Wanda Coleman, R.I.P.

A mentor, teacher, friend, fellow poet and revolutionary, Wanda Coleman, left us this past Friday. Known as the unofficial poet laureate of the city, she had more than twenty poetry collections and fiction works, mostly from Black Sparrow Books, including one nominated for a National Book Award. She was 67. I’ve known Wanda since the late 1970s when I began hanging around the Los Angeles poetry scene that included Beyond Baroque, but also the bars and clubs of downtown L.A. and places like Self Help Graphics in East Los Angeles. I was part of the Los Angeles Latino Writers Association, working with poets, writers and artists such as Manazar Gamboa, Barbara Carrasco, Robert Rodriguez, Helena Viramontes, Victor Valle, Guillermo Bejarano, Mary Helen Ponce, and others. In 1982, I became LALWA’s director and editor of its literary & art magazine, ChismeArte (Gossip Art) for about a year, forced to leave this position when the funding ran out. But that experience—and meeting people like Wanda Coleman—never left me. Ideas, images, vignettes, and thoughts I had written since a troubled teenager were now becoming poems, stories, memory pieces. When I first heard Wanda read, she woke up and helped heightened that small voice I had at the time. Her voice was strong, angry, clever, image-laden, deep. A Watts woman like I was a Watts man (my first homes in L.A. were in the Watts area when my family moved there from Mexico when I was two years old). I left L.A. for Chicago in 1985 and in a few years got enmeshed in the thriving poetry scene of the Windy City, which included the birth of Poetry Slams. Wanda’s voice stayed with me. I wanted to embody that source of pain, betrayal, and abandonment that Wanda turned into powerful verses, songs, poems beyond borders. I helped create the renowned literary arts center, the Guild Complex, lead by friend and fellow poet Michael Warr. I also started Tia Chucha Press in Chicago twenty-five years ago, a press that continues to publish quality cross-cultural poetry collections. And Wanda’s influence, stance and bravery marked my every turn. When I returned to Los Angeles in 2000, and soon after helped create Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley, Wanda was an early supporter. She read at our stage and later she was part of our Ford Amphitheater “Celebrating Community” extravaganzas. When Wanda read that time, she had her brother Marvin playing piano—and people were riveted to the words, the music, that voice. I will miss her dearly. Wanda kept the fires burning. She was real before anyone talked about being real. Rest in peace, my sister. c/s
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Green Party of California Endorses Luis Rodriguez for Governor

