“Our Culture Cannot Be Killed”
(A poem dedicated to the erased mural on 24th and Folsom, SFM, and a response to the wise words of weasels)

Patronize me bully me oppress me mock me
Murder me
Tell me I’m all fucked up
I need that from you
Your manners and etiquette
Your command:
“Be A Good Person”

I better be a good boy
So I should make sure and
Ask you
Is this what you mean?

Be:
Not my existence but
Your existence your air your being is what it means “to be”—
Hamlet lied—
There is no “not to be”
All being is you
What you say it is
Trademarked by your
Flag of force
No other reason to live except for your
Disneyland dreams and McDonald’s mansions
Those golden arches
Guiding me to
The entrance of pearly gates
Glittering estates full of flowers and green grass
Green dollars
Fluorescent green glowing from
Nuclear blasts
Lay on the sweet bed of being
Don’t worry
You will not melt

A:
Like the Fonz “Ayy” thumbs up, leather jacket, milk smile
A
Happy Day
Which is
One
No plural community
Only one alone
Independence in the manner of
Good old fashioned American independence
Selfishness sickness
Cause you can do it without others
This place is yours for the taking
Manifest Destiny, homes!
A
A
A
A luxurious lie
A horrible hoodwink
A deception to make you believe that simply
Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps
Is possible for the majority of you all
When the majority of you all got
Giant red bullseye targets tattooed on your backs
The day you were born

Good:
Now we get to the good stuff
Morality ethics principles scruples decency
Purity
Clean
WHITE
Look it up in the dictionary cause it’s right there for all to read:
Of the color of pure snow
The opposite of Black
(Brown, of course, is shit)
Innocent
Without evil intent
Honest
Honest
God is White
Blonde hair blue eyes
Be good
Like God
Who makes the laws and
Breaks the laws yet
Expects you to abide by them nonetheless
Be part of this paradox
Good good good boy
Pat you on the head like a dog or
Massacre you on the street like a bad

Person:
Homo Sapien
Latin for “wise man”
(No stupid shits allowed)
Human being
A worthy vessel of existence
Not some fucking hunched over monkey savage animal Indio
But a real live erect walker
Straight like a hard dick
Sometimes he holds that name
Like Dick Nixon
AKA
Tricky Dick
AKA
President Richie Nixon
A person like that
Nice and normal
Upright
Walking and talking that game
Commanding you
“Be A Good Person”
And you gotta salute and respond
“Aye, Aye, Sir”
Cause that’s the fucking commander in chief
A good person

Our Culture Cannot Be Killed
Skulls and cholos
Aint got no good people
We got the dregs of the gutter
The mamas from the fields
The papas from the prisons
The kids from the streets
We got color but it aint bright
It’s dark
Gruesome green
Battered blue
Beat down brown
Righteous red
A rainbow of reality aint no good but it’s better
Than a command to what I know is worse
Gentrification of the mind
Assault on authentic ideas
An unloving of myself of my people

You be a good person
I love my gente too much to betray them
Together in hell is better than your heaven

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the photos and community creativity 🙂

1

This past Carnaval weekend the community gifted us another $1,118.00 for “The International Amor for Alex Nieto Memorial!” Special thanks to Roberto Hernandez for donating the booth to us and to Josue Rojas and Ivan Gomez for the great poster and t-shirt images that people loved! Besides taking dozens of pictures of gente supporting and donating, we passed out hundreds of fliers and created important community connections, including a cement company CEO that offered to donate his services for any cement work needed for the memorial. By the end of this summer, we plan to have enough funds to break ground and begin construction of this international quality memorial on top of Bernal Heights, which will be viewable in all its colorful glory from the San Fran Mission 🙂

Once the memorial is established, community members will hike up to that mountain and pray like Alex did and look out over the beautiful view of San Francisco and be inspired by our community resilience. Students will travel up to that hill for field trips and to learn about the history and creativity of our community; they will write thousands of educational essays. Families will pilgrimage hands together and love each other at the place where Alex breathed his last breath. This will be a place of peace, of inspiration and amor.

Against the violence and injustice of 59 bullets, family and community rose to defend honor and promote positive spirit.

 

Amor for Alex Nieto: March 4, 1986 to March 21, 2014.

 

You, too, can donate for the Alex Nieto Memorial at the gofundme account here: https://www.gofundme.com/amor4alexnieto

Finally, check out how we are using social media to uplift each other and promise beauty for our community. For every promise that a person wrote down to help their community, I happily gifted them a copy Barrio Bushido (special thanks to El Leon Literary Arts and Tom Farber for donating the books). Allow these community members’ words to inspire and guide you. They came from all walks of life, all age groups, all races, creeds, and colors.

 

This is our 2017 CARNAVAL CONSTITUTION!

