This Juneteenth: Emancipate History to Make Way for A New Future in Los Angeles

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 92)

On June 19th, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, General Gordon Granger for President Lincoln’s Union army issued an order to the people of Texas from Galveston, Texas:

The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

Why does this matter in Los Angeles, California, which wasn’t even a part of the U.S. northern states until 1848? Because chattel slavery in the United States, more than anything, was an economic condition, in which masses of laborers toiled daily for next to nothing as a small handful of masters profited immensely in a system enforced by laws, armed forces, and lies.

155 years later, today the relation between labor and profit is still a shining model of masses toiling daily for little return while CEOs like Jeff Bezos stand to make over a trillion dollars. Closer to home, one can find a myriad of bodies at countless L.A. kitchens, delivery, transportation and sanitation services, and at warehouses and factories, where sometimes workers produce for as little as $4.66 an hour, and where sometimes they’re not even properly paid that.

It’s clear then that we’re much closer to the past than it might seem, Los Angeles. But once we learn it, it’s also true that we’re that much closer to the better future we can aspire to.

J.T.

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A flyer for Library Workers in Los Angeles calling for an end to police presence at LAPL

Sign Your Name to Support Police-Free Libraries In Los Angeles

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 91)

JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller stands fully in support of Los Angeles Public Library workers, patrons, and all others calling for an end to LAPD presence at our beloved public libraries. As the authors of the Open Letter to LAPL’s Board of Library Commissioners team over the board’s proposed increase to LAPD’s presence at our libraries this next fiscal year point out:

Since 2000, LAPD have killed 886 people. Countless others have been victims of police harassment, violence and intimidation, abuses that are disproportionately inflicted on Black and brown people. The continued occupancy of LAPD and their agents are incompatible with LAPL’s stated mission “to provide free and easy access to information, ideas, books and technology that enrich, educate and empower every individual in our city’s diverse communities.”

Public libraries are among our most valued and vital institutions. LAPL provides crucial resources to the city’s most vulnerable populations—youths, students, elders, the disabled, the unhoused, and the undocumented. LAPL facilities must be safe spaces for all Angelenos to read, learn, and access educational services, just as they must be safe workplaces for library staff. LAPL’s partnership with LAPD has failed to meet these obligations and, furthermore, the very presence of LAPD prohibits the security of many patrons and staff members.”

To add your name in support of this statement, please find the Open Letter HERE. And rest assured: this is what remaking our city for a better world looks like, Los Angeles.

J.T.

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A homeless encampment in East Hollwood, Los Angeles

Los Angeles is not represented by its elected officials. It is trembling on the knees of the dying men & women of its sidewalks

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 90)

Earlier today walking through the city I witnessed something like never before in my nearly thirty years through Los Angeles, which almost took my breath away. As I made my way through a sidewalk, a gray-bearded, African-American man, who couldn’t have been less than 65 years of age, sat on his knees in the middle of the sidewalk, his penis sticking out.

Before I knew it, as my legs crossed in front of him, the man began to pee. I turned my head in his direction then, almost in disbelief, but he did not return the look. He seemed almost unconscious. Of course, from the outset it was clear that the instance was nothing malicious on his part, but that it was from a pure need to relieve his body at a time when public restrooms in Los Angeles have been severely reduced in number, affecting most of all the unhoused.

What did feel malicious was that Mayor Eric Garcetti, the L.A. City Council, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office, and more of our elected officials have allowed this throughout Los Angeles after decades in public office.

In particular, history wont be kind to Mayor Garcetti. “In real time,” meaning right at this very minute, under Mayor Garcetti the rate of unhoused people in L.A. is on track to reach more than 100,000 bodies on the streets over the next few years, up to nearly 700 civilians shot and killed by police, and well over tens of thousands of more empty high-end lofts than occupied affordable housing units.

In turn, by the time Garcetti leaves office in 2022, Los Angeles will likely be a poorer, more unhealthy, and thus more hostile city for its working-class than when he became mayor in 2013. For yours truly, this begs the question:

What is it to truly love Los Angeles?

I contend that it is not to love Dodger baseball, or to follow Lakers basketball, or to adore Kings hockey. And I contend that it is not to build luxury lofts, or to celebrate Hollywood films, or even to promote its multiple ‘cultures,’ notwithstanding those of its working-class masses.

I contend that loving Los Angeles is loving its most vulnerable, represented most of all by our nearly 70,000 unhoused, the last count of which was released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority just a week ago. What a name, for that matter, with the word ‘authority’ in its title.

