You will never understand what it’s like to be Black in a White World

Hal Espy was my boss at Cal State Long Beach when I worked in the Kitchen for 49er Shops.  He was (may still be) a tall man who repeated the name of the person he just met seven times in their first introduction and then he never forgot the name. He was an Olympic Hopeful boxer of some repute before  running the dining halls at a state university.
Hal used to walk up to me and take my hands, hold them close to his eyes and say “Yep, never known a day of hard work. You will never have to know a day of hard work.”. How I wish that were true, but he was wrong on both counts.

What he was correct about was this : “You will never understand what it’s like to be Black in a White World. It is unfair, it won’t ever be fair, and you probably won’t have to care.”

In all fairness, I grew up in Arcadia California where I only saw two black students the entire time I was in school from Kinder through High School graduation. I thought I was doing my part to set the world to rights when I boycotted Carl’s Jr. for having an owner who supported Apartheid. Walking into the dining hall at CSULB was like walking into a different world. I honestly had never seen people of color en mass before. Hal gave me one of my first jobs and educated me in more than food preparation and service. I used to sleep and have dreams about serving food and my whole body ached from standing and stretching and crawling under equipment to clean it, lifting up heavy pans of water from the food warmers, and my brain hurt from converting recipes for larger or smaller batches. The most important lesson came from watching “Cops”, the television show, in his office. HE told me to count the number of black folk being arrested and compare it to how every other nationality was presented.
When people would visit me at LAMP on Skid Row, I usually fielded questions and comments about the number of people of color living in the streets and shelters. True enough, there are more black folk in poverty than white., There are also more black folks incarcerated, and fewer positive representations of them in the popular arts.
I think the United states operates on the Brown Bag beauty test – and if you are darker than the bag you will get short changed.
I have never been able to change the way people are perceived and treated, but I have cared.
For the record, I am the only Caucasian worker in my office and have been the only generic white person on my employment level here for over seven years. Actually, I don’t think I have ever worked anywhere when I was in the majority. While you may say I am misusing my white privileged by not using it, I will tell you that it gets plenty of use without my trying.

In the E.R. with NO health Insurance 

Yesterday I was admitted to the Emergency Room for neuropathy and dizziness .   I had called the advice nurse the night before and was told to come in immediately. As you know I am a single mother, so I had to wait until I had child care.

I walked into Urgent Care and they plopped me into a wheelchair and sent me to the E.R. where I was informed that I would need to agree to pay out of pocket for my visit.

Wait. What?

I sent the County of Los Angeles HR about $1600 a month to continue my benefits at the same level as when I was paid. this is a better rate the going Cobra for myself and my daughters. I have called several times to double check the amount and check for receipt of payment, so why does Kaiser think my coverage ended October 31st ?

I declined medical tests  yesterday out of fear that I could not pay for them. I refused a CT scan because I can’t pay for that. Who could?

Today I called and the HR accounting of my payments is 1 shy of what my bank says I paid, but HR insists that I have coverage but the “group plan” changed. Gee, I specifically asked them about the letter I received from Kaiser telling me to cut up my membership card because it is not  valid and was told by the County of Los Angeles to “disregard ” that letter and left with the impression that I didn’t need to follow up with

Get it together people! 

This is me, in a hospital bed wondering how I am going to pay for my visit and wondering get if I can just learn to live with the numbness… it isn’t like I’ve ever hopped up and broken a leg because I couldn’t feel it…oh wait, I have and now I limp so I really want to find out what’s going on !

I and my in sabbatical from the county this year while I work on my MSW at USC. incase you and wondering if have earned all A’s and joined the Honor Society so I am making the most of my time. I do love working in the Calworks, Medi-Cal , and CalFresh programs and my home office is amazing, but I do wonder if they are sending me a message. Part of the reason I decided to take the sabbatical is because a supervisor told me I was too  fat and would squish my desk mate

Can I ask for the money back since I wasn’t able to use the services I paid for (medical and dental)?  I am borrowing out of my retirement to pay for insurance that I don’t have and have not had for 3 months! Isn’t it a crime to take money for a good or service and then casually refuse to provide the service or good ?  Should I protest? Do I call the union? 

What is going on?

The Vocational Assessment 

The primary goal of GAIN is to be a true Welfare to Work plan. before a client finds work, it is helpful for them to have an idea of their strengths and interests.

Enter the Vocational Assessment.

