Culture Counts Spring-Summer 2020

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CULTURE COUNTS Spring-Summer 2020



Culture Counts Reading Series at SJSU


6 7 8 9

Greetings! Acknowledgements CCRS Call to Creative Activity Letter to Mi Gente: 5 de Mayo Celebration Is Not a Crime

Alberto Camacho

10 What a Time WE are living in now

Alexander Nguyen

12 En tiempos de encierro Anselma Martinez 14 Our Gente

Arturo Chavez


15 Daughter of the Drum

16 Essential Workers

Bryan Jesus Peraza

17 Confinement comes with memories:

Carolina Rivera Escamilla

Carolina Rivera Escamilla

18 Pandemic’s Thoughts

19 Semilla

Mario Aguilar

20 Letter to My Baby Brother Zachy

Cristian Hernandez

22 Affirmations Para Ti

Daisy García Chaidez

Daisy García Chaidez

Diana Zamudio-Garcia

24 Desigualdad viral

26 The Wait of Ms. Figueroa Dr. Jonathan D. Gomez

37 Katrina to Corona Lisa “ Tiny” Gray-Garcia 38 What’s Wrong! Leroy F. Moore, Jr

39 quarantine poem #5

23 Free, Free, Free

36 Amor migrante

Laura Yei Cuauhtli

Nazelah Jamison

27 migrantes 40 #CancelTheRents caravan Maythé Ruffino Patricio Mojica 28 War in Times of COVID-19 41 Policing in Watsonville, Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo California during COVID19 Reyna Cervantes 29 The View from Debtor’s Prison Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo 42 Love in the Time of COVID Susana Praver-Pérez 30 Gente de maíz Francisco Mendoza 43 Stuck in the Time of COVID Susana Praver-Pérez 32 Inoculate GusTavo Adolfo Guerra Vásquez 44 Untitled CCRS Member 33 A Poem Ilseh Busarelo 45 Contributors’ Bios 34 Grotesco 49 Hope Iván Alexandro Santos Sánchez Crystal Perez 35 La Jaula de oro

Dulce Lopez



he Culture Counts Reading Series (CCRS) was founded in Fall 2018. It is a learning space at San José State University that centers reading, writing, and dialogue. It hinges on the belief that culture counts as a vibrant social force that encourages new ways of knowing and new ways of being in the world that are rooted in peace and mutual respect. Our gatherings are based in collaborative study via a testimonial “story circle” pedagogy, inspired by Students at the Center in New Orleans and the Transformative Pedagogy Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. This pedagogy encourages each participant to utilize the work we read as a launching ground to write and talk about their own life experiences, especially about urban displacement, policing, migration, class exploitation, and how they (we) make sense of democratic education as a vehicle to envision and enact social change. Most participants of CCRS are first generation university students. Other participants include SJSU alumni and community members who come from the neighborhoods that surround the university campus. Overall, they consist of people who are the eyewitnesses to racialized and gendered violence, and whose desires for social justice encourage all of us to genuinely engage a praxis of learning that is race-conscious, community-based, and equity-oriented.

The Spring-Summer 2020 issue of Culture Counts: Essays, Poetry, Visual Art was born out of the encouragement we received from Francisco Mendoza, photographer and undergraduate student member of CCRS, to document the world around us in the midst of a global pandemic. Since then, our lives have been informed and inspired by an international uprising for Black lives that stemmed from the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, but not unrelated to unbearable forms of injustice that stem from racialized hierarchy and exploitation that have existed at different geographic scales for so long. Responding to the closure of campus, our bi-weekly meetings moved from in-person to online. Although online platforms are not ideal for engaging story circle pedagogy, we choose to utilize them to stay engaged and to look out for one another. One positive outcome of these platforms has been our ability to reconnect with CCRS members who had graduated in 2019 and with other members who had moved away from San José as a result of our campus closure. Another constructive outcome has been our invitation to participate in different online poetic and political education spaces with people from across California. While nothing can substitute the generative and supportive space of our face to face meetings, we are able to make online platforms work for us as a digital venue to continue to do our work as CCRS and to convene with freedom seekers whose virtual assemblies nourish our own capacity to work towards peace and justice. While we have been gathering on a bi-weekly basis for two years, our work has been greatly informed by the virtual tactics we employ to stay connected and the online forms of collective learning that we have forged in our current COVID-19 and uprising for Black lives conjuncture. It is our hope that this online and print publication provides our readers with a document filled with different examples of how in spite of the hurts we experience from systems of oppression, we are developing and deploying horizontal forms of love, study, and community action. The essays, poems, and visual art that make up this issue of the include the work of CCRS members, people whose work inspires us, as well as writers from various online political education and poetic spaces that we have been invited to engage. If you would like to learn more about CCRS at SJSU, please reach out to us! We are always looking for people who are looking for us! Jonathan D. Gomez, Ph.D. Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Advisor Chicana/o Studies San José State University




he Culture Counts Reading Series at SJSU has been an exercise in collective learning and cultural expression. The poems, stories, visual art, and photography that make up this magazine emerged from our bi-weekly conversations and from the community events that we have organized and/or that we have been invited to take part in. In the midst of living in a society that is structured in dominance, the spaces we have created on campus and those that we have been invited to engage in the community have brought us into dialogue with people who demonstrate to us that there are other ways of being that are rooted in mutual respect and dignity. In this acknowledgments section, we wish to thank some of the people who have inspired and supported our work by name, with an understanding that our practice is possible only when people come together in respect for the different contributions that folx make to the circle. From our vantage point, we see that we are able to do the work we do at SJSU because of people who were here before us, and whose actions ensured that the doors of formal educational opportunity were open to us when we arrived. We thank Dr. Magdalena Barrera, Interim Vice Provost of Faculty Success, Dr. Marcos Pizarro, Associate Dean of Education, and Erlinda Yañez, Department Coordinator of Chicana/o Studies at SJSU. Together, they have made us feel very welcome in the Department of Chicana/o Studies at SJSU. Their support has made it possible for us to materialize events, obtain books for our group, and to have access to a regular place to convene. Dr. Estevan Azcona, Assistant Professor of Chicana/o Studies, offered their valuable time and insight to collaborate with us on a campus event. Dr. Rebeca Burciaga, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership & Chicana/o Studies, kindly provided us with copies of her beloved father’s book, Undocumented Love Amor Indocumentado: A Personal Anthology of Poetry by José Antonio Burciaga. Dr. Walt Jacobs, Dean of Social Sciences has provided us with fundamental support to invite guests to our circle, and has made time to sit, listen and learn with us. Dean Jacobs together with Delmy Figueroa, Vanetia Johnston, and Katrina Tran always go above and beyond to make sure we have what we need when we convene in the Deans Conference Room for our gatherings. Additionally, funding support from the SJSU Ethnic Studies Collaborative and the SJSU College of Social Sciences permitted us to hold workshops and symposiums for our members and the greater San José community. Lilly Pinedo Gangai, Director of the Chicanx/ Latinx Student Success Center (the Centro) at SJSU inspires us with their far reaching and dynamic support. Lilly has worked hard to ensure that CCRS students can materialize their plans for campus-community events while simultaneously reaching their academic goals. In addition, the Centro Program Coordinator Elisa Aquino continues to invite the CCRS to be a part of the Centro’s growing student-centered events and activities. At the MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center at SJSU, Director Chris Yang and Program Coordinator Sharon Singh offer us an open invitation to ground in their space. Their enthusiasm to support our gatherings and their encouragement for us to be a part of MOSAIC events that center the cultural expression of CCRS members means so much to us. We want to thank Dr. Paul Ortiz, Professor of History at the University of Florida, Jerome Morgan and Daniel Rideau of Free-Dem Foundations in New Orleans, Cecilia Chavez of the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project in San José, Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara, Lorenz Dumuk, and Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo who have each facilitated workshops or delivered lectures for us at SJSU. Kalamu ya Salaam, Dr. George Lipsitz, and Dr. Diane Fujino offer us models of how to practice education for liberation that we continue to learn so much from. Robinsonian Series members, Elizabeth Robinson, Jorge Ramirez, and Ismael F. Illescas, as well as Dr. Michael Castaneda have been a constant source of cariño and critique in the development of CCRS. We thank every poet, artist, and photographer whose work makes this magazine what it is. It would not be possible without your gifts! A special ¡Gracias! to Francisco Mendoza for encouraging us to do the work, to Nanzi Muro who invested countless hours, a lot of heart, and a marvelous artistic vision in designing and formatting the magazine, and to Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo for offering their insight and careful feedback to each of our poets. Lastly, Ana Maria Gallegos offered their time, attention, and knowledge that helped to set the very foundation of the CCRS at SJSU. No thank you is great enough.


