“This is a good place to come to when you’re drunk. Open 24 hours, hair in your food, it’s great”.
‘Guacamole fries are ready’.
Due to the paired insult and compliment, I will cease to mention our meeting location, but will say that the guacamole fries were delicious, sans hair. Normally, the ‘Chingona’ segment is reserved for women who are great people doing great things. Jo Dominguez is the ultimate exception. Jo and I met around 6 years ago through an ex-boyfriend, and have kept in touch sporadically throughout the years. I’ve always held him in high regard due to his talent in music, volunteer work for the homeless, commitment to education, and dedication to the understanding of people.
Most of us find it hard to make time for our family and friends, let alone give our precious, valuable time to causes that need a lending hand. One of the reasons Jo and I connect is because of a similar end goal: to re-connect with people and our communities, beginning with becoming the best version of ourselves. This begins with self-love, and then proceeding to pursing life’s purpose using the gifts loving yourself brings. We talked about him giving up Friday nights of boisterous activities, along with sleeping in on Saturday mornings, to now doing volunteer work for the homeless, while committing the rest of his time towards land restoration. Jo grew up with many insecurities, and went through a surplus of deaths, heartbreaks, all while dealing with issues with spirituality and identity. With his skin color, body type, and history not being represented in the media, he felt a huge disconnect with his sense of self and sense of purpose. Remembering a time during his adolescent years in school, he recalled a moment of which he never forgot. A student had asked the teacher why Native Americans had their land stolen, in which the teacher simply and ignorantly replied ‘because they weren’t civilized’. Not wanting to be like his ‘full of shit’ teacher, he decided to educate himself on his side, her side, and all sides, and end up with gaining not only knowledge, but the ability to listen and understand people with different mindsets.
So, what makes people, people? Land, language, ceremony, and history are the four elements Jo emphasizes throughout our meeting. They are interconnected, therefore, in ‘stealing’ the land, the language, place of history, and the ceremonies within that are also erased. A perfect example of this in modern time is the gentrification happening throughout Los Angeles County. Jo sees gentrification as a form of colonialism, in which a dominant group of people (White) transplant themselves in to an already established neighborhood (i.e. Boyle Heights). One of the many issues gentrification brings is a displaced group of people, where communities are not only being bought out, but are also adding to the already massive number of homelessness in Los Angeles County. Jo has come to the conclusion that our system produces poverty, for the only one’s benefiting from capitalism are the 1%.
Jo has been hands-on in the homelessness issue for a while, contributing countless nights to a non-profit organization called the Monday Night Mission, dedicated to feeding Skidrow inhabitants who have been turned away by homeless shelters. These people have the curb, the smell of piss, and are given looks of either pity or disgust, meanwhile living in a prison of their own; an urban invasive structure. The newest addition to the Monday Night Mission is the thing that finally brought me around to making Jo a L.A. Corona ‘Chingon’. The Shower of Hope, a mobile with 4 built-in showers, provides a need for those without access to day-to-day essentials that we all most certainly take for granted. I had the pleasure of getting to see how The Shower of Hope operates, along with spending more time with Jo and the amazing team behind this wonderful service.
Imagine you are homeless, in need of a shower and basic necessities, and a stomach growling louder than the mariachi at dinner. You go to a church, in South Pasadena or Highland Park, sign your name on the sign-in sheet, and wait your turn for The Shower of Hope, the only shower you’ll get all week. You take a look around and find the experience to resemble a casual weekend of shopping and a meal. Except everything is free, or better yet, donated. You spot a table with toothbrushes, toothpaste, tampons, cotton balls, soap, hand-sanitizer and books! After shopping, your turn to shower is up. You grab your donated towel, take your shower, and head over to the back of the church, where a warm meal awaits. Life and all its uncertainties on the streets continues, until the following week at The Shower of Hope.
What else does Mr. Jo Dominguez do? Well, he is a volunteer and strong advocate towards restoring native habitat. According to Jo, homeless or not, we all share a common missing link: a relationship between us and the land. Where do things actually come from? How are these things produced and by whom? Jo is planting seeds for the next generation, both literally and figuratively, living his truth through the 7 Generation Prophecy: a Native American principle that states that we must take in to consideration how our personal, corporate, and governmental decisions will affect our descendants 7 generations in to the future. Jo’s ultimate goal is to continue working with plants in order to help people and the land. In pursuing his life’s purpose, he hopes to reconnect people with their communities through teamwork and organization. Fully aware that he won’t get to witness his goals in full effect, he continues to work hard every single day, already making his mark, showing respect to the future by paying rent to his home – the land. We can all learn a thing or two from Jo Dominguez. I know I have.
If there’s anything that my volunteering has taught me, it’s that having strong team players and a strong organizational structure is what is needed in order to build any movement. We cannot do this kind of work alone and must learn to work together and care for each other.
-All Saints Episcopal Church [Highland Park]
All content is a L.A. CORONA original unless otherwise posted.