Failure will not Define me

If cyberspace accumulated dust like the vases in my room, this blog would be coated. However, it doesn’t…making it that much easier to jump right in. So, let’s spill some beans. Here I go…

I have been in a constant state of reflection for the better part of this year, reevaluating my life choices and the path my future holds. Presently, I am a member of Teach for America in Chicago, teaching first grade in an urban school. This is year two of my two-year commitment. It’s the final count down.  T-minus 5 months. The cake walk has begun and I am just waiting for June to roll around with no doubts in my mind that I can finish strong.


To my deep shame, that is not the case. I still face amazing challenges every day that lead to restless nights of sleep, filled with a racing mind and/or vivid dreams of the classroom. During the day, I dedicate my heart and soul to my 30 students, but still come home exhausted and feeling as if I am failing them. It seems like whatever I am doing is not enough. Although I can applaud myself for huge growth in my students last year, this class has proven to be a whole new monster. It is an untamable beast.

The truth is, I feel like a failure all together. And I am sick of it because it is certainly not a pleasant state of mind.  For the past two days in particular, I have been letting my worry consume me. It has been eating me from the inside out, leaving an empty hollowness of an unfulfilled soul. I can go on and on about the unhappiness that has taken over, but I won’t. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t. This is because I have realized that  every person out there who has felt this same way (most likely my fellow corps members) needs to focus upon this phrase instead: Failure does not define me.

Yes, there may have been moments in which we all have failed, but we are not failures. Here is my anti-failure criteria:

  • We are not failures if in the face of adversity, we gave it everything we had.
  • We are not failures if we laughed about the situation for 24 hours, then whipped ourselves into shape to see how we could learn from it.
  • We are not failures if, to be trite, we looked on the bright side.

I just have to take a few more moments to discuss Olympic athletes since Sochi is set to begin soon and they are the ultimate example of facing failure head on. As I am watching them on TV from the comforts of my warm home, plopped on the couch with my feet up, I can help but think about their mind set. I cringe when an ice skater falls during a triple lux or when a snow boarder misses a rotation in his jump. But I am amazed that they always get back up and keep going. I guess even if I take a tumble down my proverbial ski slope, I need to promise myself to get back up and keep moving. Who knows, maybe I’ll win the gold some day.


old story, interesting topic

Compton Armory Arts Center May 2010

Beautiful paintings full of color and culture hang on the walls of one particular room at the National Guard Armory Compton, but tension and worry shadow the brilliance of the artistic splendor.

Several years ago, the National Guard reorganized its units and moved its equipment and administrative offices out of the the four acre facility in Compton. Since then, the building has become the foundation for a slowly growing attempt to create an arts and science center for the local youth.

The new tenants consist of several nonprofit organizations as well a passionate artist and art curator. They have been striving to create a cultural hub out of the dilapidated facilities, but are now working under a cloud of concern. The state of California recently issued an eviction notice saying that they will be forced to evacuate by May 15.

Why they’re being kicked out

The armory is owned by the state and the current tenants do not have a legal lease. This poses many problems, said Deputy Attorney General Michael Witmer.

Because there is no legal lease, the tenants are not paying the necessary fees and rent to upkeep the armory. This burdens the state with the costs of utilities, maintenance, and security. A proper lease would profit California, a state presently drowning in a daunting deficit.

The military department in control of the armory is negotiating a long-term lease with the city of Compton. City officials representing the whole city population would make the decisions about the property’s use instead of the few citizens involved now.

“The organizations using the space seem to have formed a sort of community too and it would be nice if some provision could be made to continue supporting their work, but that has to be up to local authorities,” said Witmer.

Although Witmer stressed the positivity associated with the change, the transition that he ensures is happening smoothly seems to be rockier than expected. The tenants have already invested so much into their visionary goal and they are not willing to give up.

How the idea all started…

The vision came to light almost five decades ago, sparking from the fires and devastation of the Watts riots of August 1965.  Two artists teaching at the Watts Tower Art Center, Judson Powell and Noah Purifoy, watched the mayhem unfold and went outside to collect still-smoldering debris promptly after the riots ended. With three tons of junk collected by September, the men had no idea what the dripping neon signs and contorted metals could be used for.

The Watts Art Center closed in March due to a lack of funding. It was at that time that Purifoy and Powell were inspired to turn the garbage into something meaningful.  They molded and fashioned the materials into 66 pieces of artwork called the 66 signs.

