Beginning of Summer Updates

I’ve had an interesting few days—last Friday, I went through a hypertensive crisis. I’ve had hypertension for around ten years. When I went to a dentist last Wednesday to extract two teeth, they checked my blood pressure and found it through the roof. They refused to extract the teeth until I had a doctor’s permission. I went to the nearest Valley Care clinic—where I’ve been getting care over the years since I have no insurance—and a doctor there said she could not give me permission. My blood pressure was at such dangerous levels she sent me to the emergency room at Olive View County Hospital and wouldn’t let me drive (my hard-working companion Trini came by and drove me). While there the nurses checked my blood pressure regularly, but I still didn’t see a doctor until after sixteen hours in the waiting room. Sixteen hours! People came in with worse conditions than mine. In the past I’ve spent seven hours or so in county hospitals in Chicago and LA. But the security guard said this was one of the busiest nights ever. Finally when I saw the doctor, it was determined I didn’t need to have IV and medications at a hospital room as we had originally thought. With new pills for the blood pressure, painkillers for the tooth ache (since I won’t be able to get these teeth removed until weeks from now), and antibiotics (for the infections, I finally made it home. The upshot is that I’m okay to get on a plane tomorrow—Wednesday, June 30—for a two-week trip to Manchester and London, England. I’ll be on a tour there of conferences, libraries, community centers, and a juvenile detention center. I’ll do readings, talks, and writing workshops. I’ll also be working with Twilight Bey, former LA gang member and Ameri-I-Can activist who now works in England addressing a growing gang problem. A friend Josephine Metcalf is organizing everything – she’s the best. And another friend, writer/researcher Garth Cartwright, will also take me around in London. Garth is the author of  “More Miles Than Money: Journeys Through American Music” (Serpent’s Tail) that features two chapters with quotes from me on East LA and Watts music. BBC is set to interview and I'm suppose to DJ one night a London night club. I’ll also be traveling with Barbara Becnel, the writer/activist who helped former Crip leader Stanley “Tookie” Williams with books, a film (“Redemption” starring Jamie Foxx), and in stopping his execution on California’s Death Row (he was executed nonetheless). Williams had changed his life and was doing more to get kids out of gangs than most people out in the free world. It was a travesty of justice and I'm glad to hang with Barbara for much of this trip. So despite Friday's scare, for now I’m good to go. Also, the week before on June 19 Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore held its Fifth Annual Celebrating Words Festival at Mission Community College in Sylmar, CA. We had around 400 people attend—with vendors, community services groups, food, a stage of poets, spoken word performers, dance, theater, and music, and a free book giveaway. Supported every year so far by the LA City Department of Cultural Affairs—with new support from State Farm Insurance, Tenoch Printing, Jarritos Soft Drinks, Antigua Café, Xokolatl, Councilmember Richard Alarcon, ABC Learn, The Molina Foundation, Palacio Torres, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, among others. Organizations present included La Raza Unida Party, Green Party, AB 540, Youth Policy Institute, El Nido Family Source Center, People in Progress, Americorps, and more. The performers included our own Mexika Danza group, Temachtia Quetzalcoatl, and poets and writers Graciela Garcia Medina, Ray Elizondo, Rene Colato Lainez, Poets del Norte, Gustavo Arrellano, Daniel Olivas, Maria Morales, Felicia “Fe” Montes, Matt Sedillo, Lalo, and Luis Rodriguez. Theater performers included Butchlalis Panochtitlan and Real Woman Have Periods. Other dancers included the Zanadu African Music & Dance Company. As for music, the placed moved with the sounds of Banda Nueva Generacion, La Chamba cumbia band, Hip Hop artist Bambu, and the ever-popular funk/cumbia/ska band Upground. Workshops on literacy and reading were also held. Everyone had a fun and safe time. Please make plans to come next year—this is the only outdoor literacy & performing arts festival in the San Fernando Valley. Also on Saturday, June 26, after losing sleep all night at the Olive View hospital, I still officiated the wedding of Cesar Tejeda and Rosa Rodriguez at Tamayo’s Restaurant in East LA. While I almost gave them heart attacks with my predicament, everything turned out fine. The ceremony was done indigenous style with sage, prayers in Nahuatl, English, and Spanish, and beautifully worded vows between the couple. Trini came to assist me, and then enjoyed the festivities afterwards which included a mariachi and great Mexican food. I also had press photos taken at the Getty Center with Shirley Wilson and a cadre of radio talk show hosts for a new radio program called “Scales of Justice” on LA Talk Radio (  The show will air online every Sunday at 6 PM with Shirley Wilson as the main host. I will be co-host with Shirley once a month, the last Sunday of the month, for a show called “La Neta/The Truth.” The other shows are “Urban Voices for Justice” with co-host Tommie T-Top (also of Amer-I-Can and many years in gang intervention work), “High Expectations” with Shawn LeRe, and “The Search for Restorative Justice” with Julie Harmon. My first show with Shirley is set to air on Sunday, July 25 at 6 PM (Pacific Time). It's worldwide, so my friends anywhere can tune in on the Internet. Also, on Saturday, June 26, CNN aired nationally a show on Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and myself for a show called “What Matters.” I hope many of you got to see it. Not sure when or if it’ll air again, but I heard it was quite good. Next report will be from England. c/s

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