and spoke to the man, while the other stood in front of the table in front of me and the gentleman.

At that point, I was just disgusted. I feared for my safety as the big white cop harassed me with that infamous big white death stare, and I got my things to just get up and leave.

“Sit down, you’re not going anywhere,” he said.

Of course not. It was his town, and I was just his subject.

But you know what? Fuck that anyway. I didn’t do anything except call a douchebag a douchebag, and I told the cops just that. The Black gentlemen didn’t do anything either, and in fact he had bought the freaking cookie too, so to hell with their entitlement.

But of course, what we said or what the truth was didn’t matter, because we weren’t tall white men in blazers and jeans in expensive boots.

No, we were a Black gentlemen in dress clothes and a little brown kid with a laptop and a backpack.

Their town, their subjects. Oh, how things have changed.

After speaking to the barista again, the cops told us we had to leave. I was two steps ahead of them. As you can probably guess, I didn’t want to be where I knew I wasn’t wanted, so I just packed up my stuff and stood up to head out.

“This is wrong though man, we didn’t do anything wrong,” I told one of the police officers.

“That’s just how it is,” said the cop.

Ah right, that’s just how it is. Silly of me to forget that.

I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to the black gentleman since he was busy requesting to speak to the manager. When the cops diverted their attention to him, I just walked the hell on out.

As I crossed the street two more cops came out of a squad car parked in the middle of the road heading in the direction of the store. I didn’t look any of them in the eye. As they walked right past me, I just sped up my pace.

And it’s crazy, because twenty years ago this same weekend when the streets of L.A. fell in mayhem to this shit, I was just learning how to walk.

Twenty years later, as the saga continues, I’m just learning how to walk away.

J.T.

Waiting Again, Los Angeles

We wait and we wait and we wait. Patiently. Lovingly. Anguished.

We wait for our schools to be safe,
For our streets to be cleaned,
For our vecindades to have jobs,
For our families to walk through these spaces without being criminalized.

And we wait for newcomers to stop leering at us as if we entered their havens.

We wait for our landlords to answer our calls,
For the faucets to have clean water,
For our roofs to stop caving in on us every time it rains,
And for real estate agents to stop selling out the only places we call home.

We wait for the clinics to admit us without first labeling us,
For our doctors to work with instead of just getting rid of us,
For our ‘coverage’ to stay put without our having to reapply,
And for healthcare that isn’t based on our (in)ability to pay.

We wait for the few jobs we do have to pay livable wages,
For our superiors at work to stop bullying us,
For interviewers to stop merely using our names to cross off some checklist,
And we wait to work for uplifiting our communities rather than just addicting them.

We wait for billionaires to stop bloating our veins,
For ‘checks and balances’ to check and balance the polluters,
For the GMs and the Coca Colas, to be reined in,
And for ‘leaders’ who don’t call for these things only when it’s election season.

We wait for the courts to stop feeding on our bodies as these other waits hold,
For any allies in our resistance in these struggles to view us as partners, not collateral,
We wait for another way of life to finally arrive,
And we wait for it to get here before it’s too late for another one of our babies.

We wait patiently. Lovingly. Anguished.

But the past has yet to die.

When is it time, Los Angeles.

J.T.

The Work Continues, Los Angeles

Everything is moving so quickly. I feel the world spinning. I see my place in it, and though a part of me just wants to celebrate every bloom now springing all throughout my environment, the rest of myself -the one in movement- is just focused on getting, getting, and getting through to it all.

On Friday of this upcoming week I return to my alma mater at King Middle School for some more work with The Plus Me Project. This is followed by an important workshop for the day at L.A. Trade Tech.

The Friday after that, I’m set to hit my alma mater at UC Davis for the tenth annual SAYS conference, and my second year in a row presenting there. Then, there are a myriad of appointments in between and right afterwards so that May will evaporate in a feverish lapse like L.A. winter.

On May 25th, an anchor of worlds leaves the shore for me to see, that is, on classified terms, which will require another trip out North. Then, just a weekend after that, I get back to LAX again, this time for another flight to a world once thought impossible. Also classified, that is! Until further notice, at least.

Just. Like. That.

What do you think, Los Angeles?

The fact is that it’s you that moved us to it.

J.T.