Dear Father Time

This year, my dad wanted a letter written to him about my new year’s resolutions. Here’s what I posted on facebook… because parents check that more than email or mailboxes.
Hey pops!
You said only thing you wanted for Christmas was a letter about my 2017 goals. And I’m already running on Filipino time.
Although late for the holiday, it’s technically not 2017 just yet and can squeeze one in just in the nick of time. So maybe, first a brief recap of the year everyone wished would end (even as we all said it was fast as it was).
I travelled more. A few times for work and others for play, but they all contained pivotal moments in my life, and I’m grateful for all the lessons learned from the opportunities presented to me. Each trip revealed different pieces of myself that were already in front of me. I just had to turn the puzzle pieces over.
I turned a piece over in March in NorCal when I helped Scott move his stuff down from Portland. A piece was revealed in Boston right after the November election & the passing of a couple friends. This past July, more than a few picture-altering puzzle pieces were flipped over in NOLA.
I also found even more within the county lines. With the help of others, (especially Virgil and the good folks at A Reason To Survive (ARTS)), I saw my RISE San Diego Urban Fellows community action project come to life. My Sound Future was a creative career fair aimed specifically for youth in underserved communities to show that they could follow their heart by following their art! It was also dream come true, and I hope to grow it in the new year.
I must have known early this year that it would be a year of growth. I dubbed it The Year of the Spiral. Little did I know there’d be a lot of growing pains.
But let’s grow to 2017. Or what I’m calling it… The One (because, numerology).
It’ll be the one where all the pieces will come together, because I can see the bigger picture in my life now. I owe 2016 a great debt for it’s wealth of knowledge I’ve gained (I’m glad it isn’t collecting student loans).
With a new year a few hours away, folks are trying to make resolutions they hope to stick to through the year. Over the past half-decade or so, I used words instead. It made it easier to check in and see how those goals manifested, and see my progress. For example, In 2012, it was Transparency, Honesty, & Clarity. That year I wanted to be more transparent about my intentions, honest with my feelings, and communicate that with clarity.
For 2017, one of my core words is Committed.
You know me. I’ve struggled with finishing strong, and sometimes did a ‘half-ass’ job. At times, I’d be running a different race completely (if I wanted to run it at all). However, I’ve gained much focus and perspective in the last few years, and I’m able to see the finish lines. Yes. Plural.
I want to help grow with the community by breathing renewed life into FilAmFest. I’m going to take further steps with My Sound Future and develop more partnerships with the programs, so more creative youth (and their parents) in communities that grew up in know that their are career options for them out there that aren’t just medical or military. Finally, I’ll be more committed to my self. That’s no typo. I’m entering the last years of my thirties with a revived sense of purpose and a better understanding of what I believe I’m here to do. However, without taking care of myself and my self, I can not utilize the talents that are in my genes to connect people. And, personally, I believe that if we all gain a sense of empathy and understanding of everyone, we can all connect that much easier.
Sounds like a lofty goal, but I’m committed to it. Life is love, and if I do a half-ass job at life, what’s there to love? So I will go into 2017 heart-first and lead with love.
Love ya,
Hope you all have a beautiful 2017. Make it The One.

Reflections on Lincoln High from a Morse Rival

(A reposted blog originally posted on ACLU of San Diego Counties & Imperial Counties)

I went to Morse High school, a rival of Lincoln High school, over 20 years ago. While I was at Morse, southeast San Diego was rife with gang violence and racial tensions. Keep in mind that this was just a few short years after the explosive Rodney King video, and it only added to the troubled relationship with authority figures that existed within our community.

Trying to navigate through avoiding gang life, social cliques, and the built-in ordinary stresses of school, I decided to sign up for the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. I also tried out for the prestigious fancy drill team and was lucky enough to get on the team after a rigorous and physically grueling try out.

The punctuation of the process was a hazing ritual that went down from previous generations and classes. It was a gauntlet consisting of the new junior varsity recruit walking at a slow pace down a row of varsity team members on both sides of this row essentially taking closed-fist swings at the new recruit. We did it because it was tradition.

It was similar to that of the older groups — including the Army and other military branches —we emulated and even were modeled after. We thought we were being adults.

But our ritual didn’t result in any police response, and while some discipline might have been appropriate, we were never funneled into the criminal justice system to pay for our mistakes with our futures. I don’t remember there being cops on campus. We just had security guards, and I’m almost positive they didn’t carry weapons.

And yet, last Friday at Lincoln High, an incident involving teenagers just like me and the fancy drill team, taking part in certain known rituals that they take part in every year resulted in an altercation that ended with kids being tased and pepper sprayed. Some of those students were sent to the hospital, as well as the campus cop who tased a 16-year-old twice, once while he was lying face down on the ground. After some of the children were treated, they were then subsequently hauled to juvenile hall and were charged.

I’m concerned with the swiftness with which these kids are being punished and by the fact that much of the public seems already to react as if they’re adults. While my fellow drill team knew that we were skirting on the edge of danger, we relished testing out “adult” behaviors and seeing how they fit on our adolescent bodies. But that’s just it. We were kids, and so are the Lincoln students.

