A helicopter making the rounds above East Hollywood, Los Angeles

Summer has arrived in Los Angeles, and J.T. is going to Publishing School with LARB

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 96)

Our blog is officially kicking the season off with a fundraiser for yet another special program with yours truly this summer 2020. The Los Angeles Review of Books Fellowship (LARB) for entrepreneurial projects is a special opportunity rightfully fitting for Los Cuentos. Starting in July, along with a group of fellow burgeoning writers and storytellers, I’ll be work-shopping for five weeks under the guidance of the editor-in-chief at LARB to grow J.T. The L.A. Storyteller into a premier platform for working class voices in our communities as I know it needs to be.

Because if you think up to 100 blogs in a row for Pandemic in Los Angeles makes for a lot of reading, you haven’t seen anything yet, Los Angeles.

I believe in the power of words because they were once only a few words that endangered my life. Just as they were once only a few words that saved it.

Today, there are septuagenarians–or readers in their seventies–who follow Jimbo Times, and who I’m proud to count among the ranks. But there are also 13 and 14 year olds who follow the blog, who I’m inspired to think gain some perspective from its words. Most of all, there’s an array of readers in between these ranges who’ve come to count on Jimbo Times for thoughts and analysis of the always interesting times we find ourselves in.

One such friend and supporter told me to “tell those stories” from my eyes at the LARB workshops. I thought then of all the young people whose eyes have seen the depths of hardship in Los Angeles in ways that no one would wish for others. I am fortunate to be here, and fortunate to be able to make this call to the community in honor of our collective ‘eyes’, once again towards a brighter future for all in this sacred pueblo we call Los Angeles.

J.T.

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A woman stands with her first in solidarity with marches in Compton, California for Andrés Guardado

In Pictures: Marching for Justice Along Compton boulevard for Andrés Guardado

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 95)

Marchers hold a sign up with a statement from Bob Avakian regarding the role of police in America
Marchers hold a sign up with a statement from Bob Avakian regarding the role of police in America
A row of motorcyclists led the way and cleared the path for the march along Compton boulevard in honor of Andrés Guardado, who was shot and killed by L.A. Sheriffs department
A row of motorcyclists led the way and cleared the path for the march along Compton boulevard in honor of Andrés Guardado, who was shot and killed by L.A. Sheriff’s department
A woman stands with her first in solidarity with marches in Compton, California for Andrés Guardado
A woman stands with her first in solidarity with marches in Compton, California for Andrés Guardado
A woman and her daughter raise their firsts in solidarity with marches in Compton, California for Andrés Guardado
A woman and her daughter raise their firsts in solidarity with marches in Compton, California for Andrés Guardado
A woman stands with her first in solidarity with marches in Compton, California for Andrés Guardado
A woman stands with her first in solidarity with marches in Compton, California for Andrés Guardado
Marchers atop a pick-up truck make their way past a Compton boulevard sign en route to the Compton sheriff department station
Marchers atop a pick-up truck make their way past a Compton boulevard sign en route to the Compton sheriff’s department station
Marchers hold signs up, as well as the Salvadoran flag, along Compton boulevard en route to the Compton sheriff department
Marchers hold signs up, as well as the Salvadoran flag, along Compton boulevard en route to the Compton sheriff’s department station
Marchers hold signs up, as well as the Salvadoran flag, along Compton boulevard en route to the Compton sheriff department
Marchers hold signs up, as well as the Salvadoran flag, along Compton boulevard en route to the Compton sheriff’s department station
Marchers hold signs up, as well as the Salvadoran flag, along Compton boulevard en route to the Compton sheriff department
Marchers hold signs up, as well as the Salvadoran flag, along Compton boulevard en route to the Compton sheriff’s department station
A pair of hot dog vendors pursue crows at Compton City Hall, where marchers descended at the end of the march for Andrés Guardado.
A pair of hot dog vendors pursue crows at Compton City Hall, where marchers descended at the end of the march for Andrés Guardado

J.T.

