Always in all ways, all Amor.

What’s that?



Thank you.

Respect and power to you, for without you my words are meaningless, to all of the presenters; thank you for sharing, and to Reverend Harry Williams, for organizing this and for being a light.

Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy of love transformed my life. So much so that in honor of amor love I helped create and build the biggest movement ever in the history of the United States to defend a Latino victim of a police killing. Amor for Alex Nieto. Love for Alex Nieto.

That love is stolen from Christ and King, stolen amor so that I can share it with you. They would, I believe, be happy at my burglary! They loved the thieves and the hustlers and the penitentiary gangsters.

I grew up with violence and anger all around. The house, the streets. Witnessed it in mass scale during the war in 1991. Love, I thought, meant pacifism which was for cowards.

Love is not for cowards. For love, you must be courageous and gift your entire mind, body, and soul, even though you know you will be betrayed. That’s ok. That’s Jesus Christ. That’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Love is simply my gift to you, no matter what, even until the end of time.

I got you.

Now this concept of love is heavy, Homes, true genius, beyond genius.

Love is God.

And God is the alpha and the omega, beyond technology.

Technology is violent.

It is arguing, they are arguing right now, that technology is our savior, that it should be our new God, another Golden Calf.

Here is their opera (I sing this):

Technology is genius and knows best. Technology makes us rich and evolves us. Stupid Peasants, submit to technology because it is perfect. Accept your doom with a happy face 🙂

Give me the land of God!


Gentrification comes from the root gentry. Gentry relates to ROYALTY. The gentry are right next to the nobles and are afforded good privilege and social position in society.

The gentry believe in

The great chain of being

This was a medieval concept

About the hierarchical nature of


To be is to be





Next Nobles

Then Gentry



Poor folk are

Pre-destined to be at the

Bottom of the chain


The gentry


The law and lie of



Wildflowers must be massacred

Or sent to prison, one of the most profitable moneymaking institutions in modern history: the prisons. Before they needed us to pick cotton or coffee or lettuce, but now they don’t even need our muscles, Homes! They just throw us in cages where we play dominoes and spades, while they cash in on our spirits.

Black and Brown bodies are their capital, their profit: $80,000 dollars per inmate per year.

It’s insanity.

But hard work is not the answer.

Hard work, let’s be clear, is an outdated Puritan work ethic myth that won’t allow the system simply to give away humanity. Puritans: Pilgrims. No, they will give us nothing because you are supposed to work for everything because there is no such thing as a human right, such as a home, a place where you can rest and grow. The hard work ethic myth revolves around this belief that the devil will steal us to sin if we’re just havin a good time! The upper classes aint never had to follow this rule—cause it was always someone else doin all the hard work for nothin, specifically African Americans who built this country.

Obedience is obsolete.

Love is the answer.

It is not very complicated.

Pura Neta, which is Spanglish street slang for Pure Truth.

Love is who you are, who we naturally are. We need the roots no one ever teaches us, that no technology cares about evolving in us.

We need to be amazed again, like we were in the beginning. WOKE. We need consciousness to be consciousness, whispers in the wind, which is who and what we naturally are.

We need to critique this fake power that they try to tell us is the truth. Without the critique, we’re just gonna keep ignorant and thinking everything is the way it’s supposed to be. Problem is we don’t learn the truth first; in school they feed us some garbage we eat as the truth. But in order to really learn truth, we gotta learn lies, learn to smash the lies—then we can move from there.

We do not need giant solutions. We exist today. Right now. We can help an abuelita carry her groceries right now. We can buy a loved one a slice of pizza or a beer right now. Our words and actions can be medicine. The big problems will continue to exist, but like the ancient Japanese book Hagakure says, “Matters of great concern should be treated lightly. Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.” Then when a serious tragedy occurs, like the murder of Alex Nieto, the positive beautiful energy is already there for the people to rise up. That is the way things can get done. The victory is in the constant struggle, the beautiful struggle.

Grassroots people got game.

This is what I want for my life: to serve, to steal, and to share.

To live and die in love, amor.

Blessings upon you all.

Posted by: benbacsierra | January 17, 2020

Writer Rider: Creating Concoctions of Craziness


Regardless of what is happening anywhere else, right now, at this moment, we are living our legacy. Through an unexplainable mystery of intelligence and spirit, we were created and at the same time created ourselves. Perhaps most of all, our tragedies and suffering have shaped us to this beautiful moment.

You have your passions; I have mine. I am a writer. Through this solitude and sharing, I try to discover myself and communicate ideas that many others may not see, even though those ideas are immediately in front of them. I reach down for roots because if we bend our backs and bow our knees to pick and give reverence to roots, we can be more honest about other things, everything else. Therefore, I write in order to uncover and, ultimately, create text that flows from this mystery and that will hopefully engage with others and spark them to action. We all have the power to see, but through no fault of our own, we have been brainwashed so much that we simply may not see our own face in the mirror.

I want to see. I love to see, to be shocked, to be uncomfortable, to learn, to push progress because I believe that makes the world a better place. There is no Utopia. The best we can do is to constantly expose power to the light, question power, check power. By doing this we all become more powerful because we see that most power that is used to bully us is illegitimate and dishonest. We cannot depend on the system because it was invented to keep us shackled and afraid. By exposing corruption, we feel and know that we, both individually and collectively as human people, are powerful. We can feel our own legitimate power by unshackling our minds. Only we have the power to free ourselves. With a sense of possibility beyond imagination, we then can help ourselves, our loved ones, and others. But the creativity can only come because of first the critique, as without the critique, we will continue to believe everything is fine or that we are powerless—so will do nothing original, nothing for others: there is no need to create if everything is as perfect and static as the textbooks tell us it is.

I struggle to give the best of myself to myself and to others, family, friends, perfect strangers. I volunteer to be a paradigm of grit, critical thinking, creativity—and that only comes from the hours, days, months, years, this exact moment invested in learning, thinking, writing, trying to understand things, actioning, and amor.

