EPISODE 33 – GRASS ROOTS EAST HOLLYWOOD

In our thirty-third episode, listeners meet Aditya Bhairi, a local program manager for a software company originally from Hyderabad, India, as well as the founder of Grass Roots East Hollywood (GREHO). We discuss Adi’s journey to life in the United States, beginning in Utah and culminating in none other than East Hollywood, Los Angeles, as well as the use of data such as statistics and analytics to engage with local communities. We also discuss Adi’s experience with the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, and goals for GREHO. A very fun session for any and all L.A. aficionados, dreamers, and more. To donate to Who Is Your Neighborhood’s Hoodies for Students fund drive, find the link HERE.

J.T.

I ASKED THE BLUE HERON (2017)

To come to terms with one’s status as a survivor is to relive the moments that nearly ended one’s life. To collect those moments and offer them to the world is to relieve their weight on one’s mind so new possibilities in one’s life may take shape. Lisbeth Coiman, an Afro-Venezuelan poet and writer, has embarked on this process in a particularly relevant reading journey for working-class people in cities like Los Angeles, especially for migrants from Latin America.

All across the streets of central, east and south Los Angeles are people unsheltered, overwhelmingly Black, but also substantially Latino, lying on the curb through summer heat, and lingering like abandoned cattle throughout the day. When I noted to someone recently that according to the L.A. Homeless Services Authority, the official count of people living as such this year was upwards of 70,000, they gave me a higher estimate, which I found more credible: “It’s probably more like 200,000,” they said.

I wonder, for a moment, how many of the 200,000 in Los Angeles are survivors, or people who’ve suffered physical, mental, and other abuse at some point in their lives. In my work with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youth, I’ve come across more than only a few victims: teenagers whose parents were drug abusers, or teenagers who were molested by their family members at an early age; teenagers with inherent learning disabilities who were clearly discriminated against at schools before they were discriminated against in courtrooms, and teenagers who likely acquired learning disabilities as a result of abuse at home.

Lisbeth Coiman is also a survivor, whose first book, She Asked the Blue Heron, unwinds a mental and emotional journey for the author as she seeks to face a mental health battle on her terms and for her healing, to which the reader is invited. At 239 pages, by means of skillfully arranged, quick-moving chapters, Coiman’s book offers lifelines for any reader maneuvering through their own mental health battles at home, with family members, with lovers, and in the work of building a career. Coiman’s book also traces the process before, during, and after migration, although some notes should be made on the terms of migration today.

Continue reading “I ASKED THE BLUE HERON (2017)”

In a Box, Hidden from My View, Lies a Record

People, slain,
History books, vanished
Pictures, stolen
Mi abuelito’s pictures.

Flowers, fettered
Names, redacted
Bullet with my name on it.
Warrant for my citizenship, overdue.

Every day, sirens
Us, bleeding,
Suffocating, silenced.
Never, White.

Us, “want rest,”
Trump, “Law and Order.”
Sun, sets,
We pray.

Borders, bellies
Jailing, rapists.
America, bloodthirsty,
Me, ashamed.

Mothers, baby boys,
Mijas, todos
Endless, Wings,
Fluttering into dirt.

Run, hide,
Try, might,
But, surprise.

Bullet with my face on it.

God, bless.
Bless, “hypocrites.”

And then my
Teacher, said:

“SUCK IT UP.”

But me,

I said,

“I
don’t
think
so.”

J.T.