I remember being about 6 years old, & walking down Imperial Hwy in South Central LA, hanging on to my grandma’s “mandil” (apron). It was the 80’s, the height of the crack cocaine epidemic. My grandma was a Salem smoker & soon began slangin’ her cigarettes to those trying to survive between their hits. I became her translator, & would help collect the 25 cents she’d charge for each one. Looking back now, I realized my grandma was teaching me a very valuable lesson: dignity & respect for others. Seeing her interact with people that had been otherwise dehumanized by society taught me to see people for who they truly are & not what others label them as. Roots of South LA is what manifested from decades of seeing so many suffer from being marginalized & oppressed, knowing things needed to change. Personally, it is also a tribute to my abuelita, who although I can no longer reach for like I did before, her spirituality guides & encourages me.
I grew up in a single mother home amongst adversity, poverty, and trauma like most children of color. I was the oldest of four children - I grew up taking care of my younger brothers and at times also my mother. We went through a lot and in high school it all caught up with me amidst the teenage angst. The days became darker and hope was slipping through my fingers. This is when I met my first therapist. The moments and days that led to this were filled with shame and hurt as mental health in the Latino community is seen for “crazy” people. My mom wasn’t sure what journey we were about to take but she knew she was losing me and that was a greater risk. My therapist was a Latina - she looked like me, she spoke my language. She understood my complexities, my family dynamics, my culture, and my pain - she saved me. That is when I knew I wanted to be a therapist. She helped me and I knew I had to do the same for others.
As I pulled up to meet with Adriana, in true Chola form, she steps out of her house to scope out the new car on the block, informing me she knows every car that parks on her street, so she knew it was me - neighborhood watch at its finest. Once we got the formalities out of the way, we all dove right into sharing our own individual journeys of healing and self- care. We discussed what that looks like now as an adult and what we tried to find as children. More importantly, we agreed on the importance of sharing that within a community full of adversity and oppression, and the hurdles people of color face when dealing with mental help due to the lack of resources and education.
Adriana, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a PHD in Psychology and Liliana, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with years of dealing with mental health in communities in need are two women who not only went through their own pains, and realization of the importance of mental health, but are now giving back to their community.
The ladies shared with me numerous client stories within the inner city. There is such a substantial difference in what is available to people with the resources to get help compared to those in lower income communities. With that, the lack of representation in the mental health field can make it harder for some to even get to a place of comfort to deal with issues, let alone dive into traumas or deeply rooted problems. I may not be an expert in the field of social work especially in communities most marginalized and oppressed, but what I can say with confidence is practices of self-care (therapy, meditation, yoga…) are not the norm in most colored family house holds. In my personal experience, there was always a stigma attached to therapy, mental health, or anything related to it. It was always thought to be for people who were crazy, or depressed - shit just gets heavy sometimes and for some who lack the tools to start with themselves or a strong support system, therapy is a huge help.
Seeing the trend continue on till this day, Adriana and Liliana felt compelled to start Roots of South LA. A grassroots organization dedicated to giving the tools to combat mental issues and fatigue from a holistic, meditative, and self-empowered approach with focus in a community dealing with adversity and oppression. A place where they felt needed a space where the education and tools for mental health and self-care were available, instead of another damn Starbucks. They hold monthly Healing Circles in South LA, a gathering intended to support the process of healing emotional wounds through sisterhood and holistic approaches to overall wellness, conducted in both English and Spanish. They speak at events within the community to educate people on the importance of mental health, and different holistic and sometimes indigenous ways one can deal with problems like anxiety, depression, and triggers. They remind and empower the community to try starting with themselves and that we have the ability to heal from within. They stress the importance in building the tools to deal with hardships to minimize the chances of short term escapes that can lead to addictions or dependency on a medical system that can feel disconnected and not to mention unaffordable.
Adriana and Liliana have this aura and light that felt like a hug from an abuelita that you know lived a life and is here to school you on acting right. Because of their own experiences of adversity and the lack of mental health resources growing up, these ladies are on a mission to build a support system in South LA and remind those in the community that amongst the hardships, there are options for help. That nothing is final, and the pain doesn’t have to be. They exude compassion for others and are here to remind us that we should have compassion for ourselves as well.
The ladies left me with these words on what they see, what they do, and what will come.
