Benjamin Bac Sierra was raised by a widowed mother and the streets of San Francisco’s Mission District. After serving as a grunt in the Marine Corps, 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 a Master’s in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, and merited a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Since 2002, he has been a professor at City College of San Francisco and a community innovator and keynote 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 a Distinguished Alumni of the Year for his community leadership and legal analysis of police killings. Pura Neta, his latest novel, is published by Pochino Press.
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 makes us who we are.
To my soul brother, Jeff.