Sunday, March 22, 2015

One Bad Day

It should go without saying that living the kind of live I have, metal and emotional trauma are a given. From living in poor, working class communities that are subjected to both gang and police violence to environmental racism. Then you have the over crowded school system, systemic oppression, lack of access to resources and unhealthy family dynamics to spice things up a bit. Then on top of all that and then some, you add being undocumented to the mix. The deck gets stacked pretty fast and it can be over whelming at times.      

For the better part of my life, I've been able to work on my issues. To get to a place in which I'm no longer held down by them or even worse, lead down a road that isn't healthy. I've hit those bottoms and I've been lucky enough to be able to pick myself up from there. Never under the same circumstances. As I've gotten older and my understanding of things has expanded, I'm able to work my way through things in my own way. What works for me work work for everyone else, which is why I've never felt the need to seek professional help or getting diagnosed by a quack. 

For the better part, writing has always been my default in trying to figure things out. Among my friends, I've always been the one listening, rarely do I talk out my issues. I'm too set in my ways. At this point in my life, I acknowledge depression and my unorthodox mental health as being parts of me. It's not a condition nor a disease that can be treated away. I own it, it doesn't own me. That's what works for me. Most days are good, but every once in a while I have a bad day. 

Triggered simply enough by something I may come across or in this latest instance, just a culmination of frustrations related to work and my everyday routine. Holding down three different jobs is taking its toll on me. I had to renew my DACA so that's been on the back of my mind as well. I'm also waiting to do my taxes to see how much I'm going to owe because I know I am going to owe. With everything kinda caving in on me and exhausted from my trips, I find myself down on the dumps. 

Then I start to think about of where I've been and how good I have things now. Seems no matter how good I'm doing, there will always be room left for wanting more and to try and fill that feeling of emptiness I have. But it'll all pass in time. I usually just go through the motions and ride it out. It's part of who I am. Unless I post something on social media, most folks won't even know the difference. But then again, that's not something I'm not trying to blast out either. It's not like I'm publishing all this online for everyone to read. No, it's mostly just for me so I can work my way through things.    


Friday, March 20, 2015

Serendipitous Travels

Traveling for me truly is a treat. I hardly get to do it, so I take advantage of it when I can. Its not so much that I don't travel because of my immigration status, although having a work permit & state issued ID makes it easier, but that shit is expensive. My trips to Austin and Washington DC were on someone else's dime. I was attending two separate conferences, which is why I was able to get support in getting out there. Twas my first time in Austin, but second time in Texas and DC. I went in representing those who got me my trips, which meant I had to network and participate more than I would like. While it doesn't seem like it, I'm hella anti-social sometimes. Plus, I've been to a bunch of comic book conventions, so anything that doesn't have people dressed up in costumes is let down.

For the better part, I had a great time in Austin because I was there with my compa. We shared a room and he introduced me to folks at the conference since it was my first time. We did a lot of drinking and horsing around at night, while keeping it professional in the day. We stayed in downtown Austin and didn't get to explore anything else, so my time there sucked. The water tasted weird, I got sick from drinking Austin beer, and everything was hella gentrified. Yeah, they had a bike share program and separated bike lanes, but it was clear that they were there for tourist. Breakfast tacos are over rated. Not to mention that the few people of color I saw where those working at restaurants or as servers at the convention.

DC on the other had was a lot more fun. Again, we stayed in Downtown at a hotel that was walking distance from that conference, but what made the difference was connecting with community folks there. When I got to DC, I ended up going straight to a bar to meet up with a friend I was going to stay with. That turned into a three day bender that continued on throughout the trip. My first time to DC consisted of just hanging out in Downtown and trying to find a place that played cumbias. I went in to this trip trying to do the same and I was successful. Call it Serendipity.

It was through that friend that I was staying with that I was able to connect to old and new friends that showed me and the homies a great time. On top of that, I was also able to hang out with a friend I met online in real life for the first time. So yeah, I had a blast in DC because of the people that were there. As such, I was able to see and learn more about the communities holding it down out there. It's easy to forget how connected our fights are, despite geographical differences, but being in those spaces really nailed it home.

While I was physically tired from my previous conference the week before and going on a bender for three days, the homies and I rocked the presentation we were giving. I relied on them to get me outta the couch and to go exploring despite the cold and the joint pains I had, but I needed that trip. I can't remember that last time I had that much fun dancing, drinking, and doing karaoke to Selena. Cause I'll do anything for Salinas. Nights like that are far and few these days because I'm too comfortable in my city. It's only when someone is visiting from outta town or that I'm traveling that I wanna jarcorear. Maybe I'm just getting old.

