First of all I give it up to all of you who put in work in your own way. This that follows is my story, my work:
To be active is to action, not to be simply theoretical, but to actually action out Praxis, testing out your theories into the world. You action out your true beliefs and know there is no control to what you will find. No one has ever done it before, yet you do it anyway. Basically, you say, “Fuck it, Homes. I am going to live while I am alive. I’m gonna put in work, not because anyone tells me I gotta work or to work for a wage; I’m gonna put in work for free with lots of love, so I can live.”
On the streets, putting in work means one thing, that you are active with that vida loca lifestyle. I was born into the streets and was active out there, and that meant danger and death. In the 80’s we stayed solid because we always expected to fight, any time, any place, even unto death. This was, of course, going to lead us to the worst torture, yet we accepted it. I boxed and fought, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, sometimes getting stomped on the streets. We were supposed to be getting ready for the weight bench at La Pinta! By seventeen I knew I had to leave because I didn’t want to be locked up, like so many other Loved Ones who had gotten wrapped up. I was afraid but did not show fear. I should have gone to prison many times over, but it was simply chance/luck/God/the unknown that gave me freedom for something else. Lots of others got busted for much less than me. Instead of joining the pen, I joined the Corps. To join war.
I was active duty in the Marine Corps grunts, 0331 machinegunner. Solid muscle that never stops. I prayed for war so that I would not have to feel guilty for not going to the Pen. My wish came true, and it wasn’t that bad for us, not like how it was for the Iraqis who got smashed. Task Force Ripper into Kuwait City was as frontline as you can get in the last big toe-to-toe battle in modern history. No countries even fight like that anymore.
I got medals for being in a nightmare.
When I got back in 1991, I was living like that song by E-40: I Practice Lookin Hard 🙂 Too much. My mother used to tell people, “He’s too much.” Which meant she could not handle me, a fucked-up 19 year old combat veteran running around loco. With a sly smile on her face, she would shake her head. She was both proud and ashamed of me. That is why I love Margarita and named my own daughter after her. For occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas, she would feed all of the Homies who came through. This is a time period when people were hungry. There were no adults present for many Loved Ones, as their own parents, if they even had any, were struggling themselves, struggling with poverty, drug addiction, insanity.
In 94 I got active in college, went to school for ten straight years, summers included. I joke around that I ended up getting so many degrees cause I just didn’t want to stop going to school and get a job. But I didn’t just go to school. I went to smash stereotypes. I raised my hand. I volunteered for projects. I had to—because I had the tradition of the Mission Streets embedded in me. You were supposed to be a missile for gangs and represent even if you were outnumbered. I knew we were always outnumbered inside the walls: that gave us bragging rights. Well, I had to action like that for us in classrooms, too!
By 1998, I was active as a teacher in the teaching credential program. Taught at the old Woodrow Wilson High, which had the rep as the most fucked-up school in the city, a school I had been kicked out of a dozen years earlier. Nowadays, I would have probably been kicked out of the teaching credential program, too, cause I was loco inside of that classroom. But the students taught me, and my peers in the program even voted me to represent as our graduation keynote speaker. I had everyone busting up 🙂
I had been writing since 1994, but became a full-time active Master of Fine Arts program writer in 99. For me that meant a lot of solitude, lots of activity in my own mind. You got to write books, so I wrote books. By now, I have probably written at least six of them.
In 2001 I became active as a Juris Doctor student at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. During internships I practiced employment law and defended immigrant workers for La Raza Centro Legal on 16th and Valencia in the Mission and also in East Oakland. At the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant in Berkeley, I practiced immigration law and defended political asylum seekers in immigration court. In 2004, I graduated.
Instead of practicing law, I became a full-time tenure-track professor in 2005. I had already been teaching at City College since 2002 and loved it. I wanted that to be my life, so I could stay active by always learning new ideas and constantly having to test myself on the frontline spot with our real-world students. Out of my own pockets, I would throw barbeques for my students, take them to cultural and community events, and give them the best of me. This pic below is the year 2005. I would bring my entire family, my little children. My brother Jeff, RIP, would grill all the meat. The students would rap to each other, watch the football game, and smoke weed in the cuts 🙂 We promoted authentic education.
I never stopped being active in pain, cause that comes with the territory when you put your heart out there. Lots of brothers dead, some sisters, too, but mostly the brothers, even my own blood brother SFM N Jeff included. In 2008 when he passed, I planned to do something in his honor, something in honor of La Mision, cause he lived and died for those streets. For him I wrote Barrio Bushido, our story. It got published in early 2011. That book is sick-with-it. San Fran Frisco street shit. I’m still proud of that work, despite all the ugliness, political incorrectness, and vida loca love in it.
Having that book published sprung me to activity everywhere. Schools, colleges, community members, organizations all invited me to speak and take part in actions: the San Francisco Mexican Museum, juvenile hall, the Mission Peace Collaborative, Carnaval, Anti-gentrification events, Amor for Alex Nieto, writing conferences, poetry parandas, the Bay Area Inspire Awards, etc.
My roots are in Vida Loca, so I am always committed to that, but through the years it has been my honor to share stories.
Writing activity requires me to shut up and get active in my own mind. Activity is sometimes silence. That silence produces something. In the silence and the words that spit out on the page, you get to know yourself. Writing helps me stay active in what I know and understand.
I’m excited because soon I will be sharing new art, imagination, and education with you. My new novel: Pura Neta. It is our story.
This book is for us, those from the gritty dirty roots, cause you cannot be clean in this motherfucker if you are rooted! Being rooted means you are literally active in the dirt, mud, feces, soil, mother Earth, inside her womb.
Pura Neta. I guarantee you that you will never have read a book like this. This book will say something to you that you have never heard, if you want to listen—because ultimately it is up to you. No one can force you to listen to the voice inside of your own head. Even though I wrote the book, it is not my voice that will speak inside of your mind. It is your mind that will speak inside of your own mind. My words are simply tools for you to build your own entertainment, imagination, critique, creativity, and amor. Pura Neta is a lie and the truth at the same time.
We are all in the same situation.
I share with you some pictures and a timeline below, so you can know that I am more than just some writer hunched in a hole. If you enjoy my writing, you are in for a treat: Pura Neta release date: Wednesday, September 30, 2020, the same day that the San Francisco Public Library will hold an unprecedented event:
Ben Bac Sierra, a San Fran Northern Califas Homey author professor discussing literature, poetry, vida loca, and Pura Neta with a respected award-winning So Cal Xicanx writer, activist, and Loved One, Luis Rodriguez. Imagination and wisdom are beyond borders, make-believe walls that keep us separated and distracted from what is really going on.
Check us out at the San Francisco Public Library (virtual) on Wednesday, September 30 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.!
Sign up now: reservation required at this link: https://bit.ly/PuraNeta9-30-20
Full description of event here: https://sfpl.org/events/2020/09/30/author-benjamin-bac-sierra-conversation-luis-rodriguez
“Work Hard to Gift”
You can’t take it with you
You do is already
Every broken heart
We are all in the same situation
For the sake of
Aint goin to
Work is not for a
Work is not for a
Work is supposed to be for right
Give it away
By giving it away
You find others
You find yourself
You know yourself
The best gift of all
No diamond compares
No gold goal feels like
Reward yourself and
Perfect stangers with
Lots of Love
Enjoy a Photo Timeline of Putting in Work: