The Power of Poetry: Pictures from Our 2nd Annual Open Mic Night at Cahuenga Public Library in Los Angeles

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We had a tremendous time at the 2nd Annual Open Mic Night at Cahuenga Public Library this past Thursday, April 25th, 2019, enjoying ourselves so much that we actually went over time. THIS is the power of poetry in our communities!

Photo courtesy of JRG & JIMBO TIMES.

J.T.

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Get Literary, Los Angeles

Following another lightning round of work for the day, it should have been just another chill bike ride home. But a force came over me as I decided it was time to give something else a try.

Just as I was about to make the swerve onto the ole block, I decided to keep going in a stroll through la vecindad. I’d gotten an idea. When I came across intersections through the neighborhood where I could find an outpost for the free literature, I stopped, took off my backpack, searched through the folder inside which contained a couple of prints, then grabbed the prints, took them out and dropped them into the boxes. I did this at nine (9) intersections throughout the neighborhood, and the results led to printed copies of JIMBO TIMES’s Los Angeles Students at the following cross-streets:

Virgil and Normal (1 Post: 2 copies)
Virgil and Monroe (1 Post: 2 copies)
Virgil and Clinton (1 Post: 2 copies)
Vermont and Clinton (1 Post: 2 copies)

Melrose and Vermont (3 Posts: 6 copies)
Vermont and Normal (2 Posts: 6 copies)
Vermont and Santa Monica (3 Posts: 6 copies)
Virgil and Santa Monica (1 Post: 2 copies)

Virgil and Lockwood – (1 Post & The Mini-Library: 2 & 2 -3 copies)

Halfway into making these ’rounds’, I realized something. It was a job. A job that used to exist in days before I came onto the scene, when the world was a slightly more literary place. Or at least before all of it became digitized, relinquishing the power of the print into the depths of the past.

Rather than dropping off copies of the New York or L.A. Times, however, I dropped off copies of these JIMBO TIMES. That’s when something else hit me: I want to make more of these rounds for The L.A. Storyteller.  I want to make my own newspaper through the block!

I know that the path towards such a dream can be quite long, but then, how could I not give it a shot? During all these years blogging, the power of the written word has only grown on me, convincing me once and for all that reading and writing are mediums by which a people or pueblo can become aware of their environment in ways that are invaluable to them.

And even if Los Angeles never quite had much of a literary Intellegentsia, as Freire would say, the past doesn’t represent a world we’re confined to forever, but a possibility incumbent on those of us present to uplift for the future.

We’ve got to do it, then, don’t we, Los Angeles? As with all things, one step at a time. We’re not afraid of a challenge when we know it’s in our veins to take it on. Indeed, that’s why we’re here.

Let’s do it then. Let’s get literary and start our own paper for the block, right here in East Hollywood.

J.T.

Poem in Hand, I Would Like to Welcome You With the Following

Western and 48th Street, Los Angeles
Western and 48th Street, Los Angeles

I heard the sneers of discrimination at my schools before I heard the sonnets of poetry through their halls.

But the first time I was discriminated against based on the color of my skin, the language I spoke at home, or some other characterization of me, I didn’t quite know the definition of the word: discrimination.

Similarly, the first time I heard my first poem, I didn’t quite know that it was poetry, either. But in each case my feelings told me what these things were. Today they still do.

Now I deploy words to work for me as I’ve worked for them over the course of a lifetime in education, in the same way my mother has worn every bone in her body to work shifts her whole life: to survive any rancorous winds which would seek to tame us.

My mother’s feet are waning into the ages now, yet with each new day she makes one thing clear:

We will not go gently into the night. Every moment we get, is another moment to rise.

J.T.

LAtitudes: An Angeleno’s Atlas (2015)

I’ve been reading voraciously over the last few weeks! Ever since I got back from the trip to Chicago, one thing has been clear: there’s only so much time to research my passion for what makes up a great city, and I absolutely do want to take advantage of every minute of it. For August’s book review, I’m excited to feature LAtitudes: An Angeleno’s Atlas by Patricia Wakida, in which L.A. aficionados can find one another through a stream of pages dedicated to uncovering the roots of this place we call home.download

With over nineteen different authors from all across the L.A. spectrum, the writing in LAtitudes is highly aware of the multiplicity which makes up The City. As Luis Alfaro notes at the outset, there is no ‘one L.A.’, but over 18 million of them.

And as Anthea Hartig and Josh Sides point out, L.A. is not just in downtown or Hollywood, or in the east or south sides, but it’s in the pedestrian friendliness of Burbank, and the vastness of Sunland-Tujunga, and in sun-baked Sylmar. It’s also in the historic city of Inglewood, as well as in lesser known Hawthorne, and the laid back South Bay. Los Angeles is also in San Pedro, as well as in Long Beach, and Norwalk and Cerritos! The list goes on, as 60% of The City is actually outside of The City.

Of course, anyone browsing through the web can tell you that L.A.’s made up of 88 different “communities”, but what’s special about LAtitudes is that you won’t just discover the hard facts about the land but also the stories attached to it.

