It’s my honor to announce…

On September 23, 2014 I retrieved a phone message from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti who called to say I’ve been chosen as the new Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. The Mayor picked me from four finalists, which in turn came from more than 30 applicants. I’m the second poet laureate in L.A.’s history, which involves a two-year appointment, honorarium, many events, readings, festivals, and talks.

The official announcement is today, October 9, at the Central Library with the Mayor, other dignitaries, the media, some family, and friends.

For a few days I’ve been humbled, reflective—this is an honor and a great responsibility. L.A. poets are many and amazing. I hope to represent them well—along with the whole city and its many voices, stories, colors, languages, and flavors.

We are a singularly enriched city because of this.

For me poetry is deep soul-talk, a transformative energy, one of the most powerful means to enlarge one’s presence in the world. Now I will join with the mayor in a new and imaginative journey to make Los Angeles a livable, welcoming and artistically alive place.

It’s been a long personal journey as well.

When I was a teenager, I was in a gang, in and out of jails, using hard drugs (huffing toxic sprays, dropping pills, smoking reefer, shooting up heroin). At 15, I dropped out of school, got kicked out of the house, and briefly ended up homeless, mostly in downtown L.A. I slept in abandoned cars, alongside the L.A. River, church pews, behind Dumpsters, in shuttered warehouse buildings.

My refuge was the Central Public Library, where I’d go during the day and spend hours reading books. I loved books. In the end books saved my life. I eventually returned home, re-enrolled in school, received my diploma, painted murals, and began a lifelong political and cultural life.

Despite setbacks and missteps, by age 20, around the time of my first son’s birth, I became gang-free, crime-free and drug-free. Then after the 1993 release of my first memoir (“Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.”) librarians told me this book turned out as one of the most checked out—and one of the most stolen.

Full circle, I’m now going to have an office at that same Central Library.

This is enchanting—something one can’t predict, but which can happen any time, anywhere, when one aligns their personal genius, inspiration and discipline to social needs, revolutionary vision, significant ways to impact and shape the world.

I’m most grateful for this opportunity. I thank Mayor Garcetti, the Department of Cultural Affairs as well as the panel looking through the applications—and the abundant possibilities inherent in this great city. I’ll do what I can to help bring forth the beauty and bounty that poetry and all the arts can elicit in people, families and communities.


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California Network for Revolutionary Change Meeting

When the Luis J. Rodriguez for Governor campaign ended after the June primary elections, we met with leaders throughout California to begin the process of creating a California Network for Revolutionary Change, uniting leaders, thinkers, writers, activists, organizers, and artists to envision and strategize for a caring, cooperative and just world. After several conference calls and three meetings, we plan to convene on October 18 in Salinas CA. If you are interested, please go to or write You can also write at PO Box 328, San Fernando CA 91341. Or leave a message at 818-898-0013. Here is the call:

Challenging Times Call for Connecting Leaders

—Call For California Network for Revolutionary Change Conference

All across the United States, intense challenges are calling forth determined leadership. Increasingly more homegrown leaders are standing up to realign reality to new possibilities: Whether in response to increased police shootings and incarceration; or the denial of basic shelter and healthcare; or the absence of true education and democratic choices; or the privation of dignified livelihoods and healthy surroundings.

We can do better as a country, a powerful example for the world. 

The Luis J. Rodriguez Campaign for a New California tapped into this new energized leadership. Now leaders who want to bring about systemic change have begun moving forward to build a California Network for Revolutionary Change.

This is a call for innovative, solution-based thinkers—people from all walks of life to join this network of practical, grassroots leaders, activists, writers, artists and more to unify our common goals for deep and broad environmental, social and economic justice.

This network's backbone is comprised of established leaders in their respective diverse communities linked by common concerns requiring unified actions. Their vast experiences, knowledge, and continuous study of current events happening here and around the world provides the framework for "the other" Fresno, Merced, Oakland, San Francisco, Salinas, San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, and other California cities and counties. 

If people have lost family and loved ones to police brutality in your community—we're looking for you.

If the "poverty octopus" slides within your community—we're looking for you.

If people in your community are being stuffed into the unjust, bloated prison-for-profit system—we're looking for you.

If you would like to contribute to the creation of non-violence platforms—we're looking for you.

Join with us at our California Network Convention:

Date: October 18, 2014

Time: 9 am

Address: Salinas CA

Contact info: 

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A Message to the City and People of Salinas

I was recently asked to write a message to the city and people of Salinas CA. Today, August 14, there is a town hall meeting there to address the police killings of four residents (two Mexicans and two Salvadorans) this year alone. With the current unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after police killed teenager Michael Brown--and the highly publicized recent police murders of Eric Garner in New York City, 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa CA, Alex Nieto in San Francisco, and homeless Kelly Thomas in Fullerton CA--we must all speak up. Here is my statement:

To the City and People of Salinas:

For a few years I’ve come to Salinas to speak at high schools, colleges, and other venues, including once sponsored by the John Steinbeck Museum. I address how best to work with youth, about gang intervention, and the powerful means of mentorship, rites of passage, the arts, treatment, and restorative justice practices. I’ve also spoken at Soledad Prison a few times over the past 20 years.

