Seeing Red… 

Where was I when I heard about my young man? When I heard he was gunned down? 

3108. Rolfe Hall… Teaching a group of young, bright eyed future educators… with plans to change the world. 

Why am I empty inside? Because another young person who’s light brightened my days of late, despite his struggles and circumstances is now gone. 

 Light extinguished. 

Tears and blood flowing in the neighborhoods where we work, play, live, learn, and love. 

 How do we stop the flow of these? How do we turn off the violence? 

How do we get our young people to stop seeing red… see past the red… and orange… and blue or any other color or hue that condemns people to death…?

how do we see our last breath as something much more sacred? measured up against our first breath and every one in between… a life measured out in mistakes and learning… 

a light flickered out before his time. 

But not if we let his light grow within ourselves. If we choose to shine even brighter because we have to in his absence. 

We have no choice. For it is our duty. He is our Duty. 

Notes from a future feminist… 

This evening at dinner, my youngest daughter and middle child Melody Ray asked a question. 

“Why is there no men’smarch daddy?” – Melody Ray

“Everyday is a man’s march.” – Mommy

This question, was posed by the same little girl who a few days earlier had stated the following in response to her mother’s horror and subsequent questioning of her book choice at the local library. 

“I like Snow White’s techniques. She makes friends and goes out into the woods by herself. She’s an adventurer.” – M. R. 

Her initial question about why men don’t hold their own march, answered by my wife’s deadpan sarcasm with a heavy dose of truth insulating that everyday men march across this planet in attempted domination of everything they encounter, including our Mother Earth… was not lost on me, neither the innoncence or seasoned calculated jadedness. And yet it did prompt me to dig a little deeper into history to genuinely attempt an answer at least for myself. 

Simple google queries with the words (men’s, marches, history, etc.)  yielded not much more beyond the many “March Madness” articles, many articles on Women’s marches, and the occasional noteworthy example of men (especially white men) well… being men. In particular here and here were two anomalies. The last one being eerily prophetic when considering our current geopolitical context post Trump. I did learn something new about the fact that there is indeed an international men’s day… but did not dig deep into that rabbit hole. 

What was reconfirmed for me was the reality that my wife’s answer eluded to… that to bring into the discussion the existence of “men’s marches” in juxtaposition to marches scheduled for tomorrow’s International Women’s day is not something that would help us honor and recognize the plight and might of women all over the world, all throughout history. 

Suffice to say that I am excited by the prospects that my daughter asks questions about the world and forms her own opinions about things. I’m also ecstatic about her ambition and the possibilities of breaking through the molds and stereotypes that lock young girls and women into oppressed ways of thinking and living. 

Our dinner conversation continued into the political sphere, talking through tonight’s local city elections, and contemplating tomorrow’s marches, strikes, and the conspiracies to distract from and deter them. A colleague later texted this article that continued to provoke my own thought around how I, as a man, can continue to support the feminist struggle in these challenging days. As the female energy hopefully rallies with support from its male counterpart, I’m hopefully amused by the specter of possibility positives by my four year old daughter in her statements of questions and ideas like this:

“Oh yea?! Well Dad, one day I’m gonna be a big football player and you’re going to be terrified of me when I run at you!” – M. R. 

However she charges at life, I will be there to support. And I am indeed terrified of anyone or anything that gets in her way. I love you Melberg! 

Institutions and identities…


Over the last week, every aspect of my identity  has undergone some sort of institutional attack by the Trump administration.  What’s even more saddening is that so many more people; friends, family, and strangers (fellow countrymen and fellow global citizens) have experienced the same attacks and yet have had to feel them on much deeper levels. To realize this suddenly Saturday morning with my children, while attempting to shake off the remnants of a difficult work week by reading a friend’s tweet… it is all surreal. 