Today I went to the Valley Assessment Center at Los Angeles Valley Community College and took an assessment .  Guys, my head hurts.

Parking was a challenge so I parked on the street. 

Then I went to Bungalow 14 where I was warmly greeted by Paz and walked to the testing center. 

The Desks in the LAVC assessment center
For the next 2.5 hours I studied patterns, lost my place on the scantron bubble form, did applied math, realized I don’t know how to add negative numbers anymore and tried reading comprehension . 

Now I am waiting for Rosie to score it and tell me my aptitude for my chosen career goals and set up ideas based on the perceived Welfare Time Cock.block.

Hmmmmm, what do we think it will show? I am kinda nervous. 

So I’m boycotting Carl’s Jr

@andyPuzder makes me sad because other than In N Out, @CarlsJr is the only fast food I love.

I was thrilled to place a client in a job there last year. Now I am disgusted that their CEO thinks his employees love being in Welfare. Are you kidding me?

I wish he would sit down with me , average social worker, and discuss carefully what Welfare really links lime from a numbers point of view and real life application.

Bye-bye Superstar app and “All American Burger”!

The truth about Minimum Wage

“Common Sense” – aka knowledge held by the common man fails in this argument. The LA City Council studied 3 peer reviewed studies before increasing minimum wage. I don’t know what they read – but here is some of what I found.


Neoclassical economic theories present a clear prediction: as the price of labor increases, employers will demand less labor. However, many recent studies testing this prediction have found very small to no effects of the minimum wage on the level of employmentfrom Texas A&M (where my dad went) 


Does increasing the minimum wage lead to job losses? What does economics literature say?

Based on the economic multiplier effect that results from putting additional income in the hands of lower-income workers, raising the minimum wage will likely have a modest but positive impact on job creation, leading to an additional 85,000 net new jobs when fully phased in.


If I see one more armchair Economist tell me differently I am going to ask them what they think happens when you blow in between 2 balloons. They will say they separate and I will say they touch. Sometimes what seems like the logical answer must be put to the test to find the truth. 

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Women’s Pay With Education


Education and ethnicity still not equalize pay for women.


Still less than pay for men.

1. Research pay for your field of interest.
2. Speak to others who have the job you want and ask about pay and benefits … you will need this to negotiate.
3. Do not ask this of the folks at your possible new employment because the Ledbetter act was squashed.
4. Do not list “open” as the money amount you request as pay when applying for a job
5. Do not list the lowest pay you had heard about as your requested pay.
6. List an amount near the top of the range that you are eligible for and be willing to negotiate.
7. Check on sites like for pay and work information.

Why should you believe me? Well, I am the highest paid employee at my job title.

My Addiction to Kids

I am addicted to other people’s kids – so there is stuff on my agenda.

My own daughters are amazing polar opposites; like Yin and Yang. Jax is silent, serious and unshakeable. Darla is animated with strong opinions and feelings and she is silly. Of course they are also 20 and three years old respectively. Spending time with either of them is a delightful education.

However, my friends have some cool kids also.

As you well may have gathered from our time here together, I am picky, entitled and have high standards. Accordingly my friends are top notch. Mostly female, most of them are also mothers. They are kind ladies with good hearts, holding diverse world views and expert levels of proficiency in their chosen professions.

So just imagine what it looks like when this caliber of people spawn and have children!

It’s better than peanut butter and chocolate ya’ll. I am totally addicted.

Andrea has three hooligans who are wicked smart and ambitious. They top the list of people I am most want to kidnap and spend my life teaching how to toilet paper,  houses frost shirt boxes and give them as birthday cakes, explain the proper way to “fork” a lawn or line up quarter cups of water on the porch. The absolute mayhem level would be off the charts. Arts and crafts like sewing zippers on to the back of their dad’s pants so he won’t know which way is front just sounds delicious. So does putting food coloring in the Crown Car Wash soap . . . But usually we just toss pebbles in the lake and explore.

Ali has this little sprite who is one of my favorite Disneyland buddies. She is still portable sized so I toss her on a hip and carry her around like a fashion accessory when we are not playing Hide and Seek in a super crowded public space where she could be trampled or carried away by plundering tourists. Also, This kid is the only child (not related to me) who understands the importance of getting ice cream all over one’s self on a hot day.

