Friday, October 30, 2009

No Charges Will Be Filed

Prosecutors won't charge LAPD officers in immigration march melee at MacArthur Park

L.A. County district attorney's office will not press charges any LAPD officers who were involved in the 2007 May Day mayhem. Thousands of people take the streets on the first of May to have a peaceful demonstration and speak out for immigration reform. In 2007, many of the marchers, including media personnel, were injured as a cause of the “excessive” force used by LAPD. It is interesting to see that “legally” law enforcement could not have charges brought against them yet, L.A. city council agreed to pay almost $13 million to those injured or mistreated that day. In this case, law enforcement seems to be above the law because regardless of what was seen by other and experienced by those who were the day of the march, prosecutors felt there was “insufficient evidence” to file charges against some 30 LAPD officers. Many of us, our families, and communities were affected by the events of this day and it is frustrating to see that “legally” nothing will be done.

Friday's Follow Up

Tony's Blog: Only boys keep their cheeks dry
"We washed years of blood off our hands and cried into the river." Amazing! Tony shares his feelings about the boys retreat.

I know a girl...
"I know a girl who found her light..."
Wednesday's Word On The Street has a beautiful poem about the girls retreat.

Please keep $5 Saves Lives going! Go to our website and contribute so that at-risk kids can be helped.

La Judy

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I know a girl...

I know a girl who holds on to her wound like it is magic…

I know a girl whose mother chose the pipe over her…

I know a girl who is afraid to be happy because it won’t last….

I know a girl who has loved too many to find the one…

I know a girl who picks at her scab because it hurts less than looking in the mirror…

I know a girl who never sheds a tear because they may never stop…

I know a girl who went up a mountain to take a chance….

I know a girl who burned her fears and regrets in a fire that reached to the sky…

I know a girl who was stripped naked of her labels, and began to choose who she wanted to be…

I know a girl who thought she had nothing to say, but found her voice and allowed others to find theirs…

I know a girl who raged against her past, and cleared a path to her future…

I know a girl who found her light, and changed her name…

I know this girl because she is in the wind that holds the whispers told on the mountain top

… she is us


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tony’s Blog: Only boys keep their cheeks dry

Each storm-soaked flower has a beautiful eye.
And this is the voice of the stone-cold sky:
“Only boys keep their cheeks dry.
Only boys are afraid to cry.
Men thank God for tears
Alone with the memory of their dead,
Alone with lost years.”
Vachel Lindsay

There is very little I can tell you about the Boys Initiation Retreat that we arrived home from yesterday - because it will not be completed for years to come - because any attempt to share what we did will fail to describe the way that spirit and soul mix to bring us down into our darkest places and then rise to places of our highest self - because we entrust each other with the promise of confidentiality “what is said on the mountain, stays on the mountain”. Only the gifts discovered on the mountain are invited back down with us. Those will find their way into countless future discussions, expressions, poems and blogs.

There is no way to adequately share how wisdom and patience and honed gifts and love and anger and grief and camaraderie and caring and love intermingle to create a ritual that must be experienced to be understood.

I can share activities: We talked, listened, argued, sang, danced, climbed, yelled, accused, released, put on our masks, took off our masks, drummed, wrote poetry, hiked, we took the leap of faith & walked across ropes 30 feet in the air, rode bikes, played guitars, ate, raged, laughed … and cried.

We spoke to each other from our broken places… so we could cry the tears of men.

We honored our brothers who had passed…and shed long-overdue tears of grief.

We washed years of blood off our hands and cried into the river.

We listened to stories of pain inflicted upon the girls and women who try to love us…and cried tears of complicity.

We witnessed the anguish of pain conveyed by girls and women who try to love us…and released tears of anguish.

We shared the times when our “heads were cut off”…and shed tears of understanding.

We spoke of claiming our lives back…and produced tears of liberation.

We spoke of being freaks, with a foot in both worlds, and offered tears of pride.