My identity as the child of an immigrant mother who came to this country at 19, newly married to my father… a soldier in a semi occupying army in her native land, this part of me is under an old but vigorously renewed assault by the same country that welcomed my mother with open arms. I’ve always had to deal with prejudice and misunderstandings of one of my home cultures.  It is hard to read stories like this and not feel the impact at the core of your soul when you juxtapose those with the memories of waiting anxiously outside of customs to be reunited with your family once again.  Being a Panamian – American is not as hard perhaps as some other minority bi-cultural groups, but that identity is questioned and challenged for basic legitimacy and dignity nonetheless.  As is my Mexican heritage.  How should one respond to the building of a wall to keep separate the people on the other side you call Tio and primo?  I have a few choice responses swimming around my mind right now. 

As a husband to my wife, a woman who’s entire family lineage is born of a Muslim land where people are currently being barred from entry to the country we both call home… the attack is real. Like me, she can vividly recall the beginnings and endings of summer travel to our other homelands at the Tom Bradley international terminal… immerging from the tunnel to warm smiles greeting us. Attempting to imagine what other have been greeted with as of yesterday’s America is traumatizing. 

I’m infuriated by the attacks on women in general, as a father of two young girls who will be growing up in a “democratic” society that attempts to legislate and politicize their own bodies. Incensed by the economic and social inequities imposed and emboldened by this administration’s view on a women’s worth in the work place.  I’m sick to my stomach. 

I’ve already lamented about the attacks on my profession in recent posts. But I found this UCLA interview with public education champion Pedro Noguera to be informative and semi hopeful. Yet it is clear that Inand others will have to fight for the very right to envision our work through the lens of justice. 

And what of our work?  And that of others. While this new administration, like those of the past, asserts that they prioritize job creation and expansion of the middle class, they are about to enact policies that will completely decimate it. At the same time, they are drastically attempting to limit the power of labor organizing, lying to union leaders, placating them with overinflated estimates of infrastructure jobs to be created and squeezing out any real sense of union strength that will be necessary to preserve the working class. 

These are some of the identities that make up my daily existence.  And while I won’t quite adhere to the sentiment that my existence is being completely challenged… I know enough about history and contemporary society to understand that many people are feeling the pressure of these encroachments by the political apparatus in a way that brings on a type of existential and identity crisis that typically results in two outcomes: 

 1.  You become paralyzed with fear, afraid of the possibility that your existence is no longer welcome or sanctioned by the state… and you conform, playing along with the insanity in the hopes that you will get by until the next “transition of power” wishfully thinking it may be more merciful in the future. This option unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately is only viable for a few. 

2. You fight. Fight like hell to be recognized, never apologizing for who you are and where you are from. Because your whole life you’ve known to one extent or another that your identities, complex as humanity, were never fully accepted by the state. Your existence has always been challenged one way or another. 

It is the fight that has become unclear to many. And for those who are coming out of the privileged consciousness of false peace, it’s quite a cognitive dissonance to make the leap into war, even if that war is to be waged for your own self preservation. Because you have never really had to fight. But for those who have lived their whole lives under attack, there is nothing else but the fight. 

To be clear, if we are going to come out on the other side of this ok, we are going to need both types of folks. And the fight can take on many tactical variations and iterations. But fight we must. These words are one extent to the fight I will continue to be, for these words are me. And my government has not stolen them from me. Not yet… 

What will we do tomorrow? 

To be part of today, part of history… the amount of people and all our collective resistance, humanity… it was amazing. Here in Los Angeles, 750,000 were estimated to have turned out for the Women’s March. Those estimates are not over inflated (take note Trump.) 
And yet, even as the high of participating slowly drains from my body… my mind wrestles with a question. What will we all do tomorrow? And the next day? It is this question that I know matters even more to the Resistance movement. 

It is without question that we must continue to organize and push. But what does that mean? I know for me throughout the years it has meant being part of an organization, a community of people working to improve the world we inhabit in some meaningful way. There were so many of these types of communities that were present today, unified in our message of Resistance. And yet I know there were so many people there who came just as families or as groups of friends. And that is a wonderful sign of things to come, of what could be possible when folks organize themselves and build broad based coalitions of overlapping and supportive work under a framework of social justice and humanity. And it all begins with building relationships. But it also means extending yourself into the realms of real and often uncomfortable work of organizing. It is a sacrifice, but it is one born out of shared community and struggle.