Becky’s kid will grow up to be a teacher. Just write this down somewhere and talk to me again in 20 years. She knows what she likes, what she wants, what she needs to get what she wants and the importance of explaining ideas with joy and making everything fun. As the oldest child she is predisposed to being a caregiver and introducing her brother to the world while guiding him through it. Her baby brother and I both like to hide under my favorite grey sweater until everything stops being to freaking loud, bright and overwhelming. I really identify with that boy.

You know those kids who are “too cool” except that they are really just very sure of who they are while always being aware of the needs of people around them? These are Lisa’s kids. When possible (meaning my day is clear and I have talked her into telling me the schedule) I like to sneak across town and watch Saturday baseball and soccer games. I suspect the oldest will run his own company from the way he organizes his brother and sister and analysis his parents.  I only see them a few times a year ( if that ) but they are definitely my version of Kid Candy.

All of these kids are going to grow up and continue being fabulous people and more or less take over their corners of the world. Just like I would sweep my living room floors before they come for a visit – there is a little housekeeping I want to do in society before any of these kids are expected to navigate through it.

Kids worth changing the world for.

·        I want them to have easy access to tools and technology that frees them to be more creative and productive – so I will encourage them to use my tech while I invest in companies building new computer systems and ideas.

·        I don’t want them to have to avoid cruddy paying poverty income jobs. I want to get everyone paid a living wage right now.

·        I don’t want them stepping over homeless people as they walk out of the Metro – I want to end homelessness now.

·        I want them to be healthy, so I will work to make immunization and expectation and not a debatable topic even if it means I have to drag out photos of my grandmother in an iron lung while being treated for Polio.

·        I don’t want them to not have the skills and ability to learn new tasks, nor do I want them to have uneducated coworkers to be trapped in the office with until 5 each day. I want to reduce high school drop outs and improve education now.

·        I want them to feel safe in their communities, at any time of day – so I want law enforcement to be a positive force in society and not a group of (mostly) men with guns that they need to run away from.

·        I want them to have legitimate reasons to be proud Americans, not just belligerent disciples of Nationalism so I will take realistic stock of our need to improve education, feed our citizens with food we grow, and to encourage Americans to invest in the fundamentals of art since we are the birthplace of the movie industry and the music capital of the world.

These kids are too quickly becoming adults and if they have to clean up what we and others have left lying around, they may not find the time and motivation to be as awesome as I expect them to be. What do you want to do now for their future?

Skid Row (and Poverty) needs a Reality Show

I see staff from @authentictv Authentic Entertainment every day at the local 7 – 11 where I sing for my coffee. At the coffee bar I explained that they worked down the street from the greatest reality show just waiting to happen – the Welfare office. A bald hipster sent a smile to me about of his scarf and skinny jeans eclectic outfit while he indulgently educated me that covering the homeless and poor in a series could be disastrous due to the difficulty of covering tragedy without it being too hard to watch.

No, happy hipster, you are absolutely wrong. Sure, you could make a sob story with slow violins playing Nathaniel Ayers music as you pan down Crocker street in Los Angles and have graffiti announcing the latest marijuana flavors for sale illuminated by blue and red flashing lights. That is one way to go if you are into pathos and a single perspective of homelessness and poverty.

There is more to the Homeless Situation in Los Angeles than what slumbers on the sidewalks of city streets.

Homelessness is born out of poverty and social disconnection. Your story – the part that would make it relatable to the average American and bring poor people out of the shadows and into the light – lies with the social workers and “regular folk” who work with this population. I have been working in Homeless Services form a local, a non-profit, and now a government perspective for over 10 years. In all that time I have never found someone who engages with this population who isn’t secretly harboring a personal life measurable on a scale of slightly off kilter (1) to a totally hot mess (10). You all have been with me and this blog for 8 years now. Awesome as I am ( and I am awesome ) – that is 4 residences, 3 boyfriends, 2 jobs, death of 1 parent and the birth of my second child from a relationship that made a Domestic Violence Instruction manual look like my Day Planner.

There are 4 basic types of Poverty Professionals and most of them are females.

  1. Fresh from college with starry eyed optimism and living with Mom & Dad so the low pay wasn’t a factor.
  2. Soccer Mom’s who are married to a steady income and want to change the world.

  3. Survivors of poverty. These are graduates from the shelter programs who went on to work there, Former welfare mom’s (me!) who joined the system to improve it /former drug addicts leading support groups etc.

  4. Professionals:the support and office staff needed to run a company and could be interchanged with any administrative staff in any company. They get to say they are saving the world without ever meeting the population their company serves.

