local insights

October: DON’T VOTE…for de Posada!

Robert de Posada is head of Latinos for Reform, a group that urged Latinos, especially in Nevada, to not vote on Nov. 2. The ad stated, “Democratic leaders must pay for their broken promises and betrayals…if they didn’t keep their promise on immigration reform, then they can’t count on our vote. Don’t vote this November. This is the only way to send them a clear message. You can no longer take us for granted. Don’t vote.”

Despite his advice to others, Posada voted by absentee ballot in the state of Virginia. When confronted about this, he claimed that he didn’t see a contradiction, and said he urged people to vote, only that they not vote for those “who betray you.” Posada is a Republican strategist and a former Director of Hispanic Affairs for the Republican National Committee. Latinos for Reform is also funded by the GOP, a fact that the ad fails to mention.

Univision pulled the ad after Democrats accused it of promoting cynicism and voter suppression. Posada said he will file a claim citing violation of the First Amendment. Democrat Harry Reid won Nevada’s Senate seat.

September: ¡No MEGusta!

Failed Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman learned the hard way that money can’t buy you love. Spending a record breaking $160 million, the former eBay CEO will have to go back to being an average billionaire.

After months of invading Pandora Internet Radio and YouTube with pop-up ads touting her commitment to California, Whitman will hopefully disappear into obscurity, joining the numerous failed political hopefuls that were unable to purchase an election.

The greatest contradiction was Whitman’s massive Spanish language media campaign that attempted to sway Latinos, despite opposing bilingual education. Whitman’s website craftily kept her views hidden from the Latino community, having links for ‘Latinos for Meg’ and ‘MEGaMujeres,’ which provided a toolkit for organizing and recruiting volunteers while simultaniously proclaiming her opposition to Arizona’s SB1070.

Whitman went a step further by denouncing Proposition 187, an anti-immigrant bill passed in the early 90s of which her campaign chairman Pete “Pito” Wilson was an avid proponent. While having a former California governor on her team was a positive, had Whitman participated in the political process previously, she would have known that Latinos despise Wilson with a passion.

While the political rhetoric of creating jobs, fixing education, and cutting spending continued to spew from her protruding gums, connecting with voters on a basic human level proved to be a challenge. The cold charred piece of flesh that now sits where her heart used to be became clearly visible to voters when Whitman’s former housekeeper stepped out of the shadows.

Serving as contradictory evidence of a vital portion of Whitman’s anti-immigrant political platform, Nicky Diaz Santillan worked for over nine years without documentation at the Whitman home. Obviously fearing the looming backlash spawned by her hypocrisy, Whitman called foul and stated that her former housekeeper should be deported. It seems even California sunshine is not enough to warm the frosty yellowish plasma-like substance that courses through her veins.

After spending a record $141.6 million of her own hard-earned cash on her campaign, Whitman was outdone by a former disgruntled housekeeper.

Whitman said it best in a letter of defeat posted on her website: “Politics too often lacks humanity.”  If by politics Whitman means “former eBay CEOs who run for political office,” then we and millions of California voters are in agreement.

Obama in L.A. to Urge Students to Vote

Awaiting the Commander-in-Chief

Over 30,000 students and community members were in attendance to see President Barrack Obama during his brief visit to Los Angeles on October 22.

Arriving at the University of Southern California via Marine One, Obama joined other elected Democrats in an effort to motivate the parties base for the upcoming November election.

Actor and comedian Jaime Foxx hosted the event while using his digital camera to capture the audiences reactions.

“Im going to put this in a movie,” said Foxx as he led the crowd in chants of “Yes We Can” and “Si Se Puede.”

Obama was introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer who is currently campaigning against former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina for the Senatorial seat.

Gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown also attended and spoke briefly about the future of California.

California Gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown

“When I see the power of the sun, I know we don’t need either Saudi Arabian oil or Texas gas, we got California sun, and it can fuel the economy,” Brown said.

Brown, who is running against former eBay CEO republican candidate Meg Whitman, said “we don’t scapegoat anybody, not public workers, not immigrants, not anybody because were all Californians together.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaragosa, and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis were also part of the line-up of elected officials who urged students to vote.

Obama in L.A. to Urge Students to Vote

Awaiting the Commander-in-Chief

Over 30,000 students and community members were in attendance to see President Barrack Obama during his brief visit to Los Angeles on October 22.

Arriving at the University of Southern California via Marine One, Obama joined other elected Democrats in an effort to motivate the parties base for the upcoming November election.

Actor and comedian Jaime Foxx hosted the event while using his digital camera to capture the audiences reactions.

