Ben Bac Sierra’s personal story of transformation is a model for anyone looking to surmount life’s challenges. Raised by a widowed mother and the San Francisco Mission District streets, Ben lived a harsh ‘homeboy’ existence until an equally harsh stint in the United States Marine Corps at age seventeen set him on an unlikely trajectory from veteran Gulf War combat veteran to professor and writer.
After his honorable discharge from the Marines, where he participated in front line combat during the first Gulf War, Ben completed his B.A. in English at U.C. Berkeley, earned a teaching credential and an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, and merited a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
Currently, he is a professor at City College of San Francisco, an advisor for HOMEY SF, and a community innovator and speaker throughout the Bay Area. Ben’s essays and stories have been published in newspapers and literary magazines, including World Literature Today, where he was featured as a prominent emerging author. His first novel Barrio Bushido was presented a Best of the Bay Award and an International Latino Book Award. In 2016, U.C. Hastings College of the Law La Raza Students Association honored him as an Alumnus of the Year.
Using the skills and creativity he learned at U.C. Hastings, Ben founded an unprecedented movement “Amor for Alex Nieto” to battle many issues afflicting the Latino community, such as gentrification, racism, and police brutality and killings. For the past two years, Ben has led this coalition of diverse gente, including street people, danzantes, poets, writers, lawyers, lowriders, children, and the elderly. They have rallied (at times numbering thousands), marched, created news, art, and films, and effectively articulated their concerns locally, nationally, and internationally—the latest coverage being a Guardian newspaper article that has been circulated worldwide entitled: “Death by Gentrification: the Killing that Shamed San Francisco.”
Because of Ben and the community’s efforts, strategies, and unyielding pursuit of justice, San Francisco was exposed in a gigantic cover-up regarding the killing of San Francisco Latino native Alex Nieto, who was shot at 59 times and killed by the San Francisco Police Department. The grassroots community now has created leverage to institute police reforms and new educational models and to build on this new civil rights movement. Benjamin Bac Sierra takes great honor in serving and inspiring his community.
Barrio Bushido has attracted the attention of high-profile authors like Maxine Hong Kingston. Ben’s writing evoked the following response from her: “Benjamin Bac Sierra is an American Dostoevsky, and BARRIO BUSHIDO is our CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Given the conditions of their lives, how can Lobo, Toro, and Santo become honorable, heroic men? Their story is at once a thriller and a big novel.”
As New York Journal of Books’ reviewer Paula Schuck states: “this story is an important social statement on a time and place in history that demands attention and should be read.” Barrio Bushido is a groundbreaking novel that transforms the cliché Latino criminal into a vato loco philosopher. Barrio Bushido is a book that will be studied for generations to come.
Benjamin Bac Sierra is a professional, charismatic orator, curriculum builder, writer, and community activist with years of presentation experience.
To find out more about Benjamin Bac Sierra’s ideas and writing and to view videos of Ben reading, please visit his blog at www.todobododown.wordpress.com. To read more about his professional accomplishments, view his Linked In profile here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/benjamin-bac-sierra-3916706a. Also, view his nationally televised Barrio Bushido presentation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6v9xc233sA
TODO BODO DOWN
One night in the mid 1980’s my brother, Rest in Peace, came home snapped out—angeldusted, yet understanding. Standing stoned straight, he paused in our little living room and with dignity and a new knowledge from somewhere in the beyond, he snorted the following words:
“Todo Bodo Down. I’m Todo Bodo Down, ese!” With authority, with a sneer, with certainty about identity, he proclaimed the answer for the entire varrio.
Those words meant gibberish but they also meant it all. Everything in one nut phrase. A phrase he invented and that only the few chosen homies knew and understood. Sometimes we would joke about it; homeboys would rib my bro and greet him with “Todo Bodo Down.” We would drink up, smile, and shout to the stars. Then sometimes, after being confused for so long and being bitter and afraid and angry and straight loco, the homeboys would take the smirks off of their faces, and they would almost cry it out. That was “Todo Bodo Down” with a seriousness, with a desire for forgetting. And when it was time to fight or do something completely insane, we would chant it “Todo Bodo Down.” Then it was a prayer. They were magical words that woke the spirits we needed to help us. Todo Bodo Down contained the purpose for our entire existence.
Todo is all. Bodo is a corruption of nothing and everything; it is a word that sounds good and rhymes with Todo. Bodo can mean fucked. It can mean total. It can mean whatever you want it to mean as long as you place the feeling in there with it. Down does not mean out. Down in this context means up. Down means committed. Down means sure/certain. Down means knowing. And what is it that we know? We don’t know, yet it is still there; our answer cannot be articulated any better.
Todo Bodo Down. All fucked up. All into life. All ready for the next step. All hurt yet standing. All is firme.
This blog is dedicated to the spirit that made us who we are.
To my soul brother, Jeff.