Wednesday, December 17, 2008

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yo vengo de un pueblo sin fronteras

Arnoldo Garcia

yo vengo de un pueblo sin fronteras
soy africano
soy palestino
soy pure'pecha
con destino a la liberacion natural.
soy mexicano
soy hasta chicano
negro de raices huastecas
mestizo con raices mundiales
he cruzado mares y olvidos
he hundido arados en el vientre de la tierra
plantando semillas y esperanzas
cultivando corazones y alabanzas
ningun humano es inmigrante
ningun humano es minoria
ningun humano es indocumentado
ningun humano es ilegal
somos todos ciudadanos
o somos todos indocumentados
somos todas juntas
o somos todas rebeldes

mi piel es el color de las tierras
mi lengua son los rios y los mares
hablando palabras cristalinas
cantando lluvias y huracanes
soy fragil como un otonyo
soy la primavera que nada ni nadie puede detener
soy jornalero de los horizontes
costurera de la ternuras humanas
campesino del amor a las raices y los abrazos profundos
contesto todas las llamadas de la libertad
y solo me gusta provocar la risa
para desafiar a las puas del odio
todas las fronteras son inalambricas
todas las fronteras son virtuales
la tierra no tiene fronteras
tiene esa enfermedad de humanos
que padecen la enfermedad de la propiedad privada
padecen la enfermedad del color de su piel
padecen la enfermedad del genero hombre macho
somos un pueblo que trastorna fronteras
somos un pueblo que nacio en milpas y limpia rascacielos
somos un pueblo que sabe labrar tierras y curar enfermedades
Yo vengo de un pueblo sin fronteras

Photos by arnoldo garcia, hands of young writers

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

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Another Offering for a Peaceful East Oakland

I stopped yesterday morning by another street sidewalk altar on East 55th Avenue. A small rememberance for a young life? How did the young man -- I speculate, for all I know the altar honors an church elder -- die? A bullet? Rare , fatal disease? A car accident? How is his/her death affecting his/her siblings, parents, friends, the neighborhood, the community? The altar the death represents hits me; black and brown youth take it out on each other and our present and future diminishes.

The evening before I was driving by and there was a gathering of young people, their backs to street. I knew what was going on. So on my way to work I stopped to see their offerings.

Drive-by shootings and killings are memetic, they infect the survival mode with violent, irrational motives and hunger for revenge.

Power grows out of a barrel of gun, Mao declared. Powerlessness pulls the trigger, powerlessness over one's destiny and the attempt to impose it over others. Losing a loved one to violence is devastating, a black hole that attempts to suck everything of life into it and drown the days, the dreams. Anything having to do with hope, optimism, becomes an ordeal.

Black on black violence, brown on brown violence, the young feeding off the young, the old alone and unheard. Mourning spews out of the barrel of gun.

A bullet hole dominates the horzion.
I have a bullet hole in my heart.
I have bullets for eyes.
I have bullets for words.
I have pulled a net of bullet holes over the sky.

The horizon is reddening with the madness of fast food, drive-in's, drive-by's, prostitutes who are teenagers, drug dealers fresh out of middle school; gangbangers that stick up for each other and threaten anyone who offends their onion paper thick sensitivity. Gangbangers that stick up the local tienditas that sell everything we need at inflated prices.

I have spent shells for music.
Useless conch shells that call out to deaf gods and ancestors
Empty cartridges that have opened bloodied eyes on the bodies of another young man
Spent shells that wll never hang on a gold chain to revere a revolution.

We do not honor the living until they are dead. The youth honors each other on the sidewalks after it's too late. They make pledges out of fear; they are marked.

The odds have always been against us. I never thought I'd live to be this old. Neither do my children and their friends. What is this that U.S. capitalism makes us fulfill it's own branding, its own consumer rush to powerlessness through things?

The gun is the ultimate rush. Those with power and control have guns at their disposal -- either on their side or in their police forces, army and other institutions and agents of coercion.

In parts of Oakland, the police force is replaced by the deadly force of an empty economy, an economy that fuels predators and informal economies of scale: the body of a girl or a young/old woman for sale, the small-time pusher in marijuana and other intoxicants.

Day laborers who are solicited for yard/landscaping work, construction, clean-up, and sex. There are the mini-empresarios, the street vendors who sell snacks, tamales, coffee, pan dulce, grilled maize (corn on the cob), tacos, home-made goat cheese, quilts, clothes, ice cream, sodas, and other utensils.

