Jane Jacobs: Some Myths about Diversity

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

Alice Feldt Thoughts on Photography

This section of the Jane Jacobs book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was about the opposition’s misconceptions about diversity in the city and how they are wrong.  For Jacobs, diversity is concerning a diversity of uses of a space, not necessarily culturally or racially.  She advocates that many types of business and residences are the hallmarks of a thriving city neighborhood.  There are three main myths she identifies in this chapter.  The myths are the opposition often cited by city planners against diversity.

The first myth Jacobs addresses that diversity is ugly.  She counters this by saying the opposite is true.  That homogeneity is actually the eyesore.  There are two ways that city planners try to deal with homogeneity:  Either they make the area obviously homogeneous in uses and in style of building, which Jacobs argues is boring and disorienting.  I think of Robert Adams and the…

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The DHARMA of DIVERSITY

By: Radha-Krishna Das (Roozbeh Foroozan)

Hidden at the dead-end of an alley in Culver City, between a vegetarian restaurant and a temple, lays the  The Bhagavad-gita Museum: A Treasure House of Spiritual Knowledge, an artistic masterpiece that brings an ageless spiritual wisdom to the aural and visual reception. Henry Thoreau sees our modern world and its literature as puny and trivial in comparison to the Bhagavad-gita and George Harrison, who visited the museum in the late 70s, compares it to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington and finds it more attractive than the Disneyland.

What do the Bhagavad-gita and its museum have to offer? Is another theology and philosophy the answer to our brutally conflicting world of –isms?

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SETTING THE SCENE

A blind king is anxiously listening to his minister who clairvoyantly is reporting live from miles away of the greatest trial-of-arms in the history of man. Ninety nine sons of the king, with allies from all over the universe are going to fight till death with their five cousins, headed by Arjuna – the mystical archer. But Arjuna, son of the Wind-god, is despondent seeing his friends and family on both sides ready to lay down their lives. His body is trembling and he can not bear the weight of his mystical bow, which he had seized from Indra, the king of gods.

In his anguish, he turns to his intimate friend, Krishna– the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has assumed the role of Arjuna’s chariot driver.

And thus Krishna begins to explain the first instruction of the Bhagavad-gita; that the perishable body and the eternal soul are not the same: that we are not this body; we are a spiritual spark that illuminates and drives the dead body and it is this spirit soul that differentiates a dead body from a living.

DHARMA

There are quite a few Sanskrit words that are part of English vocabulary nowadays. No one would need a dictionary to understand phrases like “bad karma” or “political pundit”. Dharma is another one of these words interwoven into the English fabric maybe as early as Jack Kerouac’s 1958 novel “Dharma Burns”. But what does dharma exactly mean? Many casually translate dharma as “religion” or sometimes “duty”. But there is no exact translation for this word in English. According to Oxford dictionary, dharma is “the eternal law of the cosmos, inherent in the very nature of things.” In other words, dharma of something is its inherent quality. For example, the dharma of fire is heat; the dharma of water is wetness. The dharma of something is the setting in which that something exists naturally and effortlessly.

One may ask why a word may not have an equivalent among more that one million English words?  The answer lies in vastly-different philosophical, social, and cultural setting of Sanskrit and English (or other western languages). For a member of classical Vedic society, a society following the Vedas–books of knowledge, “religion” is observing the socio-economical regulations which are based on one’s nature and qualities. Such regulations are delineated in dharma-shastras (religious “weapons” -books) and are implemented by the government which in turn is supervised by the priests. In this setting, the difference between one’s “religion/duty” and someone else’s “religion/duty” is due to differences in their nature and qualities. It is meaningless to say somebody’s “religion” is better that someone else’s and there is no meaning in “conversion” from one dharma to another.

The dharma-shastras recognize four social roles and four economical classes based on the qualities of an individual. The four social roles include: celibate studentship, married life, retired life, and renunciate life. The four economical classes are priests, managers or warriors, merchants or farmers, and workers. Depending on one’s socio-economical nature, a “religious” person follows his/her dharma or duty and as such he materially benefits in this life and in future. For example, a family man has to provide for his family, be truthful and righteous, maintain internal and external cleanliness, be merciful and charitable towards others, and be in control of his senses and mind. Following dharma, qualifies one gradually to receive spiritual knowledge which ultimately leads to liberation from the cycle of life and death (moksha).

Even in such a liberal setting, the Bhagavad-gita culminates in its final word of its final chapter (BG 18.66), as if stepping into anarchism:

sarva-dharmän parityajya mäm ekaà çaraëaà raja

ahaà tväà sarva-päpebhyo mokñayiñyämi mä çucaù

Abandon all varieties of dharma! Just surrender unto Me! I shall deliver you from all sins. Do not fear!

To make sense of this revolutionary instruction which dismisses all the Vedic principles, we yet need to have a deeper understanding of dharma.

ABANDON ALL VARIETIES OF DHARMA

As already discussed, dharma is the intrinsic quality of something and the conditions by which that something exists naturally and effortlessly. We are born into certain bodies and have been trained and conditioned into certain qualities and as such we have certain socio-economical duties. But ultimately we are not these bodies and spiritually speaking, none of the bodily designations, qualities, and duties applies to us. But what is our spiritual dharma?  What is the condition in which the soul is naturally, effortlessly and happily situated? What is the duty of a spirit soul? That would be our real religion —not the Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim religion and so on.

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada writes in Journey of Self-Discovery:

“Your essential characteristic is that you want to love somebody, and therefore you want to serve him. That is your essential characteristic. You love your family, you love your society, you love your community, you love your country. And because you love them, you want to serve them. That tendency to engage in loving service is your essential characteristic, your dharma. Whether you are a Christian, a Mohammedan, or a Hindu, this characteristic will remain. Suppose today you are a Christian. Tomorrow you may become a Hindu, but your serving mood, that loving spirit, will stay with you. Therefore, the tendency to love and serve others is your dharma, or your religion. This is the universal form of religion.  Now, you have to apply your loving service in such a way that you will be completely satisfied. Because your loving spirit is now misplaced, you are not happy. You are frustrated and confused.

sa vai puàsäà paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokñaje

ahaituky apratihatä yayätmä suprasédati [SB 1.2.6]

That religion is first class which trains you to love God. And by this religion you will become completely satisfied.  If you develop your love of God to the fullest extent, you will become a perfect person. You will feel perfection within yourself. You are hankering after satisfaction, full satisfaction, but that full satisfaction can be obtained only when you love God. Loving God is the natural function of every living entity. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Christian or a Hindu or a Muhammadan. Just try to develop your love of God. Then your religion is very nice. Otherwise it is simply a waste of time (çrama eva hi kevalam [SB 1.2.8]). If after executing rituals in a particular type of religion throughout your whole life you have no love for God and your fellow human beings, then you have simply wasted your time.”

IMAGINE if it MATTERED…

By: Zoë Muntaner 

In February of 2008,  Karen Armstrong asked the TED community to help build a Charter for Compassion — to restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine. The golden rule is a basic principle that should be followed to ensure success in general or in a particular activity.  To treat others the way we wish to be treated. 

