Field Notes: 2 March 2014
My name is Joseph Condé and I am running to be a candidate for your district, no, for our district.
Why am I running as a candidate for the California State Assembly District 53?
The simple answer is because I care about being an active voter, and now I care about encouraging registered voters to become active voters. Our district has about 155,000 registered voters, but only a small fraction turn out and vote. Our district is so disconnected and uninformed that anyone can move into our district and claim to be a long time resident in order to be put on the ballot. If we bother to ask, we might be surprised that maybe only three of us (those interested in running to represent this district) are actually long time residents. But we do not ask, because we are too busy.
Today was my first day walking the streets; I trying to get 60 signatures to become a candidate for my district. I know that I do not have a realistic chance in this race, but in our family, we have been taught to be good citizens, and that includes being active voters and participants. I spoke to many people today and it was an eye opener. I was surprised by both the willingness to help me in this process and by the level of apathy for the political process.
Some of the common comments from registered voters who do not vote include:
“I only vote for the president.” (To this I say, good for you, but if you already vote for El Presidente, how difficult is it to vote for one more candidate? And it does not have to be me.
Another says, “Our votes (Latino vote) don’t count! All politicians are corrupt.”
(To this I say, if we do not vote, then for sure, out votes do not count.)
Someone said, “Nah I don’t have time for that.”
(To this I ask, then what do you have time for as a citizen? Does your citizenship not count for anything except for paying taxes and getting a passport? Sweet Brown look what you have done!)
Someone said, “I am a citizen, but I do not pay attention to that.”
(To this I ask, will you pay attention only when others have managed to hoard more for themselves and not pay attention to you and where you live?)
One of my first encounters with a local resident was very engaging. The man was asking questions like an informed and concerned voter. Surely, I thought, this man is active in the community. But after what seemed like an exciting first eternity, my heart came to a stop when he said that he could not vote because he was only a resident. I thought it was funny. Assumption is the mother of all you know what.
I was excited when after driving, walking, and bike riding for five hours, I got my first signature. I have plenty of stories that went no where during the first five hours, but at that moment it seemed serendipitous to have received my first signature on 11th Street. Almost everything that happens to me happens in connection to the number 11. Joseph was Jacob’s 11th son (In case you do not know, he was one of the patriarchs from the Bible). I often get assigned a random number that happens to be 11 or add up to 11. It is not a general happenstance, but it happens enough times to raise an eyebrow.
One thing concerned me though, whenever I approached Korean residents, I was quickly given a dismissive look and a wave. I understand body language, there was no love for this Brown person in those Koreans’ eyes. It is ironic that when I used to attend Berendo Middle School, I was the only one who would sit with my Korean class mates. I remember sitting with Jeong Park during our first months in the States. We made each other laugh with our newly acquired vocabulary. Most students used to avoid sitting with Koreans because they would comment about the smell of garlic. This was so discomforting then because I could see that my Korean classmates understood that. I remember riding the RTD on Vermont; that’s what the buses were called back then. I remember that when we, the Brown kids got on the bus, the Korean kids would follow. One time, the bus was full. But suddenly, you could see the bus isle part like the Red Sea. Korean kids had gotten on the bus, and the other students’ perceptions opened a humiliating pathway for them. They came towards the back and sat with me. I did not budge; I had no reason to move away from them. I love garlic and kimchi. I love Hodori; I have banged my head on one of the waitress‘ back. Now, I understand why there is no love for my Brown kind. I apologize for all the body language my other classmates did towards Koreans when we were in school. I think that now even the second generation is carrying this distancing attitude. It’s too bad really because we have not created meaningful connections between our communities.
On the bright side, Maria, a nine-nine year old lady signed my nomination paper. She can walk and her eye sight is pretty good. May she live till 120! My own great-grand mother made it to 110. It is a sight to see old folks wanting to live, but even more inspirational when they get out and vote. According to Maria, she gets out and votes.
An eighteen year old and a twenty year old signed my nomination paper. It was great to hear that they had registered because they wanted to vote.
On a sad note, I found out that a charter school teacher has not gotten paid for three months. As a registered credential teacher in California, I am concerned that the credential does not carry respect in all educational settings. Why should this teacher who has earned a Masters degree and a credential not have a union‘s protection or the decency to receive a fair retirement plan like public school teachers?
I am encouraged by the fact that at least people are willing to have conversations about what is important to them. I am not politician. I like finding solutions. I like researching about topics in order to understand something from different angles, but I am tired of politics running amok.
It is past midnight. My alarm is set for 5:33 A.M., and if you are smart, you will know why.
Good night! Buenas Noches! Bon Nuit!! לילה טוב
District 53 Boundaries – Northwest
District 53 Boundaries – Southeast