Hopefully these pictures demonstrate a crazy, exciting, loving, and beautiful final week that I had in Los Angeles. It was filled with best friends, good food, adventures, music, good conversations, great learning experiences, a swift flight back home, and a reconnection with my siblings, the two loves of my life. I wasn’t sad to leave L.A. or my internship because my time there felt completed. Also, everyone knows that I will be back soon!!!
I am sitting on my porch, eating Skittles and listening to Spooky Black and I am thinking about my day and how great and sweaty and fulfilling and wonderful it was.
My day started pretty early. I woke up round 4AM, and unable to fall asleep, performed these tasks: talked to friends on East Coast, Skyped my Mom, completed a 30 minute yoga session, took a shower, went grocery shopping, prepared myself scrambled eggs and strawberries, drank a cup of tea, listened to Spooky Black, and talked to a few friends before heading off to work at 9:15AM. I thought that I had the MOST incredible morning ever and it felt good. Now, would I do that again? Probably not.
In the late AM, like 11:30, I took the Freedom Summer students to Union Station to obtain metro passes and then we stopped at a 99 cent store before participating in a protest. Buying a few monthly passes was a bit difficult due to misunderstanding and by that time, it was really hot. People were getting hungry and I, myself, started to want a snack. So we planned to stop 99 cent store… before we participated in a protest against Obama and what he stands for: a capitalistic government that is supporting a similar historical situation when aiding Israel against Palestine (like when the US took land from Mexico) and deporting hundreds of thousands of refugee kids.
After had eaten an ice cream sandwich bought at the 99 cent store, I was ready to lay down. It was hot and the pavement burned through the soles of my old Converses.But it was time to march. But nonetheless, I listened to a few speeches, walked a block into the protest, and then left because it was time to go to Freedom Summer school. This year, the program is held at the Red House, the Los Angeles Workers Center, which is such a beautiful and awesome house.
By the time we arrive, it’s 1:30PM and I am starving. Pizza arrives, the program starts and then we complete it. This was an especially great day at camp because it pushed me in the direction of understanding contemporary Black thinkers and I was lost before. I wanted to know more about late 20th and early 21st century Black thinkers and now I was given guidance in today’s seminar on Black Liberation. So we learned about that history and the its key characters and their beliefs and principles. The biggest thing that blew my mind in the seminar today was understanding that we are living in period of counterculture, where we are fighting to keep our basic rights. And that was such a huge brain blast for one because I felt like it answered the question of why there is no revolutionary smell in the air!
After SYOA, I ended up in West Hollywood, eating at Pink’s, a restaurant off of La Brea and Melrose. I ordered a cheeseburger and fries and that was the BEST meal that I could have asked for in that moment. It was perfect and I had leftovers! I just bumped into it and saw that the prices were reasonable and that I should try it. Plus, I had no idea what I would want to cook for dinner.
And now, I am sitting on my porch, reflexive and appreciative of the Internship Grant. These moments happen and I am experiencing it right now and it’s because of the support provided to me by the College to make this happen.
I wait for either the 204 or 754 (whichever appears first) to go to Wilshire/Vermont
And there were sheriffs standing outside, checking TAP cards for usage and fare. So, I tapped and traveled down into, what seems like the deepest pit ever. The escalator trip was long and arduous hahaha
(2 different trains stop here… the purple line to Wilshire/Western and the red line to North Hollywood) The train above is the red line to NoHo and that day, I wanted to hop on the purple line to the last stop, Wilshire/Western. So once the train came (about 5 minutes after the red line passed), I hopped on!
and BAM, I’m at work! In total, the trip takes about 30-45 minutes, depending on my luck.
If you walked into the Wiltern Theatre this week, went up to the 12th floor and entered into the Labor/Community Strategy Center’s office, you would have found me in an office room, reading books and articles on my laptop, with my notebook next to me covered in doodles and notes. My new responsibility this week was to help with building the curriculum for the Freedom School, a two week program that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer by focusing on black radicalism and movements. So, my face was stuck on a computer screen, alternating every now and then to my notebook where I took an immense amount of notes.
I learned so much about Amiri Baraka and his transformation from a Beat poet to Father of Black Arts Movement and symbol of black radicalism; the five historical phases of black nationality formation; blacks and communism; the African Redemption movement; and so much more! The piece of information that gave me a “brain blast” was when I was reading the article, “Any National ‘Conversation about Race’ Must Include Black Radical Tradition”, published on Truth-Out. I learned that the Cold War has deep roots in the U.S. need for undermining real national liberation in the Third World. According to the article, the Cold War was a “coded race war” and of course, control over people and their resources. That blew my mind because nothing is as it seems. I have learned so much about the Cold War (which is actually my favorite war because of its complications) but never about its racial and financial implications. That piece of information wasn’t surprising so much so as it was sad to realize that I am just learning this when I feel like I should have known this for years. I suddenly experienced a feeling of disappointment in the education system (something that I’ve felt since I’ve entered college) due to the ignorance that it is teaching the children, including myself! That fueled me to read more and more and to take very concentrated notes for the future. I can’t wait for the summer program classes (which I will be taking) so I can be apart of the discussion about it.
