DIVERSITY MANNERS

By: Zoë Muntaner

I have been told to never let my mood dictate my manners. Is a practice that takes decades to cultivate, and even more to sustain.  In the world of politics, where jabs are constantly thrown at you, the challenge is to keep calm under pressure.  Politics are not for the thin skinned, fragile or coward.

If you are a political citizen, at some point you will become passionate about ideals and campaigns, it is wise to be vigilant about emotions that potentially trigger crisis or disaster, which will later require the skill of a professional to manage.

Am I willing to suffer for this? “ is the question I always ask myself before commiting to action.

“You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from” ~Joan Didion

Experience has taught me to be mindful on the passions I choose. Passion: (n.) from Late Latin passionem “suffering, enduring” stem of Latin pati “to suffer, endure, to hurt.”

I’m Latinx therefore my DNA is already infused with passion. Warning: Proceed with caution.

Manners are the basic building blocks of civil society” ~Alexander McCall Smith

DNA, NOW & CULTURAL APPROPIATION

Cultural Appropiation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture.  This week’s Santa Monica Downtown Neighbors Association and North of Wilshire Neighbors Association event was themed “Block Party”.  DNA is chaired by Elena Christopoulos a white young female and NOW is chaired by Troy Harris a black  young man.

I grew up going to block parties in Puerto Rico and New York.  So last night I dressed in washed out jeans, plaid shirt, sweater on my waist, LA Dodger cap and sandals. Most guests were overdressed. Travis Pagel and Peter James, the planners who are on the DCP road show were on point with their dress code.  They are busy, and have the toughest  job in town: sell a project that will alter the feel and character of downtown Santa Monica.  I admire their tenacity and have compassion for the trouble they go through doing their job.

I was greeted by a new Santa Monica resident whom I met at the Santa Monica Democratic Club meeting where David Martin presented the DCP. I was surprised when he told me he became a board member of DNA within months after moving to Santa Monica. His name is Wellington Moreno, we connected because he is Dominican from the Bronx, you know me, I love my color people. Mr. Moreno greeted me with a warning: “I hope you are not coming here to cause any trouble”.  It can only go uphill from there, yes?  Wrong. Next stop was the sign in table to get my ticket for a free drink (the invitation said drinks, as in plural).  I shook hands with Ms. Christopoulos whom I contacted months before to discuss Compassionate Santa Monica.  She also serves in the Santa Monica Commission on the Status of Women. I thought it would be easy to sit and meet, after all, it is part of her job. Correct? Wrong again.  I was snubbed and unfriended from her Facebook page.  I’ll take my speech somewhere else, not everyone has a taste for compassion in this town.  Take note, Santa Monica is the first city in LA County to sign the Charter for Compassion, and the 4th city in the whole state of California.  Did I mentioned it was a unanimous vote by our City Council?  It was, back in September 2013.  I have been in the compassion movement for three years now.  Not an easy task.  I am a developer of sorts, I build compassionate cities, and it is the slowest growth of all developments.

Around 7:30 PM speeches started.  Ms. Christopoulos time came up and she scolded the audience because they were not listening to her, and ask people to be quiet. I do event planning through my company New MOON Media & Communications.  My piece of free advice: never give alcohol and food to your guests and wait more than 30 minutes before starting the speech portion of an event. When her please didn’t work, she deployed her bomb:

“I am half German, so you know, I have all the time in the world” ~ Elena Christopoulos, Political Consultant, Speaker, Communications Consultant, President of DNA & Commissioner of the Status of Women in Santa Monica

Should I be scared?  What does that mean? Oy vey!

My grandfather Maximillian Cohen was Jewish, I was raised Catholic. I’m surprised to find out that Elena has a website offering political advisor, communications, and speaker services.  Interesting choice of words and attitude, especially since she was stressing civility and diversity throughout the night.  Entitled?  You be the judge of that.

My issue here is that I’m commited to moving the needle of diversity in Santa Monica as much as I can.  I’m also commited to policing its authenticity and control any cultural appropiation to advance a political agenda.

“Cultural appropriation typically involves members of a dominant group exploiting the culture of less privileged groups — often with little understanding of the latter’s history, experience and traditions.” ~Nadra Kareem Little, Race Relations Expert

According to Wikipedia, block parties are reported as a World War I innovation originating from the East Side of New York City, where an entire block was roped off and patriotic songs sung and a parade held to honor the members of that block who had gone off to war. Traditionally, many inner city block parties were actually held illegally, because they did not file for an event permit from the local authorities. However, police turned a blind eye to them.  Block parties gained popularity in the United States during the 1970s, particularly within the hip hop community. Block parties were often held outdoors and power for the DJ’s sound system was taken illegally from street lights, as referenced in the song “South Bronx” by KRS-One.

This was not one of those block parties, evidenced by the end portion of the evening.  After Peter and Travis DCP presentation, only board members were allowed to ask questions because, after all, they are paying for the party, those were her literal words.  WOW!  I was raised to have my guests be the center of attention and cater to their wants and needs.  That’s how I roll!

“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy” ~Isaac Newton

ENTRE BROMA Y BROMA…LA VERDAD SE ASOMA (Google it!)

It gets better! Tim Harter, Senior Field Representative of Assemblyman Richard Bloom (Jewish) California State Legislator Office was a speaker at the event as well.  He later posted in Facebook about the event:

Community engagement is a vital function of a healthy community!! Learning about the Downtown Community Plan with the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) and North of Wilshire (NOW). ” ~Tim Harter, Board Mamber of NOW 

“Soon, perhaps in the next few weeks, the California legislature will vote on Bloom’s controversial bill (AB2844) “California Combatting the Boycott, Divestiture, and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel Act of 2016.” This bill – also co-sponsored by State Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) – would bar state and local contracts with any private company boycotting Israel and its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Private companies refusing to demolish homes or run segregated bus systems in illegally occupied territory could find themselves on a government blacklist, as Bloom’s bill – reminiscent of the McCarthy era – requires the state Attorney General to keep a list of Israel boycotters.” ~Marcy Winograd, Santa Monica Daily Press

I wonder how Bloom and Harter feel about the Nazi rhetoric of Ms. Elana Christopolos. Does Ms. Christopoulos is aware of the Jewish Community in Santa Monica?  A worthy political advisor has to be cognizant of those details.  Where she lacked in diversity understanding she has in financial resources, evidenced by her website.  I am going to hold on the blonde jokes, I don’t want the backlash this weekend. Seriously, can someone give this lady a better script?  If this is how she sells diversity, is time to call the crisis management team. Oy Vey!