On November 25, 2013, the Green Party of California after a week of online voting endorsed author and community leader Luis J. Rodriguez for governor of California. Luis has embarked on a grassroots campaign, breaking new ground by calling for the end of poverty. The campaign champions aligning resources to meet needs by providing livable and meaningful work or income, healthy and clean communities, free quality health care for all, the overhaul of the criminal justice system, and ensuring arts, culture and expression outlets in every neighborhood. Below is the speech Luis made at the Green Party of California Plenary on November 16. I’m honored to be among you all today in what I consider an important milestone in progressive, Green and social justice politics in this state. As we gather, the Green Party of California is poised to become the most encompassing and diversely represented it has ever been—and in the process make history for a healthy, clean and sustainable future for all. Or – and let’s be clear – this opportunity may pass the party by. That may sound simplistic so let’s get to the heart of the matter. We are at a crossroads. The capitalist system is in deep crisis. As a result every major institution in our society is in crisis. This is true for faith-based, cultural, social and political organizations. This is true for the Greens. And yet, as we all know, every crisis has opportunity. The general crisis in our society is our opportunity to inspire, teach, and organize for a new world—which more than ever is possible and imminent. The key aspect is whether any association, party or institution can renew itself in alignment to an integral, cooperative, peaceful and equitable vision. The Democrats and Republicans can’t. As one party with two faces, they represent the failure of the capitalist ruling class in meeting the basic needs of working people, including the poor and marginalized. Moreover they represent the failure of ensuring the health and wellbeing of everyone. This ruling class on local, national and global scales is being exposed for what it is—the greatest single danger to humanity. People around the world may have different borders, languages, customs, belief systems, and politics. What binds us is our growing misery. Can we imagine a reality where no one has to sacrifice their health, children, or future to partake in an economy or in politics? Where anyone can become the owner of their life, their dreams, and can be provided the tools, teachings and choices to live fully and expressively? Can the Green Party be the party of this imagination—of this future? That’s our challenge. That’s what I hope my campaign for California governor represents to the Green Party, to anyone who wants to live meaningfully, artfully—as dynamic examples of transformative ideas, programs and actions. The world has to change. And the Green Party has to change to assist in the process. That’s why I’m here with you today. I’m willing to do my part. I’ve not gone this far in my own revolutionary growth to squander time or energy on anything that doesn’t push this process forward. Yet this endeavor will take profound patience, painstaking attentiveness, and a deep-seated persistence from all of us to match the gravity and power of this immense challenge. Walking this path takes courage, deep-seated character and the ability to be strong and vital in the complexity and tension of actually impacting our communities, our state, our world. I have made the elimination of poverty the centerpiece of my program. So let’s delve deeper into the extent of this impoverishment—exemplified by 8.7 million Californians who are poor, including 2.7 million more since Jerry Brown became governor. What about the poverty of not having a clean environment? The poverty of being denied free and quality health care, or livable and meaningful jobs, or a liberating and comprehensive educational system? In the growth of actual material poverty, we are also seeing the rise in the poverty of ideas, of imaginations, of caring. And, as my wife Trini says, the poverty of access. Here’s a statement from Jeffery Martin, an African American poet and leader who has never voted, disillusioned about the continuing lack of solutions and results in politics. He’s now the Los Angeles area coordinator for the Luis J. Rodriguez for Governor campaign. On the poverty of access, Jeffery writes: Not having the essentials of life stagnates potential and undermines creativity. There is nothing engaging about seeing prosperity in other communities but knowing it is limited within your own. The American Dream has become one-dimensional. It works to the advantage of a select few while community after community are mere observers as it sidesteps the poor, leaving them frustrated and marginalized. The poverty of access leads to ill equipped neighborhoods, mismanaged lifestyles, less than successful educational facilities, dead-end job opportunities, broken communities and a myriad of other vices that attach themselves to despair and despondency. Jeffery is now encouraged and engaged to take a leading role in this campaign. There are millions of people like him throughout the state. I tell this story to demonstrate how the power of a singular voice for change must be part and parcel of my campaign. The Green Party of California platform has values I’m committed to – values linked to my indigenous roots. The platform says we are part of nature, not above it. That we are all interconnected. Implicit in this is that abundance is the nature of things, not scarcity. That in proper relation to each other and nature, we can create sustainable and clean technologies, cities, homes and workspaces. My invitation is for us to do this together, to join with me as I join with you. To take this message, these ideas, these potentials to the very people who can make them real. As leaders we have to trust the intelligence, cooperative natures, creativity, and immense capacities that people possess to bring the necessary changes to fruition. Trust in them and trust in yourselves. There should be no gulf between revolutionary thinkers and revolutionary activists, between our visions and the needs of the people, between what we strive for and what can be achieved. I will make another point—I’m not here to be the “Latino” savior of the party or this state. Yes, I’m Chicano. I have native ties through my mother, a Raramuri woman from the Mexican state of Chihuahua, and father from the Nahuatl-speaking populations of Guerrero. Chicanos, Mexicanos, Central Americans, and Native Americans are a large and vibrant population that will get involved in this campaign if they are engaged the way anyone should be—with truths, with honesty, with respect. I’m here to represent all genders, ethnicities, faiths, sexual orientations, and disabilities in this battle for a new California. I will not compromise my hard-earned credibility with original peoples from California as well as those from Mexico and Central America by participating in political machinations, manipulations, and inauthentic approaches. If the Green Party is true to itself, maintains strong integrity, and avoids any internal splits and bickering, the Green Party will be the party of the conscious and strategic revolutionary thinkers and leaders as well as the pushed out, the pissed off, and the disengaged. This is key to our many challenges. One big truth is that most of what we are dealing with today, including in the so-called two-party system, is illusion. Mortgages, the wage system, borders, money, even “race”—all of these are man-made designs to benefit a few, yet made to appear as if they are God-derived and in our interests. The Green Party should be against all illusions. All lies. All misrepresentations linked to wealth and power. Join with me. This campaign has to be bigger, broader and make inroads beyond the Green Party. Yet for the Green Party and others this campaign is an opening to be relevant and viable for millions of people in California. I welcome the Green Party’s support and endorsement. I am a Green. I will also move to get the support of genuine grassroots organizations and leaders wherever I can. This campaign must be part of a movement and not just a campaign. ## To donate, endorse and get involved go to www.rodriguezforgovernor.org.
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Address to the Green Party on Luis J. Rodriguez for Governor