Recently, I’ve spent time in Salinas as a Green Party endorsed candidate for governor. Although the primary elections are over, my platform continues to be: 1) End Poverty; 2) Clean and Green Environment for all; 3) Transform the California Prison System; 4) Free & Quality Education for Everyone; 5) Free & Quality Healthcare; 6) Access to Art, Writing, Dance, Theater, Murals, Festivals, and more in every neighborhood.

I feel vested in Salinas as I do throughout California.

Therefore, I condemn the police killings of four residents this year alone. The community deserves a thorough and meaningful investigation, true accountability, and a perceivable change in the Salinas Police Department and its rancorous relationship with the community.

It appears to be normal in Salinas and elsewhere for police to kill people for having mental illness, being drunk, discourteous, and/or talking back. None of these are cause for murder. The Salinas police chief at one press conference suggested that one of the victims may have smirked at a police officer—although the victim could have been exhibiting the effects of being tasered. This man was shot in the face, although he was on the ground and not a direct threat to anyone at the time.

The community demands an end to these killings. A citizen’s council should be enacted. An independent investigation made. And the names of the police officers involved must be made public.

Police hiding behind their badges while holding the power of life or death over the community must end. Everyone knows there are tried-and-true ways to deal with any and all people and incidents. Deadly force is not only a last resort—it can only be applied in clearly dangerous situations to officers or people. Not, for example, when someone is on the ground, tasered, and “smirking.”

The Salinas Police Department needs to be transformed from the ground up.

I’m connected to other communities who have also lost loved ones to unwarranted, blatant police killings. The recent killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and of Eric Garner in New York City are a couple of the most publicized police killings, indicating a growing national tragedy. In California alone we have the deaths of 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, Alex Nieto in San Francisco, Kelly Thomas in Fullerton, and others. I’ve been involved in these struggles for 40 years—in my teens, I lost four friends to police, although these victims were unarmed.

This is not the community, state or country we should settle for. We deserve the best, including among our police officers. I have family members who have been in law enforcement. I’m not against police officers per se—many are hardworking, patient and needed. We simply cannot allow these shootings to be “normalized” so we get numb when another person is shot for not “acting right.”

With others in a burgeoning California network of community-based leaders, organizers, thinkers, writers, and politicians, I’m willing to offer positive, meaningful and lasting proposals to end these killings once and for all.


Luis J. Rodriguez

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State meeting of Network for Revolutionary Change held in Salinas

I'm pleased to announce the beginning stages of a California Network for Revolutionary Change after a meeting this past Saturday, August 9, at the Spanish American Baptist Church in the Alisal barrio of Salinas. We had two cars from Los Angeles drive five hours that morning to attend as well as two separate cars of people from the Bay Area and a number of Salinas leaders. We laid the groundwork for a possible statewide convention in October, a new website, and a presiding committee to push forward this long but important process--of creating a unified, but diverse, network of leaders, organizers, thinkers, writers, teachers, and more for study, strategizing, and short-and-long-range organizing.

This process grew out of the 2014 Luis J. Rodriguez campaign for governor. Members of the Green Party took part (I became the officially endorsed Green Party candidate for the June primary). We aim to become the connective tissue of mostly scattered, isolated and often suppressed struggles for deep changes in the three pillars of a healthy and thriving society--the environment, the economy and social justice (peace at home and abroad is the fourth pillar).

Salinas is an important community since its a confluence of working class/poor issues--where the wealth is held in the hands of the few, and residents face environmental disasters, economic deprivation, and a long history of social injustice. In the past six months, Salinas police have killed four residents: two Mexicans and two Salvadorans, three farm workers and a parolee. This is the city that John Steinbeck made famous (although when published, his "Grapes of Wrath" was banned in Salinas).

Please keep reading my blog for more information as we move forward. Thanks to the many statewide supporters of the Rodriguez for Governor campaign and all those who helped organize this meeting.

Despite going against corporate control of political races, where only those with big money can play and be heard, such as Governor Brown with a $20 million war chest, I was able with a grassroots effort, going up and down the state 11 times, and hardly any money, in the primary to become 6th out of 15 candidates, and first among third party and independent candidates. I received around 67,000 votes (as a Native American friend said, "we won, since we measure victories different than the general culture").

We plan to continue the "Imagine a New California" campaign at least through the November elections. The issues are still with us and must be fully addressed, regardless of who's on the ballot. The Rodriguez campaign articulated these issues as 1) ending poverty 2) a clean and green environment for all 3) ending the bloated and failing state prison system as we know it 4) free & quality education for everyone 5) free & quality healthcare for everyone 6) and access to arts, dance, music, murals, theater, literature, festivals, and more in every neighborhoods.

Please join with us.


