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.


Tony Bao Tang: Song Unsilenced

Let loving words unsaid remain

In place of lost goodbyes withheld

For unsung verses bittersweet

In songs of memory shall obtain

A timely voice without conceit

Untuned yet echoing harmony

Lyrics unheard yet ever felt

Our song unsilenced bidding farewell


A few words from the author: I’ve realized recently that the more living, learning, and loving you do, the more you have left to do. It’s a perpetual cycle, so it seems, but I kind of like it. Writing has become one of my vehicles to express and reflect upon this cycle. Come along for the journey, if you so wish, HERE.

Virgil Village Mourns the Loss of Another Youth

On May 21st a local of the neighborhood, Marvin Hernández, was the subject of an altercation in la vecindad that led to the loss of his life and the injury of another. Marvin was only 21 years old. Above, pictures of the neighborhood and that of ‘tags’ left by Marvin’s friends and survivors at the candlelight vigil in his memory on the corner of Virgil avenue and Clinton street.

Nearly three years ago to the day, also on Virgil avenue and five blocks north of Clinton street, another young man’s life was lost at the intersection of Virgil and Burns street.

It’s with an unimaginable sadness that the families of each of these young people have been forced to continue on without their loved ones, which the members of the community recognize, hence the reason they place their candle-lights and beer bottles, as well as their tags, at the scene of the crime as a form of honor and respect.

Although there is more to say regarding the implications for our vecindad following this loss, there is a time and a place for that separate from this acknowledgement. At this time, for anyone interested in supporting Marvin Hernández’s family as they organize his memorial, they can do so at the family’s fundraiser HERE.


Dear Leo (About this Violence On Our Blocks),

Dear Leo,

I hope you’re well little brother. My name is Jimmy, and I’ve lived on Burns my whole life. I went to school at Lockwood, got into my first crew on Madison, and found myself caught in all sorts of no good up and down our neighborhood, right when I was your age.

I’m older now, though not old enough to forget what it was like. Nearly ten years later, I can still remember coming home from King to see homies posted up on the block.

They stood tall above the concrete, as they propped their chests up, and they garnered respect from their eyes, which showed fear for no one.

In a world that felt like it was trying to hold me down, these homies were heroes. Laughing and babbling all over the street, they did their own thing, and on their own terms, and for a while it seemed like this little bit of freedom was all there was to get in the hood.

After all, whether we’re talking about Burns street or Wall Street, freedom is power. To be free of limits, and to be capable of anything means that you could step on anyone, anytime.

And from Scarface to every U.S. history book at school, if there’s anything we’re supposed to learn by the time we’re fifteen, it’s that we’re supposed to be free.

This is why being a part of the hood makes sense; it’s a claim of land and dignity, no different from what governments and businesses do with territory they fight over.

Of course, we both know there’s more to the hood than just wanting to be free.

For me, it was also something akin to revenge. I wanted to take revenge on my old man for leaving my family, and revenge on my family for not being enough in his absence, and revenge on anyone who doubted that I could hold my own despite being down one parent.

Now, I’m sure your homies want to take revenge for your passing.

And I won’t lie: if I was their age and in their shoes, I would consider the same.

If I was them, I would take your death as a call to arms, just like Bush did after 9/11, when the U.S. armed forces went all out on their enemies.

And since you were shot on Memorial Day weekend, a holiday about honoring those who died in our name, it’d only make sense to lace up and put it down for your memory, and to make it known that nobody from nowhere could mess with our land and our people.

I know you would stand up too, if it was one of your homies on the other side instead of you.

I know it’d be about honor, and I know it’d be about respect. But I also know that it’d inevitably be about a lie, Leo.

The fact of the matter is: none of your homies could save you when the bullets ripped through your arteries. And none of them could save you when your body hit the cement, or when you gasped for your last breath of air.

Similarly, none of them can bring you back by getting back at ‘the enemies’. The only thing any of them could do is claim that they loved you, and claim that they’re about what you were about, but even that can be a stretch little bro.

Plain and simple: in this culture that we live in, most people are just using each other to get by; companies are using commercials, politicians are using slogans, police are using ‘reasonable suspicion’, and the courts are using ‘just law’. But you and I both know it’s a game. At the end of the day, we both know they’re tactics, meant to keep one group down while another stays up.

What’s harder to call is our own game, though.

It isn’t all that clear when we’re younger, but the evidence is there. When the homies get locked up, we keep walking. And when they get shot, we still keep walking.

Similarly when they pass away, you know how it goes. No one is wrong for moving on; they do what they have to, but the thing is, it’s hard to call bullshit on the homies. We want to believe that our homies are different, and that they’re with us for life, but let’s be clear: when shit hits the fan, the homies hit the road.

It’s alright. They’re not fake for looking out for themselves. They’re just human.

But in the same vein, your killers aren’t the enemies, or the ones to get back at. At the end of the day, the enemies are no different than we are: like us, they’re trying to be free. And like us, they feel stranded on these blocks sometimes.

How couldn’t they? Somewhere down the line, either society forgot about all of our blocks combined, or planned that they stay locked down, behind bars, and broken.

I don’t know what it is, but I do know this: anyone who truly cares about your name values human life. Over everything. And anyone who’s truly hurt by your death wouldn’t inflict the same pain on anyone else. Instead, they’d rather let life continue to allow time to heal the wound, knowing that revenge doesn’t heal but only lengthens the pain.

I’m hurt by your death. And as I walk past the place where your body lied as if it never happened, I’m hurt that I’ve got to move on like everyone else. I’m also worried, knowing that if one of the homies does take revenge, it puts all of the people in our neighborhood at risk. I know you wouldn’t want this; I know that like everyone else, you just wanted to live the life you deserved.

For this alone: I’ll continue to fight for the consciousness of the young minds who survive you. Together, I know we can build a better road for those who come after us. I know I can’t be their family. And I know I can’t be their savior. But I know I can give them a moment. And I know that sometimes a moment is all it takes.

Not only have I seen it, but I’ve felt it Leo. And I’m breathing it now as I write to you. It’s my life’s work to build a better community for our people, and your death is part of the pain that drives it.

I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but I give you my word that I’m working on not wishing, but making sure it’s better for somebody else. Through it all, you’re indefinitely in my thought, planning, and moving process; as a neighbor, as a confidant, and as a brother through the ages.

With love for you and your family, and the community we all share,