 

  1. I will help elderly neighbors.
  2. I will stand against any injustice done to my neighbors and community.
  3. Make sure to do at least one positive thing for someone else every day.
  4. I will not bill for posters.
  5. I will fight for justice for James Nate Greer.
  6. Stay loyal to my soul and continue to fight for equality and justice.
  7. I will fight and do my part to keep community centers alive for the children in our communities and for us.
  8. I will always advocate and fight for nuestros derechos.
  9. Alex, we love and miss you; gone too soon. A true loving Misionero. I’m proud to call you a brother in the Latino community.
  10. Oscar Hererra: la lucha sigue. What happened to Alex Nieto is an injustice. Together we create love and will look for justice.
  11. Keep the neighborhood alive.
  12. I want my barrio back!
  13. Isable Guttierez: Quieremos un monument para Alex! Vamos a pelear!
  14. Olman Acosta: be there for the people that need help.
  15. Taliva Tello: I’ll keep my culture alive and always support and protect and fight for my people.
  16. Jonathon Rosa: teach my students about racial profiling and the need to abolish the police.
  17. Wendy Delgado: Alex Nieto, mi meta es ayudar a nuestra comunidiad.
  18. I promise to protect my culture and influence love. We are all God’s children.
  19. Sophia Guerra: I promise to fight for working class communities through art, direct action, and know your rights.
  20. Bring awareness to our youth on our streets of the violence that is increasing.
  21. Every chance I get to provide a job opportunity to anyone that needs it by referring them to programs and trades.
  22. Help out in any way with our people by bringing positive vibes and showing our next generation the way.
  23. Project love to the people every day.
  24. The Ambassadors Circle would like to promote this powerful story on our podcast 360 Bay Area.
  25. Lowrider Council organization for Carnaval parade.
  26. Always stand up for your rights no matter what or who you are!
  27. I’m gonna help spread the word about the case try and open eyes to what’s really going on out here.
  28. Waste management education.
  29. I will be a strong role model for younger generation in my community and show them that they are worthy of self love.
  30. I will empower those around me to persevere and provide what resources I can.
  31. Encourage and educate youth to get involved in social injustice events around the Bay Area.
  32. Total healthcare and education.
  33. Take care and watch out for my brothers.
  34. Reach out to the youngsters. Keep pushing positive vibes and outreach.
  35. Resist and keep helping the community.
  36. When I am a teacher, I will make sure all my students eat, as for now, I will do my best to ensure the children I know and children in my community eat.
  37. Help mentor troubled youth.
  38. Don’t for tomorrow since tomorrow brings its own worries.
  39. Open up my barber shop to the young kids of the Mission.
  40. I will make a film to show the story of Alex Nieto and the importance of the Chicano community in the Mission and share it with the world to support us and justice for Alex and our community. Viva Alex! Viva la gente Chicano!
  41. I commit to educate women to respect themselves and demand it from others. I will encourage men to see the king in themselves and to strive for excellence.
  42. I will/am going to volunteer at Cesar Chavez Elementary School next semester.
  43. I will fight for young Brown and Black people every chance I can. God bless you, Alex. We love your mom and father. You will forever be in our hearts. Sherri Arnold.
  44. Going away to college to become a surgeon, so I can come back to the Mission to offer my services to my community and city.
  45. Apoyamos la lucha por la justicia en todos momentos!
  46. Si Se Puede!
  47. United we stand, divided we fall. What say you?
  48. Pass out roses to brighten women’s day.
  49. Get out the positive word that our immigrant communities Black and Brown brothers and sisters are here to stay and should be treated with dignity and respect.
  50. Amor primero antes de todo. Protejar a nuestros jovenes. Trump got to go.
  51. Look out for younger homies on the block. Teach them right from wrong.
  52. Teach the young kids the right things.
  53. Donate to the memorial.
  54. Promote self love for all the young people of San Francisco who struggle to survive.
  55. Continuing to show up and volunteer with the youth and contribute in any way that I can. Also continuing to educate my fellow white folks to do better.
  56. Self love community love. We need to keep the Mission Spanish speaking.
  57. Teach my students about our community members being killed by the police.
  58. Teach my daughter and my students about police brutality, resistance, and people’s histories—and stop and watch and record encounters between police and the community.
  59. Isabel: all children are the community’s children and they should feel loved and protected by the city/state. RIP Alex—not forgotten.
  60. Finishing my Master’s degree and joining the social work profession to help fight inequality.
  61. Rise, empower, resist. Push through social gentrification and oppression in order to persevere into an actual community.
  62. Continue to math and engineering course to get more folks into STEM careers.
  63. I promise to sponsor kids at Mission Science to study hard and explore the universe.
  64. I will participate and support any and everything needed for the community of SFM where I was born and raised. I volunteer.
  65. I will continue to promote creative self expression through hip hop and poetry and share with the youth what I know and my experiences. Peace.
Posted by: benbacsierra | April 13, 2017

“In Honor of Amilcar: An Argument for Action”

Thích Quảng ĐứcWhat good is education without action?