That being said, I'm grateful for the opportunities I got to represent spaces I work in and for at difference conferences. For too long, I've been use to just representing myself and no one else that I didn't give two fucks as to how others saw me or what they thought of me. I was there to handle my scandal in the day and get crunk at night. Not so much this time around, which I blame on my encroaching maturity, but I'm finding the right balance that allows me to be true to myself.

That being said, this'll probably be the last time I travel for the year. Going out of state is expensive and I have my sights set in visiting New York as I make my pilgrimage to Shaolin for the first time. Not to mention that I know a few folks out there who have couches and floors I can crash. I just have to get my ducks in order to make it happen. For now, it's just something to look forward to.    

       

   

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Conferencing

For the longest time, I've been use to just representing myself and no one else. The repercussions of things I say or do would fall entirely on me and only me. Ohh how the times are a changing. I spent the last two weeks at two separate conferences. One of them was for work and the other one was for an organization that I volunteer for. Seems that ever since I got DACA, my musings on this blog are focused on work and my professional life, which makes sense. For the longest, I worked only as an independent contractor, free lancer or only brought on for short periods of time for projects. Now I'm finally at a place of work in which I'm getting support to develop professionally and I don't feel like a charity case.

I love my job and the work that I do there. That's why I stepped it up at the conference I attended. I balanced my outfits to be professional but also casual enough so I could navigate different spaces and use specific points of clothing as conversation starters. I mean, who wouldn't want to talk to the guy wearing hello kitty vans, ama I right? I did the same at the other conference because it made packing outfits easier and I needed layers cause I was in some cold ass places. It was my first attending both of the conferences and oddly enough, I presented at both. The first was more on that tip of my communications work and the second was on the organizing I do for fun with bikes. 

Having attended comic book conventions for years, attending conferences is a sinch for me. Although, I like the conferences that feature cosplay. However, at both conferences I was one of the few folks of color navigating those spaces. Those kind of situations always lend themselves to awkwardness, but it really can't be helped sometimes. There's this weird dynamic at conferences. We're all there for the same reasons, more or less, yet we ignore each for the better part. Outside of allotted spaces for folks to sit and make idle small talk, you gotta go outta your way to meet folks. 

All awkwardness aside, I took came away from these conferences with issues I need to reflect on and discuss with others. Aside from the unbalanced representation of women and people of color and how those dynamics can play out, my biggest take away is that I'm ahead of the curve. For all the different panels and sessions I attended, I picked up a few new tricks here and there, but nothing impactful. When it comes to the skills I have accumulated, I've always been on that DIY/popular education tip. As a result, I never placed any other values to my skills because they were communal and the lack of formality. I'm use to others touting their degrees, internships, and previous jobs when talking about their skill sets. Mean while, I'm all over here watching tutorials on youtube, but fuck it. I'm on the same level as them, aren't I? Damn skippy.          

I also had to be intentional with why I was there and who I was representing. It's easy enough for me to turn things on and mingle with folks around me. Make small talk here and there long enough to move on to another conversation with another random person. It's draining because you have to put yourself out there, but I will say it's worth it. Get to meet nice folks from different parts and you get into some interesting stories. Booze helps with that. That being said, I enjoyed my conference experiences mostly because of the individuals I was with. They made it that much more fun after hours, but also in connecting with others as well. While I didn't take much away in new skill sets, I'm looking at hosting my own next time around.  



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Co$t of Being Undocumented

As I get ready to do my taxes for 2014 and after having just sent in my renewal for Deferred Action, being a semi-legal resident is expensive. I say this not because I just realized it or because I'm getting hella taxed by the government, but because for as long as I can remember, money has been an issue advocates have used under reasons why immigrants should have a legal status in the US. Earlier this week, I found myself at a press conference for something that is happening here in Los Angeles. While the federal government deals with the situation in Texas that is stopping the roll out of DAPA and the DACA extension, the city is allocating money to help folks here in LA in signing up for DACA and DAPA. As seen from the tweet FWD.US posted, the city stands to collect a projected one billion dollars from individuals that qualify and get approved for DACA and DAPA.

Ohh sure, there are humanitarian reasons for providing services to immigrants, but it is all about the money. At said press conference, I asked myself if I was being a grumpy cat or a realist? A few years ago, I would have been all about this kinda stuff, but with a blind eye. For a lot of years, I stood behind and advocated for policies and programs that are hella fucked up when you stop to think about them critically. Thankfully, I know different now.

