A Gathering of Peacemakers

This past weekend I was honored to be part of an important gathering of peacemakers at the Barrios Unidos headquarters in Santa Cruz, CA. The aim and purpose was to create the first real Barrio Peace Plan that would include families, youth, elders, adults, organizations, activists, but also those involved in the violence--gangs and the gente in prisons. This is unprecedented and necessary. We are in a time of change, of prophecy, of real peace. It's about healing, alignment, consciousness, cooperation, and the liberating force of our own creative minds and spirits. Already through the efforts of Nane Alejandrez and the Barrios Unidos organizations, connections have been made in the prisons with key leaders who also want to see peace in our time for our barrios. I've been making similar connections on my end with my ties in the pintas. During the weekend, more than 100 leaders and activists--including such notables as Dolores Huerta, Jose "Dr. Loco" Cuellar," Jerry Tello, Henry Dominguez, Amanda Perez, Albino Garcia, among others, hashed out the essential ideas and points that should be included in the plan. An elders council was created, most of whom signed a pledge to continue this work until its completion. Wonderful ideas, words, sentiments, and challenges were brought up at this gathering. We still have a long process of meeting, connecting, outreach, evaluating, and more before we'll have this plan. This was a good and strong beginning. I'll keep everyone informed on this development. As many of you know, barrio violence is the worse of any in the country. In California, rival barrio gangs and prison gang associations have been responsible for thousands of deaths over the past three decades--and for many even longer, being that barrio gangs are the oldest continuous street gangs in the country. It's also true that with suppression, gang injunctions, three-strikes-and-you're-out laws, deportations, and such, California gangs have now spread throughout the US, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and even parts of South America and Europe. The concept that the street and prison warriors will also help bring peace is an old one, with many pitfalls and dangers, but one that can be the most capable of bringing lasting and comprehensive peace. We also held three sweat lodge ceremonies (I took part in two, including one at 5:30 AM), indigenous drumming, chants & songs, and one evening we held a "barrio cafe" with oldies, cumbias, poetry, and even jokes. Jerry Tello and Jose "Dr. Loco" Cuellar rocked the place with piano and saxophone. Others brought in flutes and blues guitar. I threw in a few of my poems with accompaniment and we were really into la mode bohemia--Chicano style. I've pledged to continue this work where I'm at, but also across this state. Of course, we also agreed this needs to grow into other states, other countries, and of course, to other communities and races. With elders, adults, mentors, youth, families, and lots of heart, intelligence, experience, and ganas, we are on the verge of the first major barrio peace effort in California—tied, of course, to forty years of actual local and statewide marches, gatherings, truces, summits, and urban peace work. We also brought up the case of our friend Alex Sanchez, director of Homies Unidos, who's being held in a federal facility awaiting bail hearings and possible trial on trumped up gang conspiracy charges. He's been a longtime and genuine peace advocate.  Whatever happens to Alex can happen to any of us. We are all Alex. c/s

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