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For My Son Ramiro's Birthday: Thoughts from Indigenous Imaginations

The following statement was written on the occasion of my oldest son Ramiro's birthday today, June 17, 2014. He turns 39. I drew on cosmological studies and my own interpretations of highly developed and complicated indigenous ideas, mostly Mexika (so-called Aztec) and Mayan. Ramiro is now a practitioner of Mexika Danza and Native American spirituality. I offer this not as a doctrine encased in stone, but to move ideas, the imagination -- a way to see that can help bring more clarity about nature's core laws and principles. The operating ratio of the earth: 13:20 is the base-operating ratio of the earth. There are actually 13 moons in a solar year, 13 strands in DNA, 13 levels of sky in so-called Meso-American cosmology, 20 months of the calendar, 20 fingers and toes… and on and on. This ratio helps attune human life to the timeship called earth. The ratio is also expressed as 13:260 (the 260 days of the Mexika Tonalpohualli calendar, which is also true for the key calendar of the Mayan, the Tzolkin). There are also 260 days in the gestation period of a human being in the womb, which comes to 13 months (not 9), 20 days per month. There are even more complicated mathematical links since math is the language of the universe. 260,000 years is also the end of the five 5,200-year cycles that marked the 2012 harmonic convergence. 52 years is also a life cycle in humans and in the Mexika cosmology, where every material possession would be discarded and a new fire would begin the next 52-year cycle for a city or tribe. However, since the European invasion in 1492 (during the period of Christian consolidation of Spain and the Spanish Inquisition to ethnically-cleanse Spain of Moors and Jews) brought imbalance as well as humanly, earthly and spiritual poison to this land, the operating ratio has been 12:60 (12 months make a year, two 12-hour periods makes a day-and-night, 12 is a dozen, 60 minutes to an hour, etc.). Since then we’ve been out of tune, unaligned, in what is called the “Dark Dreamspell of History.” This is also why there are 520 years from 1492 invasion to 2012. Conquest, colonization, diseases, wholesale theft of land and minerals, the rise and pinnacle of capitalism, and more mark this period. While tremendous growth in social structures, technology and instruments occurred during this time, we also saw the greatest destruction of people ever –- and the greatest destruction of land and resources, leading to global warming and beyond. Almost all 12:60 systems of human structure, labor, production or wealth have been built on, and are a breeding ground, for inequality and imbalance. This has also produced a “memory” virus. The purpose of the 12:60 ratio was to erase all memory of the proper earth ratio as well as the complementary relationship of feminine and masculine. In other words, to disconnect our minds and our hearts from the indigenous DNA. Along with the 12:60 ratio came the imposition of patriarchy from Europe/Mideast, where the Fatherland (the country, the patrias, where the word “patriot” comes from) became more important than the Motherland (the whole planet). Still the genetic memory is with us, in our bones if not in our conscious. Tapping into this is the healing power to be balanced in this world despite the pervasive fracturing, imbalances and injustices of so-called civilization. 13:20 is the ratio of the proper relationship of feminine and masculine, needed for all birth and regeneration. This is what Ometeotl means (“Two Energy”). The Creator spirit. The Supreme Regenerating Principle of the Universe. 13 is feminine, 20 is masculine. Therefore, Ometeotl is not a God to be worshipped, detached, personified, but a principle of all life to be respected, affirmed, honored, and lived by. Knowing these laws/principles/ratios is turning necessity into mind. As Marxists say, freedom is the appreciation of necessity. You can only do what you want to do when you know what needs to be done. The human experience as matter What is called matter, the material conditions of our lives, comes from the word “mother.” Mother earth is our universal birthplace, recreated in a woman’s body, where spiritual beings become matter. As they say, we are spiritual beings on a human journey—not just human beings on a spiritual quest. It’s actually both—feminine and masculine. This means not pitting one against the other. That leads to misalignment. But matter has finite qualities, laws of birth and development, limitations as well as dangers. Our journey then has a purpose—to learn the mastery of consequences. In matter, we learn how to breath, walk, think, act, do, impact, etc. We can go negative or positive—both are possible. We can eat healthy protein-rich mushrooms… or poisoned ones (and some of the most beautiful and appealing mushrooms can be the most poisonous). We learn the consequences of our actions and inactions. We learn about the lures of the attractive and intoxicating (and their limitations) while also learning about the long-range, the qualitative, the slower gathering of depth knowledge. You don’t have to pose one against the other. They all matter (“mother” again). Our bodies matter, although they are finite, needing care and healthy options. But there is a part of us that is infinite, eternal, abundant. There is a way to tap into the abundant aspects of our natures. These are imagination and creativity, inexhaustible wells. The feminine energies account for these. The masculine energies account for our prudent, practical, step-by-measured-step plans, proposals and actions. Both are important, but again we often pit one against the other. External nature is also both finite and generative, the latter becoming engaged when we work within the laws/principles of what allows natural things get born, grow, die, and get born again. There is abundance in nature as well — she teaches us this everyday. Nature is our best and greatest university. Our mother (matter) is therefore the greatest source of the masculine, yet also the place where the feminine acts out its power to go beyond the limits. What I call attunement –- tuning into nature’s energies, powers, and to your own nature and of your relationships –- is re-aligning to the 13:20 operating ratio and to the proper relationships (harmony) of feminine and masculine. In life, like a good guitar, we have to get out of tune, imbalanced, off kilter. But with consciousness, learning, ritual, ceremony, and art, we can get tuned again, on a higher level each time. It’s aligning or tuning the six “strings” of our being — the spiritual, mental, emotional, psychological, creative, and physical. In human/earth development, we have been out of tune for 520 years — we are in the beginning process of re-aligning, or we cease to evolve, which means we cease to exist. The point is evolution, unlike the narrow religious “believers” who claim otherwise (“believing” is not knowing), is “God’s” way, the way of nature, taking the form and content of evolution/revolution through new stages of growth. The spiracle process of all growth (called by modern scientists terms like “punctuated equilibrium,” “the negation of the negation,” the “thesis-antithesis-synthesis” movement, etc.) is how indigenous people saw development. Not just linear, not just cyclical, but the combination of both (masculine and feminine) to create spirals. Again the DNA strand is a spiral, so is the Milky Way, vortexes, the development of new species. Another way to look at this: Every day of our life is the same, a cycle development from the previous day, with variations of sun, moon, stars, elements, seasons, but pretty much what we should expect. But every new day is also something that has never happened before: nobody has ever walked on this particular space of earth, under this specific configuration of sun, moon or stars, etc. before. Just like all humans go through a similar process of conception, gestation, and birth, growth, death, each human being born is also unique, specifically bound with particular combinations of fate and destiny, nature and nurture, environmental and internal factors, purpose and meaning. Yes, other beings have populated the planet. Yes, we’ve been “here” before. But at the same time there has never been a person like you in this time, in this place, under these conditions. You are connected and at the same time singular, including with unique soul (attributes, propensities, destinies) and physical properties and imprints (fingerprints, voice patterns, face, etc.). Birthdays and 13-year cycles There are four cycles of 13 years before a person becomes 52. For the Mexika, each cycle is a time of re-calibration, a threshold time, when doors open, new possibilities emerge, and growth is qualitatively changed. Remember, 52 years is the big transformative time before the final cycle, when you prepare to enter the other side. So, my son, on your 39th birthday: You are ending the third cycle, entering the fourth. This is a time of destiny-making, mature decisions, of fruitful endeavors, of achievement. The 3rd cycle is mostly a learning cycle, beginning after your brain became fully shaped and molded around age 26 (the end of second cycle). Pray for guidance, protection, but also inner strength. Don’t get off your path, but when you do just get back on. No more dramas. No more deep turmoil. Now a part of your soul settles in. Another part is ready to be seen, accomplished, in your destiny. It’s time to get tuned up again. c/s mexikacopalero
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Summary of Luis J. Rodriguez campaign for California Governor

