LA CAN Poverty SKolars Speak Up: The Voices in Poverty Resist Series!
November 20th, 2012
The following stories are written by poverty skolars from the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) for the Voices of Poverty Resist series. This series was launched out of a
fellowship that Lisa received from the Marguerite Casey Foundation for journalism focused on poverty. Because Lisa leads with her indigenous values of inter-dependence she has created this collective journalism process where all of our voices in poverty are speaking for ourselves.
Moving to Skid Row
by Karl Scott
Moving to California caused me to really face the reality of the “social” aspect of life. After losing my job, home, furniture, and car, I came to the LA area knowing I could get unemployment until I found a job. Well unemployment made me fight to get in, and jobs were
hard to find.
With no money and no place to go, I was forced to deal with a system that I knew nothing about. But the people assigned to help me had attitudes like everyone “stinks.” I refused to give in and let my spirit be wiped away by mere humans. This caused me to reevaluate my
thoughts by asking and being honest with myself. Was I like that? Did I think like that? Do I react like that?
With determination, I found housing in “America’s most homeless capital” area. This helped me to deal with and understand what people go through in life by being stereotyped in the “Skid Row” group.
I was introduced to LA CAN and became impressed by an organization in Skid Row that was friendly, honest and willing to help people without funding. So now my life is full of new meaning and much deeper respect for every human.
Struggles are categorized by suffering, ignoring the self, an
ignoring, a drowning.
Shifting soil beneath life’s constructs
deconstruct and I was left floating
feet beneath me couldn’t sustain me.
Quicksands when all you know is obliterated.
But you hold on. Reach out for the elusive vines that remain of a
structure you emerged from
triumphant? Or at least with honors.
But something changed.
May have been the greed factor
outside of self in a social structure or
a delusional paradigm I no longer knew.
The day I entered a shelter I had little clue how I got there. It was a series of mishaps and false hopes as I look at it now. I worked freelance, and people stopped paying on time after my jobs were completed, until this little circus took a toll. Coupled with bad relationships, I can’t say what event caused me to become homeless, other than a series of shady employers who took advantage of the delusions of a person who believed in principles. I still give freely
and receive little in the way of financial recompense. I have a head full of ideals that have little to do with this economic monster set up to consume everything and everyone. Ultimately whom or what can I blame but my own poor choices? What was it that I really wanted? And
when did I stop believing?
Yes we live in a white world and I’m brown. My mixed heritage café con leche would color me, but I couldn’t begin to state the many moments when my goals and dreams were hindered by external forces. I felt stopped my breath when I tried to reach higher. So where do I begin?
Hope for Young Black Men
by Jose VanDerburg
When a child loses hope, I feel a whole lot of things are wrong. Young Black men start off in this America with a disadvantage. Dreams are not only deferred, they are often stolen, or seem unobtainable. I often struggle to find hope. But I usually do through my fellow brothers and sisters in the struggle.
I just lost my job, because of some injustice. I was struggling yesterday to find hope, to believe in my dream of becoming an executive director, when Kevin Winn, a three striker, told me his
story that inspired me to dream again.
Kevin Winn started his own company off the bottom called Nini’s House of Fragrance. It’s a line with body and house products. Kevin told me about all he went through to start his business, where he came from, and how I too could win. His first job growing up in the ghetto of St. Louis was on an ice cream truck. He, like me, had grown up in a struggling home. At 20, with an AA in Economics he found himself working as a swimming coach, leading a Hispanic kid out of Watts to win a Junior Olympic gold medal at the expo park where I used to work.
At 26 he had his first child. I explained to him my desire for a child. He encouraged me to stay focused because once he had his daughter he got into drugs and alcohol and was in prison 3½ years.
Kevin and I tried to figure out why Blacks with degrees end up in jail. It’s because we can’t figure out how to, or have no way to, apply our education skills to the streets we go back to. I expressed my frustration in finding a job and how I have to hustle too. He told me he thought that way too. He was sober his second time out of jail, so he sold but didn’t use no more. But then after voluntary manslaughter he got 15 years in state prison.
At this point I could see my life just like Kevin’s. How easily I could be cycled onto the conveyer belt to becoming another prison statistic.
Kevin and I both agree that young Blacks go into jail with no love or support. Even out of jail, we get little support. But we do run into change. The transformation of our minds comes from meeting a good role model. Mine is Pete White at LA CAN and Kevin's is Magic
Johnson. Kevin said in prison he read about a brother who got out of jail and took acting classes and got a show on Fox. Young Black dreams can revive themselves with the story of another brother’s struggles. In jail he wrote a business plan and got out and started a business
with the last $175 of GR. He named the business after his daughter Shanika and called it Nini House.
