Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 52

The Department of Labor recently reported the unemployment rate as rising to 14.7% during the month of April. Of a population of about 330 million people in the U.S., that’s at least 48 million citizens out of work over these last few weeks.

The numbers suggest long and difficult days ahead for people from literally all walks of life; whether white, black, gay or heterosexual, christian or muslim, immigrant or citizen, or younger or older, effectively everyone and their mom has been affected by a disaster which few of us could have anticipated only two months ago, when reports of the coronavirus began to break news.

If we were preparing for the future, as in, for the 21st century still ahead, I am certain there is much we could achieve with 48 million Americans–and more who will accrue–in need of a new safety net, pastime and direction.

A brief glance at the past during similar turning points for the American project can provide readers some clarity about the present moment. Here are just three quotes from other extraordinary times when the goal was still to look forward:

In 1932, when at the height of the great depression a quarter of Americans were unemployed, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of getting ‘back to work’ with a renewed purpose:

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits.”

In 1961, during the throes of the Cold War, or the fight against liberty-bashing ‘communism’, John F. Kennedy spoke of fighting alongside people all over the world against ills affecting all nations:

Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out…a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

In 1965, one week after Alabama state troopers attacked Martin Luther King jr and a group of protesters in Selma, Alabama, for marching for the right to vote, in a joint-session to Congress, Lyndon B. Johnson reflected on the great power suddenly placed into his hands, and how his memories as a “small-time” college teacher in Texas guided his decision over how to apply that power:

My first job after college was as a teacher in Cotulla, Tex., in a small Mexican-American school. Few of them could speak English, and I couldn’t speak much Spanish. My students were poor and they often came to class without breakfast, hungry. They knew even in their youth the pain of prejudice. They never seemed to know why people disliked them. But they knew it was so, because I saw it in their eyes. I often walked home late in the afternoon, after the classes were finished, wishing there was more that I could do. But all I knew was to teach them the little that I knew, hoping that it might help them against the hardships that lay ahead. Somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.

I never thought then, in 1928, that I would be standing here in 1965. It never even occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students and to help people like them all over this country. But now I do have that chance—and I’ll let you in on a secret—I mean to use it.”

These words may be from a different time, but on closer inspection, they don’t feel radically removed from our own. In the days ahead, we will continue documenting and sharing to inform and uplift Los Angeles.

J.T.

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Still Resilient in Los Angeles

JT_Red
Metro Red Line Station; Vermont Ave and Santa Monica Blvd.

When you’ve known a place your whole life, a place that you take pride in, where you’ve found love in, and where you’ve found yourself in, what do you do as that place is taken from you? When the people who comprise this place are people who look like you, or who speak the same language as you, who hail from that same “otherness” like you, what do you do as they’re taken from you, too?

I think of the local Metro’s Vermont and Santa Monica Red Line Subway station. A place where thousands of people pass one another by each day, past the flocks of pigeons nestled above in the station’s arches, and past the heaps of other people laying by the entrances to the terminal.

The birds cradled in the station’s altitudes are conditioned to the factors of the environment, which are often rather unfriendly to their livelihood: Food is scarce, competition for food is abundant, and the winds push people and traffic through their huddled masses daily.

The humans below, whether moving with the traffic or anchored to the sidewalk, are conditioned to the factors of the environment, too: Food and housing are expensive, finding decent work to afford decent food and housing is likewise competitive. As people push through flocks of pigeons in the race to get to it all, we push past one another too; over time, this has the effect of insulating us from the environment and one another as a whole.

I think of my own experience in this sequence, in terms of just how many people I’ve walked past over the dozen or so years I’ve stepped foot through Metro’s Vermont and Santa Monica corridor. Past people conflicted by mental health disorders, addiction, or no place for shelter at night. Past people trapped in abusive relationships, police violence, or no access to a steady meal each day. Past children who had no choice. I’ve got a feeling that this is an experience which binds me with millions of other people in the U.S. today.

In the 21st century, America isn’t just pushing people away from its borders, but it’s also pushing them from their homes, their livelihoods, and even from its street corners. In the pending displacement of Super Pan, my pueblo is dealing with wealth in this country, and the power of wealth to shove human beings out of the way instead of using it to uplift them and our community together as a whole; a legacy as old as the country itself.

