This past week I cruised in the Monte Carlo with Caitlin Donohue, a fine reporter from the Bay Guardian, who will be publishing an article about me and my new novel, Barrio Bushido, on Wednesday, February 16, 2011. Through lowrider cruising we reached a truth and an openness, we could not have reached if we would have just sat in a café for an interview. I thank her for our opportunity to share some life.
During the interview, she questioned me about the message of the novel. I had an incomplete answer for her then, and even in this writing, I do not believe my answer is completely fixed. Here, though, I am not going to perform a literary analysis of the novel, but I will present four concepts that I want readers to gain from Barrio Bushido, my new work.
1. We must utilize the “loco (crazy)” spirit for positive empowerment. There is a magic and an essence in the craziness that is embedded in street culture, in all cultures. Many times we negate that power in order to be normal. I am not promoting the gang lifestyle or violence. The characters in my novel are hard and many times dysfunctional, yet at the same time they are beautiful. Can you imagine what they can do if they used the street spirit and transformed it into positive educational energy? I am not a perfect man, but I have accomplished some things with the “loco” street spirit: I was a true grunt Marine, I earned my B.A. in English, a teaching credential, an M.A. in Creative Writing, and a J.D. in law. With that loco-ness, I harnessed a power that led me to where I am now. My goal does not need to be everyone’s goal, but with student equity as such a hot topic, the “loco” is one untapped method to reach justice and balance
2. Intellect combined with action leads to power and fulfillment. Education alone is not enough; action alone is not enough. Intellectuals many times preach ideas that lead to alienation of self and community. Overly theoretical people can challenge ideas all day inside of classrooms, yet never know how those ideas apply to our real grounded world. Action oriented people, like the characters in my novel, actually do things. Although they may be involved with deviant activities, their lives are filled with a constant doing.
In order for our community, our humanistic community to evolve, we must combine both intellect and action concurrently for the best possible outcome. We must study great literature and philosophy. This book does not merely tell people to simply get educated; that is a cliché! I am here to exemplify through my work that they should be reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Richard Wright, Friedrich Nietzsche, and more. We must not simply obtain a “normal” education; we must read tough, controversial, and artistic authors. With this newfound knowledge, we cannot simply nod our heads and speak to each other in classrooms and cafes, but we should be out in bars, on the streets, and with our lives, not only thinking grand thoughts but also putting these thoughts into action. What type of action? A Barrio Bushido Mission Cultural Center type of action is a beginning. Many people have written books. Gente have had succesful lowrider shows. On Thursday, February 17 at 7:00 p.m., we are combining both for an unprecedented action meant to unite and empower the community and all who attend. The great authors can give us imagination for our action that we actually use.
3. There can only be redemption in the future. The concept of verguenza is embedded in Latino culture. We learn to do many things out of shame, and we do find strength and motivation because of this. We do things, both positive and negative, because we know we are sinners. Now in this 21st century we have been branded as the worst sinners. Because of the United States “drug war” and the prison industrial complex, many homeboys and homegirls have been branded as lifetime felons, evil people—because that is what it means to be a felon in our “normal” society. Yes, we need law, but how do we prove that we have evolved and that we should not be typecast for life because of a past mistake? In Barrio Bushido, the character Little Cartoon learns that we must look to the future for proof. We can only redeem ourselves from our past by proving that we are worthy by our future actions. The reason I do what I do now is because of the shame that I own to cover my past mistakes. By doing this, I feel as if I am transforming shame into love. My redemption is to help people and to make the world a more beautiful place. I hope that I sincerely prove love.
4. Barrio Bushido: we all have a duty to forever. Of course we should live in our present moment and savor everything of the now. But as the character Santo believes, we are not simply bound to this Earth. I am not espousing God or any religion. What we do with our lives affects those who we will never know. What we do now affects those one thousand years from now, human beings who will not even know our names. We affect our families, our communities forever. We, therefore, have a duty to forever because that is all we can be certain of in our lives. I do not know whether I will live five years from now, but I know I will have touched people in my life and those ideas and emotions I implant and emit, they will continue somehow. What legacy do I want to leave for this world? That is a question that this novel forces us to confront.
I hope to see you all at the Barrio Bushido Mission Cultural Event this Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.
Ben Bac Sierra
If you would like to add some comments or give suggestions, please post directly to this blog or e-mail me at email@example.com.