Tag Archives: youth

Full Cirle

29 Aug

Circles are made to create unity. Circles and cycles mark the movement of the stars, the Earth and the Universe. Seasons and blessings come in cirles. And we live the sacred circle of life.

Visiting Medicine Wheel: Sacred Circle

In June of 2010 I was in Cypress Park holding my first Solo Exhibition of my art-work. Exactly one year later, a full circle was marked. I was in Cypress Park again, at Nightingale Middle School, directly across the street from the art space where my solo happened. This time, I was introducing myself to the parents and the youth I was going to embark on a journey with for the summer. Previous to this day, tt had been unclear whether or not I would be a camp counselor. The position i applied for was denied to me, but I did not realize the true blessings behind the change in positions. My ancestors and Creator was in the process of answering my prayers and they made the switches to place me as a counselor with high school students returning for their second year of leadership development in Wyoming. Instead of being stationed at a camp site, I was going to hike over 50+ miles at Big Horn National Park with 2 different groups of young womyn from Los Angeles.

C5 Dollz on our hardest day of hiking!

Trek Counselors and Guides at 9810

Photographs and words could not describe the magic and the blessings of the sights and sounds I experienced. I made friendships with trek guides from New Jersey, Maryland, Texas, Ohia, and Cali. I made strong bonds with high schools students spread through out Los Angeles, from Huntington Park to South Central, to Northridge. I taught, I learned, I cried, I laughed, I climbed, and I swam, but what I did most was thank Creator everyday for the beauty before me. Whether it was mountain peaks and Lost Lakes or the youth and their everlasting sillyness, everything and everyone shared a beautiful spirit.

My own spirit felt like it was glowing.

Finding Lost Lake

Everything was so clear out in the mountains. Everything was true and rich; every color, every sound, every bloom. During my first trek, i saw many caterpillars and by the time i returned for my second trek, I saw countless butterflies. I swam in rivers  and drank water from them, knowing and seeing the direct source of the water I was surrounded by was an amazing blessing. 

In nature, everything is purposeful. Every leaf, every wind, every thunderstorm, and every bird singing serves a magical purpose of life and spirit. Having been back in the city for a few weeks now, I notice the noise, the confusion, and the empytness in people’s souls. This man made reality is harsh. It is not an easy one to live by day to day.

When I was in the mountains, i would go scouting for trails through forests and mountains I had never seen before. I would come across animals and rivers and never once was I afraid. I felt free and beautiful. The other day, I walked from 3rd Street to 7th Street in Downtown L.A., and men would stop there cars to honk or ask me where I was headed. Men would stare at every crosswalk and I walked with my head held high, but my spirit was sad for the level of disrespect I was receiving. I reminded myself that I have felt this vulnerability and uncomfortableness before. And healing is also a never ending cycle. 

I thank Creator and the ancestors for placing me in the mountains this summer and allowing my spirit to heal, grow, and evolve. Inspired from nature, I too seek my true purpose. I know that working with youth is my path. 

My first session with the Frig Friggies at Lily Lake

Transformation: Who we were when we entered the mountains is not who we are after climbing out.


5 May

What is the saddest thing you could ever learn about?

My answer is: Guatemala

Yes, my parents land, my ancestral land. Guatemala is a beautiful place. Undeniably so. Beautiful mountains, tall volcanos, magical lakes, lush jungles with rivers birds, flowers… the culture and the colors shake your senses… and then there’s our temples and pyramids.

So why is it sad? Our history is sad. The longest civil war in Latin America took place in Guatemala for 36 years. Genocide swept our little country under the guise of killing “communists”. Femicide began during the Genocide and continues presently. Young men join the Maras and kill and threaten everyday struggling people. Police and politicians are corrupt and have created a culture of impunity. But when you learn that all the present tragedy is the result of U.S. Military funding, CIA operations, and dictator installations taught at the School of the Americas in the U.S., its devastating and frustrating. And when you learn about what the genocide looked like, how it massacred hundreds of indigenous villages, raped and murdered womyn, and left thousands of children orphaned, your heart breaks.