They/we live and work, they/we smile and grow, side by side with the homeless, the small family-owned stores, gas stations, sidewalk sales. They/we say with their/our bodies, their survival work:

We are here and we matter, we belong here and here we will stay, thrive or struggle withut bitterness or rancors, with our way of happiness.

We all want to push away poverty. Even the poor want to end not just their but everyone's poverty. Being poor is not about money -- although having money to pay bills, buy healthy food, get access to culture doesn't hurt!

Being poor is about not having adequate housing, health and access to relevant and quality health care, education and other social services and support that generates livinghood, hope, a different future. I wouldn't mind continue being a migrant farmworker; farmworkers need health care that is conscious of the precarious conditions udner which we toil (pesticides, the physical bombardment the body receives from just working in the fields -- hunching over, carrying heavy loads of produce, the dust, the long hours and longest hours when harvest seasons come; the need for real vacations, breaks out of the sun my granfather would say. He never understood why anyone would want to go sunbathing. Try working 12, 14, 18 hours in the sun and you'll see what he means.

We survive against all odds, but they are not our odds. Someone is literally making a killing off our impoverishments, off our dead youth, off our incarcerated youth and elders, off our crumbling schools, off the Flatlands.

And we honor ourselves and our friends, our sons, daughters, our students sometimes too late.

Through their altars we remember to live differently, love constantly those around us, love one's self too.

Social class analysis calls these social urban clumps the lower strata of the working class. Urban planning and city hall officials and police would call this those who they believe have no dignity, no vision, no power, no will, no plan and subject to us to their plans, their indignity that comes with their power, vision, power, will and demeanor over us.

They forget that we too are Oakland.

The Hills thrive off the Flatlands; they come down for tasty food, sex workers, drugs and gentrify in the process. We drive to the Hills, yet we get profiled as prowlers.

Hills and Flatlands are inseparable in the natural and social worlds.

We live in and occupy different socio-economic strata and spaces, yet we are the offspring of the same socio-economic and political mother. We are blinded by colors, race, genders, social classes, social stratae.

I call this the inability of capital(ism) to absorb us or crush us. We are inside its process, subject to its depradations, yet stand outside of the economic crises, the dot boom-bust, the recession, the banking collapses, the auto bailout. We are affected and unaffected, we are already poor, lack health care, have access to low expectations and machine-age teachers, day laborers all. We make capitalism possible, have made and are making Oakland possible.

We can get poorer, more impoverished, sicker, meet death in any of foreseen possibilities, work full time and yet be homeless forever.

We are cast as the inhumane face of capitalism. Capitalism calls us names, brands us incorregible, imprisonable, exploitable; we are the ugly. Capitalism has no humane face that anyone could be proud of -- in comparison to us, the lower strata, the unplanned, the unemployed/underemployed, the Flatlanders, the toxic wasted sites, capitalism has a prettier face. The chain stores and cafes can hire young beautiful women to sell their addictions; super and everyday models of consumption.

Yet we are a market, we consume, we shop, we flock to the big box stores, when we can afford them, when we have a car to get us there. Or we walk to the local corner stores, go walk to the Fruitvale. Or the street vendors, the mobile little stores, come to us, pass by our apartments and houses, our homes and beckon with poetic calls, bells and songs.

Stop the Violence, How?

When he was Oakland's Mayor, Jerry Brown proposed 100 new cops for Oakland, but mainly for east and west Oakland. The Oakland electorate voted to get the new cops but did not want to pay for them.

Our new Mayor Ron Dellums tried again to get voter approval for 100 new cops.

In the meantime, from every Thursday evening through Monday early morning, at least 100 cops are brought into east Oakland, they prowl Jack London Square, zoom about certain parts of downtown and west Oakland. They stare at young men of color, they pull them over and ticket them, harass them to leave. But, to where?

Saturation policing, racial, ethnic-nationality and religious profiling, cops pulling over young men of color for any slight offense. Other drivers pulled over for being on the cell phone, or making a rolling stop. Check-points eyeballing drivers for color and class.

How about a 100 new jobs in east Oakland and 100 for west Oakland -- stable, lifelong, living wage jobs that make a difference? How about 100 new teachers, 100 new park-n-rec programs, 100 new affordable housing units, 1oo new small businesses, 100 new cultural centers, 100 new chapbooks, posters and magazines featuring the voices and dreams of east Oakland?

