Pasadena People’s Collective Provides Mutual Aid to Pasadenans Struggling During the Pandemic

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Now, 4/27/2021

Few have been left unscathed by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year. Some people, however, have been hit harder than others.

A new group of grassroots volunteers called the Pasadena People’s Collective (PPC), founded in January by local residents, is providing mutual aid to their neighbors in need in Pasadena and surrounding communities.

The pandemic really made it clear just how many people are on the brink,” said PPC founder August Walters. “People are experiencing homelessness and trying to make ends meet, and COVID only exasperated those problems. Our goal is to build up a community that’s helping to alleviate some of those needs in places where we haven’t seen those being met.”

Walters, a Pasadena resident for the past seven years, formed PPC as an extension of Mutual Aid Network Los Angeles, which provides the LA community with material support in response to the pandemic. That group “split up from being a single program operating countywide to being a bunch of more local groups being able to engage more directly with local communities,” Walters said. “We had an active volunteer network in Mutual Aid Network LA, and we contacted people that have either volunteered for us or received aid from us in the past to see if they would be interested in being part of this neighborhood program that we were transitioning into.”

Up to seven people hold PPC meetings regularly to handle logistics, field requests and establish partnerships. A broader group of volunteers help pack hygiene kits, deliver groceries and fulfill other aspects of the organization’s mission.

PPC has been collaborating with Pasadena for All, a houselessness advocacy organization in Pasadena, to put together hygiene kits to distribute to people in need in the Old Pasadena area and other areas around the city. They have also purchased and delivered about $500 worth of groceries. They collaborate with other groups as well, such as the Pasadena Community Job Center and the San Gabriel Valley branch of CAT-911, a network of people who respond to community needs as an alternative to law enforcement in areas such as conflict resolution between neighbors, police, domestic and sexual violence, mental health crises, and acute first aid needs.

So what is mutual aid?

“For us that means solidarity, especially with the people who have been most affected by the pandemic, with a focus on building up the community as opposed to having one-off transactions,” Walters said.

According to the group’s request form, in mutual-aid systems people “work cooperatively to meet the needs of everyone in the community. It’s different from charity, which features a one-way relationship between an organization and recipients, and often responds to the effects of inequality but not its causes. Mutual aid is an act of solidarity that builds sustained networks between neighbors.”

According to a report co-authored by Peter Dreier, a political science professor at Occidental College and Mark Maier of Glendale Community College, Pasadena “ranked second among California’s largest cities for both income concentration and wealth gap between the richest and poorest households” as of 2019.

“The richest 5 percent of Pasadena households have 25 percent of residential income, while the poorest 20 percent of households have 2.2 percent of residential income. Likewise, the median price of a single-family home in Pasadena has risen 41 percent over the past five years, from $680,00 to $960,000,” the report states. “Many of our Pasadena neighbors are struggling just to pay rent and keep food on the table. Mutual aid provides an alternative to government assistance and understands that elected officials and government programs will not save us. It is up to us to support each other and to share skills, money and other resources so that everyone in our community can survive.”

Counting the hygiene kits, produce boxes, grocery deliveries and connecting those in need to existing local nonprofits, Walters said PPC and its partners have already helped hundreds of people.

“In terms of how many people have received some form of aid, it’s quite a few hundred at this point, though I want to make it clear that in some of these cases, we’re working with organizations like Pasadena for All,” Walters said. “We’re pointing volunteers to existing programs. That’s been our niche: identifying organizations that are already entrenched in the community and already know what the issues are and what support people need. We’ve been finding resources and people to make sure they’re able to complete those requests.”

Although the collective was organized in response to the pandemic, Walters would like to see the group’s efforts continue after the pandemic winds down, while also ensuring that organizers don’t stretch themselves too thin.

“It’s very easy to burn out on organizing,” Walters said. “A lot of us have full-time jobs. There are so many people who are in need that there’s really no point at which we can say the work is completely done. These problems existed before the pandemic and they’ll continue to exist once the pandemic ends. It just made it clear how bad things were and it made existing problems worse. I would love to see our volunteer network grow and to also identify new ways we can contribute to new partnerships with other organizations so we can help out.”