On November 16, 2013, Luis J. Rodriguez addressed the Green Party of California plenary in Santa Rosa, CA to obtain their endorsement for his candidacy for governor of California. Below is the presentation he made, which was enthusiastically received by delegates and guests. A vote will be held for a week before an official endorsement will be made. I’m honored to be among you all today in what I consider an important milestone in progressive, Green and social justice politics in this state. As we gather, the Green Party of California is poised to become the most encompassing and diversely represented it has ever been—and in the process make history for a healthy, clean and sustainable future for all. Or – and let’s be clear – this opportunity may pass the party by. That may sound simplistic so let’s get to the heart of the matter. We are at a crossroads. The capitalist system is in deep crisis. As a result every major institution in our society is in crisis. This is true for faith-based, cultural, social and political organizations. This is true for the Greens. And yet, as we all know, every crisis has opportunity. The general crisis in our society is our opportunity to inspire, teach, and organize for a new world—which more than ever is possible and imminent. The key aspect is whether any association, party or institution can renew itself in alignment to an integral, cooperative, peaceful and equitable vision. The Democrats and Republicans can’t. As one party with two faces, they represent the failure of the capitalist ruling class in meeting the basic needs of working people, including the poor and marginalized. Moreover they represent the failure of ensuring the health and wellbeing of everyone. This ruling class on local, national and global scales is being exposed for what it is—the greatest single danger to humanity. People around the world may have different borders, languages, customs, belief systems, and politics. What binds us is our growing misery. Can we imagine a reality where no one has to sacrifice their health, children, or future to partake in an economy or in politics? Where anyone can become the owner of their life, their dreams, and can be provided the tools, teachings and choices to live fully and expressively? Can the Green Party be the party of this imagination—of this future? That’s our challenge. That’s what I hope my campaign for California governor represents to the Green Party, to anyone who wants to live meaningfully, artfully—as dynamic examples of transformative ideas, programs and actions. The world has to change. And the Green Party has to change to assist in the process. That’s why I’m here with you today. I’m willing to do my part. I’ve not gone this far in my own revolutionary growth to squander time or energy on anything that doesn’t push this process forward. Yet this endeavor will take profound patience, painstaking attentiveness, and a deep-seated persistence from all of us to match the gravity and power of this immense challenge. Walking this path takes courage, deep-seated character and the ability to be strong and vital in the complexity and tension of actually impacting our communities, our state, our world. I have made the elimination of poverty the centerpiece of my program. So let’s delve deeper into the extent of this impoverishment—exemplified by 8.7 million Californians who are poor, including 2.7 million more since Jerry Brown became governor. What about the poverty of not having a clean environment? The poverty of being denied free and quality health care, or livable and meaningful jobs, or a liberating and comprehensive educational system? In the growth of actual material poverty, we are also seeing the rise in the poverty of ideas, of imaginations, of caring. And, as my wife Trini says, the poverty of access. Here’s a statement from Jeffery Martin, an African American poet and leader who has never voted, disillusioned about the continuing lack of solutions and results in politics. He’s now the Los Angeles area coordinator for the Luis J. Rodriguez for Governor campaign. On the poverty of access, Jeffery writes: Not having the essentials of life stagnates potential and undermines creativity. There is nothing engaging about seeing prosperity in other communities but knowing it is limited within your own. The American Dream has become one-dimensional. It works to the advantage of a select few while community after community are mere observers as it sidesteps the poor, leaving them frustrated and marginalized. The poverty of access leads to ill equipped neighborhoods, mismanaged lifestyles, less than successful educational facilities, dead-end job opportunities, broken communities and a myriad of other vices that attach themselves to despair and despondency. Jeffery is now encouraged and engaged to take a leading role in this campaign. There are millions of people like him throughout the state. I tell this story to demonstrate how the power of a singular voice for change must be part and parcel of my campaign. The Green Party of California platform has values I’m committed to – values linked to my indigenous roots. The platform says we are part of nature, not above it. That we are all interconnected. Implicit in this is that abundance is the nature of things, not scarcity. That in proper relation to each other and nature, we can create sustainable and clean technologies, cities, homes and workspaces. My invitation is for us to do this together, to join with me as I join with you. To take this message, these ideas, these potentials to the very people who can make them real. As leaders we have to trust the intelligence, cooperative natures, creativity, and immense capacities that people possess to bring the necessary changes to fruition. Trust in them and trust in yourselves. There should be no gulf between revolutionary thinkers and revolutionary activists, between our visions and the needs of the people, between what we strive for and what can be achieved. I will make another point—I’m not here to be the “Latino” savior of the party or this state. Yes, I’m Chicano. I have native ties through my mother, a Raramuri woman from the Mexican state of Chihuahua, and father from the Nahuatl-speaking populations of Guerrero. Chicanos, Mexicanos, Central Americans, and Native Americans are a large and vibrant population that will get involved in this campaign if they are engaged the way anyone should be—with truths, with honesty, with respect. I’m here to represent all genders, ethnicities, faiths, sexual orientations, and disabilities in this battle for a new California. I will not compromise my hard-earned credibility with original peoples from California as well as those from Mexico and Central America by participating in political machinations, manipulations, and inauthentic approaches. If the Green Party is true to itself, maintains strong integrity, and avoids any internal splits and bickering, the Green Party will be the party of the conscious and strategic revolutionary thinkers and leaders as well as the pushed out, the pissed off, and the disengaged. This is key to our many challenges. One big truth is that most of what we are dealing with today, including in the so-called two-party system, is illusion. Mortgages, the wage system, borders, money, even “race”—all of these are man-made designs to benefit a few, yet made to appear as if they are God-derived and in our interests. The Green Party should be against all illusions. All lies. All misrepresentations linked to wealth and power. Join with me. This campaign has to be bigger, broader and make inroads beyond the Green Party. Yet for the Green Party and others this campaign is an opening to be relevant and viable for millions of people in California. I welcome the Green Party’s support and endorsement. I am a Green. I will also move to get the support of genuine grassroots organizations and leaders wherever I can. This campaign must be part of a movement and not just a campaign. c/s
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Luis J. Rodriguez for Governor of California