CCRS Call to Creative Activity:


n this moment, we believe it is important to speak up for what we believe in, in the name of social justice and on the side of the most vulnerable among us. When thinking about this action, we might be able to gather heart from what Toni Morrison writes here: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” Our vehicles to go to “work” might be different- poetry, photography, visual art, short story, or an essay- but they share an effort to speak, write, illustrate, and do language in the service of bringing attention to things that are happening now that you/we believe should be given light. Now, this could be how people in your community are organizing to make sure that you have “beans and rice”, as was shared by our CCRS member, or it can be the things you and your family are doing to take care of one another. It may also be the things you see from your vantage point as a worker, student, or both and more. It can even be the things you feel from the world around you, the policies that are being drawn up to respond to this moment, and/or what communities on the ground are doing to make sure people know what is available to them and what are their rights. The possibilities are endless. The important thing, however, is that we answer the call to creative activity as a way to speak up and contribute our voices to this moment.




n May 10th, a “concerned” resident of San José sent a Letter to the Editor of the Mercury News. In the letter, they claim that the 5 de Mayo celebration was a gathering of troublemakers. They also claim that it “throw[s] cold water on others’ sacrifices.” The sacrifices they are referring to revolve around the “social distancing” measure that was implemented county-wide by local and state officials. I find these complaints humorous for a number of reasons. The practice of Raza coming together as a way to celebrate 5 de Mayo has existed in San José for generations, and it has been criminalized just as long. From the criminalization of cruising to the demonization of other ethnic events, anything that is not white “ain’t right” in San José. In regards to the criminalization of the event under question, the sight of Brown folx taking over the streets seems to send fear to the heart of Anglo communities, especially when it comes to celebrating something that represents our tierra, México. I can’t help but laugh at this anonymous writer hating on mi gente for gathering together on King and Story, as if our gente who are carrying this country’s economy aren’t working in dangerous low-paying jobs that expose them to the COVID-19 virus on a daily basis. ¡Chale, estas calles son nuestras! If we’re good enough to go out and clean medical and university buildings, cook and serve food, or build homes, then we’re good enough to be out in our comunidad, especially to celebrate our Raza. What I find funny is that some people actually think that we’ve had a chance to shelter-in-place. This letter to the editor is one of the many shallow tactics used to put forward a “American (Anglo)” agenda that looks down on our community. It does not claim to solve the problems that we face. Instead, it points a finger at a group that’s been marginalized and targeted as criminals since before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which has only intensified since the election of Trump. In his presidency, I have seen him side with white supremacists, enact laws that lock up children at the border, and make a joke of the current pandemic. Maybe the writer should bring attention to the fact that mi comunidad, the East Side of San José, has been the hardest hit by COVID-19, which has affected both the mental and physical health of many people, as well as our fragile socio-economic standing. But as I mentioned, solving problems isn’t on their radar. This became clear when they referred to Raza as “Violators,” which is just another name they’ve given us locally and nationally. At the same time, I have a feeling that the author of this letter is part of the same set of people protesting the shelter-in-place as an injury to their rights. Despite the hate we’ve received, what I hope we can understand is that Raza coming together to celebrate 5 de Mayo in this pandemic is an attempt to create a space of harmony, unidad, y Resistencia in a time when those in charge hardly ever take my community’s needs into consideration. En estos tiempos de inseguridad, it is critical that as we come together as Raza, we empower each other, watch out for each other, as bien dice el dicho que el “pueblo unido jamas sera vencido.” by Alberto Camacho


What a time WE are living in now. I cannot believe it came to this.

My friends are losing jobs and filing for unemployment.

I am tired of stressing about what is happening in this world. We need some damn enjoyment.


You see people killing each other for toilet paper in the streets.

While businessmen and government officials are standing safe in their suites. You see people getting hundreds of “likes” for recordings acts of hoarding, An act not worth rewarding.

You see a shortage of items for those in need.

People who have others they must care for and feed.

You see nurses dying for working in New York hospitals,

Giving care while dressed in trash bags for protective gear. I am surprised this doesn’t raise a red flag.

I see people who do not care about the community,

Not even doing their part to maintain physical distancing. But even in the face of this, we got to keep listening. If we don’t

We will miss our roles,

And the government will continue to be in control. Defining our goals

Wrecking our souls. Remember.

It is physical distance, not social distance. So remember, it is okay to greet each other and to support one another. Do it for your mental health.

Because caring for one another is the foundation of your wealth.



Our government is not taking the lead.

I hope we can agree, they do not know how to succeed at giving us what we truly need. Trump said the coronavirus is the new Democratic hoax.


Due to his inaction, he ruined the lives of so many thousands of folks.

He said, “You have 15 people, and the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero.”

Now we got 120,000+ people who are testing positive.

We are now #1 now in the world with infection.


by Alexander Nguyen San Jose, California March 2020

After this is over, I do not want to be hearing about how workers

currently holding us up are no longer essential.

It is my wish that the world continues to see their potential.

In their protests for a better way and a living wage, they are influential.

Enough is enough.

Stop with all the bluffs.

Put away your handcuffs.

And move out the way, so we can get our stuff.

It’s time to fight.

Pursue our dreams.

We got what it takes to succeed.

Look up to the skies for support from our ancestors and fallen allies. Open your ears to listen to the people who are calling our names. Sure, we have come far

But we still can gain direction from the North Star. When it gets rough, remember: No government implemented genocide has stopped us. No matter how they militarize, medicalize, criminalize, stigmatize, and

Americanize us

We are going to survive, revolutionize, and thrive. What a time WE are living in now.


I wrote this poem based on a compilation of testimonios, trustrations, and emotions of my community, in East Salinas, CA. This COVID- 19 lockdown experience is nothing new for some of us, especially for those who live sin papeles.

En Tiempos de Encierro by Anselma Martinez

Lockdown, shelter-in-place, COVID-19, a pandemic, has the whole world living encerrados en sus cuatro paredes Living con miedo, living solitas Freakin’ out cause everyone’s lives have ground to a stop De un dia pa’ otro No school, No jobs, not allowed to even visit their relatives who live just a couple miles away or thousands. Borders are closed, La frontera cerrada! No freedom! Yet, there are others, Who are still out there working con miedo Miedo que sean atrapados, y víctimas del virus Temen que el virus les arranque sus vidas y la de sus seres queridos Afraid that the virus will stop them from continuing their lives as “normal” Afraid that their choices will put their families in danger Those who are out there, No tienen otra salida más que trabajar to sustain everyone else Dependemos de ellos Veo un mundo en desesperación No pueden salir Knowing their lives are at risk Chased by the virus that doesn’t stop at la frontera El mundo vive con miedo Pero I’m used to this, Vivir con miedo Us, los indocumentados, We have always lived in a pandemic La migra is our virus


It chases us, It infects us, It kills our esperanzas de una vida mejor

Us, los indocumentados, We are living two viruses and I don’t know which one will get my family first, La migra or COVID-19?!