For those who want to submit a request for aid, PPC has set up a request form online. People can also call or text the collective’s phone number, (323) 577-8824. More information is available on Instagram @pasadenacollective, on Twitter @pasadenapeople or by emailing pasadena.peoples.collective@gmail.com.

For those who want to volunteer or give aid, PPC has set up a separate request form online. People can also donate through the Cash App handle $pasadenacollective.

All of these resources are available at linktr.ee/pasadenacollective.

“There is a sense that organizing is a huge commitment and a really daunting task, and there are ways to get more involved to that degree if people are interested, but we’ve had people who reach out who have a weekend free and ask what they can do to help,” Walters said. For example, you can make a donation or “you can spend a couple hours assembling hygiene kits and then deliver them. There are ways to get involved and help without making a huge long-term commitment.”

Similar efforts to help neighbors have also sprung up during the pandemic, one of the most collectively challenging times for society since at least World War II. On Facebook, Pasadenans can join a hyper-local Buy Nothing group in which you can “ask” for an item you need or “give” items to those who need them. In this free-exchange project, there is no buying or selling, no trading or bartering and no soliciting for cash. It is an adult-only, hyper-local gift economy.

“Buy Nothing. Give Freely. Share creatively. We offer members a way to give and receive, share, lend and express gratitude through a worldwide network of micro-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors,” reads the project’s About page on Facebook. “Post anything you’d like to give away, lend or share in this Buy Nothing community group. Ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or borrow. Keep it legal. Keep it civil.”

Learn more at facebook.com/BuyNothingProject and buynothingproject.org, or find a group at buynothingproject.org/find-a-group.

Local Tongva Tribe Elder and Community Activist Julia ‘Wiseone’ Bogany Dies at 72

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Now, 4/13/2021

Julia Louise “Wiseone” Bogany, a teacher, activist and member of the local indigenous Tongva tribe, passed away on March 28 at Redlands Community Hospital due to complications associated with a stroke that she suffered on March 7. She was 72.

GoFundMe page was set up to help cover medical and funeral bills, which raised $75,890 out of a $65,000 goal, as of April 8. Bogany is survived by her husband Andrew, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, as well as four children, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Leftover funds will go to support Andrew’s care.

“Our beloved Julia has gone to meet her father in heaven this morning,” Joseph Aranda, organizer of the GoFundMe page, wrote on March 28. “God bless you Julia and thank you for all that you have done for us! We truly love and will miss you!”

Aranda announced that Bogany’s funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 17, followed by burial at approximately 11:15 a.m. at Mt. View Mortuary & Cemetery, 570 E. Highland Ave., San Bernardino. Due to the pandemic, there will be a capacity restriction of 65 people inside the chapel, with family taking priority for the indoor service followed by first come availability. Remaining attendees will be directed to wait at the burial site or outside the chapel. The service will also be livestreamed. Aranda will post the livestream link on the GoFundMe page soon.

“I always say Tongva women never left their ancestral homeland, they just became invisible,” Bogany was quoted as saying on her website ToBeVisible.org. “‘How do we make ourselves not invisible?’ is the question I ask every day.”

Bogany was a member of the Tongva Tribal Council and served as the tribe’s cultural consultant. She was dedicated to the teaching, revitalization and visibility of Tongva language and culture throughout the San Gabriel Valley and surrounding communities, which she did for more than 30 years. She was an elder-in-residence who taught native culture and history and women’s issues at the Claremont Colleges, including Scripps, Pomona, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer and the Claremont School of Theology. She worked to “reawaken and revive the Tongva language, as well as assemble a Tongva dictionary,” according to her website.

Bogany is well known throughout the Southland for her work. At Cal State, Dominguez Hills, there is a 47-foot mural of her. She was president of Kuruvanga Springs, a representative for California tribes on Route 66 and a member of the California Native American College board. She also served as vice president of the Keepers of Indigenous Ways, a nonprofit group of the Tongva, and president of Residential Motivators, her own nonprofit consulting firm.

In November, Bogany delivered a virtual talk hosted by the Pasadena Public Library about the Tongva people’s history and culture, one of the last events of her storied career.