But all around us are more mom and pop shops at risk of displacement, just as there are more Metro stations serving as shelters for more people with less than us. Not far off are also those individuals with wealth who simply want to take each of these spaces for their own benefit without pausing to consider how others can be harmed by such obnoxious claims to space.

If I’m somewhere in between, that is, not enamored by the power of wealth, but also not forced to sleep by the Metro stations at night, then just where do I stand? I pass by the less fortunate like the rest, to try to be better in some other way, which is for the most part what I have to do. But I don’t believe I’ve always got to do things this way.

I believe there’s still a world to build right through the one we see now, both with and alongside others: a world that’s been here before, actually, and which still glimmers through the shadows in moments each day out there; a world of people helping each other, uplifting each other, and building great things as a result.

A world we have to fight for, and which we continue fighting for each day: Nuestro Pueblo, Los Angeles.

More on Super Pan in the Virgil Village SOON,

J.T.

Survivors in Japan: Hiroshima

“My mother entered the center of Hiroshima three days after the bombing. She was four months pregnant with me. I was very sickly in my childhood, suffering from many kinds of infectious diseases, which might have been because of a weak immune system.

My mother developed bladder cancer in 1992, but recovered completely. Fourteen years later, she was bedridden half a year and could not stand up or walk at all. But she is now 99 years old and healthy. We live together.

My grandfather was in the center of Hiroshima. He was buried alive underneath a house, but returned home late at night. Ten days later many purple spots appeared on his body. He became weaker and weaker, [and] had a lot of bloody diarrhea and vomited excessively…

He could not eat or speak, and died twenty-seven days later.”

Mito Kosei, In-Utero (before birth) Survivor

Hiroshima, Japan

Dear Los Angeles, a new day has arrived

All it takes for evil to win is for good to do nothing.

Over the last 2+ years, I’ve enjoyed an immense amount of support for J.T., an ode to the city of L.A. Now it’s time to fly again.

There is no question about it: the election of a bigot to the nation’s highest office has drawn the lines of a new political landscape. In it, silence in the face of today’s bigotry is tantamount to complicity. Therefore, J.T. cannot afford to be silent; a new media project is born.

POC (for People of Color) Today is dedicated to people everywhere who are frightened, dismayed, or angered by a warmongering presidential administration that utterly fails to represent the values held by our nation. 

Whether our faces are black, brown, yellow or red, or whether we are allies, we strive every day to stand against xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia, and the miserable racism that’s so deeply embedded in the veins of our country.

And it is our country. All around us it’s true: we are a world of one another, and we’ll either share it or lose it altogether, but the choice is ours.

POC Today chooses to find the moments we share, where the walls are broken and it is the people who are built instead. Similarly to JIMBO TIMES, the emphasis at POC_T will be placed on storytelling, but unlike J.T., it will not just be yours truly.

The team is small, but it is a team in every shape and form nonetheless. And at the moment we do not yet have our official website, but our outreach is expanding week by week.

Together we stand in solidarity with our allies fighting for a better tomorrow everywhere, not completely certain of our victory for the day, but damn certain of our victory overall.

In the short term for POC_T, our goal is to find as many allies as we can through our media. In the long-term, it’s to translate our passion into action that affects change, even if only in the miniscule of ways. Thus, I leave it to the people of J.T.

If you can support us in this new venture, we welcome your support. If not, J.T. thanks you for your time up to this point.

We will need all the help we can get, not only for moral support, but also to expand the possibilities of our scope and range. Indeed, no matter how tempting it is to be cynical about the good that’s still possible with the challenges ahead, with POC Today the sky is just the beginning. And we are preparing for lift-off —

We are flying. Won’t you fly with us?

J.T.

Here We Go Again!

“…After apprenticing for seven months in a firm headed by William Le Baron Jenney, Sullivan left for Paris to continue his studies, and when he returned in 1875, work was hard to find because the city was in the grip of an economic depression. So for Sullivan this became a time of preparation, a chance, as he put it, “to get the lay of the land.” Every day he would walk twenty miles or more around Chicago and out into the yellow prairie that stretched beyond it. What explained this raw, robust place? What gave it its impelling drive, the “sense of big things to be done” and the will to carry them through?”  – City of the Century, Donald L. Miller

J.T.