Latina Magazine Features Silent Beauty

Read my interview on Latina Magazine’s website

Excerpt:

When Jasmin Mara López was a child, she was abused by her grandfather, a beloved minister who regularly served his community. She didn’t tell a soul. In fact, like many survivors of childhood abuse, López lived with those tormenting memories and the trauma it carried in silence for decades. It wasn’t until 2014 when the New Orleans-based mexicana opened up about the sexual violence she had experienced in her youth. In doing so, she, unbeknownst to her at the time, allowed her relatives who had also suffered similar abuse in silence to discuss their haunting pasts and heal together.

But López, an award-winning journalist and producer, wants to explore the culture of silence around sexual abuse deeper, and she is using her family’s history to do that. The 37-year-old is writing and directing a documentary about that past.

“Silent Beauty” is an experimental documentary about the impacts of trauma, and the healing that sometimes occurs when opening up about it. The film, which is expected to be completed in fall 2017, includes López’s family’s super 8 archive (silent home films), cassette tape recordings and interviews that offer a unique tapestry of film, sounds and voices from her past and present.

We chatted with López about her film, the need to ditch the culture of silence around childhood sexual abuse in Latinx homes, what she has learned in the process of making “Silent Beauty,” her distinctive use of sound in the documentary and more.

Read my interview on Latina Magazine’s website

Silent Beauty: A documentary about child sexual abuse

Silent Beauty explores my family’s history with child sexual abuse and a culture of silence.

It’s an experimental documentary about the effects of trauma, and the healing and beauty found in the process of coming forward. This film utilizes my family’s super 8 archive, old cassette tape recordings, and interviews that bring forth a rich tapestry of film, sounds, and voices from our past and present.

Silent Beauty is also a project that will document the stories of other survivors, and hold screenings to share the film with youth, community groups, and survivors around the U.S.

Please share our fundraising campaign:

https://igg.me/at/silentbeauty/x/3886747

Thank you,

Jasmin Mara López
@jasminmara

Silent Beauty from AnnieFlanagan on Vimeo.

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/silent-beauty-film-youth/embedded/3886747

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New Orleans Reconstruction Workers Fight to Remain

By Jasmin López | Published by Making Contact

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Southern Gulf Coast. Reconstruction after Katrina drew thousands of people from India, Brazil, Mexico, Honduras, and other Latin American countries. Workers were charged with pulling dead bodies from abandoned homes and rebuilding New Orleans. But the influx of migrant workers also increased immigration crackdowns.

Maternal Matters: Indigenous Women in the Yucatan Challenge Violence and Indifference

By Jasmin López | Published by Making Contact

In Mexico an indigenous woman is three times more likely to die during childbirth or postpartum than a non indigenous woman. Both culture and government policies play a role in the violation of their rights, which often leads to death. Reporter Jasmin Lopez went to the Yucatan to find out more. This piece was produced in collaboration with  reporter Karen Tenorio.

Deadly Divide: Migrant Death on the Border

By Jasmin López | Published by Making Contact

Over 6,000 migrant deaths were recorded on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico between 1998 and 2013. The true number of deaths is likely higher, and thousands of families never hear from their loved ones again.

This documentary travels to the desert ranch lands of Brooks County and the border town of Reynosa, Tamaulipas to introduce us to the human cost of “prevention through deterrence,” a border enforcement strategy introduced during the Clinton administration.

Deadly Divide is part of an on-going immigration collaboration with Photographer Brandon Thibodeaux exploring the human cost of current a border enforcement strategies.

Click here to see the photos.

Living Wage: Profile of a low-wage earner

By Jasmin López | Published by KALW

D’Wana Stewart is a native San Franciscan. She graduated from June Jordan School for Equity, a small high school on the southeast side of the city. Now 24, she’s working three jobs and shares a home with her mother – it’s the only way she’s been able to stay in San Francisco. We spent a week with D’wana, to get a sense of her life, living on the minimum wage.

“Definitely like to be further ahead in my life. Even though it seems like I’m doing so much.” – D’wana Stewart

Living with HIV as a senior

By Jasmin López | Published by KALW

People 50 years or older now make up the majority of HIV and AIDS cases in San Francisco. Since HIV emerged in the 1980’s, treatments have improved — allowing people to live longer with this chronic illness. So as the number of older people living with HIV grows, so do the other things that come with age — like access to affordable housing and health care, mental health issues and isolation.

You can find a reporter’s notebook about my personal connection to this story here.

