Warrior Life, Spring/ Summer 2021

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Warrior Life Spring/Summer 2021

HE WON’T BE DRAGGED DOWN KEITH MORRIS A chat with a punk legend


Remembering Juan Miranda, Warrior Life editor-in-chief


Tamales, Birria, Tortas, Sweet treats

GARDENA CINEMA A family story with a Hollywood ending.

Shining a light on hate crimes

Warrior Life Staff WRITERS

Carolina Espinoza Elliut Medina Elisa Albarran Elsa Rosales Gary Kohatsu Harrison Herbert Jeniffer Torres Juan Miranda Katelyn Olvera Manuel Guzman Margarita Sipaque Molly Cochran Walter Jay Jr. Yewande Olugbodi

PHOTOGRAPHERS Gary Kohatsu Jaime Solis* Mari Inagaki Patricia Carrillo Walter Jay Jr.

ILLUSTRATORS Jeniffer Torres Kendal Foreman Lauren Hadnot

EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Jeniffer Torres Juan Mirada

MANAGING EDITORS Jaime Solis* Molly Cochran

DESIGNER Jeniffer Torres


Stefanie Frith

For more stories that didn't make it onto print visit Warrior Life's webpage at eccunion.com

Eddie Pili, a homeless person, joyfully stands on one leg while making several frantic trips with a shopping cart to get all of his belongings out of the massive tunnel that runs underneath the west end of the El Camino College campus in Torrance on March 10, 2021. Photo by Walter Jay Jr.

Warrior Life is a student-run magazine. El Camino College students interested in being a part of the magazine must enroll in Journalism 9 for fall 2021 or contact Stefanie Frith at sfrith@elcamino.edu for more information. Contributors marked with an * means they are in other journalism classes.

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Letter from the Editor


’ve never been a stranger to stressful or chaotic situations, though this really never makes the experiences more digestible or less frustrating. A long-time artist for the sake of my own mental survival, the process of creation for me has always been one continuously trailed by the thought “if it doesn’t look ugly at the beginning, it’s not going to look good at the end.” This was an ugly semester.

Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong and then went wrong again once more. Warrior Life lost editor-in-chief Juan Miranda in January. He died very suddenly and left an empty role I had to step in and take on. Despite it all, this magazine is the biggest to come out of Warrior Life, but 100 pages still fell short for including all the work submitted by students. Their stories can be found on the website at eccunion.com.

To my dear friend Juan, I fulfill my promise to you and now hand over your magazine, complete and heavy with the stories of people you would have undoubtedly called warriors. To my dear friend Juan, you asked me to join your team as an illustrator and an editor and I must admit I failed you in one regard. I was only able to illustrate two stories out of all those included in this collection, but I poured myself between the lines of each one of them and had my editing skills strenuously tested and infuriatingly exposed over and over again. As an artist, I leave between these pages the signature of my being. I leave here my tears and my sleepless nights and the love I had for our friendship, but I carry with me the memory of our work and the legacy of your humanity. To my dear friend Juan, I present you with your magazine and painfully, as I continue to believe this should have never happened, I carry what you started to the finish line. To my dear friend Juan, with this collection of stories and lives now printed onto tangible pages, I say to you your work is now fully complete and there are no more strings left drifting in your absence. In grief and exhaustion, Jeniffer Torres

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JaMal Howard, a 2019 All-Conference guard at El Camino College, hopes to take his game to a D-1 university and ulitimately the pros. Photo by Gary Kohatsu/Warrior Life. Story on pages 14-18.

Lesley Mercado Navy Veteran at Vista Del Mar, El Segundo Beach April 10, 2021.



t was around 2 a.m. and the USS Ronald Reagan ship seemed dead in the early morning.

Lesley Mercado woke up in her general quarters to a dark room. It was darker than usual, but she did not think much of it until she got out of bed. None of the red lights were on. They were not working.

Maybe there is a short circuit or something Lesley thought without being concerned. Someone would get it fixed soon.

As she headed down to the Damage Control (DC) central, the whole ship was still dark except for the faint emergency lights. “Is there something going on?” Lesley asked herself as she walked down the halls. People were running all around hustling as they grabbed their things. Many faces around the room looked nervous while others looked panicked. “What’s going on?” Lesley asked an engineer.

“We are dead at sea,” the engineer told her and scurried away.

“Seven nautical miles away, there’s North Korean submarines following us,” Lesley’s friend said trying to explain to her.

After four hours, the North Korean submarine emerged from the water and went back down under. It continued to do this repeatedly. To see the ship, you needed binoculars, but it was not as far as Lesley had thought. She could see that it had a big painted flag of North Korea on the side. At this moment, everything that was happening hit her all at once. “Wow. I really signed my life away--this is real, and this isn’t a game,” Lesley said. Lesley was born on July 21 in El Segundo. She loved playing games and spending time with everyone.

In high school, she wanted to become either a photojournalist or an interior designer. Her grades were not the greatest and she thought that she did not have a chance. Joining the military was always a backup plan if her first choices did not pan out.

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Lesley Mercado Navy Veteran at Vista Del Mar, El Segundo Beach April 10, 2021 criminal justice major with daughter Logan. After she graduated high school, she attended El Camino College for three weeks before dropping out. Over the next few years, she put all her time into working. In 2016, she decided to join the Navy. There, she became a damage controlman, a Navy firefighter and then worked her way up to fire marshall.

deployment when her first scare occurred.

While in Japan, she learned more about herself. She learned not to depend on others to always be with her and learned to explore on her own. She volunteered at Japanese schools and learned that children there sat on the floor. She loved the mannerism that they portrayed. She especially loved all the food.

The ship and all its personnel were dead at sea. Nothing on the ship was working. They were stuck in the middle of the ocean unprotected.

She has visited many places in the United States as well as Japan, Spain, and many other countries. Her first deployment was to Yokosuka, Japan where she was stationed in Japan from June 15, 2016 to April 2017. Lesley made many friends while she was there and always tried to go back and visit.

But Lesley was new to the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan ship in 2016. She was less than a year into her 8 Warrior Life

DC Central is where the engineers go to scan their watch and talk to their watch officer. The ship was mostly unlit except for the faint lighting of the emergency lights. “What’s going on?” Lesley asked her peers.

All the engineering officers were in the room; the commanding officer of the ship, the captain, the executive officer, the second in command and others in the chain of command. Everyone was moving around the room at a fast pace securing their equipment. They were gearing up for what lied ahead of them. No missiles. No light. No ship engines.

“Oh OK, we’re going to fix it,” Lesley told an engineer shrugging it off. “No, it’s more serious than that,” The engineer told her looking worried.

Lesley still did not understand the big deal of what was happening. Her friend then explained that North Korean ships were seven nautical miles (~8.05 miles) away and had been following them for some time and if the North Koreans found out that their ship was down, they could come after them and they could not do anything about it. “We were sitting ducks,” Lesley says.

They were helpless, just waiting for anything bad that could possibly happen to them. Lesley’s superiors sent her up to Communications to further assist them. She had her radio and headset, ready to patrol the ship and aid anyone in need. Soon everyone from General Quarters was awake and gearing up. Many went to the Repair Lockers, which is where they have special equipment like firefighting gear and grabbed some equipment in case the ship was to be hit. For four hours, people were patrolling the ship or were in the engineering room trying to figure out how to fix the problem while others waited to see if anything would happen.

Lesley was the team investigator. She was paired with ITSN Connor, her friend, and they had to figure out where the fire was, its boundaries, if anyone was in trouble, or if anyone needed help. She had her radio with her and was constantly going up and down the ladder wells in search of the fire. When she found the fire, she put her hand on the door to feel the heat and see if the fire was coming from another compartment. She then radioed someone at the Repair Locker and went back to get dressed in additional gear. It took almost two hours to put out the fire. One by one, each person took turns holding the nozzle of the hose and changed positions when someone got tired. The room was filled with flames.

They later found out there were two reasons for the fire. First, someone’s iPhone charging port was not electrically safety tagged and it was brought onto the ship. Secondly, a coffee pot was left on

With night vision goggles, Lesley’s Navy friend showed her the North Korean submarines, and after four hours of no service and power, the ship came back to life. Everything was calm again and everyone went back to work like normal.

That’s when she realized what she had signed up for was no joke. In the mess decks, what they call the cafeteria, Lesley and her friends joked around the table while eating their lunch chow when they were suddenly called over a 1MC speaker that was wired all over the ship.

The bell began to ring. Then a loud voice shouted over the speaker. “FIRE, FIRE, FIRE! Fire in the department!” someone shouted over the 1MC speaker.

Lesley and her friends rushed to the Repair Lockers to get suited up. She put on her firefighting gear, SCVA bottle, mask, helmet, boots and other equipment that she thought she might need. She and her crew were excited because they were finally able to fight a fire and put their training to the test with this incident.

Lesley Mercado at Vista Del Mar, El Segundo Beach April 10, 2021 holding Bootcamp Graduation photo.

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and it caught a spark which combined with the charging port to create a fire.

and daughter in El Segundo, California.

Outside the military Lesley has left an imprint on many people including her two good friends Victoria Chance and Jazmin Gonzalez and her brother Dylan Mercado. Lesley has known Victoria for over two decades. They have been best friends since preschool at Center Street Elementary School in El Segundo.

Today, she attends school full-time and has two part-time jobs at the Container Store and at the Los Angeles Airforce Base as an administrative assistant.

Everything in the room was charred. Everything was gone. Because of this event, the USS Reagan had to be docked in Spain.

“Lesley is a very outgoing person and always puts other people’s needs before her own,” Victoria says. “She is a great mother to her daughter Logan.” Throughout the years, Lesley has built many close relationships.

“She has always been the person I go to when I need to talk,” Victoria says.

Jazmin and Lesley met through Craigslist in 2015. Jazmin was renting out a room and Lesley had just moved to San Diego. They were both Navy veterans and rooming together worked out well for them.

“She definitely wears her heart on her sleeve, but very compassionate, adventurous and a big explorer,” Jazmin says. She enjoyed and misses all their long late-night girl talks about their day or about how they were feeling when they lived together.

Lesley and Dylan grew up together watching each other become respectable young adults. Dylan is currently a sophomore at El Segundo High School. He has fond memories of his sister when he was younger; taking him to the park to play on the swings and attending his school concerts to show her support. “One of my favorite memories would be when she would ask me to be her sou chef [and] bake with her,” Dylan says. “We would bake cakes and bread.” Lesley returned from her last deployment in April 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She is now back home living with her parents, brother, 10 Warrior Life

She’s continuing her educational career at El Camino College studying Administrative of Justice to become a criminal lawyer and help those in the community.

Campus veteran services

El Camino College has a Veteran Services Program which offers educational benefits to armed forces veteran students and supports homeless veterans.

Since most classes are now online due to the pandemic, many worried they would not get money for housing, however the United States Department of Veretran Affairs is allowing it this semester. “Veterans are not traditional students and so a lot of them don’t feel like they connect with the other students because they have had a unique experience,” Brenda Threatt, assistant director of the Veterans Program, says.

Because the El Camino College campus is closed, the Veteran Services Program is open virtually. They are open Tuesday through Thursday. Virtual counselor’s appointments to plan classes, get tutoring or other services are also available online.

This program allows students from different military backgrounds to come together and gain support from others who have been in their situation. They also come together to have BBQs, soccer games, participate in community service and many other events. Contact the Veteran Services Program at eccvetcenter@elcamino.edu or by searching for them on the college website to access counselors.



riving through the South Bay, it’s easy to see there’s no shortage of great places to eat. One style of food that’s in abundance and a popular pick is Mexican food. From family-owned restaurants to carnicerias to taco trucks, the places to get great-tasting tacos or burritos seem endless. But what about the less talked about torta?

A torta falls somewhere between a sandwich and a submarine sandwich, but is so much more. It’s served on a bolillo (French bread roll) and is usually filled with carnitas (pulled pork), avocado, lettuce, tomato and onions.

1. Padrino’s Taqueria

Hanging to the left of Padrino’s is a large banner advertising their bar next door, Padrino’s Draft House. While you may be tempted to slip in for a drink, you won’t want to miss their small kitchen area that offers big, authentic flavor. The Torta de Carnitas comes on a delicious sourdough-style bread with jalapeño slices, crispy tortilla chips and a small cup of tasty red salsa.

Address: 15214 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale 90260

2. Pancho’s Tacos In a Hawthorne-adjacent strip mall, you’ll find this treasure of a spot serving many reasonably-priced dishes. The Torta de Carnitas comes on a soft flatbread with guacamole, chopped cilantro, finely shredded cheese, your choice of red or green salsa, radish slices, pickled carrot slices and a jalapeño on the side. Address: 14405 Prairie Ave., Ste. A, Lawndale 90260

3. La Fiesta Meat Market Located in a small corner strip mall, La Fiesta is easy to overlook. From the outside, it looks like your standard carniceria, but immediately past the entrance is a food counter with plenty of home-cooked options ready to be served. The Torta de Carnitas is served whole with chopped cilantro, your choice of red or green salsa, lime quarters and a jalapeño on the side. Address: 15020 Hawthorne Blvd., Ste. H, Lawndale 90260

Pancho’s Taco’s juicy Torta de Carnitas is a unique treat with lots of flavor. You may find yourself wanting to eat it all in one sitting.

4. Lucky Star Cafe Mexican Grill A neighborhood fixture since 1978, Lucky Star is sure to satisfy anyone’s craving with many options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Torta de Carnitas comes with melted cheese and chunks of fresh avocado. The pork is chopped, seasoned, adobo-style chunks rather than shredded and is tasty just the same. Address: 5109 Prairie Ave., Lawndale 90260

5. Dayro Meat Market & Restaurant At the corner of Marine and Mansel Avenues sits a tiny market overflowing with fresh produce and packaged food items. The Torta de Carnitas is served whole on a toasted roll with avocado chunks, jalapeño slices and green salsa. Most won’t be able to finish it in one sitting. Address: 4524 Marine Ave., Lawndale 90260

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Illustrated by Kendal Foreman

Again?” Jabir says, cutting me off in disbelief. As I look up, the cabin of his 1991 Honda Accord fills with red and blue light. Jabir was right. I couldn’t believe it. We were getting pulled over for the fifth time that night. Our crime? Playing late-night basketball with our friends and driving home brown and bearded in America. In those moments it is hard to process everything that is happening to you. Guilt, privilege, inequity, profiling, shame, anger, rage, confusion. It is a cocktail of emotions and events that even after nearly 15 years I am still trying to sift through and understand.

In 2006 certain racial, religious and cultural groups were being profiled for being brown and 12 Warrior Life

bearded in America. From me, a Sri Lankan Buddhist kid from Los Angeles, to Jabir, the only child of a Puerto Rican and Ethiopian immigrant from Oakland. Many of us were casualties from the fallout of 9/11.

A Minnesota Transportation Security Administration employee assaulting a man because he thought he was Muslim. Henry Clay Glaspell setting fire to a playground outside a mosque in Arlington, Texas. Antonio Nunez-Flores throwing a molotov cocktail at children at an Islamic Center in El Paso, Texas. Incidents against people that looked like me seemed to escalate to a state of normalcy.

Sept. 11, 2001, gave America the green light for the hatred and xenophobia it craved. Anyone that

fit the social tropes, stereotypes or likeness to the terrorists that did those heinous crimes seemed to deserve the same hatred and punishment.

car, OK?”

“How can I help you, officers?” Jabir says. His timbre agreeable, with an undercurrent of frustration.

Empathy for Tenderfoot washes over me. God knows a more reasonable response is anger and rage.


A matte black Maglite wraps on the car window, miraculously not shattering it.

“I’m going to need you to step out of the car,” the officer says. “Can I ask why officer?” Jabir replies, his voice laced with a slight quiver. “Get out of the car… now!” the officer belts.

There’s no better way to eradicate a person’s humanity than treating them like a criminal first and asking questions later.

The officer, let’s call him sgt. Pecker, sprawls Jabir out on the hood of his car like a spatchcocked chicken. He cuffs Jabir and sits him on the wet grass. His basketball shorts now sag after his pockets and waistband have been rifled through. The wet grass begins to soak into his once baby-blue boxer-briefs as he struggles to pull them up. Pecker relishes dehumanizing Jabir. You can sense this is not his first time treating a human worse than an animal. He feeds off of the fear. Savoring every moment of asserting his dominance. The lesson I was taught when dealing with law enforcement was, “even if the light’s in your eyes, don’t move your hand to cover it. It might be the last thing you ever do.” A lesson all black and brown kids have to learn at a young age in this country. A light shines in my eye.

A second officer, let’s call him trainee Tenderfoot, sneaks up to my window. His hand firmly strangles the throat of his gun. My training returns to me quickly. This is the part where I don’t move. “I need you to keep your hands where I can see them okay?” Tenderfoot mutters as the uncertainty and panic of the situation mixes in his voice. “I’m going to need you to slowly get out of the

Unlike Pecker, Tenderfoot isn’t comfortable. The tenseness in his forehead is obvious. The deep wrinkles in his brow squeeze out tiny beads of cold sweat. His eyes dart back-and-forth between his partner, Jabir and myself. As I get out of our car and sit on the uncomfortably angled, hard-plastic backseat of the police cruiser, I can barely see the top of Jabir’s head. I struggle to peer through the small openings in the steel mesh cage and bulletproof glass. The officers are hovering over Jabir talking.

“Why are they doing this to us?” I wonder. We are young men, with good values. Taught to stay out of trouble and to treat everyone with kindness and respect. All we want to do is get home and go to bed.

According to the ACLU, on Nov. 9, 2001, Attorney General Ashcroft directed the FBI and other law enforcement officials to search out at least 5,000 men between the ages of 18 and 33. The list of individuals was solely compiled based on national origin. Even the Department of Justice acknowledged that it had no basis for believing that any of these men had any knowledge or relevancy to terrorism. The FBI descended upon thousands of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians at their workplaces, homes, universities and places of worship.

The pessimist in me argues that as long as money and power are things that men crave, humanity won’t be able to change.

The realist in me knows that change isn’t a linear curve, but more of a jagged, sharp line on an index tracker. However, the voice I choose to listen to is the optimist in me.

That even though the recent legacy of brown, bearded men in this country is one of fear and suspicion, our true legacy dates back to one of leaders and kings. We have to fight against oppression and injustices so that we can rise above.

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Jamal Howard, a 2019 All-Conference guard at El Camino College, hopes to take his game to a D-1 university and ulitimately the pros. He styles his play after idol and former NBA great Dwayne Wade.


Written by Harrison Herbert Photos by Gary Kohatsu


eing recruited out of high school made Jamal Howard think more about the next chapter of his life. Jamal and his family decided that taking a year off to develop his game was the best decision. “If this is your love, your dream, or your passion don’t let anything deteriorate you from it,” Jamal says. “If anything not being recruited should motivate you even more.” The concerns of not playing at the next level in basketball have always been worries and lost dreams for many young high school athletes. According to Recruit Look, only .o3% of high school basketball athletes make it to the pros.

Jamal was in that same position as a senior in high school, but he took the year off to get better so he would be able to compete at the next level. The year paid off because he ended up growing 3 inches taller. He’s had a passion for the game ever since he was a toddler.

“I honestly was born with the love of the game. I remember my mom used to tell me when I was

a baby, that nothing could stop me from crying,” Jamal says. “My mom would hand me toys while I was in my crib but I would throw them out and not stop crying until I had a basketball.”

His older brother, David Howard, was a former player for the El Camino College Warriors and was asked to compete in a friendly alumni game when the college needed a couple more players for the scrimmage to take place. David asked Jamal if he wanted to play in the alumni game.

Jamal had just graduated from El Segundo High School and was not playing anywhere at the time. He was eager to get back on the court. He was on board for playing in the scrimmage but was five years younger than the guys he was going to be playing against. “I got out there with confidence and did my thing,” Jamal says. “I actually got the attention from the coach as he asked my brother after the scrimmage if I wanted to play for El Camino.” Jamal believes he was noticed by the coach when he accelerated up the middle of the court and finished a layup over the alumni defense.

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“At least that is what my brother was telling me, that impressed some of the players and coaches,” Jamal says. That’s when he knew he was going to be able to step on the floor as a college athlete for the first time, a move that could place him in the significantly higher 1.2% of college athletes who make it big, according to Recruit Look. Jamal credits everyone in his family for believing in him to make it to the next level, but his childhood best friend, Eli Chaney, was one person that Jamal wants everyone to acknowledge as he has always pushed Jamal to play at his best.

