Overheard conversation…illustrating white privilege.

“Yeah I just kind of got into it. That thousand dollar camera lens just kinda fell on my lap. We also started using my mom’s tax ID to buy a bunch of shirts from American Apparel. It’s going well.”

It seems this person was talking about a graphic design business. 

Why this illustrates white privilege: this person took advantage of the opportunities presented to them and is using them to run a successful business. They are not sitting around idly. However, the access to tax IDs and thousand dollar camera lenses is easier to come by if you have a background of financial stability and networks. That is privilege, because while another person also might have talent and drive, they simply will not have access to those types of resources in their network.  


Where the Waves Break

Soccer games in the East. 
While the chess players go home from a day on the dirt floor and the concrete tables, the soccer players run back and forth, enjoying the cool that night brings. 

Mingling in the West. 

Concert goers finish beers, talk about guerrilleros, and bask in the last red lights of the Pavilion.

McArthur Park in 2017. A refuge for some. A venue for others. 

The man in my mind

You finally told me yourself, “I have Alzheimer’s.”

I think about the future and what it will hold – will I remember this time as the beginning of your mental decline?

I’m not sure what I’ll miss, because all this time I don’t know what I’ve missed out on. Thirteen years living with the same man, only to realize one day you’re not sure who they are at all.

In my journey to find peace, I have tried hard to understand you as the complicated being you are. While you remain one of my formative influences, out of necessity my search for self-love has led me away from you.

If you start to forget yourself, you will never be able to share with me who you are. I have long since given up hope on knowing who you really are, and now your mind will ensure us both that will happen.

And if you are still really there, and only pretending, I don’t know if I will be able to tell the difference.


The Weight Of A Gun

A twitch of a finger or a jammed piece of metal: tiny things that can change the world, when you hold the weight of a gun.

Poised at the ready, finger on the trigger – the force of a traveling bomb comes with the weight of a gun.

Inspired by a trip to the LA Gun Club, the bus stop ads for Ride Along 2, and the nonchalant way media portrays gun use.

Ride Along 2 and the portrayal of nonchalant gun useRide Along 2 and the portrayal of nonchalant gun use

Warriors Jiu Jitsu – Special Guest, Black Belt Bert Castro!

Warriors Jiu-Jitsu is a grassroots program focused on making Jiu-Jitsu available to everyone. Jiu-Jitsu practitioners and experienced strikers that have been going at it for a few years teach classes in Boyle Heights and El Sereno in exchange for donations. Currently, there are classes for kids, womyn and co-ed.

As word spreads about the Warriors Jiu-Jitsu program, others experienced in the martial art have donated their time and expertise to share techniques with members of the program. This Sunday, December 6, 2015 we had the honor of having Bert Castro, an experienced black belt, teach us some moves at The Eastside Cafe.

Students practices Jiu Jitsu moves at Eastside Cafe at a seminar taught by black belt Bert Castro. Thanks Bert!

Photos taken by Claudia Lara

We started off with what Bert called a “light” warm up of practicing shrimping, bridging, partnered leg lifts, writs pull-ups and kimura-practice sit-ups.

We then moved on to the moves – since I couldn’t remember the name for the first one, I have named it myself:

Wrist Grab Sweep Move (?)  Arm Lasso Sweep (edit 12/8 – thanks for the clarification Ernesto!)

This was a pretty cool way of sweeping someone you have in your guard. I can’t remember the name for it, so here’s a confusing and muddled description of it:

Person A pulls guard on Person B. A grabs B’s wrist with their same side hand then lassos their leg through. A’s opposite shin comes across B’s abdomen, and A takes the hand NOT grabbing B’s wrist and slips it under B’s legs, to go for a sweep. From there, Person A could either get a wrist lock (?) or a bicep slicer, but we let go of the person’s arm and went in for side guard.

This was a pretty cool move I’d never tried before. Gotta be careful with this one when practicing though – there were a few times I didn’t let go of my partner’s arm quickly enough, resulting in some groans of pain. Nothing too serious, but something to be aware of.

Students practices Jiu Jitsu moves at Eastside Cafe at a seminar taught by black belt Bert Castro. Thanks Bert!

Photos taken by Claudia Lara

We then moved on to the Kimura while pulling guard, how to defend it if you’re in someone’s guard, then how to submit even with that defense.

If someone grabs your wrist going for the Kimura, one defense is sticking your hand in the fold on the back of your knee and biting down with your leg. Pretty effective, except I noticed that for me, one leg was more effective than the other because of past knee issues. Very interesting to notice.