In my head and my diary and on this blog, I hold the stories of thousands of people who are experiencing an American Nightmare. They are not living Beverly Hills 90210 – they are living Skid Row 90021. Everything you would expect in that sad sack documentary is something I have experienced. What the average people don’t know are the other stories.

Here are 30 random lessons I learned :

  1. How to make a payment plan with a Crack Dealer
  • How to convince hookers not to perform “for credit”

  • 3 How to turn a spatula into a door stop

  • How to cook drugs on a spoon

  • What to do when you take a client into the Psych Hospital for evaluation and the nurse thinks YOU are the patient – despite the 50 year old woman twirling in her purple tutu next to you

  • When to punch and knock out a Veteran having a PTSD flashback

  • How to make a Suicide Contract to keep someone alive until the Department of Mental Health re-opens on Monday.

  • How to talk to naked people

  • What to do when you open a shelter door and find a dead body

  • How to clean up the remaining juices of that dead body and the sadness of losing your favorite platform flip flops in the process

  • When to lock your visiting 10 year old daughter in your office with a television and video game system, and have a knife wielding sociopath guard the outside of the door

  • How to be pen pals with said sociopath 10 years later

  • What to do when someone bakes you cookies with obvious roach body parts protruding

  • How to use paperclip and tax free Mexican cigarettes to build a tree sculpture ( that your coworkers and clients eventually smoke, one cigarette at a time, even though it is covered in glitter and shellac)

  • How to react when Soccer Moms walk you and your daughter back to your car and spy the Thousand Pack of condoms on your front seat

  • How to react when you complain “I need a man” and 10 minutes later a homeless client brings one of her homeless friends – who doesn’t speak any language you are fluent in – to “service” you.

  • How to politely tell someone to call back and complete their suicide threatening call in 10 minutes because you can’t think straight until you have some coffee in you.

  • How to bring homeless clients home with you

  • How to identify the difference between a family of cats and a pack of rats on the street at 10 pm

  • How to react when the social worker in the next cubical discloses that she is a weekend dominatrix

  • How to have a successful “telephone actress” career from the comfort of your day job

  • The best way to plan for your new born baby’s first outing, which will be to a homeless shelter to donate all the ugly baby clothes and supplies you don’t need.

  • Making all first dates be lunch dates and they have to pick you up at the homeless shelter where you work and be approved by your clients.

  • What to do when the LA Parking Enforcement is in love with ticketing your car so you come out of work to find an orange “boot” on your wheels

  • How to discourage homeless people from opening your car doors and climbing in as you drive down the street (hint, play dough and pennies burn on hot days.

  • How to sweet talk your Dad into buying you a car with automatic locks because homeless people climb in your car

  • How to make a fast $100 by letting a street hustler host a yard sale of everything in your trunk.

  • The best ways to shake people down for all the drug paraphernalia on their person when they walk into your office.

  • How not to laugh when your best friend comes on your client field trip to The Hollywood Bowl only to get scared by the mannequin on the corner ( there is someone behind you – oh my God, they could kill you!)

  • The fabulous way driver’s License Photos look when you get your make up done by an actual crack whore while in line at the DMV

  • I really think that extreme poverty – in a society that is rallying against the 1% and simultaneously posting angry FaceBook messages about Food Stamp users is a topic that absolutely should be covered. I think it would have to be done all in re-enactment format but I should be spoon fed to the general public.


    Because we can not solve a problem that we insist on avoiding.
    PS ( Don’t judge. Jerry, the owner, is a reality show junkie and once a chubby chick won a British competition he decided all fat chicks can sing. Luckily – I really can so I sing in exchange for coffee. I am poor and I do what I gotta do.)

    What Does Social Media Know About You?

    Screenshot_2014-04-23-10-54-30 The Good, The bad, the ugly…what could a stalker, assassin or potential employer discover about you from your Facebook profile and should you change your privacy settings?



    I am not too worried, Facebook told the analysis that I live at Disneyland.


    All the same… it is good to know who the Internet thinks you are now that employers and even land lords comb public information before contracting with you.


    The Wage Gap and Gender

    Two out of every three minimum wage workers is a woman.
           Go to the mall and check the female to male ratio while eating your food court pretzel.
    A single kother, working full time at minimum wage is about $4000 under the poverty line. These kids have a working mom but no money for school supplies.


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