On October 26, 2013, the Luis J. Rodriguez for Governor of California campaign is having a "Meet the Candidate" night from 6 to 9:30 pm in the San Fernando Valley: 716 Orange Grove Avenue, San Fernando CA 91340. Luis will speak on the key issues and hear from you all. Performing will be poets, musicians, singers, emceed by Jeffery Martin. $10 donation (no one will be turned away for lack of funds). Includes healthy food, pinatas, and more. “Here is the California story we can’t cover up or push aside: Increased job eliminations, evictions, home foreclosures as well as cuts in welfare and needed services in the face of a deepening, poverty-creating economic crisis. Which way for California?” --Luis J. Rodriguez for Governor of California Fellow Californians: Our state is rich in resources, human capacity, technological advances, and social innovation. California is the wealthiest, most populous state in the union and the eighth largest economy in the world. It is the world’s third largest agricultural center. California has world-class cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. Yet California has some of the worst poverty rates in the United States. Estimates of poverty go from 16 to 25 percent. It is the 50th worst state when it comes to arts funding and the 48th worst in educational funding. California has the world’s second largest prison system (after the U.S. federal prison system) with up to 80 percent of prisoners consisting of Chicanos/Latinos and African Americans, and almost 100 percent poor and working class. I’m convinced we need more voices to address our growing impoverishment, our deepening injustice system, and the continual poisoning of our environment. Our present governor, Jerry Brown, has recently stood up for immigrant rights and other important issues—after years of grassroots pressure from the people. But he has also “balanced the budget” on the backs of California’s poor and working class, caved to the prison/industrial complex and vetoed bills that would have protected our state from “fracking” and other environmental risks. He’s just another bead on a long string of unresponsive pro-corporate politicians. I’m running because I know there is money, there are resources, especially among the people, that there is genius and boldness everywhere, but it’s not being drawn out or tapped into. I want to help change that. I’m running for California Governor--and seeking the nomination of the Green Party--because I know that the solutions are in our hands. Let’s realize our dreams of a better world; let’s organize to make sure our needs are met with an economy and politics that are aligned, accessible and adequate for all. The Rodriguez for Governor Program 1) End poverty in California. This is not fantasy or impossible. Despite our economic status among states and the world, the income disparity is growing and there are now 8.7 million people in poverty. I will work with all sectors to plan and implement viable policies to generate economies and livelihoods that end California’s poverty once and for all. More immediately, I will use all executive, emergency and persuasive authority available to this office to restore the unconscionable cuts that have been made to CalWorks, CalFresh, and other vital programs so that no Californian goes hungry, homeless or ill for lack of ability to pay for these necessities. 2) Clean and green energy and jobs. I will move our dependence on fossil fuels and push investors, businesses and governments to utilize wind, solar and water for power. The technology is growing in this field, also making clean energy affordable. In the early 1980s, I lived in an experimental solar-powered community in San Bernardino. This worked. Yet the state or private investors did not build on this model. 3) Make real a single payer health care system. Extend Medi-Cal to everyone. Impart nurses and health providers with livable wages and ongoing training. Also expand the idea of healthy and well communities to include arts and culture, native and other spiritual practices, organic gardening, and creative livelihoods. 4) End the California prison system as we know it. Use alternative sentencing that in general keeps people in communities, with families, and surrounded by services, treatment, transformative skills, and more. End three-strikes-and-you’re-out, trying youth as adults, the death penalty, life without the possibility of parole, gang injunctions, and long prison terms. Establish restorative justice practices as well as training and educational opportunities for the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated. Incorporate everyone into the economic, political and cultural life of our communities. About Luis J. Rodriguez… Born in Texas and raised in Los Angeles, Luis was a troubled gang and drug-involved teen in the late 60s and early 70s who turned his life around. At 22, he was a candidate for the L.A. Board of Education while working in construction, heavy industry and transportation. By 1980, with the exodus of big industry, Luis became a writer/reporter/photographer for East L.A. weekly newspapers, public radio, magazines, and the daily San Bernardino Sun newspaper. He also worked for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFL-CIO). In 1985, Luis moved to Chicago and became editor of a revolutionary national newspaper; a performance poet; a writing workshop facilitator in homeless shelters, prisons, schools and juvenile facilities; and a gang prevention/intervention specialist. In addition he was a writer/reporter for WMAQ-All News Radio. In 1993, Luis published a best-selling memoir called “Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.” Luis now has 15 books in poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and nonfiction including his latest, “It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions and Healing.” His writings have appeared in magazines and newspapers around the world. In 2000, Luis returned to L.A.’s San Fernando Valley where he and his wife, Trini, founded Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore. Luis was a principal contributor to “A Guide for Understanding Effective Community-Based Gang Intervention,” officially adopted by the City of Los Angeles. He is a sought-after urban peace leader who has helped shape positive futures for youth from South L.A. to San Salvador. To learn more, contact: Committee to Elect Luis J. Rodriguez Governor of California at www.rodriguezforgovernor.org or call: 818-898-0013. Checks can be made out to "Campaign for Luis J. Rodriguez for Governor" and sent to PO Box 328, San Fernando CA 91341 (Labor Donated) c/s
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Ramiro and I -- a poetic journey home

