The Real Ladies of LA: Women of Strength and Integrity
This is a poem for the real ladies of LA as a valentine and special shout out of love!

They are around you,
In our faces,
In their faces,
In their breasts,
in their lips,
in their fantasies of You.
Noir Femme Fatales or Ironic Ingénues,
Cool Cosmedicated Corpses or Sunshine Bikinied Baywatch Babes.
Hustling Housewives and Kardashians consuming conspicuously.
Marketers use them to dim the lights of the real ladies of LA--
Los Angeles women they cannot dare represent.

 

They dare not represent the power that is present in the experiences,
character and contributions made by the real ladies of LA.

 
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the teachers. the artists. the doctors. the janitors.
They are the daughters. the activists. the planners. the retirees.
They are the sisters. the architects. the lawyers. the engineers.
They are the writers. the grandmothers. the chefs. the anthropologists.
They are the aunts. the prostitutes. the students. the mechanics.
They design fashion. They compose music. They strategize video games.
The real ladies of LA are pragmatists. the historians. the prisoners. the police.
They are the scientists. the rockers. the adventurers. the organizers. the waitresses.
They are the preservationists. the rioters. the veteranas. the writers.
They are ladies who lunch, ladies who forget to eat lunch and ladies who drink.
They are the teetotalers. the potheads. the vegans on raw food diets.
The real LA ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real LA ladies are perfect because they are real.
 
The real ladies of Los Angeles don't just live on the West Side, in Topanga or Calabasas, though plenty of good women do.
 
Los Angeles Ladies inhabit alleys of Crenshaw Boulevard and soul food kitchens,
They braid in Leimert Park salons in the shadows of postwar Googie architecture and manicured bonsaied front yards.
 

Los Angeles Ladies live in houses in uniform, gated communities of the same dusty pink of Southern California suburbia,
from Burbank to Ballona, some resting in gilded cages and some waiting for a chance to fly.

 
Los Angeles Ladies thrive in Chinatown, watching the tourists mingle with the blind hipsters
and immigrants from China and Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Central America.
Recycling discarded objects and making a new life in a brave new world.
 
Los Angeles Ladies love Watts and the women who have given back to it,
From its "wise woman" Harriett Danzenbaker in 1915,
To the women of Willowbrook and the ladies of Inglewood.
 
Little Tokyo's homegirls love the place in Summertime kimonos for Nisei Week,
to the homeless women of every season, who are pushed further East of Alameda,
From regentrified and empty downtown galleries and lofts with plastic bags and children.
East Los Angeles and Lincoln Heights have ladies of all walks of fame,
Like the Hollenbeck House for retirees, to the ladies who tend graves at Evergreen,
And women who work at White Memorial or USC-County General.

Los Angeles Ladies inhabit haunted orange groves and mansions turned subdivision
in Altadena, Pasadena, Alhambra and "the other Valley," the San Gabriel Valley.

And the San Fernando Valley too. In Van Nuys. In the Santa Susana Mountains.
They track petroglyphs and tend trees that will outlive us all.
 
The real ladies of LA show us the secrets of Solano Canyon
and follow the LA River past Bell as bicyclists and muralists who beautify our public spaces.
 
The real ladies of LA spend time in offices, in classrooms, and in restaurants.
They dance in clubs and across the street, and attend to customers, standing on their feet.
 

They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the daughters, the mothers. the grandmothers.
Daughters like Sheila Sasha Wombat who makes
Mama Wombat's chemotherapy better with wit, cup cakes and LOVE.
Mothers like Peggy Bernal, whose connection to daughter Victoria models
love and laughter as they venture through LA history together.
Mothers like Laura Sanderson Healy and daughter Lucy,
and Laura's own mother Memphis Jane (who visits a lot).
They love each other, spend time together, and argue like we do.
Mothers like my mother Margarete Liebe Sekhon --Enough Said!
Great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers like Connie Capacchione,
whose legacy of art therapists--Lucia Capacchione,
video game designers--Celia Pearce,
and auto mechanics --Aleta Francis,
continue Connie's intelligence and innovation.
Grandmothers like Aurora Castillo who fought the building of incinerators
& prisons by linking the power of generations of East LA women, while in her eighties.
Her legacy self-evident, visible in the generations of her family past and present.
When asked about the righteousness of her fight,

She said:
"We may not have a PhD after our names,
but we have common sense and logic,
and we are not a dumping ground."