The two have been best friends ever since Eli moved to El Segundo from Hawthorne when he was 11. It was Eli’s first year at El Segundo Middle School and he didn’t know anyone who attended the school.

“Three days in we didn’t really talk, we didn’t say anything to each other and I didn’t really know him like that,” Eli says. “My first week at El Segundo middle school we had the same four classes in a row.” During their fourth period physical education

class together the teacher had them do cross country. Eli said he knew Jamal was watching him while he was running laps around the grass field. “I believe he was watching how fast I was, Jamal being Jamal came up to me and said ‘I didn’t know you were that fast,’” Eli says. “We started talking more and more, then about two weeks go by and we started walking to school together and home together.”

Eli had never lived within walking distance from his school before and he never had a friend he connected with that easily. They shared dreams of making it to the NBA. After high school, Eli had tried out for a team in Orange County and made it. Unfortunately, due to Eli’s schedule with work, he wasn’t able to carry on and play basketball in college. Although Eli was done with basketball, he was still dedicated to Jamal’s success and making sure he was ready for the next level.

“For him to sacrifice his job and hours to hit me up and say let’s go to the gym and I will rebound for you or let’s go to the beach and I will put you through some workouts,” Jamal says. “That definitely helped motivate me because I am seeing

Jamal Howard, a 2019 All-Conference guard for El Camino College, considers his college options while keeping fit with longtime friend Elijah Chaney. Howard is mentorsing Warrior basketball players during the pandemic lockdown.

Left: The El Segundo native hopes to continue the game beyond college as a player and coach. Right: ECC guard Jamal Howard looks to move the ball upcourt vs. Pierce College in November, 2019 somebody believe in me when people don’t see it.” David has also played an important role in Jamal’s life as Jamal constantly looked up to him. David explained that Jamal’s passion and love for the game were far greater than his.

“Growing up knowing he shouldn’t be beating me, he would be mad and take every loss very personal, which just shows how passionate he was about wanting to win,” David says. “He was never satisfied.”

himself. David explained how he has always wanted Jamal to be better than him.

“[He’s] had me to work with and play against his whole life,” David says. “The better I do, the more I can give back to him. Just seeing him work and get better motivated me to not lose to my little brother.”

Of course, no older sibling has ever wanted that to be the case.

“When we were younger it was just me trying Many would think the two would be very simto be a good role model, but now I try to work with ilar but like all brothers, they had their differences. him and help him, but he is motivating me, even more, to keep working and striving,” David says. David says that Jamal was always a little more emotional when they were younger, but he wanted During Jamal’s final season as an El Camino to prove himself a little more being the younger Warrior, he was able to become more of the leader brother and having that chip on his shoulder. of the team. Many teammates looked up to him as an older brother, especially the red shirt freshman “His level of emotion when he plays, you know at the time, Darius Alexander. what he is feeling when he is out there,” David says. “I am more cool, calm and collected. You can’t really tell what I’m feeling unless you make me upset.” Jamal’s drive to keep succeeding and to play at higher levels has influenced David to be better

Darius is a 6-foot, 5-inch tall shooting guard and small forward for the El Camino Warriors. Jamal was able to take Darius under his wing for his final year. “Jamal is a different type of basketball player,

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he is consistent in terms of being a great teammate,” Darius says. “You will never see him at practice being lackadaisical, he always has high energy, brings positivity and he is someone everyone wants to be around.” One lesson Darius has learned from Jamal is that while playing basketball there will always be someone that will be able to defend you or block your shot, however, there is no one that can stop you from playing your hardest. “If he had ever had a bad day on the court, he always played his hardest,” Darius says.

When Darius was practicing as a red shirt, Jamal made sure he still worked on his game as red shirts are mainly to practice with the team to get the team better. “Jamal took on the big brother role with me and other teammates, but with me, he would tell me ‘work on your own game and always keep that chip on your shoulder,’” Darius says. “He will compete with me at a way that makes me better because that’s all he wants to do, is make people better.”

Jamal is still working out and preparing for the next level of his career but he still wants to see Darius and his other teammates succeed. Jamal and Darius still meet up to this day to work out and go through drills together to make each other want to be great.

“He’s the type of guy that works out even outside of school and basketball season, he loves to work out,” Darius says. “He is super coachable because he will never be the guy to talk while you talk as he will listen first and has a great ability for taking in all of the knowledge.” For the next step of Jamal’s career, he is completing the recruitment process backward due to COVID-19. Now he’s emailing schools and looking to see which school will fit him the best. Whittier College has shown him the most interest, while a couple of schools out east have also shown some interest.

“The same way they would be recruiting you is the same way you want to recruit them because you know you would want them to be your next coach,” Jamal says. 18 Warrior Life

Above: ECC guard Jamal Howard takes an uncontested shot vs. Pierce College in November 2019. Below: ECC guard Jamal Howard works past defender E.J. Bushner of Pierce College in November 2019. Howard average 15.6 ppg, while earning 1st team All-SCC honors in his final year.

ALL UNDER $20 FOR THE FRUGAL FOODIE Story and photos by Walter Jay Jr.


f you are ballin’ on a budget, want to change things up and are tired of hitting the drive-thru and making instant noodles, here are the five of the best foodie meals in the South Bay for $5, $8, $10, $12 and $15 This list includes everything from breakfast to savory tacos, Hawaiian and Japanese eats. Eating on a budget doesn’t have to mean losing out on an delicious meals with these top five frugal foodie picks.

1. $5 Ensenada’s Surf N Turf Grill 2 Tacos de Pescado ($2.59 each) - Two fried or grilled swai fish tacos served on a palm-sized corn tortilla with cabbage, pico de gallo, crema and salsa. This taco is an explosion of contrasting flavors and textures. The crunchy fish fillet and cabbage juxtapose the supple tortilla, juicy pico de gallo, luscious crema and rich, spicy salsa. Address: 4749 Artesia Blvd, Lawndale, CA 90260

2. $8 Marugame Udon Kake Udon is made-to-order udon noodles served with a signature house-made Kake soup, of dashi, mirin and soy sauce. Add a perfectly cooked Onsen egg, some fresh cut scallions and a pile of crunchy tempura bits and have a full meal for under $7, or if you’re extra hungry get a large bowl for under $8. Address: 2029 Sawetelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

3. $10 The Pan If you love breakfast for lunch or dinner, try The Pan’s all-day breakfast. Their three buttermilk pancakes filled with a banana cinnamon puree and topped with bananas, walnuts, whipped butter and powdered sugar is the perfect meal to satisfy anyone who loves sleeping in, but hates missing breakfast. Address: 16601 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA 90247

Two Tacos de Pescado at Ensenada’s Surf N Turf Grill in Lawndale, Calif. on May 8, 2021.

4. $12 Ramen Yamadaya Vegan Ramen ($11) + Seasoned Egg or Tofu ($1). Are you thinking vegan ramen, really? Yes, vegan ramen. Ramen Yamadaya’s meat-packed, porky, unctuous iterations of ramen are always a delicious option, but this bowl of vegan ramen is made from a house-made miso broth, spinach noodles and topped with bamboo shoots, scallions, red cabbage, spinach, a shiitake mushroom, corn, a tomato wedge and kikurage mushrooms is just as good, if not a little better. Address: 3116 W 182nd St, Torrance, CA 90504

5. $15 Back Home in Lahaina The loco moco at Back Home in Lahaina is one of the best-kept secrets in the South Bay. If you want to turn this massive Hawaiian specialty into a three-course feast for under $15, first start with a Portuguese Sausage Musubi ($3), you can’t go wrong. Address: 519 E. Carson St, Carson, CA 90745

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Kim Cameron shows off some of the food items to be handed out to visitors to the Warrior Pantry on Thursday, May 6. Much of the fresh produce the Warrior Pantry provides is donated by other organizations including Whole Foods and Food Forward.


Written by Juan Miranda Photos by Mari Inagaki


er high-spirited voice fills the air around each of the four surrounding tented stations. She sings Selena Quintanilla’s “Como La Flor,” while making sure they are all stocked and occupied by workers. She’s brought her speaker this day to liven up the mood and energize her colleagues.

“Como la flor, con tanto amor, me diste tú, se marchitó,” she continues along with the rhythm. “Ah-ah-ay, cómo me duele,” both voices conclude. And she starts the song over, once again.

As cars begin to line up, among them a blue Honda Civic, a blue Dodge Charger and a beige Toyota Camry, Kim Cameron, a special services professional at El Camino College, checks to ensure each part of the Warrior Food Pantry’s drive-thru distribution is covered and meets everyone’s needs. Produce, including tomatoes, cherries, cucumbers and bell peppers, colorful enough to bring light to an otherwise lacking storage area, are lined in boxes and set to be handed out in plastic bags. Toiletries, inlcuding deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste and brushes and diapers, are also given

to each car that drives through the pantry’s distribution. Some products are bought, but most of them are donated, Kim explains as she glances over at each station. The pantry used to operate out of the Physics Building before the COVID-19 pandemic caused nearly all El Camino facilities and resources to go into remote service. Now, the program is based out of the Manhattan Beach Boulevard Modules, the bungalows adjacent to Parking Lot B near the northeastern corner of the college.

For Kim, who manages the Warrior Pantry, the main thing that has kept her spirit up during the troubling times caused by the pandemic has been seeing the contributions and generosity from the community that supports the pantry.

“It’s been really exciting for me to watch the community come together to support each other. I see genuine humanity, you know,” Kim says. Kim, 57, is familiar with supporting her family through foods received at local food banks and

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Kim Cameron organizes some of the canned foods, lining them up by type, on Thursday, May 6, in one of the Warrior Pantry tented distribution stations. The food handed out at the Warrior Pantry include a good mix of canned foods and fresh produce. through the support from a local community.

On Oct. 31, 2000, Kim lost her husband after he suffered a cardiac arrest incited by issues with diabetes. At the time, her three children, all boys, were 2, 3 and 4 years old, and they were living in the city of Independence, Missouri, without any friends or family to fall back on immediately.

“I lost everything,” Kim says. She lost her car and didn’t have a place to live, she added. The day her husband died, Kim broke down crying inside the bus while taking her son to school.

“I don’t know how to tell my son that his dad died,” she remembers telling the female bus driver, who had noticed Kim was crying. While walking to the grocery store, pushing her kids in a stroller on a snowy day, Kim figured she had to take charge and find a way to move her family forward.

“I realized I wasn’t going to make it with the way

22 Warrior Life

I was trying to do things and I needed help,” Kim says.

She remembered the time after her husband’s death, wondering if her family would die out in the cold. Soon after, around Christmas, Kim was helped by the local Salvation Army, which set up a food bank for her and others in need after the organization reached out to her. Kim also applied for affordable housing through Section 8 and for food stamps. Meanwhile, others in her neighborhood had caught wind of the situation her family was enduring.

The bus driver, who Kim spoke with, had started raising funds for Kim and her children within the transit department, as well.

“I started seeing people really helping, you know, for someone who they didn’t even know. They didn’t know me, so I was really moved,” Kim says. “It moved me to the point where I really decided

that I was going to make something of my life.”

Her local community’s response encouraged Kim to build a solid foundation for her boys, which included going into college in the hopes that it would help her land a better job — something she had not been able to achieve because of her lack of education. After she was able to get back on her feet, Kim and her sons relocated and reunited with her family in California. Her parents lived, and still do, only a few miles up the street from El Camino in Lawndale. In her quest to earn her education, Kim first learned how to work on computers and soon knew how to do several tasks, including writing essays.

During her time away from ECC, Kim helped her father set up a company within the food industry. To accommodate herself in this industry, Kim worked at farmer’s markets and earned her food handler’s permit, a certification still essential to her today, as she deals with food in the Warrior Pantry. She also found out about a non-profit organization known as Food Forward. She calls it a “produce rescue” organization, which, today, helps stock the Warrior Pantry with fresh produce — a feat that could not happen before the pandemic struck.

“I wanted to make a change. I wanted to help people and also bring awareness,” Kim says, while noting how special it is for the pantry to serve produce. “My mission became creating awareness through the resources for people.”

Once this was taken care of, Kim enrolled at El Camino College. She did not have a major in mind, With her husband having died from diabetes, so instead, she opted to focus on general education Kim prioritizes in ensuring those who visit the requirements for an associate’s degree. Warrior Pantry are offered produce and healthy “I thought ‘OK, now I’m prepared. Now I’m going foods. to go to El Camino and going to really start,’” Kim While working at her dad’s company, Kim bore a recalls. huge thought in mind: finishing her last couple of However, her journey in revitalizing herself sufclasses. fered a small setback when she had to start from “If something were to happen with my dad’s basic-level classes and while she balanced the company, I would be out of a job again without roles of mother and college student. a degree, without something saying I’ve accom“I was struggling,” Kim says. “I needed all this plished something,” Kim says. help with watching my kids, and I had to cook and Kim returned to El Camino in 2017, was hired in I had to help them with their homework.” the outreach department and completed the last During this time, Kim was hired as a federal couple of classes she needed to earn her associwork-study student in the EOPS program at El ate degree in general studies. Kim capped off her Camino. Here, she became familiar with other long academic journey as part of the class of 2018, on-campus services including the Cooperative nearly two decades after deciding to go to school. Agencies Resources for Education (CARE) proShe alludes to ECC President and Superintendent gram and CalWorks. She was then invited to become a student services advisor, a role in which Dena Maloney’s words: “where you belong, where you succeed.” she helped others familiarize themselves with campus resources. “This [El Camino] is just really where it all hapIn 2009, Kim lost her job at El Camino as a result pens. This is the beginning of the path for a lot of people,” Kim says. of budget cuts. From that year until 2017, Kim was not a part of ECC, not as a member of faculty nor as a student. At that point, Kim only had two classes left to pass in order to earn her associate degree.

Jaime Ulloa, an accounting assistant for the Student Development Office at ECC, describes Kim as the “perfect fit” for managing the Warrior Pantry.

“I don’t believe anyone else was better equipped

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to run the pantry, from a lived, an experienced viewpoint,” Jaime says.

He is not alone in this statement. Kim believes several people knew she was ready to assume a full-time position at ECC, more importantly, they believed in her and wanted her to succeed.

Before landing the full-time gig managing the Warrior Pantry, Kim couldn’t find the right fit for her in other full-time positions. She’d look at one job and another, but she never truly felt comfortable taking any of them.

Overcoming the odds after losing her husband, gathering support from a local community, as it allied behind her and her children and familiarizing herself with the El Camino College campus community molded her into the bubbly, diligent spirit she is today. Kim knew it, too. When the Warrior Pantry position became available, she knew she would make the best fit, tailor-made through her lived experiences.

“They were like ‘Oh my god, that’s the perfect job for you. Are you going to apply for it?’ I was like ‘Oh, yeah!’” Kim says. The relationships she built with folks in different departments, including David Brown, the assistant

director of the EOPS, CARE and CalWORKS programs, and Robin Dreizler, former director of outreach and school relations, over the years helped her on her journey to secure a full-time job at ECC. David also affirms that Kim was the best candidate for the job. “No one could have done it like she is,” he says. Kim was happy to finally get the job.

“I had been wanting a full-time position here for a long, long time,” Kim says.

Kim maintains that reliable connections within the community have attributed her to gain the necessary tools to succeed. At a farmer’s market recently, she crossed paths with a woman from Frog’s Bakery, a place down the street from ECC on Crenshaw Boulevard and quickly networked with her for any possibilities to receive goods for the pantry. “I feel really fortunate to be able to be witnessing all this wonderful outpouring of generosity,” Kim says. These days, Kim is focused on the Warrior Pantry and the ways it can help students in need of basic necessities.

As cars line up to receive food and other supplies from the Warrior Pantry, Kim Cameron takes a moment to pose next to one of the balloon decorations she set up for the Warrior Pantry on Thursday, May 6. 24 Warrior Life

Kim Cameron looks along the shelves, gathering the bundle of food and supplies to give to visitors on Thursday, May 6. As she often sees people going through similar difficult circumstances she once was, Kim says helping them find out about necessary resources is a vital part of her mission. “It’s frightening because we don’t really know what the future holds with COVID going on,” Kim says. “Knowing that those resources are available is reassuring. I think it helps people to be at peace.”

During the stressful times caused by the ongoing pandemic and as students try to find the balance between coursework, home situations and their jobs, Kim hopes the available resources can help them move forward to fulfill their goals rather than worrying about basic needs. “It is my mission to give back to the community that once helped me when I desperately needed resources to improve my life so that I could raise my sons and, eventually, be able to stand on my own without any assistance,” Kim says. “El Camino and this community helped make it possible for

me to achieve my dream. Now it’s my turn to help and give back.”

Breeanna Bond, an advisor in the CARE program, says Kim is as dedicated as anyone she’s ever known at El Camino. “She is unmatched,” Breeanna says. “No one comes close to Kim’s level of dedication.”

Overall, Kim believes she is a lucky person, having garnered the support of several local communities, including rotary clubs in the South Bay who have raised funds for the pantry, members of the Boy Scouts who have volunteered to build customized wooden carts for Kim, grants awarded by LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn, and several contributions from the LA Regional Food Bank.

“People [are] being genuinely generous and being willing to leave their comfort zone to help other people,” Kim says. “And I just think that’s something that right now, during all this chaos, not everybody gets to see.” Warrior Life 25

THE FACES BEHIND COVID-19 LOSING MY GRANDPA Written by Margarita Sipaque Illustrated by Kendal Foreman


y mom went inside the hospital and I waited in the car. My two aunts met us there hoping they would let them in to see my grandpa once more. I thought mom would come back with some good news about my grandpa. She didn’t.

My mom and aunts decided there was nothing more they could do after weeks of trying everything they could to save him. While anxiously waiting, my stepdad came to the car with tears streaming down his face and told me that my grandpa died. He died from COVID-19 complications.

I was in shock and my eyes instantly filled with tears. I began to have an anxiety attack and was trembling uncontrollably. It felt like a nightmare. 26 Warrior Life

My mom came out of the hospital and comforted me. She held me as I was trembling. She thought I was just cold because it was windy outside. I just stayed quiet and let her believe I was cold. After I was able to calm down, I got out of the car and waited outside with the rest of my family. I sat down on a bench that faced the entrance of the hospital alone. “Why my grandpa?”

As I was trying to calm down, I began receiving phone calls and texts from my closest friends and a few family members that wanted to give their condolences. It seemed that the word got out fast and many of our family and friends found out.

Everything felt so overwhelming and when people were trying to call me, it frustrated me even more. I hated how some people who called me

asked me questions about things I haven’t begun to think about or about things I didn’t want to answer. “What’s going to happen now?”

“Have you guys started setting up the funeral and burying?” “How are you feeling?”

I wanted to scream my head off.

I was grateful that family and friends wanted to make sure I was OK. What made me upset was that every phone call reminded me that my grandpa was gone. During the car ride home my head was pounding and my eyes were red. The last time I saw my grandpa was Thanksgiving, without realizing it would be my last. I wish I could go back in time to hug my grandpa again and tell him I love him one more time.

My family and I prayed every day for my grandpa to get better but he only continued to get worse. There were many people who fought COVID-19 like my grandpa did but unfortunately didn’t make it in the end. Between the beginning of January 2020 and March 3, 2021, 494,235 deaths were caused by COVID-19 in the United States. I think that’s why his death really hurt so much because it was unexpected. We didn’t even get to spend his last days with him.

When I have gone to his house, I feel like he’s going to arrive home from work soon in his big white Toyota truck, but he isn’t. Other times, I feel like he’s going to call me sometime during the day or come to my house, but he isn’t. He was 67 and my last remaining grandparent. My grandpa, Manuel de Jesus Romero, was an immigrant from Zacatecas, Mexico.

In 1975 my grandpa officially made the U.S. his home after marrying my grandma, Maria del Rosario Rodriguez. They were married for 42 and half years until my grandma died in 2017. He came here for his American Dream and to provide his future family a better life. My grandpa was a businessman. He went through hell and back to get to where he was before he died. He was the owner of a restaurant

named Rod’s Grill in Arcadia. He was a very hard working man and he traveled from Torrance to Arcadia every day. He would leave for work at 7 a.m and get home around 4 p.m. My grandpa worked seven days a week with no sick days. Throughout this past year, my grandpa continued to go to work. He put his life at risk when he should’ve just stayed home. Unfortunately, in order to pay his bills, he had to go and work.