I live what I write and believe.

With that stated, I invite you this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 20, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. to join us for action and amor at Oakland City Church on 2735 Mac Arthur Boulevard, Oakland, Califas.

We will share how we can fight the system by creating concoctions of craziness and putting it all into action.


Posted by: benbacsierra | December 14, 2019

Pura Neta: Cartoon

Humbled to announce the latest blurb for my new novel, Pura Neta, set to be released September 2020 by Pochino Press:

Imagine—writing made with blood tattooed in books, the libraries which the conquistadores burned.  In Pura Neta, Benjamin Bac Sierra gives us such a poetic work for our time.

–Maxine Hong Kingston, Author of The Woman Warrior

Watch the video, read the excerpt, enjoy!


I plan to blood-let, to sacrifice my sangre.

My ancestors would cut their most intimate flesh and spread the pouring blood onto parchment paper, bark cloth that was then burned so that through the smoke that exuded from the flames, the spirits could snake out to reveal blessings—mysteries that drove a civilization to the stars and that were tattooed down in books, thousands of codices ultimately burned by the Spanish Conquistadores’ holy men. Alone in this room, confined to myself, to my mind, to my pride and pain, I blood-let through writing so that I can communicate with spirits, so that I can share with you secrets burned away so many moons ago.

Para Purpose.

Nuestra purpose—because we are all in this thing together.

Unholy jungle of life
I know you
With your wicked webs and
Violent foliage
Mud deep
Hell heat

There is no escape

I create my own existence
Independent of life’s schemes for me

Imagining control
I stay ready
For life
Because it attacks with
A bang
A slash
A stab
A blessing

No matter your atrocities
I love you still
I’m not ready for defeat
I stay ready for a kiss

But staying ready is hard. You gotta always be on point, but how can that happen when you don’t have the most important tool they tell you that you need?


As a youngster, as the infamous Little Cartoon, my goal hadn’t been to graduate from any school but to graduate to the pen. My purpose was the prison revolver. My Brother was already inside, would later be killed in a prison riot. Young homies were also following the painful path. We were supposed to accept la pinta as our true education. In fact, inside the walls there were rules, codes, oaths, slick moves, and tough grading. A for assault, B for battery, C for chokeholds.

Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness.




Posted by: benbacsierra | November 19, 2019

What’s Up with the Movement, Homes?!


What’s Up with the Movement, Homes?!

Amilcar Perez Lopez, shot six times in the back by the SFPD, you became the Movement.

Alex Nieto, shot at fifty nine times by the SFPD, you became the Movement.

Mario Woods, shot at forty times by the SFPD, you became the Movement.

Luis Gongora Pat, shot at while lying on the ground by the SFPD, you became the Movement.

Adolfo Delgado, shot at ninety nine times by the SFPD, you became the Movement.

Oscar and Valeria Ramirez, father and daughter wrapped in each other’s love, drowned in the Rio Grande, you became the Movement.

You, loved one, living, alive, a testament to their spirits, a witness to history, you are the movement.

Alto al Fuego en La Mision! Stop the Fire in La Mision!

That is the name of our new international-caliber mural, and it is the movement. Painted into it is the message: Raise your hands in front of SFPD’s guns. Stop the fire of the bullets with your own Brown hands, even if it means your life. Stop the murder of our loved ones. Stand up for the people most oppressed.

It is not the politicians, apolitical intellectuals, textbooks, or educational institutions that are the Movement; it is you, the grassroots; it is art; it is courage and love that are the Movement.

We, the people, were the roses who rose, like the roses tattooed into the mural. Back in 2014 when Alex Nieto was killed by the SFPD, and we began an uphill battle against insanity and corruption, it was only we who moved. The reality is that politicians were too scared to support us. They thought we were crazy and stupid. They were afraid of the Police Officers Association union, afraid how they might hurt their electability if they supported us publicly, afraid of their very own shadows. They had become apathetic to murder and corruption. These statements are not meant to sow division; they are meant to showcase reality. We are all human beings that make mistakes. Sometimes we need to be shown our errors and reminded of our duty.

During 2015 we had to do it on our own: marches, posters, speeches, writing, art, film, intertwined movements, diverse communities, songs in the streets—which led to the biggest movement ever in the United States to defend a Latino man murdered by the police—which led to international headlines, such as “Death by Gentrification: the Killing that Shamed San Francisco” and can be directly linked to Colin Kaepernick’s national protest.

In 2016 the people fired the Chief of Police of one of the most powerful cities on planet Earth, Chief of Police Greg Suhr. Most people, the mainstream media, thought we were crazy and stupid, which is more than enough to get the job done, and we did it.

The politicians, the people on the fence, the general public took note, and the shift began to change, so much so that former District Attorney George Gascon resigned in disgrace. In 2019 even though Police Officers Associations around the country funneled approximately a million dollars into electing another puppet District Attorney, the people voted and actually elected a District Attorney who ran on a platform to prosecute killer cops!

The times they are a changing.

What’s Up with the Movement, Homes?!

That is the way Alex Nieto and I would greet each other, smile, embrace, and then report. That is the way I invite you to love each other because YOU are the change that you want to see in the world.

Challenge each other with love, with conviction, report to each other your imagination and your life, the way you spread love, empower others, and invent, move and action, for perfect strangers:

What’s up with the movement, Homes?!

Listen to your Sisters and Brothers for the answer.

Posted by: benbacsierra | November 7, 2019

“The Best of Us Are the Most Fucked Up”

Thirty years ago, within one week of my mother signing the contract for me, cause I was only 17, I was gone. I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving except two close homeboys. After I left homies and girls came searching for me, but my mother told them I had joined the Marine Corps. I wanted it that way. I was too ashamed to tell people I was going to escape.