 

It strucked me as odd that Ms. Christopoulos presented Santa Monica as the ideal space to live for her because she can:” jog in the morning, hike at noon and surf in the afternoon.”  She is one fit woman for sure!  Skinny Blonde, would be an appropiate title for a fitness blog (I charge for my ideas just in case). I can’t relate to her speech. I’m working to establish the board of Compassionate Santa Monica, plan and execute fundraisers, raise capital, manage a startup: diversitymatters.co and run New MOON Media & Communications.  In other words….I have to work.  I don’t have the luxury of spending my days working out for a skinny bod.  I schedule an hour of yoga or fitness class and 30 minutes of steam room in the evening at the Water Garden Bay Club to keep my mojo going.  There are countless of Santa Monica residents that do not have the luxury of wellness, despite the fact that Santa Monica was a finalist of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for their culture of wellness, and won the Bloomberg Philantrophy Award for the Wellness Project.  Food for thought.

Rudeness

 

AUTHENTIC DIVERSITY: TACO CHALLENGE & BE VISIBLE

Raising LATINO voter registration is something I’m involved in through an initiative from Beatriz Acevedo mitu Network, a Santa Monica Media Company.

Mitu as the voice of Latino millennials is committed to inspiring Latino youth in civic engagement. While Latinos may be driving population growth, only one of three Latino millennials are using their voice to vote. We are represented in numbers, but we are not represented in votes.

Taco ch

As the largest digital media brand, they are able to harness video content and social activations to inspire young U.S. Latinos to take action and make their voices heard.

They have created a unique crossbreed of content that has engaged their audience a million times over. By intersecting the world of hard news and popular culture in a social-friendly format, their audience has not only watched their video content, but has become engaged in the national discourse. For example, Mixing a pop icon, like Selena, and creating a song that encourages people to vote, in the Selenagram Voting video, has garnered over 1 million views, over 14,000 shares and comments like this “Wow we have power in numbers!!!!! Latinos stand up, get involved, and vote for the only candidate that has our best interest.” Not only are people commenting on the video, but they are commenting on the comments. We’re watching Latino millennials become an active part shaping the future of our country.  The power of social video with their community is very powerful and mitú will always use it to engage and inspire our youth.

Beatriz is an inspiring role model and speaker,  we reconnected three weeks ago at the BE VISIBLE Event at Cal State LA, where I found my tribe.  When I was tasked with asking her a question after her presentation, I brought the issue of Santa Monica’s  at-large vs. district elections debate.  That’s how I became aware of the Take Action Commit Others Challenge. #TACOChallenge

Be Visible LatinaTo learn more about Be Visible go here: BE VISIBLE

“We will use mitú’s massive social reach through its video content to engage and inspire Latino millennials to have a say in how our country will be run and encourage them to get out and vote.
We are excited that so many celebrities and social influencers have joined our T.A.C.O. Challenge by agreeing to take action and commit others to vote,” ~Beatriz Acevedo, President and Co-founder of mitú.

Join us tomorrow at the #TACOChallenge.

The special events will feature live performances, food and voter registration booths. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is a supporter of this movement and will be onsite helping to get voters registered.  Other expected event guests include Rosario Dawson, Richard Cabral, Diego Boneta, Nick Gonzalez, Jackie Cruz, Efren Ramirez, Chef Marcela Valladolid, La Santa Cecilia, Maya Jupiter, Kat Dahlia, Eric Ochoa “SUPEReeeGO”, Luan Palomera, Yulema Ramirez.

Rosario Dawson is excited to join the movement and attend the event. “Latino millennials are the face of the new American majority. Together, we have a responsibility to transform our democracy and ensure that every person has a voice in the political process,” said Dawson. “That’s why I’m proud to be a part of a historic effort to register and activate 1 million Latino millennials. This election will be decided by us, all of us, and we must do everything in our power to ensure that we create the kind of future that we know is indeed possible,” she continued.

Organizations dedicated to helping mitú reach the voter registration goal include, City of Los Angeles, Revolve Impact, Toberman Neighborhood Center, Divine Forces Media, NCLR, FWD.us, Rock the Vote, CHIRLA, Voto Latino, Define American, Mi Familia Vota, LULAC, United We Dream, NHMC, NALIP, Homeboy Industries, Center for Community Change, LifeBoxset, Communities in Schools, Youth Justice Coalition, Homies Unidos , Gathering for Justice , Project Kinship , Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Sankofa, The Courage Campaign, Inner-City Struggle, New Earth, Street Poets, Alliance for Community Empowerment, Arts for LA and All of Us or None Los Angeles.

WRITING AS MEDICINE

The daily task, practice and dicipline of writing allows me to process ideas that would otherwise go unexamined.  I proudly belong to the Joan Didion school of thought:

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”~Joan Didion

To have a forum to express my ideas freely is part of my wellness project, is healing.  Oh, yes I also have a company that provide wellness programs.  I am a certified Kundalini Yoga and Pilates Instructor.  You can find more information about us here: The Wellness Project.  We were in business way before the city of Santa Monica came up with their original idea.

I welcome vigorous debate and treat our City Manager Rick Cole with the same transparent honesty and respect I do with Portia, the Metro Rail Ambassador at the Bergamot Metro Station, or Domingo the server at the Ralph’s market Bistro who travels three hours by bus to get to work each day in the morning and evening.  Is who I am, because I was raised in diversity, where manners were meant for everyone, not only those who agreed with my politics.

I leave you with sincere Shabbat Shalom wishes from the bottom of my heart!

 

DIVERSITY DISFRANCHISEMENT

By: Zoë Muntaner

According to Wikipedia disfranchisement (also called disenfranchisement) is the revocation of the right of suffrage (the right to vote) of a person or group of people, or through practices, prevention of a person exercising the right to vote. Disfranchisement is also termed to the revocation of power or control of a particular individual, community or being to the natural amenity they abound in; that is to deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, of some privilege or inherent immunity. Disfranchisement may be accomplished explicitly by law or implicitly through requirements applied in a discriminatory fashion, intimidation, or by placing unreasonable requirements on voters for registration or voting.

