Monday, April 13, 2020

Thoughts from Quarantine

Since being put in quarantine and having to adapt to being at home all day, I've been pondering how making this sudden change hasn't really changed anything for me. Aside from the obvious changes of having to work from home, the world shutting down, and having to take precautions because of the pandemic, I've been here before. Sort of. See, when I first started living on my own, I continued a habit I began when I was a kid during the holidays. While parties and gatherings were happening, I would sometimes stay home. This happened more often the older I got. So while my family was off to a party, I stayed home to watch tv, movies, and play video games. I grew up in a family of six people in tight apartments and houses. Always on a bunk bed or couch and never alone, except for specific times, like the holidays. So I appreciated the solitude.

So when I finally started living on my own, I picked up where I left off. While the world outside was going through holiday social norms, I held up in my place catching up on movies and video games. That's not to say I didn't go out either, I went to friends' houses for meals and gatherings because they knew my family lived out of town. I'd have a great time, wake up late the next day, make some coffee, and fire up the PlayStation for a few hours. This practice of holiday isolation hit a high point after I got DACA and started getting better-paying jobs. I leveled up from microwave meals to eating out and my body paid the price, but man was it worth it. Mind you I was single all those years, so when that changed, I began to split my time. I was still being a couch potato but when the bae came into the picture, I used that downtime to visit museums and places I didn't normally get a chance to visit because there would normally be too many people.

The flip side to that coin is when I would go through episodes of depression. Being in that space, it's easy to just close yourself off from everyone else and avoid the world. I would still go to work and perform some social acts just so it can seem like everything is fine and folks don't start asking questions about why I wasn't around. A big part of that charade is to fall back on routines and go through the motions, you know. Eventually, I would get myself out of the funk hole and go back to normalcy. Habits and routines that keep me moving forward and provide a sense of purpose despite not knowing what I'm doing in the grand scheme of things.

In the last month, these habits and routines have been helping me adjust and pass the time since being told to stay in place by the feds. Combine that with the fact that I genuinely dislike my current employment situation and I've been managing a lot better than most folks, which stings to say. I limit how much time I spend on news and reading articles highlighting how fucked up things are in general and for everyone else who was already having a hard time getting by under normal circumstances. I tend to avoid every think piece I come across that gives you tips on how to pass the time, learn a new skill, or how some over-privileged person came to realize something now that they've been forced to stay home all this time. Those are a dime a dozen right now with only a few really worth reading.

All that being said, I'm grateful that I'm in a good place overall given the pandemic. Had this happened in another time and I would be right there with everyone else stressing the fuck about what I'm going to do about rent, work, and the immediate future. I try not to be in that headspace a lot because I know how drastically things have changed for so many folks. This is a historic and unprecedented time for all the wrong reasons and all I can really do is stay at home and support others when possible. I'll save my nervous nervous energy for when I have to apply to renew my DACA at the end of the year. Till then. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Assimilation is a Hellava Drug

With the Daca Supreme Court hearing, I've been having flashbacks combined with epiphanies of organizing for the dream act back in the day. I specifically remember the arguments and push back we got from everyone else who was older than us, veteran activists, executive directors of immigrant non-profits, and anyone who had a loud voice. You don't know any better, you should wait, this is not how things are done, etc. The excuses were endless and the push back was real. Despite all the haters that kept trying to stonewall the movement, there were twice as many folks supporting actions and ideas that paved the way for daca to become a reality today. 

All these years later and somehow I have turned into one of those haters. Life is a trip. It didn't really hit me till I chatted with the homie J about it on Instagram. We both shared the sentiment of how "these kids" had built their lives and identities around daca without knowing the full history of how it came to be in the first place. How they don't know the struggle of living and working under the table and having to rely on AB 540 to get an education. Actually, it shouldn't surprise me or anyone because once I left the immigrant rights movement, I got salty as fug lol

Both J and I eventually reached a point in our conversation in which we both shared that we want nothing but the best for all immigrants and for everyone to succeed against this evil world, but it wouldn't hurt for "these kids" to appreciate what they have and not just have it handed to them. That's when I started getting flashbacks of when we would get shitted on by levas who told us that the dream act was nothing more than a military recruitment pipeline.