I had to leave. It was either the prison revolver during the advent of mass incarceration, death, or the Corps. My brother (RIP) was in Susanville State Prison at the time. My best friends were going to the pen or would be dead or insane within a few years. I thought the Corps was the best option when I really had no options.

On November 9, 1989, at five o’clock in the morning, I left my mother’s house, walked to SFM’s 24th Street BART, and headed to Oakland to be inducted in the Marine Corps. Four years in the funk as a machine-gunner, came back home fucked up full of fire, yet have used all the tools they taught me for service to la gente. I shout and start shit.

Full force forward.

So, on this, the thirtieth anniversary of the beginning of that epic journey, I reflect on what it means to be a Marine. This poem below is dedicated to Ira Hayes, the Pima Indio Marine who planted the flag on Mount Suribachi, which became one of the most iconic images of the 20th century.


“The Best of Us Are the Most Fucked Up”

You join to
Kill or
Be killed
To suffer
To laugh
The dream
First to fight
You pray for war
Imagining a
Banzai! Attack
Against you
Just for you
You in the middle of
Blood and Guts

You are a special
A Marine
A grunt
Front line
The poorest of
The poor
The stupidest
Known to man
But contrary to popular
You are not more
Than anyone else
You know life
You know death
It is your tradition

Belleau Wood
Iwo Jima
Khe Sanh

You do not pick the war
You just show up and
They are there
Ready for you
To patrol the jungle
To jump into the trench
To step on the booby trap
To know nothing
Your dream come true

You are Ira Hayes
Un Indio
Un Pima Indio
Who lifted
And planted
The American Flag on
Mount Suribachi
The iconic
Image of the 20th century

The Indio
The Samurai
The Indio won
But that victory
Led to his
Death in a ditch
Back at home
An Arizona Injun Reservation
A giant concentration camp
Ira Hayes did not want to be a

He came back to the
Rez and
Fire water
Would get arrested
Thrown in the can
Get up
Get out
Then do it all over

A good Marine
A jughead
A gyrene
High and Tight
Devil Dog

You act like it
Aint shit
Everybody knows
That shit has

Death in a ditch

You’re a
Ira Hayes
The best of us
The most fucked






20191109_034534 - Copy

Young Marine and his Squad

Posted by: benbacsierra | October 25, 2019

Pura Neta

Pura Neta Flyer Front

Clean new name for the novel:

Pura Neta


Pura Neta

And if you don’t know, then ask somebody!


Pura Neta is Street Spanglish for Pure Truth.

Humbled by all the love and support, the blurbs that are coming in from literary heavy hitters, with more to come. This book is for you, la gente, loved ones. It has always been my privilege to serve you.

Publication release date: September 2020, Pochino Press.


Pura Neta is uniquely Benjamin Bac Sierra. His experiences in the Bay Area’s barrio streets, in the Gulf War, and as a highly-educated activist for justice in our communities intertwine with a poet’s pen, a storyteller’s heart, and the barrio’s unflinching eyes. You will want to read this more than once to revel in the heavily mined depths laden with secrets and treasures.

—Luis J. Rodriguez, award winning author,  Always Running, La Vida Loca


Ben Bac Sierra’s Pura Neta breathes the living and the dead mixing it up on the barrio streets, with authentic dialogue, sharply drawn characters, and an effortless combination of poetry and prose, compelling you to keep reading.

The real deal of La Mision, tough love in every sentence. Ben transports us to a place only he can describe, where: “Every day is the apocalypse.”

–Alejandro Murguía, San Francico Poet Lauréate Eméritas


Pura Neta is poetry. It is a chorus singing out its history. A poignant elegy for comrades and a city consumed by gentrification, racism, police brutality. An invigorating cry of revolution. Benjamin Bac Sierra, the Bard of the Mission, bears witness to a changing San Francisco and affirms that real power lies with people “creating concoctions of craziness and putting it all into action”!

–Shawna Yang Ryan, American Book Award Winner, Author of Water Ghosts



Set in the San Francisco Mission varrio from 2012 to 2014, Pura Neta (Pure Truth) 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 homies, Lil Santo and Alex Neta, who begin implementing La Movida into amor action in the hood, until the police kill Alex Neta, which ultimately sparks The Revolt of Los Locos.


Pura Neta Flyer Back





Posted by: benbacsierra | October 2, 2019

Sunday, September 29: A Day in the Life





Love and power created on the San Francisco San Fran Frisco streets, my streets, your streets, our streets—my heart, mi corazon.

Up in the morning with the rising sun. Called up the brother and simply said VAMANOS! We cruised to the Marina and worked out because it is natural power and love to be strong and to feel the energy of others who work and feel themselves, their bodies, their temples. Afterwards, we met a French couple who had traveled the world in their 1960’s van! They had actually shipped it to the United States and had driven all through Canada, across the United States, and were headed to South America! We talked, laughed, loved 🙂 We then went to enjoy the Golden Gate Bridge. I brought a little speaker, we listened to oldies, we talked, learned, shared, wrote, too.

We cruised to Fisherman’s Wharf, parked, ate a little junk (Chinese corn dog and pot stickers), spread love, and helped people take pictures of themselves with the Monte Carlo, La Pura Neta. We mashed through North Beach, singing and smiling and nodding to the beloved perfect strangers on the streets. Blasted off to outer space, back to our planet, La Mision.  Met a Swiss-born man who also owns a 1972 Monte Carlo, a green one, and kicked it at the infamous international colorful Balmy Alley. He inherited the Monte Carlo two years ago from his grandmother who had owned since it was brand new! This song was booming. It is a salsa song called “San Francisco” and the words are precious and true, beautiful.



