Our Back to School Party is Coming Together Los Angeles,

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TO every supporter: Thank you for your support and for sharing this fundraiser to spread the word! Just to keep you all in the loop, I’m happy to highlight the “first half” of the workshops we’ve now secured for our event.

Workshops now written into our itinerary include Women’s Self-Defense with Peace Over Violence, Renters’ Rights with the VyBe Chapter – Los Angeles Tenants Union, Literature and Literacy with L.A. based Salvadorean-American author Randy Jurado Ertll, Zine-Making into Book Publishing with Dryland: Los Angeles Underground Art & Writing‘s Viva Padilla, and more.

Please also note that our workshops will include people of various histories in the community, including, (new and “old”) business owners, artists and activists, teachers, Senior citizens, and other local residents and supporters. We will also install an “art wall” or art exhibit with work BY locals, FOR locals.

Lastly, please trust that we’ll be photographing this special occasion as much as humanly possible to get as many of our supporters to enjoy the summertime bash with us; what arts and education are all about!

And keep up the support and well wishes. One step at a time! 👌🏾

J.T.

 

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Education in Los Angeles: A Look at the Numbers

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In 2008 the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was reported to have graduated only 48% of its class for the 2007-2008 school year. In 2017, a study tracking the college enrollment rate of that same 2008 class found that within twelve months of their graduation, 58% of LAUSD’s high school graduates enrolled in a two-year community college or four-year university. The study goes on to show that by six years later, however, only 25% of those graduates would have their four-year college degree.

Public data also shows that in the 2007 – 2008 school year, the total number of students enrolled at LAUSD was estimated to be just over 694,288 students. Accounting for a graduation rate of 48% then, we can estimate that at the end of that school year, only 333,258 of those enrolled left the schools with their diplomas.

Applying the data from UCLA’s study showing the 25% college success rate for those students by six years later, we can also determine that of the 2008 high school class, of nearly 700,000 students, only 83,314.5, or 8.3% of them would successfully complete a college or a university education six years after their graduation from high school.

Today in Los Angeles, the graduation rate for this same public school district is cited as being at 77% as recently as the 2015 – 2016 school year. But the improved rate is not indicative of the district’s struggle to improve educational and college readiness at the schools.

For example, UCLA’s report also shows that in the 2013 – 2014 school year, less than a third of the class of 2014 graduated from the district with an A or B grade point average, implying that over two thirds of the class left the district with C or D grade point averages.

UCLA’s study goes on to show that while the difference between a C and a D grade point average might not seem like much, students with only a D grade point average are five times LESS LIKELY to enroll in a two or four-year college.

In Los Angeles today then, for a new generation of high school students, a district with an underwhelming track record in qualitative education and college preparation is only one of their challenges. Lest we forget: these students are attending L.A.’s public schools at the same time that a real estate boom in Los Angeles continues unabated, driving up the cost of living, evicting working class families en masse, and leading many either to seek shelter somewhere along L.A.’s Skid Row district, or straight out of town.

In March 2017, the Sacramento Bee reported that similarly to the way Latin American countries ‘export’ their human labor to the U.S., the Golden State is also a human transporter, that is, of its working class, to states like Texas and Oklahoma.

According to the report, “California exports more than commodities such as movies, new technologies and produce. It also exports truck drivers, cooks and cashiers. Every year from 2000 through 2015, more people left California than moved in from other states.”

In Los Angeles, with a school district where less than 9% of students obtained a college degree six years after their high school education, the work options are limited. And with the cost of living rising, Los Angeles and California as places for such people to live are also limited.

In the same report, the Bee notes that out of the state’s 58 counties, it’s been in the wealthiest two where there’s been the greatest number of expulsions: “the state’s exodus of poor people is notable in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties, which combined experienced a net loss of 250,000 such residents from 2005 through 2015.”

I wonder of those 250,000, just how many were students at LAUSD at some point.

This is Los Angeles. And it is ongoing. That is, until we place our foot on the dial.

J.T.

In It to Win Los Angeles

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Wilshire Boulevard and Westmoreland Avenue; L.A., CA

I pedal my way down Wilshire Boulevard on my bicycle and think of the day that the Olympics return to Los Angeles. In 2028, I will be 37 going on 38 years of age.
Then I find my bus stop, wait for the one that goes up Vermont, and once it arrives board my bicycle onto the carrier and then myself on for the ride. On being seated I start to fidget with my phone, and there are so many things I’d like to go over.

For a moment I think of the gravity of the LCD screens today, that is, in how absurdly I depend on them from minute to minute, but once I find the Chess app a moment later, I connect to the one-minute lightning round and begin to hammer away at the screen under the sixty second time limit set for players. Just after the game ends, I go in for a second, but not without another pause first: I’ve got a book in my backpack, and it’s supposed to be a really good one, but why go through the motions when I’ve got all my entertainment in front of me on the screen?

Eventually twelve or so minutes through Vermont pass and I close in on my stop; I slide the phone into my pocket, make my way towards the entrance of the bus, and once the driver breaks dash past the entry doors just before the next flock of passengers file their way in to unload my bike.

Just as the final passenger taps their card to filter inside, my bicycle is unloaded, and I lift up the carrier to return it to its original position. I then wave thanks to the driver, mount back onto the bike’s seat, and pedal on towards the final leg of the journey.