However, don't get it twisted. As an individual who is flourishing from the little support DACA provides, I accept the deal without any qualms. I fully acknowledge the numerous privileges tied to DACA, my age, my gender identity, my skills that pay the bills etc. For others, DACA is the greatest thing to have ever happened to them. I am not one of those people. My struggles are my own and while I have trouble finding sympathy for others these days, I don't speak for them.

I realize and acknowledge that the government isn't doing us any favors by granting us temporary status'. The desperation and need for them are sorely needed, but it really is no different that showing a photograph of oxygen to a drowning man. Everyone has to make peace with that. I question those who don't because ignorance and denial are just as bad. Thanks to my non-profit job and side hustles, I can afford to be a temporary resident, others can't and I remember that everyday.

I think about that when I'm buying comic books, eating out, going to the movies, buying random crap online that I don't need, $90 sneakers, craft beer, video game systems, $500 smart phones, art, books, food etc. I think about all that and I don't bat an eye. Experiencing the depths of grief helped me appreciate the heights of joy and brother lemme tell you, things are fucking joyous around these here parts.            

So what's the point I'm trying to make? Own your shit. Don't be coming round here touting some humanitarian rhetoric on how you are going to help all THESE IMMIGRANTS with what you are doing. Just straight up say, yo! We need to get all these immigrants temporary work permits cause they is going to be paying a shit load of taxes and not seeing any of it back. Straight up, they're going to be throwing money into the economy, social security, and everything else in between. We all gonna be rolling deep son, naw mean?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Maturity


I don't know if was me getting older that flipped the maturity switch, but within the last year, things have been making sense. As much as things can make sense. I've noticed a gradual change and it wasn't until someone mentioned it to me that I really thought about it. I know I've made growth, but it helps to have someone else also acknowledge it as well. I like it. While I'm faced with new challenges and opportunities, knowledge of self helps reassure that I'm on the right path on still moving forward.

The part of that bugs me out sometimes is that I never saw myself here. I'm not one to look ahead beyond the week or month, let alone year(s), but I am one to constantly look back to what has been and continue to learn from it. Everything I've been through and everyone whose supported me comes to mind when I stop to think about how good things are now. I'm enjoying getting older and I'm looking forward to what has yet to come.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bicycle Advocacy



For the last few years, since I started being more active on my bicycle as my main mode of transportation, slowly but surely my time and energy shifted from immigration to bicycle and pedestrian advocacy. For a good while though, both intersected and lead to the formation of an informal group of riders that mixed advocacy and cycling together. From organizing city to city rides to raise awareness on an issue like in-state tuition for undocumented students in higher education to learning more about neighborhood issues, we rode our bikes everywhere.

In the end, everything I learned while I was doing work on the Dream Act and other issues that still affect immigrants today served me well once I started doing the same kind of work, but with bicycles instead. the issues intersect on numerous levels, so it wasn't like I completely stopped doing that kind of work. the organization that I've committed myself to in doing this kind of work is Multi-Cultural Communities for Mobility.

I met two of the founding members at a house party. We hit it off that night and worked together in some of great events that connected issues on numerous levels, specially since they were working with day laborers at the time when I met them. Any way, time passed and we kept working together more and more. Our worlds kept getting smaller and smaller as our circles started over lapping and here we are today.

The video above is from work that was done last year in the neighborhood I live in, Boyle Heights. While it seems like I haven't been as active as I use to be when I was doing immigrant rights work, trust. I have. I just don't end up on tv or being on panel discussions as much as I use to be, which is no sweat off my back. I'm hella proud to be sharing said video because I had the pleasure of working with some dope ass folks. Part of why I stopped doing immigration work was cause of the internal politics and drama that was tied to it. There's no escaping that anywhere, but at least with bicycle advocacy, it's no where near as how it is in those immigration spaces.  

MCM is still a fairly young organization that has an amazing volunteers doing the work to raise the voices of communities of color when it comes to politics of pedestrian and bicycle advocacy. With this promotores project, there's been a hype building on the kind of work MCM is doing here in Los Angeles at the national level. MCM isn't the only ones doing this kind of work, but they are one of the more visible groups doing it. After all, part of the hustle is who you know and that's a fact in any space. 

I truly enjoy the work I do with MCM and I believe in everyone who is a part of it and putting in time to make it a great organization t be with. With the way things are moving, chances are I won't be going anywhere for a good long while. I'm currently employed at an amazing organization that not only believes in me, but is investing on my development. Can't tell you how great it feels to be in a position like that after being freelance for so long. Between that and the work I do at MCM, I'm doing my part for the different communities I live and share space with.