After hearing Kevin's story I had hope. I got hope through my brothers’ struggles and victories. Who's got a story to tell?
A Journey of Healing
In 2003, I suffered a work injury that left me immobilized for two years. During my hospitalization I was evicted. Upon release from the hospital I recuperated with family. But because I required 24-hour care, my family could no longer help me in my physical/mental state. I became homeless. Then I started getting arrested for being homeless. One night the police arrested me, bagged my head, and drove me to Skid Row.
I lived on the streets until I got really tired of the abuse, suffering, and my body's need to recover. I went out to the VA to get help and was told that because I didn’t have a drug problem I couldn’t qualify for services. I came back to Skid Row and commenced doing
every drug I could get my hands on (out of anger, not because I wanted to go back. It was like I said, “fuck it”).
Then one day I heard this brother playing the congas. On Skid Row! It was amazing to me! How this one drum seemed to hold sway amongst all the surrounding chaos. I knew then that was what I would be doing: healing. Not only myself, but more importantly others, through art. It was through painting, guitar, drums, sculpting, and music that brought
me out of the state of mind I was in.
After my last jail stint I was ready. I wanted my life back so I checked into the VA and didn’t leave until almost two years later. This was almost unheard of but I needed the PTSD classes, I the one-on-one psychiatric meeting, the physical therapy, the tai chi, fishing, and surfing trips. All these things combined to give me that sense of purpose in my life. And that was to fight for the voiceless, sing for elders, and live for children.
Today I consider myself a positive member of a community trying to define itself in its own terms. This is a place of recovery, a place of healing. It is the phoenix rising from the ashes. It was in this place that I found my connection to people who were suffering like me,
and that in itself provided a healing connection. Though others are in different situations and stages, we are all in it together.
And that sense is what holds us together, good or bad, bad or worse; nobody, NOBODY gets left out or behind. After learning the VA system, I came back down to Skid Row, to live and fight for the peoples who call this place home. I don’t make a lot of money but I’m rich in
quality of life. My life’s work is to continue to speak out, to play my drums, to educate myself and others to the realities of the issues that are directly impacting us, our community.
Journaling 101, Jinny
by Soni Abdel
The first worst time is when
They said it was cancer.
The second worst time is
When they called and said
The third worst time is
When they said we won’t help.
You bury her because
You didn’t pay the bills on time.
And you should have a job eventually
Your mother needed 24 hrs care
And we pretended that YOU
Didn’t need any help
The fourth worst time is when
They refused to pay me my
Deposit back because they
Claim I didn’t notify them
On time. Then their bitch ass
SPaul said “do what you gotta do.”
The fifth worst time
Is when you said I could
Stay with you for a while
But your face said “I don’t want you here.”
The sixth worst time is
When I had to sleep next to
A broad who
Reeked like a sewer
What comes to me is
Treachery….from even I
Reminisce on my so-called
Fa-mil ly who fucked me
And told me fuck you
They said you used to be
Smart…you used to be
Pretty…used to be…
We thought you were gonna
See here Jigga boos
Living in ghetto zoos
Waitin on the 1st & 15th
The only time you brush your
Teeth Persecuting wit yo
Ignoramus brain insane off
Crack & weed cuz you won’t
Kill your demons…So you
Laugh at the ones who
Got me surrounded You can
You and YOU….claim to
Have sumthin legit but you
Can’t quit smoking that shit
Laugh cuz u IS dumb founded
Cuz dumb found you and
Wesley Walker, Jr.,
Because of the drugs that the U.S. brings in to all of our communities and cities, I was a victim of drug use. Drug use began my financial downfall and loss of housing, self, and health. It brought more problems with the police because I was hurt by the police one day, I didn’t know my rights, and so I let it go. One day I got sick and couldn’t walk and I didn’t know why. So I had to have an operation on my neck. After that, I began to do more and more drugs, and going to jail more and more. When they told me that I would go to jail for 2 years I stopped doing drugs. I began to work with LA CAN to help myself. The VA helped too.
Young Adult in the Streets
by James Porter
My personal experience with houselessness started when I was 18 years
old. I left home to live in the street, and I made up my mind I was
going to survive no matter what. I would do what ever I have to do to
make it. I used and abused whoever I had in order to make it. This was
a lonely life because I did not trust no one but myself. I dealt with
racism in my own race, with white people, and with the police.
