Tim Redmond, editor of 48 Hills news, reviews Pura Neta: “It’s half prose, half poetry, and all very, very real… It’s a powerful book and also a great read – the poetry gives music to the narrative, and it tells a story of a place and a time that is a crucial part of San Francisco history.”
To read the full article, click here: https://48hills.org/2020/12/books-pura-neta-the-mission-and-the-price-of-gentrification/
With respect and cariño, tender love, I write and share this article written by the only news organization, 48 Hills, that reported deeply and critically about all aspects of the Alex Nieto case.
Set in the San Francisco Mission varrio from 2012 to 2014, Pura Neta explores the creative struggle of Homeboys and Homegirls fighting against gentrification, police brutality, racism, and economic and educational injustice. Cartoon, a Homeboy who had been banished from the varrio twenty years earlier, has returned from his educational and spiritual odyssey. He finds the hood under attack, and it is no longer the gangs, but the monsters of cafes, cheese schools, and micro-breweries, protected by their own police force, that are destroying the native San Franciscans. In order to strategize a meaningful movement, Cartoon visits his old mentor, El Lobo, a varrio shot caller who is now serving a life prison sentence in San Quentin. Cartoon then recruits the young Homeys to begin implementing amor action in the hood, until the police murder a Loved One, which ultimately sparks The Revolt of the Roots.
That Loved One that is murdered by the police is loosely based on our Brother, my Homeboy, Alex Nieto. In his honor, in the community’s honor, in the last chapter of the book, knowing what I know about Alex Nieto and what he was dealing with during that time period in 2014, I imagined the last twenty minutes of Alex’s life and combined that with official reports and court testimony to give him a voice, to give us a voice, so that he will never be forgotten, so that we can learn from and be inspired by his story.
Nothing can erase the beauty and history of the Amor for Alex Nieto movement. I will forever promote and defend my brother’s authentic spirit and know he would personally support his spirit to help and inspire others. That spirit is amor.
In 2014, the day after Alex was killed, I founded Amor for Alex, was personally part of more than 167 actions over six years, and helped lead an unprecedented movement (see the link: https://todobododown.com/2020/03/21/amor-for-alex-actions-a-comprehensive-listing/). We created films, marched, had creative demonstrations including school and university walkouts, and even held the biggest lowrider shows in Northern Califas. We fought the police, the city attorney, the district attorney, the medical examiner, etc. We fought better than them at their own game. We changed the media—because before Amor for Alex, they simply vilified all victims of police killings. By the end of the Alex Nieto trial, the media was on our side; there was simply too much evidence on our side to deny our righteousness—even though the white jury denied us our justice. Regardless of anything else, we loved with love and fought with love. If you were part of that movement from 2014 to 2018, then you can be proud for the rest of your life that you were part of something great and consistent.
In real life, Alex and I were beyond politics. We were rooted in the streets, and the streets is about us coming up together, despite all that is against us. You are supposed to first help yourself, for in that way you can help others. You are supposed to help Loved Ones, your intimate others—family, friends, community. We were supposed to rise up and bring others along with us. That’s gangster. We studied and discussed Christ’s and Buddha’s teachings and did our absolute best to help perfect strangers, our human brothers and sisters.
I will not tarnish the most beautiful movement I have ever known nor his name by committing the sin of ugly lies. I refuse to have my Homeboy Brother Alex Nieto’s name and spirit attached to anything other than amor—LOVE. I refuse to smear a beautiful movement, Amor for Alex Nieto, that gave their hearts and souls to Alex Nieto and the entire community. I refuse to fight with Loved Ones and allies.
Of course, I am a human being who has moments of intense passion. I love with love, and I fight with love. But I think of what a deceased Loved One once told me in the midst of all the locura that was going on in 2016. Carlos Gutierrez “Sleepy”, RIP, of HOMEY, told me that “when we need a pit bull to get shit done, everyone knows to call you, Ben.” I have never hidden or covered up my critical grunt bull-headed nature. If you want to read our story from someone who lived the life and put his neck out on the front line and who made mistakes yet kept going, then Pura Neta is your book. If you want to be challenged to read something that is beyond your experience, then this book is for you.
I live what I write, and I write what I live.
“My Revenge Is Love”
I have woken up
With a plan
I have decided to
I can’t get back at you
Any other way
Will bring you back
You will never come back
So if I must go on
Then love is the only way
It is a good plan
To gift my life away
To hurt you and heal you
My revenge is love
The best justice in
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