What authority can a city-funded organization tasked with serving its unhoused legitimately claim, when its efforts have failed to serve the thousands of bodies, overwhelmingly African-American, abandoned on the city’s sidewalks?

Make no mistake about it: In the same amount of time that the city drove tens of thousands of its residents down to helpless tents over the barren concrete, elected officials like our L.A. City Council members have taken home millions in taxpayer dollars.

They were not alone, joined by other officials tasked on paper with the public good. Take police like chief Michel Moore, for example, who, in 2018, retired briefly to collect $1.27 million in taxpayer dollars, to be rehired by Mayor Garcetti just a few weeks later. Our elected representatives were also joined by non-elected big wigs such as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which, in 2018, contributed over $1,000,000 to then-candidate Newsom’s campaign for governor.

In the end, however, the fact is that such men are still small fries compared to billionaires like the real estate tycoon Geoffrey Palmer, a known Trump supporter, whose “Da Vinci” apartments in downtown Los Angeles go towards funding a $21 million mansion of his in Beverly Hills, not to mention properties in Malibu, St. Tropez, France, and more.

Palmer is one of a generation of men who, over the last twenty years in Los Angeles has benefited tremendously from a cataclysmic “transfer”–but more like high-jacking–of wealth that will play a decisive role in determining the next eighty years for our city & country, that is, unless something is done about it, and brazenly fast.

What will we do, then, Los Angeles, while a handful of men sit atop empires? Will we stand by as only more of our neighbors, and as more of our families, collapse under their weight? Is such a loveless city, and country, what we want history to remember us by?

The choice is ours.

J.T.

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A tattered and damaged building at Vermont & Beverly stands next to a recently renovated hotel in Los Angeles

You Are Allowed To Press Reset, Los Angeles

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 89)

For nearly two hours today a disruption hampered phone networks all across Los Angeles and throughout the country. It was almost a glitch in the whole observable universe, as our once-familiar smart-phones were bereft of function and exposed for their hollow cores. One had to simply put the phone down and figure to try again later. It was strange. It was suspicious. It was also quite liberating.

The fact of the matter is that at the speed at which information now travels, there can never be enough ‘keeping up’ with the latest development just as there can never be enough ‘doling out’ of it. But it is helpful to take a break. Your memory, and perhaps even your skin, will thank you for it, according to some experts.

This Tuesday, I personally don’t plan to wait for another glitch to ease my mind from the day’s infinite stream of events. I have much to read, before much more to write.

While resetting my mind may not be as simple as doing so with my phone, I’ve got a feeling that for that same reason, making the effort can prove far more rewarding. Now, if only more of that L.A. City Council would come to the same reasoning.

J.T.

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A fence with barbed wire barricades the site of the former Super Pan Bakery at Virgil avenue and Monroe street

We Raise It: A Poem for Los Youngs During These Times

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 88)

I know. It’s not fair. It’s been more than three months since everything up and changed. And since then, nothing has changed. Everything is still a mess. Home is stressful.

I know. Even if someone says otherwise, still feels like there’s nowhere else to go. Even when we step out, everything is weird. Strangers are stranger. It’s not fun anymore.

I know. The pupuserias are not the same. The panaderias take forever to get into. The burger joints aren’t even there anymore. Pockets don’t have enough to get much anyway.

I know. You didn’t get to say goodbye to your friends. Everyone knew this was the last year you’d get to see each other. Now everyone is fighting. Everyone online is just going at each other.

I know. Summer’s coming up and there’s no pool at the house. No AC. Not enough fans. All the sockets are taken.

I know. Family is stressful. Everyone says the same about how we’ll get through this. Doesn’t feel like we’re getting through.

And I know. It can’t be long before some more riots pop off. Cops killing Black people. Whites got no love. How are you supposed to walk around when they can get you any minute. Racism’s worse than corona.

I know. Everyone online is just stressing. And if there’s just one more argument–

I know. It’s not fair. Everyone is scared. It’s no love. Can’t get any love.

I know. It’s like a war that’s coming. It’s dirty. But rules are rules. If they hate us, gotta hate back.

I know. It feels this way. And I know it feels like it just stays this way.

I know it’s not a time for promises. But this is not a promise.

This is just to let you know that through it all, you’re still heard, still seen, and still the future.

To let you know that you got every right to be mad, like from the top of your lungs, ready to let it all out. We’re mad with you. We’re tired of the same old story too.

But I know that you know. That if it’s another day we get, we gotta take it.

So we raise it.

J.T.