It is this shared community that has been our struggle in the past. The factioning and fracturing off of many “left” and “progressive” and even “radical” causes who stay strong and continue to push for demands of equality, justice, and even reparations… but who do not stand united everytime. Today, for whatever reason it felt… different. Have we finally realized how to stand together? For more than one day?

As we take the fire of inspiration that many of us were a part of lighting today, let’s be clear of the commitment to action we are taking. Tomorrow, we should rest… and reflect. Pick up a book that helps prepare you for the fight that is necessary for the movement to succeed. Read or re-read some of the history that has gotten us to this point. Call someone and invite them to read these with you. Form a reading/study circle, or seek one out to be a part of… and rest. Monday, become an official member of an organization for the first time. Support public media with a donation, however small. God PLEASE support our public media outlets. Sign a couple of petitions online but then really research what those causes are all about… and then JOIN those organizations that are fighting for change. Call one of your representatives, just one and give them hell. Remind them that you were in the streets… and they may have been in the streets. Remind them that they work for us, and this is what we want.

We. Want. Change.

And. We. Will. Fight.

What will you do tomorrow?

So let’s review…

She can’t commit to not privatizing public education 

She cannot be sure if, as the chief education enforcement officer in the land, she will hold educational institutions accountable to the same standard whether they are public, publically funded and privately managed, virtual or otherwise

She won’t uphold federal law to ensure equity or equality for students with disabilities 

She doesn’t fundamentally understand the important debate around authentically and accurately assessing student learning

She believes that public dollars should be allowed to go to religious education, despite that going against our nations first constitutional amendment 

She doesn’t have an opinion on how the second amendment should be interpreted to protect our schools 

She has no public educational experience whatsoever (k-12 or higher ed)

She has not been cleared by the Office of Ethics 

She lied to congress in her confirmation hearing

Her brother founded one of the most successful and dangerous companies on the planet with a business model that essentially removes public and governmental oversight of the military 

TODAY’s POP QUIZ:
Is Betsy Devos qualified to lead and improve our nation’s PUBLIC education system?

Are you Hearing this Hearing?

It’s better than watching it perhaps, it depends on if you prefer your eyes and ears to bleed or just your ears, but in this era of ridiculous danger, we must all subject ourselves to this type of abuse lest we suffer more later not having known what to expect. With Betsy DeVos we can expect not a whole lot of substance or transparency when it comes education policy supporting America’s PUBLIC school system.
See below.

There were many more exchanges of course and not one of those led to an actual answer of the question posed, which is not surprising in the political sphere but DAMN it is annoying. Her exchange about guns in schools was too infuriating to post here. But it was pretty clear that she will indeed push a privatized agenda. To be clear… here is what she will do away with and here is how we will let her… unless we fight.

Rediscovery of Self Determination…

2016 Black Comix Festival: MLK Monday – SF

“Daddy…”
“Yes dear?”
“Can you snuggle with me?”
“Of course.”
“Daddy but first let me tell you something. Do you know before you were alive that Martin Luther King was alive and that they had separate restaurants for black people? And they called them colored? And they had separate bathrooms?
Is that right?”
“No…”
“Does the color of our skin matter?”
“No… ”
“Whats is really important?”
(pause) “Who you are inside.”
“Thats right.”
“But they had drinking fountains for white people and some for black people? And they tried to call the police but they didn’t move.”
“Many people, black, brown, and white organized together to change that. When people come together and work together and they know something’s not right they can fix it.”
“What can I fix?”
“Whatever you see is wrong. If you see something you know is not right, you can always try and fix it.”

…echo
… echo in my head
… let me please remember this moment. and follow up with these lessons revisited. for myself. for my children. for my students.

there are so many complexities to this. as a parent, how do you balance developmentally appropriate with historical accuracy? or contemporary reality? i didn’t have the heart to tell her that skin color still matters, to a lot of people. that systemic oppression exists, that it is real. that racial, class, and gender warfare are real and that these are some things that she should prepare to fix. but she’s 6.
6 years old. and i am so proud to be her father. proud and excited to see what little corner of the world she finds and dedicates herself to helping make better.

