Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 29

Over two weeks since The L.A. Storyteller reported that COVID-19 arrived in the East Hollywood and Silver Lake neighborhoods, the L.A. County Public Health department reports that 54 cases have been recorded in the former, while 86 cases are documented in the latter.

This can mean one of two things: either these communities have taken seriously each precaution to socially distance, or there are far more cases than are being recorded even while availability of testing has increased, with the latter still failing to provide a better overall estimate of cases.

I actually believe that both scenarios are true; during every visit to the grocery store, I’ve seen people following closely each protocol for safer shopping, and I believe that long after this crisis, they’ll continue to do so. And while testing hasn’t been as prevalent as in South Korea, where the government was testing up to 12,000 people a day at one point, symptomatic or not, L.A. County has set up a transparent process for those in need at covid19.lacounty.gov/testing.

I believe that due to the precautionary measures that have been taken, as it happened in China, where the pandemic began, a two month window for dealing with the novel coronavirus is what’s looking to be in store for Los Angeles as well. Dr. Ferrer said as much herself during her press briefing today, which also included translations in Español and հայերեն:

“Every day we’re getting closer to being able to see a time when more people are going to be able to go back to work and there will more places that are going to be open. We’re never going to be able to go back to exactly the way it was before COVID-19, but we are moving towards being on the other side of this pandemic.”

While I know that many people out there are exhausted from being home, and also critical of our government’s response and repeated warning system, which they are right to be, I’m still motivated by the collective response so many of us have taken part in, including that of many of our elected officials. For it’s shown a lot about just how much we’re capable of when we decide to create change as one planet, one village, one people; that we can still do it after all. As Dr. Ferrer noted in her remarks:

“It is working and I hope you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished along with everyone else.”

J.T.

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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.

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.

Education in Los Angeles is Still a Civil Rights Issue

Earlier this week Ref Rodriguez, the district 5 representative at the Los Angeles Unified School District, which represents schools throughout Silver Lake, Los Feliz, East Hollywood, South Gate, Vernon and more, resigned after pleading guilty to charges of money-laundering and conspiracy in his campaign for the district seat. Rodriguez originally took his place on L.A. Unified’s board after beating out Benett Kayzer for the appointment in 2015.

I still remember the mail-ads when Rodriguez challenged Kayzer in 2015. It was an often deceitful and indignant race that preyed on people’s fears, not so different from the national campaign waged for the country’s highest office a year later, though with a more local touch; Rodriguez’s campaign sent out ads accusing then-incumbent Kayzer of racist voting policies during his four-year tenure on the board, of leaving his district’s classrooms in ruins, of underpaying school employees, and more. These were distortions of the facts, however: photo-shopped images, votes that were misconstrued, and paid spokespersons. Nevertheless, the consistency with which these ads were delivered to the voters was relentless, and thus distortions of the facts eventually turned into some of the only sources of information for great portions of the electorate.

The race was also a matter of time, however, in that the ‘teachers’ union-backed’ Kayzer waged a lackluster defense of the seat. Although the LAUSD race was a much smaller one than the presidential race in 2016, the same principles needed to be applied to the ‘defense’ of the public interest: in order for voters to come out, they had to be inspired by a particular vision, and Kayzer didn’t much inspire las vecindades towards such a vision. Rodriguez, on the other hand, by virtue of his last name, was regarded as a potential representative for a predominantly Latino district that’s often felt underrepresented in policy-making at both the state and national levels despite accounting for major swaths of the demographics throughout.

I still remember at that time speaking with people throughout the community like the elderly residents of the neighborhood who were interested in a change at LAUSD, for which Rodriguez seemed like just the harbinger; when such individuals at our schools and throughout our communities, who put in major time and investments to both, feel forgotten or unaddressed, it’s a problem. But when the leaders of our community choose to address such people only until election time, that problem becomes a potentially serious liability.

At the same time, when people are fatigued by news cycles followed by election cycles that often do little to speak to the day-to-day concerns of their livelihoods, school board elections come off as only more ads on top of ads and concerns that offer little of substance to them.