Each piece drew from the horrors of the riots in Watts. Powell and Purifoy hoped  to educate the community using the art. As their labors progressed, the artists realized the complete absence of art education in the community. The objective for the exhibit evolved.

“The ultimate purpose of this effort, as we conceived it then, was to demonstrate to the community of Watts, to Los Angeles, and to the world at large, that education through creativity is the only way left for a person to find himself in this materialist world,” said Purifoy.

What can be seen in the future

Purifoy and Powell completed the exhibit many years ago, but the need for art education in bereft communities still thrives today. Judson Powell’s vision of art as a science of communication and expression still lives as well. He sees it taking shape at the National Guard Armory of Compton, or what he calls “The Compton Arts and Science Center.”

Powell found the buildings in disarray. One of his fellow workers, MC Robinson said that when the facilities were unoccupied the local youth threw what seemed to be outrageous parties; leaving panties, used condoms, and evidence of drug use behind.

“The kids are third generation gang bangers. Their parents didn’t know any better, so who is going to teach them? They know nothing else,” said Robinson, with a sense of sympathy rather than reproach.

Powell and a few others used their own money and physical labor to put in new windows and renovate the buildings. Today, the rooms glisten with artwork composed of recycled glass that Powell designs himself. The designs vary from abstract patterns to depictions of an intricate eagle soaring through the sky.

The glass artwork embodies the principles Powell hopes to teach the youth from  the surrounding schools in Compton. Anyone can find items or materials, adapt them into a useable form, and recreate something more desirable and beautiful than before. “The earth is a place not where we look for what we can tear apart, but what we can put together,” said Powell.

This lesson is both literal and symbolic. Powell stressed that these children and adolescents have  not reached within themselves and their pasts to discover their potential. He wants them to gather from what already exists and adapt the experience and wisdom to fit their own lives. The primary source from which they can draw is their culture.

“We must remember something, the only form of continuity we have in life comes from our culture,” said Powell.

The tenants have been modeling the armory into a place for education and growth. Jim Hawkins said, “This is an ideal place, like a neutral ground where we can teach…we can give the kids practical experience and an opportunity to learn.”

Hawkins is not as involved in the art exhibit, but he runs his Teen Intervention program and Sports Spectacular, two public benefit services, from the armory. Currently, the space houses signs called the “Wall of Shame,” which represent every person killed by violence in Compton and surrounding areas in the past year.

Hawkins began the wall with two boards and over the past year, the number has rocketed to 10. As often as possible, he takes the lengthening “Wall of Shame,” out of his armory work space to put it in the public eye. He brings it to a well-traveled area where the the community can see and conceptualize the danger that has out-lived those listed on the wall.

“It is time for us to stand up for the right of the American youth, who are killed on the streets every day,” said Hawkins pointing out the rapidly growing list of April deaths.

Hawkins has taken the initiative, but he complained that political leaders are in denial and local citizens do not say anything to make a change.

He plans to use the space in the armory to bring every organization together, creating a unified force and, therefore, stronger impact. Although because communication with the city of Compton being “pretty much null,” as Hawkins phrased it, the future of this plan is unforeseeable.

The curator, Bryan Brea, who works hand in hand with Powell, also accused the city of Compton of not being involved at all in the armory or the progress it has made. “When he got here this place was a dump…and the city hasn’t done a damn thing,” said Bryea.

Bryea and Powell have been close friends for over 30 years (ap style). Bryea has spent the past two years assembling the first section of the living exhibit that walk the local African American youth through their cultural history if it is completed.

Bryea accumulated rusted, authentic shackles worn by African slaves; bright-colored native ritual attire; elaborately carved ceremonial masks; and many other African artifacts to display in the exhibit. It is titled the “Musuem in Black.”

“There has been no one to make so much progress under such horrific conditions as black people in America,” said Bryea.

He explained that the historical African art in the museum is the foundation of culture that persists in Compton today. Powell and Bryea share similar beliefs. The city’s youth must look to the past in order to find themselves in the present.

The eviction notice still looms over their heads, so the tenants must search scour their resources and connections for help.

All three men- Powell, Hawkins, and Bryea- served the U. S. government in some way. They intend to stage a veteran stand down at the armory in attempt to gain governmental support.

Powell also plans to contact the Henry Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts for additional assistance and funding.

“Once we get into the mode in trying to aid the community, we don’t just stop,” said Powell, before falling to his knees in stress and aggravation.