The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the sales clerks. the perfumers. the mathematicians. the gardeners.
They are loving gardeners and bibliophiles like Olive Percival who tended those far beyond her Garvanza
Salons of bright luminaries. Her romantic approach captured visions deemed unknowable to her Victorian audiences.
She wrote poems in honor of our city. In one 1911 poem about an Los Angeles sunset,

She said:
"O I saw our Three Mountains at sunset
And their snows were a tourmaline fire!
Then they glimmered like opals and faded
To dreams, dreams of forgotten desire!"

The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the dancers. the party goers. the linguists. the nurses.
They are caregivers providing a human touch to those who are sick or weak.
Nurses like Joyce Jacob and Barbara Jury from California Hospital and Phyllis Esslinger from UCLA.
They trained nurses who have cared for people around the world.
Ann Gillen from the Sisters of Charity, who made LA's first orphanage and first hospital --now St. Vincent's --in 1850.
Annie Williamson who penned the 1948 bestseller "50 Years in Starch"
--loved by Mamie Eisenhower & the Queen -- which is another history of LA.
The real LA ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real LA ladies are perfect because they are real.
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the janitors. the ceramicists. the dry cleaners. the artists.
They craft inspiring artworks that dazzle, shock and humble those who experience their art.
Metabolic maven Lauren Bon makes self-sustaining monuments that
re-think the environment, economies, water, life and strawberries.
Catholic communitarian Karen Boccalero created a center for Chicano expression.
Feminists Judy Chicago & Miriam Schapiro fostered 1972's Womanhouse,
An abandoned mansion they filled with lady art!
Spiritual ladies like Margarita Mita Cuaron who artifies the Virgen.
Mary Corita Kent the joyful revolutionary nun and Love stamper.
Neon sculptress Lili Lakich whose bright lines form stop release action imprints.
Painter and surrealist protester Patssi Valdez who spray painted LACMA.
Linda Vallejo's Electrifying, Transcendent California Oaks are meditative masterpieces.
All of these ladies see Los Angeles as a laboratory of love and provide tangible, creations about life and art.
Artists like Ofelia Esparza whose altares are immediate, eternal memorials.
Her gentleness is matched only by her strength.

She said:
"I want to explore different ways of presenting the concept of remembering loved ones."
The real LA ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real LA ladies are perfect because they are real.

 

They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the daughters, the activists, the planners. the retired.
They activate the people, occupy federal spaces, de-colonize Indian land.
Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson fed LA's Depression era poor.
Communist and person of the people Dorothy Ray Healy organized multiethnic labor coalitions.
Bridget Biddy Mason who fought for the freedom of every Californian as a former slave in 1856.
Míchel Angela Martinez who watches the watchers and seeks justice for those oppressed by the STATE.
Joan Robins co-founded Women's Liberation One in the late 1960s,
the Crenshaw Women's Center in 1970, and the LA Commission on Assaults Against Women in the 1980s.
Suffragette Caroline Severance created LA kindergartens.  
Juanita Tate who sought green spaces for South LA.
Johnnie Tilmon of Mothers of Watts Anonymous made sure moms got help.
Women Rising Collective, women in the 80s fighting the feminist fight, among thousands of others.
Activists like Isa-Kae Meksin, whose courage and curiosity know no bounds.
She activates everyone at the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park,
the Central City Action Committee and the Watts Gang Task Force.
In giving me advice in dealing with a completely useless person I had called "an asshole,"

She said:
"What's wrong with assholes? Don't insult assholes like that!"
The real LA ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real LA ladies are perfect because they are real.

 

They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the writers, the grandmothers, the chefs. the anthropologists.
They write magical, mystery missives and harsh, apocalyptic scenes.
They trace the romance of family histories and they wordsmith the pun out of a place.
Joan Didion writes fatalistically about abandoned wives and the Santa Ana Winds.
Sue Grafton alphabetizes Santa Barbara scandal with feisty, graceless humor.
Helen Hunt Jackson re-mything Ramona protested the treatment of Indians in 1884.
Nina Revoyr's beautiful mysteries intertwine sexuality, neo noir and flashbacks.
Writers like Carolyn See and daughter Lisa See.
They write about LA too.
Carolyn's exhaustive study on the Hollywood novel is not seminal, it is ovumal.
Lisa turns out family dramas across Shanghai, China City and Chinatown.
Poetess Marisela Norte parses Jewish Joyerías and the joys of LA bus riding.
Marne Carmean's sonnets connect Los Angeles families line, by line, by line,
in language that would make Emily smile.
Anna Deveare Smith's Twilight still storms our minds--expressing every riotous voice.
Traci Akemi Kato-kiriyama who teaches with her words of poetry and prose.
Writers like Gabrielle Garcia whose writing's wrings beauty out of pain.
Her experiential being leaves no question unasked and no life unexamined.
When explaining herself,

She said:
"To me, my mother is a saint, never getting into trouble. She talks about trying to work in a bar at fourteen,
about how men always tried to get her to fall in love, and she didn't know anything about puberty, or sex,
till it happened I guess. HA!"