In a study, Phillip Atiba Goff, PhD, of UCLA demonstrated that, “black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent.” This is a serious problem especially with the growing presence of police officers on campuses.

Schools are supposed to be institutions of learning, and all students should also be safe in this environment. But too often, especially in traditionally underserved areas, the school setting is treated more like correctional institutions, and the “school resource officers” (campus police officers) are viewed as correctional officers.

A school resource officer should be just that – a resource to students, a counselor or mental health professional where students can safely go to escape the societal issues at home or in their neighborhoods that may be affecting them. But instead of being that safe haven, a student at Lincoln High recently lamented that more than anything, his experience at the high school feels like he’s being prepared for serving time in prison.

When we place these authority figures in schools with a predominantly black population, we run the risk that because of different factors stemming from systemic, though to give benefit of the doubt, maybe implicit, racial bias, the law enforcement and security officers will view the students as ‘less innocent.’

The incident on Friday only highlights the bigger problem of over-policing in schools, that results in pushing these kids down into the one-way, nearly-no-way-out school-to-prison pipeline.

Our society is failing its children. We are setting these kids up to fail before they are even given a chance to drive, to vote, to get a job — let alone become adults. We are even punishing these kids like adults when they are still kids.

The media, too, contributes to this by perpetuating the unchallenged notion that kids in schools like Lincoln are ‘rioting’ and ‘brawling.’ One often heard lament from students I heard this week is that the media—and other adults outside of the community—never focus on the successes of these students; they only show up when something like this happens.

To see the problems with this idea, take a quick look at how the students set about coming together after this incident. They were responsive in mobilizing restorative justice circles, organizing internally. They unified to deliver a concrete message of hope and commitment to making their school a better place. This shows leadership, professionalism, and accountability that I couldn’t even imagine when I was a teenager at Morse.

The students’ maturity in addressing the situation is almost 180 degrees different than the narrative that the media is spreading.

The practice of hazing at Morse High  school’s JROTC no longer exists, but when it did, the students weren’t subjected to criminal punishment. They changed the system. Situations like last Friday don’t come out of nowhere, and these children aren’t to blame.

The students as well as the institutions of learning both suffer when we take kids out of the school system, and practically push them into the school-to-prison pipeline. We all need to be looking at the bigger picture, and addressing the root causes of these issues to allow these students to soar to heights they can achieve, instead of shackling them to ankle monitors.

By Ferchil Ramos, New Media Strategist, San Diego ACLU

“Well, daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles…”

It was over a half-decade ago when I tweeted this. For a very long time I believed it. While I still do to an extent, I wanted to amend my statement. Because running in circles is counter-productive (and sometimes even counter-clockwise-productive…. anyone? anyone?).

Continue reading “Well, daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles…”

Take a walk with me.

“Show me your privilege, and I’ll show you mine.”

When I first read that quote, it resonated so deeply with me. Initially I thought, ‘I’m not a straight, white, christian, male. I don’t have privilege’. Of course I was wrong.

I had trouble grasping the idea of privilege. Even more than that, was the trouble of trying to explain it to others.

How do we show how some are at a disadvantage while others are just strolling along through life?

Continue reading Take a walk with me.

Finding My Voice and Viewpoint

I remember in the 2000 election, I made a desperate attempt to organize a Get Out the Vote meet-up. I sat at what used to be The Living Room in Hillcrest waiting for people to show up. But alas, no one did. Maybe it was because it was was in its infant years. Maybe I didn’t promote it enough of the AOL chat rooms. Maybe it was the reason why Gore didn’t win that year. Although probably not the latter, I was shot down in my attempt at trying to organize in my younger years.

Again in 2004, I did what I could in an election year to try and get out the vote and spread some information and maybe a little propaganda on late-night wheat-paste missions throughout the city. My actions transformed. While different than my actions in the previous Presidential elections, I still had (what I dubbed) the blue-state blues after W’s reelection.

I grew politically jaded. Convinced that my actions (regardless what passions fueled them) would be quelled by the silent inaction of others, I began to silence my own voice. My drive started to become limited to my own lane.

Flash-forward to this past weekend, when I heard many powerful voices clash in a room full of passionate people. A fire was rekindled once again.

Continue reading Finding My Voice and Viewpoint

Connecting: Bites & Bytes

Many perceive me as a very outgoing and social guy. If you know me, it’s mostly true. If you know me online, I only give you the bytes and bits I type in these posts. So depending on the event, the people, and the mood, I can be socially reserved. I hesitate to type ‘awkward’, because being socially awkward often implies being socially inept or unaware; I can affirm that is further from the truth. I AM awkward. but not socially. Even in the different circles I roll with, I’m quite square.  A couple weeks ago I was asked to be a part of this blogger group. A couple weeks after, I finally had a chance to meet them at a dinner at Oceana Coastal Kitchen at the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa. Dinner with fellow Filipino netizens for the first time…

Continue reading Connecting: Bites & Bytes

May, I Rise.

If someone wanted to know more about me as a person, both on a professional and a personal level, he or she could just look back at the past month’s experiences as well as what led me to those fateful events, and that person would have more than a good idea.

This is what I said on the first day of this month, but little did I know how much this month would hold in store. Continue reading May, I Rise.

Where my reality meets virtual reality.