If you are a Latinx or Chicanx/Xicanx person, you probably remember the very moment you first read Luís J. Rodríguez’s Always Running, La Vida Loca: Gang Days in LA. For me, it was when I had just finished college and happened upon a copy at my school. I had just read Monster: The Autobiography of an LA Gang Member, written by Sanyika Shakur, and I was searching, unwittingly, for a way to humanize and process the environment that was my home for my entire childhood and adolescence. Always Running shook me to the core, and I remember thinking how fortunate I was to have stayed away from “that life” as a youth.
As I have grown as a writer and educator, I’ve learned the power of healing, storytelling, and bearing witness to the consequences of systemic racism and capitalism. Don Luís has long given me the words to explain the pain and sadness I feel to this day when I think of where I grew up.
I messaged him on Instagram, not expecting any kind of response, but there it was. Almost immediately this brilliant and humble veterano of movements and cells agreed to come on the show and gave me more time than I could have ever hoped for. I have reached out to other towering figures in the arts and scholarship, but Luis will stay with me a long time, because he was so ready to speak.
This elder is a gift. Please enjoy this charla.