“Im going to put this in a movie,” said Foxx as he led the crowd in chants of “Yes We Can” and “Si Se Puede.”

Obama was introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer who is currently campaigning against former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina for the Senatorial seat.

Gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown also attended and spoke briefly about the future of California.

California Gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown

“When I see the power of the sun, I know we don’t need either Saudi Arabian oil or Texas gas, we got California sun, and it can fuel the economy,” Brown said.

Brown, who is running against former eBay CEO republican candidate Meg Whitman, said “we don’t scapegoat anybody, not public workers, not immigrants, not anybody because were all Californians together.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaragosa, and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis were also part of the line-up of elected officials who urged students to vote.

Education with Imagination: 826LA innovates student services

The Echo Park Time Travel Mart

If you’re a time traveller about to go gallivanting into the medieval times, you should stop by the Echo Park Time Travel Mart to pick up any last-minute chain-link armor or bottled humors.

The playful time travel-themed storefront doubles as the entrance to the main room of 826LA, the Los Angeles branch of the national 826 non-profit organization that provides both on and off-site writing and tutoring support for kids ages 6 to 18.

Each branch has an idiosyncratic storefront, eccentrically themed and stocked. They follow a tradition stemming from the original site’s pirate supply store at 826 Valencia – conceived because the building happened to be licensed to the organization as a business.

The whimsical storefronts attract community members who learn about the 826 upon exploring the interior while sales from specialty items alongside student work help fund the non-profit organization.

Off-site, 826 helps local public school teachers develop or work with existing curriculum to facilitate the student progress.

Former high school teacher Joel Arquillos’ social studies class at the Galileo Academy of Science and Technology in San Francisco was

one of the first that 826 teamed up with to provide in-class support for four years.

Arquillos, a 39-year-old Eagle Rock resident, remembers when his class participated in 826’s Young Authors Book Project in 2005.

Over the course of the school year, students wrote and published a collection of family legends, titled “Home Wasn’t Built in a Day.” Actor and comedian Robin Williams funded the project, wrote the book’s forward, and much to students’ disbelief, attended the kick-off event and final release of the book.

Now the executive director of 826LA, Arquillos said that on top of providing the in-class support, and free community workshops and after-school tutoring services on-site, 826LA hopes to improve outreach to high school students by offering them services tailored to their needs.

One way Arquillos said the organization hopes to do so is through direct communication. Michelle De Leon, a 16-year-old student at Downtown Magnet High School in Los Angeles, serves along with fellow high school teenagers as part of 826’s Youth Advisory Board.

De Leon has experienced first-hand the resources 826LA offers. She and her friends approached the organization with a proposal to publish a fashion magazine.

826LA did not only provide tools to print the magazine, but brought in professional writers and editors to guide them through their first publication, even throwing them a launch party for the magazine’s debut.

826LA’s impressive services consistently go above and beyond. The organization manages to encourage students to develop their creative writing skills with fun, engaging activities, and tangible results. According to Arquillos, in just five years, 826LA has served over 10,000 students.

In an 826LA field trip, classes come out to the writing lab where they’re met by the voice of Mr. Barnacle, a particularly finicky editor – played by an unseen volunteer – who hates clichés and demands original work.

A professional artist illustrates the stories as volunteers type them up. In two hours or less, each student leaves with a bound book as a published author.

Paulina Aguilar, 826LA intern and fourth-year UCLA sociology student, volunteers an average of 15 to 20 hours a week at 826LA East, the organization’s Echo Park location.

Aguilar said she feels lucky to have found a venue that allows her to connect with students and enjoys fostering their creative growth.

“We’re all there to be cheerleaders, encouraging them and complimenting them along the way,” she said.

From her first visit to 826LA in March, she immediately saw how committed the organization is to serving children and knew right away she wanted to be a part of it. Almost half a year later, Aguilar said she still remembers feeling a child-like amazement at the quirky and unique space.

As De Leon put it, “Impossible doesn’t exist here. There’s always room for more.”

Get involved!! Learn more at 826la.org

Education with Imagination: 826LA innovates student services

The Echo Park Time Travel Mart

If you’re a time traveller about to go gallivanting into the medieval times, you should stop by the Echo Park Time Travel Mart to pick up any last-minute chain-link armor or bottled humors.

The playful time travel-themed storefront doubles as the entrance to the main room of 826LA, the Los Angeles branch of the national 826 non-profit organization that provides both on and off-site writing and tutoring support for kids ages 6 to 18.