This week has truly been an awakening week largely because of the information that I am learning. I am very grateful for the Internship Grant and the opportunities that it has given me by bringing me out here to LA! I wasn’t aware of the personal growth that would ensue and I can feel it, especially from this week!
Here are some pictures of my notebook:
Last week was a very very special week! Firstly, last Friday was Independence Day! I am not one for commercialized and racist holidays but I was born on July 4th so by default, I love Independence Day! On the eve of my birthday, some friends were over and we were baking delicious and a bit salty brown sugar cookies, hanging out and snacking. The morning of my birthday, me and friends had a picnic at the beach with the best type of food, including chicken, cupcakes, goldfish, grapes, and strawberries (photos are below). The day proceeded to be something that I wasn’t expecting including walking a few miles see a firework show but unfortunately, missing it! Good thing the people of Los Angeles are fearless and I was able to see fireworks in the middle of the street! All in all, I had a fantastic experience in celebrating my 20th birthday in Los Angeles. And the craziest thing is that my supervisor, Ashley Franklin, and I share the same birthday! How weird is that? I know so many people who share my birthday but Ashley and I are so similar in so many ways, we have announced that we are twin sisters, though she is older.
I also had the opportunity to organize on the buses last week! The Labor/Community Strategy Center emphasizes on organizing, so employees, students, and volunteers travel out to the buses to talk and organize the bus riders. The latest issue in Los Angeles is the three-phase fare increase that will be affecting mostly black and brown Metro riders in order to provide money to build additional rail (train) lines in California. Metro has the plan of creating more rail lines sustainably and the targeted time was 30 years but after consideration, that timeline was decided to be too high, so the new targeted time is 10 years. But in order to do this, more money is required, which is the reason for the fare increase. However, this increase will negatively affect the people. So, last week I went on the buses and took surveys of the people. I met some really crazy people on the bus (including one woman who swore that she and I had talked about the survey just the other day and after I disagreed, she assured me that she just had a common face) to apathetic people (including one man who told me that he gets on the bus for free and he doesn’t care about how the fare increase will affect others).
Surveying and talking to people on the bus exhausted me and also taught me a few huge lessons about myself and organizing. Organizing requires a special skill. In order to approach people and spark up a conversation with someone who may or may not be willing to talk takes courage, charisma, and confidence. I also learned that organizing is very difficult and that not everyone is ready to fight for the issues. One part of the survey asked if people would participate in a fare strike by not paying for the buses one day. Some people were excited and down for the cause and others were not willing to participate. Some conversations made me sad and really hurt my confidence in getting people to be passionate about something that’s about to change their lives and other conversations revitalized me. It was still a great experience that I am grateful for.
Sorry for the last post but I had the day off because the office was closed! Last week, the executive members of the organization (including my supervisor) and some members went to a conference in Mississippi in remembrance of the Freedom Summer of 1964. So, my attendance in the office was reduced greatly so I had a few days off to explore the city all day! And that is exactly what I did. I am going to name the top 7 (because July, the seventh month of the year, is tomorrow!) top things from my adventurous week:
- I went to Fairfax and fell in love with the area! Talked to some people and just absorbing L.A.’s fashion scene.
- I was in the Bitmore Hotel, sitting and drinking water at a restaurant that rotates a full 360 degrees in an hour.
- I went to the History Museum and Science Center and I was completely blown away by everything! All of the exhibitions and knowledge being presented was so beautiful and amazing.
- I went to a food market in Downtown LA and had great pizza and conversation with a new friend.
- I biked from Venice to Santa Monica beach
- I finally walked from my house to USC, checked out the campus (only about a mile and a half away)
- Learning how to feed myself for 1.5 weeks on $40!
I hope it sounds like a great few days because it was! I have come to learn and appreciate L.A as so unique.
- Attending Labor/Community Strategy Center’s 2014 Political Party! The LCSC has turned 25 this year so the Political Party celebrated the organization’s legacy and members and held a fundraiser. It was such a good experience to see what such event is (when Ashley, my supervisor, told me about it on the first day, I thought it was a party where people mingled and talked about politics). A lot of time and effort went into making the party successful. It was super long, from 7PM until 11:30PM (but that’s if you didn’t want to stay for the dancing portion… if so, then you were there until 12:30AM). In those four and a half hours, presentations were given, a movie was shown, speeches occurred and a three course meal was served. It was held in the Wiltern Theatre, which is absolutely stunning. I believe LCSC raised close to $80,000 during the fundraiser portion. It was awesome to see founding members of the organization and other people representing different social justice or nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles. I also met students who assisted or participated in LCSC events and programs so I made a few new friends.
- I stood in line for 5 hours with a few other interns from other organizations (from 9AM to 2PM) in front of LAUSD (Los Angeles United School District) for the Board meeting. We were reserving spots for people from our organization in order to get them inside of the meeting and speaking cards because this meeting had a speaker and person limit. The Board were discussing some really important issues concerning the schools. But most importantly (or at least, to my organization and many others), LAUSD wanted to put more funds into school police than the students. LCSC firmly believes that enough money is placed into the school police and more would continue to do more damage to the students. The school police are being utilized for situations where a guidance counselor or coach would do, thus leading to more arrests among students and negative contact with the police. LCSC believes that the schools are becoming more like prisons, and officers are targeting black and brown students. The meeting began at 2 and speakers were allowed to talk around 3:30PM but unfortunately, I couldn’t stay to hear the speeches. But I heard from Ashley that students from LCSC did a really great job of voicing their concerns about the issue.