In September of 2013, I brought to Santa Monica City Council the idea of the Charter for Compassion to be adopted as a means of affirming the values of our city.  To my amazement they voted unanimously to sign the Charter, making me the Founder of Compassionate Santa Monica and its Chief Compassion Officer.  It was a moment in time where diversity mattered.  That was the easy part.  Since 2013, I’ve gone to numerous Council meetings to speak on behalf of animal and worker rights, affordable housing, development, police reform, anti-corruption act (campaign reform)  and human trafficking.  I use my voice to bring compassion to policy at Santa Monica City Hall and once to Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.  I’m part of a growing category of Citizen Lobbyists. Perhaps they didn’t see that coming (I’m sure they didn’t), perhaps it was divine intervention that worked its magic.  It will remain a mystery, but here we are: the first city in LA County to affirm the Charter for Compassion and 4th in the state of California, brought by an animated speaker with a mission, who wants to engage change-agents in authentic social entrepreneurship.

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The work ahead was cut for me: How do we move from signing a document to practicing its doctrine in public life, day in and day out across every department, commission, and policy?   My personal belief is that government should be the servant of the people, NOT the ruler of the people.  There should be no room for entitlement or privilege if you are indeed a public servant.  Everyone should have access to government and its diversity makes it matter most.  Who is in the room matters. 

If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”  ~Shirley Chisholm

Like many of you, I’ve witnessed the traffic of misinformation, false narratives and spinning stories that support not so innocent agendas.  Compassion and diversity decoys have been deployed to distract us from what we are craving: truth, peace, purpose, understanding and personal power. Yes,  I’m also part of the growing category of media that matters.

Does DIVERSITY MATTERS?  IMAGINE.

I want to challenge you to stretch and grow because diversity & inclusion as of today are increasingly becoming buzz words for campaign strategies.  I  don’t ever want to move from the idea that the world can be a better place.  How we make it better together?  No matter how similar we seem, we’re all very different.  No matter how different we feel, we’re all very similar.  

Is baffling to me to hear an activist advocating equity in education for black kids only. When asked if Latino/Hispanics were included, the answer was a resounding no: “this is for black kids only”.  The wife of Mayor Antonio Vasquez (first Latino Mayor of Santa Monica) was in the room as a speaker that night.  Ms. Vasquez is one of the key advocates to bring Dr. Pedro Noguera Equity in Education to Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District along another Latino school Board member, activist, and City Council candidate Oscar de la Torre. 

It’s chilling to read Committee for Racial Justice activist Trudy Goodwin social media answer to a comment of solidarity and inclusion with “That statement is like attending a 5-k run for breast cancer and shouting “but lung cancer kills too”.  Seriously?  It’s cancer, it spreads.  Is not uncommon for cancer to show up in several parts of the body at the same time.  We’re all outraged and traumatized by police images killing innocent suspects.  Since when Racial Justice is exclusive Black justice?  

Apparently, it has become popular to exclude people that suffer the trauma of police violence because they don’t have the “right” skin color.   If you are Hispanic and black you are good… but if not, is limbo time…don’t dare to speak, is an exclusive matter.  All I have to say is:  

 I might not have the color but I have the struggle. 

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Perhaps because I was born and raised with a black uncle, gay cousin/friends/neighbors, alcoholic relatives/friends, Jewish grandfather, Cuban & British neighbors, “white” parents and educated in a school that looked like a Benetton ad,  I was unconsciously groomed to tackle this issue.  

I surround myself with people of diverse perspectives, ethnicities, gender, political affiliations, disabilities and social status, it was the way I was raised.  Our perspectives might be different but at the end of the day, we share the same planet.  I’ve curated an exquisite group of friends that influence robust debate.  When we build with people that think the same and are the same, there is no perspective or change.  The excitement for me is to work with people that THINK DIFFERENTLY, the coming together of diverse people, while still affirming their differences.  To build a sense of community in the context of the obstacles we face, is to make Los Angeles a sustainable society for future generations. 

Right now we are endangering many voices and perspectives, that do not subscribe to the status quo.  Voices that sell their souls in the hopes of access, leverage, advancement, and survival.  This is not a time to distance ourselves from what is truly going on.  We don’t have to wait for an event to bring us together, we can build a community without a tragedy.  That’s why diversity matters to me.  It matters to me because we are better people by our ability to feel with the other, which is the meaning of compassion.  

TED creates action through ideas as evidenced by the Charter for Compassion.  We can develop the kind of identity that calibrates the gentle courage needed to speak our voice. Reason to join the City of Speakers  pre TedxLA experiment, a unique mosaic of the voices of Los Angeles.  We are working to capture the voice of LA in its rich diversity, spirit and authenticity.  The experiment is scheduled to be showcased at TedxLA in December. 

EDUCATION

Despite the efforts of education activists, we are facing compassion illiteracy.  My goal is to have our school district make the revolutionary decision to teach the science of compassion and meditation at our schools.  That is a step to make a difference for future generations, innovation in education.

Disruption is either going to happen to you or BECAUSE of you. 

The algorithm for compassion lies in the hearts and minds of each of us, we are built with it, is encoded in our DNA.  I learned from a Bhagavad Gita scholar, that the classic does not contain a single line on morality, it’s all focused on CONSCIOUSNESS.  As we build cities of the future WE MUST LEARN TO DO SO WITH COMPASSION, balance the needs of those who have done very well in our society with those who have nothing to sustain themselves except the kindness of strangers. 

The general atmosphere in politics where discourse is managed as spiteful currency by purveyors of hate increases the danger of compassionate cities.   Compassion is the arbiter of fairness. The kind of law that we want, is in our conscience.  DIVERSITY MATTERS is hosting a CONSCIOUS DEBATE for local City Council and College Board candidates in Santa Monica.  Why?  Vedic thought brings undoubted integrity to political discourse and conversation.  It occupies a significant place in the intellectual and ethical life of modern times.  It invites voters and candidates to evaluate with fresh meaning the role of politicians and their responsibilities to our community and humanity at large.

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This is an experiment I hope to expand to the rest of LA County in elections to come.  We must engage in the future of our cities, participate through the civic engagement available to us or make our own way to it.  Last September Michelle Alexander sobering Social Media announcement served an invitation to activists around the world.

Solving the crises we face isn’t simply a matter of having the right facts, graphs, policy analyses, or funding.  And I no longer believe we can “win” justice simply by filing lawsuits, flexing our political muscles or boosting voter turnout. Yes, we absolutely must do that work, but none of it — not even working for some form of political revolution — will ever be enough on its own.  Without a moral or spiritual awakening, we will forever remain trapped in political games fueled by fear, greed, and the hunger for power

Sobering indeed… aligned with the thoughts of fellow activist Cesar Chavez:

We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.’

IMAGINE if DIVERSITY MATTERED like that.

