Coronavirus Lands in East Hollywood, Silver Lake

It’s official. According to the L.A. Times tracker, which began releasing known information about infected areas as recently as a day ago, and which at the time of this writing was last updated at 1:32 PM PST this March 29th, there are now five (5) recorded cases of patients who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in East Hollywood.

In the adjacent neighborhood of Silver Lake, there are fourteen (14) recorded cases of patients who’ve tested positive for the disease.

Nearby, Hollywood has thirty-eight (38) recorded cases of patients who’ve tested positive for the novel coronavirus, while West Hollywood next door has fifty (50) caseloads on its records. According to the L.A. County Department of Health–last updated at noon this previous March 28th–L.A. County now has a total of at least 1,809 known cases of the virus.

Even these numbers, however, should be considered an under-count. Despite two weeks of the stay-at-home-orders in Los Angeles, the fact is that widespread testing for COVID-19 is still out of the picture for the foreseeable future. According to L.A. County’s leader in charge of testing, Clayton Kazan, a major hindrance has been waiting for test results to get back from out of state:

We need a massive scaling locally. As long as we’re having to ship our labs out of state, and we’re having to compete with all the other states that are struggling with their own outbreaks, then we’re going to be struggling.”

An additional problem, of course, is simply whether you have adequate access to healthcare at your fingertips; of the people who have been tested, reports do not show which are insured. In East Hollywood, made up predominantly of Latino and Asian communities, but also Armenian, Black, White and others, the median household income is estimated by Census Tracker as in the range of $39,562 USD, substantially less than the “average” of $69,138 for families of the same size in L.A. County.

While I’m not aware of specific data showing how many of the neighborhood’s residents are insured or not, it’s safe to infer from other available data that the majority of them–surviving on (and below) the minimum wages typically paid to their demographics–do not have adequate coverage at their fingertips.

Here, the words of Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of L.A.’s public health department, resonate loudly:

“There are thousands of people in our communities who are positive but who have not been tested.”

Readers are advised to increase their level of precautions, and to reach out to loved ones–safely–on further steps to ensure and maintain their health and well-being in the upcoming weeks with this public health threat.

J.T.

Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 05

Is it still safe for my mother to go out to open her newsstand? Should I continue to walk alongside her when I’m able to make it to her right as she closes shop? If I do, what are the odds of our walking home safely at this point? Is our community more at risk because of Coronavirus, or because of gun violence on our streets? These are questions I ask myself in the wake of another shooting in the neighborhood which has unnecessarily taken yet another life from our community.

Does poverty meet the definition of a disease? It’s certainly been passed down by many generations and is spreading throughout our country. In Los Angeles, this has become ever clearer with the rising number of tents erected by young, old, Black, White, Asian and more people locked out of housing in an increasingly wealth-driven city. But unlike encampments, shootings in our neighborhood take place more covertly. While they cost families and neighborhoods far more than makeshift tent cities, their scene is registered quickly before vanishing into our memory banks. But we do not forget these terrors once we’ve seen them up close. Death sprawled on the street casts a shadow nearly as long as the night.

A quick search through the L.A. Times HOMICIDE REPORT will show that the overwhelming majority of fatalities in Los Angeles are of Black and Latino males.

It will also show that in the last twelve months, 510 people in L.A. lost their lives due to armed violence, which is a preventable crime. The majority of these deaths don’t make the daily paper anymore, but Fernie’s shooting was the third fatality in less than six months within a 1.5 mile radius for my neighborhood, and the the sixth fatality in twelve months for the East Hollywood area overall.

Are we able to call an intervention with our L.A. city councilmember and other leaders on this situation over Zoom, or does that remain impractical? On the list of priorities for the city in lieu of COVID-19, just where does gun violence inflicted on our young men rank for our city? I know I’m not the only one asking these questions, but if COVID-19 has shown anything, it’s that a community’s net health is determined by every single person who comprises that community. Here is to lifting up once again our call for a better way.

J.T.

EPISODE 4 – WHO IS YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD

In our fourth episode, Ed returns to discuss our tabling session with Virgil Village First Fridays, the East Hollywood Survey, and our brand-new Instagram page for @WhoIsYourNeighborhood, where listeners can find vids from BTS 2.

J.T.

Vote for North Virgil’s Very Own Arasele Torrez

Arasele Torrez, Lockwood Elementary
Arasele Torrez, Lockwood Elementary; Summer 2018


In the throes of Los Angeles, where traffic jams crowd out hopes of a day when the world might move differently, it can be difficult to imagine things actually changing. Yet when one encounters stories of the shakers and movers right in our midst, it’s clear that even if it appears like we’re only slouching in limbo out here, things are actually moving around us each day. Arasele Torrez tells one such cuento.

