La Gentrificación del Pueblo Continuará

 

 

Hasta que el pueblo se levanta y dice ya basta.

A walk through any pueblo is the most powerful way to take in its totality. This afternoon through my own, at the intersection of Madison avenue 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 neighbor nestles of leaves from bevies of trees branching out through the air. Facing 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, however, 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 is actually not located in the famed Silver Lake area, but instead in what’s known to the English speakers of the neighborhood as ‘East Hollywood’. This is the kind of contradiction that took years in the making. I can show how.

When my friends 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, the old complex at 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 doing so couldn’t be the end of the world, 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 the ninth through twelfth grades. At just about two miles walking distance from the old apartment complex at Madison and Willow Brook avenues, Marshall was significantly farther east of Virgil boulevard on Tracy Street, and unlike King, which another urban policy planner may argue was located at a ‘border’ point between ‘East Hollywood’ and Los Feliz, an which thus could serve both areas, Marshall HS 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 the Metro 181 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 it planned? With ten years of hindsight from the day of graduation, what I can say is 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 associated with them 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 pueblos 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 into 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, or even their children’s children.

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 hopeful. Everywhere in Los Angeles there is growing A Resistance to precisely this kind of old order of power, as well as to the poor planning or altogether lack of planning that’s 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 just been another chill bike ride home. But a force came over me as I decided it was time to give something else a try, at last. 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. As I came across intersections through the neighborhood with an outpost or magazine box for the free literature, I stopped, took off my backpack, searched through the folder inside which contained a couple of prints, and then grabbed the prints, taking them out and dropping them off into the boxes. I did this at nine intersections throughout the neighborhood, and the results were printed copies of JIMBO TIMES’s Los Angeles Students at all of 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 about it all. 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. And then something else hit me: I want to make more of these rounds for The L.A. Storyteller. I know that the path towards such future rounds–that is, on a sustainable basis–could be quite long, but then, how I could not give it a shot? Through all these years, 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 note, the past does not represent a world we’re consigned to indefinitely, but a possibility incumbent on those of us in the 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. But let this be a step towards just that. We are not afraid of a challenge when we know it’s in our veins to take it on. Indeed, that is why we are here.

Let us take it on, then, Los Angeles. Get literary.

J.T.

Este Pueblo Mío, de Nosotros

It’s been nearly four years since the formation of JIMBO TIMES through the streets of Los Angeles. During this time the site, like its author, has experienced a number of different transformations.

When J.T. first began the premise was simply a dedication to Los Angeles, entailing an effort on my part to capture and share pulses and characters of the town that I felt were being overlooked or passed over for the city’s more glitzy and glamorous developments. Looking back at that first year in business today, no dedication from the time speaks more to this intention than Dear Leo, which addresses the tragic loss of a young life in the community in the form of a letter to the deceased teenager. In just ten days, it will be a full three years since Leo’s passing, and while the community he left is still (t)here, there have also been more losses to come to terms with since.

In the second year with JIMBO TIMES, J.T. became wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, and right with its people. A wonderful road trip to Miami for VONA was quickly followed by work, community, and then more work. And as a still-fairly recent college graduate at that time, getting used to managing these different elements of work for J.T. was a learning curve. Nevertheless, in Bah’!, I declare my love for what every drink served showed me about myself. And today, as a result of the time I’m at a significantly better place with managing the different work environments I now find myself in. The second year of JIMBO TIMES was also the Year of the Quartz.

In the third year for L.A. Stories, an affinity for photographing L.A. became enmeshed with a need to address the political climate of the time as well. This was no more clear than with POC Today, a video series that saw me working with different peers and colleagues of mine to take our engagement with the community to the next level. That third year for JIMBO TIMES also included a trip to Japan, through Tokyo, Osaka, and even Hiroshima, all of which I tried to capture to the best of my ability in Never Alone. Then, as if not to be outdone by the wonders of the East, Mexico called out to me after I returned to L.A. from Japan, pulling me into its glorious stretches. In turn, just a few months later I flew out of LAX again, this time for Ciudad Mexico, Puebla, Mexico, and finally, Oaxaca, Mexico. Nearly one year later, POCT is on something of a hiatus, but each colleague from the project and more are still circulating through The City with me, and somehow none of us doubt that we actually haven’t seen the last of the project yet; POCT is still with me, just as Japan and Mexico are still with me.

Finally, in this fourth and most recent year with J.T., everything from traveling abroad to protesting in downtown Los Angeles and MacArthur Park, to videographing for POC Today up and down L.A., and to sitting down to read and further my analysis of all of these movements, has expanded my understanding of the world in a way I couldn’t quite formulate four years ago when the site first launched.

There is also more throughout these four years that’s developed to a milestone point, like time with the Inside Out Writers visiting different juvenile detention facilities throughout Southern California, or time with the Plus Me Project visiting different schools throughout all of Los Angeles, or even time with the Sacramento Area Youth Speaks Summit in Davis, California. I’ve now spoken with dozens of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated young people, and even thousands of students both at the grade and university levels, and in and beyond Los Angeles; through the process I’ve learned how this work truly matters to me, and how, if I don’t get it done, there isn’t quite a guarantee that it will get done.

To make things more interesting, in the same light speed with which the last four years have gone by, there is one more trip on the horizon for JIMBO TIMES just up ahead. At the center of the trip are the people I’m set to meet, and just how they’ll inform me as every character and environment throughout this journey has done. Because in actuality J.T. has never really been about meeting or ‘capturing’ people just for the sake of it, but about learning from them to see how I can bring it all back to the pueblo. Nuestro Pueblo, Los Angeles.

Moreover, because I’m now aware of the different interests I have when taking part in excursions like the next one in a way I couldn’t quite see four years ago, it’s only more exciting for me and all of my community to witness. Of course, in true L.A. storyteller fashion we can’t quite reveal the exact location of the next trip, nor the specific goals of the work therein, until just the right time. But we will get there, Los Angeles, and we will once again utilize the experience to elevate our vecindad.

What I can say is that in the fourth year of JIMBO TIMES the intention is to expand my analysis once again so that I can also challenge and grow that of my peers and those after us; I can only do this with the information that’s out there, and which only I can uncover because I’ve got to uncover it.

So let us get to more of that great work out there again, Los Angeles.

The future is waiting on us,

J.T.