ISLAM IN AMERICA

By: Amir Hussain

One often hears talk of “Islam and the West” or “Islam and America”. This brings up an image of two mutually exclusive realities. If we change one simple word, we get instead “Islam in the West” or “Islam in America”. That simple change makes all the difference. Instead of posing two warring factions, “Islam” and “America”, we see the reality of their interconnectedness. Islam is, of course, a “Western” religion, sharing deep roots with Judaism and Christianity. Muslims are much closer religiously to Jews and to Christians than we are to “Eastern” religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Muslims are also a strong presence in “the West”. Islam is the second-largest religion in Canada, Britain, and France, and may well be the second-largest religion in the United States. “Islam in the West” recognizes the entwined heritage of Islam and the West. The West as we know it would not be what it is without the contribution of Muslims. Think quickly of our number system, for example, and ask yourself if it is easier to do multiplication and division with Arabic numbers or with Roman numerals. To be sure, the number system came from India, but it was the Arabs who named it. Yet we often don’t see our connections, and people here in America often have a fear or hatred of Muslims.

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My new book, Muslims and the Making of America, describes the realities of Muslim life in America, and highlights the contributions made to America by its Muslim population. To take only one example, American Muslims have served in the United States military since the Revolutionary War. There were some 300 Muslim soldiers who served during the American Civil War. That’s not a large number, certainly, but it also gives the lie to the oft-repeated claim that Muslims are newcomers to the United States. At the end of 2015, ABC News reported figures from the US Department of Defence that some 5,896 Muslims were serving in the military. That number may be higher, since some 400,000 service members did not self-identify their faith. So almost 6,000 American Muslims serve in the armed forces, helping to defend the country.

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In America, we still think of violence as something unique to Muslims, and don’t seem to realize the violence around us. Charles Kurzman is a sociologist at the University of North Carolina who studies home grown Muslim terrorism. The numbers are, unfortunately, greater than zero, where they should be. But they are much lower than many people think. So for example in 2015, 19 Americans were killed in mass shootings by Muslims in America, 14 by the San Bernardino shooters (I will not glorify murderers by naming them), 5 by the shooter in Chattanooga. That’s less than the number of American Veterans who commit suicide each day (approximately 22), and about the equivalent of the number of Americans shot in any 8 hour period each day. Unfortunately, that changed this year.

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On June 12, 2106, less than 2 days after the funeral of Muhammad Ali, an American Muslim killed 49 people and injured over 50 more in the worst mass shooting in the United States. The shooter was known to law enforcement, and had been questioned multiple times about ties to terrorism. His ex-wife told the Washington Post that he “wasn’t a stable person” and that he had beaten her. A former co-worker described him to the Los Angeles Times as “angry at the world”, as well as being “unhinged and unstable”. However, he was still able to legally purchase guns in the week before the shooting.

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In a horrific way, the shooter also represented America, taking on our worst characteristics as a society. He was homophobic, and chose to attack an LGBTQ nightclub during Pride Month. Sadly, LGBTQ Americans are the most likely to be violently attacked in a hate crime. There were reports that the shooter had frequented the nightclub, as well as having a presence on gay dating sites. His ex-wife as well as a classmate thought he might have been gay. So his homophobia may have emerged out of his own sexual identity, which he may have had to suppress.

He also attacked the nightclub on Latin night, and the majority of those killed or injured were LGBTQ Latinx. So there was a deeper tragedy, of those marginalized for both their ethnicity and their sexuality being the targets that the shooter chose.

He also, as noted above, used guns that he had purchased legally to commit his murders. America’s gun deaths are a national disgrace and a national shame. In the ensuing debate over the murders, very few people mentioned that he used the guns that he had purchased for their intended purposes. Assault weapons, by definition, are designed to kill large numbers of people. You can use a rifle to hunt with, or a shotgun or handgun to protect yourself. But the only reason to have an assault weapon is to kill large numbers of people. And yet assault weapons are easily obtainable in the United States, even by a person who had been under the scrutiny of the FBI since 2013.

On a 9-1-1 call during the shooting, he pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State. He also posted extremist Islamic statements on Facebook. Clearly, his interpretation of Islam is important here, and this part of his background needs to be investigated. But people belonging to other religious traditions have also committed mass shootings, and homophobia is sadly not unique to Islam. Matthew Shepard, to take only one tragic example, was not tortured and killed by Al-Qaeda.

American Muslim groups were quick to condemn the shootings (as they always do), and remind people that their sympathies were with the murdered, not with the shooter. The shootings also caused many Muslims to think about homophobia in their communities, and perhaps to rethink their views on homosexuality. There is so much work ahead that we need to do, both in Muslim and non-Muslim communities, to make the connections between misogyny, homophobia, and other hate crimes.

Reasons to Tell Brand Story on Snapchat

By: Saba Sedighi, Snapchat for Business Coach & Instructor, iStream Social

It’s easy to want to dismiss Snapchat. There are already an overwhelming number of social platforms your business has to manage just to have a well rounded social presence. So naturally, the thought of introducing a 3rd, 4th, 5th or even 6th sounds like something you’ll just continue to procrastinate on until 2017?

 I’m here to tell you that you’re making a mistake and underestimating the potential, you’re missing out by not creating content, building your community and engaging an audience on Snapchat. We consistently hear narratives around the importance of not talking about your product but developing a story around your brand. This allows your audience to connect with what you are selling and ultimately become a loyal fan and customer.
It’s not everyday that a platform comes along and changes the way we think about creating content, and sharing moments. I’ve outlined just 5 reasons you should stop procrastinating on storytelling through Snapchat and begin embracing this platform unique features.

1. Reach
 Let’s talk numbers. This keeps things unbiased and objective. Snapchat has been one of the fastest growing social networks of the decade. Since it’s launch in 2011, it has grown to over 150+ million daily active users and it’s estimated that over 400 million snaps are exchanged each day. Their video product has skyrocketed with over 10 billion daily video views (Facebook has 8 billion daily video views).

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2. Immediacy
 Have you even scrolled past a post on your feed or seen an article that caught your attention and immediately though, “oh I’ll just look at it later.” Well for most people, later becomes never primarily because later we are inundated with just the same amount of content to consume. A key differentiator with Snapchat is that content that is submitted to your “Story” expires after 24 hours. Although some may argue this is a disadvantage for the platform, I completely disagree. This counteracts the “later” mentality and encourages users to consume the content when they see knowing it will not be there later that week.

3. Creativity 
Such a vague term usually used when describing an artist, designer or writer who has to think outside the box to convey their message or emotions. Creativity goes far beyond those stereotypical definitions and expands into the way we live our lives and express ourselves regardless of our professions or artistic abilities. When you are creating a Snap (Photo or Video max of 10 seconds) you’re able to layer a variety of different creative elements in order to enhance your content. Your toolbox includes : Text, Drawing Pen, Emojis, 3D Stickers, Video Filter, Color Filters, Geofilters, Facial Lenses, Face Swap. Storytelling takes on a new level of creativity and gives you permission to try new things every single time.