Each branch has an idiosyncratic storefront, eccentrically themed and stocked. They follow a tradition stemming from the original site’s pirate supply store at 826 Valencia – conceived because the building happened to be licensed to the organization as a business.

The whimsical storefronts attract community members who learn about the 826 upon exploring the interior while sales from specialty items alongside student work help fund the non-profit organization.

Off-site, 826 helps local public school teachers develop or work with existing curriculum to facilitate the student progress.

Former high school teacher Joel Arquillos’ social studies class at the Galileo Academy of Science and Technology in San Francisco was

one of the first that 826 teamed up with to provide in-class support for four years.

Arquillos, a 39-year-old Eagle Rock resident, remembers when his class participated in 826’s Young Authors Book Project in 2005.

Over the course of the school year, students wrote and published a collection of family legends, titled “Home Wasn’t Built in a Day.” Actor and comedian Robin Williams funded the project, wrote the book’s forward, and much to students’ disbelief, attended the kick-off event and final release of the book.

Now the executive director of 826LA, Arquillos said that on top of providing the in-class support, and free community workshops and after-school tutoring services on-site, 826LA hopes to improve outreach to high school students by offering them services tailored to their needs.

One way Arquillos said the organization hopes to do so is through direct communication. Michelle De Leon, a 16-year-old student at Downtown Magnet High School in Los Angeles, serves along with fellow high school teenagers as part of 826’s Youth Advisory Board.

De Leon has experienced first-hand the resources 826LA offers. She and her friends approached the organization with a proposal to publish a fashion magazine.

826LA did not only provide tools to print the magazine, but brought in professional writers and editors to guide them through their first publication, even throwing them a launch party for the magazine’s debut.

826LA’s impressive services consistently go above and beyond. The organization manages to encourage students to develop their creative writing skills with fun, engaging activities, and tangible results. According to Arquillos, in just five years, 826LA has served over 10,000 students.

In an 826LA field trip, classes come out to the writing lab where they’re met by the voice of Mr. Barnacle, a particularly finicky editor – played by an unseen volunteer – who hates clichés and demands original work.

A professional artist illustrates the stories as volunteers type them up. In two hours or less, each student leaves with a bound book as a published author.

Paulina Aguilar, 826LA intern and fourth-year UCLA sociology student, volunteers an average of 15 to 20 hours a week at 826LA East, the organization’s Echo Park location.

Aguilar said she feels lucky to have found a venue that allows her to connect with students and enjoys fostering their creative growth.

“We’re all there to be cheerleaders, encouraging them and complimenting them along the way,” she said.

From her first visit to 826LA in March, she immediately saw how committed the organization is to serving children and knew right away she wanted to be a part of it. Almost half a year later, Aguilar said she still remembers feeling a child-like amazement at the quirky and unique space.

As De Leon put it, “Impossible doesn’t exist here. There’s always room for more.”

Get involved!! Learn more at 826la.org

Can you read this?



Imagine how it would feel if the writing on street signs and businesses was indecipherable. This is a reality for over 200,000 Spanish-speaking immigrants in Los Angeles County alone, and an estimated 2 million people nationwide.

At Centro Latino for Literacy, staff and volunteers help Latino immigrants gain basic literacy in Spanish with the goal of preparing students for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Founded in 1991, Centro Latino has helped over 7,000 low-income Latinos read and write in Spanish, as well as gain functional literacy in areas like math, computers, finances, and health. Despite pressure to immediately teach immigrants to read and write in English, literacy in one’s native language facilitates a stronger cognitive foundation, making it considerably easier to transfer reading and writing skills to a second language. As a result, teaching native Spanish speakers how to read and write in their own language is a vital step for ESL programs.

Centro Latino's Leamos class works with Maestra Teresa to parse syllables

Writing one’s name is a crucial skill many of Centro Latino’s students did not have the opportunity to learn in their country of birth. The beginning course, Leamos (‘let’s read’), starts by teaching students to first recognize and write individual letters, then syllables, and eventually read words and sentences. Using an internet-based program, each student moves at his/her own pace following audio instructions. Key words frame each lesson, starting with “educación,” a witty example of all five vowels in one word. It takes about 100-120 hours to complete the 43-lesson curriculum in Leamos, both a rapid and impressive feat. Once students graduate from Leamos, they enter the Funcional class where they learn basic functional literacy, and finally progress to ESL classes.