If I told him to stay home, maybe he would still be here.

There are days where I have many regrets about what I could’ve done to be a better granddaughter but I know I was the best granddaughter my grandpa could’ve asked for. I’m extremely grateful that I was able to make many memories with my grandpa these past 20 years.

His passing leaves so much pain but all my memories with him bring me joy. I will never forget our Papa John’s pizza parties on Sundays. “Grandpa, you know I’m cutting back on bread.”

He laughed knowing I would still eat a slice of pizza. He was right. I did. He would always embarrass me in public.

We’d be in his car at a stop light, he would roll down my window, and yell at the people crossing by.

I always buried my face in my hands with embarrassment while he laughed. We always tried to make my little sister Mia jealous. She hated sharing him with anyone. My grandpa would hug me in front of her and we’d laugh. Sometimes she would be mad and push me away. Other times she cried for attention. We all miss him and the jokes he made, like calling my little sister “trouble” because she is a troublemaker. I feel like a part of me won’t ever be the same again.

I know he may no longer be present physically but I know he is watching down on me and my family. All my hard work will be for him because I want to make him proud.

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Juan Miranda, editor-in-chief of Warrior Life Magazine, was celebrated and buried during his funeral on Friday, April 9, at Inglewood Park Cemetary.


Written by Jeniffer Torres Photos by Jaime Solis


n winter the front yard plants wither and retreat into their roots. For this small house in Los Angeles the seasons bring life and death. Juan Miranda, 22, died in winter but his final work was complete by spring.

Juan remains an enigma if not at fault of his shyness, at fault of strenuous world circumstances which have plagued the lives of every person. And at the same time, Juan remained genuine. He acted for others equally whether they be family, a friend or a coworker. He made himself available for any task which needed tending, only reserving time when a Dodger’s game was on. A juournalist by nature, a baseball fan, a young college student already awarded at a state level, a relatively quiet fall compared to the avalanche of deaths COVID-19 has claimed so far.

Juan died on Jan. 22, 2021, from thrombosis yet remains a central force in the minds of those who knew and loved him. A mark inyielding and foundational. The mere mention of his name brings smiles to people’s faces. Through short laughs and shrugs, they piece him together. A hard worker, a selfless person, a funny and charismatic man.

He was the youngest of eight children. The baby of the family his brother Jose Miranda, 25, said. Being the youngest one earned him special treatment as his mom, Adela Miranda, would always let him eat whatever food he wanted while the rest had to settle for what was already prepared at dinner. But Juan was humble his brother Jose said, never liked to brag or worry his mother with complaints. Not even making big deals out of his academic achievements. Juan moved quickly from staff writer to managing editor at The Union to Warrior Life magazine editor-in-chief, a position which normally extends across two semesters but one Juan was only able to retain for one before his death. During his first semester on staff for the student paper, The Union, Juan helped write a piece on the homeless encampments on the El Camino Colleg campus. When the story won the Best of SNO award, he told his brother about it almost in passing.

“And this is something that always [characterized] my brother, that he was so down to earth. He was like ‘oh, I got an award last night’,” Jose says.

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A sporty family, Juan and Jose were in a soccer team together when Juan was in high school. In the early summer of 2013 they won a soccer final, Jose says that was one of his favorite memories with his brother.

To Diego Flores Perez, Juan’s best friend, he was like a brother. They had known each other since 2014. It was Juan who challenged him during discussions in a political science class they took together at ECC. It was Juan who taught him empathy and who, he says, is the person that made him who he is today. But it was Diego who convinced Juan to join the student paper, and he who told Juan to keep pressing a source on his first story for an interview. Scoring interviews became easier for Juan after that. “He’s a fast learner,” Diego says.

Juan Miranda poses with the Jolene Combs memorial award, the El Camino College journalism department’s highest honor. Photo courtesy of Rosemary Montatlvo He’d found out about it while dropping off Juan for class one morning.

“It was kinda hard for my parents to see because my parents don’t understand English that well, you know, and I told him that I was proud of him that day,” Jose says.

They’d been raised in a loud and eventful immigrant home with a pug named Kobe and a little old chihuahua named Emi. Juan's parents arrived from Guerrero, Mexico, in the late 80’s and raised a family of Dodger's fans. Their love for the team had flourished thanks to their neighbors who befriended Juan’s family early on. Jose recalls their neighbors took both of them to their first Dodgers game as children and from then on, they were hooked.

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He recalled Juan with joy. Simultaneously struggling to find the words to describe him and then struggling to find the words to describe how he’s bad with them. He’d learned of Juan’s death when a mutual friend of theirs called him to ask if it was real. Diego, not knowing what he was talking about at first and subsequently refusing to believe him, called Juan’s phone twice. The first call went to voicemail. That worried him. It was unlike him to not pick up his phone, Diego said. On the second attempt it was Juan’s nephew who picked up his phone, that’s when Diego knew it was true. “I think just some days it feels a lot more lonely without somebody to talk to and like, that’s when it actually gets me,” Diego says. Their friendship was playful. Filled with jabs and teasing but unlikely at a closer glance. Diego is a devout Catholic whose favorite soccer team is Chelsea, and Juan was an agnostic whose favorite soccer was Manchester United. Juan would always meet him face-to-face Diego says, never letting their differences stain their friendship.

While self admittedly an “indoor person,” Diego was not shy when it came to partying and neither, apparently, was Juan. They had a love for going downtown together and would save up money for their occasional trips. Juan was especially fond of Little Tokyo and enjoyed eating ramen. Perez, a more frequent drinker than Juan, would also take him to bars.

On one occasion after Juan was gifted two free tickets to a USC vs. Stanford football game, they asked around for a nearby bar after the game. To their surprise the quiet drink they had imagined turned into a more eventful night. The bar was hosting a rave which ended with Juan and Diego lifting up a man they’d just met over their shoulders and nearly getting into trouble. But it was always good fun.

On a separate occasion, Juan was invited to one of his editor’s 22 birthday. Sparring the details, Rosemary Montalvo, a photographer who worked with Juan at The Union, says the party revealed a much livelier side of him. The last time Diego and Juan saw each other was when Juan took an Uber to his house, honoring their tradition of having a drink at the end of each semester. Diego says he was concerned about Juan leaving his house during the pandemic as Juan had asthma and was more vulnerable

to COVID-19 than others, but he didn’t send Juan back home when he arrived.

They shared a drink and pizza. That was the first time Perez’s father met Juan, as well as his sister-in-law. Diego recalls that as Juan was leaving, the hug they shared was longer than usual. Shortly after Juan’s death, Diego learned that his brother and his sister-in-law were going to have a child together. The first baby of the family.

“[Juan] wouldn’t want me to be miserable. Heck, if I would’ve been the one that passed away, I definitely wouldn’t want him to be miserable,” Diego says. “So, I don’t know, I just remember him for who he was and actually live my life like always.” In the newsroom he created similar friendships. He always stayed late working on stories or helping colleagues with their homework for a professor he’d coincidentally taken in the past.

Juan Miranda’s mother grieves and says her final good-byes to her son before it is carried away to be buried after the religious ceremony held in rememberance of his life at Inglewood cementary on April 9. Warrior Life 31

Top: Juan Miranda’s coffin and body are carried to the hearse by his father, brothers and family members acting as pall-bearers on Friday, April 9 in Inglewood Park Cemetary. Bottom: Juan Miranda’s closest family gather around one last time around his body and coffin before it is lowered into its final resting place.

Family and friends in attendance of the ceremony recieved a button and prayer card memorializing the ceremony. At home he had similar work habbits. His normally loud and lively house only sat quiet while Juan worked alone in his room for hours. His lone companion was Emi the chihuahua who would curl up beside him and take breaks from her naps when Juan took breaks from work, yet Kobe was the one who enjoyed the spotlight making multiple appearances during classes over Zoom.

Following his death, Juan’s work continued to win awards, co-placing first for “Best News Series” at the annual Journalism Association of Community Colleges awards for his coverage of a missing student who was later found dead. A scholarship was later started at ECC under Juan’s name and currently sits at $1,000 which will be awarded to one or more journalism students at the end of the spring semester. Rosemary first met Juan on October 22 while on assignment. She was a photography student at ECC and was there to take photos of a cultural event during Hispanic Heritage month which Juan

was writing a review about. It was an enjoyable experience for the both of them, Rosemary recalls. They arrived early and left late following true journalistic standards, striking up conversations with everyone at the event. He made her feel comfortable, Rosemary says. Juan charmed everyone present and was able to spark intimate conversations with attendees and performers on everything from their mental struggles to their religious ideologies. There was no other reporter who could get people to open up as Juan could, Rosemary assured. It was a skill unique to him, something she could never do herself.

“That was just Juan. He could talk to everybody, and everybody wanted to talk to him,” Rosemary says with a smile. She pulled the collar of her grey shirt over her lips and then seemed to forget herself in expressive bursts of excitement as she sat in her car.

Warrior Life 33

Moments of silence brought tears to her eyes as she quietly remembered Juan, though she spoke of him as if he were still present.

order, and I thought it could be something I could overcome alone and in silence because I come from a traditional, old-school Mexican family,” Juan wrote.

“I remember that piece, that piece was beautiful,” Rosemary says. “I think that’s when everyone was really like ‘wow, Juan is a great writer.’ This is when everyone was like, fighting. All the editors were fighting; ‘oh, I want Juan on this, oh I’m gonna get Juan on this’.”

“When I read it, I shed some tears because you know, you always see someone working hard but you don’t see the effort or you don’t see some of the struggles [that] are behind another human being,” Jose says. “Especially us as Hispanics, it’s kinda hard to vent with a person because, how he said, we come from an ‘old school family’ where we kinda had to say ‘suck it up’ or you get over it instead of facing the problems.”

There Juan met a student with skills ranging from music, literature and science. He’d later write a profile piece about her, one which would earn him much attention from his editors.

When the bulk of editors that semester graduated, Rosemary remembers much tension at the question of who would lead Warrior Life magazine next. She knew the magazine would be in good hands once Juan applied for the position. All the former editors were, she recalls. She found out about Juan’s death through former news editor Fernando Haro, who messaged their old editor’s group chat on Snapchat and urged them to join a video call. Rosemary said they sat there in silence for several minutes slipping between not believing what they were hearing and shock. “We weren’t ever really serious around each other,” Rosemary says. “I don’t know, I think I started caring for [Juan] instantly. He’s just one of those people you just wanna see do the greatest things.”

The group had decided they wanted to gather in Juan’s memory, but Rosemary felt it wouldn’t be right to gather and not tell Juan’s family. The short gettogether then turned into a memorial at Kenneth Hahn Park where family and friends were invited. Old colleagues of Juan stepped forward to share how he’d changed them. They shared stories of the humanitarian values he instilled onto his work and his gentle character as a person. During his time at ECC, Juan wrote stories which centered the community. From homeless encampments to an aspiring scientist, a tragic series covering the murder of a student and a personal column in which he revealed his own history with mental struggles. “I always felt that I suffered from a mental dis-

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His brother Jose read the first half of the column when it was posted but didn’t finish it until after Juan’s death.

Jose recalls his brother always wanted to be teacher for English learning or first-generation students. He believes Juan kept his switch to a journalism major a secret from his parents out of fear they would not understand his decision.

At his memorial his mom revealed she had come to discover his change in major and admitted being scared it would lead her son down a dangerous path but Juan consoled her, she said. He assured her he wanted to be a writer and he would be working at a desk where he would be safe from the dangers his mom wanted to keep him away from. When the doors of Inglewood’s mortuary building opened, a white casket adorned with gold peeked from the other side. The service was held in the parking lot due to COVID-19 restrictions with the forum overlooking his family’s prayers. He was buried to the sound of his uncle playing guitar and the crippling cries of his mother dressed in white repeatedly asking herself why her son had died if she had loved him so much and he was her youngest. Showered in flowers from friends and family, Juan was lowered into his grave and the earth pounded into place above him. Tufts of grass were laid atop the brown dirt and watered so they may take root easier and mend the grass bed in time. A legend, an inspirantion and a young talent.

His grave now stands as a scar which heals itself but remains.



oo often, college students fall back on familiar standbys, which can lead to gastronomic indifference: Burger and fries? Stale and soggy. Tacos and burritos? Burp and gas. Nachos and cheese? Runaway dripping. Fried chicken and biscuits? No cluck. Beer and pizza? Wake up!

Desserts? Ah, getting warm… pastries with an international flavor? YES! There is nothing like a sugar high with a cultural twist. Going international can be just what the taste buds need to send a hungry student orbiting the galaxy and back in time to wrap up a study session.


Students who haven’t indulged in Filipino pastries might need a lesson in dessert etiquette. A Warrior Life recommendation is to sample JBJ’s Bakery in Carson — it might be a wakeup call to the tastebuds. JBJ’s is a family-owned business that has been around for 19 years and is as small as a pie box. However, many Yelpers swear by this bakery’s pastries, including its rainbow macarons. Address: 860 E. Carson St., Ste. 117, Carson

2. ADELITA BAKERY Bakeries such as Panadería Nueva Adelita or Adelita for short, encompasses all of the wonderful aromas, tastes and visual colors of Mexico. This hole-in-the-wall business will fool many in its lack of ambiance. But the flavorful bolillo, pan dulce and even Mexican meals and drinks on its menu are worth the visit. Prices are reasonable and street parking is abundant. Address: 14807 S. Western Ave., Gardena

3. KING MEDITERRANO Technically this is a small Mediterranian-Middle Eastern restaurant, rather than a bakery. Customers might come for lunch, but will likely leave with dessert. Located in a huge strip mall, King Mediterrano gets a Yelp thumbs-up for its variety of tantalizing dishes, as well as its Baklava. Address: 4354 Redondo Beach Blvd., Torrance

Sandia cookies and other pastries are a visual delight in shape and color, sweet and crumbly at Gardena’s Adelita Bakery.

4. ALPINE VILLAGE MARKET Alpine Village Market is still the hub of German food and products in the South Bay and its bakery is worth a visit. Consumers line up for the variety of sweet rolls, cream puffs, pretzels, cookies and cakes. The market bristles with activity and purchasing just one dessert item can be an agonizing but tantalizing experience. Address: 833 W. Torrance Blvd., Torrance

5. SAKURA-YA There is a reason why Sakura-ya has lured dessert lovers away from the downtown Little Tokyo bakeries. This tiny, confectionery shop in Gardena has remained unchanged since 1960 and that goes for the way Mas and Yuki Fujita prepare their daily treats. Fresh, ultra soft, delicious and flavorful are just some of the adjectives adoring Sakura-ya fans chant. Address: 16134 S. Western Ave., Gardena

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CHOOSING TO STAY FOUR YEARS AT EL CAMINO COLLEGE Written by Elisa Albarran Illustrated by Kendal Foreman

36 Warrior Life


t 17 you can’t vote, nor drink, or gamble but are expected to be able to go to college and make decisions that will impact the remainder of one’s life.

down. The thought of never getting out of remedial classes kept me up at night.

“You are going to college,” my mom would say. “All of my children are going to college.”

But instead, I was stuck taking classes that weren’t a necessity to the goals I wanted to accomplish. My mind was made up and the advertised experience had shattered before my eyes. I was flooded in my fear of disappointing my family and the possibility I would never leave El Camino College.

Like most students, college has been preached to me since the beginning of my education as the key to a successful life. The choice of getting a college education was never an option in my household. The proper expectation for me was to spend two years at El Camino College followed by transferring into an exceptional university. My timeline didn’t play out that way. I spent four years at El Camino College before I finally got accepted into a university.

I began my journey at El Camino as an undeclared major. At that time, first year students were still required to take placement tests. My results were disappointing.

I was placed in the lowest of the low in math and two semesters below college level in English. The series of remedial classes I tested into was the kryptonite in my original transferring plan. Feeling dumb would be an understatement for what I felt when seeing my results. I was labeled incompetent according to my placement test.

The word incompetent made me feel like I had already failed before I was even given a chance to start. I was a fresh faced first year college student turned bitter. Taking 6 a.m. remedial classes that don’t count as transfer credit felt like the biggest waste of my time.

Every morning I had to convince myself to open my car door and drag myself out to make it to my class.

My anxiety would show up like clockwork. Creeping up in my throat before every lecture and exam. Sometimes I would run to the restroom and lock myself in the stall just to pull myself together. I can’t count the number of times I cried my first semester. I felt nothing but pressure weighing me

I thought El Camino was going to be a walk in the park, but it felt more like I was drowning in the deep end. The college experience had been advertised as a life changing thing, where every student would get to choose their own path for their education.

I remember my mom’s face when I finally had the guts to express I no longer wanted to go to school. There was a brief moment of disappointment on her face followed by a reassurance.

“Try your best and at least finish this semester,” she said.

That was my wake up call. It took time for me to realize I had become my own worst enemy fighting the constant battle of my own self worth. No one saw me as incompetent except myself.

Community college can be a race for some and a marathon for others. In terms of where I started El Camino College I felt like I had been set a mile behind my peers, and I would never have the chance to catch up, or cross the finish line. Many students that get placed within remedial classes don’t believe they are following the correct path or are taking too long. This is shown in the data collected by The National Center on Education and Economy which shows that “Less than 20% of students enrolled in at least one remedial class attain a degree within 5 years.” I have seen many community college students go through the same struggle as me and feel embarrassed by the stigma surrounding attending a community college for more than two years.

Four years at community college is longer than the two years I had hoped for. The four years at El Camino helped me accept my failure and allowed me to believe in myself when I felt the most lost.

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Illustrated by Lauren Hadnot

ince childhood, I have longed for a brother. Somebody who would retrieve my baseball throws, climb trees with me, catch matinees located at the Venice Fox Theater and share my love of yo-yos and comic books. Marc and I were about the same age, 11, and of different ethnic backgrounds. He was Spanish Algerian. I am Japanese American. He spoke English and French. I spoke only English.

However, we shared similarities: both of us wore glasses, he was raised Roman Catholic and I was a Jehovah’s Witness — but neither of us was very religious. We both had a sister, found espionage fascinating and had crushes on Angela Cartwright from “Lost In Space.” Our families had both just moved from Venice

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Beach, meaning we had been neighbors all along.

From 1966 to 1971, Marc and I walked or bussed miles to and from Carnegie Junior High and later, Banning High. So much of our lives were intertwined that I think we strongly influenced each other’s behavior and development. In those youthful days, he introduced me to astronomy, Pentax cameras, science fiction writing and Moody Blues music. I encouraged him to join me on the cross-country team, indulge in UFO theories and make voice recordings on my tape recorder. I tried to like everything Marc liked. I think he did the same for me. The power of brotherhood can be life turning, as noted in a 2012 manuscript by authors Susan McHale, Kimberly Updegraff and Shawn


They cited various case studies, including “early findings were consistent with the idea that siblings serve as role models (Brim OG, 1958).” And that “some findings suggest that sibling influences are stronger than parental influences and possibly as strong as that of peers (Brook, Whiteman, Gordon, & Brook, 1990).” As kindred brothers, Marc and I were inseparable. As next-door neighbors — we were separable. My family moved away in the summer of 1971. Marc and I drifted apart after high school. Our days became filled with jobs, marriage and adult responsibilities. Our parting was so seamless that it’s hard to recall our last visit.

In the fall of 2006, my wife Judy and I wanted to add a kitten to our family. We studied the photos on the Pups and Pals website. She came across two kittens, twin brothers, both wore white coats with patches of either black or brown. Their names were Shiner and Swirl. We adopted Swirl. The more Judy and I thought about the adoption, the more separating the brothers seemed cruel. I thought about my lost brother Marc. We adopted both kitties just before Thanksgiving in ‘06. My wife renamed them Willy and Wally. When Judy and I divorced years later, Willy and Wally came to live with me in a one-bedroom Gardena apartment. We were cramped, but the brothers seemed not to mind.