How about a 100 poetry readings and writing workshops -- two a week from January 1 - December 31? One concert a week of live music, blues, hip hop, jazz, corridos, cumbias, punk, rock en español, rock-n-roll, metal?

How about building a skate park on the lot that's at 55th and "International," nee East 14th?

We can stop the violence. We have to change the channel, change the numbers, a change of heart, make poetry, bread, style, laughter, community, health and culture in east Oakland, in west Oakland, in Oakland. We can't make much culture when the solution is policing, state violence and coercion, the pressure and pushing out of gentrification.

I am still shocked and in shock of the youth on youth violence, the young who die so young. I have lost friends to violence since I was young. Now that I am older, I still am losing young friends to violence and despair. I mourn the loss of the youth who perished and was honored on 55th.

But the majority of youth are succumbing to gun and other types of violence. They are succumbing to the violence of social and economic policies that have written them off. The violence and despair of little or any living wage job prospects. The standardized violence and despair students learn at the schools and lack of prospects for higher education.

We cannot just be survivors. We have to be strugglers, organizers against state violence, the daily bread of militarism that's got us in a choke hold. We have to live, work, worship, study and play in peace. For that we need a redirection of existing resources. We need hundreds of new things. Maybe we do need a 100 new cops, 100 that live and hope in east Oakland; it's work, too. But we need hundreds of new jobs, hundreds of investors willing to take a risk with the youth themselves, hundreds of spaces where culture, art, elders and youth can sit side by side and enjoy live's longest cycles so that no one perishes in vain.

We choose to live, even when we suffer losses that cause profound pain, seemingly unending, darkness when anyone we love, however old or young, dies.

After I snapped a few photos, even though it was cold, I bought an ice cream cone from Esteban,a peripatic ice cream vendor. It was a crisp, coldish morning.

I asked him how it was going. He said, I'm just getting started. He took off walking down the neighborhood and I got in my car and drove off -- both to work in Oakland.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

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Vladimir Mayakovsky,
pachuco, futurist gang-banger en East Oakland

yo me muero por tí
por el amor
por ella que ha vuelto por mí

liberaremos a la naturaleza
la poesía enjaulada en el futuro
donde eres el guardian de la ternura cuata
que sale de nosotr@s l@s que tenemos que morir
para que no muera el amor

; te pongo una exclamacion de hoz ;
un martillo para amartillar tus constelaciones
mi ruso calo
mis placas y c/s
mi futurismo enraizado en rebeldías
mi corazon amarillo
que uso de brocha
y mi lenguaje una corbata inutil
para las que no me entienden

hijo y bisabuelo mío
migrante de la palabra amor
pachuco de la esquina
con la Lili, la flor xochitl
de futuro enmarañado en la montaña rusa
donde alabo la luz, la sangre y tus rimas eternas
que han renacido en mí
re-encarnado en mi locura por la ternura descontrolada

si me enamoro de ella
con su voz raspada
sobre mi piel tatuajada
mis versos que deshago y destruyo
porque los escribo con la sangre de los que han sufrido
y yo sufro por ellos
para que la sonrisa se instaure como un discurso de victoria
donde las armas se rinden a la poesía
y ella me reconoce
me lleva a ser naturaleza entre sus brazos
llenos de sombras bajo las estrellas
y las serpientes explotan del zacate
serpiente de agua
zumban luz y canto
y nos abrazan que que el viva...

!con safos!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

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Live from AVALANCHA CULTURAL/Cultural Avalanche in Oakland

(May 17, 2008) Here's some photographs from the third Saturday in a row cultural gathering at the Plaza/La Placita that's near the entrance of the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland. The Placita, Oakland, the Fruivale, is all on Ohlone Lands; we give thanks to the Ohlone and our goal is to restore the peoples to their place in the natural world. [Photo of stage at La Placita at the Fruitvale BART station. Mosaic art and bas-relief sculpture by Daniel Camacho, whose artwork adorns the plaza.]