I was in jail for a j-walking ticket. Police gave me a card—threw it
on the ground and called me a nigger—and I wanted to whip their ass
but I didn't.
I remember what my parent taught me and realize now this was not the
way to success that I was hoping for. I am learning that there are
good people in the world. I just have to surround myself with them and
I realize that life is what you make of it. No more, no less.
The Malcolm X Transformation
by Steve Richardson aka General Dojon
My name is General Dojon, and I was born and raised on Skid Row, got into my addiction on Skid Row, was arrested for bank robbery (feeding my serious addiction), and sentenced to 18 years in state prison. I entered state prison as a brain-dead Christian and leader of Denver Lanes Blood gang in South Central. I was sent to Corcoran SHU Program where I did five years in the hole. There I met George Jackson's comrade who had been in the hole since 1972. He re-educated me about who I am as a Black Hue-man, about God, and the principles of revolution. Basically I did the Malcolm X Transformation: came into prison a mis-educated gang member, and paroled as a member of the Black Guerilla Family in 2004.
After eleven years I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to fight for social justice. I came to LA because I had a complaint about the police and private security guards. I was told by Bilal Ali (a Black Panther), "We don't talk about it, we be about it." He gave me a camera and clipboard and said go get some evidence and come back. I went, got evidence of police and private security guards racial profiling and targeting low-income Blacks during
gentrification. I came back to LA CAN. Bilal, Pete White (the director of LA CAN) and I talked. We decided to create a community watch program to monitor LAPD and private security to ensure no biased policing was going on.
In 2006, LA Mayor Villaraigosa and Police Chief Bratton released a Safer Cities Initiative on Skid Row which brought 110 extra pigs to Skid Row, making it the most policed community in America. Their goal was to gentrify Skid Row. They had a six-month plan to wipe out poor
folks so that the yuppies can walk their $5000 french poodles down Main St. without seeing Ed the wino and Ted the pan-handler. For the last six years since then we've been at war fighting for the land, and LA CAN has led the charge.
I'm the point man on our community watch team. I was sitting in meetings with Mayor Villaraigosa, meeting with Chiefs Blatter and Beck. I've been to the LAPD Training Camps giving them information on how not to participate in racial profiling. I've been to LAPD 4K
trainings on policing people with mental disabilities. I've helped ACLU bring lawsuits against the city for violating rights of homeless people. I've worked with UCLA to document police brutality. I've been in may newspapers, books, and movies. I've been arrested for felony
and facing 25 years to life twice for doing this work. The United Nations has requested information about me because of a report they got saying the government is targeting me.
And the story goes on because I'm still fighting daily. As a three-striker my biggest fear is being struck out with 25 to life, before I can finish my mission. Can't stop, won't stop. All power to the people.
Hard News at the Clinic
by Deborah Burton
I was working at K-Mart Company, as a part-time employee with no health coverage, working four hours a day. My work schedule changed weekly. When I became ill, I could not take time off to go see a doctor even if I could afford the appointment. My weekly wage was minimum: $7/hour. Just enough to pay rent, buy food, and pay for transportation.
Then I lost my job. I went to downtown LA. I began to visit a free clinic doctor, because I would get headaches so bad that I could not get out my my bed. and every time I sit or stand up I would get sick and have to throw up. I told my neighbor my issues. He said I might have high blood pressure. I visited my doctor again to check it out. As always, I went through the process we all go through on doctors' visits: take temperature, check weight, and check blood pressure. The nurse records it. Then you see the doctor, they read your results. The
doctors, they ask me what brought me in today.
I said I think I have high blood pressure, the response is: yes.
By Teresa Villa
(SCROLL DOWN FOR ENGLISH)
Mi Nombre es Teresa Villa
Soy madre soltera de
2 hijos pero me siento
muy frustrada cuando
mi hijo estaba
los problemas con mis 2 hijos
La policia epezo a
molestarlos el abuso
con la poliscia fue tanto
desean que no
se ivan agarrar pero
yo como mama siempre
estuve al pendiente
los enfrenta porque
ellos eran acosados
siempre pero ellos
segaduaron al en
pero la policia
del sur de los
My name is Teresa Villa
I am a single mother
with 2 children but I feel
very frustrated when
my son was
problems with my 2 children
disturbed and abused
them to get caught
like a mama I was always
on the lookout
they were harassed
but they were always looked for
but the police
in the south
abuses and causes
problems with the youth
(SCROLL DOWN FOR ENGLISH)
Yo soy de Guatemala 37 anos y mi historia es muy triste por contar. Porque es difícil porque fue abusada, abusada sexualmente por mi hermano. Yo y mis 3 hermanas chicas. Esto es difícil serlo, porque fueron amenazadas por que mataria a mi papa si decíamos algo. Esto marco mi vida.