I did mural tours to so many different groups, loved ones who wanted to know about the murals and the Mission. These are some of the groups: three people from Spain, four Germans, two Frenchies, two Israelis, a big group of African American loved ones from Atlanta, and so many more. One man, a beautiful Mission vato loco, saw me, and just embraced me. He thought I was my deceased brother Jeff (we looked alike)! We started talking and he told me stories of adventures on 21st Street and Folsom, inside of Jeff’s garage. He showed me the hair on his arms and they were standing. He swore I was Jeff. We laughed and hugged and knew the spirit was with us.

I then parted with everyone and cruised solo cholo, down 24th, making a left on Bryant. I saw a super sharp African American gentleman, and I pulled over and told him to get in. He was so very beautiful and clean, and we talked and played Etta James, and he told me he was the one who named her!!!! He said her name is actually James Etta, and he told her she couldn’t have that name for music because it sounded like a boy’s name. He was a music producer in the Fillmore when it was known as the Harlem of the West Coast. He had me guess about his age, and I guessed 80, and he laughed, and told me he was 95 years old! I loved him, and we laughed and listened to Aretha Franklin sing “A Change is Gonna Come.” He said that was his favorite song of all time. It was priceless.

I dropped him off at the Fillmore, right in the heart, and he ordered me to get out and meet his loved ones. They were having a barbeque on the streets and playing games, all the children, and they saw him pull up in our red Monte Carlo, La Pura Neta, and they loved it. I met them all, we embraced, and laughed and got to know each other, and then I took off, cruising to oldies and singing, happy to be in the middle of this vida loca 🙂


“The Writing on the Wall”

Writing is
All of the

In the past
The writer learned
To transfer what he
To what he wants
Others to
The first few times
He triumphs
It’s by
Then if he is nice and
He keeps writing
The past, therefore, was
Which is the root of

In the present
He writes and snuggles
Into the driver’s seat of
His mind
Blasting off
Sometimes to
The sublime
Where he is
Lost and found and
All at the same time
In the same time
The exact moment
That is when writing is

In the future
His writing is
By the corpse
Spider symbols
These fleas jumping on the
Sing the dead man’s song
To a future
The writer
Could never fathom

Chance is the root
The sublime is the present
Fleas are the future

Posted by: benbacsierra | September 10, 2019

I Find It In You

If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.” James Baldwin to imprisoned Angela Davis, Black Panther, 1970.

Free the Children 2019

Because we must create our own media! Witness what the mainstream media will never show you: La Pura Neta! Coverage and analysis of the entire train of thousands of gente being led by children because—you will be taught through the mouths of babes!

Share with lots of love and strength:

On Monday, September 16, 2019, in the historic revolutionary San Fran Mission district, the children led the way for us to march and shout and sing our song of love and resistance, of power and hope through direct action, in your face movement:



If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.” James Baldwin to imprisoned Angela Davis, Black Panther, 1970.

Loved Ones,

They have taken our children and locked them in cages. In public places, in the starkness of sunshine, they are murdering our children, brothers, and sisters.

Now it is night. They are coming for us.

We, the gente, are the hated, those being twisted into the most despised and reviled, insultingly labeled as rapists, criminals, scum from shitholes. It is a horror story, yet it is also our opportunity to fight how we wish we would and could fight in the middle of the horror movie. We will not be glued to our seats as the stupid trapped prey or the passive comatose victims. We are warriors, not for glory; we are warriors for our very own children, fighters for our village.

It is night. They have come to eat our babies and swallow our souls. It is time to pick up the shovel and the stone, the pen and the torch.

Tonight there are no rules.

This torture did not start in the blackness of night. It began in broad daylight. Study 20th century history of United States involvement in these countries: Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras. It is a history of war, corruption, coup d’états—genocide. By the 21st century, because of U.S. policies and interventions, the Central American countries, especially, were in the midst of hell on Earth: crime, gangs, poverty, death. No human parent would voluntarily choose to leave her ancestral homeland to journey in danger to an unknown hostile place, to subject herself and her children to the possibility of death in the desert—unless there was no better option because life itself had become worse than death in their own home countries. This current situation is a humanitarian catastrophe that is rooted in Yankee imperialism. And now, that these children have nowhere else to go, this country’s corporations use them as profit for their concentration camps and this administration uses them for their rhetoric of “invasion” that then spurs more death and destruction to innocent people everywhere, including Gilroy, Califas and El Paso, Texas, sites of mass murder of our gente.

They have made this a race war. We, people of color, are the enemies. Make no mistake. This is not hyperbole. There are many other undocumented immigrants from Ireland, Australia, England, the Netherlands, but they are not the targets. There has not been one white child stripped from his father’s arms. We, Brown folk, are the intended bullseye.

And I am sure you question yourself, do not find it in you to make this fight your fight, because you have your own personal problems, debts, and disasters. But your ancestors shout from their graves. Their bones roar from the mountains.

We must fight for their spirit and for our legacy.

Loved Ones

I Find It in You.

We must fight
When they attack us
We must sing
When they insult us
We must fly
When they down us

Always higher
To our ancestors’ star

Our children
Our elders
Our sisters
Our brothers
Our homeys
Our hope

There is no need to worry
Our ancestors
Are there
Waiting for us

Nothing to fear

They light the
Way in

We follow
On Point

We have fought our entire lives; this is nothing new. Two years ago we pushed out the fascist racists and led over ten thousand San Franciscans to the victory of humanity (see below). Now for our children, for posterity, we created an unprecedented march on Monday, September 16. We marched from revolutionary 24th and Mission Street to City Hall. Once there we held a rally and a full day of action.

We fight for our children. We fight for our souls.

It is night, and we are ready.

Always Amor,

Benjamin Bac Sierra





Posted by: benbacsierra | July 12, 2019

Pochino Press Will Publish My New Book, La Pura Neta!

Share our song, our story:

Well, it seems like my new book, La Pura Neta, will be published next year by Pochino Press 🙂 A special shout out to Norman Zelaya for the connection and to all of you for your support and amor.