It’s just a few minutes from home then, but as a vibrant breadth of air envelops me through my ride I realize it’s another summer day in Los Angeles and that I just might want to stay outside a bit longer. First though, I’ve got to get back in for some of the day’s last tasks.

On arriving back to headquarters, there lies the other screen; the one of my laptop. I know that I’ve got to reply to an email, or two…but then there are so many other tabs I’ve also got open. I seal the laptop shut, scurry over to the kitchen, and figure I’ll take care of what’s left after a couple of quesadillas.

There is much to do this summer, but not without much concentration. And as the wonder of brilliant daylight threatens to outshine the urgency of the times, I’ve got to remind myself: persistence is still key, and so it’s with persistence that I pedal onto these next tasks.

But I know I’m not the only one taking it all on.

So then, let’s make it happen Los Angeles,

J.T.

L.A. Metro’s Buses Are for Writers

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76 Bus to Union Station; Los Angeles, California

I can still remember riding Metro’s 780 bus –from Los Feliz and Vermont–all the way to Pasadena City College–with my notebooks in hand, as I mused about the world I viewed through the windows. Still a teenager at the time, in true L.A. fashion I’d always take the seat all the way in the back-corner, right next to the windows where I could see nearly everything and everyone in front of me.

I started college in the city of Pasadena in the Fall of 2008, or the same year that Barack Obama would be elected to the office of the President of the United States.

It was a radically different time for me, and all I could wonder about through the days on the bus was just how much of the rest of the world was changing too. Somehow, I felt right at the center of this change, or at least near the center of something monumental, and I valued that feeling. It’s the reason why I wrote.

I never felt excluded, nor unheard, so long as I had the page to hear my voice and the pen to lift my words onto that page. I also didn’t mind very much being rather alone in this, either.

It didn’t strike me very much, if at all, for example, that I’d find myself as the only person on the bus scribbling away at a notebook. I also didn’t find it odd to spend whole evenings on the third floor of Pasadena’s Shatford Library, even if it meant I’d get to the bus stop just before 10:00 PM.

It all came to me very naturally as I made my way between what were two very different cities to me at the time.

In the evenings on the bus the stillness of nights lit up by the stars and streetlights above made for dazzling visions to take into my dreams.

In the daytime on the bus, the bands of pigeons making their way through the clouds as people crisscrossed the crosswalks made it clear that we were all in it together, separated only by whims of time and space.

Construction in the city was something we’d all have to deal with on our respective commutes as well. One way or another, something was always being built.

And I always cared about these particulars of Los Angeles, seated quietly inside its buses, absorbing its landscape through the boulevards, one street after the next on the way back to or from ‘the pueblo’, long before it was the pueblo.

I’ve shared the days and nights with Los Angeles on the bus in sequences like these for nearly ten years now, and still do. But I wonder just how many people my eyes have actually seen through all of the rides I’ve taken, and just where they all might be now. I imagine most of them are still in Los Angeles like myself, as a result of the blink of an eye that time tends to be for most of us, but only the skies know.

As interestingly, while as a seventeen or eighteen year old I didn’t think that to care about L.A and the state of the world meant it’s where my mind would be dedicated going forward, it’s now clear to me that that’s exactly where I am.

I’ve seen more than just Los Angeles and Pasadena, however, in the ten years since I first boarded Metro’s 780 and 180 buses to and fro between the two.

Since 2008, I’ve also been to Seattle, to Washington D.C., to Las Vegas, Phoenix, and New York, as well to Miami and also Chicago.

Through the Golden State, I’ve been to Sacramento and San Francisco more times than I can count, and been to and lived in the wonderful city of Davis, and have been to Tahoe, Santa Cruz, Salinas, Watsonville, Oakland, Berkeley, Half-moon Bay, as well as Pleasanton, Chico, and San Jose.

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City Center; San Salvador, El Salvador

Abroad, since 2008 I’ve been to Mexico three times, and seen various other cities and states on the American continent as a result; from Tijuana to Guadalajara, to Mexico City, to the city of Puebla in the state of Puebla, to Zacapoaxtla, to the City of Oaxaca, San Pedro Cajonos, the city of Ayutla, and more.

I’ve also been to El Salvador, to the heart in San Salvador, and to Soyapango, Santa Tecla, San Jose Guayabal, and more.

And I’ve been to Guatemala. To the City of Guatemala, as well as to Tikal, and the adjacent city of Flores in Peten.

In 2017, I even made it to Japan. To the marvelous city of Tokyo and its various mini-cities or Japanese pueblos in Shibuya, Ginza, Harajuku, as well as in the historic Kyoto, the wonderful city of Osaka, and even the great city of Hiroshima too.

I’ve met many wonderful people through each of these trips, and am still in contact with many of them. Together, they form what Los Angeles and the world is to me today.

If on ten years ago on that 780 bus route someone had told me that I’d get to see all of these places and more, I can only imagine how curious I’d find that to be. Now, I’m only more curious about how the next ten years with The City and the world will unfold.

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Atomic Dome; Hiroshima, Japan (2017)

One thing is certain to me, however. The seats of L.A’s Metro buses–whether on the back-corner or elsewhere–are congenial places to write one’s thoughts out, to claim one’s dreams, and to imagine all the other places we can see and be a part of. Just as well, the city of Los Angeles is quite the city to write in. Together, these are the ‘Goldilocks conditions’ that have transported me across the world and which continue to do so.

So let’s keep writing, Los Angeles. That Metro bus is but a great place for it.

J.T.