Our communities are hurting, our families are hurting, and we too deserve healing. This is why Roots of South LA is important to us. Roots is a way for us to continue to give back to the most marginalized and oppressed. Those that are not likely to step into a private practice office on the west side nor have as many resources. Roots is a way to empower people of color to take ownership of their mental health. Our vision is for Roots to be a place of healing for those with limited access to mental healthcare. A place where people can seek help and comfort in those that look like them and can understand the hardships. A place that feels like home, that speaks in their language. The language of the inner city.
“Roots is how I am able to continue to create balance in the universe and give back what so many people have given me through my journey. ” - Liliana
The ladies are in the beginning stages of growth and any donations would be greatly appreciated. Visit their gofundme, Facebook page and Instagram below.
Roots of South Los Angeles FB
Roots of South Los Angeles IG
“Place - a particular portion of space, whether of definite or indefinite extent.”
I always answer with hesitation whenever I’m asked about my trips to the Philippines. I feel in about a 10 word response, I better articulate how amazing the country and people are, how poverty and questionable politics are still an issue, and how grateful I am for my parents for immigrating to the states. After forgetting all that, I fall back on my response, “It always puts me in a place.” A place of gratitude, pride, and inherent guilt. I can thank my parents for some of that guilt. You can only hear the phrase, “Your cousins in the Philippines wouldn’t complain”, so much before a complex builds.
On my last trip to the Philippines, I made the effort to not approach the country with this preconceived idea that it would be just like any of my other stressful trips back home. I wanted to be more than the daughter of my mom that’s here to visit, “Galing siya sa America.” I wanted to do more than absorb the culture that I was familiar with through an American lens, I wanted to give back. Since my roots and connections on the islands are limited to the addresses on the balikbayan boxes we send home, and the random Facebook adds from what I’m assuming is some cousin I’m related to, I looked within the Filipino community here. In comes my close friend, Love and her nephew Jerich. Love - a creative being called to share her learnings and experiences in this world, and Jerich - a nurse and curious spirit full of empathy and authenticity to care for others. A couple years ago Love and Jerich started The Yeni Project.
Yeni Alyanna Espiritu was a 9 yr. old patient of Jerich’s who went through the trials of having stage IV Neuroblastoma during her last months on this earth. Because of Yeni, Jerich witnessed all the ups and heavy downs that come with living with that bitch called cancer - from learning how to care for a client with a terminal case like hers, to knowing how to cherish the last days on this earth. Jerich shared some of those experiences with me and the moment he knew he had to honor her story, “I remember on her deathbed, whispering to her as I held her hand, that I promised that I would never stop taking care of kids, especially those who tread the same path.” Fast forward to today, Love and Jerich created the The Yeni Project with a mission to bring glimpses of joy to kids in hospitals through art.
This year the project starts again in the states where Love rallied a handful of artists to create illustrations for 75 coloring books. We packaged these illustrations to create a coloring kit that would hopefully give the kids just a moment to forget about their sickness. With a full suitcase, we headed to Pasig City Children’s Hospital where nurses welcomed us with appreciation and disbelief, “Wait, why are you doing this?” A blend of smarts and traces of hope in humanity apparently.
We started our first rounds on the 2nd floor, reading each child’s chart before entering the room. Each room greeted us with hyper awareness. In comes a face masked nurse, a put together young man, and a woman with a camera and a horrible Filipino accent, all while dealing with a sickness - who wouldn’t give a side eye? The children were expressionless, distracted by a phone, TV, or the muted green walls. Each visit lasted about a minute, with the same intro, “Hello, we have coloring books for you. Just a little something to past the time.” We made it to our final child and wondered if they cared, if the coloring books would end up tossed in the trash. We decided to do a second round of visits, and to our surprise, every single kid we checked on was coloring, some with parents working on the next page. The air this time felt different, as if the families were able to break away from discomfort for just a moment. We never heard a peep out of any of the kids - still expressionless, but now focused on giving color to the drawings.
On this trip, I was reminded of the power of caring for others and what traveling can teach us. In those moments outside of our world, outside of our 3-block radius at times we’re not actually that different. We all have struggles, we’re all just trying to live, we all sometimes just need a moment.
This time around the Philippines did put me in a place. A place still rooted in gratitude, but watered with compassion for others and appreciation for the moments in between.