Nosotros siempre vivimos con miedo, Uncertain if today will be our last day in this country,

Us, los indocumentados We live encerrados, sin paredes We live our lives “on pause” Our lives, too often frozen Frozen by el virus, la migra

Uncertain of when are we going to shift from being los indocumentados y pasar a ser los deportados Uncertain if we will ever live our lives freely y sentirnos en casa We go out to work, con miedo Miedo de ser atrapados por la migra Y que nos arrebaten a nuestros hijos/as A nuestros padres, Que arranquen de raíz nuestras esperanzas de “una vida mejor” Some of us are out there working during this pandemic Because we have to Because this country, descaradamente, Now calls us “essential workers” Now they see us! Now they need us to feed those who are working from their couches, Bien agusto y protegidos

Our loved ones are passing away, thousands of miles away, in our homelands But we are frozen en el Norte, Not allowed to cross the border Stopped from visiting our loved ones Not allowed to see how loved ones’ lives have continued without us Though mis abuelitos have died, I still feel like they are waiting for me to return from el Norte, Just as I left them before la migra, my virus, Started to chase me. I pray for the day, When my life will become unfrozen, When I can push the “play” button, And everything and everyone will continue, Just like when and where I left it/them

Mi mama is out there, picking strawberries One day, I hope to find a cure for la migra. Putting her life at risk for a country that doesn’t welcome her, Then, on that day, I pray I will be welcome in America. For a country, that doesn’t provide her with essentials that might protect her from this virus For a country, that doesn’t provide her with medical insurance that might treat her if she contracted this virus For a country that even during this crisis, nos siguen deportando Because at the end of the day, We are just the others, los otros Our lives, our health, our freedom Doesn’t matter to this country


OUR GENTE BY ARTURO CHAVEZ For many centuries a certain plan has been proposed to quell our creation and that our gente be disposed. All of a sudden, we are deemed as ‘essential’ Why do you now care to validate our potential? To configure the present we must look back into the past, we weren’t meant to last, how could freedom come so fast? We’ve learned to cope, to not believe in what we’re told, in this pandemic to us there’s always something to be sold. Forced to wear a mask, forced to sanitize, forced to conceal, What can you tell us about safety when we’re forced to trade a meal? We accept the label of ‘essential’ to afford food for our tables, to pay our rent which else would turn into a debt. Forgotten are the children that will be forced to go to school who do not mingle with the kin of those who make up the rules. Forgotten are the elders left abandoned in their homes, left to survive on their own, left with precious knowledge in their domes.

Forgotten are the underprivileged, those pushed to scavenge and to pillage, aided not by the state but instead by the village. Forgotten are those that are forced to risk their life for a better system while inaccessible testing is surely leaving them as victims. Unnecessary seemed the wisdom that our gente carry, for a profit margin old prejudices are falsely buried.

Labels are guests, the truth is costly to test

essential is the nature of our own gente to protect.


By Avotcja

We were born to Drum Somos Hijas ritmicas We were conceived in Rhythm Whether we knew it or not or wanted it or not It was & has always been About upholding La Clave en el alma The beauty and sanctity of the Rhythm that created us The Rhythm that is us Somos el latído de la naturaleza The Rhythm Of our Mother’s labor pains announced our coming And it’s always the Rhythm of our breathing That lets the world know we’re alive ¡Miranos! Bellas fuerzas místicas pero picosas Feel it! We walk and sing, pray, dance & cry in it Every single word that flows out of our mouths Is a rhythmic declaration of our presence Somos la esencia de La Bomba And even our sacred Mother Nature Dances rhythmically through the Seasons Every single year Keeping the Rhythm of our lives in balance Our universe is an inescapable symphony Ritmos sagrados Held together by vibration By the sound of the sum of us The always right on time Magical, rhythmical timelessness of us Somos la fiebre apasionada de la Rumba The heart of Bebop and Cubop Was born in us Is Creation’s gift to us Somos el corazón del Tambor Born in the womb of creativity An undeniable Rhythm personified Wake up world! ¡Miranos! Listen! We are your children And we were born to Drum!!!


ESSENTIAL WORKERS by Bryan Jesus Peraza


ospitals and mortuaries are overflowing. Daily, our communities are undergoing

A right of passage at an accelerated rate. Death does not discriminate.

Essential functions only,

Social distance and work remotely.

The curve must be flattened, let’s shelter at home. Unlikely. We and repair them to keep our own.

Essential workers deserve stable housing, medical care,

And peace of mind, of their worth we became aware

As swiftly as the virus spread.

That’s unnecessary, just thank them instead.

The bills keep on coming and owners want to profit,

So work must commence - we can’t stop it.

Clearly in sight, still out of mind;

Essential workers are left behind.

If you demonstrate symptoms, get tested.

Many are ill, hospital beds contested.

No insurance? Free treatment won’t be provided.

Even in a time of crises by class we’re divided.

Death does not discriminate.


Why are people of color dying at a higher rate?

The banks and landlords have been bailed out.

Unlike death, our systems are biased, no doubt.

C Confinement comes with memories:

by Carolina Rivera Escamilla

onfinement comes with memories: In the bedroom, I seclude myself for hours. A white blanket mummifies my body. My eyes follow plaster traces on the creamy ceiling. I wish for wings to go see my son, my father, all my family, fragmented by civil war, postwar, by gangs taking over El Salvador, and now this. Confinement does not faze me. I’ve gone through curfews, exile, believe me, curfews and exile prepare for confinement. What scares me is this arrogant despot protecting money over lives, (mis)leading this country like so many others, killing people for profits. Memories come like pulses of light, fireflies in these days of lockdown. I see mother gathering children to save from a military hand. I see father stealing a piece of sky as roof to hide children who are emigrating‌ running from the bullets. Caged children in detention centers pop in. Thoughts buzz the air in this anxious sleeping space. The weight of a leaf falls, butterflies circulate near wind chimes, a cloud passes by. Hummingbirds are stationed on a wire. I hear the faucet running water or is it the garden hose? Francis is washing aging agile hands for the tenth time in an hour. Hands flutter under water, will they grow waterfalls, instead of dissolving the global enemy under his nails. Confinement comes with memories: 17

Pandemic’s Thoughts by Carolina Rivera Escamilla


he absolute power of one man that uses the griefs of others for his own victory. The echo of a bird’s song reminding me that the earth is still happy without us .

Confinement reminds me that freedom is as fragile as a confined smile. The lack of solidarity…craziness of buyers in the stores. …within walls how many times have you counted your fingers? And the ambulatory vendors and their children? And the Immigrants children in the detention centers? Does empathy grow each time the men with guns wash their hands? A life in your hands, but will we ever shake them again? Insomnia, I count the hours, I evade you, you evade me… Are we going to be “normal” again? The families in small replicated spaces With any many fat refrigerators. COVID-19 grows in a bouquet of Fears: ignorance, racism, despots!




Letter to My Baby Brother Zachy

by Cristian Hernandez


ou have definitely raised the bar for me to become the best brother, best friend, and best role model that I can be for you in life. My main concern for you is not knowing what awaits us in the future. I hope that it’s a much better place than it is right now. There’s so much happening right now that I can’t wrap my mind around it. There is an endless list of things impacting those that we love. Hay mucha gente desamparada. Today in history, we are fighting against the Coronavirus pandemic that has killed most of our people in the community because of lack of resources and denied services from the government. Then, suddenly, turning and calling our people essential workers for maintaining the health and well-being of others while they themselves are exposed to this virus. These are individuals that have long served this country receiving the very minimum as they struggle day to day even before this pandemic, but are now looked at as important. At this time, it’s not an option but a necessity to survive and support the family in the midst of this pandemic.