We let go of shame…and replaced it with tears of honor.

We spoke of the inability to find love…and cried for the longing.

We spoke of finding love…and let the tears of our soul temper the burning of our hearts.

We faced the fire…and tears delivered healing water.

We saw the genius inside each other…and found tears of joy.

We spoke of the inability to cry…and then cried.

With tears rolling down each others’ backs…we cried together.

and began to feel more like men.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday's Follow Up

"You are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars guides you too." Shrii Anandamurti

Tony's Blog: It's not paranoia if they really are shooting at you
Tony talks about the difficult and courageous lives our kids lead. He shares how mentoring can help.

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Ken & Edson
Edson shares how Ken has taught him to never judge people and to be nice.

Wednesday's Word on the Street: Tender Words
Sarah shares a moment of bonding with a young man. She realizes that judgment doesn't get anyone anywhere, nor do our ideas of who we're supposed to be or what connections we can make with each other.

How About a Little Coverage of the Millions of At-Risk Kids Not Trapped in a Balloon (or Hiding in the Attic)?
Agueda shares how it angers her that there was so much media coverage over a trivial event when so many other children are at-risk.

All are away on the retreat! Whoo hoo! Have a great weekend.
La Judy

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How About a Little Coverage of the Millions of At-Risk Kids Not Trapped in a Balloon (or Hiding in the Attic)?

Last Thursday, the hot topic on every news channel was the “Balloon Boy.”Apparently, it was believed that a young boy had flown away in a large science balloon only to later be discovered hiding in the attic. News anchors expressed so much concern and worried about the boy’s well-being. As soon as I heard the coverage on this story I became annoyed. It eats me alive to hear all the commotion that is made about incidents of specific missing children when the youth in our communities have been needing the medias attention and focused energy for years now! It is not to say that I do not empathize with the families of the children who are broadcasted but I do feel that the way the media chooses and executes their stories needs to be restructured. There are hundreds of stories of missing, exploited, and marginalized children who should be making the headlines of newspapers. They should be the top stories of the 7 o’clock news; but they are not. The question is, why not? Why are they ignored? Why are the at-risk children not given the time and energy the children of these sensationalized stories are receiving? I believe that it is more than just a mere coincidence that our communities of color, who are experiencing some of the toughest things in this country, are not given the proper coverage on news sources. If more attention were given by the media, the severity of these issues would become more apparent. The increased awareness would then place pressure on those with power to address these problems. Ideally the media should be worried about educating the masses and creating awareness on critical issues. Instead, they have chosen to focus on ratings and popularity which is why they are STILL talking about “Balloon Boy.”


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CHLA - Teen Summit

Wednesday's Word on the Street: Tender Words

Thanks again to Hoolie for inviting me to guest blog. This time, let me share with you a little slice of my day.

We have a young man in our programs - 6 feet plus, 300 lbs, chains and baggy shorts - who seems to have taken a liking to me. Just for comparison, let me note that I'm a 5'3" featherweight Jew in bootcut jeans from Old Navy.

Bootcut jeans notwithstanding, this young man called our office the other morning and asked for me.

"Who's there at the office Sarah?"

"Well, it's just me and Judy right now. Everyone else is at Shout! Factory [one of our mentoring programs]. They'll be back at 3."

To my surprise, he told me that he would come over right then. I let him know he could use the computer when he got here and that I'd see him soon.
And then he said, "Ok. I love you, Sarah. Bye!" And hung up.

In case you haven't guessed, it was the "I love you" part that got me. This isn't a young man I've ever chased down, picked up, or done anything extraordinary for. I don't even see him very much! And if you were to judge a book by its cover, you wouldn't expect such tender words coming from him. In fact, he's shared much less tender words which I cannot repeat here with large, large audiences at organizationally embarrassing moments. But that morning I got an "I love you"? Must have been my lucky day.