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Snaps by @SabaSedighi

4. Engagement  When content feels native, authentic and human people are more likely to respond and feel a personal connection with the message being communicated. Snapchat’s medium of creating content in 10 second bursts of photos and videos allows users to keep their creations fun and informative without the pressures of making it perfect. A recent Business Insider Intelligence study found that “Snapchat is five times more effective than Twitter and 10 times more effective than LinkedIn at getting users to spend time on the platform on a per-user basis.”  In addition to its highly engaged user base, Snapchatters are spending an average of 25-30 minutes on the platform. This includes messaging their friends, consuming stories and brand Discover channels.

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5. Keepin’ it Real
 With all the Instagram filters, post-production tools and editing features it’s not often you come across content that hasn’t been produced, well except Snapchat. Since you are taking your photo or video directly on Snapchat and adding all of your creative within those 30 seconds, even if you’ve added a pretty flower lens or dog filter, you’re content feels authentic. We often hear, “Be authentic, humanize your brand.” Well there’s more than a few people not practicing what they preach with their over produced and edited content on the web. Luckily Snapchat has not only made Storytelling easy but also fun to do so without spending hours editing.

Of course, building an audience is never an easy task but passing up the opportunity to take advantage of storytelling on Snapchat would be a mistake in 2016. Snapchat has positioned itself in a unique place in the market by approaching the idea of content creation and storytelling from a new angle. The platform empowers you to authentically share your story in real time without the constant worry of having to produce perfection.

Welcome to Santa Monica SNAPCHAT!

A FATHER’S DAUGHTER

By: Zoë Muntaner

It’s rare, all right. A full Moon last landed smack on the Solstice in the 1940s. It’s the kind of thing that would have inspired the Mayans to shove a few extra in-laws from their pyramids – the sort of coincidence that would have made the Stonehenge folks haul additional stones into position. But that’s what’s actually happening this Monday, June 20. ~Bob Berman, Almanac Weekly

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The MOON is part of my business. This platform is the first digital property of  New MOON Media & Communications .  Click on name to learn more.  I started using the moon to illustrate the pronounciation of my last name. Phonetically, the first three letters of my father’s last name –Muntaner- sound like MOON. Instead of suntan, use moontan,  add er and the end.  Critical rolling of the “r”.  Practice makes perfection.  I’m fond of my Father’s name.

Yesterday was my first Father’s Day without my dad on earth.  I tried to write but something else was calling me to serve, my father would have done the same.  He would go to where he was needed before serving his personal or professional needs.  In his honor I went to the 2016 California Democrats National Convention.  I was there for the statewide delegation meeting that will be traveling to Philadelphia, PA from July 23 to July 28 for the 2016 National Convention.  My sister lives in Philly, at least I have room and board covered.  The hotels will be too chaotic for me.  I want to spend some time with my sister.  She is proud and supportive of my work,  I want to tell her more about it in person.  She actually sponsored one of my continuing education courses at General Assembly last month.   Since my dad passed away last July, we’ve become closer.  Death can be a catalyst to so many possibilities.  We’ll be together during the convention for the 1st anniversary of his passing, it sounds like the right thing to do.  It seems like is all part of a bigger plan, the stars are aligned, the mystery unfolding.  I just trust and let my faith guide me through the journey.

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As a young man Dad  enlisted in the US Military to serve.  I’m the proud daughter of a Veteran. It was quite the privilege to witness the burial flag on his casket during his military honors burial.  He was stationed in Germany and travelled throughout Europe during his youth as part of his service to this County.

My father and I had a special relationship.  Mom said we were the same, which means we butted  heads a lot.  Jewel sings: “In the end only kindness matter….We are never broken”.   For a while I felt seriously broken,  it propelled me to seek help to heal a wounded perspective.  The only thing from him I brought back with me to Santa Monica after his funeral, was an owl ring he wore on his pinky finger.  He collected owls, they represent wisdom, that symbol was important to his values.

“Many children have grown up with nursery stories of wise old owls. From the ancient Greek legends to the wise owls in Wini the Pooh and The Owl and The Pussycat, we have all seen images in folk tales of owls as the quintessential bearers of knowledge and sagacity.  From ancient Athens, the silver four-drachma coin bore the image of the owl on the obverse side as a symbol of the city’s patron, Athene Pronoia, the Greek goddess of wisdom who, in an earlier incarnation, was goddess of darkness. The owl — whose modern scientific name Athene carries this heritage — came to represent wisdom from its association with the dark (Saunders 1995). The owl was also the guardian of the Acropolis (Holmgren 1988), and the Roman statesman Pliny the Elder wrote that owls foretell only evil and are to be dreaded more than all other birds (Rackham 1997, as recounted in Martin 1996).  In many other cultures, owls represent wisdom and knowledge because their nocturnal vigilance is associated with that of the studious scholar or wise elder (Saunders 1995). According to one Christian tradition, owls represent the wisdom of Christ, which appeared amid the darkness of the unconverted (Saunders 1995). To early Christian Gnostics, the owl is associated with Lilith, the first wife of Adam who refused his advances and control. The owl had a place as a symbol in the King Arthurian legends since the sorcerer Merlin was always depicted with an owl on his shoulder. In Japan, owl pictures and figurines have been placed in homes to ward off famine or epidemics (Martin 1996)”.  ~Griffith Chen, Full-stack developer QUORA

The ring in my finger holds a daily reminder of hope.  It guides my choices and decisions the way dad wished I would be in the world.  My father did the best he could, I made peace with that.  He was the father of an imperfect daughter, I hope he made peace with that.  When he got ill, I went to visit him for a month.  He was bedridden by now, mom was his nurse 24/7.  It was hard for both of us.  He was so happy to see me when I arrived home at 4 AM.     The following day he sat in his rocking chair, I sat close to him, he looked to the horizon… his eyes filled with tears.  He started to cry.  Nothing was said, we both knew this was the last visit we were to spend as father and daughter.  I had to be strong for him.  With my silence, I did my best to let him know I would be fine.  Perhaps he was scared.  He didn’t know if I would be able to take care of myself as a single woman.  There were so many things unsaid.  I didn’t give him the joy of grandchildren. His name will end with me and my sister, unless I decide to adopt a child later in life.

Memories flood with fierce intensity.  I’ve learned that only I can unlock the door of my past and walk away.  My father didn’t have healthy parenting skills modeled by my grandfather, who immigrated from the island of Mallorca in Spain to Puerto Rico looking for prosperity.  He passed on from lung cancer, when my father was 17 years old leaving my dad as the head of a household of five.  I can only imagine what that did to his psyche.

Therefore, I’ve done as well as any woman could be expected to do under those circumstances.  Slowly but surely, my heart melts little by little.  I forgive the mistakes that were part of my upbringing.  The pictures above are of my grandfathers.  Left, Antonio Muntaner Flaquer and right, Maximilian Cohen (Abuelo Max).

“Everyone who plays a part in our lives offers something we might learn.”~Courage to Change  p. 335

At his funeral there were mended relationships from old family friends, everyone and then some showed up to pay their respects even though it was in a holiday weekend where most locals were out of town traveling.  I was surprised to see business leaders and politicians show up.  He was dad to me, for others he was a pillar in the community.