Re-entry… 2017

2016 didn’t see a lot of public writing from me. The various factors adding up to the sum total of struggle. Last year was definitely challenging on many fronts. As an educator (shout out to Katie Nisa), a parent (shout out to my wife Parisa) and as an overall human being (shout out to all of those who acknowledged on a level greater that their previous level of consciousness that humanity has a lot of work still to do.) From the deaths of iconic childhood figures, to the vitriol obsessed media coverage of just about everything horrible, suffice to say it was hard for me to focus on reflective writing.

This post, and hopefully others to come symbolize my re-commitment to this very important practice. I didn’t realize how important it actually was until I was presented with the possibility of losing all of my past entries, over a decade of reflections written down, in moments of pondering, responding, and at times reacting to the world around me as well as the one within.

As far what else this year and the near future have in store for all of us working towards education for change, I think it is safe to say that we have a serious fight on our hands. Last year around this time, one of my only posts to begin the new year was welcoming my last born child and only son into this world. I did so with a mixture of joy, concern, and uncertainty. A year has brought us closer to some of those concerns and has definitely presented us with much uncertainty in many different realms. One of the driving questions that has been occupying much space in my mind as of late is the question of action. What will be my course of action? How will others around me organize ourselves towards action? While many different people involved with many different organizations ask themselves different variations of this same question, for my own part I feel it important to reconnect with the practice of studying. Attempting to make more time for reading and hopefully discussing with others ideas that will help us face whatever uncertainty with dignity and action.

As we begin the next phase of American democracy and the educational system that has been an integral part of both sustaining and repressing democratic principles and practices, I keep my mind set on these few things:

Reading
Reflecting
Writing
Discussing
Dignity
Action

2017, here we go…

To the Hawkins Class of 2016…


I have been thinking about this day for the past 4 years. It has been this sort of dream like sequence that I have played in my head to symbolize a sort of Rites of Passage, not only for you as graduates but for us “as educators.” You see, your journey has helped to define who we are. Your narrative helps write our collective identities as teachers but also helps define the very institution that is Hawkins. And as such, the culmination of your time in our classrooms and on campus is the closing of an important part of our lives too.

It is this chapter coming to a close that often prompts deep reflection. When I look at each and everyone of you, at every turn I see evidence of your energy and passion. It is this soul of the class of 2016 that breathed an entire school community into existence. I thank you for that. 4 years ago, the Schools for Communtiy Action were still just ideas in their infancy. 4 years ago we invited you to dream with us. Today, at the end of your all’s high school journey, the dream is so much more than we could’ve hope for. 

For the students of the Responsible Indigenous Social Entrepreneurship small school (RISE), the last 4 years saw young people grow into an empowered social consciousness that inspired student action in the form of  neighborhood market conversions, voter registration drives, and felony expungements for Communtiy members. The mantra echoed in a call and response format honoring ancestral traditions of our past, also epitomized our core values. As graduates tonight you issued a statement that resonates with all who come into contact with these powerful words because with these words you invite others to dream and to fight with you. Who rise? WE RISE!!! 

For the CHASvocates the last 4 years have similarly been spent deeply unpacking and examining issues of Community Health and Advocacy.  As young people you have already made an everlasting and real impact on people’s lives. From waging campaigns to ban the sale of tobacco to minors and raising the minimum wage, to forging real partnerships with Communtiy organizations dedicated to training and fighting alongside you in the struggle for adequate Communtiy resources and real holistic health, you all have proved that good people still truly hold the power when they are organized and driven by love.  

And to my very own game changers. The students in the Critical Design and Gaming School have been busy the last 4 years expanding their imaginations to incorporate dreams of a world where games and play, that which is essential for humanity, need not be sacrificed for social justice. In fact you demonstrated many times that one is often the path towards understanding the other more deeply. From imagining and designing possibilities for  more sustainable landscapes to creating media messages that implore critical thought and inspire action, you have helped us change the game of education. 