But school board positions, while appearing like minor affairs in comparison to national contests, do have major implications. They therefore attract interests from all sides of Los Angeles, including interest from the likes of individuals such as Richard Riordan, the former L.A. mayor and local millionaire on the West side of town. Riordan is a Pro-Trump supporter, and also one who’s known to support candidates on the side of privatizing more schools.

Donors or ‘Philanthropists’ like Riordan, who’ve fared well for themselves with various investments in banking, venture capital, and the sponsorship of these initiatives, have much to say about educating youth in Los Angeles, that is, in the millions of dollars range, but little to no experience in an actual classroom. They nonetheless enter these races, however, and therefore impact not only the outcome, but how people can discuss the issues in the race to begin with; the millions they throw in are matched by millions on the opposing side– or what comes closest to matching that amount–and in the throes of these expenditures, what substance there might be in a contest between two candidates is drowned out by ads, ads, and more ads like the ones Ref Rodriguez deployed against Kayzer.

Something similar to the race between Rodriguez in Kayzer in 2015 would take place two years later. In 2017’s two LAUSD races for Districts 4 and 6, Netflix Co-Founder Reed Hastings was reported to have donated over $7 million to an Association backing the candidates on the side of privatizing more of L.A.’s schools. Both of the candidates supported by these and other donations were successful in beating out the (teachers’) union-backed board representatives at that time, including Steve Zimmer and Imelda Padilla, respectively.

I’m not able to speak on Padilla’s behalf, but I can speak for my experience as a student at John Marshall High School when Steve Zimmer served as a counselor there; since as far back as my time as a ninth grader in 2004 during my first semester at that school, Zimmer was known among friends and I as a counselor we could count on for a safe space at a time when the consequence for missing class or showing up late could mean a suspension or even a court date. Faced with administrators and a disciplinary system that often suspected the ‘B track’ kids in the crowds were usually up to no good, it was a tense environment for students of color then; but with Steve, there was never a moment of doubt: he didn’t care where we came from, he’d show his support to us regardless.

This was forgotten or discarded somewhere in Steve’s reelection campaign when Reed Hastings’s millions poured into the race. But it is not altogether forgotten quite yet. The pueblo has to remember.

Today’s discussions regarding equity and equality at schools in Los Angeles distinguish two main camps: either pro-charter or pro-union reformers, or people for the privatization of these schools (with public funds), and people for the ‘traditional’ public option. These labels, like the ads, inundate the electorate and ultimately do not tell the whole story about either position. But they should not do so in any case.

Ultimately, at the start of a new school-year, neither charter school advocates nor teachers’ unions alone can produce the best results for the students of Los Angeles; it’s going to take the whole pueblo, the whole state, and the entirety of a collective nation before we can mark a true culmination from the civil rights movements which fought for and brought home the decision in Brown Versus the Board of Education.

In the meantime, however, it is important to note what has happened in these local histories. Those who do not know history are still doomed to repeat it.

J.T.

Dear Los Angeles, a new day has arrived

All it takes for evil to win is for good to do nothing.

Over the last 2+ years, I’ve enjoyed an immense amount of support for J.T., an ode to the city of L.A. Now it’s time to fly again.

There is no question about it: the election of a bigot to the nation’s highest office has drawn the lines of a new political landscape. In it, silence in the face of today’s bigotry is tantamount to complicity. Therefore, J.T. cannot afford to be silent; a new media project is born.

POC (for People of Color) Today is dedicated to people everywhere who are frightened, dismayed, or angered by a warmongering presidential administration that utterly fails to represent the values held by our nation. 

Whether our faces are black, brown, yellow or red, or whether we are allies, we strive every day to stand against xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia, and the miserable racism that’s so deeply embedded in the veins of our country.

And it is our country. All around us it’s true: we are a world of one another, and we’ll either share it or lose it altogether, but the choice is ours.

POC Today chooses to find the moments we share, where the walls are broken and it is the people who are built instead. Similarly to JIMBO TIMES, the emphasis at POC_T will be placed on storytelling, but unlike J.T., it will not just be yours truly.

