Sunday, April 09, 2023

Foo-tography: I am waiting for a bus


Digital picture of a couple waiting for the bus in Pacoima.

(Steps on soap box) I don't miss waiting for the bus. That act was a big part of my life and in many ways, it led me to pick up my bike because I got tired of waiting on late-night buses after getting out of evening classes in community college. Still, I remember how nervous and intimidated I was when I took it by myself to it becoming almost a second home on account of how much time I would spend on it getting around town. Since picking up photography with more intention, I caught myself noticing all the different pics I've taken of bus stops and people waiting at bus stops. In February of this year, the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies put out its study analyzing bus shelter provision in Los Angeles County, with a focus on how extreme heat impacts riders. If you haven't seen the study, you should, lotta amazing data and analysis that breakdowns what anyone who rides the bus regularly can speak to, it can fucking suck waiting for the bus on a hot summer day. And that's the problem. We are living through changes in weather due to global warming and that has resulted in extremely hot days. 

As the study points out, Metro and the ad agency it hired to install shelters, benches, etc. at bus stops have done a poor job of supporting riders. Waiting for the bus on a hot ass summer day with no shade went from being something that sucked to something that can kill you. And since people don't wanna die, a lot of people have stopped relying on public transportation for as many different reasons as there are people. As a former bus rider, the answer to me is simple in that Metro and all the other agencies in power need to support the people who rely on public transportation. If they dedicated their money and efforts to addressing the problems everyday bus riders face like more frequent service, shelters that provide cover from the elements, and a humane response to people that are houseless rather than funding more police, more people would be taking public transportation. It's all connected,  like some kind of Metro ouroboros! Anyway, here are a bunch of pics I've taken of people waiting at bus stops. (Steps off soap box) 

Monday, February 20, 2023

Foo-tography: Long Beach & Venice Bike Paths


During my December (2022) holiday vacation from work, I spent the first week going on hikes and hitting up beach bike paths. Since I spent October and the early part of December cooped up working from home, while also feeling general laziness from the cold, so I made it a point to get some physical activities in, and homie, lemme tell you it was hella needed. Getting out there in the morning, and breathing in that fresh air does wonders for your mental health. Also got to spend some time riding with the homies, eating out, and catching up on life conversations, which was also needed. We hit up the bike path in Long Beach and Venice to switch things up since both are in different communities and distances. I definitely need to get back to planning rides like this on a regular basis. Took my camera with me on these rides and got some great pics. Riding your bike and taking pictures is definitely a skill that is honed with practice, so be safe out there. 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Foo-tography: The 6th Street Bridge


Hawk perched on a street light.

If you've been following me on social media, then you've seen that in the last two years or so, I picked up film photography again. The first time I picked up a film camera as an adult was in 2009 when I took a film class at East LA College. It fulfilled a requirement for my associate's degree in journalism, but I was also excited to learn how to compose and develop my own film and prints. I loved that class and the time I spent walking around with a camera, completing assignments, and learning about photography in general. For sure that class laid out the foundation for learning some of the basics and instilling a deeper appreciation for photography, both film and digital. 

So now all these years later, I can say that I am a better photographer than I was back then, but I know there is still plenty of room to continue growing and exploring what is possible and to continue developing my own style. So since I'm in this funny loop of taking pics on film, but then getting them developed and scanned so I can post them on my social media, I got to thinking about other places I can both share my pics, but also provide commentary. Then I remembered I have a blog! So I thought to myself, why not throw them up there. It'll give me another opportunity to reflect on the pics I've taken, but also an opportunity to stretch my writing muscles outside of work. With all that being said, lemme share with you what I think about these pics of the 6th street bridge. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

10 Years of DACA


10 years of DACA. You know, as I started seeing social media post about the coming anniversary, asking people to share their story and how it changed their life, I just kept scrolling. Non-Profits don’t want to hear the story of a curmudgeon 37-year-old DACA recipient. Bruh, I don’t wanna read that story either, which is why I was dragging my feet on writing something to share on the day of the anniversary, June 15th. But here I am, trying to reflect on how much my personal life and the world have changed in the last 10 years. 