Dear Friend, supporter, family: When I decided to run for California governor around a year ago, my wife Trini said, “you have to take this serious.” She meant this could not be a symbolic campaign or one that only raises issues. I had to provide real solutions and I had to run to win. However, I have good reason—like millions of Californians—to be wary of U.S. elections as a wholly undemocratic process, dominated by two parties that are two sides of the same coin, and where corporations control the big funds as well as who gets heard and who wins. Today millions of potential voters don’t register and millions who are registered don’t vote. I can hardly blame them. Therefore, if I ran I’d have to unveil the undemocratic nature of elections in a complicated crisis-ridden capitalist world while at the same time fight to make voting meaningful again. I knew I couldn’t do this by being a better candidate, but a different candidate. I wouldn’t take corporate donations and I wouldn’t make any deals. I refused to garner funds just to feed a growing “elections” industry that makes it near impossible for less heeled candidates to participate. While voters needed more voices and real choices, California made this difficult by having nonpartisan primary elections where only the top two vote getters, regardless of party or no party affiliation, would get to run for the general November elections. I also had to address the key issues affecting Californians—the increasingly poisoned and unstable environment, including a multi-year drought; economic distress, home foreclosures, growing joblessness; and concerns like the failing and bloated prison system that has more to do with poverty and race than crime (and growing beatings and murders by police of poor residents). My campaign had to be the intersection of the three pillars of a healthy society—a clean and green environment, a thriving economy and social justice for all. I also called the campaign “Imagine a New California.” In a time of “austerity” measures that made more people poorer and a much smaller number richer, we had to imagine the kind of state we needed and deserved, not the one being thrust on us by Governor Brown and the Democratic Party—and their cronies in the Republican Party. Against all odds, we were able to get around 200 volunteers statewide, to obtain 5,000 signatures and/or funds to be on the ballot as well as the endorsements of the Green Party of California, the U.S. Justice Party, the Mexican American Political Association, Corazon Del Pueblo of Boyle Heights, El Hormiquero of Pacoima, PODER of Santa Barbara, Chicanos Unidos of Orange County, Brooklyn & Boyle magazine, Chicano scholar Rudy Acuna, former Green Party vice-presidential candidate Rose Clemente, former California lawyer and whistle blower Kathleen Carroll, African American poet Jeffery Martin, and Vagabond Books editor Mark Lipman, among others. We traveled eleven times up and down the state—standing with the elderly being evicted in San Francisco; family and friends of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, killed by a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Rosa; anti-fracking demonstrators in Fresno; a Martin Luther King Day march against poverty in Sacramento; with college student Aloni Bonilla, beaten while handcuffed by a California Highway Patrol officer; protestors against Exide battery recycling plant that was poisoning some 115,000 residents of L.A.’s eastside; students being pushed out of their school in Watts; anti-Monsanto demonstrators on the steps of the state’s capitol; reading poetry during an Open Mic held in a garage in scandal-ridden Bell due to lack of arts and cultural resources; with around 100 day laborers in the Napa Valley; some 7,000 marchers on Cesar Chavez day in San Fernando; close to 3,000 people in Salinas protesting the murders of three farmworkers in 90 days by police… and on and on. Despite a major media blackout, articles and interviews on me appeared in the Huffington Post, Fox News Latino, Los Angeles Times, Truthout, Mint Press News, Orange County Weekly, Monterey County Weekly, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Truthdig, KPFK, Radio Bilinque, Monterey Herald, Daily Californian, Univision, La Opinion, and more. And then on June 3, the day of elections, I was able to get 53,220 votes. With one of the lowest voter turnouts, without one corporate dollar and no big media attention, I was 6th of 15 candidates and first among the seven third-party and “no party preference” candidates. Statewide, our campaign beat Governor Brown's only Democratic challenger and two of Brown's Republican challengers. We didn’t win but we did win—we’ve now laid a foundation for a new movement in California around the issues that matter. We plan to continue the “Imagine a New California” campaign through November with a website, conferences, social media, blogs, podcasts, editorials, talks, and more. We plan to create a network and schools for revolutionary change, to engender new leaders and possible future candidates with new vision, skills and organized hope. I owe this all to you—my friends, volunteers, and supporters. I owe this to my family and the thousands who voted for me. Please join with me as we move forward for a new, integral and just California that aligns resources to human needs, that works for everyone—and not just the powerful and wealthy. Imagine a new California—then let’s work together to make this happen. Respect and justice, Luis J. Rodriguez c/svotejune3_imagine
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Please give to Rodriguez for California Governor Campaign