I know and understand that drinking that haterade is hella toxic for one's health and I constantly question whether I have any say in how the current immigrant rights movement. Of the people that I came up with back in the day, almost none of them are active in the immigrant rights movement for a bunch of different reasons that equate to life moving forward. Those that are still a part of it fall into two extremes, they've either become too radical for the mainstream or have chugged the entire jug kool-aid that it makes you cringe. Unfortunately for the movement, those kool-aid chugging levas have placed themselves in positions to make decisions and tend to be in front of a camera at every possible turn.

As a result, the current narrative around daca has regressed to what it was in the early days of dream act organizing. That immigrants only have value if they can pay taxes, behave, follow the rules, and are innocent of their circumstances. The talking points you are probably hearing in the news is that 'they were brought here as children,' 'this is the only country they've known,' 'they're Americans without papers,' etc. It is hard not to feel salty and take a swig of haterade when all I read and see in the news is "these kids" spouting all these problematic talking points that they either picked up from others or just haven't been exposed to the larger movement for liberation. Shit, it took me a long time to get there myself and even to this day I continue to grow and unlearn all kinds of brainwashing.

Shit is all kinds of twisted and like everyone else, I don't have an answer. Do I wish that every person interviewed about daca shared how their liberation isn't tied to assimilation? Hell yes. That the goal isn't to just save daca, but to fight for the liberation of all immigrants in this imperialist country. That we should be joining and supporting everyone's fight for liberation and justice, not just for immigrants. Our movements and fights are all connected, it just takes a little bit of effort to see them, but we have to get out of our bubble in order for that to happen. We have to show up for each other and not just share things on social media, even though sometimes that's all we can do.

Whatever ends up happening with daca in the end, I can only hope that this becomes a moment for the current generation of immigrant rights activists to see the bigger picture and start creating real change. If not, then we can all be miserable together.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Immigration in Comics: Barrier

The immigration narrative told through the lens of science fiction is one of my favorite tropes in storytelling and pop culture. Most of the time, movies and/or stories about immigration are as direct as a slap on the back of the head. Other times, elements of that narrative are just borrowed or touched on because the focus of the movie and/or story is one of outsiders, exclusion, and othering. Finding those kinds of those hybrid stories in comic books is easy, all you have to do is look to characters like Superman and the X men. But every once in a while, something different comes along and Barrier by 
Brian K. Vaughan is that something. 

I read the first issue of Barrier when it was first published digitally in 2015. I don’t remember what my impressions were from that first reading, but I knew it would something cool because of the writer. I also figured it would be easier to wait for the story to finish rather than reading it as it was released. It took a few years, but the creators eventually completed the story and later announced that it would be available in print for a limited time. So rather than buying all five issues online as a digital copy, I waited to buy the physical comic instead. 

So, before I get into my thoughts on the book itself, there will be spoilers if you haven't read it or plan on reading it. I'd much prefer y'all read the story and then come back to read what I have to say.  

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Still Grindin'

For the longest now, I've been telling myself that I need to come back to the blog and post something up. Even if it is something dumb. I don't like letting months pass between post cause that is a sign that the person behind the screen is forgetting about the space. Funny enough, not a day goes by that I don't think about it, mostly cause I've been reminding myself to write something up. I'm still here. I renewed my DACA for the 3rd time at the beginning of the year, so things are covered on that end till the end of 2020 when it goes up for renewal again. Ain't that quite the coincidence? Since my DACA is in good standing, I'm still clocking in at the job I've had the last four years. Last year, around summertime, I stopped doing social media for the artist Favianna Rodriguez. It wasn't something I bragged about it because it was side hustle work and the only people that really knew were those in the social justice/non-profit circles. Still, every once in a while I flexed on foos just to see their reaction haha. I'm grateful to Favianna for bringing me on her team all those years ago and trusting me with her social media channels.

I had a good few months of free time now that I was down to just one part-time job vs having multiple at once. I got to catch up on some great video games, traveled to new states/cities, and genuinely enjoyed my time, but eventually, I picked up another side hustle by running social media on L.A. Taco. I have DEEP history with taco as they were the first place outside my school newspaper and personal blog that gave me space to do the journalism thing. I had a lotta fun back then and while I eventually faded out to get woke and fight for problematic legislation, I still contributed here and there. So when I saw the chance to jump in the mix again as the site took on a new role the L.A. media landscape, I was on it like white on rice on a white paper plate in a snowstorm. Last few months have been exhausting cause I'm back to grinding away at two part-time jobs that each carry the workload of a regular full time one. But brother, when the getting is good, the getting is good. I'm exhaustedly honored to be part of the current L.A. Team and handling their socials. Follow and become a member if you haven't already.

