Je suis, yo soy, I am an Angelino living in Northern California, El Norte–my performances with The Humboldt Circus, contributions to the Toyon Literary Journal and ecological film editing with the California Environmental Legacy Project have been part of my experience here in–Arcata, California. My home community however is Virgil Village (located within Los Angeles, California).
Raising a family in Virgil Village, or in any Los Angeles neighborhood during the 1990s, I imagine, was filled with many moments of doubt, joy, frustration, and triumph. During that decade, Los Angeles was a city that had survived through, as muralist Peter Quezada once painted, “fires, earthquakes and “riots.” Now, years after the Rodney King incident,the Northridge earthquake and Los Angeles’ infamous seasonal fires, I ask myself “what has changed?”
Today the streets of Virgil Villare are filled with blossoming trees, families of various cultural backgrounds and bicyclists of all ages, but it wasn’t always this way.
In earlier days I recall how often Rampart Police department’s helicopters flew over the neighborhood and patroled every street–with spotlights that illuminated the streets, sidewalks, apartment complexes and the faces of pedestrians. My coming of age in Virgil Village (which is few miles south-east of Hollywood’s historic Avalon Theatre, and west of Silver Lake, Echo Park, and D.T.L.A.) during the 1990s gifted me with many opporunities for personal, spiritual and emotional growth.
During my youth I was inspired by my uncle Peter Quezada and found various mediums through which I could communicate my inner thoughts. He taught me that I could transform the world around me through work, art, commitment (to community, to self), and integrity. Over the years, as we transformed graffiti filled walls into colorfully painted community-centered murals, I discovered my the liberating power of writing, theatre and poetry.
Today, I have seen the transformational process unfold before my eyes, from the trees which I assisted in planting on Virgil boulevard over 15 years ago, to the growth I have experienced as a poet, author and performer. Over the course of this past year I was included in the anthology Rushing Waters, Rising Dreams: How the Arts are Transforming a Community (published by Tia Chuchas Press and Edited by Chicano author Luis J. Rodriguez and/y Dr Denise Sandoval ), and have been a returning guest on CRN’s digital radio show Divine Love Talk (Hosted by Dr. Parthenia Grant). In addition, I have been published extensively in “The Womyn’s Resource Center’s” biannual publication The Matrix— notably recognized by The Nation magazine alongside Rutgers and Berkley university.
As a liberating force, art speaks what the tongue cannot put into words.
I consider myself to be an Angelino, as much as I consider myself to be a writer, muralist or co-inhabitor of this planet and this a guiding awareness that embody: I recognize the interconnectivity that exists between art, community strengthening and the transformational power experienced when the two converege. Furthermore, I believe that art,in its many forms, can transform the way we see the world, from personal gardens, to diverse bioregions.
Today, Peter Quezada has shifted his community unifying efforts towards gardening while I have shifted my efforts towards print and visual mediums–expressing my own ecological insights from an urbanite perspective.