Kimberly Morales Johnson, Bogany’s cousin and a fellow Tribal Council member, told LAist that Bogany “would start sometimes at 5 o’clock in the morning and not get home until 10 o’clock at night. Just all on her quest to make sure that people knew who the Gabrielino-Tongva were, and that we are still here, and that we still exist.”

Archeologists estimate that the Tongva have been in Southern California since between 4,500 to 10,000 years ago. For their homes, tribe members built thatched dome structures called Kiiy using poles, white willow and tule-reeds in the LA Basin, including along the banks of the seasonal Arroyo Seco and throughout the San Gabriel Valley, as well as on the Channel Islands. Coastal and island tribes made their Kiiy out of whale ribs and reeds.

“The Arroyo Seco was really the cradle of civilization for Indians that inhabited Pasadena and South Pasadena,” South Pasadena City Librarian Steve Fjeldsted told this reporter in 2013. “It not only gave them their water but was also part of their trade and travel routes. Of course, later it became one of the first routes between Pasadena and Los Angeles.”

Tongva tribe members lived throughout modern-day Los Angeles County, in a territory totaling more than 2,500 square miles. An estimated 2,000 descendants still live in the area today. Because of their location near the ocean and between other Native American groups, the Tongva traded with neighbors based on an economy of acorns, clamshell beads and wild plant foods.

According to Tongva educator Craig Torres, the name Tongva “comes from a word in our language which means ‘the earth’ or ‘the land’ or ‘one’s landscape,’ so it translates to ‘people of the earth.’”

According to Bogany’s website, the Tongva, later named Gabrielinos by the Spaniards, “lived in communities based on family ties, a notion that is still important to the Gabrielino-Tongva today. Multiple communities organized themselves into larger groups that governed social, political and economic interactions. The Gabrielino-Tongva were primarily hunter-gatherers who changed location within the seasons, while the communities on the islands and coastline used canoes, called Tiats, to go deep-sea fishing. The Gabrielino-Tongva people have a rich oral history full of legends and stories.”

Their language had Uto-Aztecan roots and they “were the source of the jimsonweed cult, a widely practiced Southern California religion that involved various sacred and esoteric rituals and the drinking of toloache, a hallucinogen made from the jimsonweed (Datura stramonium),” according to Britannica. “Each Gabrielino village had a hereditary chief; shamanism was an important part of Gabrielino religion and healing practices.”

They also made baskets, and according to LAist, Bogany consulted with artists on public art projects such as the Metro Gold Line Bridge built over the 210 freeway between Pasadena and Arcadia in 2010, which “has support columns that emulate Gabrielino-Tongva baskets.”

When Spanish explorers began colonizing the area in the 18th century, Native American culture was absorbed by the missionaries. California became a Mexican province when Mexico won independence from Spain. According to the definitive historical text by Jane Apostol, “South Pasadena: A Centennial History,” very few Native Americans received shares of land “when the property once controlled by the missions was given away in huge land grants on which ranchos were established.” Most of present-day Altadena, Pasadena, San Marino and South Pasadena formed the boundaries of Rancho San Pasqual.

According to KCRW, “when the Spanish arrived in Southern California in the late 1700s, life as the Tongva knew it was over. From that point on, the history of the Tongva and of all indigenous people in California, is an incredibly painful one — wrought with stories of mass killing, stolen land and stolen identity. The Spanish settlers arrived and built the Mission San Gabriel in 1781. Thousands of Tongva were forced to leave their villages to work and live in the Missions. The missionaries collectively called all natives ‘Gabrielinos.’ The Tongva and other tribes were baptized, forced to give up their language and their culture. The tribes fought back fiercely. But as bad as things were under the Spanish, the slaughter only increased when California became a state in 1850.”

But much of that history is largely unknown by most Californians. That’s why Bogany “consulted with and trained teachers and school boards on how to revise their curriculum to reflect the correct history of California and California tribes,” according to her website.

It wasn’t until 1994 that California state law finally recognized the Gabrielino-Tongva, but the tribe still didn’t receive federal recognition or assistance. Read a timeline of the tribe’s history here.