Not Forward but Upward Manuscript

Set in the San Francisco Mission varrio from 2012 to 2014, La 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 homies, Lil Santo and Alex Neta, who begin implementing La Movida into amor action in the hood—until the police racially profile and kill Alex Neta, which ultimately sparks The Revolt of Los Locos.

Written in a style that captures both street realism and poetry, La Pura Neta will appeal to a vast audience. With both magical and explicit savagery, the novel utilizes many facets of the urban landscape, including flashbacks of 80’s and 90’s San Fran Frisco Mission and Cortland street culture.


Ben Speaking at CCSF 2014

I gift you chapter one:


This is Take Off.

After Little Cartoon had bowed his head to read those golden words on Santo’s tombstone, he knew he needed to take off—for what kind of idiot or genius would understand the insanity of that wisdom yet stay? The inscription was idiocy because how the hell is being planted in a grave a Take Off? Genius, too, because compared to all the flying by any bird in the world, no other Take Off was truth.

Now, twenty years later in 2012, strolling through the streets of La Mision, he was no longer little; he was simply Cartoon, a character in a make-believe story full of comedy and violence, absurdity and amor. He returned to the varrio to share with and learn from all the locos: Toro, Santo the spirit, and El Lobo.

“Homeboy,” Lobo had said to Cartoon back in 1992. “I’m gonna be direct. This has all been for you. Times are changing and we need real steel to deal with it. I’m in too deep, but you’re still a runt, 17 years old, just craving for the big time. Well, all right, I’ve chosen you cause you got qualities that I think can be transformed into other avenues of opportunity. Lil Toon.”

“Yeah,” Cartoon said.

“I’m going to ask you to be brave, and show me some strength.”

“Anything,” Cartoon responded. Lobo looked at the wall behind Cartoon.

“Forget me. Forget all my bullshit or ignore it or however the fuck you got to psyche yourself out of the game, and get the fuck on. Motherfucker, we’re getting kicked out anyway—accept it now or later.”

“What the fuck you talkin bout, nigga. This is mi varrio, my fuckin hood.” Cartoon did not understand what Lobo was asking him to do. Lobo grinned at him for a brief second, then looked back at the wall—

“Go and be selfish, homeboy. Go and fuckin have your own mind, cause you can’t help me or any of us any other way. Don’t feel sorry for nothin or no one and don’t cling to shit that is gonna stop you from getting to where you need to go, even if it’s the thing or person you love most,” Lobo clasped his hands together. “Let it go, young Brother. You got to be ruthless, and that means you got to be alone.”

“I know what you’re trying to say, Lobo, like I can’t help anyone else out unless I first help myself. But I’m already down, Low, and I aint your average bear,” Cartoon said.

With the bottom of his fist, Lobo thumped the arm of the chair he was sitting in.

“We already got too many average bear motherfuckers out there ready to die now,” Lobo said. “Think they’re bad cause they can give up the ghost. They’re sellouts to the man up above—traitors to this world, and this is the world we’re living in. I aint asking you to die for shit. I’m asking you for something even harder. Toon—fuck everything you’ve ever known. I got faith that that shit will always stick to your ribs, so I aint worrying about you forgetting the life and the values, but I don’t want you to just walk around here like a fuckin zombie. Sheila’s life has to have been for something.” Lobo’s guilt leaked into his voice. It was because of him that the love of his life was dead. “I want you to sacrifice everything you’ve ever known, yet I know in the end you’ll come back to where you need to be.” Putting his gold ringed fingers on Cartoon’s shoulder, 22 year old Lobo, a smooth varrio shot caller, scooted closer.

“Learn. Cause I’ve been making paper for the last few months, and I realize, even with gold and platinum, I aint got shit. We aint got shit. We’re fuckin laughingstocks. These motherfuckers moving in see gente as jokes. We’re maids and housekeepers, and aint nothing wrong with bustin your ass, but there is something wrong with gettin no respect. There’s somethin wrong when putos treat you like a boy. Cause the establishment thinks they got us all figured out. They think we’re a bunch of dummies who can’t even put up a fight in their world, and their world is where the big lechuga is at. They want to pacify us with talk of peaceful, non-aggressive bullshit and have us happy with crumbs. But, check out, outright revolution won’t work; evolution is what’s needed first. Toon, we need sacrifice like only a vato like you can give.”

Lobo handed Cartoon a Cuban cigar, lit it up for him, and lit one up for himself. He blew O’s out into the air, and Cartoon held in his coughs. “Go get some education, young blood. I don’t want to see you unless you got something positive to give me. If you hang around, I’ll put you down. No fuckin pity, you will sleep with the fishes, cause I aint gonna let you waste our potential. If I see that you do, I’ll take that shit as a personal insult, and I’ll choke you out my damn self, even though it would kill me.” Lobo gave Cartoon a fat envelope.

“This money’s yours. I won’t baby you. Do what you have to do. You got freedom from this day forward. You belong to no man, no gang; when you’re done, you’ll come back, and I’ll be waiting with arms extended. We’ll toast to the tests of life. Now,” Lobo said rising to his feet, buttoning up his double-breasted cashmere coat, “take off.” Two suits rushed behind Cartoon.

Cartoon got up trying to smile like if this was all some big joke. Two hefty vatos started scooting him out, and Cartoon turned around to protest. They clipped Cartoon in the back of the neck with blackjacks. He fell to the white and red Persian rug. Lobo walked to him, and Cartoon stared down at his own reflection in Lobo’s glossy black Stacy Adams.

His shoes were the last thing he saw of Lobo.

Cartoon had learned from all the hard knocks of the varrio. Toro had trained him to charge. Lobo had kicked him out and forced him to be independent. Santo had taught him to fly. In that flight, like Icarus, Cartoon had burned from sailing too close to the sun. It was this burn that was the spark.