For example, did you know that L.A. was once little more than a string of cattle ranches across a couple of dozen prairies? I sure didn’t, but Teddy Varno’s essay makes it a live experience.

And did you know that L.A. was attacked one early February morning during World War 2, though not by the Axis powers, but by a UFO?! Yes, it sounds like the stuff of movies, but Jason Brown’s essay places readers right in the middle of the incredible sequence for an unforgettable ride.

LAtitudes goes beyond the wild and quirky, however, and features truly historical work. Cindi Alvitre’s Coyote Tour describes the Tongva and Yaangna tribes who trailed through the land before the Spanish crown decimated or acculturated their people, while Nathan Masters’s Gridding the City identifies the true genius of the grid masters who gave The City its ‘sprawling’ form.

Laura Pulido’s Landscapes of Racial Violence moved me so much that I’ll have a separate review for it later, and David Ulin’s Freeway Jam left me with a vivid image of the beautiful if broken promise of L.A.’s freeways.

From there, it continues! Angelenos will get a taste of life in the L.A. River from Andrew Wilcox’s Stalking Carp, while historians will be unable to deny the power of the legendary Luis Rodriguez’s How Xican@s Are the Makeweight of Los Angeles’s Past, Present, and Future.

So, what are you waiting for? If you want to have some fun with L.A. in the comfort of home on the couch or underneath the breeze and shade of its palm trees, LAtitudes will not let you down.

In true L.A. fashion, the book will refresh the reader’s imagination of the metropolis, one fantastic intersection at a time. For this, it gets The L.A. Storyteller’s full approval.

J.T.

Los Angeles: Origins

Question: tell me again, what a city is?

From The Free Dictionary:

cit•y

(ˈsɪt i)

n., pl. cit•ies.

1. a large or important town.
2. (in the U.S.) an incorporated municipality, usu. governed by a mayor and council.
3. the inhabitants of a city collectively: The entire city is celebrating.

A follow-up question: What is the point of a city? I mean, what is its mission or objective?

From City of Quartz:

“The mission literature [of Los Angeles] depicted the history of race relations as a pastoral ritual of obedience and paternalism: ‘graceful Indians, happy as peasants in an Italian opera, knelt dutifully before the Franciscans to receive the baptism of a superior culture, while in the background the angelus tolled from a swallow-guarded campanile, and a choir of friars intoned the Te Deum‘.”

In other words, the early players of ‘L.A.’ cast the city as a place where history just failed to take place as it did in the rest of the ‘free world’, or as a place where fairy tales proved the rule rather than the exception of the land? Certainly the image of graceful Indians ready to serve their Franciscan masters invokes the sense of an idyllic place to be. That is, if you’re in the position of the Franciscan master.

Why did the early players in L.A. do this, however? Or, with what objective?

Again, from Professor Davis:

“With sunshine and the open shop as their main assets, and allied with the great transcontinental railroads (the region’s largest landowners), a syndicate of developers, bankers and transport magnates led by Otis [Chandler, of The L.A. Times] and his son-in-law, Harry Chandler, set out to sell Los Angeles – as no city had ever been sold – to the restless but affluent babbitry of the Middle West.”

So what’s Mr. Davis saying about The City, then, that its only purpose was to be sold?!

So many questions, and so little time. But we’ll find a way.

With more soon,

J.T.

Making Face, Making Soul (1990)

Before time runs out, it’s a pleasure to introduce my book for the month, which will be one of the greatest literary goldmines on my shelf for a long time to come. Below is an excerpt from Making Face, Making Soul: Critical Perspectives by Women of Color:

“¡LA CULTURA! ¡LA RAZA!
Sometimes all it means to me is suffering. Tragedy. Poverty. Las caras de los tortured santos y las mujeres en luto, toda la vida en luto. La miseria is not anything I want to remember and everything I cannot forget. Sometimes the bravery in facing and struggling in such life is too little. The courage with which a people siguen luchando against prejudice and injustice is not glory enough…” – Edna Escamill, Corazon de una Anciana

The book is a collection of writings by women of color from all across the United States, gathered and edited by the late, great Gloria Anzaldua.

TriumphOftheHeart
I had the fortune to learn about the book after a dear friend of mine shared one of its essays with me: Aleticia Tijerina’s Notes on Oppression and Violence. In it, Tijerina speaks of her life with imprisonment since the age of twelve, and describes the herculean feat of finding and maintaining love for herself before an unrelenting enemy, both in the state and in herself. I was riveted by the power of Tijerina’s voice, which was filled as much by rage as it was by beauty.

“We were all imprisoned for various crimes against the State: impersonating men; escaping abusive homes; setting fires; taking drugs; robbery ’cause we were hungry…Most of our so-called “crimes” were acts of resistence or rebellion against an oppressive family, school, society; for many of us, our cultural identity had been battered and abused since birth.”