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Fellow Santa Monica resident, activist, wife, daughter, friend & filmmaker Holly Mosher produced provocative documentaries that explore the subject with John Wellington Ennis directing.

“We decided to offer our film Free For All online for free after the voting fiascos sweeping the nation from Brooklyn to Arizona, hundreds of thousands, if not millions are being disenfranchised. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was gutted by the Supreme Court and since then laws that make voting harder have popped up in over 22 states across the country. The people and neighborhoods most affected by both voting ID laws and reductions of polling places are usually in the high concentration of minority neighborhoods. It is important to let everyone know what is going on and help empower them to protect their voting rights. It’s up to us to demand free and fair elections for all.” ~Holly Mosher & John Wellington Ennis

For more information and to watch films for free until May 9, 2016, go to the link:

SAVE OUR ELECTIONS

To read John Wellington Ennis Huffington Post piece click on the following link:

CONFRONTING VOTER SUPPRESSION IN 2016

I met Holly at the premiere of her last film Pay 2 Play in 2014, which deals with POLITICAL campaign finance issues.  We became fast friends.  Out of that film the platform of developers money in Santa Monica political campaigns was born.  Sorry guys, this one is on me!   That’s why I was so baffled with Phil Brock flip flop when he solicited and received the maximum donation from a local developer.  Whoever gives you money owns you, therefore, influences your vote on City Council.   Because he was exposed, he returned the money, but the damage was done.  Will you keep trusting candidates that go behind the curtain to practice the opposite of what they preach in their speeches?  Food for thought for the upcoming election.  Again, ACTIONS speak louder than words.

VOTE FOR LOVE

I vote with love in mind, it was the theme of my 2014 Campaign for Santa Monica City Council.  I didn’t get elected, but I won an incredible amount of experience and the integrity of walking my talk.  VISIT MY FACEBOOK PAGE IN THE LINK HERE:

I WILL ALWAYS CHOOSE LOVE

At the time, I didnt know anything about the Kousser Report, the At-Large Elections vs. District Elections debate, and why is so difficult to get elected in Santa Monica if you belong to the category I belong.  Now, I understand, Kimbery Ellis, Executive Director of Emerge California, an organization that is changing the face of California politics by identifying, training and encouraging women to run for office, get elected and to seek higher office answered my question during the Santa Monica Democratic Club Meeting last week:

“Generally speaking, research indicates that women and ethnic minorities fare better in district elections.” ~Kimberly Ellis, Executive Director Emerge CA

Their intensive, cohort-based four-month training program is unique. As the number of elected Democratic women remains flat or even declines, the need for their work is growing.

California became a state in 1850 but has yet to elect a female Governor. Despite being more than 50% of the population, currently, less than 30% of California state legislators are women.

A pool of highly qualified Democratic candidates is being left untapped. Too often, women do not see themselves running for office—they assume they aren’t experienced enough or they don’t know where to begin. Emerge California is changing that!

Emerge California is part of a national network currently working in 16 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

For more information about Emerge CA, go to the link: EMERGE CA

To read some research on the debate of distric vs.at-large elections go here: Electoral Institutions, Gender Stereotypes, and Women’s Local Representation

I am passionate about the subject, hence the tag line of this blog: Who was in the room?

SPEAKING ABOUT LOVE…

Ms. Mosher introduced me to a new coffee shop on Ocean Park Boulevard aptly named LOVE Coffee Bar.  Is where I am sitting as I type in my keyboard the words on this blog. I can’t drink coffee, I’m too hyper as it is, and don’t need the caffeine effect. Holly dared me to taste their coffee, and she was right.  It is beyond anything I’ve ever tasted before, is like drinking an exquisite Tiramisu.

The decor is clean, they have a back outdoor patio, a front bench to read a book or paper, meet a friend and watch people pass by, soft music, elegant yet comfy, small business owned by a Latino, classy…like me.  Like everything else in Sunset Park, it has that unmistakable neighborhood feel that Santa Monicans are losing fast if they don’t act with LOVE in the upcoming election.  Zina Josephs would not allow that in the hood. To learn more about Zina’s & Holly’s neighborhood go here:

SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD IN SANTA MONICA

LOVE Coffee Bar has a well curated Instagram page, I’m a sucker for good social media.  I own a boutique Public Relations, Marketing, Production and Digital Media company and their social media game has my seal of approval.  For more information about my work you can find us on Facebook:

New MOON Media & Communications

To see LOVE Cofee Bar images go to the link:

LOVE COFFEE BAR EXHIBITS (Instagram)

Speaking about elections, I read on Facebook that the Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE) Initiative got 10,000 signatures to be submitted tomorrow with a celebration in front of City Hall.

LUVE calls for a halt to the over-development of Santa Monica by giving voters the right to decide how much development is right for Santa Monica. LUVE would require voter approval for Major Development Review Permits and require voter approval for major changes in the City’s Land Use PolicyDocuments.  The LUVE Initiative was written by Armen Melkonians and Tricia Crane, board members of Residocracy.org, an online direct democracy advocacy tool for residents.

6,430 signatures – ten percent of registered Santa Monica Voters – are required to qualify LUVE for the Nov. 8 ballot. The Committee for the LUVE Initiative did its own validity verification and is confident that the 10,000 signatures they are submitting are more than the number needed to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

That was a labor of LOVE, I must congratulate everyone involved that worked hard for democracy.   The ironic thing is that the celebration coincides with the Mexican 5 de MAYO Celebration, despite Kate Bransfield, board member of Residiocracy claims on Facebook:

“Zoe, This has nothing to do with race, diversity, affordable housing or any other trumped up Trojan horse. This is about quality of life for all current Santa Monica residents. Those of all races and all socio-economic groups. If development were to go forward as planned, the quality of life for ALL residents would be greatly diminished.  Period.” ~Kate Bransfield

Who said race? I didn’t.

Kate is a supporter of Phil Brock and got a bad case of flip-flop syndrome which manifested symptoms in the above-referenced quote.  Unless the celebration is moved for another day it will be celebrated during Cinco de Mayo, which is not Mexican Independence Day–that is in September–but the celebration of one very important battle.  LUVE signature gathering was a battle, not the war. That will be fought in the following months.  It seems to me like it was about diversity after all…Ironic, no?