I learned to have a political, business and service mind from him.   He was always involved in some type of community service or volunteerism venture.  That’s who he was at his core, a man for others.   An old friend of mom and dad shared with us that when their father died they had nothing to eat, my father told my grandfather and showed up at their home to bring candy to the children.  He offered his unconditional support to them, with his already limited means.  That’s my DNA!  There is so much more I can write, but my intention is to honor him with actions not words.  He left me a ring, I give him Jewel.

FATHERS AMONGST US

There are other fathers around us worth mentioning here, serving families, cities, state, and communities.  First, I must talk about our City Manager Rick Cole. Having once been an elected official, he learned that much of what often passes for politics involves superficial soundbites, announcements of good intentions, oversimplification of complex issues and feel good symbolism. Both he and I understand the importance of these dimensions of public life, but his focus is on making measurable progress on key priorities that make a difference in the lives of real people here in Santa Monica.

My focus is on making policy that has intelligence, integration and impact.  Policy that creates more transparency and equity amongst ALL residents of Santa Monica.  I’m not a member of City Council, but I bring attention to the ideas that matter to me.  That’s how Santa Monica became the first city in LA County to sign and affirm the Charter for Compassion.  He is actively working on increasing capacity to deliver measurable results in two broad ways — one, better organization on how they do their work, which is music to my ears…. and two, work in greater partnership with other public agencies, NGOs, businesses, informal community groups and citizens, which sounds like a great prospective for Compassionate Santa Monica.

He visited Louisville KY, Mayor Greg Fisher last week.  Fisher is the man I spoke during my 2014 campaign for Santa Monica City Council, he ran on a compassionate platform and won.  The compassion games started from Seattle, WA calling game on Louisville, KY.  I met him at the Empathy and Compassion Conference in San Francisco, CA right after 2014 election.

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Banner at New Roads School in Santa Monica, for the 2014 Compassion Games.
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Mayor Greg Fisher at the Empathy & Compassion Conference in San Francisco, 2014.

I’m hopeful and patient.  I’m also disappointed that the City Council unanimously embraced the Compassionate City designation but has done little to actualize it. I assume that he has the same complaint, but from a different angle.  When he took the City Manager job, he told the Council, privately and publicly, “Your problem is that you have 15 top three priorities.”  I know which is priority 1,2,3: DEVELOPMENT AND DENSIFICATION.  I’m all in for affordable housing development and slow growth, but we have an issue of ideas brewing on a pot of misinformation and people are drinking the KOOL AID in Santa Monica.  Mr. Cole and his predecessor said publicly we don’t need development for revenue. Cole publicly said the future of Santa Monica lays in BETTER not BIGGER.  I’m getting some cues here. YOU?   The way I see it, City Council hired Cole to make magic happen here in Santa Monica, at the same time they are telling him how to do his job.  A receipe for disaster.  Lots of compassion for the man.

He and I both could spend the entire day listing the laudable projects, promises, policies and priorities embraced by our City, the last one being Diversity and Inclusion, which I brought to their attention, thank you very much!  There is almost no idealistic, progressive concept our City government won’t enthusiastically adopt, except the Anti- Corruption Act from Represent US and Safe Cities from UN Women.  I’ve been working with both initiatives for two years and have requested them be added to the agenda of City Council.  Other leaders are working strategically to take credit for it.  Cue: Elena Cristopoulos: you are being watched!

Mr. Cole explained to me the problem is governmental capacity to actually pursue simultaneously all these worthwhile endeavors — and produce measurable progress instead of simply raising unrealistic expectations.  The issue I see is that, despite having the communications resources, the city has failed in a cohesive strategy to inform its residents and build trust.  It is an understatement to think we are living distrustful times, as he expressed at the Civic Auditorium Planning Department- “I Love Downtown Santa Monica” event last week.  The trust is so fractured, broken and damaged, it will take a miracle to restore it.  Start praying people!

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When all is said and done, the challenge Mr. Cole has is how he would like to be remembered.  As someone who stood by its residents preserving what they have so dearly built by improving its infrastructure ? Or, someone who sat quietly and did the will of private interests funneled by the Chamber of Commerce,  and other non for profit institutions.  Someone come to our emotional rescue!  I’m confident he will make Santa Monica the best of the cities he has managed.  He has to. I have a good feeling about it and hope he does not let us down.  The earmark for the field was a flawless start, don’t you think?

His daughters are going to college, he has more time to focus on his new children (Santa Monica residents and City Council), once he moves to Santa Monica he will get a feel for what truly matters.  The LA Times didn’t call him the Guru of City Hall, just because he is chill.  The guy has some serious policy game. As a glutton of curiosity, I would like to know the neighborhood he will choose to call home. Don’t you?

A shout out to father and son Mayor Eric and Gil Garcetti (Where do I start? It will take me a whole new blog…coming in cowple of months, stay tuned), Muhammad Ali ( As my father, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was a man of faith and service to others), David Dorfman (IDEAS LA Swami), Governor Jerry Brown ( allowed SB 254 The “New” Overturn Citizens United Act to go to the ballot without his signature), Senator Bernie Sanders (My Jewish Hero who has transformed the political landscape this election cycle).  They are not perfect, who is amongst us?  Do I agree with every single of their stances? No.  Do I think they are doing good work?  Absolutely!  There is always room for improvement, that is the fabulous thing about life, every day we wake up with that challenge.

Ultimately the force that underlies all things in the Universe, which I choose to refer to as God, is the Father/Mother figure that deserves the loudest shout out.  I’d be lost without its guidance and support.  The mystery of that relationship is one of my sources of inspiration and service.  Without it nothing works.  Thank you God. Hebrew National hotdogs tagline reads: “We answer to a higher authority”

LATINO CAUCUS OF CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATS

According to Marcy Winograd early morning Facebook post from the the Latino Caucus of the CA Democratic Party in Long Beach, a packed room shouted, “Primary them!” in reference to Assembly members  Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys), and Marc Levine (D-Novato), three of the Dems who voted recently not to support farm worker overtime for those toiling over 8 hours a day, stooping in the fields, breaking their backs to deliver grapes, lettuce and strawberries to our table. The Democratic  Party base is mad as hell at these corporate Democrats cozy with agribusiness. State senate leadership plans to bring back the farmworker overtime bill via the senate, then back to the assembly again. Urge  Bloom — one of ours — to rethink this and vote for farmworker overtime. (310) 450-0041.  Never the wrong time to do the right thing, Richard.   Thank you Marcy for letting us know.  All I have to say is:  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

“Richard Bloom remains silent in the face of his disgraceful and inexcusable vote. We await the change.” ~Buddy Gottlieb, Labor Attorney 

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Marcy Winograd recently organized another delegation to urge Richard Bloom withdraw his AB2844 bill calling for a state enemies list to thwart the BDS campaign for equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis. After his bill was heavily amended by the farm worker overtime bill author, he and two other co-authors of the anti-BDS bill refused to support farm worker overtime — defeating the bill with their three decisive votes. She spoke with Bloom’s Chief of Staff in Sacramento about this and he said there was no retaliation, that Bloom simply felt for the growers facing challenges with the drought and increased water fees. Her thinking is if you can’t afford to pay overtime, you shouldn’t be running a business.

