Nope, It's Not Where You're From, it's Where You're at

How's the first day of 2014 been for you? I spent it sleeping late and watching all of the Lord of the Rings movies. I realized sometime toward the end of the Two Towers that I hadn't really reflected much on the entirety of 2013.

Some pretty amazing things happened to me in 2013, starting with the picture above which is the first picture I took in the new year. It's fitting that it's of me and my two sons, Mr. O and Mr. T, because they are the two shining lights in my life and they motivate me to be a better person, to be a good example for them. I can't talk to them about pursuing your dreams, being of service, and living life to the fullest if I'm not doing those things, too.

However, many of the things I did in 2013 didn't get talked about in this space. Why? One, even though I have a public identity, I'm still pretty private unless I know you. Two, I don't want to come off like I'm bragging. A "Look how awesome my life is," pose bores me to tears.

As I move forward with hopes and dreams for 2014, here are some of the great things that happened in the life of Los Angelista in 2013.

January: My first TV appearance of the year.
In college I worked at the campus radio station on the house, techno, and hip hop show. I loved the behind-the-mic aspects of it then and I still love being on the radio now. I don't have to worry about whether my hair is having a bad day, or if my outfit looks alright. That said, I'm not exactly shy about being on TV, either. In January I partnered up with Jack Scott, the former chancellor of the California community college system and headed to PBS' SoCal Connected to talk about whether more cash could save public education the Golden State. Host Val Zavala and the whole crew over there were just fantastic.

February: I got a reminder why I don't live in Chicagoland anymore.
After 15 years in Los Angeles, winter weather means that the coldest I've ever felt in Southern California is a balmy 34 degrees. But in early February I had to go to Chicago for work. One of the days I was there, it was 1-degree, and it was a serious shock to my system. The bonus of braving the cold, however, is that I got to see my family. My sister and I threw our parents a joint birthday party, complete with their first-ever pinata. They had a good time whacking Elmo.

March: Mulch and Depeche Mode.

I did some gardening with the Social Justice Learning Institute in Inglewood for their "10 Homes, 10 Seeds" project. Here are my boys, Mr. O and Mr. T, planting some veggies in the backyard of artist Karen Hampton as part of the project.
But the biggest thing to happen in 2013? A little band I happen to fangirl over on the regular released their 13th studio album.
Yes, we know Liz loves us.
Depeche Mode released "Delta Machine" (you can read my review here) and knowing they'd be going on tour to promote the record made me--and every other fan--pretty thrilled.

April: From Chuck D guessed it...Depeche Mode.
To kick April off with a bang, Mochamomma and I got retweeted by Chuck D:
Chuck D retweeted me??? And my head exploded!
Then I headed back to the Chi to participate in the 100Kin10 conference. It was a whole lot warmer and I managed to steal away a few moments to hang out at the Bean with my family. Here I am with my sister again!
Twenty-four hours later I headed to West Virginia to award a $10K check to the winner of the Great American Teach Off. It was my first time in the state and it was gorgeous.
That's the New River Gorge. Train tracks run along either side of the river and I saw several trains hauling tons of coal.

And then I found out that Depeche Mode would be performing a mini-concert at Jimmy Kimmel Live. Small venue + free + right down the street? I was SO there! I scored tickets and sat on a cold, damp sidewalk in Hollywood for several hours, just so I could see the best band on the planet.

May: Hip hop icons, hikes, and party animals.

I met Russell Simmons when he hosted a reception at his home for Maya Wiley, founder and president of the Center for Social Inclusion.
It was great to dig into the role media plays in advancing race relations. Plus he signed my son's RUN-DMC hat. It probably didn't hurt that I was seriously begging with some "Ahem, my child will kill me if I don't get this signed so pleeeaaaassssse!"

My boys and I also participated in the Big Parade, an walking trek across Los Angeles. My sons really enjoy spending time with Big Parade organizer and walking hero, Dan Koeppel, and hearing the historical anecdotes he shares as we walk along the route. In 2014 Mr. T plans to be the youngest person to ever complete both days of the Big Parade.
I also found out while hanging out at Mr. T's elementary school "prom" that he's a serious party animal.

June: Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, and Messin' with Texas.

I headed back to Chicago to moderate an education session at the Clinton Global Initiative America. One of the things I'm still struck by is that although we all know that Bill Clinton has remarkable influencing and motivating skills, he's also one of the most active listeners I've ever seen. He doesn't interrupt people. He listens and then responds.
Jesse Jackson was in attendance as well and I hovered around so that Mr. T--who'd come down out of the hotel room to harass me--and I could get a picture with him. I don't care if the picture's blurry. I met Jesse Jackson!!!
I do have to laugh (cringe?) a bit over how my son's wearing a Ghostbusters shirt and sporting a mohawk in a photo with a civil rights icon and the first black man to run for President of the United States.

I went to San Antonio to moderate a panel at ISTE. During a break in the conference, I braved the 102-degree heat and walked to the Alamo. It's smaller than I expected.
July: Family, family, and family.
I worked out in the Chicagoland area for a month and got to spend lots of time with my friends and family. I saw so many people I love and took my boys to many of my favorite hangouts.
We headed back to Los Angeles a few days before the George Zimmerman verdict. It still feels surreal that he was acquitted, and so very unjust and sad, too. I was a guest on KPCC's Take Two radio show about how I talked to my sons about it.