We are two weeks away from the June 3 California primary elections. The Green Party of California has endorsed candidates for Secretary of State (David Curtis), Treasurer (Ellen Brown), Controller (Laura Wells), and Lt. Governor (Jen Goodman). As many of you know, I am the officially endorsed Green Party candidate for governor. There are also many local Green Party candidates on the ballot. Please vote Green. Here is a link to a crowd-funding campaign where you can donate to the Rodriguez for Governor campaign (please also spread the word): We aim to be the second-highest vote getter after Governor Brown. Presently Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is the second-highest vote getter in the polls. Donnelly is a Tea Party member, a Minuteman and known racist. We can't let him set the parameters of the debates with Brown through the November elections. I am the most qualified and passionate candidate to challenge Governor Brown and the status quo on the issues that matter. To find out more go to: campaignslogan2014
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General Baker -- R.I.P.

General Gordon Baker, one of this country’s key revolutionary visionaries and leaders, passed on Sunday, May 18, 2014, at a Detroit hospital of congestive heart issues, surrounded by family, many friends and comrades. He was 72. Gen was also a friend, teacher and respected member of my extended revolutionary family. In the 1960s, Gen led wildcat strikes in Detroit’s auto industry for better pay, working conditions and benefits. He helped found the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM), and later (along with myself and other leaders, thinkers and organizers) the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, of which he was Chair of the Steering Committee. His leadership and ideas in the early strikes inspired organizing efforts and other similar actions by African American autoworkers throughout the country. An autoworker for 30 years, Gen also spoke throughout the country, championing the unemployed and unorganized as well as all workers against the control of corporations and a small but powerful U.S. ruling class. As a young worker and urban warrior, I met Gen in my late teens and felt the authenticity of his voice and experiences. Detroit workers have suffered tremendously, especially during the massive de-industrialization that began in the 1970s and hit hard in the 1980s and 1990s. Recently Detroit’s bankruptcy and abandonment as a result of the current financial crisis is emblematic of a whole country in disarray. General Baker stayed true to his roots and principles, taking up the fight for a cooperative and worker-based society to higher levels, deeper thinking, and more effective strategies. My heart goes out his wife Marion Kramer, children, grand children, and other family. Gen’s impact in our time and in this country during this trying period is immeasurable and solid. His example will live on—in me and among millions of the poor and working class of this country. c/s
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Luis J. Rodriguez Keynote at "Justice for Native Peoples" Conference

