“Homelessness” in Los Angeles Today is the Result of Decades of American Discrimination

Winter in Los Angeles; Winter 2016
Winter in Los Angeles; Winter 2016

In Los Angeles lives the type of progress towards social issues much like what the rest of the country faces, where the wealth of executives at the city’s largest institutions sits unthreatened while masses of low wage workers beneath struggle to make it to the next paycheck. These economics are accepted as irrevocable facts, natural and indefinite as the geography of Los Angeles, rather than as circumstances of human decision-making which have been reinforced over the course of time.

The same principles apply to the treatment of those who’ve exited the workforce or who’ve declined or been prevented from entering it to begin with, such as the so-called “homeless” of L.A. This is a population made up of veterans, LGBTQ youth, formerly incarcerated, and swaths of others who’ve been historically neglected by Uncle Sam and generations of U.S. populations.

Recently, the L.A. Times has taken up a new series regarding the issue, and while it is a step in the right direction, editorials like these still need to work on their context.

Take for example the Times’s neglect to mention the legacy of homeowners’ and Neighborhood Councils’ historic anti-Blackness. This is not just a documented phenomenon in Los Angeles, but throughout major cities in the U.S. It is relevant because to discuss “homelessness” without its racial component and documented antecedents would be like discussing crime in America without discussing who is criminalized in America and why. Of course, L.A.’s city council just recently voted to criminalize people sleeping in their cars overnight. Do not wonder why or for whom that is directed towards.

Back to the matter at hand: anti-Blackness in American cities has been most recently documented by Ta-Nehisi Coates’s piece on Redlining districts in Chicago, for example, or Isabel Wilkerson’s coverage of race rioting through Harlem, New York in The Warmth of Other Suns. But Mike Davis has also discussed anti-Black fervor in Southern California in his landmark City of Quartz.

For the skimmers, just know that in the fifties white and white immigrant homeowners and landlords firebombed Black families when they moved into their neighborhoods in urban America, while in other cities they pelted them with rocks and beat them to a pulp largely without any legal repercussions. Once these actions no longer worked to keep the influx of Blacks fleeing Jim Crow in the U.S. South for the “free North”, whites either up and left further north or further into the U.S. inland to maintain the dividing lines.

White flight, as it’s called, didn’t have to be catastrophic in and of itself, but the phenomenon largely left Black families and neighborhoods in urban America to desolation since so many of the small businesses and government jobs that were once there left with whites, too.

Lo and behold, then, that over half a century later in our major cities so many descendants of yesterday’s dividing lines happen to be “homeless” and predominantly Black, the likes of whom today’s homeowners and Neighborhood Councils (as opposed to yesterday’s ‘Covenants’ and ‘Associations’), resent and resist. This is not a coincidence. But it is historic.

One might say it’s history repeating itself, albeit on upgraded terms. Blacks fleeing Jim Crow in the U.S. South for the “free North” during the 20th century is significantly different from Black veterans and formerly incarcerated Blacks or Black LGBTQ in the 21st century needing basic shelter and the means by which to support themselves. But these events are not disconnected.

If the L.A. Times is serious about garnering attention for “homelessness”, then, it will do well to make sure its reporting accounts for the circumstances across American history that have led to this issue’s proliferation, or at another glance, its modernization.

We can do this, Los Angeles

J.T.,

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Back in Los Angeles, Renewed


After a week of meandering through the Midwest, I’m finally back on the west coast. In the midst of its cool and breezy daylight, with bacon grilling on the skillet and a plane engine whirring far out in the clear blue sky, the town has never felt so
fresh; Chicago made for some awesome Times, but I love Los Angeles and wouldn’t trade it for any other city in the world.

Now it’s time to rebuild myself. As if with new eyes, or at least a renewed vision, I’m at a point at which I can look at things back home from the ground up again.

A new school-year has just begun, and with it, a world of transitions start anew again. In the same light, this August 19th JIMBO TIMES will enter into its third year of production:

And it suddenly dawns on me that in the blink of an eye I might never again see my city the way I get to now. The time is special: particular to sounds, sights, scents, and other essences all of their own; and like everything else, it’s only temporary. For an instance, I want to pause every bit of it to stand indefinitely in the moment. I realize that even if it’s not perfect, it’s more than plenty, and that even if it’s a struggle, it’s one I’m fiercely determined to go the distance with. After all, every last inch of L.A.’s concrete has strengthened my feet, every one of its lights has guided my journey, and each of the strangers I’ve encountered along the way have all accompanied me throughout its long road. Together, we are still here: still hungry, but also still humble; day in and night out, each with our own kind of love for this miracle and madness of a home. For me, sometimes it’s not much, but other times, it is everything. Tonight, it is everything.”

Today is my brother’s first day living in San Jose, California. He’s been back home in L.A. since finishing his first semester at Chico State, but now he’s in a transition again. School starts for him next week, but before then, it’s just him and a strange new city.

I remember meeting up with him in the city of Chico like it was just the other day.

In reality it was some two months ago in the early days of June, at the outset of summertime. Looking back at our time at home in the middle of our twenties, we’ll be able to say we managed to be loyal about it for more than one occasion: hugging mom together, riding out to the park together, enjoying fish tacos and a beer or two together.