As they say: KARMA is a Blessing!

 

DIVERSITY ON WHEELS

By: Zoë MuntanerBest-Earth-Day-Poster-Ideas-Pictures-2016HAPPY EARTH DAY!!! Do you bike or walk to work?  I do!  I am a progressive believer of alternative transportation, and do not own a car in LA. Hard to believe but is doable.  I ride the bus, walk, Uber, share rides, and bike…until last Sunday when the folks at Gumbiner and Savett, Inc. decided to hire a gardener to cut my lock and vandalized my bike. The following day I stopped by their offices to inquire about the insurance policy to cover damages, and was emailed back with the following reply from Rick Parent, Managing Director of Gumbiner & Savett:

Dear Ms. Muntaner:

I was forwarded your email concerning your claim that your bicycle was vandalized and in which you state that somehow Gumbiner Savett Inc. is to blame. Let me be direct and state that Gumbiner Savett is not responsible for your bicycle whatsoever. As a matter of fact, you have left your bicycle on our property for weeks if not months and it should have been thrown away a long time ago. There is a sign marked “private property” a few feet away from where your bicycle was abandoned.

Additionally, I understand from our employee, Maria Ruiz, that this morning you confronted her in an aggressive manner. You are hereby notified not to step foot on our property again and if you should do so, we will immediately contact the police to have you removed.
Lovely! No? Not only they engage in criminal activity, they also fabricate a lie to cover it.   Let’s see what the SMPD has to say.  More will be revealed.

Two years ago I started filming a documentary about the influence of money in our local elections.  Amongst my advisors is fellow Santa Monica resident & filmmaker Holly Mosher who produced the documentary Pay2Play.  We have a team of researchers committed to finding the connection (if any) between the bullying behavior of business and/or developers and their political contributions.  Remember City Council candidate Phil Brock’s anti-development rhetoric last election?  We found out he solicited money from a local developer and confronted Residiocracy’s support/endorsement of his candidacy at their rally; one of the many flip-flops on his political record. Yep, you can call me the Pay2Play police, pro bono service to our community.  STAY TUNED, coming to a screen and theater near you!

In celebratory environment news, the first criminal charges were filed for the Flynt water fiasco. Environmental racism advocates should be rewarded for their hard work and activism.

As a storyteller, I showcase my work at different venues.  In New York, I started my career with The Moth, Speakeasy, The Liar Show and The Talkingstick.  Lucky for you I am back in the saddle and this weekend will be telling stories on Saturday: In Heroes We Can Trust on 5420 Adams Boulevard and Sunday at BUSted in Echo Park at Stories Books & Cafe. BUSted!

Go to my Facebook page for details.   ZOË MUNTANER PUBLIC EVENTS PAGE

YEAR OF THE MONKEY

According to Joni Yung, 2016 is a leap year, I couldn’t agree with her more.  We both were born in a Monkey year.

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For her is the end of a decade and beginning of a new one.  For me is the launching of this platform and release of the documentary I started to film two years ago during my run as a Santa Monica City Council candidate.  Time flies! We have a new election in seven months and the stakes are higher than two years ago.  So exciting! I LOVE politics.  I live for election season.  Elections show the best and the worst of the human condition at the same time.  It’s pure theater and seduction, so much fun to watch people lie with such conviction, and don’t get me started with the Saturday Night Life skits. The Press has its field day.  You have to have thick skin to be in politics, if you can’t get the heat, kindly remove yourself from the kitchen because I will be covering our local and national elections, get ready.  Diversity MATTERS and its Monkey Year! joni hammer photobooth

Back to Joni.  Like me, she is a long-time Santa Monica resident. She moved to town for college and stayed. We were both born on the year of the MONKEY, therefore, this is our year to celebrate under the Chinese Lunar Calendar. I met Joni two years ago on her birthday at SATTVA Yoga when I went to Friday Kirtan with Amita and Clay. It was a chilly winter night in December, you could not notice it from the warm intimacy of the room and the sensual soft movement of incense smoke twirling around.  SATVA LA community closed on May 2015, but Joni still here.

Joni BdayFor five years Joni has been moderating and producing YOGA CHAT, a podcast which covered my involvement and participation with The Mindful Living Health Expo through Compassionate Santa Monica back in 2015.  you can listen to episodes here:

YOGA CHAT with The Accidental Yogist

Joni is part of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition team, that will be participating in Climate Ride to have a positive impact on climate change. It will be her longest ride to date. I have been vocal about bicycle safety and support the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s work to make the LA region a healthy, safe and fun place to ride a bike.  The team is captained by Greg Laemmle who returns for a fourth run as their fearless leader and as a seasoned vet who helps the team meet their fundraising goals. To read more about Joni and support her fundraising efforts click on the following link:

Joni’s Climate Ride Fundraising Page

As she says: “female – check, minority – check, baby boomer – check! ” She is diversity on wheels and I wanted to hear more about Joni’s journey and celebrate her multifaceted interests and accomplishments.  She now commutes primarily on bike, logging an average of 15-25 miles a day and still own the same car for 15 years, which she drives it around town whenever biking is inconvenient.  Do you agree with me than we need more Jonis?  Lets get to business, she needs to raise $3000 by May 8th, Mothers Day. Did I mention she is a wonderful mother of two amazing daughters?  Open your hearts and wallets!

 

PENUMBRA

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY ART: is a new addition to the website development we are building for DIVERSITY MATTERS.  I will be posting artwork on exhibition at our local galleries that move and inspire reflection to write.  I love the blues, the lyrical, metaphorical and the actual color blue is my favorite (in all its hues).  The sky, the ocean, I was born & grew up on an island …what you expect?  Our environment deserves respect!  Randall Stoltfuz PENUMBRA on display at Laura Korman Gallery tells me about the shadow nature of our collective and individual souls.  A penumbra is defined as an incomplete or partial shadow. In astronomy, it refers to the shadow cast on the earth by the moon in a partial eclipse. Brooklyn-based artist Randall Stoltzfus translates these natural phenomena in his current body of work. Celestial blue circles of cerulean and deep cobalt are layered and repeated, dispersed by a spectrum of soft white, yellow and black circles suggestive of dim shadows and illuminated horizon lines.

 

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Randall Stoltfuz PENUMBRA on display at Laura Korman Gallery In Bergamot Station.