What good is civilization without humanity?

What good is law without love?

Action for truth.

Action for humanity.

Action for amor, even if it means your life.

On 10 June 1963 Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức believed in love for his brethren monks and was against the persecution of these same brothers. To protest, to sing his voice to heaven, Đức entered a busy Vietnamese street intersection, calmly sat in the meditative lotus position, and set himself ablaze, a burning lotus flower—a firework for freedom. His spark set the entire world on fire.

The fire this time is our blaze that we can use to keep us warm and together, even in the face of all these absurd injustices. It is time we stopped quarrelling with each other. It is time we put away petty grievances and joined. Forgive. I know, I, too, have been guilty of too much tenacity, and I have justified it by using mission accomplishment as an excuse, but today, in the face of overwhelming injustice, we must conclude that there is no mission accomplishment that is worth the defeat of our humanity towards each other. We cannot follow the oppressors’ energy into destruction and decadence.

Amilcar Perez-Lopez was our family, an innocent young Guatemalan Mayan man shot in the back six times by the San Francisco Police Department. Today, April 12, 2017, once again, we see there is no justice, as San Francisco District Attorney Gascon, even with the irrefutable physical evidence, formally refused to criminally prosecute police officers of any crime. There simply is no justice for poor Brown people in this place. That there is no justice should not be a surprise to us, but, instead, it is a rally cry for us to join in common humanity, a mercy for those most vulnerable and exploited.

Amilcar was the least of our brothers, our janitors, our roofers, our ignored immigrants and belittled brown people. At Home Depot and U-Haul stores, you see them waiting patiently and with dignity for the work no one else wants to do. They pick up your dishes from restaurant tables. They did not come here for their own benefit. They came here for survival. They came here for their families, as you would also have come to help your own family.

I do not have answers for what specifically to do next, except to keep going forward and upward with love. Forget the word justice; it is meaningless when they have codified the word into their fat books of ridiculous rules. Only love, that great mystery and most powerful force in the universe, can help us and uplift us in spite of their cruel hand that attempts to keep us down. Please visit the Justice for Amilcar website for guidance on how to support and honor his memory and heal our community. https://justice4amilcar.org/author/justice4amilcar/

Finally, do something: ACTION; do not just theorize or complain, but action and share with each other the best stuff of life. You actually doing something are our hope and inspiration for a better world.

I end with a poem of power, a check unto ourselves about where we stand.

 

“Apolitical Intellectuals”

One day
the apolitical
intellectuals
of my country
will be interrogated
by the simplest
of our people.

They will be asked
what they did
when their nation died out
slowly,
like a sweet fire
small and alone.

No one will ask them
about their dress,
their long siestas
after lunch,
no one will want to know
about their sterile combats
with “the idea
of the nothing”
no one will care about
their higher financial learning.

They won’t be questioned
on Greek mythology,
or regarding their self-disgust
when someone within them
begins to die
the coward’s death.

They’ll be asked nothing
about their absurd
justifications,
born in the shadow
of the total lie.

On that day
the simple men will come.

Those who had no place
in the books and poems
of the apolitical intellectuals,
but daily delivered
their bread and milk,
their tortillas and eggs,
those who drove their cars,
who cared for their dogs and gardens
and worked for them,
and they’ll ask:

“What did you do when the poor
suffered, when tenderness
and life
burned out of them?”

Apolitical intellectuals
of my sweet country,
you will not be able to answer.

A vulture of silence
will eat your gut.

Your own misery
will pick at your soul.

And you will be mute in your shame.

–Otto Rene Castillo

 

Posted by: benbacsierra | January 20, 2017

The Revolt of Los Locos

The Revolt of Los Locos

Revolution belongs to eternity. Revolution was yesterday. Revolution is right now. Revolution will be mañana. Revolution and evolution is the same thing: one cannot exist without the other.

The roots are the reason all flowers bloom.

On March 21, 2014, Alex Nieto got whacked by the cops for eating a burrito in a gentrified neighborhood, Bernal Heights, San Fran, Califas, aka, Aztlan. Fifty nine gunshots cracked the heavens open, his spirit rose, and the insane angels zoomed out of the sky to start some good shit. His blood was the roots; we are the flowers.

La Pura Neta, Homes.

Two years later 10,000 flowers bloomed brightly, splashing iridescent colors on Frisco’s City Hall and on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Chambers, during their formal monthly meeting. Underneath all that carved Victorian beauty and etched artisan work, the Board attempted excuses, performed mediocre rants of rhetoric:

“We can do nothing to help you.”

The locos stood strong. Surrounding the Board, we had them exactly where we wanted.

“Fire Chief Suhr!” in unison, in harmony, in that unmistakable music of the masses.

Less than a month later, he got booted cause we booted him. It wasn’t no resignation. It wasn’t no request by the mayor. It wasn’t no good old fashioned civil rights movement. The revolt of los locos: homeboys and homegirls on the frontline, taking over shit, stirring the pot, creating concoctions of craziness, and putting it all into action. That is what changed history, a history that will never be known unless a loco writes it out, puts his life on the line, and makes it reality.