Clínica Para las Mujeres

Clinica Para las Mujeres is located in the heart of the Vernon community. The clinic plays a very similar part in keeping the residents alive from day to day as the actual physiological organ does. In a community with a lack of wealth but an overwhelming amount of cultural discrepancies, the clinic provides comprehensive health care without discrimination.

For anyone who can understand the name of the clinic, “A Clinic for Women,” it is easy to assume that their services are limited to gynecology and obstetric care. The clinic does give things such as pap smears and breast exams as well as ultrasounds and referrals for amniocentesis, but the care extends far beyond that. They offer pediatric care, general medical care, family planning opportunities, nutrition counseling–essentially everything possible.

The clinic is part of a 501(c)(3) non-profit group called Northeast Community Clinics, Inc. The groups has one purpose that has remained true since its start in 1971: provide virtually every type of health care they can to any one, regardless of who they are, where they come from, and where they are going.

What has catalyzed this passion to serve the under-served? It is all rooted in the good hearts of the NECC family. The CEO of 17 years has a particularly personal motivation that has moved him to make strides with the organization.

Dr. Chirstopher Lau is an MD in Los Angeles now, but he grew up in the Sacramento area as a Chinese immigrant. His mother moved him and his siblings from China with a purpose: Lau and his brothers came to America for an education, his sisters came to America to work as migrant farm workers. The hardships of his life in poverty were not shadowed by the great opportunities Lau came to know. However, any suffering he experienced inspired him rather than brought him down. He made a promise to himself that he would somehow, someday become a doctor and treat people who did not have the means. Not only would he treat them with care, he would treat the dignity and respect he had never known.

So far, he and his clinics have succeeded.


Name of clinic/provider:

Clinica Para las Mujeres, one of the eleven healthcare clinics headed by the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Northeast Community Clinics, Inc.


231 W. Vernon Avenue, Suite 203

Los Angeles, CA 90037

How long been in area?

Clínica Para las Mujeres has been open since 2006.

Translation services?

All staff members are at least bilingual. They are able to speak both English and Spanish. If there is any communicational problem, there is a member on staff available to resolve it.

Insurance accepted:

NECC accepts all insurances except Kaiser as well as any uninsured patients.

Federally qualified?

Yes. NECC was said to be a Federally Qualified Health Care Center in 1994. It gained approval by the Health Resources and Services Administration as well as the Department of Health and Human Resources.

Preventative services:

The clinic provides various educational programs and preventative services to address prevalent problems in the area.

Family Planning services are available for both women and men. These services include birth control methods and guidance, pregnancy testing and sexually transmitted infection screening, and counseling.

Also, the clinic offers a Health Education & Counseling program that helps form healthy families and communities. NECC offers instruction and support from medical providers and health educators about ways to build and maintain good health. Nutritional counseling promotes healthy choices for at-risk populations such as the Latino community with its high prevalence of diabetes and childhood obesity.

Emergency Services:

In addition to being a stand alone medical clinic that reaches out to areas of without health care, NECC considers its mobile medical vehicle a crucial part of disaster preparedness.

Other emergency services are offered through a partnership with other social and community services. They provide referrals to these resources in the case of urgent care. When patients call the clinic after hours, they are immediately directed to an emergency hot line.

Mental Health Services:

No mental health services are offered directly through the clinic; however, the staff will refer patients to the appropriate resource that will apply equal quality health care to the under-served residents.

What is your organization’s goal?

The Northeast Community Clinic. Inc. has a long standing mission statement that has remained tried and true through out its history. The NECC’s mission is to provide comprehensive, quality health care in a linguistically competent and culturally sensitive manner to patients, regardless of financial status, in poor and indigent communities of Los Angeles County.

What do you see as lacking in this area? What healthcare is needed?

This area is full of low-income residents, language barriers, and a mixture of cultures. Many of these people do not receive the proper health care whether it be because they don’t have medical insurance or they don’t know where to look for the right treatments. There is a need for a one place where these under privileged Angelenos can turn for everything.

What is the largest health issue facing the residents of Vernon Central?

Diabetes, hypertension, and asthma are critical issues that need to be addressed. They are the most prevalent diseases in this community where both health care and health education is seriously lacking.

Of all our patients, 87% of those that are Hispanic have diabetes. This large percentage is caused partly by lack of education and knowledge, while the other part is the Hispanic nutrition. Think about what they eat everyday, beans and rice, a lot of carbs. Of course now, society has added junk food to the mix of everything kids eat growing up, which leads to obesity. Most of the kids that are obese as children and carry it into their adulthood have a much higher probability of having diabetes.