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Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center Pharmacy in East Hollywood, Los Angeles

West Hollywood Makes Way: All Black Lives Matter in Los Angeles

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 87)

This Sunday, June 14th, marks the first All Black Lives Matter march in Hollywood, beginning at 11:00 AM. The march will commence at Hollywood and Highland boulevard, proceed through West Hollywood, and consolidate at West Hollywood Park on San Vicente boulevard, marking the first large-scale march of its kind between the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles.

In its press release for the public, the organizing board for the march states:

On June 7, 2020, an Advisory Board, made up of all Black LGBTQ+ leaders was formed to move forward in organizing the All Black Lives Matter solidarity march on Sunday, June 14, 2020 at 11:00am in Los Angeles, in honor of our beloved trans brother Tony McDade, who was murdered by police at that time. The protest is in direct response to racial injustice, systemic racism, and all forms of oppression.”

Why is the march taking place in West Hollywood? Apart from being the most popular destination for the queer community in Los Angeles, West Hollywood is 80% white, while the Black community there makes up less than 3.6% of the population, according to U.S. Census data. This plays a major role in the policing of non-white bodies through the area, as well as their invisibility from the culture. In an interview with the L.A. Times, Brandon Anthony, a gay Black man who is co-organizing the march, explains:

“The most shocking aspect of West Hollywood for me is going to every club there, every bar, and hearing them play our music, but not seeing me in there.”

For more information, visit the All Black Lives Matter website, or follow updates from the L.A. Times, which there will surely be plenty of.

J.T.

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Hollywood Presbyterean Hospital in East Hollywood, Los Angeles

Three Months After Shut-down, L.A. “Reopens” while both COVID-19 and LAPD Budget Remain Uncontained, Posing the Greatest Risk to Black, Latino and AAPI Communities

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 86)

As of the evening of June 11th, according to the L.A. County Public Health Department, Black, Asian and Latino communities still represent more than 70% of 2,629 deaths from COVID-19 in L.A. County, while whites represent 29% of deaths. The numbers might seem commensurate with these groups’ share of the total population in L.A. County, but as before, they are actually still an under-count and not indicative of the whole picture.

Of 66,941 active coronavirus cases reported by the department, L.A. County Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, has pointed out that there is still a disproportionate rate of death for ethnic minority groups:

The death rate among Native Hawaiians & Pacific Islanders is 52 deaths per 100,000 people. And among African Americans the death rate is 33 deaths per 100,000 people. For people who identify as Latino and Latinx, the death rate is 32 deaths per 100,000 people. For people who are Asian, the rate is 23 deaths per 100,000 people, and for whites, the death rate is 17 deaths per 100,000 people…We also see that people who live in areas with high rates of poverty continue to have almost four times the rate of death for COVID-19.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Public Health Director

In my native East Hollywood neighborhood, the County is tracking a total of 254 cases, with 38 deaths from the disease so far, while the adjacent Silver Lake neighborhood is tracking a total of 221 cases, with 14 deaths from the disease so far.

But as startling as the numbers for a “natural disease” like COVID-19 in Los Angeles may be, they still fall short of another galling statistic for the county. In an L.A. Times report published earlier this week, data showed that since 2000, more than 78% of people killed by police in L.A. County–98% of whom were shot to death by police officers–were Black and Latino, overwhelmingly males between the ages of 20 and 39 years.

As protests of Mayor Garcetti’s police budget continue into this weekend, then, I wonder if another budget for Los Angeles has actually gone less noticed: The L.A. County sheriff department, which employs roughly as many boots on the ground as LAPD–just under 10,000–and almost 8,000 civilians on staff, was only recently approved by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors for a budget of $3.5 billion through 2020 – 2021.

The L.A. County sheriff’s department patrols cities as close as East Los Angeles & South L.A., and as far as Lancaster and Castaic. The location of their patrol is highly significant since, according to the L.A. Times report, the neighborhoods with the highest number of fatal shootings by police are cities such as Compton, Inglewood and East Los Angeles, home to large minority populations, and where L.A. County sheriffs partner with LAPD to police civilians.

The L.A. County sheriff’s department also runs the L.A. County Jail, which oversees more than 17,000 people, where 80% of inmates are Black and Latino.

Similarly to their counterparts at LAPD, however, they actually seek more taxpayer dollars for their services, and may even have loftier ambitions than what LAPD’s longed-for $150 million raise would suggest. According to the L.A. County sheriff website, the department actually needs $400 million more than the $3.5 billion that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has recommended for fiscal year 2020-2021.

At 18,000 staff members, the budget the L.A. County sheriff’s department seeks for 2020-2021 would amount to more than $216,000 a year for one staff member. At present, it is $194,000.