- The day before the Board meeting, LCSC held a press conference (but no press were present, sadly) in order to voice the relationship between LCSC and a key people (including a judge and Congressman) who are against the overfunding of the school police. This money is coming from a proposal worth billions of dollars that will be applied to LAUSD to help its school system. The press conference was held in front of City Hall and a few members from LCSC attended. In total, there were about 30 to 45 people, holding signs, singing chants, and raising others awareness about the issues by passing out flyers. That was my first time attending a press conference and it was short and sweet, to my surprise. For about 30 minutes, a student from LCSC gave a speech, then the judge, and then Congressman, and then we dispersed and headed back to the office.
This week was slow in terms of paperwork but it didn’t lack in organizing and assisting with the Political Party. I believe next week, I should start conducting surveys on the buses about fare evasion and people-watch/conduct ethnographic studies on the trains. I am super excited!
Last week Saturday at 5:30AM, I boarded a plane with a tummy full with a bagel from Dunkin’ Donuts and a mind full with tranquility and peace, surprisingly. I was about to start a journey, an adventure with a still mind. I had the confidence to know that things could go wrong but I wasn’t worried about that. I wasn’t really worried about anything. That peacefulness was eventually thrown out of the window once I arrived to LAX and realized that this wasn’t a dream but reality.
For the next eight weeks, I was going to be on my own in a palm-tree filled city that has crazy weather changes throughout the day and huge traffic filled freeways. My first week in Los Angeles went by so quickly; the strangeness of the city has lessen over these past few days. At first, LA was like a new place that I had to figure out everything from scratch. I had to understand in which direction the street numbers progressed and which grocery stores were cheaper, whether it’s Ralph’s or Trader Joe’s.
Before I could go off and figure out the world, I had to understand the little things. I learned a ton of things, like the fact all but two of LA’s train systems were above ground because of earthquakes! I also learn buses run the most during peak work hours (mornings and evenings) but run less and less at the night goes and during the weekends. And the biggest lesson of all was learning that I can save time in the morning if I make my PB&J sandwiches the night before and put them in the freezer. That way, all I have to do is to remember to take them out in the morning and put them in my bag for lunch! And by lunch time, the PB&J is perfect.
After figuring out how to feed myself, I needed to figure out how to get to work! Luckily, there is a website and app that helped me. It is very true, the LA transit system isn’t as extensive or nowhere as complicated as NYC’s metro system. In fact, LA’s metro system is easier and much more simpler, which has its pros and cons, but I was able to figure out my way to work. Figuring ways to other places in LA is a different story…
During the first week, I packed myself alongside at least 50 other people in the bus everyday. I feel comforted as I stood with so many people, including the elderly, babies, students, and working people, as we all kept our heads down, earphones plugged in and rode the bus together. When it came time to switch from the bus to the train, the scenery changed. The train is less packed. In fact, there was an abundance of seats left open and I started to feel like a kid in the candy store. Being from New York City, I am used to giving up my seats or not even seeing an available seat on the train but to have so many available, I didn’t know what to do. After a few minutes of amazement, I
I work from Mondays to Thursdays from 10AM until about 5PM, sometimes earlier or later, depending on the work that I have to do . For the first few days, I was actually running around and exploring Koreatown (which is where the Labor/Community Strategy Center is located in LA), visiting different restaurant venues and talking to the managers for discounts for the upcoming summer youth program that my job is having in a few weeks! That is when I learned about LA’s treacherous and blazing afternoon Sun and long blocks that seemed like it would never end. I am used to walking (in fact, I prefer it), especially long-distance walking but in LA, it seems more like walking in a marathon when I went to visit restaurants that was only one block away. The Strategy Center’s summer youth program will be focusing on revolutions and celebrating Freedom Summer of 1964 because this year is 50th year since it happened. The Center feeds everyone participating in the program breakfast and lunch, including the students, volunteers, and coordinators so about 30 people in total. They order from local restaurants so my job was to establish a connection with the managers and receive either discount meals, coupons, or free donations. Some places gave coupons, like Jamba Juice, discounts, and even donation meals. The manager of Chipotle offered to give us free food, giving me another reason to make it my favorite food joint ever.
Then, my job task switched into research. I am the forerunner of a new campaign with the responsibility of setting the foundation. There is believed to be a new and emerging civil rights problem in LA’s transit system. Black and brown youth are being targeted for fare evasion (not paying transit fare) and the consequences are large fines ($250 or more) and/or jail time. The first part is investigation and research with basic analysis sheets and then ethnographic studies and interviews, talking to people about their real experiences. So last week, I began some research and read up on LA’s MTA rules, citations and courts process, and the importance of free student passes. I bet I know more about LA transit system’s rules and violations than the average transit rider!