Archive for California

I Heart Socal

I love my home. I love Socal.  I love Long Beach and I have recently had the chance to fall in love with LA too!

I love how winter here means I get to wear my leather jacket.  How everyone rolls out with their cute boots and scarves they seldom get to wear.

I love how the streets are so alive now that it’s Spring and everyone is kicking it out on the stoop or at the park.

I love that even in the dead of winter I can sit outside with my crew at a coffee shop under a heat lamp and kick it.

I love that I can go to the park down the street on a weekend and it’s like going to a festival: the guy is there selling elotes, the dude with the frutas is there, another one with paletas.  There’s a soccer game and families cheering, people just kicking it in the park, toddlers running after balls twice their size, loud music.

I love how I can usually look around me wherever I am and see beautiful people of color.

I love exploring LA and going from a Jewish neighborhood with Hebrew shop signs to a chaotic and vibrant Latino area.  I love exploring Westlake, Echo Park, Silverlake, not the glossy LA but the real shit.  Love exploring PTown and Koreatown.  I love going to a new neighborhood for work and checking things out.

I love that I can now navigate the public transportation system and not get lost, I know how to get around now and can find my way around LA easily.

I love walking on the beach at night.

I love how colorful it is and so beautiful.

I am at home and I’m loving it.

Long Beach Rally November 15th: One Latina’s Voice

The Long Beach Wed-In and Rally was a great success. I was not able to stay till the end due to another commitment with the South Coast Chorale to sing at the Well’s Hospice Memorial Service, but what I saw was empowering, well attended, and entirely encouraging.

My message was well received and I’ve been asked to share my message so, here it is, minus the energy of the crowd, the embellishing, the cheering, the righteous response, but nonetheless my truth which I was blessed to share today:

“Like all of you I was wounded by the passing of Proposition 8. I am hurt by it.

As a Queer Femme I am hurt by the fact that voters in the State of California have chosen to take away my civil rights–OUR civil rights. I’m hurt by the suggestion that my rights are debatable, expendable and not in fact INALIENABLE.

As a Latina I am hurt by some of what I’ve heard in the LGBTQ community. It hurts me to hear that as a person of color my membership in the Queer community is suspect. I’ve heard a lot of anger toward people of color, specifically African Americans and Latinos. I’ve heard blame, saying that we were responsible for the passing of Prop 8. Not only is that statistically inaccurate–if anything we helped close the gap, from 22% in 2000 to less than 4% this time. Not only is it inaccurate but it is divisive. It denies the diversity of the LGBTQ community. It denies our allies. And it puts us in the position of US versus THEM when many of us are both us AND them.

As a Latina, si cuento. I am an integral part of the community. We all are. All of my communities. I am not the other. We are one.

It hurts me to hear intolerance directed from my people to my people.

I honor the pain we are all feeling but I see it as an invitation to change.
I see it as a wake up call to our community that is bigger than Prop 8. That speaks to justice and community and inclusion.

We have an opportunity to continue to organize and advocate for change.
An opportunity to look at our comunidad and make sure that No Queer is Left Behind.
To ensure that the legal rights we have already gained are being upheld:
the laws that protect us from discrimination in the workplace
laws that protect youth in schools from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
We need to KNOW our rights and make sure we are protecting ALL of our freedoms.

And we can learn from our history. Stonewall has been brought by many people, I see signs and images commemorating our past. Let’s not forget who started the movement: it was butch women, queens, transgendered people, people of color and white people. United. Let’s stand and recognize.

We have an opportunity to build unity and inclusion. To see not only how can we get support from our potential allies but how can we BE allies to other disenfranchised communities.

A few things have been proven through our protests, vigils and marches in the state of California and now, nationwide:

We are a diverse and beautiful community. An amazing familia.
Our community includes all ages, races and ethnicities, socioeconomic class, religions, abilities.

We are a powerful community. And amazing familia.
We are a resilient community.
We will not be silenced. We will not be overlooked. We will not settle for less than igualdad. Equality.