Willy loved to chase sparkly reflections on the wall. Wally preferred to lie atop the cat tower, where he could be the watchful observer of the world below. Willy was curious and excitable. Wally was aloof and patient. They occupied different areas of the living room in the day. But they hung out together at night, near the TV. At dinnertime, Wally waited for Willy to take the first bites. Then, Wally got sick. He suffered his first seizure in the fall of 2013. From that point, he was prescribed phenobarbital for his epilepsy.

Willy was the healthy one. He would breeze through his twice-yearly checkups. He was the brother with boundless energy. Until one Saturday, when I found Willy hiding in a corner, struggling to breathe. I rushed him to the E.R.

A cardiologist gave me sad news: “Willy’s experiencing heart failure.” The cardiologist said that Willy’s heart was so damaged, his life expectancy could be until the end of the day. An hour later, Willy was gone. He died Aug. 31, 2015.

I wept off and on for a long time. Not just for me, but for the life that Willy shared with Wally. In the days and weeks to follow, I could sense Wally’s loss. I gave Wally as much love and attention as I could in Willy’s absence. We established new routines. His epilepsy was under control, but he too had a defective heart that was slowly failing him. Wally died on Jan. 31, 2018. A friend reminded me that now Willy and Wally were together again. Running side-by-side along some heavenly road. Losing them stirred memories of my lifelong friend, my brother Marc. I wondered how he was doing, wondered about his family and wondered if he ever thought of me after all these decades. In the last 20 years, I searched for him online without luck. Then, something miraculous happened late last summer. I received a message through LinkedIn, an online business-connection platform. Marc congratulated me on a work anniversary.

I was overjoyed. Marc and I traded emails, then shared a phone call. We talked for hours. Our conversation returned us to a time of wonder and boyhood—like we were time traveling. Marc reminded me how his mom used to laugh at how we talked every day, all the way to and from school, for another hour on our front porches after school and then again in the evening on the phone. “She couldn’t imagine that we had so many things to discuss,” Marc said.

I reminded him of our runs through the neighborhood on summer evenings. Marc recalled nights when we would kick back on my rooftop, sharing binoculars and gazing at the moon and Milky Way. Our view seemed infinite and unclouded. We were just kids then, looking ahead. Now in our 60s, Marc and I are mature men looking back. As brothers reunited, we still have much to say. So many things yet to discuss as we resume our walk down eternity road.

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Kerri Webb conducts her online writing and journalism classes from the home office of her Inglewood home. The walls of the room are adorned with both personal and American history. Photo by Gary Kohatsu/Warrior Life


Written by Margarita Sipaque Photos by Gary Kohatsu


erri Webb’s interest in journalism began with a school shooting in 1984 at the place her mother was teaching. Kerri’s mom Denise Roberts taught a fourthgrade class at 49 Street Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles.

“There was this lunatic man from the window of his house across the street from the school and shot up the playground. And her students were outside and he shot up her class. He killed a student and injured another one,” Kerri says. Denise recalls the day in detail.

“I was in total disbelief and in shock because as I said, I have never seen anything like that happen. When reality hit I immediately went into teacher and mother mode,” Denise says. Denise's main focus was to comfort and protect the kids she considered as her own. When all the reporters came to Kerri’s home the following few days and even weeks, it fascinated her. She loved knowing the story, hearing how channel seven covered it, and how channel four interpreted it.

Seeing the newspapers display her mom’s picture and her name was intriguing as well.

Kerri, 44, was born and raised in Inglewood. A pioneer whose legacy has yet to be followed, Kerri is dedicated to everything she does. Originally attending University of California, Santa Barbara to pursue a teaching career, there had been another plan for her instead. Today she serves as the interim director of public information and government relations at El Camino College but she began her journalism career while attending UC Santa Barbara in 1994.

During her time there, Kerri joined her college’s student newspaper, The Daily Nexus and became the first and, thus far, only Black editor-in-chief during 1998. “It’s an award-winning paper, I’m very proud of that little newspaper. It was completely student-run,” Kerri says.

Remaining the first and only Black editor-in-chief is shocking to Kerri but she attributes this to the school lacking diversity in their student

Warrior Life 41


“It shocks me. I graduated in 1999 and it’s 2020 now, it’s been over 20 years. It just shocks me,” Kerri says.

At the time she didn’t think much of it. Toward her graduation, she began to realize that no one had her position before that looked like her. She thought some time during the following years there would be another Black editor in chief at UC Santa Barbara but there hasn’t been. “When I was still there, [Black students] made up about 3% to 4%. It’s probably 4% to 5% now. It’s not a big jump in 20 years, an entire generation,” Kerri says.

Being editor-in-chief meant Kerri had a lot of eyes on her, she stood out but that was also in part due to her position as a Black student at UC Santa Barbara. Originally she didn’t want the job, she wanted to enjoy her last year in college, but she was talked into taking on the task. Her freshman year she began as a reporter, worked her way up to staff writer and then became an editor, another role she hadn’t asked for because of all the work that came with it. She never wanted to be in charge of things.

“I didn’t want to become that person, but I did,” Kerri says. “I’m proud that I did. At the time you’re tired, you’re exhausted and you got a lot of work to do all while I was still a student and had to maintain my GPA. But I appreciate, I’m honored, and grateful I had that experience.” Being editor-in-chief brought some extra pressure to Kerri. She felt as though she had an extra responsibility to not make mistakes because she was the first Black editor-in-chief.

“[There] were a couple of times when I was the editor, even now as a professor I’ve screwed up in the middle of a lecture, but when you do that and you’re the first Black, the first female or the youngest, it carries with it a greater bit of responsibility,” Kerri says.

Kerri didn’t view this as a negative situation, but she always considered it.

“If I could survive that as a 22-year-old, knowing

42 Warrior Life

that I stood on the shoulders of so many people who would have loved to go to college, I stand on the shoulders of millions of people who could not go to school or pursue a university degree because they look like me or because they have ovaries,” she says. “Knowing that I stand on their shoulders, it’s because of them, they pave the way.” When she was there, realizing that she was in charge of one of the most vocal, influential, daily forms of student communication on campus was a highlight for her. Her hard work and dedication in journalism led her to new job opportunities. On March 20, 2006, Kerri joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as a civilian officer, and before that she was the public relations (PR) coordinator at her church, Crenshaw Christian Center in South Los Angeles.

“I was the PR person there and at 29-years-old, getting a little restless to be honest because I still saw myself as a reporter. I had poured 10 years of my life into journalism and I kind of wanted to get back into journalism,” she says. “I didn’t want to do the PR stuff anymore, but the PR stuff was paying the bills. One day there was a town hall meeting there at her church and many major community leaders attended to talk to the community. All of the residents and business folks were able to talk to the sheriffs, LAPD officers, the police chief, the fire chief and the mayor.

One of the people attending was Sheriff Lee Baca and Kerri noticed that he needed to go to the restroom. Kerri went up to him and showed him the way. She then began talking to the sheriff’s guard who was standing outside the restroom door saying, “I bet you have a cool job.” She was shadowing him. She began to ask him about the media department at the LA Sheriff’s County Department, but when Sheriff Baca came out of the restroom she went for it and asked him. “What does one have to do to be part of your press corp?” Kerri says.

He ended up giving Kerri his card and told her to give him a copy of her resume. Kerri couldn’t

Kerri Webb, an avid runner, reminisces over the medals she has collected from decades of races. Webb was a 400 and 800-meter runner in high school. Photo by Gary Kohatsu/Warrior Life

believe it.

“Sir, don’t play with me,” Kerri says. “I am going to send this to you as soon as you leave.”

He was serious and Kerri immediately went to get her resume and sent it. She called and left messages for three months to see if they received her resume. She then realized he just offered her the job to be nice and didn’t really mean it. Kerri never gave up on getting the job. She put that journalistic ambition into play and relentlessly followed up.

At first, she called a couple of days every week, then it was once a week, and finally they called her back saying she got the job. She tried to play it cool but deep down she was excited for the new role. Her hiring was expedited and the whole process took only three months. After leaving all of the calls and messages, and going through background checks she was named

the civilian public information officer. She had taken advantage of the right time and the right place to get the job. She took a chance which got her to where she was. “I was responsible for both external communications as well as internal communications,” Kerri says.

Kerri worked in the LA County Sheriff’s Department from March 2006 up to May 2020. Working in the department for 14 years amazed her, she was able to learn a lot and was able to see another side of the officers. LA County Sheriff Tanya Davis who worked with Kerri for years says Kerri was a great. “Kerri was very helpful and knowledgeable in her field. She’s a great person to have on your team,” Tanya says.

Kerri resigned from this position on May 1, 2020.

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Kerri Webb, former English professor and current public information officer at El Camino College, holds a picture of her late grandfather, Nathaniel Jackson on April 23, 2021, at her home in Inglewood, Calif. Photo by Walter Jay Jr./ Warrior Life “I left LA County after 14 years in May. It was a long time coming, I was just tired,” she says.

Her original exit day was supposed to be the same date as the day she joined, March 20, 2006, but due to COVID-19, they asked her to stay a little longer. She stayed until April thinking COVID would fade away by then but that didn’t go as planned so she resigned on May 1.

Now that she’s resigned, Kerri helps take care of her grandmother Joan Jackson. She lives in the house she grew up in, located in Inglewood. During her free time, she likes to run long-distance races. She’s been running since high school and was the captain of her track and cross country teams at Westchester High School. “I’ve always been running,” Kerri says. “Just within the last couple of years just to kind of keep a little of a work-life balance I try to run a 5k race once a month. It’s a little bit of a personal 44 Warrior Life

mini-challenge that I have where every month I try to run a 5K that has a medal.” But due to the pandemic, these medals are on hold for her. She remains a proud member of the LA Leggers, however. Their training usually begins every summer but once again, it’s been different this year. Everything is done virtually and on one’s own. Due to it being virtual, Kerri hasn’t really been keeping up with the workouts. But besides taking care of her grandmother and running, she’s been continuing her teaching career at El Camino College.

Due to COVID-19, she teaches from home in her grandfather’s office. Working in his office brings bittersweet memories to her. Hanging on the wall in front of her as she teaches is a picture of the two of them. Even the desk belonged to him. He served as president of the Board of Trustees at El Camino

College when he worked there.

Nov. 29, will mark 12 years since he passed. Teaching at El Camino is special to her despite getting caught up in journalism. When she realized she wanted to teach, she told her grandfather and he was happy for her. He wanted to help her get a job at El Camino immediately because he was proud, but Kerri wanted to start small first then build herself up. Unfortunately, he got sick later that year and died.

When she finally got her teaching position at El Camino, she remembers having to hold it together during the first class that she taught in 2013.

“When I got in the classroom before the students got there I said, ‘OK granddad, I know you’re here,’” Kerri says. She could feel his presence with her.

Kerri’s entire office is covered in pictures and

memories of her grandfather, her great-grandparents, high school graduation, aunts and uncles, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a painting of Mr. Rogers. She appreciates the significance of working in her grandfather’s office. It’s a great reminder and testimony that she is standing on his shoulders, that he paved the way for her. That is why she always keeps a photo of them on the wall.

“He was so proud of me,” she says. “That gets me through it.” Kerri enjoys her time dedicated to teaching her students. It’s something she has always wanted to do. It’s also something she knows her grandfather is proud of her doing. “I’m doing what I love and that’s teaching my babies. My babies, they’re all adults and some of them are even older than me but my students are my passion,” Kerri says. “I’m doing what I really want to do.”

This plaque hangs near Kerri Webb’s home desk, where she has spent a lot of time teaching her writing and college journalism classes. Since March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has significantly altered classroom education. Photo by Gary Kohatsu/Warrior Life Warrior Life 45



Illustrated by Kendal Foreman

stood in the middle of the parking lot surrounded by hundreds of kids that were getting dropped off by their parents on the first day of school, not knowing what everyone was saying, what to do, and where to go, just a week after I left my home country pursuing a different future but with no idea of what it was going to be like.

Everything started almost five years ago. After the political, social and economical situation exploded in Venezuela, my parents decided that their oldest son needed to move to The United States to seek a good education and safety. On Aug. 31, 2016 after two flights of four hours each, I arrived at Los Angeles International Airport from Valencia, Venezuela with the sadness of leaving my entire family and life behind, but with the excitement of starting a new journey. 46 Warrior Life

I was now one of the millions of people that moved to America each year chasing a better future.

My uncle was standing outside the airport waiting for me, grateful I told him that it is great to see him again. “Espero estes listo para la escuela, empieza en 7 dias, chamo.” I hope you’re ready for school, it would start in seven days, kid, he said laughing and then hugged me.

Thinking that school was around the corner and that I didn’t know English let fear consume my nerves. “School is going to be something different this time but you got this, just make people laugh as

you always do,” my conscience constantly repeated while I struggled to get some sleep. Nervousness took over my head, but the idea of a new challenge gave me a lot of motivation. The next morning, I set up my phone in English, downloaded Duolingo and also read the newspaper two or three times to get used to reading in English, even though I couldn’t understand a single word.

I had seven days to learn as much as possible before my first day of school, but seven days never felt so short until this week. It was the first day of school, and while my uncle was driving me to school, confidence was all I was thinking about until my uncle dropped me off. At this exact moment all my confidence flew away. While walking across the parking lot, I realized that I was a stranger and that Duolingo was not helpful at all.

First, second and third-period classes lasted an eternity each, or at least that’s how it felt when the teacher explains something and you don’t even know what class are you in until fourth-period class came around. The teacher made me sit at the back, next to a guy who seemed to be quiet. He looked at me and in Spanish said:

“You really don’t know English?” And laughing he added, “Me neither bro, let’s be friends.” His name is Kevin, and he moved to California a year earlier than I had. We spent the rest of the day talking about our experiences and the reasons why we moved here.

He said that I was his first friend here and he explained how hard it had been for him not only in school but also outside school. It was significant for me to know that I wasn’t alone, there was someone who understands my situation because he was going through the same. Kevin and I went to the closest Walmart after school to buy a soccer ball, it was frustrating not understanding what the cashier was saying when we were about to pay. Once we got out of there, I told my friend that it is shameful to not be able to

speak or communicate as normal people do.

“The only thing that we have in different with the rest of people here is that they know English and we don’t, we have to work on this by ourselves because no one else would do it for us, and if someone laughs because we have an accent he’s a fool,” Kevin said laughing. It was at this point when I knew that being afraid to try or keep asking for help wasn’t an option, if I wanted to learn how to speak English I had better stop getting nervous and try my best. Since my early childhood, my favorite thing to do was playing soccer. It was an everyday thing. Playing in a soccer club in California was one of the things I dreamed about during both of my flights. Every night when my Grandmother and I had a phone call she asked about soccer and if I joined a team.

My grandma always supported sports and watching me playing soccer was her joy, it made her proud. Having her away from me was cheerless, she always motivated me. One night while talking about how difficult it has been she told me:

“Listen, kid, if there is one thing that would make you happy right now is playing soccer. You better try out for your school soccer team, just imagine I’m there watching you, also, I’m sure it would help you make more friends.” Once again she motivated me to play, even though we were 3,617 miles away.

I tried out for the team, and the coach wanted me to be part of his school team. It was by far the best thing that happened until that point. Joining the team helped me emotionally and socially, yet I was the only one who didn’t know how to speak English, but it didn’t matter because when I started to play there was no language barrier or shame, it was just me, the ball and 20 other guys playing. Within time, and listening to my coach and teammates, my English understanding improved to the point that I was able to understand everything and also speak the language. After almost five years, now I could say that the only obstacle I have is myself, nervousness and fear are nothing, and if you ever need something, call your grandmother. They are always right.

Warrior Life 47

Jordan Paige, drag queen and engineering student at El Camino College poses in Rolling Hills, on April 11, 2021 after an interview .Photo by Patricia Carrillo/ Warrior Life



Written by Molly Cochran Photos by Patricia Carrillo


ordan Paige lit up a Black and Mild as he stood waiting for a bus at the corner of Wilshire and Western. His task was to transport a package full of gold, which had been frustratingly postponed, causing Jordan Paige to cancel his regular date night and take a different bus home than usual. As he strolled along with the blunt, trying his best to beat the cold of the November day, he passed a man and a woman. The man looking him up and down flirtatiously. Deciding to transition from cigarillo to blunt, Jordan put out one for the other and stood alone. The man approached Jordan and at first stayed silent, catching a further glance at him. Jordan greeted the man and is met with silence.

Jordan had always been taught to give as little energy as possible in situations where he felt scared. This was one of those interactions. However, because the man was staring at him so intensely, Jordan felt the need to say, “hello, how are you?” In the interest of staying safe, Jordan identified that the situation had begun to go awry when the

man ignored his greeting, so he turned around to pay this other man no mind.

Suddenly, the man who had once been standing peacefully with a woman began verbally attacking Jordan and yelling profanities, slandering Jordan’s race and sexuality. Jordan filmed this event, and claimed to be broadcasting it on Instagram live. Jordan threw in a few one-liners, agitating the attacker to a state of physical violence.

The attacker reached for a weapon, revealing a piece of wood shaped like a table leg. The woman the attacker was with yelled that he didn’t have to do whatever he had evidently planned to do.

“Oh you don’t think I’m going to do it,” the attacker said. Almost immediately, a large piece of rectangular wood made contact with the left side of Jordan’s face, prolapsing his eye, fracturing his eye socket and lacerating his eyelid. Months later, Jordan sat, smoking a blunt as he reflected on this moment.

Jordan, 22, wore all pink from the waist up-- pink

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Jordan Paige stares at the camera against a white background in Rolling Hills, on April 11, 2021. Jordan’s life has never been without wrinkles, much like this photoshoot. crew neck, mauve beanie and a baby pink eyepatch stuck to his left eye. Short, tight black curls peaked out of his hat, but it covered his ears. His brown eyes creased frequently to laugh when reflecting about the odd coincidences in his life. His frame is slim, yet exudes the toughness of someone who’s had to fight through life, physically and emotionally. He fiddled with his chin a lot, stroking the curly black wisps of hair in the shape of a beard. Jordan is well spoken, like a well-educated academic. But he also uses slang and jokes around a lot, especially when describing the things he loves, like drag, reading and engineering. Shortly after the attack, Jordan lost the two jobs he’d had, putting an even larger financial burden 50 Warrior Life

on a student who already had to fund his own living and now had to fund his own recovery.

For the first few months after the attack, he had health insurance. However, since being laid off he’d lost his benefits for a few months right in the middle of his medical recovery process. Jordan estimated that he ended up paying around $5,000 out-of-pocket during this experience.

There were, however, a few bright spots in the grey clouds of financial dread. Jordan received money from a few Gofundmes, and has been told he will receive funding from the California Victim Compensation program (CalVCB), which his therapist referred him to. The CalVCB program was created in the 1960’s

and aims to provide aid to victims of crimes involving physical injury, the threat of physical injury or death. The maximum amount that a victim can receive from the program is $70,000, Jordan says he’s been approved to receive the maximum amount.

Those funds can be used for anything once received, but they are provided for the purposes of mental health treatment, medical and dental services, income loss, funeral and burial expenses, home security and relocation. The CalVCB exists for people who have no other means of paying off these debts.

“We’re considered the payer of last resort. And so what that means is, applicants are compensated for the covered expenses that have not been and will not be compensated from any other source," Kimberly Keys, information officer for the CalVCB says. "And those sources include medical insurance, dental insurance, public benefit programs, like medical unemployment, auto insurance, workers compensation, and then court ordered restitution and Civil Lawsuit recoveries." Along with stressing over how he would pay for everything in the aftermath of his attack, Jordan also struggles from anxiety and trauma related to the attack. He’s also now half-blind indefinitely, and potentially forever.

“The healing process has been very trying. [The] recovery of the injury itself physically is basically over. I just need to, now that I have insurance again, make appointments for eye exams and possible surgery to reconstruct my eyelid itself, so that it can just look as normal as possible,” Jordan says.

According to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, in 2019 17% of hate crimes based on sexual orientation were directed toward Black people. Additionally, 39% of sexual orientation-related hate crimes occurred in a public place.

Jordan was attacked on Nov. 12, 2020 around 5:30 p.m., and statistics have not yet been released for this time period. However, Skylar Myers says that hate crimes were on the rise in 2020 due to the political climate and increased visibility of the LGBTQ community.