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A mural along Melrose avenue depicting Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna Bryant

A reflection on Father’s Day for every working-class father, and all the working-class mothers who also play the role in Los Angeles

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 94)

On this day–during this most critical year for our nation–I hope it’s only becoming clearer that if our nation has respect for the concept of the family, then it should show that respect in its treatment of families everywhere by uplifting them, as Kobe “Bean” Bryant was celebrated for uplifting his daughter Gianna Bryant.

In the days and months following the untimely passing of this first-class pair, the city of Los Angeles, along with people all over America, mourned their sudden loss with many words, moments of silence, and testimonials. Though it may seem just a faint memory now, one can still recall that in the short time before the coronavirus, almost every other day in L.A. was marked by some kind of space for mourning the unthinkable loss of the Bryants and other families above the hills in Calabasas.

Today, when mothers and fathers march for the deaths of their sons and daughters–or those who could be their family members–especially following their deaths at the hands of law enforcement–which, don’t forget: are preventable deaths–they’re only participating in the same collective grieving that arose for these far more famous figures not long ago.

But every human life, no matter how rich or how poor, is absolutely worth the world, worth fighting for, and worth demanding a better world for, as so much of the working-class is now calling for, once again, in America. When state and public officials thus choose to meet such demands with indifference, force, or disdain, they are openly betraying–once again–one of the ideals they claim to want to uphold. Hence why we mourn, Los Angeles, and why we must continue to rise again.

The battle is long. But it is still our duty to win. Kobe Bryant knew this. And that’s why we loved him. Or at least, why we claimed to. The time has now come to extend that love to people just as human as Bryant and his 13 year old daughter. We march for justice.

J.T.

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A flyer for Library Workers in Los Angeles calling for an end to police presence at LAPL

Sign Your Name to Support Police-Free Libraries In Los Angeles

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 91)

JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller stands fully in support of Los Angeles Public Library workers, patrons, and all others calling for an end to LAPD presence at our beloved public libraries. As the authors of the Open Letter to LAPL’s Board of Library Commissioners team over the board’s proposed increase to LAPD’s presence at our libraries this next fiscal year point out:

Since 2000, LAPD have killed 886 people. Countless others have been victims of police harassment, violence and intimidation, abuses that are disproportionately inflicted on Black and brown people. The continued occupancy of LAPD and their agents are incompatible with LAPL’s stated mission “to provide free and easy access to information, ideas, books and technology that enrich, educate and empower every individual in our city’s diverse communities.”

Public libraries are among our most valued and vital institutions. LAPL provides crucial resources to the city’s most vulnerable populations—youths, students, elders, the disabled, the unhoused, and the undocumented. LAPL facilities must be safe spaces for all Angelenos to read, learn, and access educational services, just as they must be safe workplaces for library staff. LAPL’s partnership with LAPD has failed to meet these obligations and, furthermore, the very presence of LAPD prohibits the security of many patrons and staff members.”

To add your name in support of this statement, please find the Open Letter HERE. And rest assured: this is what remaking our city for a better world looks like, Los Angeles.

J.T.

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A homeless encampment in East Hollwood, Los Angeles

Los Angeles is not represented by its elected officials. It is trembling on the knees of the dying men & women of its sidewalks

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 90)

Earlier today walking through the city I witnessed something like never before in my nearly thirty years through Los Angeles, which almost took my breath away. As I made my way through a sidewalk, a gray-bearded, African-American man, who couldn’t have been less than 65 years of age, sat on his knees in the middle of the sidewalk, his penis sticking out.

Before I knew it, as my legs crossed in front of him, the man began to pee. I turned my head in his direction then, almost in disbelief, but he did not return the look. He seemed almost unconscious. Of course, from the outset it was clear that the instance was nothing malicious on his part, but that it was from a pure need to relieve his body at a time when public restrooms in Los Angeles have been severely reduced in number, affecting most of all the unhoused.

What did feel malicious was that Mayor Eric Garcetti, the L.A. City Council, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office, and more of our elected officials have allowed this throughout Los Angeles after decades in public office.

In particular, history wont be kind to Mayor Garcetti. “In real time,” meaning right at this very minute, under Mayor Garcetti the rate of unhoused people in L.A. is on track to reach more than 100,000 bodies on the streets over the next few years, up to nearly 700 civilians shot and killed by police, and well over tens of thousands of more empty high-end lofts than occupied affordable housing units.