Stoltzfus’ meditative process begins slowly – compositions develop over months, and even years as controlled, circular layers of oil, hand-mixed pigments, and gold or palladium leaf are added over time. Abstracted landscapes and figures are illuminated and obscured in a push and pull of darkness and light as Stoltzfus builds visible texture. He compares his meticulous technique to the layering of scrim, a strong, coarse fabric, allowing the work to become a sum of its layers.

Layers are what I find fascinating about our local politics and the world at large. The more I research, the more I find, the more I learn, the more perspective I have to connect the dots.  Sight and perception are intrinsic to Stoltzfus’ thoughtful process. “Our perception is … always partial, and always collective in a way we sometimes find difficult to acknowledge,” says Stoltzfus. “We see individual things, less often aware of the broader condition of light and shadow that make this possible. The sources that power our sight dwarf what we actually comprehend.”  That is what sets me apart from the crowd. I am different, I represent diversity and that is my biggest asset as a writer, advocate and citizen.

PENUMBRA is an intimate study of light and the physiological response. Drawing reference from the color field painters Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, as well as the textured works of abstract expressionist Richard Pousett-Dart, Stoltzfus engages directly with his audience’s vision for a response that is at once physical and emotional. His paintings defy the two-dimensionality of the canvas to create visual narratives of wonder and mystery.  I wonder if our City Council has the depth and courage to explore the shadow side on the implications of their votes at City Council Chambers?  This work will be a good invitation to do that.  A little reflection never hurt anybody.  Kevin Mckewon is set to cut the ribbon at the Expo Se in Bergamot station, perhaps he will take a look.

In honor and celebration of the EXPO line opening at Bergamot Station, I will be posting a series of EXPO-SE posts starting next week. Get ready, is going to be a bumpy ride.  Details for the EXPO-SE below. Don’t miss it!

Until next time…let’s get intense with it!

 

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The WHITE elephant in the room

By: Zoë Muntaner

Before I start, I want to thank our City Manager, Rick Cole for giving me 40 minutes of his time today and listening to the projects I’d like to bring forth to our city.  We had a productive exchange of ideas and the seeds of change were planted.  Mayor Pro Tem Ted Winterer joined us at the end of the meeting, we reminisced on the words of former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa eulogy of former LA Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s at his Saint Monica’s memorial last week: “Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres” (Google it!)

EXTRA, EXTRA, EXTRA!!!!!

A Coalition of Latino Residents and Neighborhood Groups Filed Lawsuit today against the City of Santa Monica. Challenging At-Large Election System in Santa Monica, Plaintiffs Claim At Large Elections Violate the California Voting Rights Act.

White Elephant

Santa Monica, California – Four months after minority residents notified the City of Santa Monica that its at-large system of electing its City Council violates the California Voting Rights Act (“CVRA”), and having received no response from the City, a coalition of Latino residents and neighborhood groups filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court today, demanding an end to Santa Monica’s racially-discriminatory election system.  The lawsuit was brought by the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA), Maria Loya – a Latina activist and resident of Santa Monica, and Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS).   Since at-large elections were adopted in Santa Monica 70 years ago, only one Latino has ever been elected to the City Council.  According to a report commissioned by the City in 1992, that is exactly why at-large elections were adopted in 1946 – to keep the minority residents living in the southern portion of the City from achieving representation.   “As a mother, former city council candidate and resident of the Pico Neighborhood, I want to ensure that future elections are fair.  The current at-large election system is illegal and has led to a lack of representation in local government, which in turn has led to neglect of our community.  All residents and every neighborhood can benefit from a neighborhood-centered approach to representative democracy.” stated Maria Loya.  Ms. Loya ran for City Council in 2004, and although she was overwhelmingly preferred by Latino voters, she placed 7th in a crowded field of 16 candidates for three seats.   “Aside from providing residents more fairness in their elections, district elections can decrease the influence of special interests and increase the influence of residents over what happens in their neighborhoods,” added Cris McCleod, Chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association.   Historically marginalized communities have used the CVRA to gain representation in municipal governments across the State.  “In the 14 years since the CVRA was enacted, it has brought fair elections to more than 200 cities, counties and school districts.  In the case of Santa Monica not only do the at-large elections violate the CVRA, they violate the California Constitution as well because they were adopted with the purpose of disenfranchising racial minorities,” explained attorney Kevin Shenkman who represents the Plaintiffs.  Mr. Shenkman and his co-counsel – Rex Parris, Milton Grimes and Robert Rubin – has won hotly-contested CVRA cases against the cities of Highland and Palmdale, which was ultimately ordered by the court to adopt district-based elections after spending an estimated $7 million in legal fees.  Other cities, like Hemet, Buena Park and Wildomar have voluntarily changed their election systems in response to letters from that legal team.   “In our efforts to improve Malibu public schools, we have become keenly aware of how at-large elections prevent minority groups from having their voices heard.  The intentionally discriminatory provision of the Santa Monica City Charter prevents not only the City, but also the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, from adopting district-based elections; we want the school board to be empowered to voluntarily adopt fair elections, and set an example for the students,” said Roui Israel, President of Advocates for Malibu Public Schools.  Although seen as a wealthy liberal bastion, Santa Monica is a tale of two cities where minority residents living in the Pico Neighborhood have endured gang violence and all the other problems associated with California’s less-wealthy regions.  Many residents have claimed for years that the City neglects their needs. “Our City leaders have an opportunity to bring justice to one of our City’s darkest moments, when people of color were deliberately disenfranchised.  I hope that one day every resident and every neighborhood is represented in our government. Residents deserve equal representation, a stronger democracy and an electoral system that increases the influence of residents and decreases the influence of big donors,“ stated School Board Member and Pico Neighborhood resident Oscar de la Torre.  Click on the link below to learn more:

Santa Monica Fair Elections Website

THE KOUSSER REPORT

I became aware of the Kousser Report yesterday through one of my sources who directed me to the smfairelections.com website.  Today I gave a copy of the report to our City Manager Rick Cole in a scheduled meeting to discuss the 2016 agenda of Compassionate Santa Monica & DIVERSITY MATTERS.  Mr. Cole has never seen the report before and agreed to read it and get back to me with a comment.  Basically the report findings established that if the City of Santa Monica wants to avoid the costly litigation of a lawsuit and public embarrassment of a racially discriminatory intent to prevent fair racial representation in our city government, they should replace the at-large system with elections by district. A waste of financial resources on its way…

This begs the question: What is worst? The people who initially committed the crime or the ones that knew it happened and did nothing about it, benefiting cycle after cycle to remain in power?  Silence is compliance.