Since August 1, my 38-year-old son Ramiro and I have been on a whirlwind poetry tour, a car trip, talks to youth, participation in retreats, gatherings, conferences, and a white water rafting adventure. We also hanged out with many family members in a variety of configurations (my family in two gatherings, family on Ramiro’s mother’s side in more than two, and with my wife Trini’s family). This began as soon as Ramiro got off parole in July after three years (he was released from prison in July 2010 following thirteen-and-half years with the Illinois Department of Corrections). The trip brought my son and I closer—to learn from one another, to begin relating on another level as men, as fathers, as revolutionary thinkers and leaders, as native healers. I must say the highlight of the past couple of months was the birth of my fifth grandchild, Jack Carlos Kinney, from my daughter Andrea. Andrea was the main reason Ramiro and I drove from Chicago to California (their mother Camila flew out later from Chicago as well). Andrea’s daughter, Catalina, is now a big sister at age 17. Big ups to dad Sean who stood by little Jack every step of the way (Trini helped in the delivery—a life-transforming experience, she says). Also our trip coincided with my youngest sons, Ruben and Luis, leaving the family abode to live in university dorms at UCLA and the University of California, Riverside, respectively. Trini and I are now “empty nesters” (although we have our two-year-old Chihuahua-Terrier mix dog, Chula, and a cat named Prudence). So many transitions. First Ramiro and I took part in a National Gathering for Peace at the University Church in Hyde Park, Chicago from August 1 to 4. We had participants from Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Wisconsin. It was a small but potent group, especially since Chicago garnered around 500 murders, outpacing the number of murders it had last year (and becoming the city with more murders in the country). After that we began the road trip along with Puerto Rican poet and longtime friend Eduardo Arocho from our beloved Chicago neighborhood of Humboldt Park. We took two-to-four hour shifts and completed the trip in 36 hours. We drove a 1996 Grand Marquis (I know—a gas guzzler) that withstood everything all the back to Chicago. It costs a lot to get this car ready for this trip, but Ramiro was insistent—it turned out to be a good investment. We arrived in time to Lotus CA to enjoy the American River for white water rafting (our first time) with 40 inner-city Los Angeles youth and mentors, part of the Spreading Seeds/The Healing Network I’ve been working with for several months. My youngest son Luis also took part, standing next to his oldest brother for the first time in at least ten years. What an adventure, including dives from 25-foot cliffs and getting pushed by currents through crevices and rock formations (called “sliders,” “the belly button,” and “the birth canal”). We also hit level three rapids with names like “Meat Crusher,” “The Widow Maker,” and “Satan’s Cesspool.” You get the idea. Unfortunately, one of the participants, well-known Disney TV personality Lee Thompson Young, a week later died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. This was devastating for all of us. He was 29. Ramiro and I then took part in a Circulo de Hombres Nobles (Circle of Noble Men) retreat in Jolon CA. Here Chicano and Native men gather, as they’ve done for 25 years, to share, to let go, to open up, to re-energize. Ramiro and I took part in a sweat lodge, something we had not done in 17 years. From there we ended up at the six-day Mosaic Multicultural Foundation’s annual men’s conference in Woodland CA near Mendocino, run by my friend, storyteller Michael Meade. I’ve been coming to these conferences, workshops and youth/mentor events for close to 20 years. Again, Ramiro had not been in one since before his prison time. This proved to be quite a healing event, including with some passionate dialogues, teachings, and living rituals. We drove to the Bay Area to then take part in a poetry reading at the Red Poppy Arts Center in the Mission. Eduardo read as well and my old friend Michael Warr. It has been 20 years since Ramiro and I both appeared together in San Francisco. A few people showed up from that time, including my comrade and long-time poet mentor Jack Hirschman. Thanks to Eduardo who also created Ramiro's first chapbook of poems called "Coming Home." It was now time to drive to Los Angeles. Readings were set up at the Corazon del Pueblo Cultural Center in Boyle Heights, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in Sylmar, and the KGB Art Gallery downtown (a benefit for Brooklyn & Boyle magazine). Ramiro and I also talked to teachers in schools, youth in community meetings, gang interventionists, and at the Camp Miller L.A. County probation camp. Ramiro also took part in meetings of the Spreading Seeds/The Healing Network and of Tia Chucha’s Young Warriors, run by youth leader Mayra Zaragoza. Ramiro ended up in a major lowrider show on Point Fermin in San Pedro (his cousin Frankie is a mechanic and a member of the Bomb Squad, a classical lowrider car club of vintage 1930s to 1950s custom cars). And a special father-son sweat lodge ceremony was held in San Fernando where all my sons -- Ramiro, Ruben and Luis -- participated in healing, in good words, in prayer with other fathers, sons, men. By early September Ramiro drove back on his own to Chicago. He took a week and a half due to stops along the way, including visits with Albino Garcia and his family in Albuquerque as well as the Navajo Rez. He also visited a former gang member and Youth Struggling for Survival leader who now lives with his family in Omaha NE. I, in turn, ended up in El Salvador to speak at an Organization of American States before returning to Chicago in mid-September to reconnect with Ramiro. There we both took part in the Healing the Hood Conference in the Pilsen Barrio. Around 100 people showed up, both black and brown (and others) to address peace and how we can heal the pain of violence hitting the poorest most neglected areas of the city. Our other talks included 6th, 7th and 8th graders at St. Agnes of Bohemia and Our Lady of Tepeyac schools as well as teenagers from Imago Dei (Image of God) After School Arts Program, all in the Little Village barrio. We also took part in a peace circle at North Lawndale College Prep School, a predominantly African American school. In addition we spoke to service providers in the field of gang prevention/intervention at the YMCA Pilsen/Little Village--these talks proved to be productive and meaningful. Ramiro and I also did a poetry reading with Eduardo Arocho, Denise Ruiz and Mike Reyes—back to my humble beginnings when I first began reading poetry in Chicago some 25 years ago. This was held at a performance space in Paseo Boricua of our old neighborhood, Humboldt Park. And I did a talk with the most troubled youth at the Cook County Juvenile Center, young men, all black and brown, who were not programming or going to school due to a myriad of problems. With me, however, they were engaged, attentive, smart. I’m now in Los Angeles as of last Monday. I left Chicago and my son in a good strong place. This two-month healing journey with Ramiro proved to be a blessing in so many ways. We had been at war with each other in one form or another during his teenage years. While Ramiro was in prison, we managed to get closer, working out many issues in visits, on phone calls and through many letters (I wrote him every month during his incarceration whether he wrote me back or not). I’ve been sober for 20 years now and I know this has been a turning point in our relationship. And on his own Ramiro found sobriety while in prison (a most difficult place to do this) around 15 years ago. I thank the Creator for this time and space with Ramiro. And I thank Ramiro for the capacity to love, mature, think. To create and be a positive soul in this world. Life is hard, full of surprises, many painful. I’ve endured much of this. But to persevere, to never stop loving. To keep growing. That’s the task of living. After my return Ramiro posted these words on Facebook. I want to share them as a way to express the power of what fathers and sons can do in this world. This also goes out to my daughter Andrea and her new baby Jack Carlos as well as my sons Ruben and Luis as they embark on university lives. Dropped my dad off at the airport today. It’s been a great two months spending time together. Two months of reflection, of healing. In the past our relationship was tumultuous. Issue after issue. Trying to obtain an understanding of who we were in each other’s lives. Step forward into the future, and now that is all gone. We have finally found peace. It’s a testament to the bond we have forged from the fires of love. A father and son stepping into the battlefield, with weapons that can bring true positive solutions to the lives of our youth. We are not done. Our journey is just beginning. With the help of our families, our communities, lives can be saved. Thank you to everyone for showing me that together we can truly make a difference. c/s
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El Maestro Jose Montoya -- R.I.P.