In turn, by the time Garcetti leaves office in 2022, Los Angeles will likely be a poorer, more unhealthy, and thus more hostile city for its working-class than when he became mayor in 2013. For yours truly, this begs the question:

What is it to truly love Los Angeles?

I contend that it is not to love Dodger baseball, or to follow Lakers basketball, or to adore Kings hockey. And I contend that it is not to build luxury lofts, or to celebrate Hollywood films, or even to promote its multiple ‘cultures,’ notwithstanding those of its working-class masses.

I contend that loving Los Angeles is loving its most vulnerable, represented most of all by our nearly 70,000 unhoused, the last count of which was released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority just a week ago. What a name, for that matter, with the word ‘authority’ in its title.

What authority can a city-funded organization tasked with serving its unhoused legitimately claim, when its efforts have failed to serve the thousands of bodies, overwhelmingly African-American, abandoned on the city’s sidewalks?

Make no mistake about it: In the same amount of time that the city drove tens of thousands of its residents down to helpless tents over the barren concrete, elected officials like our L.A. City Council members have taken home millions in taxpayer dollars.

They were not alone, joined by other officials tasked on paper with the public good. Take police like chief Michel Moore, for example, who, in 2018, retired briefly to collect $1.27 million in taxpayer dollars, to be rehired by Mayor Garcetti just a few weeks later. Our elected representatives were also joined by non-elected big wigs such as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which, in 2018, contributed over $1,000,000 to then-candidate Newsom’s campaign for governor.

In the end, however, the fact is that such men are still small fries compared to billionaires like the real estate tycoon Geoffrey Palmer, a known Trump supporter, whose “Da Vinci” apartments in downtown Los Angeles go towards funding a $21 million mansion of his in Beverly Hills, not to mention properties in Malibu, St. Tropez, France, and more.

Palmer is one of a generation of men who, over the last twenty years in Los Angeles has benefited tremendously from a cataclysmic “transfer”–but more like high-jacking–of wealth that will play a decisive role in determining the next eighty years for our city & country, that is, unless something is done about it, and brazenly fast.

What will we do, then, Los Angeles, while a handful of men sit atop empires? Will we stand by as only more of our neighbors, and as more of our families, collapse under their weight? Is such a loveless city, and country, what we want history to remember us by?

The choice is ours.

J.T.

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Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center Pharmacy in East Hollywood, Los Angeles

West Hollywood Makes Way: All Black Lives Matter in Los Angeles

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 87)

This Sunday, June 14th, marks the first All Black Lives Matter march in Hollywood, beginning at 11:00 AM. The march will commence at Hollywood and Highland boulevard, proceed through West Hollywood, and consolidate at West Hollywood Park on San Vicente boulevard, marking the first large-scale march of its kind between the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles.

In its press release for the public, the organizing board for the march states:

On June 7, 2020, an Advisory Board, made up of all Black LGBTQ+ leaders was formed to move forward in organizing the All Black Lives Matter solidarity march on Sunday, June 14, 2020 at 11:00am in Los Angeles, in honor of our beloved trans brother Tony McDade, who was murdered by police at that time. The protest is in direct response to racial injustice, systemic racism, and all forms of oppression.”

Why is the march taking place in West Hollywood? Apart from being the most popular destination for the queer community in Los Angeles, West Hollywood is 80% white, while the Black community there makes up less than 3.6% of the population, according to U.S. Census data. This plays a major role in the policing of non-white bodies through the area, as well as their invisibility from the culture. In an interview with the L.A. Times, Brandon Anthony, a gay Black man who is co-organizing the march, explains:

“The most shocking aspect of West Hollywood for me is going to every club there, every bar, and hearing them play our music, but not seeing me in there.”

For more information, visit the All Black Lives Matter website, or follow updates from the L.A. Times, which there will surely be plenty of.

J.T.

