EPISODE 58 – BELMONT HIGH SCHOOL IN THE 1960s

In our 58th episode, we are honored to chat with Karen “Kiwi” Burch, as well as her sister Cheryl McDonald. The sisters tell us about their respective careers in education through and beyond Los Angeles, their parents’ profound influence on their education, and the diverse student population of Belmont high school as early as 1963. Karen and Sheryl also describe running for the Associated Student government at Belmont high school, the once-prevalent LAUSD practice of “funneling” non-white students to separate schools, redlining’s impact on their families, and their grandparents’ cafeteria at none other than the Central Public Library. A truly can’t miss post-session for fans of our special panel series.

J.T.

Family Continues To Uplift in Luis Ek’s Name with Cochinita Pibil Sale this Saturday, the 24th, and Sunday, the 25th

The Ek family is hosting a special weekend food sale from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM this Saturday, the 24th, and Sunday, the 25th, in the Virgil Village area to raise funds for memorial services honoring Luis Ek, 31, who unexpectedly passed away last Tuesday, April 13th, leaving behind two daughters.

The featured dish for the fundraiser, Cochinita Pibil, is a classic slow-roasted and marinated pork dish from the state of Yucatán, Mexico. Orders placed will be for pick-up only. To get your plate and support this effort by Luis’s family, please call (213) 793-5671.

J.T.

Please Uplift the Name of Luis Ek, whose daughters, now miss their Papa

This Tuesday, April 13th, in the early morning hours, Luis Ek, pictured above this column at the top right with his two daughters, died of unknown causes just a block away from his home while attending to an errand. He was only 31 years old.

Luis Ek (Licho to friends), second from the left, with his clan since childhood in 2007.

As was customary for youth growing up along Virgil avenue in the early 2000s, Luis attended Lockwood Elementary, King Middle school, and John Marshall High school.

Also true to the fashion for many young Latinx kids in our community, Luis came to love heavy metal music at an early age in his life, and was as true to the form, replete with the rockero style of black hoodies, jeans, and skateboards, as he was loyal to his many friends, primos, and more who knew him.

One of Luis’s life-long friends and neighbors, Rene Martinez, noted of Luis, whose nickname was Licho:

“Happy, always smiling, ready to crack jokes. And always willing to help no matter what. Always had your back.”

In his early twenties, Luis became a father of two girls. After a separation from their mom, Luis faithfully attended to his daughters as their single parent. His daughters will now miss their papa, who could often be seen walking with the girls along Virgil avenue on their way to school, or just out for a stroll along Hoover street and the accompanying thoroughfares.

Constantly on his feet, one could also run into Luis picking up some pupusas after work at local California Grill, or laughing with one of the compradres over a drink after work. He was rarely ever truly alone; constantly on his way to someone, or for someone, in good spirits.

In 2018, for our community’s first-ever Back 2 School Party, Luis attended the show with his daughters, reliably smiling on. Our main photographer for the event, Samanta Helou-Hernandez, captured this photo of the trio.

Luis Ek (Licho), with his two daughters at the first-ever Back 2 School Party in East Hollywood; August 25, 2018. Photo courtesy of Samanta Helou-Hernandez at This Side of Hoover.

Luis is now survived by his two daughters, his mama and papa, siblings, tios, tias, primos, and many friends locally in Los Angeles and out as far as Yucatan, Mexico.

His prima, Genesis Ek, has set up this FUNDRAISER for a proper ceremony with respect to his untimely passing.

J.T.

Dug Ramon: Hot Wheels

As I played with my toy cars next to the giant living room window, the early morning summer sun shined a rectangle of heat all around me. My neck and arms burned, but I was frozen tense as I watched my mom from the corner of my eye pacing back and forth. She bit her nails while her other hand gripped the cordless phone to her chest. Suddenly, I heard keys at the door.

It opened and I saw my dad standing there wearing the same clothes from yesterday. I fell asleep the night before in his rocking chair waiting for him.

“Sabés qué?!” my mom screamed at him. “Si no vas a llegar a dormir a esta casa, por qué putas no te vas mejor?!”

My heart pounded and my hands stiffened on my Hot Wheels. It didn’t make sense why she’d scream at him to leave when he’d just gotten there. My stomach moaned and ached.

Mom gripped the phone, trembled and swallowed, and stared at him with teary eyes.

He said nothing. He glanced at her then looked down, took a shallow breath, and walked past us and into the kitchen. I heard a drawer open and a big noisy trash bag was taken out. Dad walked back in holding the bag and hurried into the bedroom without looking at us. Mom followed.

I pretended not to stare through the doorway at them as she kept screaming.

“No soy estúpida!! Encontré su número en tus pantalones!”

I wondered if she meant the lady dad made me talk to on the payphone the other night. I got worried he would think I told mom after I promised I wouldn’t.

She kept screaming: “Si querés andar jodiendo largate a la mierda mejor!”

Why would she scream at him to leave like that? My heart pounded faster and I felt worry on my face.