In 2008 Centro Latino launched “10×10,” a campaign to reach 10,000 people by the end of 2010. Since many are unable to reach the Pico-Union headquarters, the campaign aims to bring the literacy program to the people, raising program awareness and launching new school sites in classrooms ranging from Van Nuys to Long Beach. With the widespread access of the internet, Leamos has even expanded to parts of Mexico.

Centro's Funcional class transcribes Maestro Jorge's words and sentences

Centro Latino is not just a place to learn literacy, but a place to develop personal confidence and self-esteem. The school takes pride in its community atmosphere and its graduates often return as volunteers and mentors. Through the program, students learn to acknowledge their role as leaders in the community. “They don’t see themselves as teachers, but they’re already leaders in their households,” says Veronica Flores, Centro Latino’s Programs & Community Engagement Manager. “I don’t like to use the word empower,” Flores explains, “they have it all themselves. Our hope is that by teaching them to read and write they can uplift themselves.”

And they have. Born in Honduras and an immigrant of over 30 years, Mercedes Meza picked up English working as a housecleaner, but was unable to read and write in Spanish until her graduation from Centro Latino. A poster-child for Centro Latino, she proclaims, “Today I feel stronger than ever before.”

For information and volunteer opportunities visit www.centrolatinoliteracy.org

My Story: Latina and Lesbian

by Alexix A. aka LatinaBeatz

This is no specific formula by which  homosexuals live. This is my story, my account as a Latina who is a lesbian, a human being that has a specific gender in which I find a perfect but imperfect connectior.

Growing up, I knew I was attracted to other girls. I had boyfriends and dated but I would find myself checking out their sisters. I never felt a connection with a man. I got involved with a woman a couple years ago. I knew from the first time I kissed her that the LGBT world is a world in which I belong.

Being with a woman isn’t easier than being with a man, in fact, it’s much more complex. I love being with a woman because of the deep emotional connection that we can share. I feel safe. I love that she knows what it’s like to be a female and what our bodies go through.  I roll my eyes when straight girls announce at their frustration with men and that they are “going to girls.” The fact is that if you can’t handle a man, you damn sure can’t handle a female, especially the ones who think and act like both.

I work in a male-dominated industry with some of the most massive egos, and not one of my well-known clients have ever had an issue with my sexuality. If you’re secure with your  manhood or your “self,” another person’s choice in gender shouldn’t matter Some of the annoying comments I get from men are: “you’re too pretty to be gay,” “who broke your heart?” “who abused you when you were little?” or, my all-time fave, “why do you hate men?”

I think they are speaking from a threatened and bruised ego. It’s appalling and shocking to them that a female isn’t turned on by their manliness or that they wouldn’t succumb to their ‘magic stick.’ As if it’s going against nature if a woman doesn’t get turned on by a man. I must be a freak of nature.

I’m not ruling out their assumptions. I have observed that some lesbians have been abused or may not have liked attention from men, choosing to dress like a man to keep them at bay, like when a rape victim who becomes promiscuous to regain control.  A female who’s been utterly devastated by a man may find solace and comfort in a female, someone she perceives would never hurt her like a man did. This can also be true of the women who turn to men after a bad relationship with a woman, but in the end it’s still about human behavior, not about gender.

Being “too pretty to be gay” also has nothing to do with anything. What you look like will not guarantee a man or a woman will not cheat on you. Being attractive does not mean you are a good person, a good cook, or even a good sexual partner. I try to relay the message that we all need to look beyond appearance. I’ve been told I was a “waste” because I chose to be with women. I may be a stereotypical femme girly-girl that is attracted to tomboys or studs (a female who dresses and acts slightly masculine). Everyone who knows me knows that I have the biggest crush on Michelle Rodriguez. I tend to date girls who have that masculine quality, a more dominant personality and which would have some think that I should just be with a dude, but that’s not what I’m attracted to. I don’t like to be with women who like to be called ‘papi’ or like to use toys for penetration. I don’t like the roles of girl and boy. I am a more tomboyish girl.  I appreciate female bodies no matter how girlie or how toned. Not every “dyke” or mannish female is one in the bedroom or runs the relationship. I actually find that most girlie girls run the show., so don’t let the appearances fool you.

Living in 2010 is an exciting but also very ironic time. Being gay, lesbian, bi, or transgender seems tolerated. But at the same time it feels like there are so many discriminative and ignorant stereotypes. It’s a different world now, we are all different people, we are in a different time and environment, a more spiritual profound one.

Cheating for a Cause

Ever heard of a spelling bee that allowed you to consult the dictionary, skip to the next round, or make up a word? 826LA, a non-profit writing/tutoring center for kids, hosted A Spelling Bee for Cheaters, for participants who had obtained donations for the organization.