The beginning of philosophy is
All roads start with and lead to the
There is no secret
Which means
The only choice is
Which is complicated by the reality
That the days are numbered

“What to do with this thing called time?” Back in 1992 Cartoon had contemplated this after Lobo told him he had to leave in order to learn. He respected Lobo and Toro for their animalistic natures; he loved Santo for his wisdom. The day he left the varrio, at the grave of his Saint, El Santo, his carnal, Cartoon had meditated:

“I look at this crazy life
As an animal and
As a thinker
Both matter
I don’t guess about
Equality or priority
They live intertwined with each other

I extract my energy because that’s what animals do
I think because I was both
Blessed and cursed with this mind
I can’t ignore my duty to
Without feeling disgusted with myself

Vida Loca is also important
Cause nothing makes any sense
And that’s ok
Better to accept and be at peace with
The craziness
Than to allow it to
Destroy you”

With this knowledge, Cartoon had left everything he had ever known, La San Fran Mision. His odyssey had been long, yet not even the blink of an eye in the totality of eternity. It had been rough and crazy, exactly as he had wanted it.

Now there was a debt to pay.

Cartoon did not think himself a savior or necessarily even want to go back; how can any of us ever go back? But there was some truth that he could not avoid, a nostalgia.

Let us not romanticize the past
The San Fran streets were death and despair
Muggings, shootings, stompings, and sinning
Singing, too, but the strongest songs were sad.

Soul Oldies, the songs of suffering, rule forever

“It was nice to suffer with a good friend,” Cartoon smiled wide at the junkies and homeless men pushing their carts in the early morning dawn. He looked down at the ground.

“My Solid Cement

On the brink of death
Or crushed from a hangover
I hugged this Earth
My mother Mission Earth
And she always comforted me
With her
Cold kiss

I would be in such love
Inventing such sublime imagination

These streets were
Death and despair

The grime and graffiti
In the alleys are as
Gorgeous as the sunrise”

Cartoon sucked in the scent of pan dulce and café permeating through the streets. He was finally home again. In some ways time had stood still. 1992 and 2012 were the same thing. The same things were happening.

Four O’clock in the dark dawn
A dusthead drives drunk
Four O’clock in the bitter bright
Sunshine afternoon
An abuelita hobbles hauling bags
Full of unpeeled elote and
Free canned cranberry and queso

Every day
At all times
There is action
Cool colored creativity
Adorned urban alleys
Mountains of majesty
Hallowed grounds
A sanctuary for locos and ladies
La Mision
The womb of genius

Q-VO, Homes
Sup Blood
A mad dog stare
Welcomes you
To tar and cement
Spirit and soul
The fumes of yesca and
Lowrider exhaust are
Healthy for homeboys and homegirls

Legends lived
Strutted down these streets

Dukie Dave
SFM Jeff
El Santo
The list is long and
Always in all ways
They are

Grinning Cartoon stared into the faces of young homeys and old abuelitas. He found himself the same as them.

“I’m a witness
You are witnesses
To dead people’s
Smiles and songs
That will never be erased

Though they take my brother’s life,
And deny his given rights

Yes, the message will be heard,
As the four winds spread the word

And our spirit, they can’t break,
Cause we got power to communicate.

No, they can’t, no, they can’t, no, they can’t,
Take away our music.”

Cartoon sang War’s “They Can’t Take Away Our Music” and bounced down the block feeling high, even though he hadn’t smoked a maton in decades. He was laughing out loud to himself, to this crazy world, and he knew he looked like a madman and was happy. It was more than nostalgia. This place was his identity. And could it be? Could it actually have happened? Was he now an O.G., a veterano? If so, he knew it was not simply because of his own effort; he paid homage to those who had led the way:
“I am
Whatever I am
Legends lived
I was there
Witnessed them
With my own eyes
Good and bad
Bravado and tragedy

On 30th and Mission
Casper screeched to a stop
Pulled over and
To a fist fight in
Broad daylight and
After Santo knocked Casper down
Santo knelt down to help Casper back up
So they could duke some more

In the middle of 24th and Mission
Samoan savages
Knocked heads with
Brown bulls
Fists flying
Kicks punting
Bats bashing
Refused to leave
Even as everyone else
Once cop sirens squealed

For his loyalty
Toro was awarded
A broken leg and arm
A concussion

I was there
When Lobo
Shirt off
Scars strutting
Sprinted after cars
Moving vehicles
Down 22nd Street
Down with the sun and
On comes the night

Dominoes and drama
Drive bys

All of who they were
And what they taught me
Makes me
For a time that can never

I’m much older now
Than they ever were
When all that insanity
Took place
Should know better
Romanticize ruin
Still I got standards
How can I forget
The stupidest
Most beautiful
I have ever known?

I live my life
Knowing that

Cartoon was ready. Still, he was surprised because the streets, the actual tar and cement, had both evolved and devolved. White people were pretending the streets were fancier now. There were not as many homeys, not as much anxiety, but the paranoia was of a different kind. You had to watch out for peach people wearing Pendle-tons, hipsters walking around looking like old school cholos thinking they owned the joint. Techies who swore to the gente that they were their new saviors, but it was a lie, just like the missionaries preached lies to los indios here when they established La Mision back in 1776. In 2012 there was a new danger: gentrification.

The gentry believe in
The great chain of being
To be is to be
Then queen
Next nobles

Peasants are
Pre-destined to be at the
Bottom of the chain

With their refined etiquette and
Elite educations,
The gentry
The law of

The earth was meant to evolve into

Wildflowers must be massacred

To be sure they are exterminated
Their roots must be plucked out
Their spirit smashed
Stripped of
The words human and heaven defined by
Kings and Queens

The wildflowers that have survived
Are lost

They thirst for water
Believing their indigenous spirit
Does not deserve even

The cruelest part of this all
Is the gentry-fuckation of spirit
That attempts to take over

Wildflowers are forced to forget
But they cannot erase
Colors red purple yellow orange
Dancing on the streets
Lovemaking in the backseat

The spirit can’t shake it away
Feels something wrong
But doesn’t know what it is
Can’t articulate it
In the gentry’s ultra-intellectual manner
So is instructed it is wrong
Searches for answers from
In the schools
In the factories
In the abyss

It finds only
Lies and inexcusable

Their eternal answer:

The wildflowers must be massacred

Yes, Cartoon thought, they must be massacred, but in a funny ass way, it’s an honor that my enemies think so highly of me that they gotta kill me. Cartoon was proud that they could not reason with or explain things to him; the gentry’s only alternative was murder.

