Real Cool & Coherent Talk Radio

It’s been a great time so far—guest hosting with Dominique Di Prima on the “Front Page” radio talk show on KJLH-102.3 FM. We’re on the air from 4:30 AM until 6 AM. I’ve been wondering who in world could possibly be up that morning. We’ve gotten many calls from people who are up, on their way to work, coming back from work, or just having a hard time sleeping. I mean people with sharp, coherent and poignant points to make that early in the morning. It’s been great.

I then recalled the many years I had when I was younger, working in factories, construction, in a steel mill, and either leaving the “graveyard” shift or on my way for a morning shift. This was in my 20s, soon after I left the street/gang/drug life. To stabilize myself I did what I had been raised to do—become a working stiff. I used to also be a day laborer—yes, in the days when they weren’t just undocumented guys sitting around Home Depot. In those old days, I’d fill out my coat with newspapers or rags so that I looked sturdy and strong—it’s hard to believe now, but I was unholy thin then. This also kept me warm. Trucks would come down Alameda as we sat around, stream rising from our breaths, waiting for foremen in trucks to choose us for labor in the warehouses, the vegetable stands, the trucking or rail docks.

I let that go for years in my mid-20s to be a writer and organizer. When I moved to Chicago in 1985, I was 30 years old with a small Nissan truck, and only a few haphazardly packed boxes to my name. I also worked in a national revolutionary publication, but to supplement income—and later when I left the newspaper—I worked in typesetting, dropping off magazines to vendors in and around town, in print shops, and for many years as a writer/reporter for an all news radio station, including a long time in graveyard.

So, yes, I've had much experience being around in the early before-dawn hours (not counting my homeless days as a teenager, or the late night shift in a daily newspaper of San Bernardino).

The first day, Dominique had two young men—I say young since now anyone under 45 is a kid to me—who have dedicated their lives to turning troubled youth around: Skip Townsend of 2nd Call (Second Chance of Loving Life) and Ben “Taco” Owens, a mediator in the H.E.L.P.E.R. Alliance Ceasefire Committee. They are part of the few but brave and often beleaguered gang intervention workers who have done more for peace in the city than any other community resource—yes, there’s lots of gang violence in LA, particularly the South and East LA communities, but there would be a lot more if not for these tireless activists, mentors, and mediators.

People called in to agree, to explore, to challenge. One guy got irate at the three of us for daring to care, to mentor, to talk to youth, instead of just putting them away (haven’t we been doing that for years already—and the situation has only gotten worse?). I know what these intervention specialists do works. They are skilled talkers, listeners, and healers because many of them are former gang members, thieves, or drug users who have changed their own lives and have decided to help others do the same.

I thank these two gentlemen for their centered and knowledgeable responses. And the many callers who took us to just over the 6 AM hour.

Today was “Hot Topic” Tuesday. Every Tuesday, Dominique invites any caller to discuss any topic in the news. We had an array of issues—reparations for slavery, Black and Brown conflicts, Don Imus, LAPD attacks on the community, and more. Again people were on the money, even the one or two who were adamant about what I considered wrong ways to see things. But that’s me and that’s them. The key thing is that we can share, argue, learn, and teach.

I'll be doing this all week. I can hardly wait until tomorrow morning.

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