Jimmy Kimmel stands in front of the judges

The fundraiser was held at Lincoln Middle School on August 14. Participants, who included Jimmy Kimmel and “Glee” star Dianna Agron, raised a total $70,000, surpassing the organization’s goal of $50,000. The big stars raised big bucks, making this fundraiser hugely successfully for 826LA.

The event took place in the school’s auditorium with Abraham Lincoln’s quote, “Teach hope to all, despair to none” mounted on the sidewall, appropriate to the collective goal of teaching children. The crowd of friends and supporters excitedly sat down waiting for a show that rewarded the fundraising efforts.

The spellers raised money, created spelling teams such as the Bees’ Knees, Stop the Presses, MC Grammar, and Spell Bound, and even got to dress up.

Besides the celebrity donations, teachers and students also showed their dedication to this program.
“Anything I can do for kids,” said Cecillia Jurado, a high school teacher from Orange County. Her team, dubbed Team Rice and Beans, raised $470 by asking for donations through her midnight radio show.

Spellers took stabs at words such as “Babbitt” or “Hallux.” Each word became increasingly difficult, but the goal of raising money had already been achieved.

Aside from being a cheating speller, there were numerous volunteers informing audience members about 826LA. Volunteer Maggie Woo, though a part of 826LA for only seven weeks, has already become attached to her students.

“While working with the kids, there can be three hours of nonstop laughing,” said Woo.

She showcases the free programs available to students, which include writing workshops on various topics such as critiquing food or spoken word.

The Bad Robot goes up to the mike

The audience laughed as the kid in the Bad Robot costume refused to leave the stage, and another strung letters together hoping that it somehow created a word.
The last person standing received a trophy and a very large dictionary, while teams received prizes which included signed copies of ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ LACMA memberships, In-n-out gift cards, and a signed Chivas soccer jersey. The emcees said that the prizes were much better than the trophy for winning the spelling bee, but that didn’t stop anyone from leaving with smile in their superhero, geek, or cat costume.

April: Aryan-zona

Nothing gets my eyes rolling more than the lazy poop-slinging of the label “Nazi”— like when some nerd calls another nerd a “grammar Nazi” for nitpicking split infinitives or when a spelling-inept Tea-Bagger sharpies a Fuhrer-stache on a pic of Obama, under a banner that reads (ironically) “communist!” But if the moniker of Nazi should be tacked onto anything in recent American history, let it be the great state of Aryan-zona. Yeah, it’s funny but unnerving nonetheless.

You might be a Nazi if…

You enact Senate Bill 1070, aka the Safe Neighborhoods and Happy Klansmen Act. As Saturday Night Live observed so hilariously a few weeks ago, certain folk in Arizona liken President Obama to Adolf Hitler, yet their state just passed a law that allows police to ask anyone they suspect as illegal immigrants for their papers. To quote Seth Meyers, anchor of SNL’s “Weekend Update,” “there’s never been a World War II movie that didn’t include the line, ‘Show me your papers’…Every time someone says, ‘Show me your papers,’ Hitler’s family gets a residual check.”

You might be a Nazi if…

Your department of education bans people with accents from teaching English, regardless of experience or proven efficacy. Now this has nothing to do with fluency, but a concerned and (budget-rattled) group of state officials that cringe at hearing “biolet” instead of “violet” or burrito instead of meat-and-veggie wrap.

You might be a Nazi if…

You are so ignorant and paranoid that you bar ethnic studies programs in public schools because they “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government” and the “resentment of a particular race or class of people.”  What devilish images of Latino-littered classrooms must these idiots conjure when they imagine the goings-on of Tucson’s successful Mexican studies program: a cluster of kindergarteners learning how to spell “Kill Whitey” on a whiteboard and a group of teenage Latinos running a Taliban-inspired obstacle course on the other side of the room. Uh-oh, they’re on to us…

And lastly, you might be a Nazi if…

Your “top cop” is the spitting image of Satan himself—well, let’s not be too loose with our metaphors; I’d say, “America’s Toughest Sheriff” (not named in fear of being snuffed out in the middle of the night) recalls a wrinkled, bloated Col. Hans Landa, “The Jew Hunter” from “Inglorious Basterds.” After all, you’d have to be a pretty twisted guy to be under constant investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and most civil liberties unions in America.

For these reasons Arizona is April’s Tarado del Mes. Oh, what the hell, let’s give them May’s honor too, for good measure.

Oh yeah, Arizona refused to make Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a state holiday in the 80s…thought we should get that in too.