To add to this nasty environment, people in San José are always in a hurry. They don’t have time for each other, or to listen to what people have to say. Some of this comes from them always having to work in order to pay their bills. Other reasons for this include that many people only care about money and prestige, but not about the wellbeing of people. The more I learn from others and see what they are doing, the more I know that this selfish way is not the only way, and it’s this that I want to share with you: There are people in this world who do make time for others and care for their needs. These people see injustice and do something about it, which motivates me to get involved and contribute to the struggle for justice. I’m not sure how that might look when you get older, but taking action matters, no matter how “small” it may look. I hope that when I tell you stories about how you were born in a time of pandemic, it includes the goodness of people that got us through. One thing I will be sure to share with you is how the support of your loved ones made sure you survived this emergency. For instance, our family endured and prevailed many months of separation in our journey to the US. Our unbreakable love for each other has kept us alive even in the long distance. Although the world you were born into is tough, I am optimistic that our family’s love for you will make sure there are paths of opportunity for you. Talking with our mother, I told her how I wish for you a world where you are free to be yourself, free to follow your dreams, and free to live an unapologetically passionate life without barriers or borders holding you back. This means that we must always keep our eyes open for opportunities to take action against undue hate, prejudice, and the destruction of our communities because to be free in this society that we live in never comes without a push. Our mother always says to me that you will have a better support system and a big brother to protect you. She says that no matter what happens, you will be in good hands and will have a great brother as a mentor in your life. Zachy, you are only an infant, but you have taught me so much. You have changed the way that I understand love, the way that I see life, and most importantly, you have taught me lessons of forgiveness. Standing in the bright light that emanates from you, I came to forgive people who have hurt me, and I came to also forgive myself for things that I have done and for not doing things that I believe I should have done. Reflecting on the role I want to have in your life, I came to understand that we all have an opportunity to move in different directions, to change our actions for the better. It’s a challenge and a blessing to have you in my life. Don’t forget, I was there when mamá gave birth to you y voy a estar a tu lado para siempre. Cuando crezcas estaré a tu lado. Cuando estés en problemas, estaré allí. Cuando quieras ayuda, estaré contigo. Cuando necesites hablar, llorar, desahogarte, definitivamente voy a estar a tu lado. Love Always, Your big brother Cristian. 21

P s a n r o a i t Ti a rm

a rc

A ff i


ía C h ai d e z


ai s

Yo soy Pachamama Yo soy fuerte, soy cariño, soy el llanto de mis antepasadxs. Soy my ancestors’ wildest dreams.


I am beautiful I am strong b I am loved I am held I am carried I am faith I am kindness I am forgiveness I am freedom I am radical acceptance I am the passion to live Even when I don’t want to get up I am the first deep breath after a tight chest in the middle of an anxiety spell I am the fire nobody can water down I am the relief that comes after feeling the pain I am the clarity that exists after uncertainty I am the sunrise after hours of darkness I am the wave that returns after it pulls away And comes back stronger than the last I am resilient I am the sun, the moon, the trees, the Quetzal, the Huitzil, the Xochitl

by Daisy García Chaidez “We must destroy in order to rebuild. Wake up you might as well.” -Lauryn Hill


ushing to panic Instead of rushing to live For many that meant hogging the toilet paper And pretending that living a life of abundance was only possible for those who could afford it. So I bought into it Rushed to get a job Rushing to overwork myself To overwork my body Hoping this overworked body would finally feel worthy of this life Working for a family that is owed but who has never been paid In this country that capitalizes off of our ancestors’ pain But what if we stopped going to work? What if sick hours and vacation time were a form of mutual aid As a thank you for showing up When I had to prioritize myself Instead of requiring us to live For a greedy, dehumanizing business?


A job that allows customers with MAGA hats in, Makes you question your lens of safety and sense of self A job that distorts your reality constantly Consistently Abusing you in ways you never knew existed It’s time to break free We cannot continue to sell ourselves To get paid. I invite you to feel your strength Instead of eating, starve Instead of sleeping, wake Instead of dreaming break free And then let the veil fall off


By Diana Zamudio-Garcia


COVID-19 A virus that has spread worldwide. Demuestra exactamente eso. Todos somos humanos unidos por la naturaleza. International fear. Global distress. Coronavirus, COVID-19, whatever it’s called in your country. Same virus, but very different approaches. Muy distintas reacciones sólo entre Norteamérica y Suramérica. Both nations encountering social and emotional trauma that prevents Familias from working, Gente from socializing, Estudiantes from learning. But ohh the way of living in the United States of America... In Trump’s presidential era, racial scripts change sin algún alto. During this crisis, the targets are the Chinese The virus started in China. That is why it is the Chinese Virus* Political sentiments shift. “Illegal aliens” are now “essential workers” El imigrante keeps a country “that’s not theirs” running Disposable workers. Fieldworkers. Emergency response members. Maestros. All the underpaid are the ones paying essential labor to “Make America Great” Somehow we are still expected to be productive. Schools moving classes online. Work from home is normalized. The constant need for production is overwhelming. “It is times like these when I wish we were selfish. I wish we would step out the way and let it all fall apart.” --Yosimar Reyes El inmigrante está impuesto a vivir en la oscuridad.. A vivir encerrado por el miedo a la deportación. Sus rutinas siempre han sido solo salir a trabajar y a casa. This “Stay Home” norm no es algo nuevo. Pero now that everything is “paused” for the privileged American, it all feels insane It’s scary how the world and their dynamic of living just changed. The hyperindivudualistic mind hyperventilates. Para ellos se trata de sobrevivir a costa de quien sea. Y por eso: Toilet paper shortages at stores. Sin embargo, an excess of Clorox and Jabón Zote in the “cleaning products” and “sanitizers” asiles. De que les sirve limpiarse el culo si no se lavan las manos literalmente. So used to just wiping off shit, figuratively cleaning their hands, and expecting for that to be enough to solve the issues.


But thinking outside the box, is no longer enough because we are always thinking in relation to the box “Y aunque la jaula (la caja) sea de oro, no deja de ser prisión.”- -”La Jaula de oro” Los Tigres del Norte As a capitalist, white supremist, hyperindividualistic society, we are incapable of imagining a way to inclusively survive All the conditioning: survival of fittest, cut-throat competition, meritocracy mythology, and melting pot ideologies, Competition is what allows people to move forward* It is now all illogical. The way the system works is not logical, working in community is the logical* But why does it take a crisis to provide human rights? As a society, we are more than capable of providing food drives, universal internet, universal healthcare, $1,200 paycheck. “But people in power created problems that they don’t know how to fix,” y el capitalista no quiere compartir. En cambio, en Suramérica y en específico, en los Estados Unidos Mexicanos La raza participa en communal activity. Mutual aid siempre ha sido la costumbre. Las costumbres de nuestros ancestros. Las prácticas indígenas. There is no hint of the assumption that everyone can afford to “stay home” Entienden que la gente vive day by day. They analyze the circumstances and work with that. They are acting from where they are at to provide what is needed.* Everyone is invested in helping others through horizontal praxis is not through hierarchical statuses, when the top gains power or profit from assisting the bottom.* Pero aún hay desigualdad. No todos tienen acceso to reliable information. La gente está mal informada. Hay muy poca fe en su gobierno. Y la raza cree que todo es mentira. Una fachada. A hoax. En México la raza se informa through el chisme. It’s like playing the telephone game. De oído a oído se corre la palabra. But what starts as “lo nombran Coronavirus” ends up being “la Corona es la que te da virus” Y por eso la venta de la cerveza Corona se anuncia cancelada Or was that just a meme too? Pero aunque la gente se muera de miedo no deja de ser amable. México es donde la gente también tiene cubrebocas pero aún sonríen con los ojos. Hay gente ofreciendo antibacterial gel in every store entrance dándote la bienvenida, pero también cuidándote. Workers regulate the flow in the store while conversing about their day y sus familias que tienen que alimentar. And all while maintaining six feet apart. Nos ha tocado vivir a todos en el mundo algo en común, pero ambos tomamos diferentes transcursos. Esto nos ha ayudado a ver que en el mundo, la verdadera pandemia es la desigualdad. Haber si después de esto nos damos cuenta que la frontera no es nada más que una ilusión. Borders are a social construct.* Una mierda de ideologías para dividir al ser humano y la humanidad. *Paraphrased from comments made during a discussion in a CCRS meeting. 25