“I think that visibility and political rhetoric actually go hand in hand. You know, when we’re talking about political rhetoric, [the] binary of it, [the] us versus them thing, us looks a certain way. Typically [what’s portrayed is] a Black face, you know, running out of a store with goods or products. [That visibility] is what’s causing that hate and it’s that misrepresentation in the visibility, I think, that’s causing it to go skyrocket the way it is," Skylar says. While crimes like what happened to Jordan seem pointless and sickening to many, Skylar says that these crimes are appropriately named, as they’re committed by people who have hate for others who are different from them. “It comes from an inappropriate dislike of someone for not being like you,” Skylar says.

Through teenage homelessness, unemployment and disability, Jordan found the light at the end of the tunnel. Because of this fact, he has found a new perspective on the attack.

“After I lost my eyesight, I realized my life is a lot better than I initially gave it credit for,” Jordan says. “And the ironic thing is, even after losing my vision, I still have a better life, I still have a happy life. I have supporters, I have people who love me, who I consider my family chosen and blood otherwise.” Despite losing his jobs and having to take a semester off from taking classes to recover, Jordan began to heal himself through the drag performing community. Jordan still considers himself a “drag baby” because he’s been in the scene for a while, but feels like he hasn’t done enough rehearsal to consider himself a drag queen.

“I had always been working, always working professionally and always [trying] to build up my own career, writing, theatrically, architecturally or otherwise, that didn’t leave a lot of room for drag. However, it did leave a lot of room for drag appreciation,” Jordan says.

Jordan began his drag journey at 19, sneaking into the 21 and over clubs with his best friend Lemuel Johnson, referred to as their drag name Serena Infiniti, to eventually become a regular at a few different clubs in Los Angeles, including Lyric

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Hyperion and Redline Bar and Grill.

icate adequate time and energy to improving his drag.

As Jordan became more invested in the scene, he gained more connections and therefore, more credibility among the queens of LA. The role of a tip-collector at a drag performance is a position of honesty and trustworthiness, something which built Jordan’s reputation in the community over time.

Being attacked had one single silver lining for Jordan, a rekindled passion that had gotten away from him some time ago was now at his reach.

“He was one of the first people to come with me to a show, [Jordan] met a lot of people in the industry as well as I have, even to a point where he would go to shows and they would literally make him the tip collector, because he was just so cool with everyone in the cast,” Serena says.

"I’ve been doing drag for like six years, so you don’t let just anybody collect your money," Hershii Licquor-Jete, Jordan’s friend and ‘drag auntie’ says. "But any time I’ve done a show and Jordan’s been there, I wouldn’t even have to ask like Jordan runs right up to me and [says], ‘I’m gonna collect your tips, you need your money.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, God, thank you so much.’ He’s always just been around." For Jordan, his position at friends’ shows was never about gaining any clout or money, he was just in the mix of it all and wanted to connect with those around him.

“I just did it for the appreciation and just to be around it,” Jordan says. “And the more I tip-collected, the more I made connections, the more I realized [drag] is a very possible thing for anyone to do. Anyone can get involved, anyone can appreciate it, can do it. Anyone can, you know, do anything and so I was like, ‘you know what, let me give it a shot.’” Once Jordan began performing drag himself, Serena became his drag mother, helping him discover the industry through their learned experiences. “The drag scene in LA is very competitive. Everyone wants to be at the top of the food chain," Serena says. "Everyone wants to be at the top. Everyone’s kind of like, ‘look at me, I’m here.’ ‘I have this new outfit,’ or ‘I’m doing this new song’ or whatever. It’s kind of like, I don’t wanna say Hunger Games, but that’s kind of what it is." As time went on, Jordan’s two jobs, along with college classes became too much for him to ded52 Warrior Life

“Drag is all about really finding that piece of who you are, as an artist, and really putting that out there on display. No matter who sees, no matter who cares, you are the queen, you are it, you are the icon, you have to be that energy,” Jordan says. “It was actually being attacked, and losing my eyesight that rekindled my love for actually doing drag. I always appreciated drag. I’ve always loved drag as a contributor as a supporter, but actually being a drag queen, something completely different,” Jordan says.

Highlighting his injury, Jordan’s drag name is now Cyclops. In true camp fashion, he intends to be bold. He intends to make the audience confront his disability and why his disability makes them uncomfortable. “I’m just now starting to figure out my voice in drag because of how much trauma I’ve gone through. [As] unfortunate as it is, it’s still kind of fortunate for me to actually be able to know what I want to do now. So I feel like going forward, I’m just going to want to perform more and make statement pieces, political statements, and wherever it goes from there,” Jordan says.

More so than a drag queen or an engineer or a student, Jordan is an advocate-- but not by choice.

“I feel like I have to be [open] because if I’m not, then I don’t think anyone else would ever know. There’s so many people [who have been attacked], there’s so many stories about so many people, but not many of them actually speaking out for themselves. [A lot] of people want to stay focused on themselves, which is accurate and fine, because as a victim, you have the right to focus on yourself and everything that you need to do to survive,” Jordan says. “And I want to make sure that if I am the only person, other people know that this [could potentially] happen to other people. And if I’m not the only person, this brings a light to a bigger story, a bigger, necessary part of our life that everyone needs to [acknowledge].”

TOP 5 RETRO VIDEO GAME STORES Story and photos by Manuel Guzman


aid online subscriptions, six hour downloading time, microtransactions and incomplete games. Playing video games has come a long way from simply popping a cartridge into a console and button mashing within minutes.

As consoles and video games are shifting towards increased online gameplay, retro video game stores are keeping the classics alive. Compiled below is a list of the top five retro video game stores in the South Bay that can help transport a gamer back to a time that was just the player and a video game.

1. Cali Games

This store has a wide collection of both old and new video games alike. Lined with several aisles of games, the selection for original Playstation games is as wide as the selection for the newer Playstation 4 games. Besides providing a huge collection of games, the experts at Cali Games also provide repairs for phones, computers and video game systems. Address: 14401 Hawthorne Blvd, Lawndale, CA 90260

2. Toys vs Games Toys vs Games is where the inner child for anyone born in the 80s or 90s can go to indulge. The store provides an enormous collection of retro video games and classic toys. Address: 629 North Avalon Boulevard, Suite A. Wilmington, CA 90744

3. Classic Controller While Classic Controller has a good selection of retro video games, what Classic Controller does best is its access to collectibles. The store is also a great place to look for any classic controller to any console. Classic Controller is a great store for any collector looking to either start or expand their collection of rare video games, comic books, toys and even the now defunct Nintendo Power magazine.

Cali Games offers a wide selection of games from any console. The store also specializes in repairing electronics. Lawndale, CA 90260.

4. Stuff 4 Geekz Stuff 4 Geekz not only has a large collection of retro video games, but also rare video game and anime merchandise. Custom decorative items, art, apparel and accessories can also be found at this location. Address: 3120 West 182nd Street. Torrance, CA 90504

5. Bros Game Shop Bros Game Shop offers repair services in case an old console isn’t working properly and professional disc repairs that don’t just include video games but also movie DVDs, music CDs and computer Roms. Special import video games and ordering hard to find video game merchandise is also offered at Bros Game Shop. Address: Address: 18214 Prairie Avenue, Torrance, CA 90504

Address: 1113 West Gardena Boulevard Suite A, Gardena, CA 90247

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The Gardena Cinema neon sign adorns the back of the lobby, near the snack bar. The lobby was enclosed as part of the front reconstruction before the Kim family purchased the Gardena Cinema in 1976.

Volunteers Virginia Watson and Joseph Powers, seated left and right, watch the theater entrance during open hours. The Gardena Cinema is showing drive-in movies during the pandemic shutdown, while the snack bar and restrooms are open to patrons.


Photos and story by Gary Kohatsu



Hollywood released “Miracle on 34th Street,” a sentimental comedy-drama about a department store Santa Claus with an identity crisis, whose case ends up in court.

There is no testimony to whether “Miracle” ever played at the newly-built Park Theatre in Gardena. However, there is evidence that this theater would wrestle with its own identity crisis that would span nearly three-quarters of a century.

For the Park Theatre, a cinema built in December 1946— just months before the 1947 grand opening of nearby El Camino College — having multiple identities would not be cause for alarm. In fact, new names, owners, marketing strategies, minor make-overs and equipment upgrades would pave the way to the Park Theater’s salvation, not ruin.

Now called the Gardena Cinema and still standing at 14948 Crenshaw Blvd., this majestic walk-in movie theater retained much of its original charm and features: 800 seats, a single 37-foot screen, a

small but well-stocked snack bar, twin balconies, two cry rooms and plenty of ambiance of days past.

Unlike other single-screen, independent theaters built before 1950, Gardena Cinema was still showing first-run studio movies at the start of 2020. Always G-rated flicks that cater to families, theater owners say, as an ongoing effort to remain solvent. The Kim family has owned the Gardena Cinema since 1976 and three family members were working at the theater seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Dad John sells tickets, wife Nancy staffs the snack bar and daughter Judy handles everything else from setting up the digital projector and ordering supplies, to securing the next feature film and changing the lobby posters for the then premiering blockbuster, “Tenet.”

Then, with little warning came the plague of the 21st Century. By January 2020, COVID-19 was spreading throughout the world. It was an airborne virus

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Judy Kim changes the marquee signage afterhours. The daughter of owners John and Nancy Kim, Judy has taken on added operational duties since her parents retired in March 2020. more terrifying than any mutant monster movie. Suddenly, social distancing became the new normal.

Businesses were ordered to lock their doors. Citizens were urged to stay home. This new coronavirus was rampaging across continents and in its wake, leaving many people ill or dead.

It took this pandemic and a state mandate to shut down the Gardena Cinema in mid-March. Nobody could blame the theater owners, John Kim, 80, and wife Nancy, 73, from choosing retirement.

As with many non-essential businesses, forced closure to this theater was akin to dropping the lid on a casket. The following months saw no patrons and no money. Gardena Cinema did not even qualify for small business pandemic relief, the owners say.

Like an old reel of film, the theater was shelved. Its neon lights went dark, its projector silenced, the popcorn machine unplugged and every seat 58 Warrior Life

was vacant of life.

“There are extremes, steep up and downs in this business,” Judy, 48, says. “When you make money, you have to save your pennies for when you’re not making any money.” Her parents were thrifty. For 40 years they tucked away money for a rainy day, she says. But their savings were running dry.

By late summer 2020, many mom-and-pop businesses were in bankruptcy. The Gardena Cinema should have followed them into the abyss of closure — but a curious thing happened. The Gardena Cinema didn’t die. Judy chose to soldier on despite the financial hardships and her parents’ retirement.

As in the Michael J. Fox classic, “Back to the Future,” the Gardena Cinema turned to the past to salvage its future.

Judy was approached by Alex Martinez, founder of LA Arts Society, about setting up a pop-up drive-

in cinema. The GC’s adjacent parking lot would make an ideal drive-in hub and Alex had both the experience and the equipment — including an inflatable screen — to show outdoor movies at a moment’s notice.

It seemed that drive-in movie viewing was making a fashionable comeback during the pandemic. Movie pundits might call this a fresh take on “the suspension of disbelief.” Since indoor theaters were still locked down, Judy agreed to Alex’s proposal.

In August, just as neighboring El Camino College was opening with distance learning for the fall, the Gardena Cinema was adjusting to its own version of social distancing by transitioning (for now) into an outdoor drive-in theater.

The opening week’s movies for the parking lot venue featured the concept of being Big. Alex chose four movies of which Judy promptly booked: “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” “Transformers,” “Jurassic Park” and “Jaws.” “Somebody said to me, ‘why should I come out for ‘Jurassic Park’? I can get that on TV,’” Alex says. “I said, ‘because it gets people out of the house. They get a new experience in a safe environment. That’s why ‘Jurassic Park’ sold out’.” The outdoor arrangement fills a need until she can return to in-theater movies, Judy says.

more people. That’s the advantage over multiplexes.” Judy is the guardian of two pillars of personal devotions.

On one shoulder of Judy’s 5-foot high frame, she balances her parents’ welfare and declining health. On the other shoulder rests their beloved theater, with its vast history and uncertain future. Just labors of love, she says with an easy smile.

This is a woman who follows no set routines, yet her days and nights are filled with routine duties. Everything in her life seems to run in a continual loop. She arrives at the theater around 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, her day off. At least no film showings are scheduled for the evening.

Judy’s chocolate brown eyes peer above a blue face mask. She studies a 16-inch laptop monitor; tracking data, booking movies, exchanging emails, checking the security cameras, posting on social media and securing doctor appointments for her parents. Once on her feet, Judy seems to walk, talk and work in syncopation. Bouncing from task to task like a human tennis ball. Her wind-blown black

Margot Gerber, a board member of Hollywood Heritage who has worked with historic theaters for more than 20 years, says that large walk-in cinemas could prosper during the pandemic.

“Larger theaters have the advantage because cities are telling (operators) they can open at a reduced capacity,” Margot said in a phone interview. The snack bar remains unchanged since the Kim family purchased the Garde“The bigger theaters can na Cinema in 1976. socially distance but have

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Top: the outside of Gardena Cinema. Left: In an upstairs storage room, Judy Kim selects Snap Lok letters before changing the marquee movie titles. hair tailing in a ponytail.

By 9 p.m. she has finished for the night . . . almost. The marquee outside needs changing to the weekend’s movies. Judy gathers acrylic Snap-Lok letters from an upstairs storage room. Then she motors a huge, gas-powered scissor lift from inside the building to outside the cinema. With no noticeable fear of heights, she cranks the lift 15 feet high to press letters to the marquee, spelling out the coming attraction: “Beetlejuice.”

“My Dad used to whack the letters [onto the marquee] with a Wagner hand pole,” she says. “But I don’t have the upper-body strength. The scissor lift was a good investment.” 60 Warrior Life

Judy speaks with clarity whether in casual chitchat or laying down the law. She is by the way, a

2003 graduate of Loyola Law School in LA. Her philosophy is to stay clutter-free.

“I live a simple life,” she says unapologetically. “I always follow stoicism. I already have so much burden as it is.”

She is not a woman who wastes time in front of the mirror; no make-up, no jewelry, no time for vanity.

Judy’s daily attire is deliberately spare: everything in black. A short-sleeved shirt, jogging pants and comfortable loafers. “Black, because I come from the theater,” she says. “We wear black to be less noticeable. Beside, you can always upscale black to make colorful.”

She allows for some diversity in dress. Her socks are gray and in one ear, she has a Bluetooth. Functional, if not fashionable. A life of zero waste entices her but for now, it’s not a practical option, she says.

Judy was married once and divorced. She spent time in the TV industry working in development, but quit to support the family business. She had her own apartment, which she shared with a friend. But in 2019, she moved back to her parent’s Gardena home.

Both parents make regular doctor or hospital visits, she says. Her father has lost sight in his left eye and her mother has endured two surgeries for uterine cancer. Judy has become their caregiver, she says. “I think of myself as a familial daughter,” she says. “I live for my parents. They were happy to have me back at home.”

When L.A. businesses likely reopen in the new year, Judy says she wants to return to Gardena Cinema’s roots as a walk-in theater.

After all, this movie palace’s best asset is its historic past, as noted in the blogspot Los Angeles Theatres.

The former Park Theater’s origins date back to the post-World War II era. The building was constructed by C.F. Normberg, a noted architect of schools across the country. Through the 1950s, the Park operated as a second-run venue under the

M&M Enterprises banner, with co-owner Harry Milstein running the operation.

Cinematically, the Cold War era of the ‘50s gave oxygen to low-budget Science Fiction flicks, which were creations of science, exploitation and fears of nuclear war, as chronicled by websites such as Golden Age of SciFi.

Among the ardent Saturday matinee patrons was Don Dear, who would later serve as a Gardena councilman and mayor starting in 1970. Dear says he grew up in the North Torrance-Gardena neighborhoods of the 1940s and ‘50s. As a young boy, he fondly remembers the Park Theatre and other local movie houses.

“I was about 11 when I saw ‘The Thing (From Another World),” Dear, 80, says of the 1951 Howard Hawks’ Science Fiction classic. “A little girl sitting behind me told me to please sit up straight, so she could hide behind me. It was a very scary movie.”

“Before buying, my parents often would park across the street from the theater,” Judy Kim says. “They would just sit in the car and scope out the place.”

Joe and Mary Donato eventually took ownership of the business circa 1960, presenting double features, including Elvis movies and schlock horror films for years before selling the business in 1976. Judy says her parents were married in 1970 and immigrated to the United States in 1971 from Kwangju, South Korea. As a young girl growing up in the 1950s, Nancy had a wealthy friend whose dad owned a movie theater, Judy recalls her mother often saying. “That friend would invite everybody to watch movies at their theater,” she says. “My mom thought that was the coolest thing.”

Nancy dreamed of owning a cinema of her own. Husband John took note of her wish.

When the Park Theatre was listed for sale in the

Warrior Life 61

mid-1970s, John, an electrical engineer by trade, and Nancy couldn’t resist making an offer. They were to endure a long escrow period while learning the theater business from Joe Donato, Judy says.

“Before buying, my parents often would park across the street from the theater,” she says. “They would just sit in the car and scope out the place.” During this time, the Donato’s raised the selling price of the theater and the Kims were faced with dropping out of the purchase. “But my Mom told my Dad, ‘I will eat one less meal a day to close escrow,’” Judy says.

Not long after, the Kims secured the theater to Nancy’s delight. “My mom is not a cinephile,” Judy says. “To be honest, she’s not a good movie watcher. She always falls asleep during the movie.”

But the purchased theater which sits on one acre of property did not include the adjacent parking lot, Judy says. That became a nagging worry. Her dad worked at several jobs, simultaneously, to provide for his family and to save money for

their first business venture, a Mexican market in Colton, Judy says.

After securing the Theater, the Kims sold the market to their box boy and relocated from the San Bernardino County to the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne. Within one year of theater ownership, the family noticed the active Latino community in their neighborhood and renamed the Park Theatre, Teatro Variedades. Judy says her parents understood the plight of Mexican immigrants and sought to fill a need in terms of cash-only entertainment.

The family worked with Mike Enriquez, a local businessman who would serve as their buyer of Mexican films.

During the late 1970s and into the 1980s, showing Spanish-language films was very profitable for the Kims. About this time, a promoter of live Mexican entertainment rented the theater for variety stage acts.

Live dance shows and singers became a Saturday afternoon staple.

Judy Kim spends ample time running the family theater from her laptop computer.

62 Warrior Life

John Kim, who dreamed of owning a theater since he was a child, interacts with patrons at the Gardena Cinema’s snack bar. Daughter Judy in the background fills an order. Teatro Variedades was drawing such huge crowds on the weekends that John Kim had to build a steel barrier at the theater’s front door that would allow only one patron to enter at a time, Judy says. Her dad would initially sell more tickets than available theater seats and got a visit from the city of Gardena fire marshal, who told him to cut it out or get slapped with a fine. Sometimes patrons would come to the theater intoxicated. John Kim, who stood a sawed-off 5 feet 6 inches and weighed 180 pounds was the theater’s only means of security.

“Some guys would want to mess around with my Dad,” Judy says with a chuckle. “My Dad is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do to the ninth degree. He’s like a little whale. One time this guy attacked my Dad. He had to flip the guy. I don’t think my Dad was afraid of anything, not even knives and guns.” Judy says her mom worked the concession stand during performances. She would hire young, pretty Mexican girls to help sell snacks and to work in the ticket booth. “Guys would come for the girls and not even

watch the movie,” Judy says. “When the movie ended, my Dad would say, ‘you have to buy another ticket or leave.’ So they would buy another ticket and keep talking to the girls.” As soon as their shift ended, Nancy noticed the girls would pile into the bathroom and get “all dolled up” to go dancing, she recalls her mother saying.

In the late 1980s, the Kim’s Mexican film distributor went out of business. The family abandoned the Spanish-language film market and in the mid1990s and leased the theater to a Korean distributor. The theater name was changed to “Eden” and then “Morning Calm,” but Korean movies proved too tough a sale. Judy, who studied government and theater at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts from 1990 to 1994, returned home to help her parents. By 1996, the family was facing financial disaster.

They made a few key decisions, including changing the theater name to Gardena Cinema. “We have no imagination,” Judy says.

They also decided to show first-run Hollywood

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“We lost our house, so we put everything into keeping the theater,” Judy says. “We [consolidated] the equity from all properties we owned.” Entering the new millennium, the Gardena Cinema featured such popular Hollywood releases as Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, “Selena” and “Pokemon.”

