Ceremony and a New World

Members of my family (my wife Trini, two brother-in-laws, a sister-in-law, and two nephews) last weekend traveled to the Navajo Reservation, to Lukachukai next to the Chuska Mountains to be precise. We were there for four days. We setup a 22-foot Teepee that took us most of one Saturday to do—with the strength of my teenaged nephews to help us old men. Food was also being prepared and other aspects of ceremony. Our teachers/elders, Anthony Lee and his wife Delores, and Floyd Begay, patiently helped us through the Teepee building process, and later that night for an all-night prayer meeting with medicine songs, prayers, and good words. We also had a male sweat bath the next day with Navajos from the local community. I prayed for my friends and family who are ill, in pain, in transition, who’ve passed on or just had babies. I also prayed for the health and protection of my family, including my wife Trini, my daughter Andrea, my sons Ruben and Luis, and my four wonderful grandchildren. And I gave thanks for blessings like my son Ramiro being released from prison last year after a total of fifteen years and three prison terms. Presently he’s doing well with work, community organizing, and housing in a transitional parolee program. We also came to give thanks for the blessings we received from Anthony and Delores when five of us from the L.A. went to Peru for ceremonies in 2006. One of those who went—my best friend at the time, Tony Hernandez, has since passed on, so we also sent prayers to our dear friend. Anthony and Delores more than ten years ago adopted Trini as a daughter, and thereby adopted the whole family. Trini has since emerged as a woman healer in the San Fernando Sweat Lodge Circle, where Trini and I, and two others, serve as water pourers and guides.  We’ve had battered women, youth in recovery, gang members, former drug addicts and alcoholics, ex-prisoners, and regular folk take part in sweat ceremonies there—including from organizations like Homeboy Industries, Homies Unidos, Youth Mentoring Connection, Shade Tree Mentoring, Street Poets, Young Warriors, Dharma Punks, and more. Anthony also blessed Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore when it first opened its doors in late 2001 (and when were then a café/bookstore). Driving back and forth in a rented minivan, the seven of us from the Northeast San Fernando Valley also visited the Grand Canyon and a nice lake on the rez called Lake Tsaile. We made it home safely, and for this I give thanks. We also arrived as riots stormed through parts of London and other English cities. And the stock market fell to the lowest levels since the crash of 2008. We were in peace and prayer, but as always we had to enter the madness and stress of the real world. However, it’s evident to me that the riots and the stock markets—linked by many threads—were largely human-made due to the insidious nature of capitalism and the continual drive for the enrichment of a few at the expense of the working class, the poor, those who are most vulnerable and powerless. These crises are neither “mystical” nor inevitable. They are within our power to control, but we have to work with new ideas, new relationships, and begin to see the real source of our economic and political paralysis—the very system of capitalist relations based on profit. [caption id="attachment_791" align="alignleft" width="389" caption="Riot police in Tottenham, London, August 7, 2011. Photo Vault9 newswire."]Riot police in Tottenham, London, August 7, 2011. Photo Vault9 newswire.[/caption] Take the riots in London in the mostly Afro-Caribbean communities. I was in London last summer and spoke in several of these communities, including in one youth prison in southern England with a disproportionate number of black youth were incarcerated. Street gangs were impacting the crime and violence levels at the time. But people also had very little as far as resources, youth centers, adequate schools, or jobs. In places like industrial Manchester, where I also spoke, deindustrialization (which is the main basis for social unrest and gangs in the United States today due to robotics and outsourcing of work to cheaper labor markets) has taken a massive toll. I knew things were going to explode in England—I just didn’t know how or when. I understand that much of the unrest was directed against local businesses, neighbors, and each other. I saw one video of a black Londoner demanding the clothes off the back of a white neighbor. Not only were police targeted by rioting youths but neighbor’s cars and homes. I don’t condone this violence or criminality, but let’s put this in perspective. The massive transfer of wealth in the past years from urban centers, from the poorest working class communities as well as former union jobs to non-union cheap labor jobs, and the great rip offs in mortgages and home prices, has to be factored in. In the U.S. like in England (and much of Europe), financial institutions have robbed us (mostly legally and officially) over and over again with schemes and scams that ended up destroying the home equities, retiree funds, and bank accounts of millions. Yet none of those responsible has seen the inside of a jail cell, except for some extreme cases like B. Madoff. Police killing unarmed people—in Fullerton, CA the recent police killing of a suspected mentally ill white man led to protests and demands for the ouster of the police chief—has risen again. These incidents generally serve as a catalyst for rage that has been shimmering for years beneath the rubble of economic distress. [caption id="attachment_794" align="alignright" width="432" caption="Tottenham youth confront the Riot Squad, August 7, 2011. Photo Vault9 newswire."]Tottenham youth confront the Riot Squad, August 7, 2011. Photo Vault9 newswire.[/caption] Criminality and violence are only symptoms of such distress—as is the growing number of people who are killing their kids and family members (and often themselves) as more income is being pushed out of their lives. Again, nobody can condone these actions, but let’s get to the root of the problems, and not just keep hacking at the branches. Besides, when I was in London last year, I also saw conscious and peaceful efforts being organized. While the media focuses on the most deadly and criminal aspects of any unrest, there are also people walking the streets, holding meetings, strategizing, and planning for the long haul. Many of them will eventually help stop the violence. Remember this also happened after the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising and other urban unrests over the past decades. From every fire also rise the Phoenixes of reason, new tactics, new organizational forms. This is also my hope for England. The British government’s response, however, undermines any real solutions. Already the conservative government is calling for more repression and the use of anti-gang policies that have been used in U.S. cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York (such as gang injunctions, draconian drug laws, gang enhancements, deportations, and more). Unfortunately, I’ve studied the outcomes of such policies and in general they’ve only served to create a massive prison industry as well as squeeze poor communities of its vital members. These policies have also spread violent U.S. street gangs across the nation and countries like Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Cambodia, Armenia, and other places. Again, repression in any form only addresses the symptoms, not the root causes or motive forces behind the unrest. We’ve had answers. I even gave the Home Office in London (the equivalent of Homeland Security in the U.S.) copies of a Community-Based Gang Intervention Model that includes wrap-around services, treatment, jobs, training, and community empowerment. More than forty gang intervention workers, peace advocates, researchers, and others helped create this model over a two-year period. The City of Los Angeles even adopted it in early 2008. And I’ve taken this model to cities throughout the U.S. but also to Mexico, London, Central America, and Argentina. We’ve got answers. The poor and working class in London have answers. We can’t keep going to the capitalists, their political cronies in government, or the same-old tired repressive machinery (prisons are perfect to consolidate and strengthen gangs—look at what happened in California over the past forty years). It’s time to dream big… and act big. It’s time for answers larger than all of us, yet within the grasp of each of us. If I learned anything from the ceremonies and teachings in the Navajo rez and other indigenous communities, it’s that we have to now aim and organize for the healthy, whole, and full development of everyone to guarantee the well being of anyone. c/s [Visit www.vault9.net/newswire for more photos of the London riots]

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