Ever since I first got involved with the undocumented youth movement here in L.A., it became a major part of my life. It showed me that I wasn’t alone, that others have been fighting and putting themselves out there in a time when being public about your undocumented status wasn’t the norm. Plugging into the movement gave me a purpose, it fostered a space to make lifelong friendships, it let us challenge and fight the system with the support of countless allies. I look back on those times with fondness because as messy as they were, they were real. Genuine. It was a privilege to be in those spaces and I am glad that I was there taking hard-to-read notes on butcher paper, sending out email reminders for meetings, leading workshops, and eating tacos with the homies.

Many of these spaces grew out of the work that was started with the fight to pass in-state college tuition and the first iteration of the federal DREAM Act. Back in the early 2000s, only a handful of states passed legislation that allowed undocumented high schools the ability to pay in-state fees versus international fees. In California, that happened in 2001 with AB 540. From there, you have undocumented youth heading to college and starting support groups/clubs. As more undocu youth graduated every year, groups/clubs keep growing until a statewide coalition of these groups/clubs is founded under Chirla in 2003, the California Dream Network. I didn’t connect with the movement and network till 2007. 

The next iteration of the movement came around 2008 when Chirla, at the time, didn’t allow graduating youth to continue organizing with the network because they weren’t college students anymore. So, folks started their own groups, Dream Teams, to continue fighting and pushing the non-profit industrial complex to do more. At one point there were Dream Teams in LA, Orange County, Inland Empire, San Gabriel Valley, and more up and down the state. Those Dream Teams and other community-based groups across the country lead to the formation of a national effort to start uniting resources, connect with each other, and push for the federal Dream Act once again. The movement got hella close, but political ransacking and non-profits protecting their interest eventually won out. That was in 2010 and with the fight for the federal Dream Act on hold for the foreseeable future, the movement reflected, processed, partied, and began planning for the next fight. 

Here in Cali, the fight was on passing legislation that would complement AB 540, giving undocu youth access to state funds and scholarships, the California Dream Act. It was passed in 2011. But at the same time, others were already brainstorming on what would be the next national campaign that would bring everyone together in one collective push. Depending on who you ask, a few different people take credit for it, but that is beside the point cause from that collective strategizing, folks put together the initial idea of what would eventually become Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Months of protest, social media campaigns, people getting arrested, and backdoor conversations made DACA happen. It was the collective win the movement was looking for and finally got. That was in 2012. 

So why the hella broad & short history lesson when I’m supposed the be reflecting on the 10-year anniversary of DACA? Cause DACA wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for all the work that was done by undocumented youth and their allies across the country in the last 20 years. No single non-profit or organization can ever claim that, as much as they may try. The movement did that. It was also the last thing that iteration of the movement would do. The time for change had come. 

DACA made my quality of life easier. For more than 20 years, I had to learn how to live a dignified life in a country that only wants me as an exploitable, taxable, and disposable resource. I reflected heavily on this transition in the beginning by talking to homies, writing, and just living my life two years at a time. Every other year I had to renew it brought moments of further reflection and animosity toward the perpetual loop I’m stuck in. Wondering if my application will be denied and I’d be put on some list to be detained. Those feelings and thoughts are still there, but not as loud as they use to be. I appreciate time humbling me and giving me the opportunity to find the maturity I needed in my 20s. DACA made things easier, including moving on from the movement that I desperately longed for when I first found it.

It was just time to go do something different and at this point, there was a new wave of undocumented youth coming up, making the movement their own. Of course, the non-profit industrial complex co-opted the movement when it came time to collect checks from foundations to do work around DACA when it was first enacted and when that pendjo wanted to end the program. The messaging is always the same, help us save DACA and protect dreamers because they contribute to the economy, pay taxes, and buy things from amazon, they are a vital part of the workforce. Our value is directly tied to how much money and labor we can contribute to the economy. Been like that since the days of the Bracero Program. I wish I could say that in the coming years, things will change for the better, and DACA will eventually become the pathway to legalization that it was originally intended to be, but my pessimism just won’t let me dream like that anymore.

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.