The team is small, but it is a team in every shape and form nonetheless. And at the moment we do not yet have our official website, but our outreach is expanding week by week.

Together we stand in solidarity with our allies fighting for a better tomorrow everywhere, not completely certain of our victory for the day, but damn certain of our victory overall.

In the short term for POC_T, our goal is to find as many allies as we can through our media. In the long-term, it’s to translate our passion into action that affects change, even if only in the miniscule of ways. Thus, I leave it to the people of J.T.

If you can support us in this new venture, we welcome your support. If not, J.T. thanks you for your time up to this point.

We will need all the help we can get, not only for moral support, but also to expand the possibilities of our scope and range. Indeed, no matter how tempting it is to be cynical about the good that’s still possible with the challenges ahead, with POC Today the sky is just the beginning. And we are preparing for lift-off —

We are flying. Won’t you fly with us?

J.T.

Okay L.A.

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs. It looks like this is their year!

But rest assured Los Angeles,

Our time is coming.

J.T.

Everyone is Invited

…Tonight I have the distinct pleasure of leading a writing workshop with the magnificent InsideOUT Writers program!

THE TOPIC: Independent Journalism, From Mumia Abu-Jamal to JIMBO TIMES.

THE TIME: STARTS TONIGHT AT 6:30 PM @ 1212 NORTH VERMONT AVE, L.A!

Everyone is invited, and as with every gathering at I.O.W., light refreshments will be served, but more importantly: THE VOICES OF THE PEOPLE will be heard!

And for those who will be there in spirit, as well as those who have supported The L.A. Storyteller since day one, THANK YOU!!! THIS ONE IS FOR YOU!!!

With Love from Los Angeles,

J.T

Dear Fans,

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I’m excited to share that after a year and a half spent being a part of the Thursday night writing circles with the InsideOUT Writers program, I’ve been selected by the team to serve as a writing facilitator for one of the organization’s new programs for juveniles inside. I’ll be dedicating two days out of the week for the program, in which I’ll be facilitating writing workshops alongside another instructor at a campsite for juveniles serving their sentences.

It’s a fantastic culmination of all the days and nights I’ve spent getting to know the workshop format and all its different possibilities at I.O.W., and I can’t wait to see what another generation of writers and I will develop throughout our time together. I trust it’s going to be a magical ride, as well as an unforgettable learning experience.

As always, I’m grateful to celebrate the news with the people of J.T., and I’ll be back after taking some time to prepare for all the workshops ahead! In the meantime, I want to give a big thanks to everyone who’s supported The L.A. Storyteller so far, and assure them that only more great things are to come!

With so much laav,

J.T.

</:O

…Dear Jimmy,

Congratulations! On behalf of the Voices of our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA/Voices) I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted as a participant in the Voices Writing Workshop at the University of Miami, June 28 – July 4, in the Memoir Workshop with Andrew X. Pham. The response to the workshops was overwhelming and the choices made by the Selection Committee were difficult. We were impressed with the quality of your writing, and we would like to invite you to join the VONA/Voices community of writers and look forward to your contribution to this year’s program…

</:D !!!

The One, the Only: “Super” Stephanie Guzman

What more can we say? At long last, it’s time to feature one of the premier admirers of JIMBO TIMES!

steph
Stephanie Guzman; Pasadena City College, 2009

I first met Steph during a snowball fight in 2010 at a Leadership Retreat organized by the Cross Cultural Center of Pasadena City College. Over lunch and activities at the retreat we were happy to be friends, but when the hugs and high-fives came to an end, she and I both were on an all-out assault against each other on the snowfield.

Looking back at it now, it was a natural match: while neither of us had known the other person longer than two days, it didn’t matter; we took well to each other as rivals from the start and have enjoyed one-upping one another ever since.

After all, we’re both avid news junkies, long-time WWE fans, and rabid hip-hop aficionados. In other words, we both know a thing or two about braggadocio.

Continue reading “The One, the Only: “Super” Stephanie Guzman”