“We believe that women will be the architects of the liberation we are fighting so fiercely to attain.” - Sumaq, Af3irm organizer
An organization that has been in existence for 28 years, the women of Af3irm continue to educate, inspire, and stimulate discussions of liberation and resistance. With the current political climate and almost mainstream view of feminism, the women of Af3irm have not only maintained their fighting stance against oppression in all its forms, they cultivate conversations of true intersectionality through passion and necessary discomfort in hopes to change our dreams to reality. Every time I chat with one of the members about the work they do, it all seems to stem from a very visceral place. A place where each committed minute to the cause is a minute dedicated to social justice, to women, and the future of a society we all deserve.
I worked with the organization on a project called Freedom Dreams: A Transnational Music Dialogue. The project’s mission is to help create the visual landscape of liberation through stories of hope, images of resistance, and soundscapes of encouragement. Led by artists Chilean emcee Ana Tijoux, the First Lady of Arab Hip Hop Shadia Mansour, Artivist Entertainment founder emcee Maya Jupiter, and Tijuana-born singer-songwriter Ceci Bastida, the goal was to trigger all emotions of oppression through moods, vibrations, and sound. From there, take that responsiveness and manifest those visions into action, and continue the conversation of transnational feminism.
The event started by participating at the 10th annual Fandango Fronterizo at Friendship park - an area where friends and families can congregate and communicate through a fence that literally divides the U.S. from Mexico. Fandango Fronterizo began as a response to an indefinite problem. Jaraneros in San Diego and Tijuana wanted to play together, but couldn’t cross the border to have a fandango together (Fandango is a traditional Spanish dance for two people, typically accompanied by castanets or tambourine). Fandango Fronterizo has united diverse musical communities despite the wall, barriers, and people that divide us. Of all my years living in San Diego, Baja California didn’t concern me. For the first time, I saw what I took for granted, I saw families and friends stop at nothing to connect through a wall that could not divide them. I saw resistance, I heard the vibrations of hope, I dreamed of a different world.
My dreams began to take life - the landscape was created at the border, and expanded into something palpable in LA. With their music, these four women incited feelings and visions of liberty and justice. There were moments where I wasn’t behind the camera documenting, I was fully present in a movement. Their sounds created a binary beat that was hypnotizing and for me, transcended into a life that didn’t seem unfathomable - where all people of color and from different struggles can live in a world of diversity and equality. I was captivated by Ana’s hauntingly beautiful voice and piercing stage presence, Maya’s words of hope and agile b-girl skills, Ceci’s passionate juxtaposition of high-energy and soothing sounds, and Shadia’s impeccable delivery and words of Palestine liberation.
I was humbled, numbed, motivated, and all the other words you could look up in a thesaurus that touch on excitement. This project is only the beginning of Af3irm, creating the landscape of liberation that we all deserve.
Learn more about the women of Af3irm here and get organized!
And check out the music of these bold and dynamic women.
“It would be nothing without a woman or a girl.” - James Brown
I’m still trying to understand why anyone would think they have the right to tell a woman what she can do with her body. Throw in a wage gap issue, patriarchal mysogynistic tendencies, and a “president” that clearly has no respect for women and GAME OVER.
On January 21st 2017, it was an amazing feeling to march with thousands of women around the world in solidarity. To see a sea of different nationalities, ages, and even men respond to Trump the day after his inauguration was a glimmer of hope that I’m still holding onto like that photo where I say, “Dammmn I wish I still looked like that”. I was thicker in high school so more college days - post break up and no money for food type of look.
I saw so many signs that spoke to the emotions of the protesters and some that were just clever as hell. I asked a handful of people why they marched and here were a few that remind me to fight the good fight…
“I march for you, me, and the she to come.” - Lani
“For love, courage, and unity.” - Sam
“For our pussies, for women, for queers, for our children, for immigrants, for muslims, for love, for the future, for health care, for education.” - Shauna
“For my my mother, my life, and my daughter.” - Liz
“Because this is bullshit, we are equal. Planned Parenthood got me through college without an STD and I was an idiot with a constant boner” - Michael (Clearly my favorite)
I marched because I was part of a generation that raised girls to think they were less than a boy, that a girl that is “too intense” was a bitch or unhappy, that she should smile more to be considered “pretty”, or guys are just like that, that’s why they say borderline inappropriate shit. I posted months later, because I knew I would need to remind myself why the resistance needs to be backed with persistence… and cause I got shit to do, writing words with pictures is hard y’all!
