Young Anger: Death comes to Miami

Youth, anger, lack of life experiences, and aimlessness can force a young person to do the unthinkable. When news of the murder of a 17-year old at the Miami Job Corps was reported, I asked myself how could four Job Corps students take the life of one of their own. First, Job Corps offers young adults (16 – 24) a free education (High School Diploma and certification in a career such as nursing), free housing, free meals, free dental work, free health insurance, free career placement, free counseling, and other free resources. Often times, the access to stable housing is what attracts a number of applicants to the nation wide government program.  These students live in transitional housing with a relative, a spouse, or a friend and are in need of permanent housing. Also, Job Corps is attractive to young people who are homeless.

The four students involved in the murder, Christian Colon, Desiray Strickland, Kaheem Arbelo and Jonathan Lucas were known as violent bullies on campus. However, it is not Miami Job Corps fault for allowing these students to stay on campus. The goal of the school is to transform the lives of young people. If school officials and the residential staff saw potential in the students, I am sure if previous incidents occurred they argued on behalf of the students. No one working at the school wants to throw a student out on the streets to potentially fall prey to human trafficking, prostitution, selling drugs, or gang activity or being a victim of violence. All of those realities are possible for a young person living on the streets in Miami.

Hopefully, the school doesn’t lose funding from the Department of Labor and the public realizes that this was an act of violence committed by people with anger issues created by the systems that the school was trying to protect them from. This death is no different from the number of deaths that occur across the country at various schools and jobs. However, this fact does not minimize the loss that has wounded the students at Miami Job Corps.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Written Word

Video: Reiki Bowl Burning Ceremony for Writing Workshop in Malibu Hills

While working at a trade school in Florida, I first discovered reiki. A female student complained that she had a headache. A male student said that he could alleviate her symptoms naturally through reiki. He asked the female student to close her eyes. He rubbed two silver bracelets at his wrists and placed his hands beside her temples (without touching her). Everyone in the classroom sat in silence for about ten minutes. He asked the female student to open her eyes and explain what it felt like he was doing. She said, “waving your hands fast on the side of my head.”

“How do you feel,” he asked her.

“Actually, better,” she said. “My headache is gone.”

It wasn’t until moving to Los Angeles three years later that I would have reiki performed on my self and experienced its cleansing power. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under The Creative Spark

Video: East Los High Actress Tracy Perez talks about Jennifer Lopez, Meryl Streep, the Industry, and HIV

Actress Tracy Perez from the hit Hulu show, “East Los High” speaks to Camp Hollywood Heart in Malibu Hills about Jennifer Lopez, Meryl Streep, being Latina in the entertainment industry, how to break into the industry, and what it means to play a character with HIV on the show.

“East Los High” is a drama series produced and written by Carlos Portugal about teens growing up in East Los Angeles from the American-Latino perspective. The show is the only all-Latino cast show on Hulu.

Perez plays Vanessa De La Cruz. In Season 1 Episode 1 her character is videotaped having sex in a parked car and the video goes viral. The show also stars Janine Larina, Gabriel Chavarria, and Alicia Sixtos.

The founder of The Wall-Las Memorias Project, Richard Zaldivar spoke before Perez at the event. Zaldivar discussed the important of HIV/AIDS advocacy and why the The Wall-Las Memorias Project was important to build in East Los Angeles. Perez’s character contracts HIV from having unprotected sex.

Watch the video to learn more about Tracy Perez and her controversial character.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Written Word

Why I Teach Young People

Student drawing

Two couches, two oversize chairs, and two folding chairs are moved into a circle. They come in from two different entrances. All execpt one has the notebooks that I gave to them yesterday. We sit in the same seats from yesterday. With me at the head of the circle, I ask for the class to go over ground rules to ensure everyone is comfortable with the space we are creating. Afterwards, I tape the list to the door and start the class with a writing prompt.

“I’ve had this dream,” one of the girls says.

I jot down notes on her piece and realize why I teach young people – to build community. Older writers are purposed to excite the minds of young writers with the fantastic and the impossible to expand the community.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Written Word

Writing as a Spirtual Practice: a sound walk experiment and reiki ceremony

Photo via Tomas Sobek

Photo via Tomas Sobek

“The writing of (Soma)tics is an engagement with the thing of things and the spirit of things” … CA Conrad.

Since I discovered CA Conrad, his (Soma)tic exercises have greatly influenced my writing. (Soma)tic poetry investigates the “infinite space between body and spirit by using nearly any possible thing around or of the body to channel the body out and/or in toward spirit with deliberate and sustained concentration.”

Tomorrow, I will start a one-week writing workshop in Malibu Hills at Camp Hollywood Heart. To help my writing students learn (Soma)tic techniques, we will go on a sound walk and have a reiki bowl burning ceremony. On the sound walk, we will focus our attention on sounds and we will incorporate the sounds into our writing. In the reiki bowl burning ceremony, the students will write down negative things that they want to let go of. They will write on biodegradable paper. After finishing, they will tear the paper up, place the papers in the bowl, and we will symbolically burn the paper by throwing it off of a cliff.