Judy says her mom has been the family’s social butterfly. Nancy loved interacting with the customers and loves “shoot em, up movies — when she can stay awake,” she says. Nancy’s favorite film is 1997 action spectacle “Face/Off,” starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage. “One time we were showing this really good Geena Davis movie,” she says. “My mom would promote it by telling everybody, ‘Come back for a ’Long Kiss Goodnight’.”

During the Great Recession in 2009, Judy’s younger brother Ray moved to South Korea looking for work, today he teaches English, and had been the Gardena Cinema’s projectionist.

By 2013, the family shelled out $150,000 for a digital projector to replace the classic reel-to-reel film projector. Judy says it was a great investment

because the digital version can be programmed to operate independently.

Earning a law degree was specifically to help her family, Judy says. She believed her parents were too often victimized in the business world. Foremost on her mind was to secure the future of the Gardena Cinema.

She says 70 years ago, the adjoining parking lot had been sold separately from the theater. Today, a splitting of such commercial property is illegal. “For many years I knew that the parking lot needed to be acquired for the survival of the theater,” Judy says. “I went to law school to strategize on getting that property.” The first step was convincing the parking lot owner to give the Kims a right of first refusal on the property, Judy says. Later the lot owner attempted to rescind that offer.

In 2016, the Kim’s won a court case for the rights to buy the parking lot, which is on the north side of the theater. A small miracle, Judy says with a chuckle. “It was a long battle,” she says. “I told my parents that my goal was to get the parking lot. Now I can die. I’ve accomplished my life goal.”

The Kim family has owned the Gardena Cinema since 1976. 64 Warrior Life

Judy Kim uses a scissor lift to change the theater marquee.



Illustrated by Jeniffer Torres

fter working a three-hour-long night shift as a cashier at Chicken Maison on Jan. 23, I walked out into the brisk, rainy night and dialed my professor’s number as I stood waiting for my Uber to arrive. In three rings, she picked up. I could immediately tell by her voice that she had been crying and that’s when I realized that I wasn’t going to like whatever it was she had to tell me. “Molly, Juan is dead.”

The entire ride home I was in a state of shock, we spent over 15 minutes on the phone, which is astounding for two people who had absolutely nothing to say. In a situation like that, there really is nothing anyone can say to make up for the shock 66 Warrior Life

and pain of losing someone so young.

Juan was many things, a 22-year-old journalism major hailing from south central Los Angeles, he was editor-in-chief for Warrior Life magazine and occupied two editorial positions and a staff writing position in his time at The Union. Juan was the most present person on the staff. Every time I needed an editor or had a question, he responded in minutes except for the occasional times we were both unavailable, and that was during Dodger's games. More so than maybe anything, Juan loved the Dodgers. I almost only ever saw him in Dodger blue and he lived by their wins and losses. When they won the World Series last year, I

knew he was the first person I wanted to talk to about it, and so we did for hours. He was approachable, someone you could always talk to no matter what.

He was a beacon of light in the dark world of Zoom and 2020 and everything terrible that the world was going through. Whenever I found something funny during class, I would scroll over to his face to see how he was stopping himself from laughter, knowing that if his camera was off altogether, that meant he’d failed in trying. As a brand new arts section editor in Journalism 14 during the spring of 2020, Juan's and my first class together, I was intimidated by the responsibility of my new position. One afternoon in particular, a few days before our first print deadline, Juan and I were designing our pages in a small conference room of the Schauerman Library. He was the features section editor at the time.

I was nervous because I had never completely run my own page and neither had Juan. Yet still, he was laughing and joking the entire time, making it so much more tolerable. And while he had the same level of editorial experience I had, he answered all of my questions and convinced me that it wasn’t that bad, that it would be fine. He was right, it was fine.

When I attended his memorial, I got a better sense of Juan’s family and the way he carried himself when he wasn’t being a journalist. Their stories of him all reiterated his loyalty, journalistic talent and easy-going outlook on life. Later on, as his brother was speaking, he mentioned that if Juan were there, he’d tell his brother to “chill out” and take care of their mom. I remember thinking how true that was and how he’d say the same thing to me, except he’d instead be telling me to take care of his magazine.

One of my first thoughts when I found out, was how tragic it was that Juan would be the only person who knew how to get us through his passing. He’d do it with humor and grace, and he’d convince us to relax and stop stressing over publishing the perfect profile on him or finishing the perfect magazine which was supposed to be his own.

The first story of his I read was a feature story on a warehouse stock clerk at El Camino College who looks after the campus cats, Carl Turano. When I first heard the story idea pitched, I was confused on how he would write an entire story on an employee and some stray cats; he exceeded every expectation. The way he wrote it was the way he wrote everything. He took a small, somewhat insignificant slice of the human experience and turned it into a story showcasing a man who was selflessly serving his community with nobody watching. I think that’s what Juan did too, except we were all watching. With every story he wrote, his passion for the world around him shone through. He gave a voice to the voiceless and brought awareness to the unspoken.

He was committed not only to his job as a reporter and an editor, but also to his readership. He was excellent because he was human, not because he could spin gold out of straw, but because he could take the straw he was given and put a spotlight on it. Honesty drove his purpose and transparency ruled his judgment. Last semester, Juan teamed up with another editor, Jeniffer Torres, and wrote about the disappearance and eventual death of Juan Carlos Hernández, a student at ECC. During a Zoom editorial board meeting, we discussed how many views the story had gotten and celebrated its popularity. In the midst of congratulations, Juan’s only response was that their story was “about the community, not the clicks.”

Humble and true, his words still ring in my ears when I think of what he wanted for the future of journalism. I believe that this was Juan’s purpose in life, to inspire humility, truth and community service in all of us. A great disservice to the industry, Juan will never get to inspire other reporters, and he’ll never write another article. But I will. I will write for Juan and about Juan. I will tell the world who he was and what he stood for and try my very best to influence people in his stead. I’ll bring him to every newsroom I work in and every article I cover.

Warrior Life 67


68 Warrior Life

Die by fire!” We all yelled, eyes closed, bible in hand, but I sense no danger. Attending different church revivals with my mum in Nigeria, a superstitious and religious society has made me aware there are possibilities outside the realm of our physical world.

Grandma passed in 1995. I was watching a movie in the parlor when I saw a white shadow in the passage. I froze. She had lived with us for months before she got sick and passed. I asked my brother if he saw anything strange in the passage but he chastised me for asking a stupid question.

Years later, while living with my uncle after his wife passed, I would often dream about his wife telling me to help her take care of her kids. But I had no earnings. I was shaken to the reality after my aunt said my two-year-old niece told her that her late mum always carried her at night. My niece slept next to me. My job as a TV producer was fun untill my boss fell ill from diabetes and typhoid. He shrunk from a size 20 to a size 0 in just a few days. Death embraced him. His burial was on a Friday and mourners were shocked to see his hands shaking in the coffin. The next Monday, I received a call from a journalist who claimed my late boss had given him my number on Friday at the Nigeria-Benin Republic border to book an appointment for them to meet at the office.

Why would a buried man give a living person my phone number? Hilarious to my colleagues, traumatizing to me. He sometimes appeared in my dreams telling me that he is not dead but hiding. A week later, a woman turned up at our workplace claiming to be his baby’s mother and shared how she would dream about him telling her that he is not dead but hiding.

My best friend’s mum appeared in my dream. She believed me because my description of her mum was exact and I told her where she said she was going. “That is the place she was buried,”my friend said, hugged me and burst into tears.

From local descry to international drama, ghosts

seem to locate me.

I was excited to visit South Africa for the first time thinking no dead roam there, how wrong I was. Showering, I saw a dark shadow spectral reaching out to touch me. I screamed “blood of Jesus” and it flew away. My guest ran to the bathroom, bewildered. “Ghost! Ghost!,” she said.

That was proof it was not my imagination. Other neighbors shared their encounters with the “ghost”. No tenant ever stayed up to a month in that building. A neighbor shared that some tenants move out the day after an experience with the spirit, yet the landlord was not willing to perform exorcism rites to cleanse the building. “Ghosts only appear in the bathroom to hurt people,” a prophet told me in church when I shared I felt the ghost was lonely.

Swaziland was memorable with no ghost bumping. Sound asleep, suddenly, my eyes opened and I saw my host’s sister creeping. I told her to leave the room and went back to snore. Surprising myself, my eyes opened again, and I caught her straight in the act, dipping her hands inside my bag, to take my money. The stealing was foiled. Another sleeping occurrence was at a friend’s place which made me wonder about my psychical abilities. Snoring, I suddenly opened my eyes to see her older brother trying to quietly pull off my wrapper with one hand and take a naked picture of me with his other hand. My eyes shone at him, he trembled, and scampered away. Apparently, he was shocked I woke to catch him in the act. He tried, he failed, I conquered.

Some have called me “witch,” others a “possessed marine spirit,” but I call myself a “daughter of Zion.” How do I harness those experiences? I can comprehend some incidents were at my benefit, but not the mission of the spirits, because the dead should not have any business with the living.

Despite my awareness of science and technology, it has not erased the fact that there is life outside the physical realm, and it has nothing to do with growing up in a superstitious and religious society.

Warrior Life 69

Keith Morris lives life by his own rules. He has survived car crashes, addictions, run-ins with the police, volatile relationships, line-up changes, touring, lawsuits and diabetic comas.


Written by Elsa Rosales Photos by Patricia Carrillo


n unassuming yet commanding presence arrives 30 minutes early for a noon meeting at a business park in Culver City. He’s barely through the gate when life stories start pouring out. Dreadlocks, long like vines, fall from a brown fiddler cap while round black-frame glasses sit in front of well-traveled blue eyes. A black T-shirt, ripped blue jeans and green Nike skate shoes match the youthful fervor of this music innovator.

His contributions to the West Coast punk scene since the 1970s are immeasurable. Helping to shape a scene that was so new, raw and aggressive has inspired countless others to do the same. As a founding member of Black Flag, Circle Jerks and his latest band OFF!, 65-year-old Keith Morris is one of the most recognizable, widely revered and influential personalities in punk rock music.

Today, he is a singer, songwriter, actor and author who released his autobiography “My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor” in 2016, but in 1974 and ‘75, then again in 1990, he was a Warrior.

“What’s the population of El Camino now? Did they open classes? Everything still online?” Keith says.

Discussing the status of online learning and limited classes taking place on-site due to COVID-19, he learns of the new campus construction and reflects on the old campus. He then confides that one of his handlers was hesitant about him talking to Warrior Life. They didn’t see how talking to his alma mater could make an impact. “He at first was like, ‘Where are you doing it? Why are you doing it?’ And the situation is that I was a Warrior for five semesters and do I need to explain why I went to El Camino Junior College?” Keith says.

Notorious for being humorous, Keith jokes about getting a percentage of any profit made by a surge in enrollment arising from this article. “Is my check in the mail? I’m just kidding, of course,” Keith says.

A lot has changed since his days as a Warrior. Though he was working on an associate degree in

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A colorful utility box at Pier and Hermosa Avenues is another tribute to Hermosa Beach’s punk rock roots. Wrapped in Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Descendents and Pennywise flyers, it was unveiled in 2016. Photo by Elsa Rosales/ Warrior Life

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art, life had other plans in store that led him down a much more adventurous and unstable path. It all began with a friendship that developed in the city in which he was raised, Hermosa Beach.

Keith was born in 1955 at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Los Feliz and grew up in Hermosa Beach, where he attended South Elementary School and Pier Junior High School. In 1973, he graduated from Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach. Naturally, he excelled in art. “I was in the process of receiving a scholarship from the Art Center out in Pasadena, one of the most prestigious art schools in the world,” Keith says.

While at Mira Costa, he submitted around 20 paintings to the Los Angeles County Fair. Ten were on display and he won a couple of gold medals. One was even used by the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Westways magazine. He didn’t keep a copy. “I wish that I had it. That would be something that I would give to my mom and she would be really proud,” Keith says.

Several calls were made to Westways to obtain a copy, but attempts to locate the issue were unsuccessful.

One of Keith’s teachers was so impressed with him that at the end of the year, he submitted Keith’s name for the scholarship. As a requirement, Keith first had to evaluate all of his art classes, but there was a problem with another teacher and her class. “It was basically just a real low-level art class. It would be the class that, like the stoners and the surfers and the girls that were on drill team that were not artistic, this would be the class that everybody would gravitate to,” Keith says.

He recalled getting up in front of his peers to evaluate the class and he didn’t hold back. He made this other teacher look bad. She raised her voice at him and names were exchanged. That was the end of the scholarship, but he already had his sights on becoming an art instructor, so he enrolled at El Camino. “When I got to El Camino I got my ass kicked

because I had certain classes that I loved where I would get As and Bs and then I had certain classes where - I [didn’t] want to be [there],” Keith says. One example was Spanish class. He wasn’t doing well in the class and he questioned why he was taking it. “It’s like, why am I learning Spanish? I didn’t know at the time that [almost] three quarters of the population of Los Angeles speaks Spanish,” Keith says. “If you’re going to be in the middle of it you better know about it. You better be slightly decent at carrying on a minimal conversation.”

Another of these classes was algebra, something that Keith struggled with a lot.

“One of my uncles explained to me, because one of his kids, one of my cousins complained to him like, ‘I’m taking this algebra class. Why the hell am I taking it?’ And he said, ‘Because it teaches you to use your brain. That’s the reason you take algebra,’” Keith says.

After learning about the Mathematics Competency Test that is now offered at El Camino and how it can be taken to satisfy a graduation requirement, he was intrigued. “Do they do the same thing with English? Because English and science and math were my downfall at El Camino. I was going to El Camino because I couldn’t afford to go to UCLA or USC and I probably would’ve been pulling my hair out to get into either of those universities,” Keith says. He was struggling with his classes and didn’t see the point of continuing. He was also partying, taking drugs, drinking and listening to loud music. School was becoming too difficult to keep up with and he eventually decided not to go back.

In 1976, Keith was working at his dad’s bait and tackle shop on Pier Avenue, which was right across from long-running jazz club, the Lighthouse Cafe. He was also working at a record store up the street. Rubicon Records is where he met his future bandmate.

Black Flag co-founder, guitarist and ECC alumnus Greg Ginn would go into Rubicon. Keith would turn off the radio-friendly rock of Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac or the Eagles and put on something heavier like Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Ted Warrior Life 73

Nugent or Iggy and the Stooges while he talked music with Greg.

Greg is Keith’s polar opposite. While Keith is 5 feet, 5 inches tall, Greg is 6 feet, 2 inches tall, has a degree from UCLA and started a ham radio mail-order business when he was 12 years old.

“He was also a Deadhead—I certainly didn’t hold that against him. I’ve seen the Grateful Dead a couple of times. I own a couple of Grateful Dead records. I can hang with them,” Keith says. “A great song is a great song and it transcends any kind of genre or musical box.” Up until that point, Keith and Greg were just acquaintances, but then they went to see Thin Lizzy and Gregg Rolie and Aynsley Dunbar-era Journey at the Santa Monica Civic Center. This event would end up being credited as the inspiration for Black Flag. “Right after Thin Lizzy got through playing, during the break, Greg and I are looking at each other and the lightbulb goes on over our heads. Let’s start a band,” Keith says.

Neither knew anything about being in a band, but they knew musicians in the South Bay. Plus, Greg already had five songs. He picked up his guitar and started playing. Keith didn’t expect much, but the songs had energy and aggression like he’d never heard before.

They soon recruited bass player Chuck Dukowski and drummer Brian Migdol, rehearsed often at Greg’s house on Owosso Avenue, then later at the infamous old Baptist church on Manhattan Avenue. “The Church,” as it became known, had become a crash pad for local punks and outcasts. The band played any chance they could get, including an eighth grade graduation party on Isis Avenue in Hawthorne with The Tourists. The Tourists went on to become Redd Kross, featuring future OFF! bassist Steven McDonald and future Circle Jerks guitarist Greg Hetson.

“I feel like it must’ve been magic to see those first shows, and there are still people around that talk about it like, ‘Yeah, we were there,’” Alex DiStefano, freelance writer for High Times, LA Weekly and OC Weekly, says. Black Flag’s first real venue show was at the Re-

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dondo Beach Moose Lodge on Pacific Coast Highway, where Keith ended up grabbing and swinging from a hanging United States flag. The war veterans chased him out of the venue.

Then, there was the infamous show at Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach, where more than 1,000 people showed up and things got a little out of control.

Greg had convinced the director of parks and recreation for the city of Manhattan Beach that they were a light jazz band that played Fleetwood Mac covers. As soon as the loud music started, the picnickers pelted the band with whatever food and drinks they had. “Polliwog Park was a turning point for us because our community didn’t really know about us. Now, the police did, you know. All of the police in the South Bay knew about us, like we were some kind of terrorist organization,” Keith says.

By this time, Black Flag had gained a notorious reputation and quite a following. Their iconic fourbar logo, created by Greg’s brother and artist Raymond Pettibon, was spray-painted all over town and the police harassment was constant. Punk shows were getting shut down and kids were getting beaten with police batons. On one occasion, Keith was handcuffed and put into a choke hold until he blacked out. When he woke up, he was beaten, then taken to jail. He was released the next morning, bruised, but alive.

Keith appeared on the band’s first release, 1979’s quintessential “Nervous Breakdown” EP, a recording that features four songs clocking in at a total of just 5 minutes, 13 seconds. His alcohol and drug use was heavy and the constant rehearsals were causing friction with Greg. Keith left the band later that year, but not before recording half an album’s worth of songs. Then in 1982, Black Flag released “Everything Went Black,” a compilation album in which Keith’s vocals appear on Side A. Shortly after leaving Black Flag, he co-founded the Circle Jerks with guitarist Greg Hetson and drummer Lucky Lehrer. Keith later met bassist Roger Rogerson outside the Anti-Club on Melrose Avenue and the band was complete.

Mural #8, located at 13th Street and Hermosa Avenue, memorializes Hermosa Beach’s punk rock and skate culture through this public art unveiled in 2018. Photo by Elsa Rosales/ Warrior Life

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The Circle Jerks went on to release several albums between 1980 and 1995, including “Group Sex,” “Wild in the Streets” and “Golden Shower of Hits.” They’ve gone on hiatus off and on through the years, and during a break in 1990—Keith decided to return to school.

“While I was still doing the Circle Jerks and we were on a break because our guitar player Greg Hetson was off with Bad Religion, I decided ‘I’m gonna take a couple of classes. I’m gonna go back to El Camino,’” Keith says.

He decided to take an 8 a.m. vocal class and a beginning guitar class, which seemed logical considering the experience he had, having been in multiple bands.

“I thought having been in Black Flag and the Circle Jerks that I could take this vocal class to learn patterns and learn about, like proper breathing and you know, being able to vocalize to piano accompaniment,” Keith says. “I’m a screamer, I’m a vocalist, I’m not a singer and there’s a big difference.” He didn’t think his class schedule completely through because at the time, he was bartending in Hollywood until nearly 3 a.m. He again found himself struggling.

“So I’m driving all the way back down to Redondo Beach where I was living, down on the Esplanade and getting home at 4 a.m. and having to be up at 7:30 a.m. to drive over to El Camino and find a parking space and try to be on time to the class— so I was just getting hammered,” Keith says.

He didn’t have the time, nor patience, to practice vocalizing and guitar so he eventually stopped attending.

“I think I came back for a couple more classes and realized I had two left hands. It’s like, we’re studying Andres Segovia and people of that caliber and I’m thinking of Tony Iommi and Mick Ronson and Keith Richards,” Keith says. In 1999, Keith was diagnosed with diabetes. One evening, while on his way to check out a band at Amoeba Records in Hollywood, he blacked out while driving on Sunset Boulevard. He hit another car and was dazed, but alive. 76 Warrior Life

Then there was another more serious episode in 2008. The band Turbonegro invited Keith to sing with them at the Øya Festival in Norway.

After traveling all day, he found himself with no food, and everything was closed. He managed to get through rehearsal and went back to the hotel where the cleaning lady later found him in a diabetic coma. He spent a week in the hospital and had been close to death, but slowly recovered.

