The world is churning. Madness everywhere. Mostly in the halls of power and greed. Look at Putin’s war against Ukraine. Trump’s treason and lies. Biden’s ineptness. But also, the insanity from among those you “wouldn’t” imagine: The massacres at Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas—and many in-between, before, and since. Look at the January 6th white nationalist insurrection. See how the US Supreme Court helped criminalize pregnant women by taking the power of choice from them. This on top of other setbacks to freedom and equity by policy makers at all levels. Look at what we do with the homeless—who are unhoused from forces out of their hands, now criminalized for being in the street. The war against Black, Brown, Asian, Queer, Disabled, Trans, and Gender Non-conforming people. The banning of books. Most of us can’t get the healthcare we need, including war veterans: There is money for war, but not to take care of those who fight in them?
As society detaches and fractures, so do individuals. Still, I know there are antidotes. There are still ways to go for wholeness and sanity. There’s also a churning of the milk of life. For Indigenous people it’s to follow the original instructions on how to overcome calamities. Even those caused by conquests, colonization, and unbridled capitalist development. The healing is in the mythic imaginations that have guided us since time immemorial. We still have the ancestral knowledge to live respectfully and meaningfully with nature, our own natures, the nature of relationships, and of the divine. On how to bring the sacred to the profane.
With all that’s happened, we must elevate the struggle to bring more truth, beauty, and decency to the world. Despite all my limitations and missteps, this is a charge I’ve taken seriously most of my life.
My campaign for California Governor
On July 15, California’s Secretary of State provided the final results of the June 7 California primary for governor. As you all know, I ran for governor among 26 candidates, the only one endorsed by the Green, Peace & Freedom, and Justice parties—an historical first. I garnered 124,672 votes, becoming 7th out of all candidates. This is significant in campaigns where big money rules. I hardly had any funds, but we were able to achieve much in the largest state in the union and the 5th largest economy in the world, one greater than that of the United Kingdom.
And I am not done yet.
I will continue to speak, write, and organize around the issues of my campaign—to end poverty, mass incarceration, deadly police practices, environmental disasters, inadequate healthcare and schools, historical and ongoing social injustices, as well as to end the contentious environment against organized labor. I will continue to fight for the full power and dignity of the poor and working class. As my campaign stated, I imagine a new California for shared well-being—and ways on how to build it.
I still take part and support the National Poor Peoples Campaign—A National Call for Moral Revival. Please go to their website, donate, and join: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org
In addition, the Justice Party is now the Justice Movement. I’m on the Steering Board and on the Social Justice Committee. We need members, donations, and your ideas. Go to https://www.justiceparty.us to find out more. We are looking for major funding sources as well as leaders interested in building, locally and nationally. This is an opportunity to participate in a powerful movement for true and lasting justice in our economy, environment, and society.
I also recommend if anyone is interested in the Green or Peace & Freedom parties, please go to their websites: https://www.cagreens.org and https://www.peaceandfreedom.us. We must continue to build viable and credible alternatives to the corporate-run two-party system.
In addition, I suggest you go to Michael Meade’s Mosaic Voices website. I’ve worked with Michael for close to 30 years, including as a teacher at his Mosaic Men’s Conferences in the Mendocino Forests and other locations. He’s a gifted mythologist who touches upon the key issues of rage, sorrow, and loss through re-imagined rituals, storytelling, and teachings from around the world. You can buy his books and CDs, and join his workshops and webinars at https://www.mosaicvoices.org.
Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore
Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore is growing, and stronger than ever. My wife Trini, our brother-in-law Enrique Sanchez, and I created this vital space more than 20 years ago in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. We are now at a new site—we had long outgrown our old spot. The bookstore is thriving as are our workshops in art, music, theater, photography, dance, and more. This past year we had our biggest and best “Celebrating Words” Festival, one of the most renowned outdoor annual arts & literacy festivals in the Los Angeles area. Our other programming—from “Trauma to Transformation” (taking artists, poets, theater people into prisons, juvenile lockups, and parolee housing), “The Indigenous in Us” (Indigenous cosmology, Nahuatl, and curanderismo), “Young Warriors” (our youth empowerment program), “Social Justice Book Club,” “Tiahui Talks” podcast, author’s readings, dialogues, and more are also better than ever.
Tia Chucha Press, the publishing wing of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore, recently released three great books: “In The Courtyard of the Moon” by K’iche Mayan poet Humberto Ak’abal (translated by Miguel Rivera); Edward Tick’s powerful poetry collection of healing and war, “Coming Home in Vietnam”; and Claudia Castro Luna’s memorable poetry book of her roots in El Salvador during Civil War, her struggle as a U.S. immigrant, and later as poet laureate of Seattle and Washington state: “Cipota Under the Moon.” This fall we will release Gail Wronsky’s poetry with art by Gronk in a book called “The Stranger You Are” and re-release one TCP’s bestselling books, Leticia Hernandez-Linares’ “Mucha Muchacha.” All TCP books are available online at www.tiachucha.org/bookstore.