On April 3, 2014, I was privileged to give the keynote speech at the 10th Annual J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces. This year's theme was "Justice for Native Americans: Historical Trauma, Contemporary Images, and Human Rights." Below is my talk and the poem I read at the end. I want to start by providing a number of greetings in the language of a few native peoples: Yaa'teeh – “It is good” in Dine/Navajo Kwira Va – “We are one” in Raramuri Gualli Tonalli – “Good day,” in Nahuatl but can be translated as “have a good destiny” And In lak’ech – Mayan from southern Mexico and Guatemala: “I am the other you” What links these greetings is the sense of connection, that we are all related, “Mitakuye Oyasin” in Lakota, a sense that is largely being eroded in our modern industrial and post-industrial world. I’d like to propose that this disconnection, separation from nature, from our own natures, and each other, is the greatest source of inhumanity, trauma, and disintegration of our natural rights confronting Native peoples today—and I’ll venture to say for everyone else as well. Separation is what “sin” in the Christian faith is aimed at accomplishing, separating believers from their God. As Native Peoples we saw the invasion, infusion and infection from European powers more than 500 years ago as the single most important root of our separation from what we consider the Great Spirit, Creator, Ometeotl—including the very earth and sky and systems that have sustained us for tens of thousand of years, or as we would say, “forever.” As most of you know, I’ve been around the world addressing this deep separation in a variety of ways. Because of my work, for example, I’ve visited hundreds of prisons and juvenile lockups. I’ve done this for close to 35 years. I’ve been to California institutions like Folsom, Soledad, San Quentin, and Chino; to juvenile facilities and prisons in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. I’ve done the same in some of the harrowing prisons of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Argentina, and southern England. You have not been to a living hell until you’ve walked down several caverns of a Salvadoran prison with no electricity, no running water, tattooed faced gang youth at every turn, 40 to 50 prisoners in a cell meant for two, including a section for women with babies, who are also incarcerated. Today I was at the J. Paul Taylor Center juvenile facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico, speaking to adjudicated young men. I can appreciate the difference in how the United States deals with our troubled youth, the much greater resources available, and for the most part staffed by courageous and caring men and women. I had a great time with these youth, great talks, and like always, I learned so much in hearing from them. Yet, I must say, the separation affecting these youth is palpable, punishing and in my view destructive to their spirits and to our communities. What traumatized, violent, raging young men need—and this is based on actual practice, study and experience—is more community, more family (and if they don’t have a family, or have a broken one, a healthy sense of family). The wisest way to address their issues—as deep as they may be—is more connection. Generally, in our so-called adult corrections and juvenile justice systems, in dealing with most trouble, most traumas, we do the exact opposite. Even the psychoactive drugs we prescribe to ADD children, or mentally ill persons, or the clinically depressed result in artificial separation from one’s own powers and energies to cope and to change. Why is this so? Because this is what we’ve done to ourselves. The poison of spirit I’m talking about has penetrated almost all our policies, laws and history—it has separated us by so-called races, by economic class, young from old, men from women, gay from straight, powerful from the powerless. We are a divided country, in a “disunited states” of America, one that is constantly at odds. I’m proposing another way to re-integrate ourselves, a way to become more integral as a people, to make sure all basic needs and rights as human beings are intact, and a way that will allow us to unite around the essentials, have liberty around the nonessentials, and to be caring, connected and cooperative in everything else. We as Native Peoples have an obligation to provide such knowledge, wisdom and imaginations to the world. As a Chicano, my own native roots come from this very Chihuahua desert, before it was divided into two countries and various states, before there were any borders. A time when we all spoke a variance of what scholars call the Ute-Aztecan language group, that encompasses tribes on both sides of the border such as the Raramuri, Yaqui, Huichol, but also Hopi, Shoshone, Paiute, and Tohono O’odham. My mother was born in Chihuahua City from a Raramuri woman and a mixed Mexican man. Her grandmother and mother left the Copper Canyon—La Barranca de Cobre—section of the Sierra Tarahumara during the Mexican Revolution, walking for miles during a time when whole villages, and what some people didn’t know, small tribes were being destroyed by federal troops. My father is from a part of the southern Mexican state of Guerrero with many Nahuatl-speaking peoples but also former African slaves. When my dad’s village of birth was destroyed, his mother carried him as a baby in swaddling on the back of a burro just before federales attacked. I have Native roots from both areas, some African, and, of course Spanish. There’s a blue-eyed grandfather in my lineage. However, for the past twenty years I’ve cleaved closer to my native roots when I decided to sober up after having been on drugs for seven years as a youth, including heroin, and then drinking for twenty years on top of that. I gravitated to the Mexika traditions that are now in almost every major Chicano community in the United States, first in Chicago where I lived at the time. I also had teachers among the Lakota, from Pine Ridge, where I helped bring contingents of Chicano, Puerto Rican, and African American gang members. I’ve done ceremonies there, as well as in and around Illinois and the Midwest. In 1997, I began to go to the Navajo Nation for ceremonies and teachings, as well as work with youth and families there. I learned the medicine way from a roadman, Anthony Lee, and his wife Delores of Lukachukai, Arizona, who soon adopted my wife Trini, who has Huichol roots from Jalisco, Mexico. We’ve gone back there almost every year. My other teachers include Macuiltochtli and Tlacaelel of Mexico; Julio Revolorio of Guatemala; La Dona and Panduro, Quechua traditional practitioners from the rainforest of Peru; Ed Young Man Afraid of His Horse from Pine Ridge; and Huitzi and Meztli, a Nahuatl-speaking couple who currently run our Mexikayotl and Nahuatl classes at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural—the cultural space and bookstore that Trini and I helped create thirteen years ago in the Northeast San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. Trini and I were also among the founders of the Pacoima and San Fernando sweat lodges—and Trini now runs the Hummingbird Women’s Lodge of Sylmar, CA. While most people know me as a poet and writer, with 15 books in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including a best-selling memoir, this aspect of my life informs what I’ve done for the past twenty years, including my current run as the officially endorsed Green Party candidate for governor of California. Here is what I say we need today and in the future, drawing from these varied but linked traditions and teachings, which I believe are more relevant than ever before—these are not to be written off as “archaic” and “quaint” traditions that no longer apply. --Coherency: We must help our youth, families and communities understand their roots, rituals and practices, that they were valid then and valid now. The destruction of our elder systems due to conquests, colonization, industry and un-education, as I call it, is detrimental to our spiritual and physical growth. These traditions, as has been done for all time, also need to be renewed, re-imagined and re-invigorated. Young people must feel they can shape and reshape our ties and connections. Rituals and practices have the key element of bringing people together. The root meaning of religion is said to be “to bind, to