Improbable as this all seems to me, I remind myself of the power of "unconditional positive regard." Think of someone who accepts you as you are, offers kind words and a smile. That's unconditional positive regard. And that's what this young man has been getting from his mentor and from YMC for years. He's someone who is doing plenty of things "wrong" in life - dangerous, of dubious legality, I'll spare you the details - and the temptation is often to fix, to moralize, to distance. But being told you're an f-up only convinces you that you're an f-up. After years and years of patience and acceptance from YMC, he is starting to believe that he can be open, loving, and make good choices. And he is starting to act accordingly.

So he came to the office. Not having much wisdom to offer him as someone with such a vastly different life experience, I set the intention just to give him love back. So I sat with him and listened and asked him questions. We Facebook'd Stewart together. He showed me pictures of la Santa Muerte, and then showed me a website with an online wall where people do electronic graffiti. We practiced writing my name, his name, writing "YMC." He said if I practiced for an hour I'd be really good.

So often judgment doesn't get anyone anywhere, nor do our ideas of who we're supposed to be or what connections we can make with each other. "Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field - I'll meet you there" (Rumi). And that's the place where new and better possibilities open up.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Ken & Edson

"I would like to thank my mentor for taking the time to come in the program and also for spending some time with me. My mentor led me know he cared when he listened to all my problems. In this program I learned that I should always be nice to other people and I should never judge other people".
- Edson

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tony's Blog: It's not paranoia if they really are shooting at you

Gun shots ring out, then silence, then sirens. He is several blocks from the safety of home. That’s dangerous when “shit’s goin down”. So, he runs to get off the streets, not knowing if the next bullet has his name on it. The police show up and do a sweep, picking up all young males in the area. They know him. He has a record and is on probation. So, even though he’s been doing well lately and there is no evidence connecting him to the shooting, the assumption is guilty until proven innocent.

Imagine what it would be like to live where the sound of gunshots are a normal occurrence. The youth that we work with (the vast majority not gang involved) and their families don’t have to imagine. You don’t have to go to the Middle East for that experience. Just drive a few miles down the freeway from Beverly Hills or Santa Monica. The sounds of helicopters (ghetto birds), police sirens, gunshots, fighting and yelling are all too common. In fact, epidemiologists have determined that children in South Central Los Angeles exhibit higher levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than children in Baghdad, Iraq. If it’s not the local gang banger causing you stress it’s the local police bashing in your door at 3am looking for him or just the normal chaos of life bereft of resources.

Among the dozen or so other calls from young people over the course of this weekend two were from kids just taken to prison, one just kicked out of his auntie’s house, a teenage girl struggling to raise her child and a boy who was nervous about taking his SATs (every once in a while you get an easy one).

…and yet these young people get up every day and make their way to school, make their way to our program sessions, babysit little brothers and sisters, look for jobs to help support their families and take care of each other. They also find time to fit in the things that normal teenagers do. Hang out and listen to music; go to parties; fight with their parents; have crushes; get their hearts broken; get over it and try again; etc. Resiliency is one commodity that exists in abundance in the hood. I am often in awe of these kids.

As a society we are not doing enough about the conditions that these young people live in. However, we know from first hand experience how mentoring makes a huge difference. 96% of our kids will graduate compared to 23-45% of their peers (depending upon which numbers you believe). Last Tuesday 27 of our young people visited Paramount Studios to meet 27 caring volunteers that would be their mentors. It was our first session of the year. We returned to school to find it on lock-down because there was a shooting. A young girl was apparently caught in the cross-fire of a gang shooting and was hit in the hip and hospitalized. Well, I guess we won’t be easing our way into that program. It’s on. We’ll deal with it in our next group session.

This Thursday we will take 100 boys and girls up to the mountains for our Mentee Initiation Retreat. I’m looking forward to seeing their shoulders drop and knowing that for four days there will be no gunshots, sirens or arrests.

With love and hope,