I personally have been victimized by the vicious monster of racial bias by city employees of Santa Monica. (That is subject to a whole new post intended for the future).  This is the WHITE elephant in the room (no pun intended); both city officials and residents fail to address the issue and stuff it under a rug.   The problem with that, is that it’s not a sustainable strategy.  Sooner or later someone chooses to do a “Spring Cleaning”(no pun intended, I am behind mine) and the dirt come out to air polluting a carefully crafted narrative that no longer holds. Ohhhhh, Spring what have you brought us this year!

Who was in the room?  was the question that started this blog, now we know that the white elephant (no pun intended) has been in the room all this time.  How authentically diverse is the City of Santa Monica? Can a Liberal be a Racist? Are you familiar with the Inkwell statue?  Can we have a real diverse represented democratic government with at-large election system?  Do you know that the first City Council of color was appointed not elected, and when he ran in an election he lost? This is a National conversation I intend to start here.

NORMAL PEOPLE LIKE US

On March 25, I attended the Social Services Commission meeting at The Ken Edward Center to learn about how the City of Santa Monica is addressing homelessness.  I went  with an open mind to hear different perspectives, but as I listened to reports from the Santa Monica Police and OPCC (Ocean Park Community Center) who manages most of the homeless shelters in the city, I became aware that the reason we have not made progress with the issue is the lack of compassion and tag line of this blog: Who was in the room?  I will be posting an interview with Shawn Landers in an upcoming post to discuss issues related to the Social Services Commission.  Click in the link below for more information:

Social Services Commission-Community & Cultural Services

At one point, one of the Commissioners phrased a question referring to “most of us” then went on to speak saying: “you know what I mean, normal people like US”.  I checked out, my skin started to itch, I could not stay one more second in the room… but I patiently waited until I addressed with candor the lack of compassion and empathy from the comment.  See, the only person who has spent time in a homeless shelter in that meeting was me.  I have four years of field experience with the homeless population.  Is part of my daily interactions on the bus and streets of Santa Monica.   I can tell you they are PEOPLE like us, with unfortunate circumstances and no access to mental healthcare.  If we claim to be a model of a Wellbeing Community and affirm the Charter for Compassion, we must address the issues of inequality head on without fear or shame.  The conversation is over, is time for action. Compassionate ACTION.

As the old adage goes: “Actions speak louder than words”

 

DIVERSITY OF OPINIONS

By: Zoë Muntaner

Robert Frank Charleston
@ROBERT FRANK, Charleston,  South Carolina 1955 from “The Americans”

 

Through the years, people asked me to blog about any of my many passions. It took me a while to finally commit and launch something sustainable with meaning and purpose.  Thanks to everyone that read the inaugural post and to the many who encouraged me to write it.  I’m profoundly grateful and humbled by the praise and road ahead.  With purpose, I will give voice to the less fortunate and push the boundaries of our thinking with compassion.  My aim is to bring  light and awareness to issues vital to our community and the world at large.  Your feedback is always welcome and brings hope that one single person can make a difference.  In the words of Activist & Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousafzai: “When the whole world becomes silent, even one voice becomes powerful”

Malala

 

That was the meme I used to tweet about the Santa Monica Democratic Club presentation & discussion of the Downtown Community Plan (formerly Downtown Specific Plan)  this past Wednesday at the Santa Monica Main Library.  The panel included Santa Monica planning director David Martin, community activist and Ocean Park Organization board member Mary Marlow who co-chairs a neighborhood group subcommittee studying the DCP, and architect Ron Goldman, a member of Santa Monica Architects for a responsible tomorrow (SMart) which is also studying the DCP.   Although they brought flash drives with their respective presentations, no one brought a laptop and mine was designated to make the visuals available to all. Hence, now everyone not present that night can view the presentations by clicking on the names here:

David Martin

Mary Marlow

SMArat

You be the judge of what you envision Downtown Santa Monica should look like for future generations. I respect my readers too much to encourage support or boycott petitions.  I also respect the democratic process that allows citizens to take control of their desitny and encourage active participation in the political process.  Anyone who discourages the activism of its citizens in the process is not a friend of democracy. My job is to present information and data, your job is to analyze it.  DIVERSITY MATTERS is about sharing different perspectives of our own humanity and how we approach the daily task of living while affirming our personal and political identities.  I am inspired by grassroots organization, the mobilization that evolves our democracy.  Bernie Sanders Campaign is an example of how committed citizens can transform the political culture and create revolutionary results.  In our city, Residiocracy proved to inspire residents through the Hines referendum and now they are trying to repeat the feat with the Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE).  I dig living in a city of engaged political discourse.  As a Sander’s newsletter in my inbox read: “Our power comes from a simple, timeless truth: when people come together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”

ROBERT FRANK @ BERGAMOT STATION

Bergamot Station Arts Center continues to be a hub of artistic activity unrivaled not only in the city of Santa Monica but in the Western United States.  Robert Frank, one of the most important visual artists, (His photos bookend this post.) has created an exhibition of works presently on view at building g-1 home of the old Santa Monica Museum of Art.  This show is compiled of the artist’s photographic prints, books, and films. It is a most amazing feat to have an exhibition of this importance and magnitude at Bergamot Station, and for this we must thank Shoshana and Wayne Blank, the founders of Bergamot Station Arts Center; Richard Ehrlich of UCLA; Steidl Publishing House; and the Steve Tisch foundation, all of whom had the vision and fortitude to bring to our city a world class show that will be traveling to 40 other international museums and institutions. The exhibit is the brainchild of Gerhard Steidl, Robert Frank’s longtime friend and publisher. In New York Gerhard Steidl gave a Master Class to students and post doctoral candidates -“How To Make A Book” and offered critiques to any interested students.  The exhibition was was a smashing hit!  Thus our mandate is clear: to duplicate if not surpass it in LA at the Santa Monica Museum space at Bergamot Station.  Robert Frank: Books & Films 1947-2016 runs through April 16, 2016.  Do not miss it!