Yesterday Jose Montoya, my poet guide, the first poet I ever heard read, the one who carried his art, his voice, his indigenous teachings with dignity and depth, passed on. He was considered the Godfather of Chicano Poetry. His most famous poem, “El Louie,” vibrantly related the life of a Pachuco from the Central Valley with all the Chicano slang (calo) and humor. Jose tapped into the poetic gene of my soul when I was 18. I was still using heroin, but also on the verge of a breakthrough in my life. I was studying to be a revolutionary thinker, leader and writer. I was looking for a way out of the mess I had created since I was 11 years old in gangs, on drugs, doing violence and spending nights in jail. I happened—the reasons now ring with destiny and alignment—to get invited to a poetry event where Jose was going to read with famed African American poet David Henderson and Puerto Rican maestro Pedro Pietri. This was in Berkeley CA, 1973, where I had flown in after I won honorable mention in the Quinto Sol Literary Awards for poetic vignettes I had written called “Barrio Expression.” I didn’t know what I was doing with my writing, but after hearing Jose, David and Pedro, I knew the “read” road I was embarking on. On stage, with mic and lived-in voices, Jose, David and Pedro woke me up from a dark sleep. They slapped me across the face with metaphors. They had language that swam in a sea of images, ideas and emotions. They were guerillas fighters without guns. Storytellers about the “other” America, the true America, the one with Indian mothers’ hands in corn flour, soul food on street corner grills, and Boricua decimas from inside phone booths. I met Jose again in the early 1980s when I was director of the Los Angeles Latino Writers Association and we sponsored readings at the Self Help Art Center in East Los Angeles. We invited Chicano writers such as Lorna Dee Cervantes, Gary Soto and Jose to share their works with a community hungry for our stories, our poems. I only saw Jose intermittently over the years, but once a few years ago in Sacramento we read together in a kind of homage to our connection as Chicano writers, two generations (Jose was born in the early 1930s), pushing forward traditions that spanned thousands of years. Jose was active in the Circulo de Hombres Nobles (the Circle of Noble Men), which for the first time I was able to attend one of their retreats with my oldest son Ramiro this past August in Jolon CA. Jose was a teacher of indigenous ways, which also grabbed my spirit, on the Red Road, and I’ve been part of this in a serious and profound way for twenty years now. His mantra of “La Locura Cura” (the craziness cures) is reminiscent of my dear Tia Chucha (Maria de Jesus Rodriguez), the creative soul in my family, for which I named Tia Chucha Press and Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, the cultural arts center and bookstore in Sylmar CA I helped create. She was called crazy a few times, but her musical and poetic renderings opened up my own heart to the positive creative craziness we all carry. Jose’s spirit hangs over all of us who ever took to pen and paper; who ever waged war with words or drawings or music. I send love and many prayers to his family, to my friend Richard Montoya, his artistic/actor son, and to all Jose’s many friends, camaradas, mentees, and students. Que en paz descanses, carnal. c/s
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On Martin Luther King's Dream Speech