We can share the energy and see that every issue is a lesbian issue, is a bisexual issue, is a gay issue, is a transgendered issue, is a queer issue
Immigration reform and rights is our issue
Homelessness is a queer issue
Drug addiction is a queer issue
Affordable housing is our issue
Education is our isse
Racism is our issue
We are everywhere

We are being called to action. Prop 8 is one piece of the picture and we will stand firm, we SHALL overcome.
And we can use this to build stronger communities, to ensure that all members of our familia are included and honored.
And we can take this chance to build bridges with allies to eradicate bigotry, eradicate oppression, eradicate senseless hatred and division in ALL of our communities.
We can be agents of change
for equality
for peaceful vibrant communities
and for diversity.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice EVERYWHERE.”

We will not stand for injustice.”

Dream come true

The first time I remember articulating this dream was in a purple hard bound journal 11 years ago.  I wanted to teach in the Corrections System.  Writing.  I wanted to bring the process of writing to the jails, to be part of the process of encouraging people to find their voice.  I wanted to be able to share the empowering and healing process of taking pen to paper, to share the sheer joy of self-expression, the critical self-discovery and critical exploration of social conditions that influence our lives.

I came close a few times but had never actually had the chance to do it.  And now, here I am, my name signed with a flair on the contract with Inside Out Writers.  I am going through the process of getting security clearance and doing observations before getting started and I’m so excited and honored.

I know this is going to be a difficult process, I’m not coming in this unrealistically and I’m well aware of the challenges the youth and the system will present, and aware that there are some challenges I’ll face that I can’t even imagine yet.  The biggest difficulty for me coming into this lies in dealing with the Juvenile Corrections System.  I have serious issues with the so-called justice system.

Recently I was given a chance to articulate some of these views in a documentary on the Lawrence King murder in Oxnard, CA.

Brandon McInerney, the young man who shot him, is being tried as an adult and faces the possibility of life in prison.  I was asked how I felt about that development.  That question made me pause.  I had come to the interview with a lot to say about education, schools, including my own experiences of homophobia as an adult within high schools.  That question made the already complicated discussion about education and the responsibility of schools even more difficult.  Ultimately my answer is that I don’t believe in the current system of corrections.  I don’t feel like locking McInerney up serves justice, nor does it serve community or the life of a young man who, having committed a heinous crime, is still alive.  Nothing can bring Lawrence King back and while the murder was a hateful horrible act, McInerney’s life is also valuable (he was 14!) and the pain, ignorance, fear, that led to his actions is also real.  I can’t just think in terms of good and bad.  Nothing excuses violence against another human being.  But a lot of circumstances can condone, and even encourage it.  The crime was a reflection of the inaction of the school, community, society.  It’s easy to try a 14 year old and lock him up.  It’s not as easy to confront the root of the problem, which we all participate in.  Which is one of my major problems with the so called justice system.  It’s not about rehabilitation, education, empowerment.  While we should all be held accountable for our actions on an individual level, punishing the individual makes it easy to leave larger social problems unexamined and to forget that a human life has been affected by social conditions that we all share responsibility for.

I’m not just vehemently against capital punishment, I’m also highly critical of a system that simply throws human beings into an institution where systems of oppression and dysfunction are reenacted and fundamental.  The answers can’t exist outside of larger community, which is affected in unacknowledged way by the incarceration and systemic abuse of our children, our mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, friends.

So knowing that in addition to my reactions to cops, guards, military and generally all figures of authority in a system of violence and oppression I also have a problem with the construct of the system.  Yet I enter it eagerly more than willingly. Why?  Because I believe n the youth and in my ability to have a positive impact, to empower and to participate in their growth.  It’s worth it to me as a way to challenge the system, even as I enter into an agreement to abide by its rules.  Whether I agree with them (no gang colors or script) or not (cursing is not allowed in the institution, although it is not censored out of their writing).  The young people can’t even keep the pens that they use in class because they can be used as weapons or as pipes.  The idea of not being able to have a writing implement makes my skin crawl.  More than the consideration of other restrictions on freedom– not being able to decide what or when to eat, when to get up, no privacy even when going to the bathroom– more than all of the restrictions, the idea of not having a pen makes my heart ache.

Incarcerated AND silenced.