Bogany wanted to “change the future for her tribe, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren; this is her way of doing it. All the work she’s done for the past 20 years is for their future and for the future of her Tongva tribe.”

A statement by some of her colleagues Gina Lamb, Tricia Morgan, Tessa Hicks Peterson, Susan Phillips, Erich Steinman and her students at the Claremont Colleges, paid tribute to her legacy.

“Her work to uplift, revitalize, and decolonize the legacy of the Native Americans on whose land we have settled (the Tongva) has made a huge impact not only locally and nationally, but specifically in the educational and social justice work of Pitzer (and Pomona, as well),” read the statement. “We’d like to honor her work and support her family, in this time of need.”

Here’s a Complete List of Applicants for the Police Oversight Commission

Districts 1, 3 have fewest applicants

By ANDRÉ COLEMAN, Pasadena Now, 4/7/2021

Residents from two of the city’s minority-dominant City Council districts turned in the fewest applications for the city’s Police Oversight Commission.

Just nine residents in District 3 and 10 residents in District 1 applied for the 11-member body, both districts that have high Black and Latino populations.

Minority populations report more negative interactions with the police.

One of the council’s stated goals is to seat a commission made up of communities most impacted by encounters with the police.

In total, the city received 87 applications.

District 6 had the most applications, as 24 people living in the affluent West Pasadena district, which is represented by Steve Madison, turned in papers, including former PCC Trustee Geoff Baum, freelance reporter Justin Chapman and attorney Tamerlin Godley, who unsuccessfully ran against Madison in the last election.

In District 4, represented by Gene Masuda, 18 people applied for the commission, including local activist Patrice Marshall McKenzie.

Fifteen people living in District 5, a largely Latino district, also applied. Councilmember Jessica Rivas held online interviews in March and has requested feedback from local residents on the applicants.

13 people applied in District 2, and 11 in District 7, including Jon Fuhrman and Juliana Serrano.

The lack of applicants in minority communities does not necessarily mean the commission will not be diverse.

In that pool. six of the 13 applicants are Black women, one is a Latina, one is a Black man and one is an Armenian American woman.

Three applicants are white men and one white woman has applied.

Esprit Loren Jones has been seated on the commission in District 1, which is represented by Tyron Hampton.

The Council’s Public Safety Committee is due to select commissioners from three community organizations at 4 p.m., today. Hampton and Kennedy both sit on the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.

Councilmember John Kennedy has pushed for oversight since he was first elected in 2013, but was unable to garner enough support until the officer-involved death of Black Minnesota motorist George Floyd.

“The pool of commission applicants we have to choose from represents a wealth of knowledge, diversity, and a level of engagement that is exciting to me,” Hampton said.

“It excites me because we have an opportunity to make positive strides that reflect the beliefs and values of our local community.”

The selections will be recommended to the City Council and a final decision will be made on April 19.

The selections come on the heels of an announcement by Police Chief John Perez that two police officers that left an Altadena motorist with a broken leg during a violent encounter would remain with the department.

Christopher Ballew was arrested at a gas station in Altadena on Nov. 9, 2017, by officers Zachary Lujan and Lerry Esparza for allegedly resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer after being stopped for driving without a front license plate and excessive window tint on his late-model Mercedes sedan.
In the course of the altercation, Ballew was struck on the head several times with fists and on the legs with a metal baton. His head was also rammed into the asphalt. He suffered a broken leg bone and multiple contusions during the arrest, a portion of which was captured by a passerby on a cell phone and later posted to Facebook.

After the incident had become public, Pasadena City Manager Steve Mermell released footage captured by the body cameras worn by the officers.

Ballew was released on $50,000 bail. However, the LA County District Attorney’s Office later declined to charge Ballew with any crimes. No charges were filed against the officers.

“Do I think that we have a great police department? I do,” Hampton said. “I believe our police department does a great job based on their training. I also believe that we need a fresh approach and that we need to look at training differently.”

Hampton referenced Ballew and the officer-involved deaths of JR Thomas and Anthony McClain.