Keith formed his latest band OFF! in 2009 with guitarist Dimitri Coats, bassist Steven McDonald and drummer Mario Rubalcaba. Their debut show was in 2010 at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin. They also played the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2011 and 2015, the Vans Warped Tour in 2019 and the Musink Tattoo Convention and Music Festival in 2015. “I never got to see Circle Jerks. I saw OFF! play, like years ago at this tattoo fest in Huntington Beach. He’s still got that energy, but it must’ve been cool to see Circle Jerks or Black Flag back in the day. I’m sure it was pretty awesome,” Alex says. He wrote his autobiography with Jim Ruland in 2016 and it tells of his deep roots in Inglewood, which is where his grandparents lived. His mother went to Morningside High School and his father went to Inglewood High School. He also lived on Simms Avenue after he left Black Flag in 1979.

“Keith Morris is a local legend from his time in Black Flag and the Circle Jerks,” Rei Nishimoto, former freelance writer for Ghost Cult Magazine, Noisecreep and MeanStreet Magazine, says. “His attitude and the music he helped create has influenced many artists, whether they realize it or not.” Together with Greg Ginn, Keith pioneered an aggressive West Coast style that produced quick bursts of energy crammed into songs that were mostly less than two minutes long.

“I saw him do the ‘Nervous Breakdown’ set at the Goldenvoice 30th Anniversary show in 2011, which was short, but sweet,” Rei says. “There are very few artists who can match what Keith helped create during that era.” The Goldenvoice show was performed at the Santa Monica Civic Center under the name FLAG with former Black Flag members Chuck Dukow-

ski on bass and Bill Stevenson on drums, plus the Descendents’ Stephen Egerton on guitar. This sparked a trademark infringement lawsuit by Greg Ginn, which was later dismissed by California’s Central District Judge Dean Pregerson in 2013.

In 2016, after decades of ignoring its status as the birthplace of West Coast punk, the city of Hermosa Beach memorialized Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, the Descendents and Pennywise with brightly-colored flyers wrapped on a utility box on the corner of Pier and Hermosa Avenues. In 2018, a large mural was painted on a parking structure at 13th Street and Hermosa Avenue featuring a young Keith Morris and other notable punk icons.

“Keith Morris is for sure underrated and a lot of times people don’t realize the whole connection with Black Flag,” Alex says. “He’s probably up there as one of the most influential punk singers ‘cause he was in both Black Flag and Circle Jerks.” The Circle Jerks had planned a 2020 tour to

commemorate the 40th anniversary of their debut album “Group Sex,” but then COVID-19 hit and put those plans on hold. Discussing the pandemic and the accessibility and ease of taking online classes, Keith reveals he may not be done with school just yet.

“Well, I’m thinking about going back to junior college, but I’m not going to drive all the way down to El Camino. When I get ready to go back, I’m going to go to LACC (Los Angeles City College). I can walk there. It’s about, I would say it’s probably about a 10 to 12 minute walk from where I live,” Keith says. “And there’s nothing wrong with community college.” His autobiography gives more harrowing details of car crashes, addictions, run-ins with the police, volatile relationships and his battle with diabetes. Through it all, Keith has lived by his own rules. And he’s been sober since 1988. “I’m happy to be alive,” Keith says.

Keith Morris at Nuclear Blast Records Warehouse April 5, 2021. Photo by Patricia Carrillo/ Warrior Life Warrior Life 77



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Written by Carolina Espinoza Illustrated by Kendal Foreman


pushed back the airbag and tried to gather my thoughts. It seemed that the shock must have already set in. “Are you OK?”

I can’t count how many times I turned to the driver’s seat to look at my mom or turned to the back seat to look at my friend and asked them this, or how many times they replied with the same answer. “Yeah.”

“Are you OK?”

The woman whose car we had hit was asking this time. It appeared that it was redundant though, as she answered it herself when she saw me. “Oh. You’re not.”

I picked up the sun visor that had been torn off by the airbag to take a look at my reflection. It revealed my busted lip and my right eye that was swelling at a somewhat alarming rate. There were bloody scratches along my neck, chest and collarbones, and bruises slowly but surely starting to appear. It hurt. And it didn’t end there. The aftermath of the accident still lives with me, more than a year later. It’s snuck into every corner of my life. As if the fear of getting into a car and onto the road wasn’t already enough. It started with tears. I’m sure there were times when the tissues I was now so used to taking around with me weren’t enough to get rid of them after a car ride.

Then the shaking hands. Looking down and seeing that they hadn’t stopped since stepping out of the car, and wishing that they would while walking to class. My voice didn’t seem as sure anymore either, though it’s not like it had ever been so sure to begin with.

The most mundane tasks started to take everything out of me. Even in an unconscious state,

there were the nightmares that haunted me and made me relive that moment that I so wished would leave me alone. Waking in a cold sweat and realizing that conscious or unconscious, I couldn’t escape it.

I had no control and I hated that.

This life that I had now was something that I didn’t even want to be bothered with anymore. It honestly didn’t feel worth it if it had to be lived like this, full of fear. Getting others to understand that only made it harder for me. How can you get someone to understand what’s wrong with you when you don’t know what it is yourself? When all you want to do is to forget and yet, somehow, that’s what you haven’t learned how to do. The same month of the accident, my primary care doctor had told me that I might have PTSD. He had told me to look into therapy. I didn’t need it, or so I said. I had survived.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death in the U.S for those aged 1-54, according to The Association for Safe International Road Travel, and I had survived.

There was a guilt that engulfed me and made me feel like getting help would be so weak of me, that somehow, I wasn’t worthy and what had happened wasn’t serious enough. This wasn’t and still isn’t true, but all this time it seemed to be to me. I wanted to somehow will myself out of that trauma. Like that would even work. Still, I was so set on ignoring the truth then. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

The doctor attending me at the hospital after the accident told me this. I guess I’m still waiting for it to get better. But I have realized that it won’t if I don't allow it too. It’s time to allow it.

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Spanish Professor Argelia Andrade, sits smiling in her backyard, located in North Torrance on Saturday, April 24. Argelia is wearing a Huipil, which is a traditional garment usually worn by indegiounes women in central Mexico to Central America.


A SPANISH PROFESSOR'S JOURNEY WITH DANCE AND EDUCATION Written by Margarita Sipaque Photos by Walter Jay Jr.


fter waiting about a year for the studio to reopen due to COVID-19, Argelia Andrade was more than ready to teach students again.

Dancing folklorico is a way Argelia is able to connect back to her heritage while taking a lead to help her community connect to their roots as well at the appropriately named dance studio Nuestras Raíces (Our Roots). Acknowledging her roots and family is what made her who she is today.

Argelia, 42, was born in Los Altos, Mexico. She is a Spanish professor at El Camino College and completed her doctorate in philosophy and hispanic languages and literatures at UCLA. She’s the founder of Nuestras Raíces and has organized folklorico events at the college.

She grew up with both her parents and five siblings. Her mother is from Los Altos, Mexico and while her father’s side is also Mexican, they are from the United States. At 10 years old she moved to California and was raised in Gardena, the place she now calls home.

Her family has always had a binational culture, she says. They are proudly Mexican but proudly Mexican from both sides of the border. As Argelia reflects back on her mom’s life and realizes they didn’t have the same opportunities, she feels as though things have changed for women, especially Latina women.

Growing up in Mexico, Argelia’s mother Celina Gonzalez didn’t make it to high school but it wasn’t because she didn’t want to attend school anymore. In the small pueblo in which she was raised there was no more school beyond what she had achieved. “I only attended up to the eighth grade,” Celina says in Spanish. “I lived in Mexico at that time and the women didn’t really attend school. We didn’t have much opportunity.”

If people wanted to continue onto high school or college, they had to go to the big city. But in the 1950s, the women would not go into the big city alone to those type of things. Opportunities were very different for Celina than they were for Argelia at her age.

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Top: Argelia, Spanish professor at El Camino College, pictured at her little sister Darlene’s graduation from UCLA in 2009. Pictured from left to right: her father Jorge, oldest brother Jorge, little sister Darlene, Argelia, her mother Celina, little brother Adrian and second oldest Omar. Bottom: Spanish professor Argelia Andrade leads her dance students in the Nuestras Raíces studio, teaching them a folklorico routine on Friday, April 9. Argelia has been dancing folklorico her whole life and she has been teaching it just before her first semester at UCLA began in 1996.

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“Knowing that made me really proud because I stand on her shoulders,” Argelia says. “She did this for me and now I have the highest degree of education in the world.” Celina worked for a while and then decided to dedicate time at home for her children.

It was a traditional life for Argelia’s parents, but their expectation was never that their girls would grow up to do the same as their mother had. They didn’t want to limit their children.

“My husband and I always motivated them,” Celina says in Spanish. “In our household we always told them the most important thing was to prepare themselves so they could have a better future than us [Celina and her husband].” Argelia’s dad, Jorge Andrade, who died 10 years ago, also played a great role in her life and academic achievements.

Argelia came from a family where everyone was similar. Their differences were honored but she was never told what she couldn’t do school or sports because of them. Her family always encouraged her to do things the same as others and there was never talk about what girls can or can’t do. “We’ve always motivated them to do what they want to do,” Celina says in Spanish.

In particular, when it came to getting an education and a career, it was never expected that Argelia would marry and then buy a house. She was taught that whatever she wanted, she had to get it herself.

“It was clear to me that I was raised very differently than other women during my childhood,” Argelia says. “Nowadays, parents are younger and more open minded, but certainly, in the ‘80s when I was growing up, it wasn’t standard for people to be so open-minded about what girls could or couldn’t do.” The first feminist she met was her dad, because he never thought girls couldn’t do what the boys could do. Yet, it was the women in Argelia’s life who paved the way for her and now she is able to say she is the only woman in her family who has either a master’s or a doctorate degree. Argelia says a role model is defined by their


“They could have a completely different life, like my mom,” Argelia says. “She had a cooking, cleaning and washing clothes kind of life but she had a hard-working character.” Growing up, Argelia went to a small high school named California Academy of Math and Science High School, located in Carson. She graduated in 1996 and attended University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) that fall.

She began at UCLA in 1996 and finished in 2000 with her bachelor degree. She then went on to complete her masters by 2003 and took some time off before finishing her Ph.D. in 2012. Argelia’s doctorate work was finished by 2010, but her adviser was diagnosed with cancer so she had to wait for her to get better within those two years before earning her degree. This created a pause in Argelia’s education and was the reason it took her a bit longer to finish school.

While attending UCLA , she accomplished other things like working a full time job, getting married and raising her son. She also spent time taking care of her father before he died. After 16 years, Argelia is able to say she is the first woman to have a master’s and doctorate in her family because of her mother’s hard work and discipline.

While she attended UCLA, she worked at Santa Monica College. That is where she fell in love with working at community colleges. Once she finished UCLA, she received an offer to teach there but she also got an offer from Los Angeles Valley College. Argelia chose to teach at Los Angeles Valley College rather than at UCLA because she liked the students better. She believed her calling was to teach students like her. “There were a lot more brown students at community college than UCLA,” Argelia says.

Argelia says representation matters. One successful way to become an educated person of Latin decent is to see a teacher with that same ancestry. Based on her own experiences, she felt the students would be able to see themselves in her story

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Spanish professor Argelia Andrade teaches her group of students a folklorico dance routine at the Nuestras Raíces studio located on Gardena Bulevard on Friday, April 9. She has been practicing at this studio for about 16 years.

and relate to her.

“I felt that I could do more for my gente at the community college than at UCLA,” Argelia says.

She then began teaching at El Camino College, where she plans to retire. Argelia works in the Humanities Division at El Camino College, where she’s taught Spanish since 2014.

Having good professors is something that helped her find her major. She had a really good professor who was a mentor and friend throughout her whole undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D programs. “She was a linguist and she was a Mexicana immigrant with a really thick accent,” Argelia says. “I really loved that about her because she was really proud and a great scholar at UCLA. She was very respected and very prolific.” Having her professor around inspired Argelia to

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learn linguistics and to learn about her home and heritage language. She believes that having that gift to learn more about her culture is something beyond teaching which inspired her to want to work at ECC.

Argelia teaches Spanish classes at every level but says she is more alive when she is teaching the Spanish for native speakers classes. She also teaches Spanish 4, 5, and 6 which is culture and literature. Those are the classes that she gets really excited about teaching. Her decision to teach Spanish came from the experience of having a strong female role model who spoke like her, ate like her and who had a common culture with her. The ability to connect with her community is another reason why she teaches Spanish. Besides connecting with her community through language, she also connects through Folklorico, a

traditional dance from Mexico.

Argelia has been dancing folklorico all her life. She began in Mexico and continued here in the U.S. Before Nuestras Raíces, Argelia used to dance in a Mexican group through Parks and Recreation in the city of Gardena, along with her siblings. It was a small group but they danced there for years.

Her teacher then got married and decided to stop teaching, which is when the moms of the kids in the group asked Argelia to continue the group in their teacher’s absence. She agreed and led the girls. Argelia thought it would be a good summer hobby before starting school at UCLA in the fall. Once it was time for Argelia to start her fall semester at UCLA, she was ready to say goodbye to the group but the moms refused to let her go because the girls loved Argelia.

“For every excuse I gave them, they found a solution,” Argelia says. “These moms, our mujeres are great advocates for their children’s education and opportunity.” They didn’t have a place to practice anymore but the moms found St. Anthony’s Church. Argelia would bring up that they didn’t have shoes to practice in so the moms went to Tijuana to get them. She also brought up that they didn’t have any skirts so all the moms made them.

Argelia eventually gave in, and that’s how Nuestras Raíces began.

It started as just 10 little girls and her playing around. It was a grassroots organization. The moms trusted Argelia and she is grateful they did. Argelia’s sister, Darlene Andrade who is one of the co-founding members, is a dance teacher at Nuestras Raíces and was one of those 10 little girls, says the non formal group was founded in 1996.

Now, 25 years later, they turned into a non-profit organization based in Gardena and located right on Gardena Bulevard.

bers to become community leaders by obtaining a college education, and to create a space of social justice where education and art intersect. Darelene has been dancing since the age of 8. Since 2014, she danced in her last show but she has currently been teaching. The group also opened doors and gave Darlene academic opportunities.

“[The group] has helped me immensely because I was able to go to UCLA from Gardena high school. I don’t think if I had the support from the group and from my sister then I don’t know if that would’ve been possible,” Darlene says. Elizabeth Martinez met Argelia when she joined the small group of girls Argelia taught folklorico back at St. Anthony’s Church. Elizabeth says she first joined the group when she was in middle school. Now, she is currently one of the dance teachers at Nuestras Raíces.

“I think that her [Argelia] love for the culture and education is right up front,” Elizabeth says. “For the most part, she not only taught us the dances and a little bit of our story but she also focused her energy on making sure what we needed to do in school to be successful.” Argelia was very involved in guiding the girls to make sure they were doing well in school. She used to ask for their report cards and review their grades. And if they weren’t doing too well, Argelia would check in with them to see what they need to do to bring their grades up. One way she would help her students was by finding outside resources such as tutors to help them with their school work. This grew into her helping more people and building the academic program they have now within the dance group.

“I think she [Argelia] led by example,” Elizabeth says. Being in Nuestras Raíces had a great academic impact on her.

Elizabeth says she went to UCLA because of Argelia’s guidance. Argelia was one of the main people that helped guide Elizabeth’s career path as According to the Nuestras Raíces website, their she is now a high school counselor. She wanted to vision is to educate members and their community do what Argelia did for her which was help others. about Mexico. Its other purpose is to inspire memWarrior Life 85

Spanish professor and folklorico dance instructor Argelia Andrade poses for a photo along side her students on Friday April 9. Pictured in photo from left to right (bottom): Argelia, Kasandra, Amanda, and Michelle. On the top (left to right): Veronica, Julia, Aurora, and Vanessa. Nuestras Raíces is not just a Mexican folklorico dance group, they are a program. The students get to choose between taking music or dance classes. Due to the pandemic, they have not brought back music classes yet. Everyone enrolled in dance is enrolled in the mandatory academic program as well. Starting from middle school, they all have to attend an academic conference which is once a year in the month of October.

Throughout the year, they also have workshops on financial aid, personal statements for college applications, workshops on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and more.

While students are learning folklorico, learning about their culture and taking pride in who they are, they are also simultaneously following an educational pipeline that may eventually lead them to a four-year university and graduate school. It’s a dream Argelia has for all of their dancers.

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The group is more than a hobby for her, it’s her family. She protects it, loves it and nurtures it as if the dancers were her family members.

Argelia says it’s all done by volunteer work and no one gets paid, including the board. The only people who get paid are the women who clean and the women who sew. She spends a minimum of 10 hours every week doing things for the organization. When they are getting ready for a show she can spend up to 40 hours working.

Through folklorico she feels connected to her culture, something she felt was underrepresented at UCLA, where she was also part of a folklorico dancing group.

“It was nice to be with people who spoke spanglish like I did, danced folklorico, liked mariachi music, rancheras, hip pop, salsa or bachata,” Argelia says. “It was nice to be with people like me.”

TOP 5 BEST BIRRIA SPOTS Story and photos by Margarita Sipaque


uicy birria beef served in tortillas with consome, onion, cilantro, and salsa hits the spot every time. Sometimes food gets pricey for us college students but why spend $5 at Mcdonalds or Taco Bell when you can buy tacos de birria at a birria food truck? Or spend $10 on a quesadilla de birria or birria with rice and beans. Here are the top 5 Birria places in a 10 mile radius from El Camino College.

1. Zacatecas Restaurant Zacatecas Restaurant is a Mexican food restaurant that serves all kinds of Mexican food. Birria isn’t on the menu, you just let the waiters know that you would like to get some. One way you can ask for birria is by ordering the grilled chicken bowl and substituting it with birria. Address: 13737 S Inglewood Ave, Hawthorne, CA 90250

2. Pepes Red Tacos Pepes Red Tacos is another birria food truck that serves a variety of food items. One item that they serve is a vampiro (vampire in panish). A vampiro is like a quesadilla and taco combined. It has two layers of white melted cheese and in the middle is the birria. Any cheese lovers out there would really enjoy this meal. Address: 23814 Vermont Ave, Harbor City, CA 90710

3. Abigail’s Tacos A great simple, cheap, and filling choice. Each taco cost $1, which is nice for college students on a budget looking for good food. The tortilla is dipped in consome and has onion, cilantro and a spicy yet very tasty salsa. If you are a spicy lover, you should ask for their habanero salsa to add more flavor to your tacos. The torta de birria is very juicy and has the right amount of birria, cheese, onion and cilantro. Address: 1200 W Pacific Coast Hwy, Wilmington, CA 90744

Abigail’s Tacos is a birria food truck that serves six different items. The must-try item, of course, is the birria tacos.

4. Tacos el Goloso Tacos el Goloso is a birria “fast food” restaurant. It doesn’t have a drive through or is very fast but it’s not a traditional restaurant where a server attends to take your order. There are a lot of Tacos el Goloso spread out around some cities. They also serve birria based foods like birria tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and more. Address: 3720 Pacific Coast Hwy, Torrance, CA 90505

5. Taqueria El Otro Amigo Taqueria El Otro Amigo is a Mexican Restaurant, one of their items on the menu is a birria plate. It comes with birria, Mexican red rice and fried beans with cheese on top. This is hands down the best birria place. Their birria is very juicy and flavorful. They drench the birria with consome making so juicy.

Address: 17236 Crenshaw Blvd, Torrance, CA 90504

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ENLISTED AND CONFLICTED SHEDDING THE MARINE MINDSET Written by Manuel Guzman Illustrated by Jeniffer Torres

88 Warrior Life


arhead. Devil Dog. Leatherneck. Professional warrior.

For years my life orbited the eagle, globe and anchor. But at the end of my enlistment, I couldn’t wait to go back home. To enroll in school. To get another job. To rejoin my circle of family and friends. To start a new life.

Despite my excitement, transitioning out of the Marine Corps was a bigger struggle than the 20 mile hikes my platoon would often go on. Initially, I was happy just to be able to sleep in but over time feelings of isolation began to creep up on me. Besides the awkwardness that came over me when people would thank me for my service, I also felt a deep shame. With a lavish annual budget of $826 billion that goes to the Department of Defense, being a part of the military was hardly anything to be proud of considering that one in four American households face food insecurity. Now that I was no longer training to fight the “enemies” of United States imperialism, the fight led inward. I hated the fact that I had spent years training how to fight and harm another human. I was a fighter outside of a ring. But inside of my head, inside of a ring, I was fighting myself.