I am eager to get in there and start the work.  I know it’s something I’m called to do and part of a larger journey.  This is spiritual work to me.  It’s a blessing and an honor to be able to finally act on this dream.  For a few hours a week I will be of service and be an instrument of change.  And for a few hours a week these young people will be able to unlock their voice and be heard, be seen, I’ll be a witness.

Black Lesbian Assaulted by Long Beach Police

I think the video speaks for itself.

I wish I could rant about this and spew the venom this incident brings up for me, but words fall short.

Craving the darkness: thoughts on straddling borderlands

Missing “home” is usually shorthand for a number of assumptions:

1. Home is singular, static, permanent

2. What is missed: usually people, food, a favorite shop, the smell in the air, the energy of the place

“Home” to me is a fluid concept.  The curse and the blessing of my early enculturation, my colonial roots, equally at home on either island, manhattan or boriken, not quite at home in one without the other.  Shifting between the epitome of urban, metropolitan, teeming, and the pristine pulchritude of beaches called virgin in the gringo’s travel brochure.  Just as I am equally at ease with either tongue, English or Spanish, but one never fully complete without the other.  Some things you just can’t say in English.  Some things take too long to express in Spanish.

When I have my cravings for what I usually call “home” that moving target that resists roots, fosters wings, and dreams return to, what I miss the most is unexpected.

I miss the dark.

I miss darkness so fiercely it makes my skin crawl if I think about it too much.

I miss unyielding, unrelenting, unapologetic dark draped nights.  I miss walking out my door at night and stepping into darkness so absolute I can barely find my hand in front of my face.  I miss looking up and falling into thousands (millions?) of stars.  I miss the brilliance of a half moon illuminating stark black.

Here the sky is never fully dark.  Urban living (and a delectable touch of smog) gives the sky a sometimes beautiful, sometimes eerie yellow cast.  I marvel when I catch sight of an errant star, straining against the residual urban blaze to shine down on me.

And yet I fall in love daily with the violent blue skies, so blue it hurts my eyes, so blue I hold up a flower as an offering to the sky to see the contrasting spaces of blue between brilliant petals.

I miss rain.

On gloomy days I ache for the release of a summer’s storm.  I miss the sound of rain pounding on rooftops, miss the puddles, miss the explosion of color and light following a righteous storm.  I miss the compelling wetness, dancing in between drops, moist rivulets running down my brown skin.  I miss the birds dipping into puddles, preening and guzzling.  I miss the anticipation of rain, the buildup leading to the gradual satisfaction of pouring rain.

And, when I allow myself to think about it, I miss my mar caribe.  I miss the way it caresses me and holds me, so different from the pacific’s cool hold on my soul.  And yet now I know that I will never be free of the pacific, never be far from it.  I know that it is in my blood now and that, just as the atlantic, brighton beach in a blizzard, icy waves pounding uncertain shore, el mar caribe soothing warm lapping at my bronze flesh, witness to years of dreams, joys, pain, now my heart has also tasted pacific salt: cold shock of the oregon coast and stubborn insistence to make myself welcome, southern california beauty, kissed by the waves sevenfold welcoming me and claiming me.  Home expands as a concept within me.
“The past and present wilt–I have fill’d them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.” Walt Whitman (Song of Myself, #51)

and furthermore:

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”  Walt Whitman (Song of Myself, #51)

My multitudes straddle fronteras, cross unexplored borderlands, nestle into unexpected pockets of ‘home.’

Mi patria es solo una, but home I build as I go.  An odd amalgam of caribbean breezes, socal cumbia, nyc beats, parisian decadence, chesapeake stillness, rushing boise river murmurs, california expanses of birds of paradise, and those pretty purple flowers whose name I don’t even want to know.  I’d rather name them myself as they tumble down to carpet the ground I walk on, sweeten the air as I pass.  Hope flowers.  Esperanzas.  Suenos.  Ilusiones.  Alma vida corazon.  I name them as I walk beauty on beauty.

With so much radiance and light around me, it’s the stillness and darkness that I crave.

Boricuas everywhere!

Everywhere I go here I end up running into mi gente.  Bars, boricuas.  Church, boricuas.  Schools, boricuas.  Camp, boricuas, mexiricans, cariben@s…  And now I’m devising a possible training/workshop/leadership development for queer boricua youth here in lb since there seem to be a few in the group a friend of mine volunteers with.  New project for after cabaret! Yay! 