The Wait of Ms. Figueroa by Jonathan D. Gomez San JosĂŠ, California April 2020


n the corner of Alameda and Newhall, Ms. Figueroa waits for the 22 For a ride to some far off place To some essential job To do for others things they are incapable of doing for themselves She has ventured into public from a unit in a crowded apartment complex just beyond the bus stop Where cracks run along walls in lightning strike pattern and lights flicker when neighbors above walk heavier than a tiptoe Passing time, she counts hours necessary to meet the rising cost of rent Worries over every cough she tries to hold back Feels her forehead for fever Thinks about staying home too But who will take care of her children’s needs in this city, if not their mama? Ms. Figueroa stands alone, Grey concrete beneath her chokes every green in sight, but not her determination No food, no lights, no roof, no warmth Not an option Black scarf wrapped around her neck Mask drooping at her nose She will find a way Searching The Alameda Hope is a bus on time A seat for the duration of the ride Overtime with a lunch break long enough to put something in her stomach and a phone call to check-in on the kids Ms. Figueroa In the wait Collects dignity from memories she wrestles from out of the corner of her mind Remembers how despite being broke, she has never been broken Gathers courage in having already successfully carried the weight of other crowns before this one Her heart inspired from knowing where the 22 travels is necessary for now, but only as a detour to the destination of her true destiny.


migrantes by Maythé Ruffino

vamos... camina... arrastra la mirada hasta la frágil línea del horizonte, rebasa la aridez de los primeros pasos... el agobio de las cenizas... la molestia triturante de las hiedras y las espinas retorcidas... camina sobre las cenizas... con miedo, tiembla, como se tiembla cuando se camina desnudo sobre nuestros muertos, mira cómo la negrura hiere el rescoldo de las huellas ¿escuchas el murmullo de los muertos? Atrévete al desierto... parece que escupe fuego, pero traga por dentro, traga, traga lo indecible... camina su cresta... siente la furia del que se indigesta de un tiempo baldío... revienta tu búsqueda en lo único vivo que nos resta de este paisaje... que tu fin no sea inerte... anda camina... vacía lo que te queda de sangre a la boca sedienta del desierto, permanece despierto para el jamás de esta historia... respira el galope del silencio hasta que alguien tan yermo como nosotros recoja tu murmullo en la torpe huella que dejaste... anda, camina el desierto... la remanencia de lo que fue tu sangre en una era de bestias urgidas y piadosas...sus ojos de pájaro ya no viajan... llegó la noche que esperábamos, la que temimos en la esquina arisca de nuestro abandono... anda, camina, que debo callar la mirada para que los de atrás sean su ceniza y su viento... ven... te espero en silencio como triturando un rezo... nuestros muertos nos toca sólo a nosotros masticarlos en el olvido..


By Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo

War in Times of COVID-19

“Nobody wins in a war...” --Donald Hodge


verything is now about violence A disease is a terrorist shooter And we must shelter in place.

Everything is now about war COVID-19 is now the enemy And we are going into battle Against a faceless enemy With do-it-yourself masks And quick-prep vaccines. Everything is now about war We are being called upon to Work together, to overcome To be patriotic, model Americans, To ask what we can do for a country That has repeatedly asked us to leave— Or leave our culture at the border. Everything is now about war The people doing their everyday jobs are Suddenly applauded for being on the frontlines, And history repeats itself The Black/brown/red soldiers Were always sent to the frontlines.

If this is a war, COVID already won Not because the economic system is collapsing, Not because we are all freaking out, Eyeing each other with suspicion and Isolating ourselves from our network of support If this is a war, COVID-19 has already won Or it’s a draw Because COVID-19 is not going anywhere There is no immunity, no reliable antibodies, And coronaviruses change from year to year... Nobody wins in a war


But a few extra minutes? What are those minutes worth If we live them on our knees Groveling for longer life For the right to provide for ourselves? I could provide for myself Build my own home Plant my own crops I could pick those crops I could eat those crops If I could live next to them In my own home Providing for myself Not taking orders from Pale masked men Yet the people struggle to survive While keeping everyone else alive Essential workers sacrificed Malnutrition and crowded housing During a global pandemic Before a global pandemic Being the only essential workers Keeping everyone else alive Never given a chance to thrive The war is not against COVID-19 The pandemic, manipulated, Is a new tool of genocide Is a new tool of class divide Is a new tool to control the masses Is a new method to bridge the classes Is a new method to close the divide Is a new method of unity worldwide The real war is not against COVID-19 The real war is not about illness The real war is not about death The real war is about life The real war is about health The real war is about wealth

If this is a war, COVID-19 has already lost Or it’s a tie Because we can’t win unless nobody died And we can’t lose unless we all die And that’s not going to happen Nobody wins in a war

Nobody wins in a war But war has been declared And so, we struggle And so, we stand And so, we speak To survive To thrive

And what are we really fighting But our own mortality? What can we really gain

What are we really fighting for? Justice in this nation! Culture, education, And self-determination!

The View from Debtor’s Prison by Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo


y jobs have vanished so I’m looking out the window Of my cozy little apartment Thinking the view from debtor’s prison Isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. While some work from home Or take a paid vacation Others worry about the rent and bills The dwindling pile of food The growing pile of debt Sometimes, resistance means staying positive Even though my bank account balance is negative My balance sheet is definitely in the red And every bad policy Has a redlining And it’s worth finding Not worth funding They love it when you spend They love it when you buy gas And they love gaslighting you Saying it’s your fault For not working hard enough But work is the only thing We ever have enough of ... And now that work is gone, I’m looking out the window Of my cozy apartment Thinking the view from debtor’s prison Isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.



by Francisco Mendoza



here’s a virus going around NO not the new one infecting folks throughout the world in leaps and bounds it’s the kind being espoused by a clown who thinks he’s king and wants to wear a crown Yet this virus is not new it has previously quietly infected both me and I would respectfully posit even YOU The question is what are we going to do when peoples’ fears let their biases creep through? Phantom virus he calls this new one while blaming entire populations like a menace as if he’s not responsible or wasn’t able to respond years if not months ago Some of his minions use hateful terms equating this illness with a martial art as if a phobia over difference were new yet it’s nothing fresh to those who knew that Chinese folks this country’s worked hard to exclude in many ways way more extreme than just being rude So please don’t let this current frenzy of people’s fears over a virus called corona lead you to project a hateful persona Please don’t let the mask you wear become a reason to despair or worse yet to be unfair and blame those who’re simply here and there

Inoculate by GusTavo Adolfo Guerra Vásquez 32

Let your mask become a filter for hate a megaphone against those who difference can’t seem to tolerate or accept that this is not another ridiculous reason to segregate isolate or alienate.

M E O P A Busarelo by Ilseh

n, the scree ff o y l s s e l is talk read end p. All th e e l s read and after the next, o t f mysel cle er to lay d One arti r a h s i ght it Ever y ni e. sest to m 9, o 1 l c D e I s V o for th of CO but fear lp , e h ’t n Ca screams t u o b a k s tal . n prison gh to eat sks on, u o People i n e n e o ma g giv Not bein al officers with n ls, on cel Correcti hem from their gt Strippin nes, and pho b oad, a r t n o C mount l tweet, e y h t e h o t t w d o adde That is h her body lls. t o n a y a r y te Ever yd their sto t a h w s lass, i That behind g e c a f ’s r othe out my m r her eyes, b a k n i h It nde circles u The dark r in her skin, n. olo body thi Loss of c t short and her tem, cu n the sys i d Her hair e p p a was tr nights I e m, h t o t ack ion at 2a s b i v k e n l i e t h t I the ying on sion. Cops pla d boys...” mind into confu a b , s y o ng “Bad b rce a you issing, o f o t h g Enou owpane. n goes m d x n i m w o e w h r s at t Anothe with sign e streets, s k l o f d hit th mente Undocu to organize and he police. ht dy I am rea we finally abolis s n If it mea



Grotesco By Iván Alexandro Santos Sánchez San José, California April 2020


os has dado una lección A toda la nación Even when you’re gone you’ll be remembered

For forcing us to shelter

You have opened our eyes

To all marginalized groups Nos enseñaste que para la muerte te llevas hasta al más fuerte As elections are around the corner

You came in at a perfect time

To show us que todo lo tóxico se va ir You came in as a lesson

To let the privilege know what it feels to be

Encerrados en una jaula de oro Mientras la raza sufre y son los que están en la línea de muerte

To keep putting food on the gringos’ tables.