New York Times Review

VOGUE Magazine Review

At a time when the city of Santa Monica, owner of most of the land the arts center inhabits, is contemplating a plan to turn the center into an office building and hotel complex, it is very important to note that the artist, his collaborators, and supporters chose Bergamot Station because of its worldwide reputation for being an accessible and open arts venue for all to come and appreciate and enjoy for free. Robert Frank’s most iconic body of work, ‘The Americans’, photographs made on several road trips throughout the United States in the 1950s, is best known for its portrayal of the inequality of race and economics that existed in this period of American history. Right now, in 2016, we, Americans, are confronted by such very similar issues.

The City of Santa Monica has long had the reputation of being a haven for those committed to racial, economic and cultural diversity. I fear this is no longer true. The city seems bent on becoming an enclave of the wealthy and privileged. Do we really need another hotel / office business park?  When all is said and done, a forward thinking city needs to realize that investing in the cultural life of its citizens is also the best investment for the economic life of the city. At this moment, we are at a critical juncture. The galleries at Bergamot Station have a vested interest in continuing to bring to the our audience significant, far-reaching and diverse exhibitions and events that enrich and enhance our collective lives in our city. The Robert Frank exhibition is a most fine example of what they strive to accomplish day in and out. Robert Frank has stated that his intention with this exhibition is to make young folks aware of these works. When asked what advice he would give a young photographer, he responded -“keep your eyes open”!!!  That advice also applies to Santa Monica residents that concern themselves with the dramatic changes to the character of our city and the direction the Planning & Community Development Department is taking.  The second day of the exhibition I witnessed hundreds of students from all parts of Los Angeles County at the center. This is community at its best. Diversity lives at Bergamot Station.

MARIMBA MADE ME DO IT

Last Sunday I went the Main Street Farmer’s Market to get groceries.  The sun was hiding behind clouds but the atmosphere was celebratory and joyful.  At this point, I’d like to introduce another member of the Santa Monica community, Venice HS teacher and community organizer Marcy Winograd. Marcy and I met up at the busy Main Street Farmers Market last Sunday.

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Marcy shared with me: “Standing there at the Farmer’s Market, a few blocks from my home, I felt as though I was at the intersection of African, Latin, and American traditions” as the talented Masanga Marimba band captivated the crowd with beats and song from Zimbabwe and Latin America .”

(Remember that I’m Latina, I hear Latin sounds and I am trasported, anything can happen when I hear Afrocaribbean sounds, so I allowed Marcy to tape me and share in Facebook to much of my embarasment.)

Back to Marcy … “According to the band’s website (masanga.com), “The word Masanga comes from an African word that means coming together of rivers …” and indeed the lyrics and music brought people together of diverse ethnicities and ages. This wasn’t just a venue for adults but children, too, for in between jam sessions, when the band took a break, girls and boys, toddlers among them, practiced percussion, experimenting with their own brand of Marimba as their wrists went wild. Kudos to Dr. Ric Alviso, a CAL State Northridge ethnomusicologist and professor of World Music, for assembling this rare 9-member ensemble and bringing the beats to Santa Monica, and a special thanks to City staff for inviting Masanga for a repeat performance.”

Until next time, join the Diversity Bandwagon!

 

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@Robert Frank Trolley-New Orleans 1955 from “The Americans”

 

 

 

 

DIVERSITY SPRING

By: Zoë Muntaner

“Diversity”and its sister “Inclusion” have hit critical mass of awareness.

I have always wondered about the true meaning of diversity and its role in a community and a nation at large. It always seems like it’s the right thing to say when you wish to garner votes (except Donald Trump) but in the moment of truth communities vote for projects that disenfranchise the poor (where diversity is more apparent) to open way for less integrated neighborhoods. Is Santa Monica one of those communities?

Is that time of the year, the word diversity is coming to the forefront. We have a presidential election and candidates want to bask in their diversity credentials. The President visited Cuba this week and with it the hope that the embargo will be lifted soon.

Do you remember the Arab Spring? So much hope and possibility that things could change. That Spring came with a short-lived revolution, and for a moment, the Arab people felt their voice and power rise to the occasion. No flower blooms in the dessert. I was there, I witnessed the regional change while living in Dubai during those turbulent times. It provided me with an understanding of diversity within the Arab, Persian, Pakistani and Indian people. It was an adventure and I am glad to be safe at home. I love my flawed democracy.

Edelman Trust Barometer

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer presentation at Santa Monica’s Cross Campus. The Trust Barometer is an annual global study that measures the amount of public trust in institutions, including business, media, NGO’s and government.

For more information, visit www.edelman.com/trust2016.

As I walked into the room and scanned the prestigious panel and audience, I could not find the diversity that a global study on TRUST should reflect. When we reached the Q & A portion of the event I was allowed to ask a question and BOOM! The SILENCE that comes after an awkward moment. Oops, did I make anyone, uncomfortable? Sorry, not my intention but I was really curious why there was an all white male and female panel that talked about the gospel of trust in terms that do not reflect my experience. I was given the glossed over PR answer that included the “importance of having the conversation”, not before hearing from one of the panelists referring to diversity as minorities. WOW! Really? Seriously? YEP, we have not come a long way, babe! Not in this crowd. Two years before I came across important data and metrics that I assumed was common knowledge.  Beatriz Acevedo (Founder of Mitu) presentation at SMWLA showed Latinos over index in all categories hence the success of her company. Click on the link below to examine the data:

SMWLA_MITU

A week after the Edelman Trust event, Social Media Club LA had a panel event on the topic of Diversity in Social Media, examining diversity and the need to be inclusive of gender, culture, sexuality and race. I hope that by now we all agree that diversity is beyond people of color and encompasses what the world looks like outside your door, at least if you live in a city like Santa Monica, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago…. you get the point.

Bergamot Station & The Human Race Machine

Art always supply a good point of departure. The Bergamot Station Spring Fling last Saturday had two exhibits at the ROSEGALLERY and one at Earth WE that blew my mind in regards to diversity, challenging the audience to examine the issue and provoking us to engage in the active participation of life in the 21st century.

If your world is not diverse, you are not alone. Do not panic, there is a help, I will provide resources with each piece in this blog to explore and integrate you into normalcy & the real world if you are not watching Shonda Rhimes’ roster of shows on ABC on Thursdays.

