News / Racial Disparities

  • Podcast with Cuicani, a Los Angles Music Collective


    Cuicani is a singer-songwriter’s collective comprised of five Los Angeles based musicians. The music of Cuicani features the talented Mavens: Marlene Beltran Cuauhtin and Marisa Martinez, who provide rich vocals and harmonies along with Tony “Tone-Irie” Sauza on vocals and guitar. I spoke with Marlene, Marisa and Tony on a series of steps in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. 


    In their own words, "The word  “Cuicani” is a Nahuatl word that means “Singer.” We chose this name because we felt it evoked the importance of exercising one’s voice, and also of giving a voice to the voiceless. Established in 2012, Cuicani’s eclectic mix of members reflects the diversity of the city it calls home. In our three years together we have written and recorded over 15 original songs with themes such as: environmental justice, immigration rights, and protesting police brutality. "


    Not surprisingly I was drawn to their sound and mission.



    A release celebration will be held on the album’s launch day at Center for the Arts Eagle Rock. The community-focused event will include an art installation and workshop celebrating the home as imagined by Ofelia EsparzaRosanna EsparzaFelicia Montesand other notable Eastside artists, as well as a performance by Entre Mujeres as part of the screening of the mini-documentary on the making of the Entre Mujeres: Translocal Musical Dialogues album project by Professor Martha Gonzalez, front-woman of the GRAMMY® winning band Quetzal. Special guest band Quetzal performs followed by the headlining concert by Cuicani.

    Now & Then Album Release Celebration
    Friday, March 25th from 6:00 – 11:00 pm
    Center For The Arts Eagle Rock
    2225 Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90041
    Tickets $20 (includes Now & Then CD)


    Now & Then is a 16-track double album that reflects Cuicani’s work in three distinct studio sessions, the first at Coney Island Studios with Grammy® winning percussionist/engineer Alberto Lopez (member of Quetzal and Jungle Fire), the second with Grammy® winning producer/musician Quetzal Flores (founder of Quetzal), and the last at 54 East Sound Studios with producer/songwriter London Parker McWhorterNow & Then also represents two phases of the band’s career—early work makes up the first half of the album titled “Then,” and the second disc includes the recently written “Now” tracks. The album takes you through a range of world, soul, Latin, and Afro-Caribbean sounds that include reggae, dancehall, cumbia, timba, son, rock, and blues. The songs circle around themes of cultural identity, struggle of the working class, empowering community, heartbreak, love, and unity, while maintaining an uplifting sound and flow.
  • Santa Barbara Residents Fight Gentrification

    On February 15th, 2015, PODER organized a protest in an effort to focus attention on the dangers of the Milpas Community Association (MCA) and its proposed gentrification plans for the Eastside. The MCA’s Eastside business improvement district (E-BID) plan will make Milpas Street into a new State Street that will inevitably increase commercial and residential rents and drive out more locals from Santa Barbara.


    The protest took place in the 100 block of north Milpas in front of Taqueria El Bajio restaurant. The owner of the restaurant, Santos Guzman, is an advocate for the E-BID, working against the wishes of the majority of Latino-owned businesses on Milpas Street. This owner has historically stood against Latino protestors including the BFI Waste union protest.


    Spirited PODER activists waved signs, distributed literature, and spoke with interested restaurant patrons about the effects of gentrification on local communities. PODER members also spoke with Guzman about his perception of the E-BID. It was clear that Mr. Guzman does not fully understand the implications of gentrification and the harm his family business will suffer from in the long run under the proposed plan. The people most at risk are the residents and local business owners who would not be able to pay the increased fees and taxes since commercial and housing rents will inevitably rise if the E-BID is approved by city council.

    Police called by MCA member Jarrett Gorin checked in with PODER demonstrators and concluded that PODER was conducting a lawful protest through the exercise of its first amendment right to free speech and peaceful assembly.. Gorrin is a developer at Vanguard Planning and is invested in the E-BID through his recent acquisition of the defunct Chevron station on the corner of Milpas and De La Guerra Street. His mix-use infill project will establish retail and residential rentals on the lot despite concerns of soil and groundwater contamination by underground fuel tanks on the site of the former gas station.


    Accounts of the harassment and intimidation of local business owners by MCA members continues to grow and have been reported to city council members and local agencies. A seventy-year-old Latina businesswoman who has had her shop on Milpas for decades was intimidated by MCA members but was too afraid to report it. Another Latino business owner objected when a member of the MCA forcibly removed a sign displaying the owner’s opposition to the E-BID from his storefront window. Business owners who questioned the actions of the MCA were told they would lose business if they challenged their intentions (please see MCA emails).

     PODER were not surprised when Gorin demonstrated his usual intimidiation tactics against opponents of the E-BID by calling in antagonizers to PODER’s protest who engaged in heated exchanges with peaceful PODER activists. Gorin and other MCA members arrived at the protest and made false allegations about protestors claiming protestors were shoving people, blocking entrance and harassing customers. All allegations were false as this was a peaceful demonstration to shed light to the bigger issue.


    Since the MCA’s announcement of the E-BID at City Council last November, PODER and other activists have been engaged in dialog with local Eastside businesses and residents to assess their knowledge of the gentrification plan. PODER members have discovered that very few small businesses have been consulted by MCA officials despite paying regular dues to the organization.


     PODER members are concerned that neighborhood residents, community churches, industrial businesses, and small locally owned shops on the Eastside would be driven out by the MCA’s gentrification plan in order to usher in big corporate conglomerates catering to wealthy tourists, big box stores, and Montecito elites.


    PODER is one of many groups working to preserve our neighborhood’s affordability for small mom-and-pop shops and area residents. We do not believe that MCA’s gentrification plan is appropriate for our neighborhood and instead support community-based alternatives that reflect the authentic wishes and desires of our local businesses and residents.

  • A Stunning Example of Racial Disparities in Santa Barbara

    In a case that has sent shockwaves throughout the Santa Barbara Latino community a white women, Kimberly Ann Kreis, with a long history of substance abuse and a rap sheet peppered with multiple felonies was sentenced to 1 year in jail after having killed three brown lives while intoxicated.

    Alternatively former aide to Congresswoman Capps, Raymond Morua, was sentenced to 20 years to life after having killed a white women in a hit and run accident while also intoxicated. Morua had two previous DUI's. While both crimes are layered in tragedy it is clearly the case that there is an agregious racial disparity in how punishment was administered. Wanting to honor the severity of the impact to the families we are not arguing that Morua should be sentenced to less time but rather we are wondering and alarmed that Ms. Kreis was sentenced to such minimal time. 

    It is clear in this case that the Santa Barbara court system is one sided in punishing according to race.

    The CHP conducted an extensive investigation of the crash, but ultimately found that a sober person would likely have collided with the vehicle as well. Authorities argued that for this reason they could not charge Kreis with felony manslaughter, even though she had alcohol and methamphetamine in her bloodstream at the time of the collision.

    Ultimately, in December, Kreis pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor charges: possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, being under the influence of a controlled substance, and having drug paraphernalia in her vehicle.

    Kreis had formerly been charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, but because of the passage of Prop. 47 last fall, which reduces most non-serious and non-violent property and drug crimes from felony to a misdemeanor, she was charged as such.

    Filiberto Nolasco Gomez with graphic design and content support from Michael Montenegro





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