In addition to trying to unscramble the internal struggles to my past, I had to face them everyday. Family members and friends treated me differently. My family no longer introduced me by my name, I was now the “Marine.” I didn’t want to be a Devil Dog, I just wanted to be me.

Despite my attempts to shake off what I used to be and trying to rebrand my identity, I felt haunted by the military. According to the VA’s National Suicide Prevention Annual Report released in 2018, 17.6 veterans die by suicide each day. The highest rate of suicide with veterans being in the first six years after they leave the military. These staggering numbers followed me closely. In a country that glorifies the military, why were veterans committing suicide at an alarming rate? Was I destined for the same fate?

We were trained as “professional warriors” but we weren’t trained to face and fight anything like this. The overwhelming feeling of an identity crisis

made me feel isolated, misunderstood and lost.

Fighting to stay positive started to become difficult. One evening an old platoon mate called me. He reached out to express his struggles in his new life. We spoke for hours about the difficulties we’ve both been facing.

This one moment of feeling understood between the two of us made me realize the importance of opening up. Consequently the environment the military provided us made us feel like internal struggles are just that, things to be handled internally. In addition, talking about feelings and emotions among males is generally considered a taboo subject.

Phone call after phone call, I began connecting with other veterans I knew. Asking about how they were, sharing my own personal struggles. Despite living in different corners of the country, the simple action of starting the conversation of personal struggles made me feel closer to them than the times we’d been huddled in a foxhole. Of course accepting moments of weakness wasn’t easy. Opening up to understand and be understood required a lot of introspection. But in dropping the wall of pride, accepting those moments helped me accept myself.

After the last year we’ve all lived through, reaching out to friends and family has never been more important to me. We are all fighting our silent little battles. While some of those battles can only be faced alone, the simple act of extending an arm of support can be the determining factor to a battle won. Certainly, some battles can be harder than others, but I learned that these are the battles worth fighting for.

The days of being a professional warrior for the United States are now well behind me. Ahead of me are the days of being a positivity warrior for myself and my fellow humans.

I have a better understanding of myself and who I am now.

Everyday is still a training exercise to be grateful for the day to day experiences that come my way.

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Adam Brown poses in front of a Torrance fire engine. He is a captain for the Torrance fire department, a part time recruit trainer for Torrance Fire department and a part time instructor at El Camino College. Adam shares his 25 years of knowledge and dedication with his trainees and students, and hopes to help prepare them for the obstacles that they will face in the firefighting industry. Photo taken on Wednesday, March 31.


Written by Elisa Albarran Photos by Patricia Carrillo


orrance Fire Departments’ recruits are anxious to begin the next task for their training. Sprinting in a single file line, quickly rearranging in arm length with perfect coordination. Still, like nails in a military stance, the rookies await the commands of Captain Adam Brown, 35.

Adam looks away as he recalls his first call, just recruited into the Torrance Fire Department.

Out of work he can be found in shorts and sporting a Torrance Fire Department T-shirt showing off his inked arms. His left sleeve shows love for fire, a phoenix rising from vibrant red and orange flames. His right forearm is covered in black and grey armor. Adam shows pride for his fire department even outside of the station.

As Adam entered the building he expected flames and smoke, but instead, it was still.

Clean cut, freshly shaved pale face and faded haircut. Yellow fire helmet and jacket with his name visible for identification. Sunglasses are practically stuck on his face, he is rarely found without them.

Adam was a training in the El Camino fire program 20 years ago and was later recruited into the Torrance Fire Department. He now trains those who want to become firefighters and is a fire captain for the very city he grew up in.

When the sound of a call comes in, firefighters are expected to jump into action. The overhead monitors shout the address of the call. Each member of the team knows their part, focused on the first step of action.

When Adam showed up on the scene of a A pet food manufacturer, sirens were blaring. The warehouse workers stood outside of the building awaiting guidance from the fire department. “A false alarm, not the most exciting first call, but still a learning experience,” Adam says.

Even in a false alarm, the area still must be swept to make sure no one is hurt or inside the building until it is called all clear. “It still was a moment I’ll never forget because it was a moment I have looked forward to since I was a kid,” Adam says.

Adam was first drawn to fire fighting in elemen-

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The new Torrance Fire Department recruits line up for their weekly train, waiting for instructions from their captain, on Wednesday, March 31, at the Torrance Fire Department. tary school. He recalls sitting on the black asphalt of Lincoln Elementary awaiting a special assembly put on by the Torrance Fire Department. Adam was captivated by the idea of someday becoming a firefighter.

That idea solidified after his class field trip to the fire station. Adam got to sit in a fire engine and heard the sirens for the first time, but it was the firefighter jacket and helmet that sparked something in him. “The firemen dressed me up, from then on I knew,” Adam says. “It never was a decision.”

He feels one of the most rewarding parts of working for the Torrance Fire Department is to be able to serve the community that he was raised in. Adam now gets to present at elementary assemblies in Torrance and inspire the next generation of possible firefighters.

“I’m now in the same position as the fighter fighters that got me into it,” Adam says. “I now visit Torrance schools and teach fire safety and dress kids up in fire gear, like the one that inspired me.” 92 Warrior Life

He found his calling at a young age and now gets to dress up in that same outfit every day on the job. Although Adam has a deep passion for the fire department, there are still extremely challenging aspects.

“I went through the entire fire program at El Camino College, we [were] tested and put in scenarios we will face in the real world, but still when you see the real thing in person it’s a completely different experience," he says. Emotions mixed with adrenaline all while focusing on what the protocol is in each situation that a firefighter is trained to approach. One thing that can’t be taught is how each call can trigger different emotions. The biggest challenge of Adam’s time working for the fire department is coming face to face with death. “I’ve seen it all, burning bodies in a car, car accidents, houses and buildings collapsing in flame,” Adam says. “You just become numb to it.”

Firefighters, no matter the place, face many of the same obstacles. Death is nothing new to their job.

Matthew Porter, a firefighter for the LA City Fire Department sees death as just another part of the job. Even though Porter is from a different fire department, he too feels like over time he’s become desensitized.

“I see about eight dead bodies a week. When you see stuff like that daily it becomes less and less hard,” Matthew says. “You just become jaded to it.” Adam and Porter have learned to not have an abundance of emotions take over them, and handle each situation as calmly as possible.

Although Adam and Porter are used to this part of the job, they admit going on calls with children in distress is never easy. One of the hardest calls he has been on resulted in the death of a young girl. A call came into Adam’s station. He geared up, and hoped on the engine. Sirens and lights lead the way to the scene. A small girl lied on the floor unresponsive. A window two stories up, screen pushed out and window wide open. Her family

was in great panic. Paramedics along with the Torrance Fire department worked to get a response from the girl. “There was great trauma to her head,” Adam says. “When seeing a small child hurt it is hard, especially when you have kids of your own.”

Not only a strong physical fitness and health are needed in the fire department, but also a strong mind.

According to the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, an estimated 40% of firefigher suicide rates are reported. Due to the stigma surrounding mental health many cases go unreported. “A lot of firemen are killing themselves, same thing with police,” Adam says. “The main reasons are [COVID-19] and we see dead people.”

Adam knows his team is like a second family. They rely on each other and uplift one another in the toughest moment in and out of their jobs. Open conversations happen after tough calls to release and reflect on their thoughts and feelings.

“It’s the truth, there’s a lot of suicide going on in many fire departments,” Matthew says. “It’s even

Adam Brown watches and observes the trainees on Wednesday, March 31,wearing his required captain’s jacket and helmet. The color of a firefighter’s helmet helps indicate their rank. Adams’ red helmet indicates to others on calls or at training that he is a fire captain.

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harder when you know the person who took their own life.”

looking to get treatment and break the stigma.

The fire department does everything it can to help its firefighters, especially when it comes to mental health. Special teams debrief what happened during the incident or call. The team’s purpose is to help firefighters talk about their emotional state as well as how to go forward and heal from the incident.

“Any moment I have off, I spend it with my family,” Adam says.

Adam describes his team as a type-a group of people, the type to keep their emotions to themselves. Moments of silence can be times of sadness and hurting.

The International Association of Firefighters is an organization that has a big impact on the firefighting community. The IAFF represents over 324,000 firefighters and paramedics across the U.S. and Canada.

This association has created the IAFF disaster and relief foundation and put on different events and training for firefighters but has now opened a mental health recovery facility for firefighters and paramedics.

This facility was named the IAFF Center of Excellence of Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery. The first location is located in Maryland. Jordan Thomson is a part of the booking and outreach team for the IAFF recovery facility.

“The hardest part for our patients is reaching out in the first place,” Jordan says. The stigma surrounding mental health in what inspired the IAFF to create the recovery facility. Firefighters and paramedics receive treatment and counseling from medical professionals in an environment that feels safe.

“When booking new patients and getting them settled into our facilities we make sure that they are comfortable and that their families know they are in good hands at our facilities,” Jordan says.

The center has invested in both creating a safe and tranquil environment to make sure patients feel comfortable but also have medical professions and counselor on sight at all times. The IAFF hopes to continue to expand their locations and continue to help firefighters that are 94 Warrior Life

Family is an important part that allows the fire department to thrive. The hardest part about being a firefighter and having a family of their own is being away for days at a time. Adam enjoys taking trips with his family on his time off. When Adam's son Madox, daughter Kiyomi and wife Ashley aren’t at their Torrance home, they like to venture into outdoor activities. Camping and motorcycle riding are his favorite.

Adam’s off days also consist of him working and planning as a part-time instructor teaching prep classes to El Camino firefighter students.

Adam’s course teaches tactics to discover fires and evacuation scenarios, along with the best equipment to use to suppress fires. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Adam’s time as an instructor has turned virtual, just like most schools during the pandemic. The most difficult part of being online is students missing out on the hands-on portion of the class. The courses provided allows students to get a better idea of how to deal with real scenarios when on call at a fire station.

“One of the best things about being an instructor is seeing my students go from being a scout in the academy at El Camino and then be recruited into Torrance Fire,” Adam says. Adam’s transition from engineer to captain at Torrance Fire Department has allowed him to continue to pass along his knowledge to the new trainees. “It’s a full-circle moment and I enjoy seeing my students grow,” Adam says.

Adam’s position as captain has exposed him to new parts of working in the department. Adam is currently assigned to the training division Adam is one of two captains that are teaching the new recruits how to be firefighters. Unlike his online class, Adam’s time as captain has kept him from being able to social distance and quarantine. Even though the pandemic continues, firefighters need to help their community

Top: Torrance fire recruits go through the required testing while climbing the fire engine ladder on Wednesday, March 31. Engine ladders are essential to reach high areas and roofs in a fire. Adam Brown observes and assesses their performance. Bottom: New recruits must set up their gear in an orderly fashion and prepare for any tactical or physical training that they may practice that day. They must be disciplined in training in order to meet the expectations of their captains and fire station.

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even under life-threatening circumstances.

“At the beginning of the pandemic I had the same worries everyone else had, no one knew what it really was,” Adam says. “On calls at the time all we were required to do is use protective eyewear and gloves.” As more came out to the public, Adam and his co-workers had to approach each call more cautiously and take new safety measures. Now protocols have changed. One member is to do a temperature check and ask if they are having any symptoms.

Just like the many people around the world dealing with the tragedies that COVID-19 has caused, Adam and his fire station had a close member affected by the virus. “We had several people who were affected. We have an engineer named Ricky Cradle that will never be able to come back to work,” Adam says.

Ricky now suffers from severe side effects caused by COVID-19, which left the engineer handicapped. Even though his fire station has personality witnessed the many outcomes of COVID-19, it can not stop the need for their service. Although the circumstances of working during the pandemic are a sacrifice, Adam would never change his job for the world. Just like Adam, Chief Jeff Baumunk has a love for the college and has dedicated his life to the firefighting industry. Jeff’s the public safety director of the Fire Academy at El Camino and is the admin to Adam’s fire detection and suppression systems class.

Jeff’s goal at El Camino’s Fire Academy is to rebrand the program and work with countless organizations to improve the training students will receive. Jeff believes El Camino is the best program that offers not only firefighting, but other emergency responder classes such as EMT prep. “What makes us stand out more than anything is that we have been doing it a long time at El Camino,” Jeff says. He also credits Adam's teaching skills to his own experiences. “One thing that’s great about having Adam as an instructor is that he is employed by the Torrance 96 Warrior Life

Fire Department,” Jeff says. “He brings experience and knowledge that he can pass on to our students.” Jeff is proud of the previous and current success that the program at El Camino continues to provide. Jeff wants academy students to exceed standards in order to be hired straight out of the program.

Jeff is also proud of the diversity that the program at El Camino has. Over 50% of El Camino fire students are minorities. The El Camino Fire Academy is extremely competitive due to the fact only 33 students are selected to participate. A new facility is soon to be built and with this, Jeff hopes to expand to availability for entry into the program. Jeff’s goal is to make sure the program represents the diverse community El Camino is in. Jeff’s happy the academy's students come from all backgrounds and ethnicities. “There can never be enough women in this industry,” Jeff says. “I have three women in the academy this Spring which is the most we have ever had.”

Jeff is networking to increase the interest in women joining the academy. He also hopes to make a partnership with the organization Women In the Fire Service in the next year or so, offering workshops and camps for women to network and get a better understanding of firefighting and what El Camino’s academy has to offer. Both Jeff and Adam believe firefighting is not for everyone. It takes a well versatile and dedicated person to succeed in the industry.

As first responders and front line workers, people in this field are selflessly willing to sacrifice for their communities.

Adam believes a strong worth ethic and a positive mindset are ideal for anyone interested in becoming a firefighter. Some of the few pieces of advice he’s taken himself have got him to where he is today.

“Twenty years later I’m working for the same fire department that inspired me to start,” Adam says.

TOP 5 SPOTS FOR THE BEST TAMALES Story and photos by Molly Cochran


here are a multitude of Latin and Mexican-inspired restaurants that serve tamales near El Camino College, but Warrior Life has narrowed it down to the top five tamales within 5 miles of the college.

These tamales were rated on the grounds of taste, texture and selection. Most of these restaurants are small and a few even make and sell their own masa. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be sure to receive a quality tamale.

1. Pupusatown Pupusatown is located right across the street from El Camino College. Run by ECC alumna, Sandy Lucero, Pupusatown sells authentic Mexican and salvadoran cuisine, including chicken and corn tamales. Both were served hot and wrapped in husks and plastic with a side of tamale sauce. Address: 16300 Crenshaw Blvd

Tamale Man, located on west Carson street, serves a large variety of tamales and super tamale dishes. On May 10 at 3 p.m., the restaurant sits near the corner of Carson and Western streets.

2. The Burnt Tortilla

4. Zacatecas

The Burnt Tortilla is located on Redondo Beach Boulevard, and also functions as a sports bar. They offer beef, pork and chicken tamales. If desired, each tamale is taken out of its corn husk shell and covered in a red mole sauce and cheese. Each one was filling and satisfying, they are not shy with including a lot of meat inside each tamale.

Zacatecas is located on south Inglewood Avenue, and serves each meal with a small bag of chips and a cup of salsa. Their tamales are not made in house, but instead ordered from Diana’s Mexican Food, the same place they order their tortillas from. They only sell pork tamales, but the tamale comes served with red salsa and melted cheese. There isn’t much filling, and the masa is a bit dry, giving the shell a more grainy and drier texture.

Address: 1427 W. Redondo Beach Blvd

3. The Tamale Man The Tamale Man is located on west Carson Street. Specializing in tamales, they offer a wide range of savory meat filling options. They also offer plates loaded with tamales, avocado, rice and beans. All tamales are made in-house, and the masa is homemade as well and can be purchased. Address: 1654 West Carson St

Address: 13737 Inglewood Ave

5. La Esperanza La Esperanza serves chicken, pork, jalapeno and cheese and sweet corn tamales. With baked goods lining the walls, La Esperanza is known for their bakery but they deliver a great tamale as well. With homemade masa, the tamales are made in-house fresh every morning. Address: 22832 S. Western Ave

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Illustrated by Lauren Hadnot n early 2017, I finally had something to be excited about. I was finally going to start college.

After graduating from Animo South Los Angeles Charter High School in 2016, I was supposed to enroll at the University of California, Riverside. My dream school.

Unfortunately, those plans fell through. I was denied financial aid and I had no other way of paying for my education. As an 18-year-old, I felt it was too soon to take up a considerable amount of debt with student loans.

When I found out I wouldn’t be enrolling, it was already late in the summer, and I’d be lucky to find any community college classes that could squeeze me in, let alone come up with an education plan 98 Warrior Life

for myself.

It felt like a big blow to the gut when I realized I had no backup plan. I’d stepped up to the plate and struck out.

UC Riverside was my only option. And for the fall 2016 semester, I had no further options. So, I sat out the semester. No doubt, I was hurt by my shortcomings. My turmoil, my demons — anxiety and depression — were resurging. At that point, I had suffered from mental disorders since I was 14.

For a vast chunk of the year, I was distraught. My dreams would not be coming true. As an incoming first-generation Latino college student from South Central Los Angeles, I felt I had become nothing more than a negative statistic for my community

despite Latinx enrollment increasing throughout the decade.

But through my turmoil, there was one thing that kept me going: Dodger's baseball. In October 2016, I attended my first MLB postseason game at Dodger Stadium. That night ignited what would become a real passion for me. I was hooked.

That following January, I enrolled at Cerritos College. It wasn’t my first choice, but I had a free ride there every day and looked forward to being back inside a classroom and listening to lectures. I enrolled in 16 units thinking I could handle it. Through 2017, I wasn’t focusing on the Dodgers very much. How could I? I was on the verge of flunking out of Cerritos College in the spring.

I couldn’t bring myself to focus at a school where I felt like a flop. I needed to be somewhere closer to home to gain a sense of familiarity. Eventually, I decided to enroll at El Camino College for the fall semester. This time, I was only taking a single class. I almost flunked out again. I had never felt so disappointed at myself; I had given up on just about everything at that point, even life itself. My failures led me to so much despair that I couldn’t even rejoice in a legendary moment at Dodger Stadium.

This time, the Dodgers were in the midst of one of their greatest seasons ever. They had put the Cubs away in Game 1 the night before and were looking to do it again that hot Sunday evening. But I couldn’t enjoy the game.

Then came the bottom of the ninth inning. The game was even, 1-1. My favorite player, Justin Turner, came up to the plate. And on just the second pitch of the at-bat, he ended it.

As everyone around me celebrated, waving their arms in the air, yelling at the top of their lungs, I suddenly froze. I can only remember shedding a couple of tears. I was so mentally worn — I could not process what I had just experienced.

I didn’t know it then, but at the time, I was disso-


According to Verywell, a website dedicated to providing health information from professionals, “dissociation related to anxiety may occur during a stressful, anxiety-inducing event or during or after a period of intense worry.”

I always felt that I suffered from a mental disorder, and I thought it could be something I could overcome alone and in silence because I come from a traditional, old-school Mexican family.

I would always catch some flack from family when I’d want to speak to them about my feelings. Whether it revolved around me being bullied for my weight or wanting to express my insecurities, I’d always get the same response. “Be a man,” my family said.

After countless talks like this, I continued to bottle up my emotions without knowing that pent up frustration and worry would be so dire for my health. But much like at the stadium, I was not alone.

It took a legendary moment, one I couldn’t mentally grasp, to fully comprehend what I was going through. I wasn’t who I wanted to be. And thankfully, that night helped me realize that. I started to push back against my anxiety. Not in a repressive way. I wanted to embrace what I’d been through. I wanted to enjoy and remember what it’s like to live in a moment. I’ve been a true diehard fan of the Dodgers and Justin Turner since that night. I’ve watched more baseball than anything else in the past few years and have enjoyed doing so.

In every win, loss, home run, strikeout, rain-out and doubleheader, there is a moment. And, while I wish I could remember them all, it’s nice to know that I can enjoy them for a change. By no means am I doing perfect now. There are always new things to process and experience. And that is fine. To make a mistake or fail is in our nature. To be me is perfectly fine. At 22, I’m still growing. I’m still learning. And that is fine.

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“It’s not about the clicks, it’s about the community.” - Juan Miranda