Tomorrow mom is also off to an adventure, leaving for a week to visit my abuelita in Oaxaca. I’m happy for her, but also naturally just slightly worried. Flying can be exhausting, and the little Señorita will definitely need some rest after her flight. Still, I trust she’ll be in good hands. She’s the heart of lions. Of course she’ll be just fine.

As for yours truly, there’s a world to bring to fruition. All the projects I’ve had the pleasure of citing throughout the pages as of late, and even more.

It goes on, and it will continue to drain me, but I’m so grateful for each part of it. I can feel it all flowing right through like water and the wind on my skin. Los Angeles’s water and wind, that is, tremendous in every ounce they get to me.

J.T.

In Chicago and Unstoppable


The world is on our back, but with our trusty Canon 5D in hand, that world is ours to share. It becomes a weight off. A weight to lift up. A way to celebrate that heat.

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.

Next Stop: Chicago, Illinois

Los Angeles,

The day is drawing towards its end, and I can finally let it go. The last week and a half has been an eclectic time time of planning and process; there was a list somewhere – or two – but now it’s all come down to just the night.

In the morning, Chicago, Illinois.

Seven years ago when I first booked a flight just because it was on a visit to New York. I wasn’t much of a planner then, so rather than making lists, I figured I’d just go with the flow and take care of anything that came up on the spot. Boy was I in for a rude awakening.

For starters, when I hopped off the plane at LaGuardia airport, I got into a cab and gave the driver directions to a hostel that was actually on the opposite side of town. By the time I realized it, however, I looked at the fare that tallied up and just played it cool. I knew where I was going. Ahem.

When we got to what was supposed to be the hostel that was actually just a convenience store, I thanked the driver for his time, paid my fare, and as soon as the driver was out of sight scurried to find the nearest subway station.

Underneath a gripping east coast heat and the weight of a duffel bag waning my shoulders between turns carrying it, I found the right line and booked it to the other side of Manhattan. It was still all good.

Then when I arrived to just outside of the spot, I reveled in self-congratulation. So what if I went the wrong way at first? I still made it! I called mom back home and declared victory (though she was skeptical).

The only problem was that at that point I didn’t actually understand hostels much beyond the fact that they were supposed to be cheaper than hotels, thus neglecting to make a reservation at the hostel inn, telling myself that it’d be just like any other hotel with plenty of walk-ins available.

I was wrong; it turned out that the guy in line right in front of me – some tall biker looking type – totally took the last spot!

From there it truly began. The evening steadily crept over the sky, and I suddenly found myself at the outset of an unforgettably tough first night in The Big Apple. Ah, to be nineteen again.

Tonight, I find myself at the end of a road in which I pride myself on my precision. Though I’m still large on improvisation, some other part of me truly enjoys accounting and planning for as many details as possible. Okay, maybe it’s more like an obsession with details, but what’s the difference, anyhow?

In the days leading up to tonight, it was obsessing over one goal after the other — getting this done here, and finishing that up there — leaving everything else behind.

In the process I maintained my precision, but not without accumulating quite a bit of stress from it; the thing is, like anyone else when it comes to a big day, I also agonize over the details more than I’d like to, but there are few alternatives.

I do believe utter confidence is a gift sometimes. But clearly, I’ve had experiences where the opposite is true.

In the case of this adventure, though, I think confidence is still in letting go after all. While letting go of an obsession with being precise is the work of a lifetime, what I can do now is let go of the notion that it’s a fault to stress over a big day.

I don’t think it’s wrong to want to get everything right leading up to an important trip to a new city, but only human.

In any case, at this point I simply don’t even have much time left to stress over that either, so the impetus really is to relax a little. I think I’ll take a jog.

It’s been an amazing ride L.A., but the real ride starts tomorrow! Be sure to check back for more details soon, as I can assure you it’s going to be another unforgettable time.

J.T.

What a Time

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It’s a gorgeous morning in The City, and today feels like an especially good day to hang back and enjoy the breadth of the sky. It’s summertime, and we’re halfway through a year that’s felt much bigger than twelve months (in J.T. Time, that is). 

This next August, JIMBO TIMES will enter its third year of production. It sounds wild, but it’s true! With each day that passes, the site gets bigger and better, and with everything that’s happened over the past two years, even the sky isn’t the limit during our next run under the sun!

Around this time last summer, I was getting ready to take a trip to Miami, and today I’m gearing up for another trip…this time to the city of Chicago in August!

I’d always wanted to spend some time in The Windy City, but had always found a way to postpone it, until the other day when a friend of mine just pushed me to finally book the damn thing, and I did!

Now, the L.A. Storyteller will know Chicago, and the people of J.T. are in for the ride, which I think is just the best celebration for our two-year anniversary.

The time before the trip, then, is a matter of organizing an amazing adventure there. I hope as many fans can support me in this, if not through direct ‘cheering on’, then through an organizing of their own trips out to somewhere new!

Each day the world surprises us somehow, so it’s only right for us to surprise the world right back.

And so, what are we waiting for then?! As we get another day today, let’s make it count, L.A!

J.T.