Las POSADAS: Do You See What I See?

“Said the night wind to the little lamb: Do you see what I see? Way up in the sky little lamb: Do you see what I see?” ~Christmas Carol by Noël Regeny & Gloria Shayne Baker

By: Zoë Muntaner

Las Posadas is Spanish for lodging, or accommodation, which in this case refers to the “inn” in the story of the nativity of Jesus (born from a Jewish mother). The “novenario“(nine days of religious observance) is celebrated chiefly in Latin America and by Hispanics (Latinos and Spaniards) in the United States beginning on the 16 of December and ending the 24 of December. Novena represents the nine-month pregnancy of Mary, the mother of Jesus celebrated by Christians. While its roots are in Catholicism, even Protestant Latinos follow the tradition. The Jewish Hanukkah menorah holds nine candles.  The ninth holder, called the shamash (“helper” or “servant”), is for a candle used to light all other candles and/or to be used as an extra light.

My grandfather immigrated from Mallorca, one of the Balearic Islands in Spain to another island in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico. Part of our holiday tradition involved going to Dawn Mass (Misas de Aguinaldo) for nine days before Midnight Mass (Misa de Gallo) on Christmas Eve. After each mass, a breakfast consisting of hot chocolate and “ensaimadas” (a spiral sweet bread pastry product of Mallorca) was served. Is a symbol of the Balearic Islands, a common cuisine eaten in most former Castilian territories in Latin America and the Philippines. Originated as a merienda snack, it was later introduced to the Philippines and Puerto Rico through colonialism. They’re traditionally made with dough that’s rolled thin, “laminated” with lard and rolled like strudel. Starbucks used to carry them during the holiday season, but I’ve missed them for years now.

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Ensaimadas sometimes are made into ham & cheese sandwiches as a mid day snack.

According to research, historical accounts show that since Masses were forbidden to be said during night time, these Masses were offered in the darkness of dawn amid the blaze of many lighted candles, especially for farmers and workmen who had to labor afterward. The candlelight, not only provided the necessary lighting but also added meaning to the Rorate Masses by reminding the faithful of “the Light that is to come.” Hence, they are also called Missa Aurea or Golden Mass. This was most probably the origin of the Misas de Aguinaldo in Spain and later, in the New World. In the New World, which included the Americas, and the Philippines, the original permission for the Misas de Aguinaldo was granted to churches under the Augustinian Order where they could be accessed by the faithful through the indulgences granted by Pope Sixtus V. I n 1586, Friar Diego de Soria obtained a papal bull from Pope Sixtus V, stating that a Dawn Mass, be observed as novenas on the nine days preceding Christmas Day throughout Mexico.

During Las Posadas, two people dress up as Mary & Joseph. Houses are designated to be an “inn” (thus the name “Posada”). The head of the procession will have a candle inside a paper lampshade. At each house, the resident responds by singing a song and Mary and Joseph are finally recognized and allowed to enter. Once the “innkeepers” let them in, the group of guests come into the home and kneel around the Nativity scene to pray (typically, the Rosary). Latin American countries have continued to celebrate this holiday to this day, with very few changes to the tradition. In some places, the final location may be a church instead of a home. The people asking for posada travel to 1 house each night for 8 nights. Similar celebrations exist in the Philippines, where strong cultural influences persist from Spanish Colonial times, the Posadas tradition is illustrated by the Panunuluyan pageant. It might be performed immediately before the Midnight Mass or on each of the nine nights. Cuba also has something similar, called Parrandas (though they have more of party in the atmosphere and liquor is involved).

The three parishes of Santa Monica – St. Anne Church and Shrine, St. Clement Catholic Church, and St. Monica came together to celebrate a Posada on Monday evening followed by the best tamales, champurrado (Mexican hot chocolate and corn drink) and ice cream. At the end of the “villancicos” (Spanish Christmas carols), children broke open a star-shaped piñata filled with candy inside.

Familias Latinas Unidas [United Latino/a Families] hosted Las Posadas in Santa Monica  on Friday, December 15, 2017. The group meets every Friday evening at the Virginia Avenue Park, to organize events that allow Latino/a culture to thrive. Their goals include fostering education for their children, preserve and share their culture and build leadership skills. As of late it has become more of an activist group divided by political forces seeking City Hall  influence.  Ironically “unidas” translates to  united in english.

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SMYO Chorus entertain before the Mariachi, tamales, champurrado, churros and Piñata portion of the event at Virginia Park in Santa Monica.

Back in October, interested in the upcoming Dia de Los Muertos and Las Posadas for this blog, I joined one of their meetings.  In the name of diversity and inclusion, I wanted to bring Spanish and Latin traditions to the Posadas funded by the City of Santa Monica Government. It was a good old fashion “family” reunion executed by board member Irma Carranza and Sofia Ramirez shooting insults during the leadership building exercise of the meeting. Out of the private nature of the event, Carranza unilaterally decided I could not assert my first amendment right to write a column in support of Las Posadas ahead of their event to include the rest of the community.  They feared there would not be enough food if everyone was invited. Accusations I was a spying on behalf of another community organizer followed. Sounds like a holiday family reunion to me. Right?