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The Metro Blue Line train moving across South Los Angeles

You Cannot Be Neutral on A Moving Train, Los Angeles

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 81)

Howard Zinn, the renowned historian who was once a bombardier in Europe for the U.S. during World War II, published his final book, You Cannot Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times, in 1994. A lifetime later, I can still remember being struck by his biography’s title for how the idea of “no neutrality” came off as both a challenge and an invitation to invoke the consciousness of a society claiming to be a democracy by giving anyone and everyone a chance to participate in its story.

In 2014, when I launched JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller, I knew I’d be telling personal stories to the world, but I also stopped short of thinking of those stories as personal histories. Today, by contrast, I recognize every poem, story, and picture on the site as contemporary historicizing from a personal perspective, or modern documentation from individual voices of the world around us for the purpose of having others, and perhaps just anyone other than ourselves, bear witness to our experiences.

For this reason, I’m proud to note that after six months since announcing the website’s call for submissions, I’ve had the privilege of publishing over ten different voices, all by people of color from Los Angeles and beyond, with the eleventh voice coming to readers’ screens shortly.

These small steps forward notwithstanding, however, I recognize that it’s still early, and that there’s still far more work to do to both challenge and invite more people to add their voice to JIMBO TIMES, just as there’s more to do to invite our neighbors’ participation into a democratic country which clearly still has a long way to go before it can be said to truly honor the democratic process it wants to be known for.

I think of the workers, as I think of the young people, all across Los Angeles, who’ve still got a lifetime in front of them to come to terms with before they might ‘participate’ in a way that might be hoped for or even expected of them. The fact of the matter is that many of them already participate when they show up to work each day to continue fighting for their survival through this increasingly stratified society. They also participate even before physically laboring at work by caring for their family-members at home, by taking up humble spaces and minimal resources, and even by acknowledging and sometimes lending a hand to their neighbors, so many of whom have been abandoned by their government for far too long.

I want to make Los Cuentos for them, so that they can also take their time learning about the history of this American experiment in a way that speaks to their character, in a way that allows them to explore their place in it, and in a way that makes clear how the future absolutely depends on their health and well-being by means of their rights to housing, working, educational opportunities, and their passing these things on to who they may.

Even after a lifetime of protest, there is still so much of this work to do, and still such little time, that I can only ask for Los Angeles’s best wishes as we set out once again in its name. It’s time to catch the train.

J.T.

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Plazita Olvera near Union Station in downtown Los Angeles

The Time Has Now Come to Remake Los Angeles, While Still Remembering its Roots

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 79)

A brief glance at the history of the world and civilizations shows that every world and civilization has its time, until each gives way to another.

Indeed, long before the infamous racism of the United States our nation must come to terms with today, there were whole other people and places here. At a certain point, even a historian can forget the basic fact of it.

I can still remember yearning to learn about the history of the American continent before it became ‘America’ out of a simple yearning to imagine what it might have been like. Now that this week has passed, I believe I may finally have a sense of what it felt like too. That is, as it changed.

Make no mistake about it: in the days going forward, I am only more prepared to defend Los Angeles from any individual or group seeking strictly to exploit it, or to keep it benefiting a few at the expense of far more.

But I can also see that Los Angeles, like all of our country, is changing, as the world has changed many times, simply because that’s how the world we arrived at today came to be. Many generations and voices have fought for precisely this type of change, while many other generations and voices have consistently resisted it. But eventually, enough pressure accumulates against all things, until before we know it: one world and civilization give way to another.

A case in point: the picture for this column is from a recent visit to Olvera Street, a place which is more popularly known as “the oldest” street in Los Angeles since the city’s founding–though not its settlement–in 1781 under Spanish rule. On a “regular day,” the street would be filled with music in the air while shops displayed goods and treats for the world to see, and as crowds of shop-goers bustled past one another from shop to shop.

By contrast, on this most recent visit, nearly every shop was closed due to the impact and restrictions from COVID-19 over the last three months. There was no music in the air, and walking through, I pictured all of the people who would be there as if they were ghosts, or figures whose imprints were still there even if they were removed; the original settlers of Los Angeles were the Gabrielino/Tongva nation, of whom there are still living descendants in Los Angeles today.

But even without the familiar crowd of bodies along the corridor, and despite the closing of nearly all of the shops, at the end of the street I was pleased to find that Cielito Lindo was still open.

