Tag Archives: media

Dear Gardena, It takes a village to raise a child…

28 Mar

On Tuesday January 18th, my high school made the news, a kid brought a gun to school. When he placed his backpack down it accidently discharged and one bullet hit 2 kids. The two 15 year olds were taken to the hospital. The rest of the students were put on lockdown while the LAUSD police, Gardena P.D., and LAPD showed up with helicopters, squad cars, and guns to find the 17 year old sophmore who brought a weapon to school.

The media gladly followed the sensation, a young black kid made a mistake and someone had to criminalize him and the entire student population. Parents called and texted their kids to make sure they were ok. Rumors, fear, and confusion swam all around. When students were allowed to leave the classroom after lockdown, they came out with their hands in the air and guns pointed at them. Every young kid at this school became a victim of trauma and violence once again.

Thankfully kids are not killing one another at school everyday. Unfortunately young people do resort to violence if they are threatened or if they are angry and desperate. In this young man’s case, he was being threatened by gang members. In our American culture, we do not teach children effective conflict resolution and communication skills. In our culture, boys and men are especially taught to be tough. Male anger is not challenged enough, instead it is encouraged and glorified.

We must consider the types of adversities that teenagers are facing in a society we’ve handed to them that can cause violent or unhealthy behavior. Working class communities of color lack resources and safe places. There are very few jobs but plenty of opportunities to get into trouble. There are drugs, liquor stores, and gangs around the corners. Many young people find their way around this reality. I found a way. Many kids try to focus as much as possible on their studies, but other youth may not have support at home. There are parents that work multiple jobs, there are single parent households, domestic violence, economic hardships, incarceration of family members, and the list goes on. Young people suffer from depression and low self-esteem. Schools do not motivate children to be excited about learning or to work towards career and life long goals. Schools teach to test. Schools have tired teachers. Schools have under-paid teachers. Schools don’t have enough teachers. As a society, we do not invest in ALLLLL of our children’s education enough.

I listen to the youth i work with every week. And they are trying to make it through. They want to be succesful individuals. But our youth need support and encouragement. They do not need more criminalization the way the media portrayed students from GHS. They need love at home, at school, and in the community. “It takes a village to raise a child” and that means we all need to commit in one way or another to young people’s future. Maybe we all can’t give time to every teenager on the block, but we all have little cousins, younger siblings, nephews & nieces. We need to take care of one another.

Young people survive traumas everyday. The school shooting affected every student on that campus. They were all on lockdown, praying that it was none of their friends who was hurt. They were escorted out of their classrooms and in some cases the students were walking out with their hands in the air and guns pointed back at them by uniformed officers. The kid who brought the gun is already facing prosecution and they want to try him as an adult. Prison’s are not places where you can heal and become a better person. Prison’s dehumanize, further traumatize, and perpetrate more violence.

I write all of this because we really need to watch over our youth. They need to become functional, healthy adults. They need to be intelligent and help their communities grow positively. But it’s gonna take all of our efforts and not metal detectors or school police to stop violence on school campuses.

Youth Leadership is alive and moving!

1 Mar


Since I do not watch much T.V. and can not afford cable, I primarily watch two shows; The Simpsons and the Tavis Smiley Show on PBS. I am a fan of Tavis Smiley because his interviews are honest, insightful, intellectual, political, and funny. Half the time I do not know who he is interviewing, but I still watch it because I learn a lot from his guests and from Tavis as a television and radio host. I would be on his production crew in a heartbeat if given the opportunity

So driving around L.A., I began to see the bus stop ads for the State of the Black Union on Feb. 28. Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union is celebrating its 10th Anniversary. I registered online to attend but then I came across a scheduling mishap. So I couldn’t go…and just when that happened, I received an email to register for the Young Scholars Forum at USC from one my favorite informants/organizer/homie, Diana Flores, Program Coordinator at the Southern California Library (the PEOPLE’s Library). It was a pre-event to the SOBU hosted by Tavis Smiley.

I woke up early and headed out to the forum. I was given a ticket with a center front row seat with my name on it. The auditorium was filled with young people from elementary school students with their teachers to graduate students. It was an awesome sight. I did not have a camera or recorder but then I bumped into another amazing organizer, Leo Grandison of UCSC, and he let me borrow his camera (Those pictures are on their way… Thank YOU!!!)

I went to my front row seat and there was a guy with fancy, professional cameras who sat next to me. I figured he was a journalist/photographer of sorts. So I asked him about it and he says, “Oh, I work for a small company called the Associated Press.” I gave him the weirdest look and responded with, “SMALL????” He laughed and re-explained himself, maybe he thought I didn’t know who the AP was. Hello! They only write every other news piece that gets regurgitated over and over by every other news media outlet. Then he said, “You never know where life is going to take you, I went to school to get a law degree, and look at what I’m doing, I’m not using my law degree at all”. Well I definitely understood what he was saying, I can relate, you can’t deny yourself of your passions and creative endeavors and so we both concluded simultaneously, “It’s about your passion”.