I’ll continue to resist while Trump is in office rolling back protection rights for women and while people like Bill O’ Reilly, and a network that ONLY fired him cause he got caught, not because what he did, still exist. It’s gonna be a long ass fight but, the world, this administration, and the future women of this country need to know they are equal, they are deserving, they are mighty, and this is bullshit.
“Should we go to their wedding? I don’t really look presentable. I don’t even want to be around ME right now.”
Four hours after meeting the women of Patacancha, we’re being fed home made quinoa soup, learning the intricate details of weaving beautiful hand made pieces, and asked if we would like to attend a wedding ceremony later that night.
From the very beginning stages of planning our Peru trip, my way more organized friend Ivy and I wanted to be immersed in the country’s culture. Numerous friends shared their travel stories of its history, vibrance, and the people’s strong connection to their land and culture, which feels something so distant as an American nowadays with the situation at Standing Rock.
We researched non-profit organizations that focused on women and came across Awamaki, a non-profit that connects the Andean women with the global market by giving
them access to a working income while keeping true to their culture,
heritage, and values. The relationship they had with the people of the town, the history they shared, and their true passion to inspire these women to help provide for their family and increase their quality of life reminded me in the power of simply caring.
As we drove up the mountains and entered the town, I was overly stimulated in such a positive way. We were greeted with open hearts and smiles - colors with such a palpable sense of saturation, and a striking eagerness to connect with total strangers. Organic Eucalyptus tea was waiting for us, and damn, it was the most refreshing thing I ever had in my life - please note that we were also chewing on coco leaves with every breathe we took, sooooo…… Anyways, once we got settled and gathered around the piles of alpaca yarn, we began learning the fascinating process of weaving. Each step is natural from beginning to end. The women gather the alpaca hair and spin it into yarn as if it was like breathing. From there, they naturally dye the yarn with dried beetle’s blood and eventually arrange each strand to create patterns and graphics so effortlessly, it was damn near hypnotic.
After the pieces were made, we were able to buy directly from these women and were gifted bracelets that we were able to help weave - I gave up in about 2 minutes.
We sat with these women and enjoyed the company, the culture, and heritage. One interesting thing they shared was the tradition of asking a woman’s hand in marriage. If a man wants to marry a woman from the town, he must walk to her house in the middle of the night to ensure he does not see an other woman on the way there. Then he can ask her father for her hand in marriage, proving that no other woman will come in the way of his commitment. Meanwhile, I’m over here wondering if a guy has another Bumble date the next night, probably.
I admire the strength in the tradition and values of the people of Peru and the eagerness of the Patacancha women to learn and provide for their family alongside the men.
“The most powerful way to reduce poverty is
giving women access to income. ” - Awamaki
Special thank you to the women of Patacancha, and Jessica and Mari of Awamaki. Thank you for sharing your passion to help other women and opening up your home and hearts.
Here’s the link to learn more about the organization.
“Tell me all your thoughts on God, cause I’d really like to meet her”- Dishwalla
I always think of this lyric when I hear the word feminism and the stigma of it being just some aggressive standpoint or some absurd way of thinking. It boggles my mind that we are still having discussions on the right to our own bodily autonomy and integrity. The idea of feminism should be easy to grasp and ACCEPT in my opinion. Now, to be able to dissect the oppressive state in which women live in, advocate the dismantling of our current system and make moves towards a liberated life for all is where Ivy Quicho takes the baton and leads the way.
Ivy has worked as a social worker for over 10 years and is the National Organizing Director of Af3irm - an organization of women engaged in transnational feminist anti-imperialist activism dedicated to the fight against oppression in all forms. I know that’s a lot to digest, but with a mission statement like that, I feel pretty damn invincible having Ivy on my side. One minute I’m standing strong in my stance on prostitution, strip clubs and a woman’s right to express herself, the next minute I am realizing the negative impact on capitalizing off of the exploitation of women. Throw in a valid theory of supply and demand, and I was damn near on my way to picketing Jumbo’s Clown Room in DTLA. Ivy, I’ve been there, I’m sooooooo sorry!
My own personal penance for believing some of these gender roles was to embrace what I thought would be an intimidating conversation on feminism. But as we sat there and she answered every question I had, I realized my hesitation was unnecessary and I was overcome with so much knowledge and empathy towards all sides, races, and backgrounds. The power of conversation is what starts movements. Typing those words seems fresh from some IG Quote account (not gonna lie, this one has helped sometimes), but for Ivy and the women of Af3irm it’s only the beginning. It all seems like such a lofty task, almost unimaginable. At the end of the conversation I just wanted to go get ice cream on York blvd and talk about the finale of The Night Of, but Ivy dared me to dream. To dream of a world of equality, liberation, & social change. She made me realize the distinction between feminism and mainstream feminism. She broke down the differences of a white woman’s struggle vs a woman of color. She dropped knowledge on alarming statistics of women being raped or assaulted in this country.