The next move I really liked. Say you’ve pulled guard and grab a hold of your opponent’s wrist to go for the Kimura and they defend by sticking their hand in the fold of their leg – you then take the leg on that same side of your body and lay it flat on the ground, while posting all the way up with your opposite arm (I kept making the mistake of only posting up to my elbow – don’t do that). You also have to take your opposite leg (the one on the same side as the arms you’ve posted up) and also post it up real high. Then you turn your head, away from your posted limbs, and sweep the person onto their back.

That one took me a while but I really liked it.

Defending the seat belt choke back from a seat belt hold
Students practice defending the seatbelt choke at a Jiu Jitsu seminar at Eastside Cafe taught by black belt Bert Castro.

Photos taken by Claudia Lara

If you happen to find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in someone’s seat belt choke hold, fear not – for Bert taught us some moves to defend against that (although the best defense is not giving someone your back to begin with).

So someone’s got you in a choke seat belt hold – first thing you do is put your hand over the arm that’s coming from under your shoulder. Then use your free arm to push down on your opponent’s leg to release their leg hooks, turn towards them and get your booty on the mat. From their you’ve already gotten out of the choke, but make sure to act fast and put yourself in a position of control.

Circle of Death

We ended the class by going around in a circle and taking turns calling out ab exercises – we got to choose between bicycle crunches, regular crunches and leg lifts. We had to do 20 reps each. I ain’t gonna lie – my leg lifts weren’t looking so hot after the fourth person. There were 10 of us, mind you. 200 ab reps. Not bad, I guess.

The End

I wrote this post for several reasons. For one, I think the Warriors Program is doing great things and it should be documented. Another reason – I told myself months ago that I would start documenting community work. Yet another – writing things out helps me remember.

Just note – this is NOT meant to be an instructional Jiu-Jitsu post. There are so many details not captured in this post – what type of grip to use and when, where to place (or not place) your hand to make sure your wrist doesn’t break, how exactly to position yourself and your limbs for an effective sweep/submission/defense. It was such a great class and we were so lucky to have an awesome teacher – very grateful to Bert Castro for his expertise, his time and his energy. Thanks Bert!!!

If you’re reading this and you’re curious and want to know more about how to use Jiu-Jitsu, come to class! It’s donation-based, with $10/month giving you not just Jiu-Jistu, but striking as well (not to mention community). And of course, if you can give more, why not?

Warriors Jiu-Jitsu

Co-ed classes: Tuesdays 8-10pm, The Eastside Cafe, 5469 Huntington Dr, Los Angeles, 90032

Womyn classes: Thursdays 7-9pm, La Concha, 1214 E 1st St, Los Angeles, 90033

Kids classes: Thursdays 6-7pm & Saturdays 1-3pm, La Concha, 1214 E 1st St, Los Angeles, 90033

Just because you throw something away, it doesn't mean it goes away.


Just because you throw something away, it doesn't mean it goes away.

Ever since getting back from my yearlong trip to Guatemala, I’ve been much more aware of trash and its presence in our world. This awareness has led to an effort on my part to recycle or repurpose as much as I can. Alongside that, I make an effort to consume disposable things as little as possible, although I have a lot of room to improve in that area.

90% of my trash goes into a paper bag devoted to recycling. About 10% goes into a small container that sits on top of my desk. In it, I’ve had to abandon the things I just don’t know how to repurpose or recycle:

  • disposable lighters
  • empty (or full) packets of ketchup/soy sauce/chili
  • headphones that no longer work
  • torn pieces of velcro
  • synthetic fabrics

I might, given time, energy and creativity, come up with ways to repurpose all of those things. But if I don’t want to become a hoarder of trash, I have to let it go.

But I know – those things will be around for a long, long time. I just won’t have to look at them anymore.

Raices Roots

I was doing a write-up on a bike trip I took. This segment didn’t end up being a good fit for what I needed, but since it was relevant otherwise, I thought I’d put it here.

“Our journey was transformative for each member of the collective in their own way. While Raíces Roots set out as a group, the journey took on different forms, routes and visions for all. Each of us grew together spiritually and emotionally, while striving to understand how best to support the growth of our individual selves. For this reason, there were several different branches of our collective riding in different directions – branch Arco Iris set off for Guatemala and got there in late November of 2012. Other branches arrived in December of 2012. Each member had varied experiences once they reached Guatemala – some visited family then went off on other journeys to the south. Others made their way to the coast of Belize to work and explore, before making their way back up north with stops along the Gulf of Mexico along the way. Others still took a bus through the Yucatan and up to the Chihuaha, visiting family in Mexico for a few weeks before heading back up to Los Angeles. Others stayed and finished graduate school in Guatemala, or worked on bici maquinas, or taught English. Each collective member you ask will have a different story to tell.”