Betsy Clark’s “The Exiles” are portraits created by her imagination that look as if they are from another country and era. Says Clark: “ I imagine these women have had really hard times, yet they are all so proud and dignified and have put their best outfit on for some special occasion or party, where they might not really fit in…” I had a lovely time chatting with Clark on Saturday, she is real, authentic, enjoys deep conversation and is a lot of fun. My kind of gal. Although Clark’s comes from a privileged background, she brought to life what I consider one of the seeds of diversity: Exile.  The exhibition runs until the end of April.

Nancy Burson’s timely new work “What if He were: Black-Asian-Hispanic-Eastern Indian” is a large-scale five-part image of presidential candidate Donald Trump that challenges photographic truth at the birth of digital manipulation. About the work on view Burson says: “This project was a commission for a prominent liberal magazine, which ultimately decided not to publish it. My interest in creating this work was the desire to know what Donald Trump’s reaction might be if he saw the images. Current research shows that experience of oneself as another produces an empathetic response within the mirror neurons of the brain. The question in my mind was whether Donald Trump’s brain would be affected by an emphatic response to viewing the work.”

Hillary Clinton’s neoliberal brain might also benefit from a journey through the Human Race Machine. Imagine the woman who bows to AIPAC and votes to go to war on Iraq becoming an Iraqi or a Palestinian or a Libyan or a Honduran, since she supported destabilization in those countries, as well as Iraq. (Can you tell I’m a Bernie Sanders’ supporter?) Yesterday, Ms. Clinton honored Santa Monica with her presence for a $2,700.00 ticket fundraiser. I am confused about her campaign-finance reform ideas, is there a machine for that?

How it all began . . .
Nancy Burson’s pioneering work in morphing technologies began with age-enhancing the human face, enabling law enforcement to locate missing children and adults. The Human Race Machine is Burson’s best known public art project, originally developed as a commission for the London Millennium Dome in 2000. What would you look like as another race? Human Race Machines have been changing perspectives on racial diversity since 2000 and have been used on college and university campuses as a diversity tool to discuss issues of race and ethnicity since 2003. Human Race Machines have been featured in all forms of media including segments on Oprah, Good Morning America, CNN, National Public Radio, PBS, and Fuji TV News, as well as countless local TV channels in the USA. Prominent articles featuring the Human Race Machine have appeared in The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Houston Chronicle, and Scientific American Magazine to name a few.

It occurs to me that bringing one to Santa Monica as part of the 2016 Compassionate Santa Monica calendar could be an interesting proposition. Bring students of the Santa Monica-Malibu School District and Santa Monica College to experience it, have an essay contest whose winner will be published at one of our media partners. Even better have the Santa Monica Police Department experience the Human Race Machine as part of mandatory training to improve social relations and minimize the exposure to litigation the city has experienced in the past couple of years. What about our city employees? City Attorney’s office? Residents? Our City Council? Maybe a permanent installation of the machine is in order. We need to raise funding. Volunteers?

The concept of race is not genetic, but social. There is no gene for race. In 2005, there was a gene that was identified for skin color, but that was only skin deep. Skin color is simply a reflection of the amount and distribution of the pigment melanin and humans are all alike underneath their skin. This newly found gene involves a change of just one letter of DNA code out of the 3.1 billion letters in the human genome — the complete instructions that comprise a human being. We are, in fact, all 99.9% alike.

About this project Rose Shoshana of the Bergamot ROSEGALLERY observes: “Art serves many functions, such as addressing issues of current politics. One role of an art gallery for the community it serves is to make known possible controversial creations that may have no other venue. It is an honor to fill the breach and make Burson’s new work available for public consideration”.

Burson’s installation compliments the ongoing Japan’s Tomoko Sawada exhibition: Facial Signature, not to be missed. Trust me, just go before it ends on April 9, 2016. Both artists focus on the ever-changing form of the human face in diverse ways.

The Arts get it, they always do. One of the reasons to support and advocate for your local arts community and have your local government subsidize it.

Coming this Fall, I will be hosting a fundraiser event exploring themes of Diversity, Trust and Authenticity. Top Tier executives from diverse fields will present engaging explorations of the themes, potentially developing an annual Symposium on the subject. We will be streaming the event globally to all cities involved in the Charter for Compassion. Compassionate Santa Monica, much-needed funding will benefit the Urban Counseling Project to serve the homeless population in Santa Monica. Subscribe to our mailing list to be informed of more details.

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW

Before you disqualify the premise of the blog, consider that two days ago the HBR published an enlightening piece about the subject. Women and Minorities are penalized for promoting diversity.  Read the credentials of the authors. I rest my case.

READ HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW HERE

You might claim that Santa Monica is exempt from this diversity issue because we have a black female Chief of Police, a Latino Deputy Chief of Police and a Latino Mayor (who was not elected but appointed in a political move by the rest of the City Council). The optics are designed to deceive and disguise a little ( actually, is not that little, is pretty BIG to me) dirty secret that carries shame. The Nile is a long river. I can’t believe that at this day and age we still have to witness the racial obscenity of the mural in our local city hall, for the mural honors the colonizers and depicts a white entitled community. A city whose latest park — Tonga Park — named after the indigenous Indians nearly wiped out when the colonizers arrived — carries an obviously rich heritage. Yes, the City of Santa Monica, the first city to sign the Charter for Compassion in LA County, should know better and reflect the values and the statement of The Charter for Compassion who garner a unanimous vote from our City Council on 2013.

Spring Equinox at the Community Gardens

Sunday’s Spring Equinox brought me back to the Santa Monica Community Gardens on Main Street, where I used to have a spot. I met with Ramey, the first friend I made in LA, who is responsible for me living in Santa Monica. We met after many years apart, now she is married to a Puerto Rican (enhancing her bloodline) who could not join us as he left for Cuba with The Rolling Stones. They have a gorgeous daughter and witnessing three generations celebrating Spring in the garden was lovely but bittersweet. Ramey’s mother arrived in Santa Monica from Savannah, Georgia in 1967 and brought her mother and brothers with her. Sadly Ramey had to move to the Valley, as the rising costs of rents are pushing a long time residents out who could no longer afford to live in the city they love, reason enough for me to explore the topic of Diversity and Affordable Housing in one of my next posts. Until then, have a blessed week and enjoy the city while you can, for you never know when you’ll have move out; that is not laughing matter.

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