Af3irm is hell bent on demanding change, and intensifying the wave of feminism to drown all levels of inequality and social injustices. One way of this method is the launch of SOYA LA, a free, holistic three-part program for female youth. Here, girls participate in trauma-informed yoga, sensory strategies, and transnational feminist workshops. The program provides youth with the knowledge and tools to not only cope and survive our daily oppression, but to heal, organize, and dream.
To see the power of community, passion, empathy, and everything that comes with a movement, first hand makes me believe in the good in people, and I forget there is any good the minute I get on the 405. For that alone I can’t thank Ivy and the women of Af3irm enough.
“Yo, you DO have a big head, but at least you work in fashion so people will notice your clothes first.”
The candid, funny, and sometimes inappropriate moments that I share with Sandy Oh are just a few reasons why I admire this woman. Her infectious smile, obvious fashion sense, and endearing Asian lady ways leave you wanting to know more than just what she’s wearing. One of my favorite outfits I’ve seen on Sandy was an a-line tent dress, bomber jacket, laced rimmed - polka dot sock situation, finished off with bright ass yellow stilettos. Doesn’t make sense - that sentence didn’t make sense, but Sandy manages to combine each piece effortlessly.
Always true to her own style and aesthetic, the latest Indigo Capsule Collection with AG Jeans is only a glimpse into her creative mind. I watched her dedicate every kimchi minute and sketch to this line and to have her explain her vision to me in words was truly inspiring. As I continue to work on the digital content strategy with the team, it’s becoming evident that her attention to shapes, obscure silhouettes, and wash fabric techniques derive from a place I can’t quite explain, and I sure as hell don’t want to fuck it up so I’ll let Sandy take this one…
“I love fashion but I truly love clothes. Although being a designer does not save lives it gives people self identity and individuality. No two people will ever dress exactly the same. This is what the Indigo Capsule Collection is all about, creating unique pieces left for interpretation.
Every fashion designer has a story that starts with…When I was little…For me it’s in my blood. My mom at the age of 17 started her very own tailor shop in Korea. She at a young age started creating beautiful tailor garments for people in small towns. I do want to say that I received a lot of my mom’s DNA. She to this day has a love affair with clothes as I do.
Fashion to me is not just my career but my everyday lifestyle, I live and breathe it daily. Although Coco Chanel said to always remove one item before you leave out the door, I always add one more piece to complete my look as I walk out to start my day! Style should come from within and everyone should dress for themselves and not to impress others. Fashion is art and art is fashion. Like art fashion is left for one to create and left for interpretation by each individual.”
Check out the line here = AG JEANS
“I’m usually the only girl…that’s too girly…I can’t do pink.” Actually, I really can’t do pink. That shade, my skin tone, no good can come from that.
I’ve always been that girl that prided herself in being just one of the guys. Always saying, “I mostly hang with dudes”, like it was supposed to validate me as some cool chick that stood out from a sea of vaginas (how’s that for a visual?). It is true, that I do feel a sense of comfort with my boys, but lately there’s been a rising level of guilt due to my lack of acknowledgement towards the amazing and inspiring women in my life. I am by no means an expert on feminism, what wave it currently is on, or what are the necessary steps we as society need to take to wake the hell up and expedite women being rightfully viewed as equals, but what I do know is that there are women in this world and specifically in my life that are making moves.
I want to share these stories of women every Wednesday in hopes to inspire and to see if I can break your habits of taking those Buzzfeed quizes (yo, you probably already know which 90’s song you are by the 3rd question, come on!).
I want to start #WomanWednesday off with the ladies of Safe Word Creative Management. Coupled with years of experience in representing heavy hitting creative talent with the purest energy and passion, Erika Bokamper and Erika Sheldon are here to take the advertising world by storm. These two continue to inspire me with their vision and tenacity of bringing creative minds together, all while staying grounded in a world of chaos.
I’m lucky as shit to call these ladies colleagues and friends and can’t wait to see first hand the power of what these freakishly determine women can do.