Cartoon did not mind. He had already lived ten lives, been killed one hundred times over. It was ok. Cartoon was searching for something else.

He hunted for his old mentor Toro.

How was the bull? What had he done with his time?

That crazy motherfucker should be killed, Cartoon thought.

He looked for Toro at the old bull ring on 25th and Capp, and there he was, shirt off, showing off muscles and madness.

Toro was now an old man of 41, and like all good old men, he told war stories to an audience of youngsters who did not know any better but to believe him. Beefed up Toro saw lanky Cartoon, all 5 foot ten inches of him, knew it was Cartoon, but continued with his charge in the middle of the ring:

“This is
La Mision
It was tradition
To take off your shirt and
Parade your
Bubbled scars
Green tattoos and
Famous stupidity

You chase cars
You get snapped!
You expect prison and proof
You won’t ever change

Death is the only option

The art is in the funeral
Full of flowers
Ladies crying
Homies drinking
Just on display
In your finest
Suit or
49ers Jersey
Knowing or
Not knowing
You made it to the goal:

It aint no sad story
This is a glad story
A bad story
What people with words would call
The day of reckoning
The day of dreams
My grand dreams
My soul beams

Forget about hitting homeruns
I don’t know about winnin an Oscar or
Being president
I got no clue about scoo and
All the small smiles and
Firm handshakes that come with that

I got now and
This is what I call high—
What I think of when I hear of

I’m free”

Toro knew what was supposed to happen next; he was supposed to get stabbed straight in the heart. You could not and should not speak such things and expect to live. Prepared, Toro maddogged the up and coming young matador’s eyes, felt the youngster’s fear. The homey’s hand was trembling. The knife was slipping away from his grip. Toro knew what he could and should do, and sometimes it be that way, Homes. Sometimes, the bull, after getting his ass kicked all day, all night long, and most of the time getting slaughtered like Sunday dinner, sometimes, the bull gets lucky. Cartoon was there. Today was a blessed day.

Toro dug his hooves into the dirt:

“Young matador
This is
The Price of the Fight

In the middle of this
Blood and guts battlefield
This life
We sense we are here
Without knowing what it means
We imagine many things but
Cannot erase our end

It will happen

Toro charged. His morillo muscles lifted like las lomas, his horns pointed straight at the objective. The young man flew up high into the sky in his fancy green and yellow matador’s make-up. His red cape went flying, then parachuted down.

Afterwards, after the audience left shocked and disappointed, Cartoon pulled Toro to the side, outside of the stadium gates, where all the hobos hunted for aluminum gold out of rusted garbage bins.

“Como estamos, mi carnal, my flesh and blood?” Cartoon jumped on Toro and rode him for only a few seconds because Toro bucked him off on his head. The crude comedy of the lower classes. Cartoon shook out his brain that was spinning.

Toro, the five foot six monster of a Chapin, looked down at him then helped him back up.

“I am grateful for this day,” Toro lasered into Cartoon’s big bug eyes.

“We are alive
While others are

That may not
Like a lot
Is all
We have

Is a

Yes, it’s a blessing to see you, brother.” Toro was no longer a bull; he was a big fluffy teddy bear. These moments were seldom seen, two men being more than men together. Amor, that taboo concept amongst the macho. They proved they could be more than they were destined to be.

“You looked good in there, Viejo,” Cartoon said as Toro nodded his head. “Still fighting the good fight, eh?”

“Every day is a good day to die.” Toro blew smoke out of his ringed nose.

“Yeah, and it is a beautiful day, huh? Look at that sun!” Cartoon tried to cheer up the fatalistic talk. Toro checked him.

“Have you learned anything on your journey, funny Cartoon?

Real macho men
Don’t love the sun
They love the rain so they
Can hide their tears
Such simple pettiness
Such elaborate betrayal
For honor

While others attempt to avoid
The soaking
Macho men run into
Cold downpours
Sprint into showers
In the rain.”

Toro, hoping, looked up at the sunny sky.

“I guess I’m crazy but
They look so tough
So sincere
So ready for death

Nobody knows when
A man’s heart is broken.”

Cartoon realized that something was seriously wrong. He had been gone for too long.

“How is your heart, Toro? How is your heart?” With his own fist, Cartoon hit his heart hard.

“They don’t know me anymore,” Toro lamented and limped as they walked the streets. “They see me,” Toro pointed at all the yuppies walking down the street lined by expensive cafes and white-bro micro-breweries, “but they think something else.

I am a bull.

But they don’t see me as that majestic animal. They see only a Mad Dog. To them, all of us are only Mad Dogs that disgust them. They clear out all the old vatos, the homeless homies, from their tents.

Tonight, I wish it would rain.” Toro gazed again at the cloudless heavens.

“Then I would remember and
The wise homeless men
I used to drink with at old
Union Square
24th Street
Rat infested
Fisherman’s Wharf

Bearded, stinking good men
Good drinkers of
Night Train
Mad Dog 20/20

We shared something in common

The streets

Sitting on cement stairs in
Broad daylight or
Pitch blackness
We talked about life and
Passed around a bottle
We did not care about cooties
We cared about life

I left for four years
From 87-91
Went to war
Came back
And they were still there
But they were no longer the same
We were no longer the same
Time had changed us

I was a bullet

They were mad
Talking to the sky
Shouting at the stars
Frustrated at their very own faces

They did not remember me and
It was I who was sad to be forsaken
I envied them
Their strength for the streets

When the homeless love you
They also know
How to break your heart
You look at them and you know
That is me
That is me

Who has the right to be mad
When they yell at you?
They bark because
They know you
They remember you

I wish I could be remembered
By them
It is a miracle
To be cherished
To be shouted at by a
Homeless man
In the middle of the street

You are special
Not forgotten.”

