EPISODE 63 – IF YOU’RE A PLANNER IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD

In our 63rd episode, the tables are turned, as Sarah Syed, of the American Planning Association’s L.A. chapter interviews J.T. about growing up in Los Angeles and how it informs his current storytelling for Black and immigrant communities. Among other things, we discuss how homelessness in Los Angeles stems from planned investment against neighborhoods of color by the federal government, how planning commissions have continually invisibilized input from the very people in these neighborhoods, and what folks in urban planning today can do to be better advocates for Black and immigrant futures going forward. Another galvanizing conversation for city-lovers everywhere!

J.T.

EPISODE 61 – SOCIAL STUDIES WITH NICOLE GERRON

In our 61st episode, we’re joined by LAUSD teacher, Nicole Gerron. Nicole and I talk about LAUSD’s progress in returning to the old routine over the last five weeks of the semester with students, as well as the district’s preparations for a full reopening in the Fall. We also touch on LAUSD’s food program for communities over the last year, Nicole’s Social Studies course on U.S. history, challenges for students and families in the next school-year for all stakeholders to keep in mind, and more. A fun conversation for educators everywhere, but especially in Los Angeles!

J.T.

EPISODE 55 – DAVID DE LA CRUZ, ON LAUSD’S RETURN TO SCHOOL THIS SPRING

In our 55th episode, we chat with David de la Cruz, of the Koreatown area, on none other than Los Youngs going back to school this week, at least where David teaches at Young Oak Kim Academy. David completed his undergraduate degree at Cal State University, Los Angeles, and is now a first-year teacher for 7th graders in the English Language Arts program at Young Oak Kim. Yours truly interviews David on thoughts about the upcoming protocols for students, the setup of the school-day, and words of encouragement for parents and teachers as students gradually shift back to the classroom.

J.T.

Please save the Date: Samanta Helou-Hernandez & J.T. Return Thursday, April 29th for Grand Park’s L.A. Voices Festival

That’s right, Los Angeles!

Samanta and I’s activity for the special, digital gathering by Grand Park L.A. is a two-part informational livestream on how to “Make a Neighborhood” in response to gentrification in historically ethnic and working-class Los Angeles communities.

Part one will touch on how Samanta and I first came together and conceptualized a discussion series for our community based on three themes: historic redlining, current gentrification, and present and future housing affordability issues in the Virgil Village and East Hollywood areas.

Part two will discuss the evolution of our event from a discussion panel into a public art project, an educational pamphlet campaign, archival research and blog storytelling, and finally, round-table discussions with various community members affected by our series’ three major themes. Samanta and I will also discuss how to ensure language justice and accessibility throughout the process of “Making Our Neighborhood(s),” and more.

This event is free for the public. Simply save the date and time: April 29, 2021 at 6 PM at olav.grandparkla.org, which is also where you can learn more about the festival’s awesome digital lineup during the rest of this April 2021.

J.T.

Our Pamphlets are what Language Justice in East Hollywood Looks Like

In California, there is a long history of excluding and otherizing immigrant workers and families from all over the globe, going back to the earliest years of California’s years under U.S. jurisdiction with cases like People vs Hall (1854). In that case, the California Supreme Court established that Chinese people, like Native and African Americans at the time, were “mongrels” who had no right to testify against whites in California’s court. This had the effect of increasing hate crimes against non-whites, culminating with the Chinatown Lynching of 1871, when at least eighteen Chinese residents were hanged by a white mob.

But what if more of California’s resources were devoted to including those groups it’s historically silenced and deemed unworthy? This is what that looks like. Translation support for our informational pamphlets was provided by friends at the The Armenian National Committee of America Hollywood, The Thai Community Development Center, The Little Tokyo Service Center, the Anti Eviction Mapping Project @antievictionmap, This Side of Hoover’s @samanta_helou, and by moms and pops throughout our neighborhoods, who are the backbones of East Hollywood, and to whom these pamphlets are dedicated.

To pick up a free copy, find it at a legacy business in East Hollywood over the next few days!

And tell a mom and pop near you to RSVP to our panel series at easthollywood.eventbrite.com.

J.T.

Public Education at our Schools Once Again Stands to Lose from Budget Woes Next Year

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 64)

Governments have established virus task-forces, and job task-forces. Where’s the education task-force?

– Austin Beutner

In his address to families and educators this past Monday, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner noted the toll on public education posed by Governor Newsom’s proposed budget for the following year, which is said to contain nearly $7 billion in cuts to public schools in California following an estimated $54 billion loss in the state’s income and sales taxes due to these last two months of shutdown.

While the governor originally forecast almost $19 billion in losses for education over the next two years, he is now looking to direct nearly $4 billion from the federal Stimulus bill passed in late March to make up for learning loss during the crisis, which is particularly important for special education students, as well as for districts with large concentrations of low-income families such as LAUSD, where more than 80% of families are living at or below the poverty line.

The governor is also looking to offset the state’s revenue losses by reducing a number of increases in pension payments scheduled for 2020 – 2021 before the crisis, which can save up to $1 billion, as well as issuing up to $2 billion in deferrals or IOUs for 2020 – 2021, meaning that districts can count on being paid back for the money, though at an unspecified date.

These adjustments from the governor’s office account commit up to $7 billion for K-12 schools and community colleges in California despite the crisis, but still fall well short of rescuing the public education system.

The biggest cut would be in the local funding control formula by about 10% under the proposed budget, translating into a $6.5 billion dollar loss for public schools, and forcing districts to pick and choose between prioritizing instruction for English learners, unhoused students, students in the foster care system, and the many more low-income students enrolled on their sheets.

The reduced budget can also entail a shortened school year, more furlough days for teachers and staff, larger class sizes, and a hiring freeze for new teachers.

According to John Gray, president of the School Services of California consulting group, the last possibility of losing new teachers due to budget cuts, whom were already in short supply following the great recession, will lead to a repetition of this history in the years ahead:

Last time, we went up and down the state and dismantled public education piece by piece. We lost 40,000 teachers and they never came back because the recession lasted so long. They left the profession. [If this next round of cuts come to pass] yet again we’re going to just disillusion thousands and thousands of teachers.

In his own remarks, Beutner noted that such cuts could prove catastrophic to the hundreds of thousands of families like those at LAUSD, whose children’s dependence on schools should demand more support from the state’s resources, not less. In his view, failing to support students with the additional resources they need during this time and in the days ahead can prove just as damaging for their future as the coronavirus, yet the issue isn’t being treated with the urgency it demands.

Is it because the harm is silent and unseen, unlike the image of overrun hospitals? Is it because children don’t have a voice, or is it because so many of the families we serve are living in poverty and don’t have access to the corridors of power in Sacramento, and Washington D.C.?

This makes it critical for more families and advocates to stand for this public good, for how its loss can alter the course of too many lives for the foreseeable future. Or, as one mother said of what parents can learn to better support their families going forward:

Mainly we need to learn how to use a computer to support our children, and not stress ourselves out. We also need to have more patience because our teenagers are a little more stressed [right now].

J.T.

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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 extraordinarily 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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