Amor migrante

by Laura Yei Cuahtili

Una jornada imposible al parecer Te enfrentas a riesgos inolvidables Inaguantables Intolerantes Inevitables

Porque aquí no te abren las puertas Barreras sobre barreras Sobre tierra y dentro del mar Bajo cielos azules y estrellas conmovedoras Paredes y fronteras te dicen que no Tus niños, familia demuestran que sí Es posible pero más que nada es Necesario Para llenar esos ojitos de esperanza Con un poquito de pan Y leche para nutrir un corazoncito que solo sabe de Su padre dentro de marcos decorados Por fotos y recuerdos guardados en el alma de su madre Y de su abuela Por allá dicen que somos indocumentados Entre mi gente somos los que aguantan Somos los que luchan Somos los que sufren Y despiertan con hambre Se acuestan con frio Trabajan sin protección sin derechos sin exigir demasiado Pero también somos dignos De una vida justa y humana De darle a nuestros hijos El sudor de nuestra frente en forma de un tierno abrazo y un ‘te quiero’ Somos un pueblo de buen corazón Somos de canela pura Somos la sal de la tierra Somos la caña dulce de un dia largo y asoleado 36

Somos el hoy, ayer y mañana Somos el nuevo amanecer Somos la nueva luna La luna llena El tochtli aventurero Que canta con las estrellas Somos el fuego que arde Que consume Que deja todo Y abre caminos para poder empezar otra vez Somos desierto, mar, y montaña Somos los hijos y los nietos soñadores Ilusionados con la vida a pesar del profundo dolor De la separación y la distancia Somos aquí y somos allá ¡La lucha seguirá! Somos amor Somos cariño, ternura e ilusión Todo por una vida mejor ...por un pequeño mundo mejor Donde el amor no nos cueste la vida Donde el hambre no nos lleve a la muerte bajo un sol ardiente Donde el trabajo no nos desbarate los pulmones, brazos, espaldas, cuellos, cinturas, ojos y órganos digestivos. Donde el miedo y las preocupaciones de la vida no nos lleguen a destrozar el corazón. Donde nuestros hijos e hijas ya no tendrán que esperar una docena de años para volvernos a ver... a acariciar... a abrazar... a disfrutar Donde nuestros padres no mueren solitos... sin la tierna caricia de sus hijos, nietos y sobrinos. Somos migrantes.

FROM KATRINA TO CORONA Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia All lies from the massa and the ownayea the ones that say they own mama earth The stealing fathers, i mean founding fathers-- who have raped & pillaged since birth What did they find- when they arrived? indigenous peoples who always shared love food & were always kind only to be destroyed, by people who Declared at turtle Island everything is MINE Yea- this lie, this arizToCRAZY continues today except hegemony rules the day the faces, and spaces arent just wite and pink they all colors- and somehow got bought up into this greedgroup think but now its about the bloodstained dolla its supposed power & the shadowy wealthhoarding massas perpetraing out of the rich wite tower Family these were never solutions its just more measels filled blankets and katrina superdomes In katrina poor folks waited on rooftops for someone anyone- but racist and classist genodcide is realKrapitalist violence is real- criminalizing and profiling every poor person it gets- From Sit-lie laws- & stop and frisk- this shit ain’t new- its just become more dangerous- for us to rely on any government

Shelter beds, Navigation centers Only motel rooms if u agree to PoLice Its time to liberatethe stolen money- the stolen landthe stolen water Take it All back Listen to 1st Nations- who are still here even after 527 years Stop Buying & Selling Mama Earth Stop believing the lie of Real estate Snakkes none of us are ok unless all of us Rise Up and say Fuk yo Fake-ass stolen land state lets all liberate Today’s message from a pandemic poverty skola is focused on the ongoing abuse of politricksters and government solutions to our problems— “I was really sick and they made me sign something— I don’t know what it said, you know you just sign cuz you need a bed to rest your head,” The modern day Katrina is Corona—but now the scarcity models are killing all us houseless and poor people. And yet people, even conscious people continue to only look for the Savior State as our medicine When its never done anything but predate *This poem was previously published in, Eds. Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia and Leroy F. Moore, Jr., The Po’ People’s Survival Guide thru COVID-19 and the Virus of Poverty (Oakland: POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE, 2020).


What’s Wrong! by Leroy F. Moore, Jr. Saturday, March 21, 2020

You can’t breathe Dizzy can’t stand on your feet Don’t even ask for my mask Now you want accommodation What’s wrong You forced me to be a super crip Now you are scrambling Don’t give me no lip Asking me for all of my recommendations What’s wrong Made me feel so low Now you can’t get out of bed Leah wrote a whole book on pillows Disability justice, now you want to know What’s wrong How does it feel Knowing no one is coming Yeah this is real It took death knocking on your door to see us The ramp to our world is coronavirus You didn’t listen so it had to come down to this The sad thing is this is nothing new That’s why we have the Blues On the roof during Katrina In nursing homes when the ground was cracking in Puerto Rico Know it’s an emergency all of a sudden you want to listen to me Over and over once again here we go When it’s over & rebuilding You will return to your old ableist ways You showed your hand before, that’s what I say We both know what’s wrong 38

*This poem was previously published in, Eds. Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia and Leroy F. Moore, Jr., The Po’ People’s Survival Guide thru COVID-19 and the Virus of Poverty (Oakland: POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE, 2020).

n i nt

a r a


p e

m e o


by Nazelah Jamison

my brain is devouring itself savory simmering obsessive thoughts spiced with anxiety and salty resentments in a thick frustrating stew it is the perfect recipe for insanity my most frequent conversations lately are with inanimate objects: the walls, my laptop minor characters in the horror sci-fi books and movies i regularly ingest i plea with them to run, fight look behind them, stay out of shadows as i dwell in my very own stephen king universe my neighbors have become masked marauders we cross the street from each other and avoid eye contact a tickle in my throat in public is illegal physical affection is lethal and i literally cannot show my face at my local grocery store it is just as well there is plenty of paranoia and ice cream at my house a cabinet full of conspiracy theories a stale package of hope in the back of my freezer an endless feast of gray matter for me and the ravenous post-apocalypse zombies when they inevitably arrive


#CancelTheRentscaravan It was a day like any other They all now seem to blend together somehow But at least we were excited for something Was it the liberation of action from inaction? To declare that we’re still here and the people will be heard? For everything in this universe For every yin there’s a yang For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction For social distance there is social confinement Inevitably certain pressures build A home can be a cauldron in times like these But when we ride we ride Do you know what I mean? Nothing can stop that. Even as ghosts of the past emerge in the stillness of the cities Even as wounds project and reflect like this cauldron home is a hall of mirrors We still ride This battle is psychological and as spiritual as it is concrete Defined by the laws of motion … by the laws of capital This city is like an eye of a hurricane Of intersecting crisis’ and dreams We circle up in an urban cul de sac Another eye of another hurricane that dreams of liberation We armor-up our rides with camaradas of all stripes at our sides This armor’s made of signs to spring ideas in the minds When we roll out there is such a good feeling in the air Any demonic ball and chains that have been dragging us down Have been vaporized by our higher purpose A caravan of vehicles decades deep Snaking its way through the city streets like train cars linked by solidarity With our voices loudly screaming our hopes and needs The people in the streets look up from their lives If we can’t work we can’t pay: Cancel the rent, cancel the mortgages, cancel the debt Bail out the people not the banks The people on the streets: Hell yeah ... cancel the motherf#cking rent 40

It felt good to ride and represent for the people

by Patricio Mojica

This was written reflecting on my experience with the #CancelTheRentscaravan efforts.



