Old Habits

How easy it is, how easy,
for the brain to trick us
into wiping pain away,
into thinking you’re here at my door,
or in the kitchen by my side, sipping
at the mug, sighing at the early hour,
calling my name, your
mouth at my ear.
How easy, how easy.

The brain contorts memory
to shadows of itself, clipping
connections to calendars
and seasons, children growing
into future mists we veil over when
we’re tricked. I hear footsteps,
jingling keys, the gentle click
of a door unlocked, water lapping
at your washbowl, gentle, curling,
steaming stream gurgling, and
you humming as you shave your neck.

How easy it is
to hear these precious sounds again,
these tiny tunes of love,
tricking death and me with
double shots of cruelty: warmth
at the reliving; then stabs
of recollection,
of seeing you lowered,
sinking,
roses sliding
to the soil.

T.R.

“Former Poet Laureate Thelma T. Reyna weaves hernationally-recognized skills as poet and as storyteller to craft a stirring, heartfelt memoir in poems that captures the essence of her husband’s brave, love-filled life—and the despair she navigated and surmounted when her spouse of 50 years died suddenly in minor surgery.”

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Calling All Bloggers, Writers, Storytellers: Publish Your Voice on Jimbo Times: The L.A. Storyteller

It’s true.

“After five years of JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller, it’s time to make space on the blog for more voices and stories from communities in Los Angeles and beyond. Enter the new Submissions feature. To maintain and expand the blog’s love for city life and attention to its working class communities, here are the types of pieces writers everywhere are encouraged to submit…”

Readers everywhere can be confident that I’m very proud of this latest milestone for the site, and that I likewise very much look forward to seeing what stories we’ll be getting out there! Head on over to the new SUBMISSIONS page to go and see for yourself!

J.T.

Hey Los Angeles: Thank You Again,

If the city is actually something in a person’s imagination, then what I see when I look into the face of Los Angeles today is something infinitely more golden, with lemonade spruced on top, percolating through winds from worlds away; even now at five years since JTLA first spawned onto the scene, on days like this I feel as much warmth past the throes of traffic and concrete making up the tiny corner I call home as I did five calendars ago.

While my eyes may perceive things in a slightly different light from how they saw things when the city first daintily glistened as I found myself amid L.A.’s voices, my memories now pick up where my vision might trail off.

I can still remember just returning to Los Angeles, when all I could hope for was finding a way to serve the world that raised me here with everything that I could muster. Eventually, serving became a matter of inspiring others to imagine a place for themselves in the big city’s future, too. From the trails of inspiration I’d eventually wander into tests of my resilience, or experiences which seemed to ask: How does one remain inspired while also remaining resilient?

Over time, I’d find that the balance between being inspired and being resilient is probably about as constant as the balance between the moon and skylight above my brows; every time I look up at the two again, both are just a little different as they take turns filling the abyss.

But if I’m still moving like the clouds above while I stretch my arms across savory grass below, I find my thoughts churning at a speed parallel to that of the clouds’ movement, as I muse at how I just may actually be right in the middle of the universe, at the center of my existence, somehow free or just right up against freedom–perhaps the closest I’ll ever be–when I face the city with warmth emanating from my inner-most being.

This is probably the city’s greatest gift to me: it’s brought me closer not just to others, but to myself. Amid the amalgamation of passersby searching through the shadows in Los Angeles’s abandonment, I find light in a stasis, or from a place where conscience thinks again before marveling at the elements defying odds all around it; if for the slightest difference, none of it–none of this–could be, so I can only conclude more resoundingly then:

Even after all this time, Los Angeles is still one of the greatest cities in the world; as the feats of so many citygoers continue dancing in its iridescence, I’m grateful to stretch my legs back into this existence again, too, to know I’m not alone in it, and to imagine still more possibilities as everything meets its counterpart, its opposite, and yet newer gravity unearthing potential for infinitely more together.

J.T.