(reprinted from The Guardian, August 26, 2013) Martin Luther King's movement was a wake up call for Latinos By Luis J. Rodriguez On 28 August 1963, I lived in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles County. That day, Martin Luther King Jr spoke the prophetic words of his "I have a dream" speech (pdf) on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC during the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom". I was 9 years old, a withdrawn brown-skinned Chicano kid. Older street kids had been bullying me since they saw me playing dolls with my next-door neighbor, a girl my age who didn't think twice about this. Yes, I was sensitive – in my head most of the time, with no friends. I was harassed for being "homo", although I had no idea what this meant. I was gay-bashed, although I have never been gay. But the feminine aspects of my maleness were strong in my imagination, in words and stories. Yet in the poor barrios where I grew up, this sensitivity could be dangerous. The bullies one day beat on me, causing a fracture in my jaw. It didn't break but I never got this fixed. When my jaw healed, it jutted out, where even today I only have three teeth that meet. I looked ugly. If I was lonely before, now I was a pariah. Girls called me "monkey". When I joined a gang at 11, the "homies" embraced my most damaged feature. After this I was known as "Chin". Now it was cool to be ugly. And my rage turned into a frenzy of violence and drug use – shooting people, stealing, knifings and, finally, heroin addiction. Then at 16, almost exactly seven years after King's speech on 29 August 1970, I took part in the largest protest against the Vietnam War in a community of color of the time – the Chicano Moratorium Against the Vietnam War. About 30,000 people marched and rallied in East Los Angeles, the US community with the most Mexicans. I was arrested, beaten and held longer than most of the hundreds of arrestees who were let go after a few hours. Sheriff's deputies locked up a half dozen of us gang youth – known as "cholos" – for days in the Hall of Justice Jail section called "murderer's row". Deputies threatened to charge us with the murders of those killed in the subsequent riots, including that of Chicano journalist Ruben Salazar. I faced death threats, including having razor blades to my neck by cellmates. I was in a cell next to Charles Manson. Yet I stood up for myself – I would never again be bullied by anyone. Charges were never filed and I was released. Now my first staggered steps to a life of revolutionary thinking, writing and organizing had begun. Despite other arrests by age 19, I left "the crazy life". King's words reverberated in my head; I've been fighting for freedom and social equity ever since. Fifty years ago, Dr King stated how we were all owed "a promissory note ... a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white (I add every other color, gender, creed, and sexual orientation under the sun) would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". But as King pointed out, the "bank of justice" seems to have insufficient funds. I'm convinced that race, although key to any social transformations, should not be the barrier to the badly needed changes in our economy and politics – the ending of a social system where big money, big banks, big corporations control the laws, most of the property, the environmental decline and the majority of what we are taught and what we see as news. True justice is now about our pocketbooks, about a clean and healthy environment, about an open and free democratic process. It's about ending class inequities and the chains that bind us. King's dream – the dream of millions – must also have a vision and true organic expression. It must be newly expressed in poems, songs, dance, music as well as strategy. Imagine that – jobs and freedom for everyone. After 50 years, I still accept that challenge.
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Justice Party National Call-In on Restorative Justice