During Cesar Chavez celebration in Virginia Park, Julie Rusk, Santa Monica Chief of Civic Wellbeing tweeted the hashtag #BetterTogether #SaMoWellbeing. As of late, Ms. Rusk has been influential in the group. Who is included in “together” matters to inclusion advocates. Debasing the values of civility, compassion and authentic wellbeing is not what reasonable people categorize leadership building blocks to foster the education of children in our city.  In a “free” country, everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, facts do matter more than ever.

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Mariachi Trio Palenque de Aurelio Reyes “El Gallo de Chiapas” entertained the audience at the Santa Monica Virginia Park event.

The modern colonization of hearts and minds of 90404 (Pico Neighborhood zipcode) seems to be causing heated debate in the community. The upcoming consideration of a Conditional Use Permit needed for a 20 student school in the Gandara Park of Pico Neighborhood presents a conflict of wellbeing to some residents.  The issue will be heard at Council Chambers next month.

Let’s consider the exceptional insight in Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince:

“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.”

Compassion, authentic wellbeing, diversity & inclusion are harder to accomplish in an equity starved community, where branding and communications lead the way.

Earlier this week Susan Fowler wrote about her belief that Silicon Valley’s focus on “diversity “ and “inclusion” is its own way of “whitewashing” what in reality is another form of workplace discrimination. It was not a criticism of the hardworking people who put their lives and energies into promoting authentic diversity and inclusion, It was an indictment of the companies that use their D&I programs and efforts to “whitewash” their discriminatory practices. They are not alone, seems like Silicon Beach has similar problems. Withing the paramenters of the City Council strategic goal of diversity and inclusion, affordable housing being built, is financially segregated despite academic research showing better alternatives and outcomes with inclusive affordable housing. That alone, is worth praying for during The Posadas and Midnight Mass.

Do you see what I see?

WELLBEING: What Art Got To Do With It?

By: Zoë Muntaner

An update from the Office of Civic Wellbeing was presented to Santa Monica City Council under the Special Agenda Items at the September 12 meeting. The buzzwords are diversity, race, equity.  On the heels of the renewed call for the removal of the historic Stanton Macdonald-Wright City Hall mural, one of its most relevant highlights involve intensive staff training on racial equity led by the Center for Social Inclusion and Government Alliance on Race and Equity.

“Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge. Let your learning lead to action.”~ Jim Rohn

Activists have viewed the mural an expression of racism that parallels the Confederate Flag.  Julie Rusk, Chief of Civic Wellbeing watched protesters cries of the blatant symbol of colonialism from the balcony of City Hall, a day before her presentation. Yesterday, she accompanied Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades to the Pico Neighborhood Association Meeting for his presentation of a policy proposal affecting immigrants.  Coincidentally like the Wellbeing Index, the law is about data. The City is considering a law that would limit the gathering and use of information about a person’s immigration or religious status. It seems they can’t escape the historical legacy of local disenfranchised populations. The law is designed to empower the City Attorney’s Office to file lawsuits on behalf of marginalized immigrants. Oscar de la Torre, Chair of PNA stated: “the policy offers a false sense of security, this is another instance of a white organization teaching people of color about social justice” Mr. Rhoades said: “We use discretion and don’t want to file false claims” Oh, the irony of ironies… a story for another post.  Stay tuned.

“What we need today are universal values based not on faith but on scientific findings, common experience and common sense.” ~Dalai Lama

Back to the mural. The Santa Monica Landmarks Properties website offers a brief history of the mural–President Franklin Delano Roosevelt helped cure the country of “The Great Depression” by allocating several billion dollars to Public Works Administration projects, as a means of providing employment, stabilizing purchasing power, improving public welfare and contributing to a revival of the American industry. The City Hall walls feature murals documenting the city’s and the state’s history. Stanton Macdonald-Wright (1890-1973) created one of the most extensive mural cycles in Southern California at the Santa Monica Public Library in the mid-1930’s, unveiled on August 25, 1935.

The Mural’s history is chronicled at the Santa Monica library’s website. Macdonald-Wright, had plywood panels specially prepared.  This technique, termed “portable murals,” was also utilized by famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Such a procedure enable easy removal from the wall if necessary. This is exactly what happened in 1965 when the library moved to a newly-constructed building located at 1343 Sixth Street. Deemed too old-fashioned, the Depression-era mural cycle was not transferred to the new facility, and the federal government took possession of all the mural panels. Alas, removal has precedent.