Age: 28

Where are your parents from? Do you know how they met and/or when they were married? My parents are from San Luis Potosi, Mexico. They met when my dad was visiting their town of Rio Verde in 1989. My parents never got married. However, they have been separated for over eight years now.

When did you all arrive to the Virgil Village community? We arrived to the neighborhood in July 1999 when I was nine years old. So we’ve lived in the community here for almost 20 years now.

Were you the first in your family to go to college? And how many people from your graduating class do you know who went to college? I was the first in my family to go to college. I graduated from Marshall High School in 2008 and went on to UC Davis, where I graduated in 2012. I was also the first in my family to get my master’s degree (Cal State Northridge, 2015). I don’t know how many people from my graduating class also went on to college. However, I’m sure there are statistics available somewhere.

What made you decide to return to Virgil Village? And how did you start to become an advocate for people here? Ever since I was very young, I always loved being of service to my family and neighbors, and volunteering at school. I went to Davis with the idea of returning to East Hollywood and giving back to make a difference. Los Angeles is my city and I can’t picture myself leaving again. I learned so much in college. In particular, I loved my Chicano Studies social policy class, in which I was able to focus my research on East Hollywood, its economy, educational makeup, labor and health statistics. When I learned that our statistics showed a low-income and vulnerable community here, it increased my desire to get involved.

Arasele Torrez, 'Virgil Village'
Arasele Torrez, ‘Virgil Village’; Summer 2018

When did you first get involved with the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council? I had learned about the council when I researched the different groups making up East Hollywood, and decided to run for a seat on the board not long after college in September 2012 to become the Virgil Village North Representative. But my race was contested with two other candidates. Although I beat the gas station owner, I lost to the incumbent by about 16 votes. However, because I truly cared about my community, unlike other candidates who lose, I chose to stick around. I was then appointed as the Student Representative because I was taking courses at LACC for my paralegal program. Since then, I’ve been a part of the neighborhood council for over six years.

Where do you see yourself and this work going within the next three to five years? I’m not sure where I’ll be in three to five years. Hopefully, I’ll still be living in Virgil Village and making an impact if my landlord doesn’t sell us out like other owners have done to several families in the neighborhood. I hope to stay involved locally, and making a difference for the community, for the low-income and underrepresented, in whatever job I have.

Lockwood and Madison, 'Virgil Village'; Spring 2018
Lockwood and Madison, ‘Virgil Village’; Spring 2018

Would you have any advice for other people looking to become more involved in their neighborhood? If so, what would you say is a good way to start? I would say, if you live within LA City Council districts, first look and see what neighborhood council you belong to. You can start by attending their monthly governing board meetings. Just by attending a meeting and voicing some of your concerns, it’s a start to becoming involved in your community.

Also, see if you’re interested in joining one of the committees of the Neighborhood Council as a community member, or stakeholder. At the same time, find out what local non-profits are in the area. And especially if you’re a first generation college student, get involved with the local public schools. Talk to students, our youth and the parents. If you’re in Virgil Village and need any other suggestions, or help getting started, you can also contact me via email at: araseletorrez@gmail.com.

Arasele Torrez, 28, has served as President of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council since February 2017 and is now running to represent stakeholders as the EHNC’s Virgil Village Representative. To see her Candidate’s Statement, please follow THIS LINK. On the search tab, select “East Hollywood NC.”

GO Arasele!

J.T.

Super Pan Bakery Has Gotten An Extension

Super Pan Panaderia with 'Matriarch' by Cesar Tepeku at Virgil and Monroe, Los Angeles
Super Pan Panadería with ‘Matriarch’ by Cesar Tepeku at Virgil and Monroe, Los Angeles

It’s with great pleasure to announce that the 20 year old Panadería in the “Virgil Village” community has gotten an extension for its relocation. At least until December, families in our community can continue to quench their appetites with Doña Elvia’s fresh pan dulce, hot tamales, and bolillos con huevos.

It’s a key victory for the pueblo that comprises the ole neighborhood, but now with the extension secured, some of us are left wondering: might the Panadería be able to simply stay after all?

The fact of the matter is that maintaining a small business like Super Pan in cities like Los Angeles is increasingly difficult. While gentrification in the community compounds the trouble involved in maintaining the bakery’s “appeal” over the years, even if the buzz-word was removed from the equation, rising inflation and the cost of living since the bakery’s opening in the early 2000’s without an increase in backing or security for its services continue to undermine any effort to keep its place in the community.

I think of another small place close to heart, in Mama’s caseta, which is less than four blocks north of Super Pan on Santa Monica boulevard.

In over sixteen years in the vecindad, regardless of whether the stand’s revistas and literatura turn a profit or not, we’re required to pay insurance fees for its footing before we can even submit a reapplication for permission from the city to maintain its location on the boulevard.