Take a Step Towards Restorative Justice on Saturday July, 27 Friend, California's justice system appears blind--blind to the inhumanity of its prison system. Recently nearly 30,000 inmates in California prisons participated in a hunger strike against torturous solitary confinement and other inhumane conditions. The U.S. has more inmates in prisons and jails than any other country. Prisons have become big business through privatization, and they have real economic and social consequences. On Saturday July 27, Justice Party Vice Presidential candidate Luis Rodriguez will speak about restorative justice. We invite you to join us! RESTORATIVE JUSTICE ISSUE CALL Saturday, July 27 12PM ET, 11AM CT, 10AM MT, 9AM PT RSVP by using this link: http://www.justicepartyusa.org/restorative_justice_issue_call Luis will be joined by his son Ramiro in a discussion of restorative justice, why it is important to the individuals behind bars and those getting out, and how you can get involved. In addition we'll learn what others are doing to prevent incarceration, especially among young men living in urban communities of color. Please RSVP and mark your calendar for July 27. We'll send you the call-in information in an email acknowledgement after you register. We encourage you to invite friends and family members to join us for this timely and important discussion. Yours for Justice, The Justice Party National Steering Committee Justice Party · P.O. Box 30726, Seattle, WA 98113-0726, United States · 435-200-JPUS (5787) c/s
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Video Blog: Trayvon Martin

//www.youtube.com/embed/wAxxQg7ITuo

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Justice for Trayvon Martin

Last night my wife Trini and I watched the new film release "Fruitvale Station" soon after we heard about the George Zimmerman verdict. The film was based on how a transit police officer killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was unarmed, at the Fruitvale train station in Oakland on his way home from New Year's festivities. He was caught in circumstances of life, but for too many poor, black and urban youth these often end in death.

Oscar Grant's killer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and given two years; he was let go in 11 months. The people next to me were in tears. Not long ago, William Masters, a white jogger in L.A., was let go and freed – not even charged – having killed one Chicano youth and wounding another after he confronted them for supposedly tagging under a bridge. One of the youth was shot in the back. Yet police felt Masters was in danger and shot in self-defense. In my youth, sheriff’s deputies killed four of my friends, unarmed and brown. When I moved back to L.A. from Chicago in 2000 – after confronting years of Chicago police murders and even tortures of black and brown victims – a recent report of L.A. County sheriff department shootings – 52 in one year – proved they were all people of color, unarmed, a few mentally ill.

Here's the other side of the coin: I spoke at the largest juvenile lockup in North America last month for a graduation of 30 GED students (the place has between 800 and 1,000 prisoners – 90 percent or more black and brown). The facility is five minutes from my house. Seven of the graduates talked at the podium, saying great words, talking about big dreams. More than a few are going to adult prisons for 25 years to life. Some of those cases didn't involve any actual involvement in murder, but often just being around with friends when someone was killed. The injustices in the face of the current justice system are so palpable and patterned.

Trayvon Martin deserved his day in court, his story told, his life given value. Anyway you look at it, it was Zimmerman’s actions that eventually lead to Martin’s death (and a culture where black youth are feared and profiled). Still the patterns continue. We can't let up. Justice for Trayvon Martin must not end here. The circumstances of poverty, racism and historical imbalances must now be on trial. The anti-poor and anti-working class criminal justice system must be on trial. The exploitative capitalist political and economic system must now be on trial. Most Americans are for fairness – the majority has no idea what their government has done. It's time to change the conversation. No more of our youth, of any color, should be profiled, sought and then killed the way Trayvon was killed. The way Oscar was killed. The way those Chicano youth under the bridge were shot. Or my four homies. Nobody ever again.

c/s

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