am from Watsonville, California, a small town in Santa Cruz County. When I mention to people at SJSU that I am from this county a lot of people bring up the beautiful beaches, University of California, Santa Cruz, and the amazing houses that hug the sea shore. Even though my county does have all of this, it is a little different in Watsonville. My town is home to the largest concentration of Latinx people in the county. This has a lot to do with the fact that there are a lot of jobs in agriculture, and Latinx people constitute the majority of the workforce. Santa Cruz County, like many other counties across the state, has been affected by COVID-19. In response, we have been ordered to “shelter in place” and to practice “social distancing”. Before this moment, when talking to people about my community, I would consider it to be a diverse and liberal town. However, things have changed. During this time, I have seen law-enforcement

by Reyna Cervantes officers enforce a completely different approach to my community compared to the way they serve white communities. For example, a Latinx teenager in my neighborhood was outside at a public park, playing basketball by himself. He was following all of the rules of the shelter in place order that we were given- he was alone and he was outside exercising, yet he was ordered by a police officer to go home. From where I stood, I could hear that the officer gave him a harsh warning, which didn’t make sense to me because he was not breaking any rules. On April 18, 2020, I went to Capitola, which is another town in Santa Cruz County, and I encountered a completely different situation with a Sheriff’s Deputy. Capitola is a community that is made up of residents who are primarily white and wealthy. While there, people were walking along the beach, having conversations with one another and socializing in ways that did not honor the shelter in place or social distance orders. From where I stood, I could see that the Sheriff’s Deputy did not tell anyone to leave or give them warnings about the orders in place. The encounter that the white Capitola locals experienced was very different from the kinds of encounters young Latinx people in my community of Watsonville experienced with police. Unfortunately, during these times, I am hearing about acts of racial discrimination towards Latinx communities that are coming from different social institutions that we are told are supposed to protect us.




(March 2020) By Susana Praver-Pérez

hree days after the memo, how to shift from clinic to home, I realize these steps– undress in the doorway scrub in the shower sanitize cellphone and anything else we’ve touched– are meant to protect those we love. Three days in, I laugh and relax homecoming rituals. While my patients return to studio apartments, six folks deep, my voice echoes in a thousand square feet, no one singing harmony. I’m a potential vector, will not venture towards another warm body though I hunger to be held, to hear It’s gonna be alright, Love, whispered in my ear. I share pillow talk by telephone with friends holed up in hellholes of disease. I have not touched another human for weeks— except for patients whom I continue to see with a two-way wave of caution, each interaction filled with compassion– me for them and them for me. A month ago, I thought nothing of helping someone off an exam table. Now, even this is a calculated risk. As of last week, we are all masked — I am learning how to smile with just my eyes.



y muse must be in quarantine– She isn’t on the corner where she often thumbs a ride. She’s not among the wrinkled tarps where homeless folks reside.


(April 2020) by Susana Praver-Pérez

The plaza’s almost empty– Masked men scrub the concrete clean. Unmasked drivers chat between their daily ghost-bus runs. The corner boys selling remedies to make the boredom hum are even gone. And then there’s me—wrapped in a lab coat rescued from my closet’s depth– padded shoulders make me look the superhero I’m supposed to be. But I don’t feel super—just sober, not hero, just over, just missing my muse. I breathe in scents of fractured verse, can’t grab them with my latex fists. Shake shards of poems from folds in my mask, watch them melt in my Purelled hands.

My refuge has been slumber–in bed at 8 p.m. patients’ stories replay in my mind again and again. Sandrita, just tortillas between her poking ribs. Marta, slicing paychecks to nourish those with less. Deirdre, desperate with desire, breaking all the rules… ¿Cómo estás? is filled with nuance. ¿Cómo estoy? an existential flood. I want to shelter-in-place, but an oath brings me back to work each day. I want to serve, but I’m losing myself in gaping uncertainty. I need shelter of metaphor and imagery. I scroll social feeds for my absent muse, hunt poems as salves for stress-stripped nerves, searching for the remedy I can’t seem to find on sanitized clinic shelves. 43


By CCRS Member whatever the crime just know that imma break it I’m never doing time my freedoms for the takin I’m fighting for my mind these crackers tryna take it they just want us to die so Homie why you hattin (x2) I know you know all the lies so why you actin surprised they profit off our demise they love to laugh while we cry you know I aint lettin it slide just know I do this fa minez Im stickin / stukk to ma grind the choice of weapon / ma mind ma struggles where I confide I got yo back / hold ma spine do this together / we rise breaking the limits / the skies Homie together we’ll thrive I aint just trying survive No longer dyin to live For this im willin to die but we can’t go in there blind maintain the focus / take time treasure your heart / its a mine ain’t no more waiting for signs cause you the key to ya life so don’t give up on ya fight make sure to rest every night just know our mammas are right that we da plan, we da light our new horizons in sight together our future is bright and we the reason for life yee you the reason for life yee you the reason for life yee you the reason to fight yee you the reason to fight yee you the reason I fight whatever the crime just know that imma break it I’m never doing time my freedoms for the takin I’m fighting for my life these crackers tryna take it they want us to die so Homie why you hattin


I’m tried of crying Im just shootin — I aint saying shit

Alberto Camacho, es un Chicano raised on McKee and White by two migrante parents who gave everything

up for him. As they worked hard for him, he plans to work as hard for them and for his comunidad. Camacho dedicates this entry to my Carnal, Mario, whose life was robbed by the system and is now working hard to find it, to his Carnala, Gloria, who was his second mom, to his comunidad, the East Side of San José y La Raza que vive aqui, to his amigxs who have helped mold him into who he is, and to his Teachers and Professors from James Lick, EVC, and SJSU, and to his camarada, professor, and now brother, Dr. Jonathan D. Gomez and the entire Cultural Counts Reading Series.


Alexander Nguyen was born and raised

in East San Jose. He identifies as Vietnamese-American but had an identity struggle due to a language barrier. He connected to the Mexican community of East San Jose and grew up embracing Mexican culture while trying to embrace his Vietnamese culture. He is a recent graduate from San Jose State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science Teacher Preparation (Single Subject) with a minor in Chicana/o Studies. In Fall 2020, he will begin his Masters of Arts in Teaching: Urban Education and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco. His goal is to teach high school U.S. History and Ethnic Studies at a public school in East San Jose.

Anselma Martinez Gomez. prefers using her two last names because it reminds her of her roots, her origins. It reminds her of where she comes from, de Michoacán México. Anselma’s two last names remind her of her antepasados from whom she inherits the destiny of being a migrant. This is why she writes and raises her words about her Undocumented people who migrate to this country with hopes, wishes, dreams and their families!

Arturo Chavez is a Biomedical Engineering student at San Jose State University minoring in Chemistry. Rath-

er than investing in institutions that uphold patriarchy and capitalism, Arturo seeks to empower his community and aid in the liberation of all people through practices of communality and mutual respect. Raised in Gilroy by Oaxaqueñx parents, he identifies as Latino in acceptance of the unitary struggle faced by oppressed gente. Arturo is striving to pursue doctoral studies in nanomedicine to develop cheaper, safer, and more accessible pharmaceuticals.

Avotcja (pronounced Avacha) is a card carrying New York born Music fanatic/sound junkie & popular Bay

Area Radio DeeJay. She is on a lifelong Musician/Writer/Educator/Storyteller & on a shamelessly Spirit driven melodic mission to heal herself. She talks to the Trees & listens to the Wind against the concrete & when they answer it usually winds up in a Poem or Short Story. She is an award winning Poet & multi-instrumentalist & leader of the group “Avotcja & Modúpue” (The Bay Area Blues Society’s Jazz Group Of The Year in 2005 & 2010).

Bryan Jesus Peraza is an SJSU alum and community organizer. He is committed to fighting for self-deter-

mination and the liberation of marginalized communities by means of education, community empowerment, and collective action. Peraza believes art, in all forms, is a powerful tool for self expression and for passing down our gente’s experiences and knowledge that too often goes undocumented. In Fall 2020, Peraza will begin the Master’s Program in the Department of Sociology at San Diego State University.