Once the stand clears the permitting process, as with most other things in life, taxes apply, but at no point in the process is there an accounting for the stand’s aggregate time in the community, or for its ability to make ends meet despite market ‘trends’, health or other issues which can impact the owners’ ability to stay in business; the stand is thus locked in a tax system which never offsets the burdens it places on small business with anything other than permission to keep operating. It thereby turns into an increased burden in itself for business owners to deal with, among other challenges they face in an increasingly expensive city to live in.

Is it any wonder why mujeres like like Doña Elvia and Mama have such a mystical spell about their place in the community, then?

Each year new hurdles are placed in from them as small businesses owners, but they continue to rise with their small places to claim their time under the sun. With their heads up high, they greet their customers loyally, serving each of them with gratitude in their gestures, and placing their faiths in the forces beyond them to continue with all of it through another day–and if they’re bendecidas enough–through another year. How then could we not honor these people, Los Angeles.

The extension of the deadline is a sign of good faith for what lies ahead, but there is in fact much more work left to do for the pueblo. Still, for now, please celebrate with us by visiting a small mom and pop shop near you with while you can! They are dreams come true today, and with them we move onto yet more dreams, for tomorrow. If somehow they can manage to do it, we can too, Los Angeles.

J.T.

Fundraising for Our Party Begins Today Los Angeles

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Greetings,

I hope this note finds you well. Today it’s a tremendous pleasure to share a monumental development in my work as a community writer, photographer, and organizer in Los Angeles.

On Saturday, August 25, 2018, along with a team of my peers, I’m overseeing a community gathering at El Gran Burrito restaurant. El Gran Burrito been owned by the same immigrant family for nearly 30 years, standing at at the intersection of Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica in East Hollywood.

The event will be a day of workshops, music, and dialogue for the local families of my neighborhood.

For parents, workshops will touch on local issues such as Renter’s Rights, Women’s Self-Defense, and Youth Crisis/Intervention programs. For teens, workshops will feature live art sessions, writing groups, sample book-making, and more. All of the facilitators for our workshops, like us, the organizers, will be volunteering their time for the day. And all parents and students attending our workshops will be given one raffle ticket each for a big show at the end.

Following workshop, our guests will be treated to lunch, that is, ‘GRAN’ burritos, as well as an Open Mic or open performance session, and of course, the MAJOR “Back to School” raffle. Items we look to hand out through the raffle include backpacks, Metro TAP cards, a skateboard, a bicycle, a scooter, helmets, and more. The goal is to have 50 people take part in this experience.

The event is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my neighborhood before, and I’m exceptionally proud to be designing it alongside my peers, who are fellow locals and people raised in the community here like myself. I’m also in a slight crisis due to the event, however, as I now need to reach out to the larger community for support.

I am fundraising for this event on behalf of my community because it is the great gift of this country that such a thing is even possible. I think of the 13 year old and his or her mother, who will walk into El Gran Burrito on August 25 simply to get lunch, only to hear the music outside and walk on over to give it a chance. My great obsessive dream is to show these folks that they are magnanimously valued, by providing them with a day of resources and activities designed to uplift their social and creative spirits. I want to then call the raffle ticket number that’s going to gift a scooter or even a bicycle to one of these families for them to take home that day, because I believe such ‘little things’ can go quite a long way. I know that it’s somewhat absurd to visualize things so charitably, but I also remind myself that it’s instances like these when I was a youth which filled me with hope about some future. Now, I believe it’s my great responsibility as a young professional to give that feeling right back to the next generations of my community. Below is the outline for the fundraising I hope to do:

Lunch: $300

Printing Materials (flyers, wide paper for drawing, printed J.T. photography for raffle, and more): $300

4 Metro TAP cards with $25 fares loaded: $104

Backpacks, 1 Scooter & 1 Bicycle, 1 Skateboard and 3 helmets: $500

Extra materials to support facilitators: $300

Promotional Budget: $100

Total: $1,604

The truth is that I’ve never raised so much money for a single event before. But what’s also true is that I have an immense belief in the importance of this event for me and my peers, and for the families who we’re trying to put this together for. I believe enough in this collective moment for us to make this call, asking once again, for the support of an even larger community than the one through these streets; to the ones out there.

To donate, you can click the following: DONATE.

And to learn more about the special day, supporters can visit our facebook page HERE, where we’re also posting video updates for the event:

Thank you for your time, and please expect to hear from me sometime next week with an update on this crazy campaign! We are eighteen days away.

As always: with heart, honor, and respect,

J.T.

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.

J.T.

La Gentrificación del Pueblo Continuará

Hasta que el pueblo se levanta y dice ya basta.