While it might not be the oldest restaurant in Los Angeles, at 86 years, it’s still far older than most of L.A.’s restaurants today. I ordered a familiar beans and cheese burrito, and even sat down to enjoy it despite the unfamiliar space of a six feet distance between a few others and their lunch.

It was still Los Angeles, just as it was still Gabrielino/Tongva land. But it was ready for a change.

J.T.

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A line of police officers forms a barrier at L.A. City Hall in downtown Los Angeles

LAPD officers Now Face a Crucial Choice: To stand with policies as they are, or stand for a change, even within their own ranks

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 78)

As of 2018, according to Police Chief Michel Moore, Black, Asian and Latino police officers make up at least 60% of LAPD’s force in Los Angeles.

However, the Board of Directors for the police union, known as the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which works to “protect, promote, and improve the working conditions, legal rights, compensation and benefits of Los Angeles police officers,” is made up of nine officers, including just one Black woman, two white women, and six white men.

In other words, the board is not an accurate representation of what the majority of police officers in L.A. look like, and by extension, what their values are, as well as where they may see room to work along with members of the community in Los Angeles for the betterment of the public good.

The board of police commissioners, on the other hand, which “sets overall policy while the Chief of Police manages the daily operations of the Department and implements the Board’s policies or policy direction and goals,” is slightly more representative, but might be said to still fall short of “a fair share.” Made up of five mayor-appointed representatives, overseeing a police force where 60% of officers hail from Black, Asian and Latino communities, one could expect these groups to have, say, three out of five seats on the board.

Instead, two white women and one white man take up 60% of the board seats, while one Black man, and one Latina woman account for 40%. In a democratic country, numbers like this suggest we still have a ways to go before achieving an actual functioning democracy.

It’s therefore a good time for every LAPD officer to ask themselves: In the best case scenario, what might the future of policing look like in Los Angeles? For whom should police work, and how?

If there was ever a time for departments, organizations, and individuals everywhere in America to reflect on their own practices and representation, clearly that time has now arrived. And if there’s going to be any meaningful process of change and perhaps even reconciliation, clearly we have to ask these and more questions.

J.T.

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Police cruisers parked along 1st street and Hope street in Los Angeles

To the Board of Police Commissioners in Los Angeles: Your Time Has Come

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 76)

The following is a statement edited for publication on the site and delivered by yours truly to the Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC) in Los Angeles, in what would turn out to be eight hours’ worth of public comments for the meeting this past Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020.

LAPD COMMISSION:

I want to echo all of the Black & Brown voices who have made themselves heard at this public meeting thus far.

I want to commend the public for their bravery in speaking against this police and military state that we are seeing unfold across our city and across cities all over America.

To the board:

You have a chance to be on the right side of history
by standing against the militarization of the state in response to working class communities marching for an end to genocidal practices against Black and Brown bodies.

Even before the protests, you were already overseeing a caste system in the L.A. County Jail with a daily population of more than 17,000 people, where Black people make up 29% of that jail system while making up less than 9% of the population in Los Angeles.

You, the board members, have a chance not to stand with the fascists. You all heard the president just yesterday declare war against unarmed Black & Brown people, even while only a few days earlier he praised armed white militias for standing for liberty against covid-19 restrictions.

Mayor Garcetti originally said he would not be calling the National Guard. An hour later, he called the National Guard. You’re closer to fascism than you would like to think.

You all need to call for the national guard to LEAVE. They’re armed with M-4 assault rifles and intimidating our community and you are standing by, doing nothing.

You need to call to disarm the LAPD right this second, who, in line with police departments across the country, are battering and injuring unarmed civilians.

You’re closer to fascism than you think.

You have enough blood and injuries on your hands already, but you still have a chance to scale all of this down before it gets worse.

If you think today’s meeting has been long, just wait until the summer when more than 2.5 million people are out of work and looking into their city’s budget, and into the leaders and representatives tasked with overseeing the interests of the people.

Finally, consider that you live in a city where more than half of the population speaks a language other than English at home, yet you offer no captions for non-English speakers.

How much do you really want to hear from your city?

J.T.

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