“I think PPD needs to put more emphasis on de-escalating situations. I believe all city employees, including police officers, should be held accountable for any wrongdoing. No one being held accountable for the beating of a person in restraints which led to a death is unacceptable. The breaking of a person’s leg while claiming they were resisting, but knowing as a human being, it is hard not to flinch when experiencing physical pain cannot be tolerated.”

“Shooting a fleeing person in the back twice is not ok. These are all examples of acts that have occurred in the recent past. City employees that work for our police department in these acts that are out of policy and are unacceptable to me. The community is asking for accountability. Authentic and meaningful accountability. It’s simple, and it’s clear. This is what the community is requesting. If all employees are truly held accountable, including those in our police department, I believe there will be fewer of these incidents.”

“If PPD holds community members accountable for adhering to policies and laws, they too, like any city employees should be held to the same standard.”

“I realize the road to consistent and authentic accountability won’t be an easy one to travel. But with more eyes on the situation, I’m hopeful and excited about the change that will come.”

Here is a complete list of the applicants, including residents that filed through a community organization.

District 1:
Pattyl Aposhian Kasparian
Jason Betts
Dennis Campos
Derric J. Johnson
Esprit Loren Jones
Donald R. Matthews
Mike Owen
Mikala L. Rahn, Ph.D. – Public Works/Learning Works
Wilhelmina Robertson
Nolan Shaheed

District 2
Alexis Abernethy, Ph.D. – The Links, Pasadena-Altadena Chapter
James J. Aragon
Phillip J. Argento
Teddy Bedjakian
Leslie Anne Caldwell
John W. Hazlet, Jr.
Steven M. Olivas
Boghos Patatian
Mark Persico
Craig Rosebraugh
Kenneth Rotter – San Gabriel Valley LGBTQ Center
Jeff Snodgrass
Paul T. Stephenson

District 3
A. Diane Askew, Ph.D.
Nicholas Caleb Benson
Beverly Bogar
Victoria Brown
Olden Denham
Elona C. Jackson-Hinton
Gloria O. Oduyoye, Esq. – District OR Org Seat – Oduyoye Institute for Fair Police Reporting
Jasmine Richards – Black Lives Matter Pasadena
Lawrence Weisberg

District 4
Uzair Alaidroos
Milena Albert
Julia Nancy Bailey, Ph.D.
Adriana Bautista
David Chien
Michael Crowley
Vincent De Stefano
John H. Doyle II
Brenda Goldstein
Kevork Keushkerian
James Maddox
Patrice Marshall McKenzie – Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Eta Lambda Omega Chapter
Maria-Elena Navarro
Laiza Rodriguez
Kim Santell
Barbara Stacy
Jamie Wright, Esq.
Shoghig Yepremian – Armenian National Committee of America

District 5
Florence Annang – NAACP/Pasadena Branch
Gabriel Ceja, Sr., Esq.
Joshua D. Cowing – Salvation Army
Melissa Jean Garcia
Laura H. Hackney
Raúl Ibáñez
Cynthia Marie Kirby – Union Station Homeless Services Beatriz Martinez Sanchez
Valerie A. Marz
Gloria G. Medel
Javier Mercado
Robert M. Nelson, Ph.D.
Adetunji Oke
Cheryl L. Taplin
Michael W. Warner

District 6
Juan Pablo Alban, Esq.
George Alwan
Geoffrey Baum
Velton Ray Bunch
Justin Chapman
Richard Cole, M.D.
Tomas Diaz
Noemi Emeric-Ford
Tamerlin Godley
Avram Dean Gold
Alfred John Grantham
Brian Kim
Patricia Kinaga
Aasia Kinney
Brandon Kruhm – Westridge School
Linda M. Lasley
Jeff Michael
David Minning
Krista Moll
Scott H. Richland
Daniel P. Ryan
Warren Sata
Curtis R. Silvers, Jr. – Brotherhood Crusade
Paula Verrette, M.D.

District 7
Shauna Clark
Mario A. Fernandez
Jonathan Fuhrman
Ivett Garay
Emily Greenfield
Charles Klum
John A. Latta
Lawrence Lurvey
Michele C. Nielsen, Esq.
Brandon Nunn-Zia
Juliana Serrano – All Saints Church