Solo con Dios a cambiado mi vida a poder cambiar y a seguir adelante. Recientemente me di cuenta el abuso de mis hermanos.
Yo me ayi al norte de Guatemala, a México y emigre a los Estados Unidos. Para ya no ser abusada. No mas abusada.
Yo aprendí del abuso sexual de mis hermanas cuando mi hermana que vive, me llamó; y me exijo parque dejé a mis papas. Yo le dije porque lo que me había pasado. Y es cuando ella me confesó llorando que ella también. Emigró para aca, para que ya no fuera abusada.
A mi me abuso 3 veces, solamente me abusaba cuando el llegaba. Porque el vivía en el ejército de Guatemala. Esta historia quiere decir la por primera vez en papel para que muchos la lean. Porque un sufre más cuando uno calla uno, o se queda en silencio.
Yo tenia 6 anos cuando esto comenzó mi hermana mayor así que yo era abusada. Por eso ella me empujo me fuera al norte.
Esta historia la cuente porque es mejor hablar. En hablando puedo agendar mi matrimonio.
Lo más difícil es de que mi mamá nunca nos creó. Todavia no nos cre. Ella siempre crió a los hombres. Siempre quisomáss los barones. Siempre hizo al lado a las mujeres nos llama mentirosas.
Yo me siento liberada en hablando sobre esta historia. Porque a veces los uní a unos. Pregunta porque tomará esa decisión de dejar su familia para escapar.
I'm from Guatemala 37 years and my story is very sad to tell. It's hard to tell because I was abused, abused sexually by my brother. Me and my 3 sisters. They were threatened that my brother would kill my dad if we said anything. This marked my life.
Only with God has my life changed to be able to change and move forward.
I left Guatemala to go north, to Mexico and emigrate to the United States. To no longer be abused. No more abuse.
I learned of the sexual abuse of my sister when my sister, called me once demand demanding why i left my parents. I told her what had happened. And she broke down crying telling me she was also abused. She immigrated here also, to no longer be abused.
I was abused 3 times. Because my brother lived in Guatemala's army he wasn’t home much. want other to read this. Because one suffers more when one shuts down, or remains silent. I was 6 when this began.
The hardest part is that my mom never believed us, still hasn’t. She always preferred the boys over the girls. We as women were called liars by her.
I feel liberated in talking about this story. Because sometimes it brings us together.
La Mama Que Lucha Por Su Familia
(SCROLL DOWN FOR ENGLISH)
Mi vida fue triste, porque no tube Mama. A los 9 meses, al paso de tiempo me dejaron con mis tíos y unos de ellos me violo. Y tome deciciones no fue buenas. Y l mas facil para mi juntarme con un muchaho.
Fue Tipo polítio 12 años empecé a salir con el 16 tuve mi nina. Empeza a trabajar y lo deje a mi pareja por ser drogadicto. Ya tenia 3 hijas.
Empeze a salir con otro muchacho que tuvimos otro hijo pero desgraciadamento el fallecio en un accidente.
Duve como 6 meses, y me vine a los Estados Unidos. Batallamos para cruzar y pero al fin lo logramos, de ahí empezó mi nueva vida tristeza, soledad, pobreza. Porque yo venía embarazada de dos meses de una niña y no tenía trabajo. Yo me hice la promesa 1 ano me iba a traer a mis hijos, tuve la suerte de que gente me ayudara a traer a mis hijos.
Primero me dieron el apoyo y me pidieron que me moviera, y no duramos mucho ahi porque yo andaba recogiendo botes, y una ocasión el quería abusar de mi y yo le dije a su esposa y ella despues me dio dos dias para salirme. Yo me sali a rentar a un apartamento con ratas un espacio no habitable. Cual yo no me senti vivir con mis hijos. Al paso de tiempo conoci al que fue mi pareja, 17 años al cual me saco de ahi, y me llevo un hogar donde vivia en la sala y mis hijas el cuarto en el transcurso de esos anos pasaron tantas cosas. Mi hija la mas grande conoció un muchacho de los 12 anos, lo cual no me parece porque era mayor que ella. A los 20 tantos anos que estuvo con mi hija, yo estubo molestando a mis hijos, y pasamos por mucho trauma. Y que todavía seguimos padeciendo, apenas estamos uniendo entre todas. Dialogando y seguimos aquisufriendoo en la pobreza; mis hijos sufriendo por que todavia pocree 3 mas.