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Young Immigration Activist Struggles to Balance Courage with Fear

By Jasmin López | Published by The California Report

“My name is Marco Perez. I am undocumented and unafraid,” he said.

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Foreclosures hollow out a community

By Jasmin López | Published by Healthy.Cal.org

On a sunny afternoon, as a handful of tourists participated in guided tours and marveled at the Watts Towers, a National Historic Landmark, 19-year-old Jeremiah Cotton stood among a group of young men nearby gathered around a broken-down car.

As the men waited for mechanical assistance, Cotton stared pensively in the direction of a vacant home across the street. Cotton has lived in the South Los Angeles community of Watts since birth. He has experienced many changes within his community – the good and the bad.

Foreclosed and vacant homes are nothing new to Cotton – a common sight in his neighborhood. In an unaffected style, he discussed the high number of foreclosed, vacant, and abandoned homes.

Foreclosed homes are hollowing out the community of Watts in South Los Angeles. Photo by Jasmin Lopez.

Foreclosed homes are hollowing out the community of Watts in South Los Angeles. Photo by Jasmin Lopez.

“Just walk down the street. They’re worse. They’re everywhere. Everyday, everywhere,” he said.

Despite declining foreclosure filings in California and Los Angeles County, the short block alone had five recently foreclosed homes, and the community is ridden with hundreds more. The home-foreclosure rate in Watts is more than triple the national average, according to RealtyTrac, a real estate information company and an online marketplace for foreclosed and defaulted properties in the U.S.

The vacant properties raise concern with community members for a number of reasons, but the foremost concern is the number of displaced families. Families are forced to leave their homes, their communities, and sometimes end up homeless.

“They just move to the projects,” said Cotton. When asked if he believed that to be the fate of most families, he assuredly stated “pretty much.”

Legislation extends new rights

New legislation that aims to protect homeowners took effect on Jan. 1. The California Homeowner Bill of Rights extends key mortgage and foreclosure protections to homeowners and borrowers such as a guaranteed single point of contact and restrictions on dual track foreclosure – the practice of initiating the foreclosure process against a homeowner while the homeowner is seeking to renegotiate their loan terms.

According to a statement from the office of the Attorney General, the Homeowner Bill of Rights “will provide basic fairness and transparency for homeowners, and improve the mortgage process for everyone.”

“For too long, struggling homeowners in California have been denied fairness and transparency when dealing with their lending institutions,” said Attorney General Kamala Harris. “These laws give homeowners new rights as they work through the foreclosure process and will give Californians a fair opportunity to stay in their homes.”

Another key provision, tools to curb blight, assists local governments and receivers in combating blight and crime associated with multiple vacant homes in neighborhoods.

Some advocates think the Homeowner Bill of Rights came too late for the many families that were involved in unfair foreclosures, and fear that the positive impact will be minimal.

“It’s very little, and it’s coming kind of late. Certainly, it will help some troubled homeowners, but not to an extent that it will make a real impact,” said Arturo Ybarra, director of Watts/Century Latino Organization, a HUD-approved agency that provides housing education and counseling to troubled homeowners.

Ybarra, also a resident of Watts, witnessed the damage foreclosures have caused his community over the years. When homes are foreclosed upon, the negative effects extend beyond the displaced individuals and families and adversely affect the entire community’s health.

In Watts, many foreclosed homes become vacant, neglected or abandoned properties that increase the risk of blight and introduce community health risks such as crime, pest infestations, disorder, and violence.

Ybarra believes that Watts, Compton and Lynwood were hit the hardest by foreclosures. Entire blocks of homes that were in some stage of the foreclosure process were vacant, unattended, vandalized, and became eyesores as well as a health risk. Trash from foreclosed properties ends up in alleys and streets, invites pests and encourages further littering. Public services are also not responding as soon as they should.

Abandoned properties are used as drug houses, sleeping quarters for homeless people, and houses for prostitution.

“Many of those houses have been used as drug houses, some are taken by homeless people. There’s prostitution. One way or another, it affects our community, our neighbors, and other properties,” said Ybarra.

A study, soon to be published in the Journal of Urban Economics, found that recent foreclosures elevated the chances for criminal activity, especially on blocks with concentrated levels of foreclosure activity and in neighborhoods with moderate or high levels of crime.

Damaging the social fabric

Foreclosures have also contributed to decreased social cohesion and increased isolation within Watts. Relationships between families and neighbors have been damaged or strained, disrupting the health-promoting social networks and the sense of community. Residents that remain when families and neighbors are forced to leave the neighborhood are also often left with feelings of frustration, loneliness, and hopelessness.