War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (1980)

In the days since an ebullient Back 2 School 2 Party, I’ve had the privilege to rest and restore myself from the frenzy of so much organizing. One of the key activities in this “decompressing” process has been getting back to los beloved libros. In an effort to spread the joy of reading then, and to share as I so often enjoy doing with the spirit of Los Angeles, I’m happy to finally publish another brief book review. This time, on a little-known story by another major organizer in American history: Huey P. Newton’s War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (1980).

I can only imagine how demoralizing it was for Mr. Newton to describe the harrowing experience that led to the publication of this work, which describes how in less than ten (10) years, Newton’s entire life was uprooted, distorted and destroyed by a branch of government whose authority was never approved by Congressional Hearing (see FBI), but which would nevertheless work “behind the scenes” to eradicate the Black Panther Party’s (BPP) efforts to free Black and other minorities from the second-class citizenship they’d been relegated to over a hundred (100) years after the Reconstruction period that followed the US Civil War (1861-1865). As Mr. Newton points out in the opening pages of his analysis:

“By 1966, the United States had experienced a recent series of disruptions in several of its major urban Black population centers—Harlem, Watts, Chicago and Detroit. Numerous organizations and leaders representing groups of Black people—e.g., SCLC (Martin Luther King, Jr.), the Black Muslims (Elijah Muhammed and Malcolm X), CORE (James Farmer), NAACP (Roy Wilkins)—had repeatedly articulated the causes of these riots or urban rebellions: high unemployment, bad housing, police brutality, poor health care, and inferior educational opportunities.”

That same year, the Party would be founded in Oakland, California. It wouldn’t last more than 14 years. But during its lifespan, the BPP served as a “vanguard,” to borrow one of Newton’s terms, which would not only extend the spirit of Black Liberation Theory passed down from the blood and ashes of Malcolm X and MLK Jr., but which would “evolve” that spirit to meet the needs of a new “postmodern” world dawning after the “radical sixties” era in the United States. A world which would nearly leave the Black community and other minorities completely behind, if not for the revolutionary spirit and action of thinkers like Mr. Newton, Bobby Seale, Fred Hampton, Angela Davis, and other major intellectual and social figures of the times.

To be sure, War Against the Panthers is not a “tell-all” expose of the BPP and its legacy, but it’s a close and fact-based look at the methods of infiltration used by institutions such as the FBI, CIA and even the IRS and others, which set out to destroy the party’s Breakfast and other ‘Survival’ programs in Oakland, Chicago, New York and many more major cities across the U.S. For this same reason the dissertation is a very brief read containing a handful of facts, figures, and memorandums obtained through litigation by attorneys for the Panthers in cases against the FBI and its counterparts for violating the Panthers’ rights to privacy, freedom of speech, and other political freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

In 2019, “privacy” and the right to privacy is a word and phrase I read mostly when articles are referring to the internet, and more specifically, when they’re referring to which companies are spying on Americans’s phones and web browsers (virtually all of them, though one might ask: does it still count as spying if we clicked “yes” in the disclosure agreement?).

Yet Newton’s dissertation is an example of just what kind of actions can be taken against any American when the major power players deem them a “threat to national security,” or even just expendable or collateral damage. The analysis is therefore also instructive in the matter about why ‘[the] people’s’ rights are still worth defending; the issues of privacy and the right to organize oneself privately, politically or otherwise are not just legislative or “abstract” issues, but truly personal ones affecting every American today. As Mr. Newton points out, if even just one power player can deploy their leverage against any one group or person to destroy the rights of their citizenship, then it follows that all power players are given permission to misuse their leverage against all [the] people:

“…governmental efforts at destruction of the Party, successful in varying degrees, were only thwarted or held in abeyance when they reached their logical consequence: destruction of the right of dissent for all groups, a right indispensable to the functioning of a democratic society.”

I salute Mr. Newton and his comrades for their invaluable bravery in living, breathing, and exposing this parable. At least for JIMBO TIMES, the people will know: these are legends not far at all removed from our time. The text is free online for any one to read, and has full approval from The L.A. Storyteller.

J.T.