Amor for Alex Nieto, motherfuckers.

 

alex-giants

Posted by: benbacsierra | December 22, 2016

THE TRUE STORY OF “AMOR FOR ALEX NIETO”

1As the founder and humble leader of “Amor for Alex Nieto,” I, along with the family and coalition members, give thanks to you and wish blessings upon you, our loyal supporters, our true community warriors.

Last night’s Alex Nieto Memorial Celebration was pure love. Today the love blooms; we unfurl the love to friends, to strangers, and even to our enemies.

Amor is love, and the love for Alex Nieto existed before he was killed by the police. Our community love has always survived, but many times the mainstream media, the education system, spite, pettiness, and fear have obstructed our power of amor. We, however, have consciously used this potential to transform the world, even though some think it is politically and realistically incorrect to use amor for action.

On Saturday, March 22, 2014, the night we found out Alex had been killed by the police, it was a three-member group of Alex’s best homeboys and my family who formed a union of love and suffering. At three o’clock in the morning, I called my dear friend and fellow Hastings law school alumnus, super-lawyer Adante Pointer, and he, even without knowing the specifics of the situation, agreed to investigate and take the case. The next morning, hungover yet hungry for justice, the homeboy Lowride and I hit up advice from the mayor of La Mision, Roberto Hernandez. To brainstorm genius ideas and to summon the spirits of the Mission streets, we went cruising in his white convertible Impala lowrider. Looking directly into my eyes, Roberto Hernandez told me it was time for me to be a leader. Before Alex was killed, I had already been accomplishing positive things in the varrio and around the Bay, especially because of the publication of my first novel Barrio Bushido, Alex Nieto’s favorite book, our intellectual street story literature.

The Mission non-profit organization HOMEY, Frank Lara, Roberto Hernandez and others organized the first march, which was on Saturday, March 29, 2014. Running from Kezar stadium, where my daughter Margarita was competing in the state wrestling championship and won third place in honor of Alex Nieto, I showed up at the Mission Cultural Center and immediately began utilizing my street skills, Marine tenacity and forward movement ideology, and my educational experience, having read hundreds of books and written thousands of pages. “Amor for Alex Nieto” was born.

It was Jeff Bac Sierra, my brother, a superstar street homeboy, a man who was both loved and hated, that inspired us to amor. In fact, Alex Nieto loved Jeff because he had marveled at the legend. Both Refugio Nieto and Alex’s brother had witnessed the ferocity of Jeff Bac Sierra, a man full of tortured love and demons, who finally succumbed to the street life. Alex admired my brother’s spirit, and he confided that he felt that spirit through me. Still, Alex had a hard time understanding the concept of gifting away amor. Like many other poor people, Alex thought we should charge for our ideas or do things for money. That is completely understandable, but that capitalist purpose, I felt, should not be the main objective of our unity.

We, best friends, Alex, Lowride, and I, would hit the streets with love and smiles, helping people out with rides, poetry, partying, education, and positive movement. When we would meet, we would greet each other: “What’s up with the movement?” When we parted, we would declare: “I love you, brother.” Amor for Alex Nieto was actually created while Alex Nieto was alive. Love is a difficult concept that many simply cannot accept, and that is why over the past two years and nine months, we, the coalition, have experienced transformation. There simply is no compromise with amor as our living force. The Nietos agree.

Through all of the obstacles and victories, I have done my Barrio Bushido best, which is not perfect, but it has been my best to serve you because I understand and feel that we need service, the ultimate manifestation of bushido, the warrior code. Authentic amor is needed during these difficult times. That is why yesterday’s Alex Nieto Memorial Celebration was beautiful— because the culmination of love bloomed like a flower. We ate well, drank some good shots, smiled, played congas, laughed, and listened to wisdom. We took these pictures, the biggest gathering of the 21st to date. At the exact spot where Alex was killed, Brown and Black were united: street homeboys and homegirls, families, lawyers, law students, activists, muralists, musicians, lovers of life, community. Afterwards, in the dark, we were not afraid because we had each other, and each other is all we need. We embraced, we hugged, we felt the victory of humanity and amor.

This is the true story of “Amor for Alex Nieto.”

Con Todo Humildad, Sinceridad, y Carino,

Benjamin Bac Sierra

SHARE THIS FAR AND WIDE:

The only way to the front lines is forward.

Cruisin with You Amor for Alex

If you are upset about Trump or the Dakota pipeline, you can and should let your voice be heard. But if you want action, an action that leads to creation, then follow us to the front lines, and it is not in a far off distant land; it is here in our city of San Francisco.