Then the forum began… with a NAVY commercial… BUU!!!!! They sponsored the whole thing and I went in for free, ok that’s cool, but did they have to plaster their name everywhere… Then a group of four kids came out called ONE… and I laughed, “Who opened the door to them?” I kept wondering why they didn’t find a musical group more profound instead of talking about being at the bar, and they’re not even 21. They were a trendy poppy hip hop group from L.A. If it wasn’t for their cover of, “That girl is poison…” and their ending remarks about no dream is too far fetched, I would not have accepted it. Call me a critic, y que.


Then Tavis came out. He introduced the moderator for the forum,  Dominique Di Prima . She is the woman who hosted “Street Science” on 92.3 The Beat in L.A.. Now she hosts and produces “The Front Page” on KJLH. She asked some excellent questions from the panelists (also someone to take notes from) and asked about youth leadership, activism, hip hop culture, reclaiming expression, and optimizing our community endeavors during this era of Obama.


The panelists/speakers were also amazing. They were on point in terms of being motivating and pushing the audience to really believe in our fullest individual and collective potential. I was impressed by all of them but I was especially impressed by:

Professor Alia Sabur, she is off the hook and the youngest professor in the world teaching mathematics and engineering. Her passion, is simply learning. She spoke about the challenges of being a leader as a woman, who’s short, naturally soft spoken, and young. I was inspired and reminded by her words that anytime you are doing something that you are not suppose to or expected to do, there will be people who do not like that. 

Tricia Rose, she use to teach at UCSC, but now she’s a professor at Brown University in the Afrikana Studies Department who writes about Hip Hop culture. She was very reaffirming in reminding us that Hip Hop is not something that belongs to corporate America. She said, “take it back, because it is our cultural expression that enables us to become our fullest.” She also said something funny that she calls the Hip Hop trinity, which is the gangster, pimp hoe complex that mainstream corporate hip hop suffers from. So for all the Hip Hop in the underground, we need to break ground, we’ve have been politically intellectually and lyrically depriving the masses. 

Jurnee Smollet is an actress (the Debators) whom I did not know of before but I gained a lot of respect for her because throughout her career, beginning at 13 years of age, she has stood up for her values. She is the youngest board member of Artists for a New South Africa which is a non-profit dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS, advancing human rights, safeguarding voting rights, and empowering children orphaned by AIDS. She was very involved with the Obama campaign and gave a lot of insight about the youth being responsible for Obama’s success. 

Maria Teresa Peterson is the founding director of Voto Latino. She was great. After another speaker talked about how young people are “seen, but not heard”, she made the point about how in Latino culture and in the over-all immigrant community, it is young people who have always been looked towards for leadership, knowledge, and translation. We have been listened to, we have been put in uncomfortable situations where we have to interpret to get things done for our family. I really appreciated her acknowledgement. She also mentioned how the historic immigrant marches were fueled by teenagers who sent text messages and myspace messages about walking out of school and participating in the movement. 

I was very inspired and re-motivated about where we are as a people in the movement for social change. We do need to take advantage of this era because we do not have one Malcolm X or one Rosa Parks, we have hundreds. Obama is not Jesus, but from his campaign to involve people at a very grassroots level, we can really keep going longer ways. I have a lot of faith in us. I have a lot of faith in young people. I love my youth whom I work with and I am very dedicated to their growth, even though it is they who teach me a lot every time I meet with them. I am a young person myself and this forum confirmed how everything I am doing at a creative level in voicing my mind and experiences through art, blogging, social networking, radio production, and now film, is what I need to be doing to contribute to our movement. I am documenting our movement and I do it with honor and privilege. I am blessed. And I can not deny this.

I am a powerful person in my own right. So I gotta keep doing what I am doing, following my heart and my passion.

Piolin interviews Obama

19 Feb


On February 17, 2009, President Obama was interviewed by Piolin. Piolin is a host on a Spanish language morning radio show. He is heard nationally on over 100 radio stations.  Piolin, an immigrant himself, has listeners who are able to relate to him. People listen to him at an individual and collective level. This is because Piolin’s show will be tuned in while his listeners are at work, so people laugh together, debate together, and become informed together. When I was in college, my co-workers would always play his show on the radio on our ride from UC Santa Cruz to a middle school in Soledad, an agricultural immigrant/migrant community.

This is the introduction and conversation Pres. Obama and Piolin shared on immigration:


PIOLIN: Hello.

THE PRESIDENT: Who am I speaking with?

PIOLIN: Piolín.

THE PRESIDENT:  Piolín, my friend, this is President Barack Obama.