connect.” It’s personal and social. --Cooperation: As a country for more than 235 years, we’ve lived in a capitalist system where competition, maximizing profits, and politics as war by other means have ruled most of what we do or don’t do. We “cooperate” in a shallow sense—to keep the system going, with our complicity, our compliance, and often our ignorance. We are governed by the assumptions of scarcity and mantras such as “killed or be killed.” We need to align instead to the highest level of evolutionary development—cooperate to sustain and maintain our species. Competition has its place. But the constant should be cooperation for the wellbeing of everyone—that the healthy and whole development of each is dependent on the healthy and whole development of all. How do we continue to allow a situation where the biggest part of our national budget is for war? Where poverty and joblessness are ingrained, purposely kept active, and justified by blaming the victims of what are largely economic and political decisions? In a cooperative, connected system the overriding aspect would be abundance, the way nature and our own particular natures work. In proper relation to nature, following its own laws of regeneration and development, we can feed, house and clothe every human being on earth. That’s God’s way, the Creator’s imprint, Ometeotl. Scarcity, like borders, like mortgages, like the wage system, are man-made—invented illusions, a matrix, as many have said before, made to feel like they were derived from God or nature itself. We’ve fallen into the traps of these illusions—and nothing dramatizes this more than our incarcerated youth, too often for hurting, stealing or killing. We’ve created this world, and then punish these youth for carrying out what we’ve set up to its disastrous and maddening conclusions. I hate that young people kill each other for little or nothing. But don’t we do this as a nation, sacrificing our warrior sons and daughters, and people from other lands, for political and economic goals that have nothing to do with our whole or healthy development? We go to war and we continue to have poverty, drugs, terror, and deep disconnections? We sacrifice so much for little or no lasting results. Our world is still topsy turvy, still unequal, still dangerous. --Consciousness: It’s time for all of us to think, to use our highly developed brains, what is often referred to as the highest form of matter on earth, to create new ways of doing things, new ways of sustenance, new means to continue as a species beyond the scarcity, the violence, the income inequalities, and growing hopelessness. Our brains are the greatest tool and weapon we have, totally derived from God and nature, and yet most of our thinking is limited, kept in the dark, confused, filled with so much information and facts, but little discernment and wisdom. Can we imagine a collective awareness, the full powers of each of our brains times the number of people on this earth? We could solve anything. Every problem has its solutions right next to it. That’s nature’s way. It’s our short-term, shallow and fear-driven concepts that keep us away from this knowledge, often addicted, lost and broken in the dark. Revolution in our economy, our politics, our technology—which is already gone beyond the constraints of politics and economy—must first occur in our minds. Our consciousness. The spirit of teaching must now be linked to the natural spirit of learning in all peoples, what the Mexikas called Nemachtilli. And I want to leave you with the last “c” in this list, one that is rapidly becoming in short supply: Caring. Nothing works better than caring. When I was a troubled youth, in schools that had no place for me, I remember the few caring teachers, and the ones who were mean and ugly. But I don’t remember the majority of adults in my life because they were mostly indifferent. Caring to me is the opposite of indifference. It means giving a “hoot.” I’d use a stronger word, but that would be inappropriate for this audience. I’ve found that when it comes to crime, dysfunction and prisons, people respond by not caring. A few get “tough” on crime, mostly from in front of their TV sets as they bombarded with images and stories of the worse of our humanity, fiction or documentary. But I have said this for forty years, and I’ll say this for the next forty years, it’s tougher to care. This is why I support restorative justice practices, which have roots in Native systems. This is how we draw on the very geniuses and gifts that people bring, to re-connect, to bring together offender and victim, hurt and healing, the wrong with the right. In all things there must be a clear path to restore, repair and help make whole what was taken away or broken. Instead of punishment, young people need treatment, tools, teachings. Recently, I took part in a poetry event held at the largest juvenile lock up in North America, the Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar CA, just five minutes from my home. Several youth read poetry. One of them was 14 years old, a baby-faced young man who did a beautiful poem, with his mother and grandmother in the audience. Later I found out, this youth was facing 135 years in prison. Anyway, you look at it, this is wrong: We throw away our young people we throw away our future. I’ve learned from my native elders that we are now into a new age, often expressed as a new spiral from five previous spirals, that must take into account the four points I just expressed. My Dine teacher says it’s time to realign with our earth and sky systems, governed by the female and male energies in all things, and that this does not have to be against anybody or anything—except the clearly detrimental and destructive aspects I’ve mentioned so far, among others. We are not against so-called white people or Christianity or some of the important values brought here from Europe, Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world. But in honor and respect to our ancestors, to this land, to our truths, we need to bring forth what we know, the bone knowledge that’s in our DNA, tapping into the richness of thought and practices of our peoples, into this modern dilemma, to address these modern traumas and empties, to become meaningful, relevant and vital for our time. To end I’d like to read a poem about leadership, a new kind of leadership, the leadership that everyone must now have for us to continue fully into the future. I thank you for listening, and I pray this short discursive opens up a deeper dialogue, with questions, comments and more questions. When a leader appears… When a leader appears the earth springs into song Flowered with new hope, A bright beginning even from a terribly seeded past Where dust and stones are a bare sowing ground. Wise ones have long declared: “Leaders are people who see farther and feel deeper.” Such leaders know there’s a design to our lives. Braided with threads of the future We don’t just make history, We are called to it – just as the fleeting or slanted Become solid and direct. Aspiring to be a leader, you become a leader, Turning what’s possible into what’s next. Not just creating a nest for oneself Made of familiars who agree or keep one comfortable, Not just basking in the spotlight or the imagined power. But by cultivating character, courage, discipline, And humbleness— Leaders carry this sacrifice with grace. Always remember the unrecoverable moments, With loved ones—with family— While also giving to the whole Even at the expense of one’s time, One’s considerations. All proper sacrifices are rooted in the sacred. Blessed and cursed, Loved and hated, Seen well or lied about, No leader can escape the human energies That both destroy and lift up. Yet true leaders are matched for this challenge. There is a leader-seed planted Before birth and carefully nurtured By angels By elements By the alignments of universal sway. You feel this in the bones – somewhere the message is: “I was meant to be here.” The fact is leadership is in everyone: They emerge from the human sea. Yet, as deeper truths go, Leaders see farther and feel deeper: Just like the rest of us, only more, Turning time into learning, into passion, into revelation. They bargain with God for how to be in the world: Learning for learning, Passion for passion —revelation for revelation. c/s unknown
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Amiri Baraka -- Rest in Peace