According Dr. Noah Bardach, an art-historian and co-founder of Universal Human Rights Initiative (UHRI), a non-profit focused on human rights education, “The WPA murals at the entrance to City Hall, depicting two American Indian men at the feet of a conquistador and a Franciscan friar,  communicate prominent themes of white supremacy over Native Americans and other people of color.” Local activists demand the murals be moved to a local museum. Dr. Bardach further explained: “These images glorify two historical tragedies for indigenous peoples, the Conquest and forced conversion by the Catholic Church, both of which resulted in the decimation of local populations from violence and sickness. The loss of life suffered during this period can rightly be thought of as a Native American Holocaust. Paired with this message of Native American subjugation and suffering is a mural of Caucasians at leisure.   Together, these two murals convey a vision of Santa Monica as an enclave for the pleasures of the White leisure class, one where people of color are kept in an inferior status and hidden out of sight.   The City of Santa Monica must recognize the central message of these works for what it is: white supremacy. This is not representative of the diverse, inclusive Santa Monica of today and it must not be the sentiment that greets visitors to our City Hall.   To live up to our highest ideals as a City, and in recognition of the wrongs that have been visited on minorities in our City’s past, the City of Santa Monica must take immediate steps to relocate the mural to a museum, or other suitable location, where it can be appreciated as a historical document.”

Carol Lemlein, President of the Santa Monica Conservancy filmed the demonstration on Monday. “I personally think there is little equivalency with the use of the Confederate flag and erecting statues of Confederate icons, most of which took place long after the Civil War and which were, for the most part, erected in defiance during the Jim Crow era.” said by email statement. She offered some food for thought courtesy of African American historian, Alison Rose Jefferson. “The Association for the Study of African American Life and History has issued a statement which in my mind offers a much more constructive and unifying approach than what I heard at City Hall on Monday.” she wrote.

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

The intention of Santa Monica Wellbeing Office is to hone in on partnerships as an effective path to address concerning aspects of community wellbeing, one would think this is an ideal opportunity to address those intentions in a tangible way.  Local equity issues debated through education, affordable housing, street food vendors and authentic inclusion are on the line.

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The Wellbeing Index was deemed a “game changer” when it won the first-ever Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge in 2013. Will they talk a good game or play a good game? We can only guess what Mike Bloomberg would say about sportsmanship. In his 2016 Annual Letter on Philanthropy, he wrote: “Teamwork wins championships, as any sports fan can tell you…But having a full roster is a far cry from having a great team, to say nothing of winning a championship. Success will require leadership that unites everyone behind a common mission and gets everyone to work together by promoting communication, collaboration, and coordination. It’s a role that Bloomberg Philanthropies has fully embraced.”  

“Truth is an inseparable companion of justice and mercy.” ~Pope Francis

Santa Monica does not have a good track record when it comes to inclusive teamwork.  A lack of viable and sincere city government leadership have residents at wits ends.   After multiple emails expressing a desire to co-create with Compassionate Santa Monica, Wellbeing Project Manager Lisa Parson, in patronizing superiority, said is not my place to define inclusion.  I thought we were getting along fine.   At Council Chambers, multiple boards & commission community leader Albin Gielicz divulged they are still trying to define what wellbeing means in Santa Monica. I’m confused.  What have they defined all this time?   Chief of Wellbeing Julie Rusk and Senior Strategist Libby Carlson have made it clear there is a gatekeeping policy.  When confronted by the question of how City Attorney staff will assure fair enforcement/compliance with policy/ordinances given the fact that intensive staff training on racial equity raises flags of historical bias, she admitted: “We have a lot of work to do, yes”.  With new findings showing a community in need of social connection, economic security, and stress management, one would think their approach would be more inclusive.  The launch party of the new findings of the Wellbeing Index at The Water Garden excluded key groups and advocates that have been tirelessly working towards equity, parity and good racial relations in Santa Monica.   Missing the mark as the best opportunity to start making those connections and affirming the sincerity of the message, does not sound promising.  “Perhaps this is not the best example of an inclusive event,” said City Manager Rick Cole.  He is right. “There are clear areas of disparity, and the overall strength of a community is measured by its ability to help all members thrive, including its most vulnerable members. The latest Wellbeing Index tells us that we have work to do and we want to enlist the entire community in bridging these gaps,” said Mayor Ted Winterer.  Off the gates, the entire community was not included. The flaws seem to be in the design.  Authentic Wellbeing Mantra: “Meet people where they are, but tell the truth”.  Let’s frame it with that intent.

“In the absence of love and belonging there will always be suffering” ~Brené Brown 

GAME PLAN

We’ll have to wait to see Rick Cole’s game plan. He adopted this project two years ago when he became City Manager.  Does he have what it takes to win?  Can he do the work of becoming a real team outside of the cheerleader’s squad? Is this another ploy of City Hall’s expensive PR Machine?  Is he an authentic agent of change? Are we being played? What kind of inheritance we want, one of money or one of values? Innovation thinks outside the box.  Unless we fundamentally practice democracy, wellbeing is a hashtag code for privilege.   The ball is in their court.

Speaking about games, the Compassion Games are currently being played around the world. Santa Monica has a team on the map.  To learn more visit The Global Unity Games: Building Bridges a 16-day challenge to unify communities around the world in an expression of globally synchronized intentions with locally organized compassionate action.  Today”s Mission: Nourishing the Diversity of Life.

 Are you optimistic about your future?

#CompassionUnites #SantaMonica #BuildingBridges Game On.

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“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” ~George Orwell 

 

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.”

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.

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.

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?

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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.

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.

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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!