Going to see Ramiro--and other matters

Many of you know I’m off to Chicago tomorrow, August 2, to visit with my son Ramiro, who was recently released from the Illinois Department of Corrections after thirteen-and-a-half years behind bars. I’ve been talking to Ramiro almost every day since he was freed on July 16. He’s now at a transitional housing program in downtown Chicago that Ramiro says has great beds (finally), decent programming, respectful staff, and other parolees like him. Ramiro has also had many visitors—family (mostly his mother Camila, who worked very hard to get him into this housing program, and his daughter Anastasiaa), friends, including many of the old stalwarts from Youth Struggling for Survival, which has worked with gang and nongang kids for sixteen years (Ramiro, Camila, my daughter Andrea, myself, and around 200 other people were founders). I’ll let you all know how this visit goes, which will last two weeks until August 12. My wife Trini and I are also facilitating a Young Woman’s Coming Out Ceremony in the Native American tradition on August 8 for my granddaughter (and Ramiro’s other daughter) Amanda May. She turned fifteen this year. It should be a beautiful and spiritually rich experience. This month, I’m also a teacher (again for sixteen years) at the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation’s Men’s Conference in Mendocino, CA from August 17 to August 22. This year’s event is called “Paths of Initiation: A Mentoring Retreat for Younger and Older Men.” We are already getting filled up, but if there are any men interested in going please go to www.mosaicvoices.org to find out more. Last Wednesday, I had the privilege to speak at Francisco House, a sober-living home for ex-prisoners in South Los Angeles. My good friend Julie Harmon Chavez, who works there, invited me to address an attentive audience. We talked about life, choices, the freedom in prison, the prisons among the free, and the value of creativity, the arts, and imagination in a full life. I also got to meet one of my “fans,” Maria Constanza Palmer of the prison outreach program Get On the Bus—uniting children and families with prisoners. I want to relate to everyone about the first airing of a new radio program that I co-host with Shirley Wilson called “La Neta/The Truth,” which is on every last Sunday of the month from 6 to 7 PM at www.latalkradio.com. If you go to “Scales of Justice” with Shirley Wilson you’ll get the latest broadcasts with her other guests, including myself. You can access our July 25 show at http://www.latalkradio.com/Scales.php. Our next show is Sunday, August 29. In addition, I’ve been meeting with the Community Partners, LA Unified School District 5 staff, teachers, staff members from board member Yolie Aquilar Flores’ office, and the new principals of the Esteban Torres High School—East LA’s newest high school linked to the well-known Garfield High School. As part of this process, community members invited Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural to be part of this partnership, to help create the only bookstore & cultural center in the East LA area. We are close to determining a possible site at the school and a plan for fundraising, building, staffing, and more. I also want to get back to my trip to England, which continues to resonate with me. Let me give thanks again to Josephine Metcalf, who organized various speaking events for writer/activist Barbara Becnel and myself. I also have to thank my friend Garth Cartwright, who set up a BBC London radio interview with Robert Elmes and a reading/music night at the Darbuka Club (where I met his friend Leslie, a tattoo artist who happens to be Chinese Kiwi—I apologize for saying she was Chinese Brit in an earlier blog post). I also had a nice dinner with Rebecca Shaefer and her husband in the Brixton area where she’s doing community work. Thanks should also go to Danny Lafayette who organized two days of talks with the government’s Home Office; Hannah Lowe, a teacher and great person from City & Islington College; Mike Jervis, from Active Change Foundation, for funds and support; Twilight Bey & Paul Obinna (from Hogarth Blake, Social Solutions Institute, P2P Kensington Housing Trust); Professors Brian Ward and Eithne Quinn of the University of Manchester; as well as Eryl Doust, Head of Re-Offending and Neil Coad, from A4E, for allowing me to read, talk, and conduct writing workshops for two days at Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institution in Portland, England. One thing that got over well in England – and to places I’ve visited in the US and Mexico recently – was the “Effective Community-Based Gang Intervention” model, created by 40 gang intervention workers, urban peace advocates, and researchers (including yours truly). Thanks to LA City Councilmember Tony Cardenas who facilitated almost two years of meetings and helped pull together this model, including printing copies for anyone who asks for it. For free copies, contact Cardenas’ office at 213-473-7006 or write: Councilmember Tony Cardenas, LA City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, Suite 455, Los Angeles, CA 90012. c/s

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