Despite becoming comfortable and proud of your small school identities, the last 4 years has often seen Hawks of all schools come together to combat the issues that touch us all.  Understanding that mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline are very real systems that provide barriers for those that came before and hose that will follow, RISE, CHAS, and CDAGS students led the charge to Fight for the Soul of our cities and demand that our school district end its ties with the federal 1033 program and apologize to the communities. You succeeded. You trailblazed a path towards Restorative Justice and have demonstrated what those practices look and feel like when fully implemented at a school site, a commitment to transformation within and throughout a community. 

And yet despite all of these amazing accomplishments and battles, there are still many to be waged and won. This election season will mark the first that you will be able to participate in and hopefully not the last. Continue to throw your voices into the uncertainty of the future, believing that it will matter… That it is the only thing that ever makes a difference. The fight against or to realize both Trump and Hilary’s vision of America has to be tempered by your vision of America and must involve your commitment to social justice. 

As many of you enter college campuses, remember that those institutions of higher learning are just as rife with inequities and injustice, sometimes of the most egregious one can experience.  Continue to collectively put pressure on powers that be to acknowledge existence and evils of rape culture. Stand up and fight for your right to the college education that you want and deserve.  

I can’t truly state how proud and grateful I am that you all have allowed me to be a part of your journey. Some of you I’ve known since 6th grade, when you blessed the classroom of my life partner and best friend. We both continue to recall how special you were back then and how you’ve grown into wonderful and powerful young adults. Despite all the challenges we may have faced together and those set to face you in the coming years, I am reminded of our keynote speaker at our first Hawkins graduation, Luis Rodriguez. He reminded us of the necessity for maintaining a #criticalhope. This is what I have for you all as you make your way in the world and leave the comfort of our nest. And I will echo the sentiment of last night’s keynote message: #dontforgetwhereyoucamefrom. For we will never forget you. Good luck. God speed. And remember to always do good things. 

 Continue to always:

  1. Be respectful
  2. Be intelligent
  3. Be dignified 
  4. Be empowered 
  5. Be resilient 

Con amor y mucho cariño

Gomez

#LETSGOOOOOHAWKS!!!

photo cred: Nancy Se

Remaking Easter… on the fly!

  
So… yes. I forgot it was Easter, until about 9:00pm yesterday evening. Despite being told by my wife several times that week, as well as being told by friends of the impending family egg hunts on the agenda for the weekend. I am pretty sure that last example clarifies for me what is seeming to size up to selective and subconscious listening. You see, traditional family celebrations aren’t always that easy for me. They really never have been. But when I was younger, being a child of divorce didn’t always seem that bad. The windows and doors into families expanding and changing did afterall provide me with my only siblings… all 5 of them!

Fast forward to today and it is a little more complicated. More familial factions and just plain old geography has made it impossible to experience anything resembling traditional backyard egg hunts with the cousins and grandkids. Being married to someone from an entirely different cultural background with her own distinct holidays and traditions has made something like Easter even more foreign to me. So it is with great pause and ponderance (anxiety and sometimes straight up ignorance… in the active sense of the word) that I approach the response to my Persian wife’s question, “What do you want to do for Easter?”

So I did what any self respecting parent in the 21st century would do in a pinch… I googled Things to do in LA with kids Easter! Of course the magic of the internet provided plenty to that query. What it did NOT provide was an adequate response to my eldest daughter’s question. “Do you think the Easter bunny will come to our house tomorrow?” Cue the Homer Simpson Doh! I had packed away last year’s memories of Easter most likely for the same reasons that I had avoided this year’s impending Easter. But my daughter doesn’t forget anything, for good or for worse (more on that later.) Last year did somewhat resemble the backyard egg hunt of my youth. So what was I to do now? I had to think fast… but instead I put it off till morning, until the day of… Easter.

Here is what I came up with.