The Avalancha Cultural de la Carpa del FEO (Fandango in East Oakland) was organized by the dynamic trio of headRush (Rosa Gonzalez, Luis Xago Juarez, Simon Hanukai; visit them at: with Hector Rangel, who directs Libros, Arte y Cultura (, a new bookstore that Centro Legal de La Raza helped open at the new Oakland Workers Center, at the corner of 25th Avenue and International Boulevard (formerly East 14th Street!). [Photo left: Shadow of papel picado hanging across the Placita.] headRush organized three Saturdays of street theater and community performance starting on Saturday, May 3, with the theme of the day being PEACE; then the following Saturday, May 10, NO BORDERS. Hundreds of persons were treated to dynamic cultural performances with vision and community grounding.

The third Saturday, May 17, was dedicated to Mother Earth. Here, headRush and others presented street theater at its best made by a truly dynamic and genuine communal interaction including a small march around the block to announce that the program was about to begin. [Photo left: Luis Xago Juarez, member of headRush, bringing performers and audience into a circle to explain the order of the performers and to get us to march into International Boulevard to announce the Avalancha Cultural.]

Everyone started chanting: "Teatro a la Placita Que Vengan Todos, Teatro a la Placita! Theater in the Plaza, Come One, Come All!" then lead by loud drumming we all walked into the sidewalks of International Boulevard and circled around and the show began.

The Avalancha Cultural was organized spontaneity, cultural disobedience, hijas e hijos desobedientes, coming to talk about Mother Earth. That was today's theme: what are we going to do about the environmental-social crisis? How are we going to change the relationship of exploitation between humans over humans and of humans over the natural world? [Photo right: Lakin Valdez, drumming to lead the march into Fruitvale district.]

Energized rappers, poets, and street acting kept the small but spirited audience engaged for over three hours. We started out with a march and walked around the block chanting, momentarily stopping traffic and getting curious stares and generating excitement.

Avalancha Cultural del FEO is cultural disobedience meets civil disobedience: This effort represents community organizing to take over public spaces away from gentrification, away from the violence that the social order spews on us, black on black, brown on brown, yellow on yellow, red on red, white everywhere, we are unplugged, undaunted, and undulating with song, courage and words with deep roots.

We disobey the Prison Industrial Complex of television, malls, rock stars, big box chains on our culture. We disobey the rules and laws that make us inhuman, lose our place in the natural world. We disobey the social class structures: capital over workers, whites over blacks, whites over everyone, individuals over communities, rich over poor, straight over queer, humans over the natural world. We disobey a world where we would be considered and treated as minorities, as illegals, as undocumented. We are different and we want a different world where there is room for everyone, a community of communities.

The program started out with two drummers from the Inter-Tribal Friendship House [photo left] singing the AIM Song (American Indian Movement anthem that was created by an honor song for a young Indian man, Yellow Thunder Heart, who was killed in 1973 by police) and a song for AIM political prisoner, Leonard Peltier, whas already served 30 years from a crime he did not commit).

They were followed by a a youth theater group from AYPAL, an Asian youth leadership organization, that presented a skit, an acto, a drama about the dilemmas facing young people. [Photo right: Papel picado hanging across the sky of the Placita.]

Then after they performed, they were followed by a slew of poets, rappers and musician singing and performing on a cello.

The program ended with an incredible new play about the problems and issues on the social, political and economic roots of pollution and contamination of the natural world.

Rosa Gonzalez [photo left], who introduced the play, said that this so new that the performance was a type of "live rehearsal."

During the play some of the actors would pull out the manuscript and read quickly right before delivering their lines. Probably nobody noticed and thought that it was just part of the play! When the play ended, Rosa than invited all the audience to participate in a dialogue with their neighbors or whoever was sitting or standing next to you about the issues and problems raised by the play.

Then Rosa brought us back together and asked for more audience participation. She explained to us that the theater troupe would perform the play again and that any audience member could shout out: "freeze!" or "stop!" and either join the play or point the problem and a possible solution. As soon as the play began, a man shouted "Stop!" and jumped up to the microphone to say: part of the problem is that we are afraid to talk to one another. Many are shamed by their work or feel they have no power and can't say anything.

So then Rosa instructed the actors to use this feedback to change the play's dialogue and action. This went on for another half hour where audience members would stop the action, either provide insights and join in to replace one actor or another. This included someone taking over the microphone and leading a "takeover" of a newscast and getting arrested.

Another replacing an actor playing someone who was buying and consuming everything and yelling out, "I'm not buying anything anymore. Boycott!" -- even though this particular audience member got many of us laughing almost rolling on the ground, because he was wearing a t-shirt filled with $ signs and diamons!