Lastly, the other reason I haven't been writing as often as I should be is because the podcast I started eats up the rest of the creative energy I have in a day. Also, I have a podcast! I'm having a lot of fun with it and chop it up with guest on a monthly basis. This is something I've always wanted to do and short of having my own tv, narrating, hype beast, eating tv show on Netflix, Vice or wherever, this is the closest I'll get. Like I tell most people, once the podcast stops being fun, that's when I'll put an end it to it and that isn't going to happen for a good while.

So, despite me flaking on writing on here, I keep myself busy. Doing all this makes the time go by faster, so much so that I'm taken back every time I realize I'm turning 35 this year. A 35 year old DACA recipient with multiple part time jobs, a podcast, and a mediocre social media following. I am my ancestors wildest dreams.   

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The Sound Track To Abolishing ICE

Photo by Rafael Cardenas

A while back I read this NPR article from Felix Contreras, one of the co-hosts of the music show Alt.Latino, on artist creating music in protest of Dump and his babosos. Musicians creating music in reaction to politics is nothing new, especially when it comes to immigration. From Los Tigres del Norte to Rage Against the Machine, there is almost an endless list of songs from different times that act as a cultural time capsule as to what was going on at that time. The story Felix wrote is timely and gives great insight into some of the music being created during these fucked up times and a bit a history as well. However, I take great offense that stories like these leave out bands who aren't mainstream but have been putting in work against the system for years. Bands like Brujeria.

If you couldn't tell by the hat I'm wearing in the picture above, I fucking love Brujeria. They popped off in the 90s here in California when Proposition 187 passed. Fast forward to now and the similarities in terms of the vilification and scapegoating of immigrants is once again a common trend in politics and the public at large. I saw them last year and now more than ever, their music will forever be in my playlist. So, with all this talk about abolishing ice, I'd figure I'd remind folks that there has been a movement to abolish ice, the systems that criminalize immigrants, and the politicians behind the rotating door of those systems. And not only has there been a movement, but if there was going to be a soundtrack to it, Brujeria needs to be at the top of that playlist. Need convincing? Then check out some of their greatest hits below and you will understand why there can't be a conversation about politics and music without Brujeria at the helm.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Born Day Reflections at 34

As of late, I've been thinking back to those times when I first started coming around social justice spaces to listen to older folks talk about their experiences and work at events and panel discussions. At first, I'm all like wow that's so and so. I read about them in class and here they are, talking about it in person, still putting in work. Then as the discussion would start, things would get petty pretty fast between how things are remembered by those who were there. All this time has passed and they're still arguing about who should be credited with doing what in the movement and who is a lying piece of shit. Compile that with homophobia, sexism, and a bunch of other problematic isms and all of a sudden, I see those folks I read about in the movement in a whole new light. I wondered to myself how things could have stayed that bad for so long. Well, I'm finally old enough to answer my own question about how social justice movements can stay hella toxic, fermenting if you will, over time.

These last few years, I have been guilty of such pettiness. Still am if I'm being honest. I left the work I did with a bitter taste in my mouth that I didn't yet appreciate. Kinda like when you first drink booze and wonder why anyone would drink that stuff, but eventually you learn to like it. I have nothing to do in those spaces anymore, other than still being on DACA, and I find myself talking shit about who is on the soapbox getting attention, who are the leaders of the movement and comparing them to what I and others did in our day. I mostly do this internally or with friends who also like to drink hatorade.

The moment passes, I roll my eyes and go back to own businness. I will say I have gotten a bit better about not hatin' all the time by either just ignoring things or actively going down the list of why I feel the way I do about how things are going down and who is saying them. At times, I wanna connect with folks and support any way I can, but I left and now I'm being erased. As fast as shit hits the fan, this new generation of folks taking up the torch in the immigrant rights movement is just as fast to respond, for better and for worse. I remember doing the same thing and turning my nose at the history because of how it was brought up and the way said older folks walked around like their shit didn't stink, tried to control everything, and profited from these broken systems. So we said fuck'em, let do things our way. And we did.

I'll admit, it's frustrating to see how things are now, knowing I had a role in building it up and seeing it become just another trend for folks to use for personal gain. But that's nothing new in these kinds of spaces. Whoever has the loudest mouth and connections can have the shittiest politics but be put on a pedestal as a leader to a movement. Hopefully, in a few more years, I can be on the same panel as these levas and call them out on their shit in person, continuing the cycle.