The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real LA ladies are perfect because they are real.

 

They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are fashion designers. the composers. the librarians. the teachers.
They are teachers who did not stop teaching their students after school has let out.
These ladies teach by example and are evolutionary students of life. They evolve us.
Professor Hillary Jenks will school you well in preservation, Little Tokyo and college football.
Principal Dona Lawrie started Pajama Day at Hollywood Primary; her pajamas have owls, the school's mascot.
Dona saves letters from her students, twenty years and beyond. She is still my teacher and we met in 1984!
Terri Snyder inspires many ladies -- a stellar scholar and hard grader too boot at CSUF.
Terri shows students how to balance brilliance, shyness and rigor; we women do not brabble, but testify.
Art teacher Lorraine Michelson teaches her Maywood High Academy students beyond their graduation.
Kandee Lewis gives young ladies the tools for self-respect in schools where male counterparts will to try to pimp them out.
She calls her nonprofit the Positive Results Corp.
Ethel Percy Andrus is a teacher. In 1917 she was the first woman high school principal
in the state at Abraham Lincoln High School in Los Angeles.
When she saw there was no safety net for aging teachers,
she created a teacher's pension plan which she grew into AARP, the largest political party in the United States.

She said:
"It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live."
The real LA ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real LA ladies are perfect because they are real.

 
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
The real ladies of LA are daughters, pragmatists, the historians, the prisoners.
Historians who track experience in this place like Cindy Alvitre who captures Native American stories.
Beauty expert and fashionista Lois Banner.
Sign and buyway specialist Catherine Gudis.
Kristin Hargrove chronicles the dystopic OC in the wake of massive suburbanization and "growth."
Amy Jin Johnson is tracking 19th century Chinese prostitutes beyond
Stolen property in LA gang wars as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Linda España-Maram waltzes through the steps in histories of downtown Filipino dance halls.
Interpreter of interpretations Monica Pelayo challenges us to see our stories;
Urban Ranger Jenny Price leads explorations across the LA River.
Sarah Schrank studied Los Angeles controversies and fears of the reds in public art.
Devra Weber accounts for how we know New Deal cotton laborers in sweat and gold.
Historians like Sherna Berger Gluck helped us know Rosie the Riveter,
NOT a Hollywood produced hottie-- but as a woman of color with children, parents, a husband at war, and bills to pay.
Sherna Berger Gluck let LA ladies speak for themselves through oral history.

She said:
"If we listen carefully, we find clues to the meaning of an event or the weight of an emotion by
how a phrase is turned, how words are repeated."

The real LA ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real LA ladies are perfect because they are real.

 
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the scientists. the rockers. the adventurers.
They are adventurers like Margaret Burke who hosted royalty, book clubs and presidents at the Ambassador.
Julia Child who cooked her way across France in the Resistance-- but she grew up in Pasadena.
Iris Flores Schirmer-- blue blood, bra inventor and targetted by McCarthy -- is an LA adventurer.
She was in Tres Hermanas and turned down JFK (Go Iris!)!
Adventurers like Pancho Barnes, AKA Florence, who trained our region's pilots and entertained them at the Happy Bottom Riding Club.
The government wanted her land, called the club a house of prostitution.
She sued for defamation and won.

She said:
"If you have a choice, choose happy."
The real LA ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real LA ladies are perfect because they are real.

