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


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.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hair Loss

Funny thing about hair is that it grows back. All you need is some patience. Four years ago, I started growing out my hair, both on my head and on my face because of a kind of trauma I experienced, heart break. Four years ago might as well be a life time ago for me. It took time and a lot of venting on my part, but I got over it. Not only did I get over it, but I learned from it and bettered myself as an individual and as a romantic partner. There's still plenty more room for further growth, but that heart ache was something I needed. Much like when someone who doesn't know how to swim is tossed into a pool by a loved one. Amid all the flailing arms and gasping for air, you eventually calm down and start getting the hang of it. That or someone has to come in and save you. I learned to swim, despite not actually knowing how to swim in real life. I actually tried that jumping into the deep end thing once and almost died. Well not died, but it still sucked pretty bad.

Anyway, heart broken. I wrote about it back in 2010 if you wanna look for those post, but I'll save you the trouble. The break up wasn't a kind of 'it's not working out' or 'it's not you, it's me' kind of deal. It was all the insecurities I had back then about being undocumented thrown in my face by someone who was just as emotionally immature as I was. Dude, that shit hurt like a mother fucker. Not gonna lie. I spent a good month after that mopping around and that included not shaving. I went to work, school, etc but with a gloomy cloud over me. Eventually work put their foot down and told me to shave, so I did. While I was shaving, I made the decision to start growing a mustache. I was so down in the dumps, that I needed to make myself feel as unattractive as I could. That included growing a mustache, which doesn't really make sense, but a lot of stuff that didn't make sense four years ago now makes some sort of sense.

A few months into making myself ugly, it started to turn around. I have the kind of long hair that is only attainable through genetics. Turns out that's the kind of hair women like. I also found that I liked women who preferred facial hair over being clean cut. At that point, I pretty much just went along for the ride and took it for what it was. That mustache became attached to my identity, along with my hair. Not saying that I didn't enjoy the attention or the fun I had, but both my hair, facial and scalp, were inherently tied to that one moment of trauma. So long as I had them, I was never going to be truly over that experience. I made that connection today at work when I was sharing why I shaved the stache.

In late June of last year, a month away from my 30th born day, I decided to cut my hair. It being waste long, there was a lot of 'why did you do it.' Not soo much with the mustache. Sure folks have been surprised, but not as much as the hair. My stache was firmly attached my over all 'look', so cutting it was like cutting off a part of my identity. And mind you this wasn't something that I was thinking about doing for months on end, I literally decided to do it as I was watching TV. It's been fun seeing folks' reactions to my baby face. I'd be lying if the attention I'm getting wasn't something fulfilling some need for attention, but I did it for me.

I've grown immensely in four years and I'm proud of myself. I have the kind of stability that has taken me a long time to attain and I wanna enjoy it. While part of me longs to share that with someone else, that's not in the cards right now for reasons beyond my understanding. But it's cool yo. I'm comfortable being independent until the right person comes along. That being said, I'll leave you with a link to one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite anime sound tracks. Back in the myspace days, I use to do that all the time. Post a song and share my feelz. Ahh, nostalgia :) BTW you can see a pic of me clean shaven on my instagram.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Cultural Chameleon

Every so often I'm reminded of the unique ability I have to inhabit different spaces. It's an ability a lot of people I know have. I was at a comic book art show held at an art gallery that is located in the middle of the callejones. As I looked down into the streets from the third floor of this gallery, I felt a kind of slap come across me. I'm so use to going from one space to another that I rarely think about what that means in terms of culture, social norms, and privileges.

While I can be in these different spaces, I get looks from of curiosity and bewilderment, as if I don't belong there. I've been living like this for as long as I can remember, but it wasn't until college that I was able to aptly put a name behind it. Nepantla is a Nahuatl word meaning 'in between' or 'the space in the middle.' There's a lot of other meanings attached to that word in Chicano/a academic spaces, but I I'm not attached to it.

It's easy for someone like me to gravitate to a word like that, whether it is in Nahuatl or any other language. My life is a representation of 'living in between' due to my immigration status and the spaces I inhabit in my day to day life. For all the existential quandaries I've had over the years, I can't imagine my life being any other way. The fact that I can go from talking to someone about their cat art to being able to connect with a street vendor with a few simple words is price less.

I have the privilege of being part of a culture that traces its history thousands of years. I live in a community that creates are that connects the present to the past. I work at a job that connects issues across classes, races, and cities. I transition countless of times on a daily basis and I forget that. Like water, I take the shape of the container I am in, but I am still water. I can be solid, liquid or a gas, but I am still water.

That's why I don't like limiting myself to just one single identity when I can be part of many. It is in that cross pollination that new ideas are born. Mash ups of Lucha Libre and Star Wars. Eastern philosophy and hip-hop. Being Americanized yet not being a US citizen. I forget how good I have it when it comes to being able to participate, understand, and love the works of other cultures while still finding threads that connect it to mine.

When I make connects between cultures, stories, art etc I get this feeling in my chest. A feeling of discovery and to tell everyone I know about it. Over the years, that feeling has stayed the same but my wanting to share with anyone else has not. I tried sharing these connections with others but few get it and fewer share the same passion for it that I do. As such, I keep it to myself, which pains me at times. Here I am finding connections between anime and my working class experiences and I can share them with no one. No one else to talk to about them and flush it out even further.

From the outside it just looks like I'm obsessed with pop-culture, cartoons, and cats. That fine. The growth of others is not my responsibility, nor will I go out of my way to make those connections for someone. Like true great art, it is never fully appreciated by the masses for what it is. As I'm getting older, I'm learning to let go of this want that pushes me to share what I love because no one else will understand it. I'll just keep it for myself in the space in-between.        

Sunday, November 30, 2014

What Happened to Yesterdays Snow?

I can't remember the last time I things were this good in my life. (Knocks on wood.) For everything that's going on in the world right now with people getting killed by cops, students missing, and Obama's latest immigration announcement, I have a lot going for me. I like it. This is new for me and its been having positive affects on my over all disposition and outlook on life. Even now, during the most loathsome time of the year, I'm enjoying myself by being around people I want to be with and not those I have to be forced to be with. Amazing how having a choice can make a world of difference.