Contradictions abound but we were all there with the opportunity to submerge ourselves in our own living culture.

The closing was also quite incredible. Hector took over the mike to provide a solution to the exploited Mother Earth actor who was moaning from the pains of capitalism. Hector joined in the drama but calling on another friend to lead the drama in a healing ceremony.

Hector's friend pulled out a large conch shell and started blowing into emitting a calming continuos melody as he circled the actor laying down playing mother earth. As this was happening two others joined in the drama and began massaging Mother Earth to heal her as the voice-song streamed out of the conch-shell.

Then the entire audience spontaneously joined in the ceremony by forming a large circle around the healing ceremony. This was closed by a short explanation of the spiritual and generational dimensions of healing mother earth that starts with taking control of your body and spirit and changing your relations with all.

Here's more of what we saw at the Avalancha Cultural del FEO, Fandango en el Este de Oakland:

Next four photos: AYPAL youth theater group in action.

Members of Tres Santos (left) performing piece on root causes of migration; Muteado (kneeling) acts as a campesino cutting cane.

Marc Pinate, spoken word:

Performing "Hitch Hiking to Hetchy Hetchy" on cello:

Desi spray-can graffiti artist creating a piece for the event:

Art work by Daniel Camacho that adorns the columns at both sides of the Plaza/Placita at the Fruitvale BART Station and the mosaic pieces on the ground.

Friday, May 09, 2008

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Festival de teatro de resistencia en la calle

* Oakland, California *

Theater Festival of Resistance in the Streets

Come to the Placita one block from the entrance to the Fruitvale BART Station.

En la placita a una cuadra de la entrada de la Estación Frtuivale de BART

Live with/En vivo con:

headRush theater group/grupo de teatro, poetas, decimistas, spoken word, music & community art project!

* Sábado/Sat. May 10, 2:00-4:00 p.m.: ¡Paz para la gente! – Peace for the people!

* Sábado/Sat. May 17, 12:00-2:00 p.m.: Sacred Mother Earth – Madre tierra sagrada

Organized by headRush!

With Libros Arte y Cultura bookstore and La Carpa del FEO

For more info, visit

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I have lived between wars

arnoldo garcía

I have lived between wars
all my life
between the Korean War
between the Vietnam War
between the Cold War
between the covert wars
between Indian Wars
between Middle East Wars
between Bosnian Wars
between Israeli wars
between Holy Wars

between field wars & nuclear silos
between Lebanon wars
between Che’s wars
between Central American wars
Nicaragua El Salvador Guatemala
between Zapatista wars
and rain forest revolutions
between the war on drugs
the war on poverty
and the war on terrorism
between Cuban revolutionary wars
between border wars and unarmed migrants
bewteen war and occupation of Iraq
between war preparations
to invade Cuba Grenada Panama
Chile Nicaragua Dominican Republic
Venezuela Iran North Korea
Tenochtitlán Tamaulipas

I live between wars
remembering how bombs explode twice
once in Beirut
once in New York
once in Baghdad
once in East Oakland
once everywhere
the second time at home
remembering how soldiers die twice
or live once with shrapnel
bleeding dead their imagination our indignation
remembering our war dead
never die, our war dead
(not the nation’s, not the President’s Armies)
what war do you live between?

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Mis ejercitos

arnoldo garcía

los alacranes
las viboras
los serpientes
las hormigas
las telarañas
la tinta
el papel
el polvo
los soles
las lunas
mis muertos
los arboles
las risas
tus sonrisas
las guitarras
las acordeones
tu cuerpo
en mi
las músicas
las miradas
la tierra
con o sin
los ríos
los oceános
los vientos
las cuatro direcciones
el calor de
tus danzas
la plática caótica
de mis fiestas
la naturaleza
los arcoírises
las ambulantes
los perros
las perras
los gatos
las gatas
el espacio
la luz
sus sombras
tus terremotos
los volcanes
la lluvia
los huracanes
las inundaciones
las tempestades
las sazones
los muertos que cantan
la gravedad
las moscas
los zancudos
los murcielagos
las palomas
las aguilas
los zopilotes
los peces
las ballenas
los elefantes
los colores
la piel
de tu fricción
la ternura
tu palabra
la mía
tu sangre
la mía

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