  
I had to quickly type this up while making breakfast, all the while debating whether it was even worth the trouble. My wife and I decided that the cultural tradition of celebrating Aide de Norouz (Persian New Year) was our preferred spring time celebration. No weird bunnies or battles over massive amounts of candy (those Cadbury Eggs and Peeps will get you every time) or explanations of the dead come back to life. And this is not a knock on my Catholic upbringing… well, because it wasn’t really a Catholic upbringing. I never attended Easter mass on Sunday no matter how many times my Mother may have wanted it. My issue was with the consumer spin on this holiday, like most others. This country begs you to purchase your Pascua. Even if I wanted to I could not do this… I merely don’t have the time to go running around buying whatever is necessary for an Easter Basket full of junk. And I sure as hell don’t want that to change anytime soon. So I didn’t. Instead I attempted to change Easter for my family, so that it fit more with who we are and who we want to be. The reaction from my kids was validation enough.

We did indeed do all of the things the “Easter Bunny” had urged us to do. A quick train trip to downtown saw our little family unit celebrating life self sufficiently. A beautiful downtown lunch date was followed immediately by one of the most bizarre and scariest things a parent or child could think of on an Easter Sunday. A chance run in with the 3 most horrifying Pirates one could ever happen upon. They were coming out of the Stillwell Hotel lobby, which apparently houses a “Pirate Bar.” Mind you these weren’t your average Pirates of the Caribbean, no no. These fools were down right scary! One had to have been at least 6’8″ while the shortest one boasted 3 decapitated heads on chains.. yes all in front of my 3 and 5 year old daughters. It. Was. Awkward. Here we were preparing our girls to see a 6 ft. bunny (though there have been scary versions of that for sure, thanks Donnie Darko) and here we had to contend with three Piratas out of the blue. Luckily the tall one wised up and turned good guy Pirate, as good as a 7ft. tall Pirate with maniacal contact lens reminiscent of the Walking Dead zombies could be, by offering fool’s gold to the girls, who surprisingly accepted. The shorter one kept making jokes about free baby sitting and cages while waving his 3 heads on a chain around. Needless to say that my wife and I were taken aback and I am typing this while awaiting what I anticipate to be the first of many calls to put out the midnight fires of justified nightmares. Happy Easter!!! Side Note: If one should ever find themselves in a similar situation, pick up the closest makeshift sword and swashbuckle your way into the realm of the role play. Of course I realize in retrospect that power of play (and play back) may be enough to avoid the traumatic childhood memories.

After this we moved on to the actual event that we had planned for… waiting in line… uh I mean a community egg hunt put on by the New City Church of LA. I only mention the line because while waiting to get let in with what I estimated to be a thousand people, THOSE DAMN PIRATES CAME BACK!!! WTF?!? This time there were plenty of children screaming, and not about the long waits. On a positive we were also fortunate enough to see Ecto 1 drive by while waiting to be let in… only in LA. Once inside it was very pleasant day hanging with families and their children in the city. The diverse crowd was happy and ready to celebrate with young ones. The volunteer staff were super cheerful and gracious in sharing that cheer around.

At the end of the day, we returned home having accomplished all that the Easter Bunny had implored us to do, learning even more along the way. The girls indeed made a new friend while waiting in line. We had found the city eggs, though the hunt had more of a dash feel to it. No matter, for we hid the eggs more stealthily in the backyard upon returning. And being the text-based child that she is, Nilou cross referenced the bunny letter to make sure that we hadn’t missed anything, while simultaneously questioning how the bunny managed to sneak past everyone again.

And I was reminded again of the importance of reclaiming and taking ownership of one’s family’s participation in tradition. Traditions are instructive. They teach us about ourselves, our families. They help us learn who we are and where we come from. More importantly they send us messages and instill values in us long after we’ve grown up out of the childhood wonderment and fantasy of it all. I can only imagine that is what those Pirates were really trying to hold onto with those decapitated heads. A sense of wonder in magic that is actually real, because in pretending with passion you made it so. For however brief that moment was. Today’s activities is not our family Easter tradition set in stone but it is the foundational building blocks that our children and myself will have to play with next year and the coming future after that. And I am no longer anxious about holidays I haven’t fully reclaimed for myself or with my family. I am excited to keep learning and playing. This is a resurrection worth celebrating today.