Join us this Monday, November 28 at 6:00 p.m. for the “All Hands Meeting for the Alex Nieto Memorial!” at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center on Cortland Street, Alex Nieto’s varrio. For all you OG Veteranos and Veteranas, you know that Cortland is one of our oldest varrios, one of the first places in San Francisco’s Mission/Outer Mission that was gentrified starting back in the 90’s. It was such a loco colorful beautiful hood until they tricked residents into gentrification and kicked them out. Now mostly wealthy white folks live there—lawyers and technology executives. In 2011 they literally erased the varrio history by destroying the Cortland library’s 1983 Native American and cholo mural.

Bernal Heights Library Mural.png

This time we must stand together. History cannot and will not be erased. It is up to you, I literally mean YOU, to make this Alex Nieto memorial reality. Not only is it what the Nietos desire and deserve after being swindled by a mostly white jury out of a just verdict in the civil trial, but also it is what we need as medicine for our community.

We proved Alex’s murder. Check the evidence yourself. I would love to hear any reasonable arguments about how Officer Schiff could, after being counseled by his police officer father, on the night he shot at Alex Nieto, go from saying he looked into Alex’s “angry” eyes and saw his forehead “scrunch” up to being proved a liar two years later in open court— Alex had on a baseball hat and sunglasses on, so it would have been impossible for Officer Schiff to have seen Alex’s eyes or forehead. I would love to hear any explanation of how Alex Nieto’s wrist bone was found in his pocket if, as the officers state, he always had his hands out and pointing a taser. Because there is no reasonable explanation, we must conclude Alex Nieto was unlawfully killed, and this is a severe injustice and tragedy for his family and community. Yet we are thankful for whirlwinds, for they have helped shape who we are: Amor for Alex.

We need mass attendance at this meeting because there may be some who want to erase racism: from the caller, who admitted Alex was doing nothing improper but described him as a “foreigner”, to the dog owner who threatened Alex and spewed obscene racial slurs against him, to the police who profiled him and shot at him fifty nine (59) times. There may be some who want to ignore the corruption of San Francisco: from the district attorney that refused to file criminal charges against the officers, to the collusion between San Francisco and Taser International, the company that gained a two million dollar contract with the city, after manipulating the time stamps on Alex Nieto’s taser so that it would match up nicely with the fabricated police narrative.

We sing NO to erasure. We shout NO to corruption. With the joining now of 3,000 others who have signed the petition and at least four San Francisco supervisors, we demand an ordinance (law) for a memorial tribute to Alex Nieto on Bernal Heights. We imagine community members hiking up to that mountain and praying like he did, looking out over the view of San Francisco and being reminded and reminded of his unlawful death AND our community resilience. We want students of all ages to travel up to that hill for field trips and stand at that memorial site and learn about the history and creativity of our community; they will write thousands of critical educational essays. We want families to pilgrimage hands together and love each other at the place where Alex breathed his last breath. Lovers will make an offering and share a kiss, the way we used to do it up on that mountain in the old days. We want this place to be a place of peace, of inspiration and amor.

We need you there. Your family needs you there. Your community needs you there. Your unborn grandchildren need you there: “All Hands Meeting for the Alex Nieto Memorial!” Monday, November 28, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. Wear red and black in honor of Alex. Join the Facebook event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1156504267790999/?notif_t=plan_user_associated&notif_id=1478981259825422

Amor for Alex Nieto: March 4, 1986 to March 21, 2014

Against the violence and injustice of 59 bullets, family and community rose to defend honor and promote positive spirit.

Benjamin Bac Sierra, M.A., J.D.

End of Trial Alex Nieto pic

 

Posted by: benbacsierra | November 9, 2016

Every Day is Both an Apocalypse and a Resurrection

Not forward

But upward

Always upward

I am fine.

You are fine.

Do not be tricked by trivialities. We have succeeded in the jungles, the concrete, the prisons, and the abyss. We are resilient and effective and have proven ourselves beyond any expectation:

Barrio Bushido: Street Honor, Family Honor, Community Honor.

Brutal Truth.

Today is a shock and panic only for those who believed that politicians could and would save us. Many had been comforted by “manufactured consent,” but in reality, it was false. This social media shit is a lie. The greater media is also a lie.

Politicians are predators and puppets.

The only ones you can count on are your own. The only way to truly come up is with you, your familia, and your community. We must make ourselves even stronger and smarter than ever. This moment is opportunity.

Spirit matters most:

Education, our own education: What book you reading, homes? What poetry you writing, love? What you teaching your children?

Physical fitness: You eating broccoli? You hitting your pushups? You dancing on the streets?

Discipline: What time you waking up? What goals you got?

Creation: What you working on right now? When you going to deliver?

Amor: Have I told you today how much you mean to me, how much I love you now and forever? Do you know how much I love to embrace you?

Unless we have lost our minds and spirits, nothing has really changed. It is a new day to breathe. It is a new day to triumph.

Every day is both an apocalypse and a resurrection.

Fuck any voting results.

