I was finishing up my last days in the New York City offices in early January before shipping out for our East Los Angeles Historias stop, when I received a phone call from Shifra Teitelbaum, director of a youth organization in South Los Angeles named “youTHink.” She was interested in getting her youth involved in Historias, our initiative to collect stories from Latinos. After a few hours, we had made a plan to record for a day at Southern California Library — a people’s library dedicated to documenting and preserving the histories of communities in struggle for justice.
Recently those plans became a reality. At the library, students from youTHink came with family members and friends to talk about their experiences living in Los Angeles. Iabeth Briones came with his brother, Eliseo Monclova, and talked about the time he spent living on the streets with his mother.
“I remember we lived in a car for a while and we were parked across [from] my favorite taco spot [called] ‘Chavelitas’, and we were there for one or two weeks. I was the smallest one and I slept in the back seat with all of that space and I think it was a way that [mom] was still trying to give me the best that she could by trying to keep me comfortable. I’ve always been with my mom, but I never really grew up with a father and I always looked at my mom as a pillar of strength. She kept us going and we kept each other going.”
Iabeth is currently a junior in high school and he’s also a poet. He has recently begun attending workshops with Street Poets Inc., an organization dedicated to the creative process as a force for individual and community transformation.
I want to give a special thanks to Shifra Teitelbaum for bringing this wonderful day of recording together, and to the Southern California Library for allowing us to record and for answering all of my questions about this very unique independent library!