The Democratic party is facing a problem amongst the more progressive leaning membership.  Bernie Sanders campaign is the result of that crisis. The referenced politicians present themselves as progressives.  Yesterday, I spotted few of the new wave of candidates and leadership making their way, showing symptoms of the same syndrome.  Young men with miniscule amounts of power using it for their own personal gain and agenda.  Oh, the egos of these kids!!!!  I’ll be keeping an eye on them,  we deserve better than that.  Honest candidates are getting ready to serve.  To honor my father’s legacy of service, I serve by watching, warning  and writing.  Not under my watch, is all I have for tonight.

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Have an awesome Summer Solstice today and tomorrow.  May you have sunsets as gorgeous as this:

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Santa Monica Sunset with no filter shot with iPhone 2014.

DIVERSITY OF IDEAS

By: Zoë Muntaner

Santa Monica City Council meetings can be a hoot or a total bummer, depending of your idea of fun.  City Hall steps where the Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council hosted a local Community Vigil for the Orlando victims was a setting for a hopeful outcome, after all we ended the vigil singing PEACE, SALAM, SHALOM.  You would think that transferred to City Chambers, correct?  It depends on your idea of peace.

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A person places a rose by a flag during a vigil at The Center, a community center for the LGBT community, Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Las Vegas. The vigil was for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. (AP Photo/John Locher)

I’m so glad I have this outlet, the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. If I don’t get my two minutes extended to finish an important presentation, I sit in a comfy chair or bed and write.  My voice is read globally from a phone, laptop or mobile device.  Thank you Jesus, Mary, Moses and all the prophets before me.  Speaking about prophets who were often persecuted — not an easy existence — when our City Manager Rick Cole told me he thought I was one of the prophetic voices in Santa Monica, I didn’t know how to react.  Is that a compliment or a premonition?  Last week I was TAKEN,  spent 5 days in captivity.  I was abused and my civil rights were violated left and right.  I was not charged with any crime.  My crime is advocating for the homeless, I’ve been voicing my opposition to the harassment and criminalization of this vulnerable population.  Remember a statement from a previous post?  My commitment to use my voice for the voiceless?  I walk my talk.  Is it a crime to be poor?  Is it a crime to be mentally ill?   The lack of compassion from members of the Santa Monica Police Department is a scandal in the making, actually is a scandal period, is made already.   The lack of ACTION from our city staff is an embarrassment.  Mr. Cole, is time to use that moral imperative you spoke two city council meetings ago.  Where is the moral compass of Santa Monica?  Wait for the story, it has so many layers, twists, and turns that I’m going back to my New York storytelling roots, tell it on stage to broadcast via livestream.  Believe the hype, it is gripping stuff.

”We are here today because we have a power we have yet to exercise” ~Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Mayor on TACO Challenge Speech

I’m here to exercise the power of my voice.  I won’t be silenced!  Read previous posts, I LOVE MY FIRST AMENDMENT.  You mess with it, you are messing with a whole powerful global industry.  Do you think I’m fighting this battle alone? Seriously?  Bring it!  I’m fearless.  When it comes to standing for my rights and injustice of the powerless & voiceless, who are harassed day in and day out in our city and around the globe, something kicks in.  Think global, act local, I’m a localist!  For now, I’ll be focusing on local issues, because someone has to do the job,  it feels like a calling to me.

Back to City Council tonight, after reading Bill Bauer Monday Commentary on the Santa Monica Daily Press, I had hopes.  You would think council members read his column, apparently not.  Since he is way better writer than I am, here is a bit:

“The frustration level mounts, people become more unhappy  and dissatisfied with the way they are being served -or ignored.  Special interests are taking charge and we know what they want – benefit for their causes and conditions over the needs and the desires of the public.” ~Bill Bauer, Columnist Santa Monica Daily Press

Tony Vasquez provided enough fuel for me to write all night.  But I have a previous engagement to attend.  The order of business is IDEAS LA.  I’m writing this post, directly and live from the Broad Stage, in the glamorous city of Santa Monica.

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IDEAS Los Angeles is a project by Tel Aviv University-American Friends in partnership with dozens of corporations, private businesses, community organizations, institutes of higher learning and media outlets to create a space where global business leaders, futurists, studio heads, movie and television producers, healthcare providers, doctors, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, Tel Aviv University administrators, professors, and alumni can come together and share ideas.  IDEAS LA (Israel, Digital, Entrepreneurs, Arts, and Science) is hosted by American Friends of Tel Aviv University, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Israel’s largest institution of higher learning.

IDEAS wants to inspire people to think deeper and more broadly by engaging with inventors and innovators tackling some of the most exciting challenges in the world today.  American Friends of Tel Aviv University supports Israel’s most influential, comprehensive, and sought-after center of higher learning, Tel Aviv University (TAU). TAU ranked #75 globally and #1 in Israel in a 2015 Reuters survey of the 100 most innovative universities. It is one of a handful of elite universities rated as the best producers of successful startups, and TAU alumni rank #9 in the world for the amount of venture capital they attract.

It’s not an official IDEAS event without the brightest, most creative minds speaking!  That’s why I’m here, to pick their brains.  So far is a hoot!  This is the place to be today and tomorrow. The code LATINX will get each registrant 50% off all ticket prices.  Courtesy of yours truly, DIVERSITY MATTERS.

IDEAS on the future of digital technology in, Health, Lifestyle, Entertainment, and Media.  I GOT INVESTORS SUPER INTERESTED IN FUNDING DIVERSITY MATTERS! Woohoo!!!!  If you are an entrepreneur at any stage, from seed to funded, you must be here, is all I have to say.  Run don’t walk.  It is the event of the season!  Just before Summer Solstice, great timing, two days before Shabbat, perfection!SelfieMirror_20160616_111658

Inspiring leaders and visionaries like, Jonathan Littman President of Bruckheimer Television; Ayelet Zurer – Actress and Producer; Jonathan Gluck – Senior Executive and Corporate Counsel at Heritage Provider Network; Robert Watson – President of Nanthealth; Alon Shtruzman – President of Keshet International; Marc Graboff – President of Global Business & Legal Affairs for Production Management & Studios at Discovery Communications are just a few of the 70+ industry leaders that will be sharing their vision for the future of digital technology, at IDEAS Los Angeles.