You choose.

barrio bushido

 

on-the-hill

The capacity crowd’s energy is electrifying, urging the young actors to push their souls to the limits, to reach deep down and extract their essence, their street essence, their indigenous essence, their Frisco funk. A Latino and multicultural youth movement explodes in front of your eyes. Candy Contreras. Melissa Gomez. Jocelyn Lainez. Talia Matau. Luis Ramirez Martinez. Nicole Nutterfield. Estela “Nataly” Ortiz. Jad Quesada-Khoury. Lochlein Sekona. Stephanie Tomasulo.

The sound of gunshots greets you to the plot of the play: “On the Hill: I am Alex Nieto.”

Alex Nieto, we learn, was a young man racially profiled by the SFPD and unlawfully killed by 14 of their 59 bullets shot at him on top of Bernal Hill on March 21, 2014. The community would not accept this horror story, so the community rose. The artists rose. The youth rose.

The cast are all young people from the inner city. The musicians are a new breed of Santana/Loco Bloco/hip hop/rap fused artists with their own rock and roll soul slick style. Their music is a reminder of roots and a promise of revolution. Angela Rey. Amadeus Oyagata. Anthony Corona. Cy Thompson. Ariel Mestaller-Orallo. Mosiah Concha. Madison Cenac. Liset Gutierrez. Grace Nevarez-Ortiz.

“On the Hill” constantly confronts their pain, the taboo of gentrification in the most progressive and liberal city on planet earth. San Francisco, the city itself, becomes a main character. This is, however, a universal story, for it forces us to question, then, how racist and classist is it in other places, such as Denver, San Antonio, Walnut Creek, places that are not as open as San Fran. And even here we realize the developers believe the earth was meant to be made into cubicles, partitions, workspaces.

 

Wildflowers must be massacred.

 

Then how can the actors dance their pain away? They dance and gift us creativity and courage, performing intricate moves, tribal acrobatics, ballet-style grace. Nietzsche once proclaimed that a day without dancing is a day without life. These youth prove life in front of our eyes. Here is where the audience begins to see art as an authentic transformation tool. The message is deep: we create our own movements; we transform the tragic into triumph. We mold our own media, not made by politicians or professors, or ultra-intellectual outsiders, but made by people who care about community uplifting. The play is the epitome of vida loca, the street creed. Here locura serves as a medicine and philosophy forward, for who else would create a play that so blatantly confronts the perfect system of corruption?

“On the Hill” exposes the entrenched corruption at every level of the San Francisco machine. Based on actual testimony and trial transcripts, the play reports on the district attorney’s failings to prosecute the police officers who killed Alex, the collusion between the district attorney and the city attorney, the police department’s theft of Alex Nieto’s car and search without a warrant, the city attorney’s attempted manipulation of Yahira, Alex’s girlfriend, Alex’s wrist bone in his pocket.

 

59 shots.

Even with all of this overwhelming evidence, the jury decides against Alex Nieto and in favor of their beloved protectors, the police. The white jury. No African Americans or Latinos served as peers. Nevertheless, the community is not smashed by injustice. We know there is no hope through their system. So we create our own. In the play, the actress that played Elvira Nieto, Alex’s mother repeats: “I am not la llorona, the weeping woman.” We dance to death. We create art out of hatred. We realize and acknowledge our own power and do not hope for others to save us. We have proven we are not helpless. The future, even with all its obstacles, is bright.

Where do we go from here? More places, more performances, worldwide international travelers (or troublers, if you say it with my father’s musical accent). We play in front of their face and show them the roots of Frisco and how we still lead the way, even when they kill us. We continue to fight for justice for Mario Woods, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Luis Gongora, and all the others who have fallen, unlawfully killed by SFPD.

We fly even when we fall.

We need more writing about this play and these issues. We need our own education, our own arts, our own agency.

We need leaders like Paul Flores, the director, a working star. Consider it was only a month ago that Paul was recruiting actors off the streets. For them to perform the way they did, he must have reached into their guts and souls. Of course they had these gifts inside them all along, but we must praise Paul for his ability to love and to show them to give their love away to an unknown audience. Leaders love, serve, learn, and teach, but don’t bullshit. They train and inspire the next generation. A professional, Paul respected their style and worked to fine-tune it.

Leaders have gotten a bad rap lately—because we imagine idiots. But I am not referencing the clowns or political leaders but authentic organizers full of heart and soul, leaders with vision and selflessness but also with guts and unafraid to be leaders. Leaders work and prove, and the proof is not in a theory but in a substantive action. To accomplish is to practice constantly and to work ceaselessly. We cannot follow shortcuts.