Amiri Baraka, one of this country’s leading revolutionary writers, a paramount representative of the Black Consciousness Movement, and a veteran challenger of the great injustices and inequalities inherent in a class-based society—run on the fuel of historical racism—died last Thursday. Baraka was 79. Baraka published more than 50 books of poetry, fiction, essays, and plays since the 1950s, including “Blues People,” his take on African American music. Formerly known as LeRoi Jones, he hit big with the 1964 award-winning off-Broadway play, “Dutchman.” He became New Jersey’s Poet Laureate in August of 2002, but the position was abolished soon after he wrote the poem “Somebody Blew Up America,” which was unfairly designated as anti-Semitic. He never failed to speak up, to write poems that moved ideas, emotions and political awareness. I was fortunate to have read with the master in a couple of occasions. I was on a panel with Mr. Baraka and Allen Ginsberg in New Jersey just prior to Ginsberg’s death in 1997. I also was on the stage with Mr. Baraka and his wife Amina during one of the Black Poetry Festivals in London (I may have been one of the few, if not the only, non-African poet reading). And Mr. Baraka and I took part in the 2007 Caracas Book Festival where the theme was “Is Revolution Possible in the United States?” People from around the world were invited. I presented on the capitalism system and its impact on social, cultural and political movements; Amiri spoke about the revolutionary trends and issues facing the United States. I am honored to call him a teacher and a model of uncompromising truth in letters, performance and voice. Que descances en paz, hermano. c/s
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