Here is the LINE UP:

Adam Becker, Founder & CEO, Egg Stage
Adam Mendler, CEO, The Veloz Group
Alexis Madrigal, Editor in Chief, Fusion TV
Alicia Menendez, Anchor & Special Correspondent, Fusion TV
Alon Shtruzman, CEO, Keshet International
Andrew Wallenstein, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Variety
Audrey Melnik, Founder, Funnel Ventures
Billy Shaw Susanto, Co-Founder & CEO, Pundit
Brendan Farrell, Founder, How Loud Inc.
Dr. Bonnie Feldman, Principal, Dr Bonnie 360
Dr. Brennan Spiegel,  Director of Health Services Research, Cedars-Sinai Health System
Brian MacMahon, Head Honcho, Expert Dojo
Caitlin Thompson, Director of Content, Acast
Caspar Van Winterfeldt, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Baron VR
Chris Aston, Co-Founder & COO, Pundit
Dave Whelan, Managing Director, Bespoke Business Strategy Inc.
Rabbi David Wolpe, Chief Rabbi, Sinai Temple
Edmond Banayan, Founder & Editor, iHealthcare Perspectives
Fern Langham, Co-Founder, Amplify Effect
Gene Gurkoff, Founder & CEO, Charity Miles
George Eleftheriou, Co-Founder & CEO, Feel
Gilad Neumann, CEO, DogTV
Haris Tsirmpas, Co-Founder & CTO, Feel
Harry Nelson, Founder & Managing Partner, Nelson Hardiman
Heather Rees, Founder, Amplify Effect
Hillary Frey, Executive Editor, Fusion TV
Indu Subaiya, Co-Founder, Health 2.0
James Poole, Co-Founder & CTO, PopChest
Jessica Naziri, Tech Contributor, USA Today
John Bates, Principal, Executive Speaking Success
Jordan Mendler, CTO, The Veloz Group
Dr. Julian Henley, Co-Founder, HealOra
Prof. Joseph Klafter, President, Tel Aviv University
Karen Allen, Karen Allen Consulting
Katherine Lehr, VP of Operations, POLITICO
Klaus Badelt, Co-Founder, Kinonation
Lia Kislev, CEO, Wishi
Liz Plank, Senior Producer & Correspondent, Vox.com
Marc Graboff, President of Global Business & Legal Affairs for Production, Discovery Communications, Inc.
Mayaan Cohen, CEO, Hello Heart
Mette Dyrberg, Founder, MyMee
Mike Stone, CEO & Founder, MakersKit
Miriam Illions, Co-Founder & CMO, Hometalk
Moe Mernick, Head of Business Development, Hometalk
Neal Kaufman, Chief Medical Officer, Canary Health
Nick Desai, Founder & CEO, Heal
Oren Gavriely, CEO, BeatMed
Oron Afek, CEO, BookMD
Rob Rader, General Counsel, Ovation TV
Robert Watson, President, NantHealth
Roey Tsemah, Founder, Whitestone music
Ron Levi, Chief Content Officer, DogTV
Ryan Foland, Director, Blackstone LaunchPad at UCI
Seth Shapiro, CEO, New Amsterdam Media
Steve Baltin, Host, Riffing With on Hulu
Steve Bradbury, Principal, Vlocity Digital
Valerian Bennet, Founder & CEO, PopChest
Dr. Uri Nevo, Dept. of BioMedical Engineering, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Yair Bar Haim, School of Psychological Sciences, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Yael Hanien, Head of Nano Lab, Tel Aviv University

The initial lineup of featured start-ups includes:

Amplify Effect
Beatmed
CharityMiles
DinTV
EggStage
Heal
Healora
Hometalk
How Loud
Kinonation
MakersKit
PopChest
Pundit
Sentio Solutions
Whitestone Music

For more information or to purchase tickets to the IDEAS LA conference, please visit: http://www.ideaslosangeles.com, use code LATINX for a 50% off all ticket prices.

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See you at the Broad, I partnered with PUNDIT a great new app that allows you to have your own talk show, sorta! I will be talking more about through our livestreams interviews.  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to listen to the talks from their booth!

To get Pundit go here: GET PUNDIT !!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

METRO EXPO: BACK TO THE FUTURE – THE SIX DECADES LONG RIDE TO THE WEST SIDE

By: Judi Jordan

It was surreal. On the morning of Friday May 20th the normally congested corner of Colorado and 4th street in downtown Santa Monica was void of cars. A lone, florescent-vested traffic cop stood in the center of the freshly painted zebra striped crosswalk, waving skeptical pedestrians across. Feeling more like a movie lot than a busy beach city, people meandered toward the big white marquee. Beneath the tent, a buzzing crowd of hundreds grew. A Latin jazz quartet played upbeat salsa in the parking lot as Santa Monicans of every description milled around a breakfast buffet of bagels, tiny blueberry muffins, fresh melon slices, and hot spinach frittata. Hungry people ate, thirsty people drank, and anxious people waited for the ‘show’ to begin. After years of bitter debates, politicking, noisy building, months of testing and, at recent count, three car/train/tracks collisions, the Metro’s Expo Line is a done deal, and cause for [self] congratulations. Evidently it took a state, not a village–of power brokers, to get those 6.6 miles of rail laid. High expectations rest upon the 1.5 billion dollar transport, funded by the 2008 Measure R sales tax.

A dozen of the most powerful and diverse people in California sat packed shoulder to shoulder on the small stage, smiling ear to ear at their accomplishment, reminding listeners that the controversial project was finished on time, and on budget. The ceremony itself ran less smoothly.  As the event’s M.C., County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joked his way through persistent sound issues, five-time Olympic Medalist Janet Evans the champion swimmer from Fullerton, emphatically led the pledge of allegiance over the same troubled microphone, and soprano Malia Civetz, award-winning graduate of Thornton School of Music, previous White House performer and winner of USC’s international SoCalVoCal Championship, sang the entire Star Spangled Banner completely obscured behind the state flag of California [!], held aloft by LA Metro Protective Services Color Guard.

Wary of the microphone, Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vasquez did a shaky shout out in rusty ‘Español,’ to the obvious amusement of the Latinos seated to my left. Mayor Eric Garcetti braved the screeching feedback to share a sweet story of his grandparents’ first date on the last Red Line to Santa Monica, 63 years ago, encouraging riders to ‘fall in love on the Expo.’

 

Ultimately, the little imperfections of the launch kept bigwigs grounded, and speeches short. In the big budget world of California politics it was a quaint taste of Mayberry RFD, and for sixty minutes and change, Santa Monica was a small town again.

Here’s what counts: In 48 minutes you can be in Downtown LA. There will be 700 bicycles around the beach for public use, and Zip Cars abound for short hops from the Expo station to your door.

SPIRITUAL DIVERSITY

By: Zoë Muntaner 

WOW,  Pentecost was a diversity fest.  This day became especially significant for Christians because, seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, during the Jewish celebration of Shavuot/Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon his first followers, thus empowering them for their mission and gathering them together as a church.

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“Pentecost”by Jean Restaut II, 1732 Public Domain

 

“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?  Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome  (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” ~Acts 2:5-13

That’s how I feel at times when I go to City Council meetings. As if everyone is speaking a different language, but hearing the discussion in their native tongue. Their interests are at stake.  If land use is in the agenda, for sure I’m perplexed and amazed.  Maybe they had some drinks beforehand (I’m not talking about the councilmembers).  It has not crossed my mind until now.  Some people are drunk with power, that’s why I support term limits for City Council.  Is time we bring reform to that area or our government.