With all of this in mind, I still took myself to watch a film about Central America’s largest slum dwelling, La Limonada, in the capitol city of Guatemala. (Thank fully i wasn’t on my moon or headed there, the last time I watched a film about Guatemala before my moon, i was in mourning for over a week) Unlike Killer’s Paradise or Discovering Dominga, the film “Reparando”, offered a sense of hope. This film offered a beautiful story of two hard working community organizers in La Limonada that endured difficult challenges in their lives such as domestic violence, immigration, child abuse, and drug abuse.

Tita, is a womyn that began a little school in La Limonada to offer some hope, love, and a safe space for children growing up next to the biggest land fill in Guatemala. The children in La Limonada have scavenged through the trash for many years but through Tita and the school they are educating themselves and creating positive futures in their lives. Shorty, is another protagonist in the film. His father was disappeared during the war, his mother fell victim to drug abuse after her partner’s death, he found himself being raised by the streets. When he was ready to change his life, he came to La Limonada and opened a church and drug rehabilitation center. Their stories are powerful and heart breaking, but their resilience and empowerment lifts you back up. It was an amazing journey to sit in the movie theater and learn their stories and the stories from La Limonada.

Reparando means to repair. This film was created with a positive intention of telling the story of people trying to heal themselves and their communities. The film itself came about from a husband and wife that adopted their children in Guatemala. After learning about Guatemala’s history, genocide, and potential future that their children could have faced, they decided to find a way to help. The film Reparando is one way.

After the film screening I bought a DVD copy. In the past I have seen these films about my home country and have felt alone. There’s a strong need inside of me to share the film with others so that they could understand where I come from. In the past I have done film screenings for Killer’s Paradise and Discovering Dominga because I needed more people to know about Guatemala. I hope that one day I can do more than film screenings and travel to Guatemala with friends and show them the beautiful. Unless you go there, there’s no way of fully comprehending how beautiful Guatemala is. Anyways, if you guys can, please support this film. Any donations to this film production will do the following 3 things: (1) Fund the construction of a bakery for the Drug Rehab Center in La Limonada, (2) Give resources to the schools in La Limonada, (3) Fund the production of an upcoming film about street children in Guatemala.


Watch the trailer here: http://vimeo.com/athentikos/trailer01

Over Qualified

4 May

I had searched early on for a summer camp opportunity to work with youth in the wilderness. I found a beautiful project that took young 8th graders to a 4 week camp in Wyoming to grow, learn, become inspired, and set themselves on a path to college. Relating to the experience these kids were about to have, I spent days working on a perfect resume to reflect my qualifications for this position. I applied and I waited.

Rrrring. Rrrriing. I was called for an interview and I was there, dressed up and happy to be given the opportunity to explain why I wanted this job, why I would be so good for it, why I cared for these kids without even knowing them, and why it would have been perfect all around. The interview was long, I answered everything to the best of my ability, I was honest, and I felt good about it. I walked away feeling that I had done everything I could at that point to get this job. I gave them every reason to hire me.

 A month later I get an email. Im over-qualified and they decided not to give me the summer camp counselor position.

 How do you take in such news? Do you feed your ego? Yes. Do you feel disappointed? Hell yes! Do you think it over and over ?… I don’t want to. Hence why I’ll write it about so I can let it go and move on.

Perhaps I was looking for something outside of myself to give me greater life satisfaction. Perhaps this, that, and the other. But perhaps, it just wasn’t meant to be. Why? Idk yet, so I have to move forward and keep trying my hardest at life. I really can’t spend these next few days thinking about their decision and why it was what it was. Everything I could possibly imagine would just be assumption. Instead I’m going to have to look within and figure out what it means at a higher level to be denied bc I’m “over-qualified”.

 I shake my head. And carry my heart forward. It would have been nice to spend the summer with a bunch of kids under the trees by the river talking about the future. It would have been nice to center myself far-away from the city. I’m gonna let go of whatever beautiful pictures I created in my head when I looked forward to this job. Now I have to create new pictures for another summer where I wont rely on someone else to tell me whether or not I can have it. Im a capable being, and my summer will be everything I want it to be. 

With that, i’ll walk away with this song by Selena, “Desprecios”, i love her !

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.