Everywhere in the world I’ve gone, US and Europe (I won’t bother including Caribbean in there LOL) it’s like we have a magnetic pull and we just find each other.  New Orleans, touring the city on the streetcar,ran into a random dude from Ponce who had been living there for over a dozen years.  I still remember the excitement of the conversation.  Paris, random run in at a bar with other Newyoricans on holiday who were watching the world cup.  Idaho, I happened to intersect with the two other Boricuas in my area and quickly connected with a few others (probably the only others in the state!).  Utah, of all places, running into random Boricua college students, raised in Utah claiming their roots!  Western Mass, kicking it at a club and just by watching him move I could tell we shared a patria.  Representin’! And now, LB I find ’em everywhere without even looking. 

La mancha.  La sangre llama.  It never ceases to amaze me that magnetic draw that brings us to each other.  And it always excites me to find another.  And here, well we network about where to find ingredients for our favorite dishes, or I get questions about the island, or we talk about what it means for them to be mexirican and how the two cultures are expressed in their families.  Always such an affirmation and such an adventure.  Always so familiar.  Well, it is a small island, we could be cousins after all.  And that is generally the attitude we approach encounters with, mi gente.  And every now and then it proves true and we find a primo tercero, a random relation, a suspected branch on the family tree. 

I’m excited and fascinated to be part of this beautiful web that joins us all together and somehow lets us recognize each other in multitudes, carries the message of our history, our blood, our collective being… beyond stereotypes or phenotypes.

Immigration Debate


Public Debate On Immigration
The Hammer Museum In Westwood
10899 Wilshire Blvd  cnr Westwood Blvd.  
map
This Wednesday Evening, April 9, At 7:00 pm.
Seating as available, come early
Free to the public with $3 parking in garage below the Museum
For further information go to
http://www.hammer.ucla.edu

Blowing Up The Melting Pot
Rather than a strident pro and con argument on Immigration, Ian Masters will moderate a debate at that will turn down the heat and try to shed some light on the conflicting interests and concerns involved in an issue roiling beneath the surface in this election year.

Professor Felix Gutierrez of the Annenberg School of Communication at USC will debate the CIA’s former expert on Al Qaeda, Michael Scheuer, on open borders in the post 9/11 world.
With security concerns apparently in conflict with economic, social and humanitarian considerations, and as walls are erected, communities divided, and with unemployment on the rise, can we secure our borders against a future attack that Mr. Scheuer sees as inevitable, while still proclaiming to be a nation of immigrants?

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Felix Gutierrez is a Professor of Journalism and Communication in the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and an Affiliate Professor of American Studies & Ethnicity.  He has received many awards nationally for his work to advance more accurate understanding of the nation’s racial and social diversity. 

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Michael Scheuer  is a twenty-plus-year CIA veteran, best-selling author and commentator. He resigned from the CIA in 2004.  He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University and a Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation. In November 2004, Michael Scheuer revealed his authorship of “Imperial Hubris” and “Through Our Enemies’ Eyes”, both originally published under the byline “Anonymous.”  His new book is “Marching Towards Hell: America and Islam after Iraq.”

Sunlit tree

I heart my home

I heart my new home!

“You can’t balance the budget with cuts alone!” Action Alert

LOS ANGELES, CA. – A coalition of people with disabilities are planning a press conference and protest outside the Los Angeles office of Governor Schwarzenegger on 300 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles on Friday, March 14th, 2008 at 11:00 am to decry the proposed State Budget Cuts aimed at significantly hurting the disabled, seniors, school children, and poor families. 

with severe disabilities. The Governor proposes to cut the number of hours per month that an IHSS recipient can receive domestic services. This program provides people with disabilities with essential homecare services that allow them to stay in their homes and out of institutions.                             Do not balance the state budget on the backs of our poorest, most vulnerable seniors. Reject the proposed cuts to services. Seek a balanced approach to solving California’s budget problem, a solution that includes revenue increases. This proposed State Budget Cuts should also take this burden into consideration, as this will directly affect our communities with the promise of hardships to come. This does not solve the problem.