Last Sunday was the church birthday.  The night before, I walked to St. Anne’s for a quiet moment of silent reflection and noticed red programs stacked in a stand.  They read:

Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. ~John 20:22-23  

Sin is  particularly interesting to me because, like most humans,  I’ve sinned.  Through confession, I own it in order to move on and change direction.  I show up at life imperfectly.  In the spirit of keeping it real:

“Perfection is shallow, unreal and fatally uninteresting” ~Anne Lamott

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” ~John 8:7  

The concept of sin is heavy for most people that lack a broader concept of the word or its meaning.  It was tough for me until I studied other traditions with meanings that allowed me to accept myself the way I am: imperfectly perfect.  Lack of love or missing the mark are two of my favorites.  Catholic guilt is a terrible thing.

“Our virtues are made by love, and our sins caused by the lack of it.”~Hazrat Inayat Khan

On Sunday, I went to yoga class early.  I placed my mat at the back of the room and stretched on my own. My teacher had a substitute.  Fifteen minutes into it, I started to cry.  “What’s going on?  I don’t have time for this, it’s Sunday, I want to have some Zen, not a breakdown.”  Then I remembered going to an Evangelical church in Malibu years ago.  The moment I walked into the classroom where they met and listened to music, I started to cry.  The friend who brought me to the service told me, “Don’t worry, that’s the Holy Spirit, is a normal reaction, just let it go”  Was this the Holy Spirit at work in the yoga studio?  Hmm. Here we go.

By the time I arrived to St. Anne’s my body was feeling ready to receive whatever message was there for me to get. After the service, I approached  the deacon and priest to ask if it would be possible to bless my laptop.  I’ve been  working on some stories for a while now, way before I launched the blog, without knowing their destination.  I want to make sure I’m writing them for the right reasons.  I would like to feel there is purpose behind their publication.  It would be nice to feel I’m transcribing them instead of writing them, to have any sense of ego out of the picture.  I’d like to feel I’m doing some service to the community.  I’d like them to come from a pure heart because, well….the issues are not particularly pure.

Both Deacon Raul Molino and Father Anthony Mbaegbu prayed, it was quite beautiful, poetry, a holy moment.  I cried again, a lot!  The deacon looked into my eyes and said:

“That is the work of the prophet, this is your calling”.

– Oh, no,no,no,no.no!  Father, you don’t understand, I’m just writing a blog, there is no prophetic business in that, I’m a sinner, that’s why I come to church, to heal, not to be scared like that sir!

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He shared some spiritual wisdom. I was scared and stayed for another service.  I sobbed for hours.  If the Holy Spirit manifests itself through tears like my friend told me in Malibu years before, I definitely received it.  No doubt about it.

Father Jorge Guillen is a theology scholar, he gave a memorable sermon with historical background, current church politics, weaved with spiritual insight and guidance.  It was a first for me, it felt like professors you still remember from college because they were real, really good.  I was lucky, he prayed for me after the service and with that, there was some confidence and peace to go about the rest of my day. I stopped by their cafeteria to eat some of the Mexican food the Guadalupanas cook every Sunday and learned more about their community.

I normally attend St. Monica’s at 5:30 PM service with Monsignor Torgeson.   Both of them are Catholic communities but their demographic composition is distinctively different.  St. Anne’s has an element of social justice that is not as evident in St. Monica’s.  St. Anne’s is a little piece of East LA in Santa Monica, most of their services are in Spanish and the one in English is given by a Nigerian priest who is here for his PhD at LMU.  You see where I’m going?  We live in a segregated city.  Is alarming to me that the land use we discussed last week at City Council promotes further segregation by having affordable housing off site.  It could be easily controlled by the City Council.   Wellbeing? Compassion? Diversity?  Seriously?   We can’t call our city any of that if we plant the seeds of further segregation.

Some years ago Jodi Low, Coordinator of the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market told me that perhaps the Virginia Park Farmer’s Market was more attractive to me than the downtown Saturday market because it was in the Pico neighborhood, where the poor community of Latinos and blacks traditionally shop. And …I’m the politically incorrect?  Thank God I know who I am, and recognize the ill-managed social training of some city employees.  However, at this day and age is still shocking someone makes a comment like that in a city like Los Angeles is beyong my comprehension.   Santa Monica is a special pocket in LA.  Since I have to pace myself,  I will leave Laura Avery for next post. I would like to draw from the words of Jesus in his crucifixion:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” ~Luke 23;34

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I have a good radar to evaluate intentionality.  Some people know exactly what they are doing, they just don’t care.  Two years ago while in campaign for City Council, I got in the elevator at City Hall to find an employee from the City Clerk’s office who told me: “keep doing what you are doing, they are scared” . My intention is not to scare anyone, my intention is to have an honest conversation about  some issues that don’t align with the so-called City Wellbeing and do not affirm the Charter for Compassion.  After the conversation we can go about the business of making change.  Shall we?  If we keep ignoring the white elephant in the room, you know what happens: “If you don’t pay attention, God will turn up the volume”.  On another instance Rebecca Adams, Administrative Staff Assistant who used to to be in the City Clerk’s office told me -as if she was incharge of the office- “come another time because everyone was busy and they can’t help you”.  Esterlina Lugo was ready to help me, but Adams was set on using her entitlement to make herself feel superior.  It does not stop there.  Last week, I sat on the same table she was sitting with other staff, waiting for the COSW meeting to start, she stood and left with someone I was striking a conversation to wait in front of the door.  This juvenile behavior belongs to a scene in Mean Girls not a city that claims Wellbeing, Compassion, Empathy, Diversity & Inclusion.  This stuff is relegated to films and fiction circa 1950 in the South. Do you agree?

via GIPHY

Am I the problem?  That is debatable.  If you want to keep Santa Monica a city of of racial tension and discrimination, perhaps I am.  On the other hand, if you want Santa Monica to be a real city of Wellbeing, Compassion, Diversity & Inclusion, I believe I’m part of the solution.  I tweeted yesterday a new mantra: “Zoë, just keep writing” , I t came to me in a moment of quiet reflection.  That is my job, to report from the frontlines, shine a light to issues that seem to get no attention but influence a fundamental part of our identity as citizens and our community.

BETRAYAL

I was betrayed on Friday.  Perhaps I had a delayed reaction and was vulnerable and fragile by Sunday, therefore all the crying.  Church was a place to find solace.  One thing is when someone let you down, betrayal is a whole different business.  Is a horrible feeling.

In Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, the ninth Circle of Hell is ringed by Biblical and Classical Giants. Nimrod , Ephialtes, and Antaeus are found here. THIS IS ONE TOUGH CROWD!

“The lowest, blackest, and farthest from Heaven. Well do I know the way.” — Virgil

 

Treachery is the ninth Circle of Hell. This last circle is dedicated to those people who betrayed their loved ones, friends, best friends, countries, cities, guests, and even to their masters.  YES PEOPLE, CITIES!  Are you betraying yours?  According to Dante, the end game is not pretty.  For me the best strategy in Public Relations crisis management is: own it, apologize, change directions.

That is my prayer for you.