 

They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the sisters, the architects. the engineers. the law enforcers.
They protect the populace by carving out their own niches in law enforcement as officers, detectives, and as civilians who police the police.
Lawyers like today's Gloria Allred, whose always front and center to help a lady.
Yesterday's Clara Shortridge Foltz who was the state's first lawyer and all around dynamo.
Margaret Adams-- our first female Sheriff-- in 1912.
Terrys Olender, the first female deputy district attorney-- who let nothing stop her work.
One LA lady who watched the police was Ozie Gonzaque.
She served on the McCone Commission after the 1965 Watts Riots
and tracked police harassment and un-meritocracy in the LAPD.
When the Mayor asked her for a suggestion for a new police motto,
a motto to restore city-wide pride in the force,

She said:
"To Protect and To Serve."
The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

 
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the cousins. the architects. the athletes. the fans.
They are athletes who excel in a world that won't show their prowess.
Athletes like Olympians Michelle Kwan, diver Dorothy Poynton,
Surfers like Mary Ann Hawkins,
Basketballers like Cheryl Miller,
Bowling ballers like Dusty Mizunoue and Judy Sakata Kikuta who awed at Crenshaw's Holiday Bowl.
They are softballers and sports scholars like Carole Oglesby.
They are equalizers like tennis pro Billie Jean King.
Billie Jean squished a sexist male, in the match of the 20th century.
She stomped out a troll but as a lady--
When asked about the squish, which meant so much to so many,

She said:
"It helped a lot of people realize that everyone can have skills whether you are a man or woman...
as well as helping men & women understand each other."

The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

 
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the fans. the mail carriers. the news readers. the coaches.
They are the coaches and referees like boxing ref Belle Martel.
Belle's 8 fights in 1940 were too powerful for the California Athletic Commission--
and promptly retired her because of her gender.
Coaches like Joan Johnson--a tennis star in her own right, who worked with Billie Jean.
They are coaches like Nellie Oliver--she sponsored teams that excelled in baseball, football & basketball
in California's Japanese Athletes Union between 1917 - 1942 until internment.

She said:
"The peals of merry laughter and fine spirit of comradeship that permeates
the atmosphere awakens within the beholder the thrill and joy of youth."

The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

 
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the aunts. the waitresses. the go go dancers. the doctors.
Doctors who chose science to understand the truth.
Doctors who care for people.
They are doctors like Rebecca Lee Dorsey who worked with Pasteur in developing vaccines, pioneered endocrinology,
successfully delivered 4,000 babies and advocated for abortion in medical emergencies.
In 1896, after unjustly being fined by the city health officer, she upbraided her opponents:

She said:
"If I could only be locked in a room with you for about ten minutes. I'd pound you into a jelly!"
The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

 
The real ladies of LA are hard to define and can adapt at a moment's notice.
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the nuns. the novices. the sociologists. the Entertainers.
Entertainers like actresses. the crooners. the rockers. the comedians.
Entertainers like Fiona Apple, the Bangles, Karen Carpenter, Exene Cervenka,
Ella Fitzgerald, Lysa Flores, the Go-Gos, Etta James, L7, Bzzzrp, Ida Lupino,
the Runaways, Mazzy Starr, Anna May Wong, Betty White. So many stars, its dazzling!
LA ladies are real and eternal like Marilyn Monroe born Norma Jean Baker.
She started the first independent production company to challenge the limitations and roles offered by the sexist studio system.

She said:
“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.”
The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

 
The real ladies of LA are hard to define and can adapt at a moment's notice.
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the pacifists. the soldiers. the volunteers. the patriots.
Patriots like Charlotta Amanda Bass who was the first African American to run for Vice President under the Progressive Party in 1952.
Patriots like Angustias de la Guerra who hid a Californio soldier during the Mexican American War
and would do the same for an American, in a similar case of injustice.
Iva Ikuko Toguri is another LA patriot, though it took decades to prove her case.
Falsely called WWII's "Tokyo Rose," she graduated from UCLA and was born on the 4 of July!
Patriots like Alice Kemmer Moore-- a nurse who served in five wars! She performed in the first group of military nurses,
paving a way for women's in the armed forces. When interviewed about her vast experiences-- at home and abroad,

She said:
"It is an honor to die for one's country, but it is much more fun to live!"
The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

 
The real ladies of LA are hard to define and can adapt at a moment's notice.
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the bus drivers. the veterinarians. the car washers. the documentarians.
Documentarians like newspaper lady Louise Leung Larson, who got her interviews with Madame Chiang Kai-Shek.
Photojournalists like Beatrice De Gea makes real the disappeared, the senseless and the beautiful.
Artists like Dorothea Lange, whose Depression photos show the hungry slums of our country, of our state, of our city,
that do not look so dissimilar to today.