A walk through any neighborhood is the most effective way to survey its culture. This afternoon through my own, at the intersection of Madison and Willow Brook avenue, I took a moment to photograph the complex above, which is now in the process of redevelopment. Around the abandoned buildings, power lines idle next to nestles of leaves from high trees branching out through the air. East of the complex, less than a minute of walking distance, is Lockwood Elementary school, where my old friends and I went to school, and where now even some of the children of those old friends go to school.

Today Lockwood Elementary is no longer just one school, but ‘two in one,’ as the site is now split between the traditional Los Angeles Unified School District program (LAUSD), and a charter school overseen by Citizens of the World – Silver Lake Charter (CWC), which serves ‘qualified’ students whose enrollment is based on a ‘lottery.’ The irony here is that Lockwood Elementary is actually not located in the famed Silver Lake area, but instead in what’s known officially, or according to the LA City Clerk, as ‘East Hollywood.’

In any case, when my peers and I finished fifth grade at Lockwood, our next stop was Thomas Starr King Middle School (King MS) for the sixth through eight grades. King was located East of Virgil boulevard on Fountain avenue, and at just under a mile away from Lockwood, if one made the trek to King MS on foot from say, Madison and Willow Brook Avenues, they might reason that the school was actually better situated to serve students located in the Los Feliz area.

An urban policy planner might reply to this contention that it’d be an easy fix, however, since all that the parents of the complex at Madison and Willow Brook Avenues had to do was drive their kids to King. Of course, that just meant that the parents had to be able to afford a car, which wasn’t always the case for many of the single mothers who oversaw so many of my peers and I. Even so, at just under a mile of walking distance to the school, the daily trek couldn’t be that bad of a slog, right? Some parents did it. Indeed, some had to. There wasn’t a whole lot of support for them otherwise.

When my peers and I finished at King MS, what followed for us was John Marshall High School (JMHS) for ninth through twelfth grade. At just about two miles walking distance from the old apartment complex at Madison and Willow Brook avenues, Marshall High School was significantly farther east of Virgil boulevard, and unlike King, which the aforementioned urban planner could argue was located at a ‘border’ point between ‘East Hollywood’ and Los Feliz and thus serve both areas, Marshall High School was definitely located in the Los Feliz area. As such, it was definitely designed to serve the students of parents within that area.

Even so, somehow my friends and I still made it in through the gates at Marshall, either by carpooling with one parent or another, or by taking the Metro 175 bus for those of us who could catch it early enough in the mornings. But only 48% of the class that my peers and I entered into Marshall with would walk out of the school with their diploma.

Was that graduation rate planned? With ten years of hindsight from the day of graduation, I can say that it certainly wasn’t planned against. That is, from the time my peers and I were at Lockwood, all the way through our time at Marshall, there wasn’t exactly a cultural plan from the urban policy planners around us and the rest of the leadership in the area to get my peers and I through the neighborhood successfully onto college and back.

Was it their job in the first place? One may well argue that it was not, but it’s precisely that same lack of accountability which leads me to believe that in a significant way, the neighborhood surrounding the old complex at Madison and Willow Brook avenues, like many neighborhoods all across Los Angeles, was either supposed to get with the program, or just get lost. That is, parents in our vecindad were supposed to run with the market, or get Left Behind.

Similarly, today’s redevelopment of the old complex at Madison and Willow Brook avenues is a matter of getting with the program. Except that the program of the new complex at the intersection will be one of sleek buildings, the flaunt of which will be accentuated by bold fonts, and the grounds of which will be guarded by steep fences shrouding the complex in seclusion and high visibility all at once, thereby earning its ask for the unenviable rent prices it’s destined for; rent prices that virtually none of the trabajadores now reconstructing the complex day by day, nor any of their vecinos in the pueblo surrounding the complex, will be able afford for them and their children, nor that even their children’s children might afford.

Asi es. Y asi sera, me dirian tantos compadres en los trabajos por ahi. Pero asi es hasta que nosotros decimos no mas, Los Angeles.

There is reason to nevertheless be optimistic about challenging this lack of accountability, or this lack of protection for so many working families in neighborhoods like this one. Everywhere in Los Angeles is growing a Resistance to this old order of power, which has stifled pueblos like those of my peers and I, and our movements, throughout The City for decades.

I’ve got a feeling, then, that even at the intersection of Madison and Willow Brook avenues, even if asi es, y asi sera, a resistance to pricing out the pueblo and its children will grow there too. It may not do so overnight, nor even over the course of tomorrow. But it will rise and make its voice known, one day at a time.

Indeed, it has to, Los Angeles.

Asi es. Y asi sera.

J.T.

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.

April is National Poetry Month

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For the occasion, this April 14th at the Cahuenga library in Los Angeles, a new page turns in the neighborhood. There will be books, café, and oh so many poems.

J.T.