August: Creativity and Depeche Mode.
I'm a big advocate of creativity and fun being infused in everything so I was happy (and sad) to head to Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood for the last day of Caine's Arcade. (I wrote about it here) What was also cool was that my 10-year-old, Mr. T, got interviewed by NBC Nightly News about the arcade.

And then I took my sons to the Depeche Mode Convention in Hollywood where they had a great time meeting other fans, listening to Depeche karaoke, watching a cover band, and spinning the Amoeba Records prize wheel.
It was their first time inside a "nightclub" and they were pretty fascinated by the whole thing. In particular, Mr. T got into the cover band. He managed to squirm his way to the front row and he just cracks me up in this video:

Seeing if Mr. O and Mr. T had fun at the Depeche Mode Convention with a cover band was a great test to see if they'd like attending an actual concert. Seriously, they had NO idea what was in store for them just a few weeks later.

September: More television and I took my sons to see Depeche Mode. 
I kicked the month off by being a guest on Take Part Live. The conversation focused on the perception of teaching in America. 

Later in the month I went to a whole bunch of Depeche Mode concerts and had a ball at every single one. Hands down my favorite was the show I took my sons to at Staples Center. I'd purchased the tickets in the spring and kept it a secret from them. They'd met some other fans who are friends at the convention the previous month and so I told them we were going to go downtown to L.A. Live,  have dinner with a group of folks from out of town, and then my friend was going to come pick them up so they could spend the night at her place. They really fell for it and I love watching their reactions when I told them what was really going on:

They kinda still thought I was tricking them until I actually gave them their tickets just before we went inside Staples Center.
I also went over to Power 106 and met Yesi Ortiz. She's a huge advocate of safe sleeping for babies and it was also great to hear her talking about adopting members of her family.

October: Birthdays,  rock stars, and peace brokers.

Mr. T turned 10 and had an epic boogie boarding birthday at the beach--that's what you can do in October when you live in Southern California. Then, my friend, David Silver, who is CEO of College Track invited me to the grand opening of their new community center in Boyle Heights. Of course was there to represent for his hometown neighborhood, and my boys got to meet him:
I was also honored to meet Aqueela Sherrills who brokered the peace agreement between the Bloods and the Crips back in 1992. He recently opened Three Worlds Cafe, "A social venture celebrating African Americans, Latino and Asian Hertiage and our collective contribution the Vernon-Central community of South Los Angeles."

November: This is England. 
Somehow I managed to become a British American Project fellow. I went to London and Cambridge, drank lots of tea, strolled through Hyde Park, down Oxford Street, saw famous paintings and tons of historic buildings, hung outside Buckingham Palace, made new friends, participated in my first-ever pub quiz, and otherwise thoroughly enjoyed myself. 

I came home wishing that I lived in England. Fortunately, I still have a wonderful dose of the U.K. in my backyard because the day after I returned, my dear friend Krista opened the doors of The Red Dragon cafe, a spot for
"tea and sympathy or coffee and care!" 
I ended the month publishing my first piece on Buzzfeed, about that fibbing reality TV show producer, Elan Gale and his telling a woman on a plane to eat a dick. Now that we know it never happened, I still wonder, who in the world makes up lies like this? 

December:  Big ideas, birthdays, and owning what I do best.
I talked about the Elan Gale drama on Huffpost Live:
A few days later I headed up the coast to the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay to serve as the emcee for the Big Ideas Fest, a fantastic conference that brings together "teachers, innovators, edupreneurs, policy makers, and students with big ideas for transforming K-20 education." I got to see my awesome friend Manasa Yeturu, who's working on expanding entrepreneurship education for girls, and met such fantastic people as Chris Emdin, a professor at Teacher's College at Columbia who's bringing hip hop and science education together, and Hannah Chung, who co-created Jerry, a bear that helps kids with diabetes learn to care for themselves.
Then it was my birthday, which I celebrated with friends and family. There's nothing like supportive people in your life to help you keep it real...and help you eat your carrot cake.
And on the last day of 2013, I wrote my first piece for xoJane (go read it!) on how the whole Ani DiFranco debacle rings the alarm on the divides between white and black women. Indeed, my only real resolution for 2014 is to write every day. That's why I titled this post "it's not where you're from, it's where you're at." All that I did in 2013 is water on the bridge--so what, now what? 2014 is uncharted territory, and I believe in going hard or going home. 

Part of going hard is knowing that you don't go hard alone. Thank you to all of you who have rolled your eyes at me virtually, been sounding boards, and offered encouragement, ideas, and opportunities to me. Thank you to all of you who've babysat my kids, made me laugh, and encouraged my chai addiction. Thank you to those who've encouraged my risk taking and reminded me to take better care of myself emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. And thank you, Depeche Mode, cos, you know, I'm just keeping it real!


Allison said…
Hey Liz! This is GREAT!!!!! SO glad you shared so much personal stuff because it is wonderful to celebrate and be joyful about the things in life that you LOVE and the passions that fuel you to keep fighting the most important fights while you bring kindness and creativity and justice to the world. I wanted to see if I could write a really long run-on sentence - once I got going it was hard to stop. Sending you a hug!
Los Angelista said…
Haha! Run-on sentences for the win! Hope your new year is off to a great start and thanks for the encouragement!

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