Por su padre que esta enfermo, solo hay comunicacion de teléfono. Por alcoholismo, la lucha con mis hijos que la escuela me los estaban echando de escuela. Y no saber como poder ayudarle y me sentía desolada. Gracias a Dios unos de mis hijos esta en Sheriff y juega futbol. Y Ahorita estoy luchando 17 por graffiti. Y estoy en luchando con el de 22 anos las drogas. Espere Dios me te la fuerza a seguir luchando.
My life has been a sad one, because my Mother passed when I was 9 months. I was left with my uncles and one of them raped me. And from than on i took decisions that weren’t the best.
When I was 12 years I started dating a boy who was 16. I eventually left him due to being a drug addict. We had three daughters.
I started dating another boy who had another child but sadly he died in an accident.
After six months, I came to the United States. And struggled to cross the border but finally I made it, my new life began but filled with sadness, loneliness, and poverty. Because I was pregnant two months of a child and had no job, I made a promise that after 1 year I was going to bring my children. I was lucky that people helped me bring my children.
First they gave me support and asked me to move, but I ended up coming here and picking up cans. A man and his wife took me in. But the man wanted to abuse me and I told his wife and she then gave me two days to get out. I went out to rent an apartment that was in no way habitable since it was infested with rats. I felt that I did not live with my children. At time passed i met a man who became my partner. At 17 years old he took me out of there, and I got a home where I slept on the floor and my daughters slept on the room. My daughter grew up and met an older boy when she 12. The boy was 20 and he was with my daughter for many years. They are still together. My children went through a lot of trauma. And we are still suffering, we are just trying to come together.
Their father is sick, and there's only telephone communication. Their father suffers from alcoholism. The struggle with my children's school is the risk of being kicked out of school. And not knowing how to help I am devastated. Thank God one of my sons plays soccer to take up his time. And right now I'm fighting my 17 for being a graffiti vandal. And I'm struggling with my 22 year old with drugs. God is giving me the strenght to keep on fighting.
Attack of the Pigs at a Pasadena Park
by JoJo Smith
Last Wednesday on November 14, 2012, we were peacefully protesting Mexican Ex-President Vicente Fox, who was speaking at an event in Pasadena, California. Why were we protesting? We do not support a mass murderer who was Vice President of Coca Cola Company in Mexico that killed many indigenous people there. He is also a capitalist pig and the root cause of why the Mexican drug cartels are so much stronger today. We were showing resistance against this.
However, he is protected here by the Los Angeles Police Department, who planted many riot cops around the area of the courthouse and park near where he was speaking that night. Those cops were being commanded by LAPD Sargeant Bobby Crees of the Special Enforcement Services Division, who incited the riot so that they could outright violently ambush us.
As a houseless revolutionary with Occupy the Hood in L.A., I strongly feel that this assault on us was uncalled-for and provoked by outright hate and disdain from the LAPD, as they gave us evacuation orders. However, they did not specifically tell us that we had to back away from the Courthouse area of the public park where we were protesting.
After three hours of stand-off intimidation, with the LAPD standing in unison wearing full riot gear, all of a sudden out of nowhere they rushed us, knocking everyone and everything down, smashing our tents and personal belongings, stomping on top of everything that was lying on the ground with their heavy boots. Within a few seconds, I was barely able to save my friend, who was sleeping inside one of the tents, from being killed by having his head violently stomped on by a crazed cop in riot gear.
In the melee I was violently struck in the ribs by a baton. They just came at us….stomped on us….violently hit us….all of our civil rights violated. In L.A., we are allowed to sleep on the streets, unlike a lot of other cities….We, with the support of L.A. CAN, had fought for and won this right to sleep in public….it’s our right to be there, yet the LAPD broke the law.
The LAPD kept on attacking us. They punched my friend’s 12-year old daughter in the face! They also hit my friend in the face, knocking out his tooth! They continued assaulting us and knocked down a pregnant protester with a night stick to the ground. Many people were severely hurt, however the LAPD took absolutely no accountability for their assault upon us and the physical abuse they inflicted upon my friend’s daughter.
Because we are poor, we are being criminalized without due process. Because I have been homeless for the past five years on Skid Row and homeless for an additional ten years of my life, it doesn’t mean that the police have the right to harass us, assault and violate our civil rights. This is truly capitalism at its best while we are being treated at its worst, being illegally assaulted, charged and locked up. The mainstream media did everything they could to keep what happened out of the media. People need to know that LAPD physically assaults poor children.