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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This year: Thank you Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles; Spring 2018
Downtown Los Angeles; Spring 2018

In the flash of time that’s been this past year, I’ve been fortunate enough to take part in a handful of experiences that I couldn’t have anticipated at the beginning of 2018.

As early as April, for National Poetry month I got to team up with the Friends of Cahuenga for Cahuenga Library’s first-ever Open Mic Saturday.

Then, over the summer, I made the trek out to the states of El Salvador and Guatemala for the first time. After that, fluttering with a burst of energy from these two trips, I also managed to see Oaxaca, Mexico one more time, too.

On recovering from all the jet-lag, I beamed with inspiration from the various people and places I was able to meet through these adventures, and decided that good ole Los Angeles needed something special to show for the summer as well.

Enter the Back to School Party at El Gran Burrito this past August.

“BTS” in “East Hollywood” was a very special day for the families which J.T.L.A. has been dedicated to over the past four years, and after consulting with the team, the consensus is clear: next year, we’re doing it again. One hundred percent.

Now, as the year winds down to the holiday season, I find myself in yet another privileged position as I get to oversee a very special project with a batch of L.A.’s middle school students in Los Angeles.

Over the past few weeks of getting to know the students, their stories have motivated me with a lightning force, and so I’ve thus decided to take a moment to recognize them as the most critical actors in the journey that is JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller.

Connecting with a young person who may recognize ‘J.T.’ somewhere farther down the line in ten or fifteen years is a gift. We are fellow citizens, after all, and the better we can learn to co-exist now, the better we can co-exist tomorrow. In the same regard, I know that supporting each other in the present moment makes it all the more likely we can support each other in the future.

In what future? In the one of Los Angeles, that is.

For this reason, I walk into the latest L.A. school I get to be a part of with all of my heart and mind brimming for the students. Even if our meeting will fleet into a memory with the class hour before we know it, and even if we’ve got to part ways at the end of our time together, for me there’s truly no such thing as disconnecting.

There’s only putting a rain-check on our reunion, because like the very ideas nestled in between the textbook and the classrooms that belong to all of those who claim them, J.T. will remain at these schools too.

“Your mom always wanted to be a teacher.”

When my tio said that, I averted my gaze towards his figure, as if to determine whether the words could ring true or not. But the words just hung there, decorating the walls. Of course they were true. I don’t know how I could have missed it in twenty-seven years as my mother’s son, but now I don’t have to look back; I can look forward.

The future is ours. It’s whirling in the present moment now, as I’ve seen it affirmed that everything from this point forward is not just an opportunity for me, but also for Mama and all of our pueblo. From the pueblos of El Salvador, then, on through Oaxaca, and from the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, back to this place called J.T.L.A:

There is far more that happened this year in stories that will take far more time to tell, but for now we can say with utmost resolution,

Thank you for all of 2018 Los Angeles.

“You can’t eat cars.
[But] you can eat chocolate cars.
Yes. Write that down!”

J.T.

Our Petition for Super Pan Bakery of the Virgil Village is now LIVE

“She collected observations as one would collect ice-cream sticks: a youth riding a wobbly bike on the muddy shoulders of the street; a skinny cat roaming through the tall bird-of-paradise stalks; two comadres chatting between a fence; an old crooked bird man who fed his flock of pigeons daily. The desire to be on the other side of the fence, to run away and join them, was so strong, it startled her, just like the buzzard bell ending another recess.”

– Their Dogs Came With Them, Helena Maria Viramontes

One day we were teenagers, just trying to make our way home without forgetting our books at the 7-Eleven, either because we had put them down in trying to avoid looking overly studious with over-sized backpacks, or because we just didn’t take backpacks to school to begin with, being too cool.

The next we were at a crossroads, either turning the other cheek as police raided the homes and pockets of our classmates and peers, or going down in a blaze with them for trying to stand at their side without the social standing to back us.

Today we’re at another junction, as the influx of new wealth and power make their way through the streets which for decades we’ve called home, transforming their characters and erasing their pasts for a new crop of city-goers in a new time of city-going.

But to be clear about the question of change: the fact of the matter is that the neighborhood has been in the midst of transformation since the earliest steps our parents took through its intersections when they first arrived en masse to Los Angeles during the 1980s in an effort to make for new lives here.

The technology since that time has also been in the midst of transformation; the way human beings have connected with the rest of the world has come a long way from the days of the first home computers and beepers and payphones. My peers and I were born in the 1990s, arriving just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which placed us at the end of an arms and technological race between two empires that spawned formidable, reverberating technologies across the world.

While the smartphones we use today now change our perception of the world at light-speed, the atom and hydrogen bombs before them, followed by the freeways not long afterwards, also altered time and space in ways that moved people, including our people–that is, our immigrant and working class communities all over the U.S. and the world–to and through cities like Los Angeles.

But now another social and technological shift is underway again, and the question is not whether we can keep another neighborhood in Los Angeles from being taken from its past, because this has definitely not been the case here since the city’s foundation, throughout its annexation, during the boring for Mulholland’s aqueducts, amid the aforementioned scientific innovations, or at any other point.

The question is whether we can manage to facilitate these changes in a way that doesn’t come at the complete expense of others, and in a way that benefits more than just one group over another.

It’s also a question of whether the people in the “less affluent” groups like the one described here can muster the collective social and political strength necessary to take a stand in this regard. I would argue that our Back to School Party at El Gran Burrito this past August was a STAND, which makes it so that calling attention to Super Pan Bakery’s displacement from the Virgil Village is now a direct follow up to that same STAND.

I also believe that while there’s much debate in cities throughout the U.S. about just what kind of change is inevitable, it’s clear that it’s increasingly difficult for institutions and owners to take space from others without people calling attention to their place in the historical timeline of the environment in question.

Today then, calling attention to displacements like the one now facing Super Pan is a matter of claiming the history of our community here for our own sake and development.

At the time of this writing, we now have a petition with our first 137 signatures supporting the family at Super Pan Bakery in their bid for more time to relocate at the FOLLOWING:

https://www.change.org/p/mitch-o-farrell-help-super-pan-bakery-of-virgil-village-get-more-time-to-relocate

Only ten years ago, 137 signatures would have required far more work to put together over the course of a few days, if not a whole week, but now we can publish a petition online calling for our people just minutes after deeming it necessary. In the 15 days before the deadline for Super Pan’s relocation is up then, we will continue to rally support from the various members of Nuestro Pueblo throughout L.A., California, and across the world who believe in our Panaderias with us.

This next week also includes a meeting with a representative for local Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s office, getting more of us involved in the effort, and which we’ll have notes about in our next update. In the meantime, I hope we can garner the signatures of each reader of this blog for our petition, and that you can also spread the word to your own networks and peers.

Thankful for each step in this process, and each of you,

J.T.