As the students write, they will receive reiki energy work from Reiki Master, Carlos Caridad from the Centre For Life in Los Angeles. The energy work is intended to heal emotional trauma and stress and bring back to balance the electro-magnetic energy fields of their bodies. We will have a mini writing session after the reiki practice and see the impact it has on their bodies. The ceremony will take place in a Jewish sanctuary at Gindling Hilltop Camp.

I was inspired to create the reiki bowl burning ceremony after reading one of Conrad’s exercises.

Wash a penny, rinse it, slip it under your tongue and walk out the door. Copper is the metal of Aphrodite, never ever forget this, never, don’t forget it, ever. Drink a little orange juice outside and let some of the juice rest in your mouth with the penny. Oranges are the fruit of Aphrodite, and she is the goddess of Love, but not fidelity. Go somewhere outside, go, get going with your penny and juice. Where do you want to sit? Find it, and sit there. What is the best Love you’ve ever had in this world? Be quiet while thinking about that Love. If someone comes along and starts talking, quietly shoo them away, you’re busy, you’re a poet with a penny in your mouth, idle chit-chat is not your friend. Be quiet so quiet, let the very sounds of that Love be heard in your bones. After a little while, take the penny out of your mouth and place it on the top of your head. Balance it there and sit still a little while, for you are now moving your own forces quietly about in your stillness. Now get your pen and paper and write about POVERTY, write line after line about starvation and deprivation from the voice of one who has been Loved in this world.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Written Word

L.A. Pride for the First Time: A story for HomoCentric Reading Series

A Story for the Homo-Centric Reading Series
Read for the One City, One Pride Arts Festival
In Celebration of West Hollywood’s 30th Anniversary

Being a polysemic word, Pride means something different between members of the LGBT community. Whether it’s getting the masses to sign a petition, dressing in drag as a cultural protest, safely holding hands with a loved one in public or donning a colorful ensemble, these acts represent Pride. Los Angeles Pride is a smorgasbord of the above times twenty. At my first L.A. Pride, I had the opportunity to walk in the parade with Erase Doubt, an L.A. County-wide safe sex campaign. For the parade, I had to bounce a giant black beach ball that towered over my head. To launch it high up in the air, I lifted the ball above my head and smashed it to the ground. My arms cramped up from exhaustion after two minutes. Another guy had a matching beach ball. Printed prominently on our black balls was the AIDS virus.

Before the parade, I practiced what I would say to attract attention to our group. I settled on, “come stroke my black balls” and “don’t you want to juggle these?” Other people from our group would pass out condoms, beads, t-shirts, and drawstring bags with AIDS ribbons.

I was expecting a large crowd, but what I wasn’t expecting was the number of people that would greet us from the sidewalk. Thousands cheered, waved, high-fived us, stroked my ball, asked for pictures, and selfies. After the parade, an on-looker said it was quite a sight to see two colossal black balls bouncing toward The Abbey.

This year Pride turns forty-five, and that experience made me think about the first Pride in West Hollywood. How did those first walkers feel being greeted not only by the cheers of hundreds, but also hundreds of protesters? It must have been the disquiet that promised to suck the air from their lungs faster than a thumbtack through a balloon. For those brave men and women, I proudly bounced my giant black ball through West Hollywood.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Written Word

Post-Same Sex Marriage: Why are Some Gay People Mad?

Marriage equality protest in D.C. Photo by Elvert Barnes.

Marriage equality protest in D.C. Photo by Elvert Barnes.

Every single American – gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender – every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society. It’s a pretty simple proposition,” said President Barak Obama at the Human Rights Campaign national dinner in 2011. Seated in the audience were a number of Black gay men, including LZ Granderson, senior writer for ESPN magazine; Alvin McEwen, contributor to The Huffington Post; Justin Stewart, producer for WJLA-ABC 7 News; and Michael Crawford, Digital Director of the Freedom to Marry campaign. Some of them applauded, while others choose not to after the president’s statement. Even though, they all were concerned about the possibility of marriage for all, none of them thought they’d see it during their lifetime.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry. The unprecedented decision was a period at the end of a forty-six year old sentence, which started when patrons at a gay bar rallied after a police raid.

So what does the ruling mean for Black gay men?

Same-sex couples can now apply for veteran’s benefits and Social Security. The Social Security Administration issued a statement encouraging “spouses, divorced spouses, or surviving spouses of a same-sex marriage or non-marital legal same-sex relationship” to apply for benefits right away.

According to Kathleen Michon, a lawyer, “ a surviving spouse of a worker entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits may be entitled to receive retirement benefits based on the deceased spouse’s earning record.”

Michon added, “for retired married couples, a person whose calculated Social Security benefit is lower than that of his or her spouse may take half of his or her spouse’s higher benefit, rather than receive the amount calculated from his own earnings.”

Other benefits that same-sex couples can benefit from include: tax benefits, estate tax and estate planning, immigration benefits, education benefits, and federal employment benefits. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under The Written Word