Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 66

Today I’d like to take a moment to congratulate the class of 2020.

It’s been over two months and just shy of one week since the shut-down orders in California went into effect, and as this writing series stretches into the end of the school-year, I realize that I would be remiss not to address the class of 2020 for a moment.

Students, let’s be heard:

To be a graduating senior at this time is to trade your one-way ticket for the journey of a lifetime for a one-way entry into the challenge of a lifetime.

It is to leave one of the most familiar institutions in your life for a globe that’s just teeming into newfound uncertainty.

And it is to be introduced, to a world that needs far more exposure if it is to change.

In Los Angeles, over the span of two months, we’ve learned much about the world here that we might have already known, but which, just in case we’d forgotten, has come back resoundingly for us to keep in mind:

The world has come to accept an unacceptable inequality.

The world is profoundly in need of new leadership.

The world needs new voices to lead these calls.

The fact of the matter is, in times of great crisis, much of the world is convinced that the only resolution is to “get back to normal.”

But if normal in this country is far and away a time spent waging wars, incarcerating the poor, and pricing the most vulnerable among us out of their homes, is that a “normal” that we should want to go back to?

This is what our elected officials mean by “normal.”

But if normal in this country is indebting first-generation college students, and maintaining racialized job markets upon their graduation to solidify racial hegemony, and offering all of these students and workers only the most basic benefits and health services in low-wage work, is that a “normal” that’s optimal for us to go back to?

Remember also that normal is a world in which Black, Brown, and white children in the United States still go hungry, in which people over the age of 65 have no health-care during the most important days of their lives, and in which Wal-Mart executives would rather let their full-time employees live on food stamps instead of raising their wages.

I believe the students have to scrutinize this “normality” better than anyone in the days going forward.

I also believe that America needs the students, as well as their parents, to see America for what it truly is in this way.

A world that is not fair; a world that has actually spent an immeasurable amount of time and energy in arresting the development of generations of people, in effect bolstering inequality, and a world which can only grow more unequal if we don’t take this moment, that is, this next decade, to stand for something better.

Class of 2020, I congratulate you, not only for all your hard work leading up to and in spite of this moment, but also because America will benefit greatly from your exposure to this stark reality. In the days ahead, no matter what may lie ahead, I promise you this: my voice will not be far.

J.T.

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Second Chance (A Ninth Grade Student’s Poem on Redemption)

Everyone needs a second chance,

A second chance to say goodbye.

To say sorry, to understand.

To hold a grudge or to start a new chapter,

A chance to remain hurt, or a chance to forgive and forget.

But why remain hurt if there’s a second chance to stop hurting.

I need a second chance, you need a second chance,

We need a second chance.

MT

MT is a Black 9th grade student at Dorsey High School in the West Adams area of Los Angeles. His favorite hobbies include playing basketball when he’s outside, and playing Fortnite when he’s stuck at home. This poem is dedicated to his father.

Helen Bernstein High School from Sunset boulevard, East Hollywood

José Ocampo: I Wanted School to Be Over

Many students (high school seniors, I’m talking to you!) constantly share one common wish: for school to be over. As seniors, we have put up with nearly 12 years of schooling, have gone through twice as many teachers, met 5 times as many annoying-ass kids, and just wanted our final year to be a breeze. Do we still want that?

When we said, “UGH! I want to get out of here already!” we meant that we wanted the school year to go by fast, unnoticed. However, fate and life (and some may even say God) enjoy toying with us, and like making a wish at a magic genie booth at the L.A. County fair, we actually got what we wanted, just in the most undesirable way possible.

COVID-19 has every school in the major Los Angeles area closed with a very high chance that they’ll remain closed until the upcoming fall. Suddenly, all of us students have been forced into online schooling, with every teacher trying to host a Zoom session at the same time, with many teachers assigning homework every single day, and with some teachers still having no idea how to use technology. This is not the end we wanted.

Suddenly, it seemed our introverted lifestyles were becoming a law and a survival guide: don’t go outside, don’t interact with anyone, avoid direct contact, only leave to get food. Finally, our binge-eating and binge-watching routines were no longer taboo, but being encouraged by the leaders of our state. In a nutshell, it can seem ideal. Living in it, though, has been a serious challenge.

Be careful what you wish for. You don’t know the value of what you have until it’s gone. These are sayings that are kicking everyone in the ass at the moment.

The vast majority of people always complain about the insipidity of their daily routine; we’re always asking for a change. It’s only now that we start to realize how dependent we are in our customs. Think about it: you’re sitting on your couch, watching something random on Netflix for background noise, eating your 5th Cup Noodles this week, and daydreaming about how life was perfectly normal a month ago (though you were probably complaining about it then too).

Many of our lonely souls just want this to be over because we miss our friends. We miss making plans we probably weren’t going to show up for. We miss rolling our eyes at the kids in the halls who take their sweet ass time walking to class. We also miss seeing that one teacher that remembered what being a high school student was like. Some of us are even questioning if we’ll still remember our social skills once this is over. Will we remember how to say “hi” properly, or how to hug our friends?

No matter what kind of person you may be, you probably miss the times that seem like forever ago too. Every day lasts 72 hours now, and there is apparently nothing to do. We all want this to be over, and soon. But what can we do? Be awesome and listen. That’s what. Also, remember to wash your hands and practice saying “hello” at home whenever possible.

(This blog was originally published on the new LA Voice Blog by José Ocampo)

JO

José Ocampo is an 18 year old Senior high school student in Los Angeles who will be studying at the University of San Francisco as a Psychology major this upcoming Fall 2020. He loves writing about the world, and sharing his mind with as many people as he can. Please check out and subscribe to his new blog, the LA Voice, immediately during this quarantine season!