And we just opened our Deli with Guayaba Kitchen and the Social Warrior Chefs, providing healthy food options to the community. Go to our website to find out more—also donate what you can to help contribute to transformative arts & cultural programming: www.tiachucha.org
Barking Rooster Entertainment
I recently wrote a movie script about true events surrounding the kidnap and murder of an 18-year-old Chicano youth by a police officer in 1977 in my old barrio communities of the San Gabriel Valley. That youth was a friend of mine. It’s about time this story be told in this time of reckoning around unjust law enforcement since George Floyd’s murder. The script is part of several projects with my own production company, Barking Rooster Entertainment. My son Ramiro and my wife Trini are partners in this important endeavor. We have plans for other feature films, documentaries, books, and Internet content. For now, also buy our last Barking Rooster Book—Joe Loya’s powerful memoir “The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell,” available at www.tiachucha.org/bookstore.
Major Speaking and Other Events
In early July I led a four-hour workshop on “The Transformative Power of the Arts” for a national conference on community and restorative justice, held in Chicago, with around 1,600 participants. I also took part in gatherings for peace, wellness, and networking during my stay there. Unfortunately, for the first time since the pandemic started, I got COVID. I had to quarantine and cut short my other talks. I ended up staying five days longer in Chicago until I tested negative. Fortunately, I have a daughter, Andrea, and two grandchildren in Chicago who checked up on me. Ramiro and grandson Ricardo (Ramiro’s son) were also with me part of that time and assisted me as needed. I’m now well, although Ramiro later tested positive for COVID (he’s also now okay). We’ve been fully vaccinated and boostered, and this helped tremendously.
Also in July, Alta Magazine’s California Book Club made my 1993 memoir “Always Running” its book of the month. The magazine had several articles on my work, including an interview with me and a piece I wrote (https://www.altaonline.com/california-book-club/). Here’s link to the Zoom interview with guests Daniel Olivas and Ruben Martinez: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9crmC2a7gw
This year I was also honored with a California Arts Council Legacy Fellowship as well as the Robert Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Los Angeles Times, given to me at the Times’ Festival of Books at USC.
And I’ll continue to work with Trini on our podcast, “The Hummingbird Cricket Hour.” Please check out our earlier podcasts at https://hchpodcast.libsyn.com.
I turned 68 this year. Tia Chucha’s held a special poetry reading and Open Mic to celebrate. In the past, I hated to commemorate my birthdays. But as I follow the crest of life, I know every year now is a gift.
I’m feeling healthier than I’ve felt in 20 years (despite the bout with COVID). I’m exercising most every day--with my three grown sons at home, we created an outdoor home gym. I’m also eating better. I know I’m facing the other side now, but I’m going to stay as active and alive as possible. I plan to be around for a long time, but I also know I’ll need to prepare spiritually, emotionally, and mentally for “the world behind the world.”
I want to say, as I always do, how grateful I am for my partner and wife Trini. We’ve been together 37 years (married 34 years). We’ve done great work together in Chicago and Los Angeles. Trini is also a powerful revolutionary leader, activist, thinker, healer, poet, and elder in her own right. We still have strong ties with our Dine (Navajo) family in Lukachukai, Arizona on the Navajo Nation (the Lee family, who spiritually adopted Trini, and consequently the whole family, in 1998). We have other Indigenous ceremonies, gatherings, and actions to attend to as well, including a Mexica naming ceremony in August for Andrea and my granddaughter Catalina, and a gathering in September of Warriors & Healers in Rapid City, South Dakota. Trini and I will also take part in a Youth Passageway's Retreat in Northern California full of ritual, rich dialogue, strong youth, and elders.
It's great to have my sons Ramiro, Ruben, and Luis (Chito) at home—they are great contributors to the household. And besides my daughter Andrea, I have five wonderful grandchildren: Ricardo, Anastasia, Amanda, Catalina, and Jack, living in Illinois, North Carolina, and Brooklyn, NY. On top of that, I now have six great-grandchildren, all in Illinois.
There are blessings everywhere.
However, we’re not immune to trouble. One of my granddaughters, age 28, who had been on crystal meth and other drugs for over six years, is now in an Illinois prison. In fact, she was in one of the prisons Ramiro was at when he did his 13-and-a-half-year stretch, and even stayed in the same cell house (it used to be an all-male facility, now it’s all female). I visited her in July with my grandson Ricardo (her brother). It was a wonderful visit. She looked good after being clean since last November. I love her dearly, and we are doing all we can to help. Her recovery is mostly up to her, but we will never give up. Recovery is not just a singular process, but a familial and community one.
The world may be in crisis. But we can get through this with our healing practices, our stories, our songs, our poems, our art, our community work, our aspirations, our actions for real social justice and systemic change. Not just to survive, but to thrive. A new world is trying to be born. I’ve been at this consciously since I was a troubled teen in the 1960s and early 1970s. The fire from that time has moved my passions and ideas ever since.
As Trini has sung from a song she learned from Indigenous elders in Mexico, “I am the weave and the weaver, the dream and the dreamer.”