Monthly Archives: November 2014

Peace in OUR Streets! by Rio Contreras

peace in our streets

* Click HERE to see more pictures of this procession from photographer Timos. 

On November 2nd 2014 the community of Temple/Beaudry and Filipinotown was blessed by the presence of people committed to stand up against violence.The procession was multi-cultural, intergenerational, and rich with love for our communities. This community happens to be nestled next to Echo Park and Downtown. This makes it a great location for working class people of color to have readily available community resources and viable transportation. Unfortunately, due to these assets the developers seem to have started encroaching on this community with forced upon foreclosures, evictions, and rental hikes. As the community is experiencing this displacement through systemic racism and classism, it is still going through high rates of inner-community violence. The violence includes abuse, hate, murder, fear and more. Recently there have been a few murders in the town and there has been no justice served for these families. By justice I mean that the conditions of the community’s poverty, trauma, and lack of resources have gone too long without any equitable attempts by local agencies to address these issues. When issues of this extremity go unaddressed, murder is a by-product of marginalization and oppression from society. I do not excuse murder, but I understand that the presence of murderers is not created in a vacuum and if a community shows signs of poverty and trauma we must address these issues at the root. This is done through resources, education, money, and love.

Our community that gathered for the Procession may not have many resources or money to offer, but we have decided that we can offer love for our streets and education. Our gathering was a live action to inform the community of the resources they have available and to show them that their lives matter. The efforts were led by people who reflect and are connected to that community in one way or another. This makes our actions authentic since we are not outsiders coming in we are insiders rising up! We have to say STOP to the damage done on our communities.

The procession was a visceral way to see our love enacted on the streets. Two emerging teenagers led our procession by dropping a carpet of marigolds on the street as the rest of us followed. These two youth are up-and-coming community organizers, as both of them live exactly within the communities we walked. It was powerful to see their families wait for them outside of their homes and see them pass by. One of the youth looked back at me and said, “Look I am an activist now.” These moments of beauty and self-actualization are what our community needs. We need to provide youth with the opportunities to be the shining light of our communities.

As they led the procession to our gathering spot we immediately heard local residents and people in solidarity with our movement share their testimonios and speak out against all forms of violence. This storytelling was intertwined and led by the North East Alliance (who resists displacement) through their Son Jorocho call and response. The palabras dropped help stitch renewed solidarity in that small neighborhood. The gathering continued with various types of ceremonial and traditional movements to claim that our multiracial communities unite for peace. There were Mexica danzantes who weaved through the streets and Kolective Binhi (Pin@y based group) jammed with their traditional instruments. GATAS Guerillera Arte por la Tierra, Autonomia, y Solidarida collective made an incredible altar and played the jarana and other instruments. There was Misako, an elder who led us through Tai Chi movement. Also El Comandante who spit words to fuel the fire inside of us to fight for justice. Our gathering was closed with the powerful drums of Changing Spirits, a Native American based traditional drum group, who pounded the sound for our ancestors who have fought for freedom.

This presence of deep love for our communities allowed me to witness the power in our multi: Racial, Generational, and Gender gathering. Our event was filled with families, children, babies, grandparents and elders. The strength garnered by everyone’s spirits triumphed in the first mishap that came to my attention. Arts Corps Los Angeles (ACLA) attempted to bully us out of the space, claiming they had legal rights to Los Angeles Unified School District land: the people who work, care, and love the land are the guardians of the land! ACLA has been known to disrupt many community-building events. One of the men who showed up called the police.  Yet, our unity and our spirits prevailed as their failed attempts to call the police amounted to nothing.

The second mishap came to my attention after the procession. The lead Mexica danzante, Pastel, has been asked out of various communities for what has been perceived as his inability to maintain true accountability for his sexually violent behavior on youth. I only know this story through the pipeline but I am vehemently against collaborating with people who have caused trauma without true community accountability. My stance on this issue aligns with my stance against inner-community violence, which was one of the cornerstones of our procession. Yet, I believe in healing and transformation and will work with people who are committed in actively holding themselves accountable for the hurt they have caused. For more information on this issue you may read further on this link:

What is most notable about this situation was my personal and collective growth with LA Rooted. As soon as we found out about the situation named above, LA Rooted collective members immediately scheduled the next available gathering time despite how far we live from each other and our personal busy lives. In that meeting we had a chance to heal, grow, and push ourselves further to align with our values. About a year ago LA Rooted decided that a key value for our group was to ensure that we not collaborate with individuals or organizations that perpetuated trauma or oppression. It was severely disappointing for all of us to find out about Pastel a day after the fact. LA Rooted is committed to acting on these situations immediately as they arise. The key growth in this situation, however, is that we will be more active in ensuring that the key collaborators for functions we are a part of sign on to a community accountability agreement. This will hopefully help increase transparency and communicate to everyone that we are not down to work with people who damage our communities, particularly those without accountability. Additionally, our collective is making it clear that we are open to having healing spaces for trauma, both as receivers and perpetrators.The fact that our collective came to these strong conclusions makes me grateful for the learning, the growing and the healing I am experiencing with such a thoughtful group of individuals. This is a gratitude to the LA Rooted Family!

The leading collaborators overall for this event were LA Rooted, STAY (Standing Together Advocating for our Youth), and Homies Unidos. Together we did a great job in collecting the various resources and pieces necessary to build a strong framework for people to come together and collaborate in the creation of what peace in the streets looks like. We are all proud of such an impactful event. It has personally fueled me for at least another year to continue our fight against all forms of violence from the state, health inequities, inner-community, and displacement. Our communities are stronger together; we only need ourselves to rise up for peace, unity, and love!

To check out some of the amazing pictures from this event please visit either website

Much Love,

Rio Contreras