She said:
"One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you'd be stricken blind."
The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

 
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the voters. the consumers. the drop outs. the resisters.
Resisters like Christina Walsh who founded Cleanup Rocketdyne,
in order to make our planet safe from a nuclear legacy and 1959 partial nuclear meltdown.
Resisters like Toypurina who in 1785 wanted to destroy Mission San Gabriel.
When questioned about the revolt,

She said:
"I hate the padres and all of you, for living here on my native soil, for trespassing upon the land of my forefathers."
The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

 
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the debutantes. the single mothers. the construction workers. the students.
Students like Rosa Mazon, whose love of History is an ongoing affair that matures each season, like a fine wine.
Students like Michelle Lopez, who apply common sense reasoning and compassion in composing compelling arguments in Sociology.
Graduate students like Jennifer Escobar, who studies to be better a Clairmont teacher.
Students like Bell's Nancy Bautista who studies Social Work to stop real suffering.
Students like LaTasha Harlins, whose death continues to haunt us.
The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the prisoners. the cosmetologists. the fast food employees. the politicians.
Politicians who believe in the system still and do get things done.
Hurricane Jackie Goldberg came to LA, taught in Compton for 18 years.
In 1978 she was the first lesbian on City Council.
Politicians like Watt's Janice Hahn, who addressed gang violence by asking EVERYONE for help.
Now they have the Watts Gang Task Force, a Monday Morning meeting for issues to be solved.
Politicians like New Deal Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas, who represented downtown.
When asked about a woman’s place in Congress,

She said:
"Politics is a job that needs doing—by anyone who is interested enough to train for it and work at it.
It’s like housekeeping; someone has to do it."

The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

 
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the skaters. the dreamers. the indebted. the philanthropists.
Philanthropists like Buff Chandler who raised money for a modern cultural center for LA.
Philanthropists like Arcadia Bandini Stearns de Baker. In 1887 Arcadia gave acres to the US government
for an Old Soldiers Home, now the VA. She gave land for Linda Vista Park, now Palisades Park.
In 1911 she donated land for the Santa Monica Women's Club, one of the last things she gave before dying in 1912.
The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.
The real ladies of LA are hard to define and can adapt at a moment's notice.
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the musicians. the tomboys. the bakers. the organizers.
Organizers like Carol Wells who founded the Center for the Study of Political Graphics.
Curators like Kathy Gallegos and Avenue 50 Art Gallery.
Multitasking leaders like Evonne Gallardo of Self Help Graphics & Art.
Muralist makers like Judy Baca and SPARC.
Lisa Marr of the Echo Park Film Center.
Sissy Nga Trinh and the South East Asian Coalition who rocks Chinatown, Lincoln Heights
and East LA with a courage and compassion for today's youth that we all must support.
When asked why she works with the youth of these neighborhood,

She said:
"This isn't just a school project. We're fighting for the future of our community."
The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

 

They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the aunts. the mechanics. the unorganized. the ladies of the night.
They are prostitutes, participating the world's oldest profession, by choice and by force.
They are not "Pretty Women" and may be called by other names.
Prostitutes like Ya Hit, whose history is lost in the Chinese Massacre when two gangs
fought over owning her in October of 1871. They accidentally shot an Anglo bystander
and 500 Angelenos killed 19 Chinese men and boys.
Few know about the Chinese Massacre, and fewer remember Ya Hit.
There are thousands of Ya Hits in the City of Angels.
The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the critics. the cheerleaders. the colleagues. the friends.
Friends who let women express, whatever it means to be a friend.
Friends who see strength in women around them and want to show them what they see.
Friends who advocate forgiveness and friends stoke revenge.
Friends who are real, in times of splendor, and friends who are splendid in real times.
Many in this poem, I count already as friends whether afar or up close.
There are others who keep me sane and strong and are real LA Ladies.
Friends like Chamara Russo, who worries about me, and that is enough.
Shirley Kurata makes cat clothes and that cannot be topped.
Friends who care and keep our work going, with important breaks for play.
The real ladies of LA are hard to define and can adapt at a moment's notice.
They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They are the futurists. the baristas. the french fryers. the pioneers.
Pioneers like the 1781 women pobladores, who came with children in tow.
Their descendants now run a blog!
Pioneers who make new definitions and shape new fields.
Ladies who do not need labels to live.
The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

They are givers, doers, makers and the lovers.
They dare not represent the power that is truly present in the experiences, character
and contributions made by the real ladies of LA.
The real ladies don't need to be perfect because they are real.
The real ladies are perfect because they are real.

 
 
 
 
copyright 2012