To be sure, with these numbers and more projections to consider, only a few things are clear:

At the beginning of the crisis due to coronavirus, there was much we did not know about the disease, no federal guidelines for states regarding testing sites or containment for COVID-19, and much confusion about the best course of action.

Three months later, there is still much we don’t know about the virus, no federal plan in place for testing or containment strategies, and now a litany of discussions about our racialized and punitive society proving more confusing than not for many. As the battles continue, more confusion will ensue, but I believe the time for a break, if not a breaking point, is upon us, Los Angeles.

J.T.

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An African-American male poses with his hands behind his back in front of a metal barrier

No More Names: ‘Reform’ Has Failed, Reconstructing American Society is the Only Viable Beginning

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 85)

In less than three months, cities and households across America have gone from discussing precautions for COVID-19 to discussing the racial inequality that limits access to resources and safety all around the fences separating our communities. But the two have never been anything but linked: throughout this writing series, a number of stories and statistics have shone light on the barriers afforded to people by wealth, skin color, and the subsequent access to resources and even “an alternative truth” to America’s racial inequality and just who actually benefits from its staying power. But these issues themselves betray “older” roots.

In November 2016, the United States faced a choice between two denialist candidates, both of whom refused to confront racial politics in America as a matter of the nation’s core, or the bedrock on which its economy was built and on which it’s been sustained since the days of genocide, chattel slavery, dishonored treaties with Native American tribes, and more.

One doesn’t need to recall Trump’s denials, since he will likely be remembered as the most ahistorical candidate and president of all time. But one also needs to look at the alternative to Trump at the time, sold to voters as Hillary Clinton.

In 2016, when Hillary Clinton and her husband were each confronted by Black Lives Matter activists, both denied calls for acknowledging their roles in jailing countless Black and Latino men, including youth, by means of President-Clinton’s Crime Bill in 1994, which paved the way for 14 years of increased incarceration for Black and Latino bodies, including with an increase of death penalty sentences.

In a meeting with Black Lives Matter leadership at the time, when Hillary Clinton was asked to admit her and her husband’s parts in this racist jail system, she told Black Lives Matter activists to ‘change policy, not hearts.

Four years later, it’s clear that changing policies did not prevent the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, or the countless other names that haven’t made their way into the mainstream conscience from another show of white supremacy rearing its deadly head in America. Just as it’s clear that reform policy has largely not prevented the incarceration of Black men and women at nearly six times the rate of whites in the United States.

Now, it’s time to continue holding not just Biden accountable for his benefit at the expense of Black and more working-class communities, but elected officials like Eric Garcetti, Michel Moore, and countless others, as Black Lives Matter and the growing calls to reduce the LAPD’s budget in Los Angeles demonstrate. In days forward, as the American economy teeters on the brink of another decade of depression and insolvency for one too many families, it is not just depression that is at stake; it’s the matter of the survival of our very society. The world is watching, Los Angeles. The world is with us.

J.T.

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EPISODE 17 – RICK’S PRODUCE UPLIFTS FAMILIES WITH FREE FRUITS & VEGGIES

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 84)

In our seventeenth episode, we catch up with Ninoska Suarez, of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, to chat about a major gift for the neighborhood in partnership with Rick’s Produce of the Virgil Village area in East Hollywood: More than 125 boxes of fresh fruits and veggies for residents the past three Sundays through COVID-19, AND THEN SOME.

J.T.

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A single candle-light on Normal avenue following another fatal shooting in East Hollywood, the fifth in the area this year

Today, Put Your Sunscreen On And Get Ready for Another Walk, Los Angeles

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 83)

During a time of so much change, one is not unreasonable to ask themselves: what can I change? There is much work to do at home. Many lines to dial up, different items lying around needing to be stored in better places, handfuls of books to finish reading, and more.

But even when we see each of these tasks through, almost at the same time we close the cover on one set of interests, ideas, and responsibilities, we acquire new ones. Before we know it, we find ourselves swept by another cycle of work, traffic, and the need to slow down before it’s too late again.

Maybe that’s the single reason why death is so inconceivable: life as it moves seems like it can never be complete, even if sometimes it feels like it’s just a breath away from closing the covers on us for good.

In my own life, I believe I’ve walked through the same streets that too many young people have not had enough time to see as more than just more concrete they’re confined to.

I believe I owe it to each of them, and so many more lives that have come and gone, to continue putting together the pieces for serious visions of a better Los Angeles, one step and one breath at a time.

Here is to continue working for it, but first, to walk some more for it. The light is calling, Los Angeles.

J.T.

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