While some may feel disheartened at the end of the play because there is no clear happy Hollywood ending, we must understand that art is not meant to be pure propaganda. Not every singular story or piece of magic surrounding the Alex Nieto movement could be told in ninety minutes. Perhaps more could have been explored about the effects of the intense trial, how, for example, we influenced other art, murals, songs and music, performances and actions, like a 2015 street play, a mock trial where the Nietos actually ripped up the badges of the killer cops, or the feats of the Frisco Five hunger strikers who, with puro locura and love, put their lives on the line in front of the Mission Police Station for 18 days and nights. Perhaps the play could have shown how joined together with other coalitions, such as the Mario Woods and Amilcar Perez Lopez Coalitions, we fired the chief of police of one of the most powerful cities on planet earth.

But that is for another story, one that can be created by our own people. “On the Hill: I am Alex Nieto” serves as a springboard for more. Using this play as a template and inspiration, we can create our own plays, our own world. That’s the way I see it. That’s the way the Nietos see it, as they loved the play and fully support it.

Thanks to all who have proven their amor and continue to fight the good fight.

Posted by: benbacsierra | August 18, 2016

“Endurance and Amor for Amilcar Perez-Lopez”

Amilcar and Alex Joined           On February 26, 2015 Amilcar Perez-Lopez was unlawfully killed by the San Francisco Police Department. Now a year and a half later, the San Francisco District Attorney shirks his duty and refuses to file criminal charges against the officers who killed Amilcar. If the San Francisco District Attorney does not file criminal charges against the police officers who killed Amilcar, then it will be harder for all coalitions to obtain even crumbs of justice for any other unlawfully killed loved ones. Together we must fight for Amilcar by making sure that the district attorney performs his elected official’s duty.

As Amilcar was running away, he was shot in the back and the back of the head a total of six times by undercover plain-clothes police officers who never even identified themselves as police officers. This is undeniable physical proof for the bare minimum legal standard of PROBABLE CAUSE to prosecute these officers. “Probable Cause” does not mean that these officers are guilty; it simply means that maybe MAYBE something unlawful happened so that a jury could decide this case. Think of it this way: Is there at least a ten percent possibility that officers acted unlawfully in this case? A reasonable answer: of course.

Amilcar is the least of our brothers, our janitors, our roofers, our ignored immigrants and belittled brown people. At Home Depot and U-Haul stores, you see them waiting patiently and with dignity for the work no one else wants to do. They pick up your dishes from restaurant tables. They did not come here for their own benefit. They came here for survival.

A brief irrefutable history lesson:

In 1954 the United States Central Intelligence Agency led a coup that overthrew the legitimate Guatemalan government and instituted a puppet U.S. regime. It was this injustice that Che Guevarra personally witnessed that radicalized and transformed him. Back in 1954 Guatemala had begun to rise, but the indigenous Mayan geniuses who understood time and the universe better than their European counterparts could not be allowed to thrive over U.S. corporate interests. By the 1980’s full blown civil war, massacres, and genocide against the native Mayans ensued. This horrible legacy, unfortunately, endures in the form of extreme poverty and continued oppression—gentrification in its worst form.

From 2002 to 2003, I personally defended political asylum refugees and gained them immigration status here in the U.S. Here is an example of one such briefing I wrote: Because her father supported the guerillas with food and water and because the Guatemalan Army accused all Mam Maya of being guerillas, the Guatemalan Army disappeared her father. When she was in her mother’s womb, the Guatemalan Army beat and terrorized her mother. Her aunt was mutilated and killed. When she was only a few months old, “V” was forced to abandon her ancient homeland for a strange land where she had no status or rights. She grew up fearful, uneducated, and sad. She was stripped of her identity and humanity.

Amilcar Perez-Lopez also came from this war-torn history. He had no criminal background. He was a hard working quiet immigrant. Only five feet tall and approximately one hundred twenty pounds, he was running away from undercover police officers who, without warning, assaulted and battered him. The web of lies that San Francisco has promoted can be clearly seen if you click on the link: https://justice4amilcar.org/legal-status/. There is no way Amilcar was a threat to officers. If the District Attorney won’t even prosecute these rogue officers in a case where there is obviously “probable cause,” then consider how hard it will be for other families and coalitions seeking justice for their loved ones. And remember, we are not even advocating convicting the officers at this point. We, the tax paying people, rightfully deserve a public trial paid for by our taxes.

Note that if Amilcar’s case does not rate a criminal trial, where all the discovery and evidence will come to light, then a civil trial (which must be funded by the family’s attorneys [who will be outspent by the San Francisco City Attorney by ten to one]) will be an uphill battle for the community and family. When there is a criminal trial, all the evidence comes out so that for any civil trial, where the burden of proof is a lesser standard, it is much more favorable that the community and family gain justice. We, “Amor for Alex Nieto,” clearly demonstrated the difficulties of obtaining justice during the Alex Nieto civil case. The jury will be prejudiced against the victims and in favor of the police—unless we can first prove that police officers can actually be criminals! Although there is no guarantee, we would expect the jury to feel a precedential pressure (based on criminal charges having been filed) to find a preponderance of the evidence in a civil trial, which, in our current justice system, is probably the best we can expect.