“This automatically transmits a sense of hopelessness, not only for those that are affected but also for those that are witnessing the foreclosures. These situations hurt them because they know these people, too. This hurts us all; it hurts the social fabric,” said Ybarra.

Paying the price

A report published by the Center for Responsible Lending states that people who live near foreclosed homes lose significant home equity, with communities of color bearing the largest share of the cost – a huge setback for homeowners who had previously made economic progress in the neighborhoods.

When a home falls into foreclosure, it affects the property value of the foreclosed home as well as neighboring properties. The decline in property values diminishes tax revenue streams that fund municipal services essential to community health, and increase the local government costs of responding to foreclosure-related problems such as maintenance, inspection, trash removal, or public safety calls.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and The Home Defenders League published a report that estimates that between 2008 and 2012, the neighborhood of Watts (zip code 90002) experienced property value losses (foreclosed and neighboring homes) of $896 million; property tax losses of $5.5 million; and local government costs of $25.2 million.

Declining property values also spur neighborhood disinvestment, another effect with long-term impacts on community health.

“The foreclosure crisis has decimated the homeowner constituency in Watts. The African American and Latino communities were targeted to receive predatory loans, and during the housing crisis lost the most. Every foreclosed home in the city of L.A. costs the city about $20,000 in lost tax revenue,” said David Mazariegos, lead organizer with ACCE.

“We need to keep the pressure on the big banks and make them pay for the damage they have caused our communities, cities, states, and country.”

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Los Angeles neighborhood bears the brunt of air pollution

By Jasmin López | Special to Newsdesk.org

Photo: Zackary Canepari

As summer temperatures rise, so do fears of asthma and other illnesses caused by all the air pollution converging on the east Los Angeles community of Boyle Heights.

With its proximity to freeways, industrial sites and shipping corridors, activists say the geography of Boyle Heights brings a disproportionate health burden to residents.

Determined to reduce the adverse health effects caused by air pollution, residents and activists of this historically immigrant community are taking proactive and innovative measures to improve their environment.

“It’s a low-income, mostly transit-dependent community, there’s a lot of walking that happens, there are a lot of people that are out, being mobile through that pollution,” said Vanessa Rodriguez, associate director at the Alliance for a Better Community.

Rodriguez said Boyle Heights wasn’t designed for a mix of residential and industrial uses, nor the density of traffic it bears today.

“A lot of their central arteries are being used as thoroughfares,” she said. “The freeways that dissect the community, their entrances and exits cut up children’s routes to and from schools.”

One community group is installing air filters and monitoring devices in schools, hoping to draw attention to the issue.

The Air Quality Advancement Project of Mothers of East LA is funded by settlement money from a class-action lawsuit, and will install high-performance air filtration systems in seven Boyle Heights schools, and study air quality in and out of the classrooms.

“It’s an opportunity to get us on the radar regarding the injustice that is happening. We’ll be able to really validate what we’ve been claiming,” says Diana del Pozo-Mora, MELA’s executive director.

Health advocates are particularly concerned about ozone and particle pollution from traffic, which recent studies link to childhood asthma, hypersensitive allergies, infant mortality, and a variety of respiratory illnesses. Diabetics, people with heart or lung diseases, older adults, children and low income communities are at greater risk, especially when they are physically active.

Los Angeles was recently ranked by the American Lung Association as one of the most polluted cities in the nation, with several vulnerable and disadvantaged communities at greater risk for exposure to ozone and particles [PDF] .

With plans underway to expand the nearby Port of Long Beach (the largest source of air pollution in California, combined with the Port of Los Angeles) and the 710 freeway, residents face an even greater density of cargo ships, loading docks, diesel trucks and trains.

Activists say that so far, little has been done to address the health impacts on neighboring communities.

“There is a huge body of information to support that living in close proximity to polluting sources, puts one at great risk. The current level of standards doesn’t protect people,” said Bonnie Holmes-Gen of the group’s California office.

Bill Gallegos, executive director of Communities for a Better Environment, claimed that official statistics “don’t even begin to capture” the high rates and impacts of asthma, cancer, heart disease, pregnancy and childbirth complications, and respiratory problems.

“The county health system is struggling to survive, just to meet people’s basic needs,” he said. “With all these budget cuts it looks like what we’re facing is going to get worse.”

Beneath the 5 and 10 freeways, a view of Hollenbeck Park. Photo: Zackary Canepari

Photo: Zackary Canepari

Photo: Zackary Canepari

Mission Street on the north side of Boyle Heights. Photo: Zackary Canepari

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