How are you helping to combat it?

The clinic tries its best to treat them wholly and effectively. When patients suffering from those critical diseases come in, we give them the necessary medication and send them home prepared to battle the illness.

This is one of the very few clinics that also has an outreach program for diabetes, hoping to lessen the expansion of the disease. There are on-staff dietitians who work full time, which is very rare in a community clinic setting. There are also cooking classes and nutrition workshops for both adults and children. To encourage kids to give up soda and eat more fruits and vegetables, they have created an incentive program. Also, they understand that the root of a child’s diet is with his or her mother, so they concentrate specifically upon educating these women, whom buy the food, prepare the food, and serve the food. NECC has really zeroed in its efforts on diabetes because of its outstanding presence.

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Beiber fever had the AMAs on fire

OH MY BEIBER!  The 16-year-old pop sensation, hailing from Canada, now has more than his famed locks to brag about. Baby Beibs was named “Artist of the Year” at the American Music Awards at L.A. Live’s Nokia Theater Sunday night.

Winning one pyramid-shaped crystal trophy is surely an honor, but Beiber swept the board, also taking home three other shimmering reminders of his youthful success. He now holds 2010’s title for the following: Favorite Pop-Rock Male Artist, Favorite Pop-Rock Album, and Breakthrough Artist of the Year.

Holy moly (excuse my language), but whichever girl inspired his international top-ten single “Baby,” must be wishing she had held on to her first love. Her competition has gotten pretty fierce, check out this little cutie whose Beiber Fever has brought her to tears:

Video by Chynanny



Adios Four Loko, caffeinated alcoholic beverages are a no-no

Sometimes alcohol makes us sleepy, but the caffeine-induced energy supplied by a Four Loko gives consumers more than just a boozing buzz.

Caffeine Cut Out

Too bad the Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday that adding caffeine to malt alcoholic beverages is an “unsafe food additive.” The FDA sent out a warning to four companies saying that they could take further action, including confiscation of their products, under federal law (uh-oh).

The companies feeling the pressure from the FDA are:

• Charge Beverages Corp.
• New Century Brewing Co., LLC
• Phusion Projects, LLC doing business as Drink Four Brewing Co.
• United Brands Company Inc.

Phusion Projects, LLC produces the oh, so popular Four Loko. Here at USC, it seems as though these big cans packing 11% alcohol are in the hands and eventually stomachs of many students before they hit the 9-0 or a frat party.

The caffeine in drinks like the Four Loko can cover up some of the sensory cues party-goers might use to gauge their level of intoxication, according to the FDA. No wonder, the term “black out in a can” has recently been circulating the web.

The FDA rang the alarm about the issue only after doing its homework. It studied the published peer-reviewed literature on the the co-consumption of caffeine and alcohol; spoke to  experts in the fields of toxicology, neuropharmacology, emergency medicine, and epidemiology; and went over the information given by product manufacturers.  On top of all that, the FDA performed its own independent laboratory analysis of the products.

The company’s two-cents

The Four Loko creators did not waste any time in clearing the air once rumors of a possible ban started. The company sent out a press release Tuesday showing their intent to nix the caffeine, guarana and taurine of the Four Loko products.

Despite promises of cooperation, the three co-founders and current managing partners of Phusion Projects LLC certainly did not seem to agree with the crack down. In a statement they said:

“We have repeatedly contended – and still believe, as do many people throughout the country – that the combination of alcohol and caffeine is safe. If it were unsafe, popular drinks like rum and colas or Irish coffees that have been consumed safely and responsibly for years would face the same scrutiny that our products have recently faced…”

The buzz on campus

College students are contributing to the mixed opinions on the craze that is invading their social lives.

One junior in particular at USC, is siding with Phusion Projects.  “I’m really pissed,” she said, expressing bitter doubt that the ruling by the FDA is valid.

Her close friend, Zara Abrams, was surprised by her support of the drink. “They’re dangerous! I personally don’t want to die,” said Zara, who is also a junior at USC.

I think that the debate on the subject has just begun…but ultimately, this is the real question: Is the risk of these drinks simply too high?

new science center in DTLA

A new science center in Downtown Los Angeles is building bridges that lead underprivileged students to the wonders of science. College-level and professional volunteers at the center are helping to inspire the engineers of the future.

cleaning up the coast

Heal the Bay brought together a record breaking number of volunteers for its 26th annual Beach Clean-up…but those working at Venice beach were able to call the day in early.