Let’s rise together for Amilcar. We must pressure District Attorney Gascon not to be a corrupt coward in this case. Call D.A. Gascon at his office: (415) 553-1751. Attend the rally on Friday, August 26 at 6:00 p.m. at the site where Amilcar was killed in San Francisco (Folsom between 24th and 25th). Support the Amilcar Perez-Lopez Coalition by supporting Father Richard Leslie Smith, and let’s get out there together to push for justice and love for Amilcar, the least of our brothers.

Benjamin Bac Sierra, your servant

“Amor for Alex Nieto”

Amilcar Perez Lopez SF

Amilcar Perez Lopez

Posted by: benbacsierra | June 15, 2016

MISSION ROOTS

On June 16, 2008 my brother Jeff claimed both la vida loca and la muerte loca.

He hadn’t been just my brother. He had been like my father, since our own father had died when we were so young. As you have read, my brother was an anger inside of me, a tough will for something, a person to impress, and the example of how crazy could be transferred into positive momentum in the classroom. He had charisma but a fault of staying loyal to the streets’ code that halted him from evolving. Growth was not his goal. On the block, Jeff marched around with a heavy-duty steel link chain wrapped around his neck. He checked gang members by petting them on the head, yet if you would stand up to him, he would smile. He wanted you to fight and to hold dignity ‘cause that was all you had if you were living that lifestyle. Once upon a time, in his 66 droptop Impala lowrider, Jeff witnessed the cops, as usual, patrolling and marauding through the hood. He decided to turn them into the hunted. Hitting his lowrider switches, bouncing his 3500 pound classic up and down, Jeff pursued and menaced them! On their tail, he flashed his high-beams to let them know they were being stalked. When the cops finally figured out they were being pulled over, Jeff interrogated them and ultimately accepted the hit to jail. Locura was his contribution: this is the unashamed spirit of our streets and community.

When he died, I howled. Perhaps I should have expected his death. I felt proud that I had made him happy during his life, but was ashamed that he died alone. But he was a man who knew we all live and die alone.

Am I praising him? Am I implying I would want my own son to be like him? He could never be him. These are different times, a different place. The Mission as we knew it no longer exists: it has been gentrified—the actual tar and cement rehabilitated by billionaires who have kicked out most of the poor people of color. The property on Mission and 22nd that housed my brother’s insurance business and other Latino owned stores was scorched in 2014, what many in the community theorize is an ordinary arson strategy to boot out the homeys and the gente. So Jeff would not even be able to claim that Mission space. He was an Indio, the worst insult and the highest honor. For better and worse, his legacy remains in me, so he can never be a failure if I refuse to be a failure myself. He branded the locura battle scar upon me. Because I am a homeboy, I do not surrender.

I can’t advocate a norm that would have been better for Jeff, but that doesn’t mean I am a nihilist. Perhaps it is a deceit to not fully address the negative aspects of his life, but if learning has taught me one thing, it is that we will all graduate from life to death. Even with all my education, I must admit, my brother lived exactly the way he wanted. Perhaps he could not see a farther future for himself, or perhaps he felt committed to suffering for suffering’s sake, such an eccentric noble obligation. Although he could not articulate it, he felt the betrayal of this country and of his skin color and of being a cholo, so he forced everything to be extreme, exactly how America makes everything extreme, but for me, through me, he could predict a brighter future. The only justice I can give him is to acknowledge his tremendous impact on me through these words. He was a Mision superstar, a star in his own mind, perhaps the only place where it matters.

Isn’t the truth of education, of teaching and learning, not an objective truth, which is ultimately illusory, but a subjective certainty? Authentic education is a connection between objectivity, intelligence, and your most important person, you, yourself, your most heartfelt subjective emotions. According to what Jeff used to preach, we all matter most individually. Every once in a while, he would declare:

“Everything is subjective.”

To him the most important truth was subjectivity, but if he could help you get to that truth by showing you to strategize in a brutal, confusing, frightening objective manner, then that was his best. He would, for example, as a prosperous insurance agent, daringly exchange wits with wealthy white businessmen and have them laugh loudly. Because he had fought fires for the California Department of Forestry camps based in rural Mendocino, Lassen, and Shasta, Jeff was not afraid to travel to American countryside towns that did not know brown people, yet he would smile at the folks, and they, most of the time, would smile back. Many street homeboys are afraid to be in an overwhelming white world, but Jeff didn’t accept the excuse that gente should be scared. People, he thought, should love bravely and unashamedly. Even with all my accomplishments, I did not have his magnetism. It was only after my brother’s death that I became a more open, loving man because I discovered that amor is the greatest subjective mystery, feeling, and knowledge. He, his death, was my greatest educator. I had tried to be like the old “Harvard on the Hill” guard, but I learned that students, and even professors, have souls.

(An excerpt from Renaissance Homeboy)

Jeff at Low Low Show

My brother Jeff at a Low Low Show, circa 2002

 

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