Toro was no longer talking to Cartoon. He was talking to someone, something else. “Who’s The Mad Dog, Homes?” Toro barked like a gruffy Marine Drill Instructor, straightened up, looked around at these new streets that did not want him. “Cause it aint me.”

“No,” Cartoon massaged his hand on Toro’s solid shoulders. “You were always a straight up killer, but only cause they were trying to kill you. You weren’t a rabid dog. That’s why I’ve come back, to see you, out of respect.” Cartoon did not even know what these words meant, only that they were leading him to where he always needed to be, where he was destined to go from the moment he had accepted Santo’s golden tombstone inscription.

“How is our Lobo?” Cartoon asked.

“You been gone. You don’t know, huh?”

“Know what? Is he dead?”

“Lobo got busted a dozen years ago. Coca, gun smuggling, suicide missions—they gave him life, homes. Quilmas, San Quentin, right across the Bay. Big Time,” Toro answered.

Cartoon dropped his head. He should have realized even slick Lobo would not have made it. “I got to see him,” Cartoon declared. “You know I’m back to start some good shit, but I got to look in Lobo’s face first, share our journey together, and listen to some of his wolf wisdom. I’m going to visit him at Quentin.”

Toro smiled, lifted up his heavy head, did not seem sad anymore. “You have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” He embraced Cartoon, smothered him in his strong muscles. “You and Lobo together, plotting shit, executing genius ideas, and this world is ours. A long time ago, we had lost balance. You are here to bring it back.” Toro knew that things were about to change for the varrio. Cartoon knew it, too.

“Before the sword, I got to see the spirit: Santo at La Raza Park Cemetery. Should have gone to see him before lookin for you, but I figured it was more important to visit the living instead of the dead.”

“We are stuck in this world,” Toro muttered. “Santo is not.”

Cartoon agreed.

“Oh, shit!” Toro scratched his crewcut head. “That aint completely right, though, that Santo is just a spirit.” Toro grinned, jumped a little.

“What you mean, Toro?” Cartoon asked.

“You really have been gone,” Toro paused, coughed. “You left and never found out that our brother Santo had gotten La Loca Maricela pregnant before he died. She was still in jail when she had the baby, and you were already gone. Lil Santo’s 20 years old runnin around these streets. He helps paint the murals.”

“Fuck you.” Cartoon’s mouth dropped. He did not know what else to say. The brother Santo that had taught him to sail in the sky was somewhat still there to guide their spirits. Cartoon also felt a respect and responsibility to share amor and hard knocks with Lil Santo, his dead mentor’s son.

No matter that it had been twenty years, this was still Take Off.



Posted by: benbacsierra | May 27, 2019

9th Annual Barrio Bushido Amor for Alex Carnaval Therapy :)

1It is true love and therapy to embrace your neighbors, loved ones, and perfect strangers 🙂

The 9th Annual Barrio Bushido Amor for Alex Nieto Carnaval Booth in La San Fran Mision. I used to do the booth with my brother Alex, RIP. Now we do it in his honor by spreading love and smiles, by sharing positive spirit and gifting literature, by fundraising together for the first ever memorial dedicated to the victim of a police killing.

After the final approval of the memorial this past April, The San Francisco Arts Commission and Parks and Recreation Department slapped a $20,000.00 maintenance fee for the next twenty years for the Amor for Alex Nieto Memorial. No worries, though, we are almost there with your loving contributions.

These are the promises that random loved ones wrote down for community empowerment. Please read, reflect, and commit to your own promise to help your community, especially those most downtrodden and in need.

Always Amor.


  1. En la lucha, on strike in Union City for better teachers’ rights and fighting for our students.
  2. Influence my community more by empowering the youth to follow their passion.
  3. Bring more engagement with various neighborhoods.
  4. Voy a ayudar a mi communidad imigrante especialmente nuestros ninos imigrantes. No mas separacion de familias y queremos a nuestros ninos vivos. Saul.
  5. I promise not to gatekeep and to pass on the plug!
  6. I promise to continue to tell anyone everyone who will listen about the murder of Alex Nieto and the Lowrider Lawyers movie. I will not forget him. Amor. Barbara Miron.
  7. I promise to keep passing on English skills to those who need it.
  8. I promise to teach the community about intersectionality. I commit myself to teach culturally relevant material.
  9. I dedicate my time with continuing to work with the community to fight for what is right. S.V. Debug.
  10. I promise to join or get involved with the tradition Mexica dance performances. I wanna get more involved with the Mission Community, take some classes about Nahuatl and maybe learn the language.
  11. I promise to keep my commitment to my people and my neighborhood. To always fight for the good fight and to always remain true to my people, ancestors, and the right to free ourselves from the oppression chains of colonial America.
  12. As a born and raised Mission citizen, it’s my duty to serve and pass a force and a voice to help heal our Mission community.
  13. Try to guide the youngsters in the right direction. Help feed my people that are on the street.
  14. I will continue to prioritize the most vulnerable in my math education of the youth in Oakland.
  15. I would never instigate violence.
  16. Keep the Mission alive.
  17. Help all of the Latinos that are going through hate and crime.
  18. Teach traditional songs of Mexico to the young ones.
  19. Coach and develop youth, guiding them through fitness and giving them hope for the future.
  20. Spread the truth about the Latino community.
  21. Spread the message of Alex Nieto.


To donate directly now for the International Amor for Alex Nieto Memorial, please visit the gofundme page here:




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