Though I couldn’t fully comprehend it at the moment, I knew on hearing Tijerina’s voice that I’d found a living, breathing genius, who — most importantly– was in close proximity to my community. Little did I know how many more writers just like her were out there.

In Gloria Anzaldua’s Haciendo Caras, there’s an entire generation of women –like Tijerina but also substantially different– who have published their voices after a lifetime of being silenced.

There’s no doubt about the brilliance of each voice in this endeavor. Gloria Anzaldua and her contemporaries show themselves to be masterful writers who have not only studied their subjects, but who have also taken the time to weave them in terms that pulse vividly with life for the reader.

She sat cross-legged and still on top of the hill, at first watching and then becoming part of the moonlight, the brilliant sun. Tall yellow grasses stood stiff and dry and were blown down by the first harsh winds of winter. When the rains came, the earth sprouted in green and tender innocence. She listened to the meditative soul of winter and felt the quickening of spring and each of the seasons in turn: she knew that Time was inside of her.

Journeying alongside each writer in Making Face, I found myself humbled to learn of their intricate arguments, which reveal difficult positions on how to achieve a total humanity between male, female, and other identities alike.

For example, how should ‘women of color’ identify themselves as women who are distinct from the dominant white women’s feminist movement at the same time that they search for the mutual liberation of both white and non-white women, i.e. all women?

And how can women of color increase the publication of their perspectives when the major industries of publication are themselves caught in a power struggle between white females and their white male counterparts?

Similarly, how do women of color reconcile their relationships with others who call themselves allies, but who are only interested in their own personal gain from the movement?

And in Anzaldua’s words, how do women of color resist the imposition of internalized self-loathing on their counterparts?

Like the (colonizer) we try to impose our version of ‘the way things should be’: we try to impose one’s self on the Other by making her the recipient of one’s negative elements, usually the same elements that the Anglo projected on us. Like them, we project our own self-hatred on her: we stereotype her; we make her generic.

The response to these challenges vary from voice to voice, and themselves only represent a sample of the book’s many subjects, but Making Face manages to place its multiple different perspectives in a way that still indicates a true solidarity between them.

For this, I know that JIMBO TIMES is privileged to share the collection with the people of Los Angeles, as well as with the many other fans across the globe (yeah, we’re worldwide </:).

And to be sure, there’s far more that can be said about the collection — of its beautiful treatment of dreams and time and space, or of its historic lens across the decades — but of course, there’s only so much we can say before time runs out.

For now, check out Making Face, Making Soul for yourself; I assure you you won’t regret it!

With more soon,

J.T.

The Sky Opens Up,

Meeting The City again;

It’s old friend, for a new when

The People rise,

Lost and Found

They look unbound as they race across

The City

Like meteorites

Flashing through space;

Faces made of iron, gleaming in the light,

Racing past giants

Like Mercury before the one,

They are all stars, as much as they are stardust;

The sky is their biggest fan

Watching them
Studying them
Loving them

Through infinity, in the blink of an eye.

</:)

Glowing white,

An angel tried to tell me my fate the other day,

Not knowing how I am the darkness

Which towers over the night.

When the angel discovered this about me,

It retreated to the heavens.

To which I said, so be it:

I needed no light

To see night as

My only destiny. And

Glowing in my darkness,

I smiled at the bright side of my face,

My laughter cackling through the sky.

I cursed the angel then, for

What it tried to make of me.

The darkness of my character, its truth and its worth

Glows as much as any benevolent light above from heaven.

Ana Castillo: Massacre of the Dreamers (1995)

Morning!

Starting this month, we’re officially getting back to reviewing a book once a month. And we’ll just go ahead and get started with Ana Castillo’s Massacre of the Dreamerswhich I finished reading just earlier today!

Ana Castillo: Bibliography

Massacre of the Dreamers is crucial literature for any activist in the 21st century, as Castillo searingly navigates through the century-old roots of oppression at the heart of the Americas: the oppression of the brown woman.

Castillo not only details the layers of misogynist systems which brown women have faced throughout their existence, but she also manages to cast a vision for those of us who want to be allies of Xicanisma –Chicana-based feminist consciousness — as we seek to free ourselves from our own internalized oppression.

Steeped with fact-based analysis but not overwhelmingly focused on numbers, the book is also a model for what academic literature should be: based on the present conditions faced ‘on the ground’ by non-academics, since the majority of the working class which so many scholars hope to advocate for have neither the time nor the patience to sift through jargon-laden writing aimed at other academics.

M.O.D was published in 1995, but is as relevant now as it was during the nineties for its careful examination of events like the Chicano Student walkouts of East Los Angeles in 1968, subsequent movements for economic justice such as the 1986 Watsonville Women’s Strike, and the form which the movement has taken more recently in events such as the Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS) conference.

I started reading the book for another project yours truly is working on, and I’m sure glad I did, as it’s led me to the work of other great women’s writing that will also make its way to the reviews section soon.

For now, I would absolutely recommend Ana Castillo’s book for anyone looking to learn about such an important yet undervalued part of our society today: the Amerindian, or Mestiza mujer.

J.T.