I heard the plastic bag being filled while mom kept screaming. Dad was quiet. With my head lowered I peaked at them again and saw him lifting the bag to cascade its contents toward the bottom. He pulled his pants, shirts, and underwear from our dirty laundry hamper and threw them into the black trash bag.

I looked back down at my cars simmering in the sun and my hands were shaking. Dad walked back into the living room with the bag and stood far from me, but I felt him staring. He stepped closer, to the edge of the sunlit rectangle, and knelt down as he dropped the trash bag of clothes onto the warm carpet in front of me.

“Mirame hijo,” he said, and I looked up at him. He looked away quickly.

“Me tengo que ir,” he said avoiding eye contact, “pero sabés que te quiero mucho.” With his hand on my shoulder, he forced a hug around me.

I didn’t move. I didn’t say anything back. I didn’t ask why he had to leave, or tell him to stay, even though I really wanted to. Everything was bright and blurry and I noticed I was squeezing my car.

He stood up, took a deep breath, and lifted the trash bag over his shoulder. He said nothing else.

In the quiet, my mom sniffled. Dad walked to the door, left the house, and mom and me stayed there quiet and shaky.

I turned quickly to look out the living room window, but the brightness burned my blurry eyes. I wiped them and as they adjusted I saw dad walk across the street with the black trash bag over his shoulder. He threw it into the bed of his beat up blue pick up truck, got inside, started the motor, put it into gear, and drove away without looking back.

“Quitate de allí,” mom said, but I didn’t move.

“Quitate de allí!!” she screamed and the cordless phone shattered against the living room wall.

DR

Dug Ramon was born, raised, and resides in East Hollywood, Los Angeles. An LAUSD, LACC and Cal State LA alumni with a background in psychology and mental health, Dug works as an office manager and writes daily for his own joy and sanity. Dug hopes to grow as a writer in the coming years and share his work with more readers. He’s currently working on a fiction project, from which “Hot Wheels” is an excerpt.

blossoming branch of tree against blue sky

Tunisia Nelson: Standing in Remembrance of Mary Lee

Standing in remembrance of Mary Lee
I TIP her hat with pride
Red as Bold & Courageous
Strong as she Identified

The true definition of what it means to be…
A Woman after God’s own heart
The pillar of this family
Proverbs 31 in human form

To know her was to love her, if not to envy her kind, subtle ways
She owned SWAG before it was even a thing
She created the Formation, you hope & dream
To be anything like Mary Lee
A conqueror of much

She is a survivor of more than you will ever know
Her faith made it seem as if she towered, despite her petite frame
Cancer couldn’t take her and the devil couldn’t break her

She made a mean peach cobbler!
The kind you are willing to sneak in the kitchen, eat up,
And get a whooping for.

A sacrificer of much
In a pinch she knew just what to do
Head High, Speaking Her mind,

For ALL that, and more, Grandma,
I tip YOUR hat to YOU!

TN

Tunisia Nelson is a writer, born in Los Angeles but raised in Bakersfield, CA and currently residing in Moreno Valley, CA. She is a VONA Alum and has published poems in the Eunoia Review, Iō Literary Journal, and Refractions, an online literary journal. She received a BA in Psychology from Cal Poly Pomona, and an MSW from Cal State Long Beach. Tunisia dedicates this poem to her grandmother, one of the most faithful and prayerful women she was blessed to have known, who also made the best peach cobbler, hands down, and who loved her family with every fiber in her. Her memory deserves to live on and this poem is paying her homage, letting her know she is so very missed.

EPISODE 12 – THE ACTIVE VARIABLE

In our 12th episode, we sit down with our brother from another mother Edwin Monroy. We talk about a slate of different projects Ed’s been up to since our first Back 2 School Party together, including his new podcast The Active Variable. We also discuss a major fundraiser for his family following the recent passing of his father, Nery Edwin Monroy. To support Ed’s GoFundme, find the link HERE.

J.T.

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Nery Edwin Monroy: Loving Father, Tío to Many

Kryzia, Darcy, Nery, Edwin and Emily Monroy

On January 31st, 2020, Nery Edwin Monroy, a father of four, passed away at the age of 50 years old due to a liver and kidney failure.

Nery left behind his former wife of twenty years, as well as four children. His three daughters and single son are all under 30 years old, and were each alongside Nery at bedside until his last breath.

In my years of working for the community in East Hollywood, no single family has come together like a team to support and advance the work of uplifting the neighborhood alongside me the way the Monroy family has. Ed Monroy’s voice helped me launch J.T. The L.A. Storyteller Podcast, and Kryzia and Darcy Monroy supported both Back 2 School Parties in East Hollywood in 2018 and 2019.

I know from these experiences that the family’s future remains bright, but that this time is also filled with other transitions. Ed graduated from Cal State University Northridge just last year. This Fall 2020, Kryzia will begin her classes at Cal State Los Angeles following one last semester at Los Angeles City College.

It’s thus a small token of my gratitude for the Monroy family to uplift their mourning and recovery process following this loss.

To support the Monroy family’s fundraiser for Nery Monroy’s funeral, which is nearly halfway to its goal, please do so HERE.

J.T.