Carolina Rivera Escamilla --- writer, actor, and documentarian --- Born in El Salvador. Exiled in Canada

in the mid 1980s. Organizes events as a cultural promoter in Los Angeles since the 1990s. Has been published in Analecta Literary Arts Journal, Texas Austin University, Hostos Review CUNY University, Pen America/ Strange Cargo Anthology, Collateral Damage “Women Who Write About War” Anthology, University of Virginia Press, The Broad Museum, among others. Her book of short stories, entitled …after… was published in 2015. Fellow of the Pen Center USA Rosenthal Foundation Emerging Voices Program.


Cristian Hernandez is proud to call himself Salvadoreño. He was born and raised in El Salvador, San Vicente. As an immigrant dreamer, Cristian’s vision is to serve the immigrant community through work that includes public health and community-based advocacy. Currently, he lives in San José, CA and will graduate with his BA from San José State University in Fall 2020.

Crystal Perez San Diego based artist, Crystal has been drawing portraits since she was 5 years old. Crystal studied Studio Art at San Diego State University and received her BA in 2010. Although Crystal’s first passion is traditional art, such as graphite drawing and oil painting, she has recently introduced a new medium to her artwork - digital. The transition from realistic oil painting to digital art has challenged Crystal to explore new styles of drawing; her current style - abstract illustration. Crystal’s artwork combines her fascination with portraiture and femininity creating whimsical illustrations inspired by women’s beauty, fashion, life and nature. Nonetheless, Crystal enjoys experimenting new styles, techniques and looks forward to exploring different mediums

Daisy García Chaidez is a Chicana, born and raised on the Eastside of San José. She is a student at San José State University working towards her B.A in Chicana/o Studies. She is a gemini sun, cancer moon and cancer rising.

Yo soy Diana Zamudio-Garcia I am a second year graduate student in the Department of Chicana/o Studies at San José State University. In the future, I want to continue my growth as a scholar in the service of my community, as an ethical and critical thinking educator in our multicultural and increasingly interconnected world. It is my goal to utilize education as a vehicle to address pressing issues in marginalized communities. I will achieve my goal to become a college professor in an Ethnic Studies to educar la comunidad and to strive for transformative resistance without losing perspective of who I am and where I come from.

Dr. Jonathan D. Gomez is a faculty member and Undergraduate Advisor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at San José State University. Gomez’s poetry examines the racial, spatial, and gender dimensions of social space in the postindustrial city. His scholarship and teaching evidence the ways in which people who have been dispossessed and displaced envision and enact cultural practices to take possession of concrete spaces across the city as strategies for refusing the unlivable destinies to which they have been relegated. Dulce María López González’s art is based on her experience as a low-income Mexican immigrant woman

living in the United States. Her artworks intend to shake the audience out of their comfort zone, in order to provoke, question, and analyze societal structures.

Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo is a poet, visual artist, and teacher based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her

writing is influenced by her indigenous Mesoamerican ancestry, Mexika (Aztec) philosophy, Mexican culture, Chicano history, and her experiences as a woman in the United States. Elizabeth’s visual artwork has been included in over fifty exhibitions in galleries and museums across the United States. Her poetry is included, and forthcoming, in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her poetry webpage is:

Erick Macias-Chavez nacido en tierras ocupadas Ohlone, en el segun San José, Erick se dedica a fortalecer a su familia, a las primeras naciones y a la comunidad.

Francisco Mendoza is an artist, activist, and explorer, currently based out of Ventura, CA. He is fascinated by

the contradictions and similarities happening in everyday society. His work attempts to capture the human condition in a time of extreme polarity.


GusTavo Adolfo Guerra Vásquez uses male pronouns and is a poet, professor and visual whose writing has

been published in academic and poetic anthologies like Youthscapes: The Popular, The National, The Global -The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes & Shifts of Los Angeles & The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States. A self-described GuatemaLAngelino he facilitates workshops with youth and adults on diversity, poetry and social justice.

Ilseh Busarelo was born and raised in Los Angeles. She is currently a McNair Scholar at SJSU, double majoring in Chicanx/a/o Studies and Environmental Justice.

Ivan Alexandro Santos Sanchez is a second-year graduate student in the Department of Spanish at SJSU.

He was born and raised in Morelia, México. At the age of thirteen, he and his family migrated to the United States. Upon arriving in the U.S., he struggled in the new academic system because the Spanish language was treated as a deficit, therefore he was placed in English Language Development (ELD) classes. The struggles he endured in a monolingual English environment motivated him to take his studies seriously, and now he is earning a Master’s degree in Spanish where he is acquiring experience in teaching through the Spanish Teaching Associates program. His dream is to become a teacher and to affirm and build on the knowledge that students bring into the classroom.

Laura Yei Cuauhtli is mother to two magical beings, an activist, organizer, danzante and family advocate.

Laura lives in occupied Ohlone land (aka Oakland) and works in Berkeley. Laura has found refuge in writing since she was a child, and has been exploring poetry more since becoming a parent.

Leroy F. Moore Jr., is Founder of the Krip-Hop Nation (a movement that addresses ableism, or discrimina-

tion against disabled artists, esp. Black musicians marginalized because of racism AND ableism internationally) and the cofounder of Sins Invalid. Moore is an activist, writer, poet, rapper, feminist, and radio programmer. Moore wrote for I.D.E.A.L. Magazine, and since the 1990s, has written the column “Illin-N-Chillin” for POOR Magazine.

Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia is a formerly unhoused, and formerly incarcerated poverty scholar, revolutionary journalist, lecturer, poet, visionary, teacher, single mama of Tiburcio, daughter of a houseless, disabled mama, Dee, and the co–founder of POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE/PoorNewsNetwork. Mario Aguilar moved to San Jose from the Central Valley to study at SJSU. Many failures led him to find

amazing mentors and teachers who have guided his expression in the mediums of painting, photography, design, and silk-screen.

Maythé Ruffino is an adjunct professor of Chicano Studies, CSU Northridge. She received her B.A. from UCLA in Spanish American Literature, Political Sciences & Latin American Studies. Obtained her MA in Spanish Literature from Cal State LA. She is currently working on her PhD at UC Santa Barbara. Her work has appeared in several of the best Mexican poets anthology of one of the most prestigious Latin American publishers: Fondo de Cultura Económica in Anuario de poesía mexicana 2004. She is the author of 11 chapbooks both in English & Spanish. Nanzi Muro was born in Los Angeles, CA. She was raised in the border region of San Diego, CA y Tijuana,

MX, y muy orgullosa to embrace two different cultures and languages at the same time. Nanzi’s vision as an “artivist” is to engage viewers in a conversation that helps them to understand that change begins within each of us. She earned her BFA in Photography and minor in Studio Art at San José State University. Currently, she resides in San Diego, CA. 47

Nazelah Jamison is a performance poet, actor, vocalist, and emcee. She is an East Coast transplant, former

organizer of the Oakland Poetry Slam and sometimes reluctant superhero. Her first book of poetry, Evolutionary Heart, was released in Fall of 2016 on Nomadic Press. Nazelah gives the best hugs in the Bay Area.

Patricio Mojica was born into a highly sardonic yet supportive multi-generational Salvadoran family in Southern California. He is passionate about the intersections of technology, art, social justice, and global affairs. When time permits, Patrick enjoys hiking in nature, playing guitar, and spending time with loved ones.

Reyna Corrales is a first generation Latinx student from Watsonville CA. At SJSU, they major in Sociology with a minor in Chicanx Studies.

Susana Praver-Pérez is an Oakland-based poet and memoirist. By day she works as a Physician Assistant and Associate Medical Director at La Clínica de la Raza in Oakland, California. By night she reads at poetry events from San Francisco to San Juan. By nature, she’s a storyteller, relating that to which she bears witness through her poetic lens. Susana’s first book of poetry Hurricanes, Love Affairs and Other Disasters, is in the works.

Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo, Moving On,mixed media on wood, 34x34


Project oversight and creative work by: The Culture Counts Reading Series Team Art Editor, Cover and Content Designer: Nanzi Muro Editors:

Dr. Jonathan Gomez

Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo Published by:

Culture Counts Reading Series of San José State University © 2020

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