PIOLIN: How are you doing?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I am doing good.  I promised you that I would be on the show when I was President, and here I am on the show.  (Laughter.)

PIOLIN:  You promised me that you were going to be in the studio –

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I haven’t gone to Los Angeles yet, but I should get credit for keeping my promise this way.

PIOLIN:  Thanks a lot, Mr. President. We have Mr. President Barack Obama with us. And let me tell you this, Mr. President; I’m sure you know, but it’s important to let you know once again, we make a big contribution to our country from all across art, music, labor. And most important a lot of Hispanics are in Iraq defending the United States, even without being American citizen.


PIOLIN: We need your help.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I’ve said every time I’ve been on the show, Piolín, we’re going to make sure that we begin the process of dealing with the immigration system that’s broken. We’re going to start by really trying to work on how to improve the current system so that people who want to be naturalized, who want to become citizens, like you did, that they are able to do it; that it’s cheaper, that it’s faster, that they have an easier time in terms of sponsoring family members. And then we’ve got to have comprehensive immigration reform. Now, you know, we need to get started working on it now. It’s going to take some time to move that forward, but I’m very committed to making it happen. And we’re going to be convening leadership on this issue so that we can start getting that legislation drawn up over the next several months.

PIOLIN: Mr. President, is there some sort of network we could establish to be in communication regarding the comprehensive immigration reform, and personally what can I do?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, the key thing right now is obviously we’ve got to make sure that all the people who are involved in immigration reform issues, that they sit down together and they start thinking about how we’re going to approach this problem. Politically it’s going to be tough. It’s probably tougher now than it was, partly because of the fact that the economy has gotten worse. So what I’ve got to do is I’ve got to focus on the economy, I’ve got to focus on housing, and make sure that people feel a little bit more secure; at the same time, get the various immigrant rights groups together and have them start providing some advice in terms of what strategies we’re going to pursue in Congress.

PIOLIN:  Thats one of the things, Mr. President, I would like to happen. I’m working for media and knowing that our people worked so much. And, you know, they came out from the houses, going to work — scary because they don’t even know if they’re going to be deported. And can we try to establish like a signal, like a network — for example, I like what you did with the financial — financial people, that you set it up, for example — the newspaper from LA, is part of that — those groups of advisors, financial advisors that you put — I like the idea. How can we have kind of like the thing where I can receive information? What do we need to do so we can receive a comprehensive reform?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ve got some wonderful people on my White House staff who are working on this issue on an ongoing basis. And what we’ll do is we’ll make sure that one of those people can appear on your program on a regular basis, giving you information about what we’re doing. And hopefully at some point you’ll be able to come visit us at the White House.

PIOLIN: Any time, Mr. President. And I would like to be there when you sign the comprehensive immigration reform.

THE PRESIDENT: All right. Well, thank you so much, Piolín. It’s great to talk to you.

PIOLIN:  Mr. President, you know we are close friends and you know that I have your BlackBerry phone number and you have mine. (Laughter.) So keep in touch.

THE PRESIDENT:  You know I will.  Thank you so much.  Tell everybody in the studio I said hello.  I had a great time when I visited you, and everybody there was so nice.  And you were very nice to my wife, as well, when she was on the program.  So thank you so much, Piolín.  Take care.

PIOLIN: Take care, Mr. President.  You know, you are in our prayers.  You have our support, and we want to help in any way we can.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Thank you, guys.  Bye-bye.

Personally, I am glad to know that President Obama is making an effort to connect himself to many different communities in this country. This is a huge step in the direction of following through with immigration reform. Many people feel there should not even exist a man-made border that has caused deaths and the criminalization on an entire population. I myself recognize the history of colonization and western expansion by the United States of America in combination with the economic exploitation in our countries that pushes our people to migrate. We can not turn back time and give life to those who have died while crossing the border or break off all the hooks of corporate capitalism. But this interview speaks to a commitment represented by both the immigrant community who works and contributes positively and by the President himself in seeking ways to meet progress on the issue of immigration.

My hopes and ideals may differ from whatever policy and reform does occur. But I do believe that the separation of children from their parents is inhumane and that the trauma caused to our community because of deportations must cease. These issues have politicized and united many people who once felt they did not have a voice. I have been witness however, that through our collective demonstrations of May 1st and our continued community organizing we can be victorious in slashing away xenophobia and finding peace at home, at work, on the streets, and in our daily lives. Even though Piolin is one person, he reaches far and wide and does have the ability to represent our Latino community. This is why I believe in the power of media and have chosen to take part in the media, instead of just being the zombie. I am glad that the President will keep a regular update on Piolin’s show through one of his white house staffs’.

Comments are welcome. But not hate. Peace.

Piolin Portrait done by Artist:

Cano Varela
# 40056-048
Federal Correctional Institution

3600 Guard Rd.
Lompoc – CA – 93436