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Creating Change in my Community

Well, I have decided to take another step in advocating for homelessness in Los Angeles, and something became official this afternoon. As many of you know for the past year I have been working as an Adviser for the Lived Experience Advisory Group (LEAG) for the LA Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), advising and making recommendations on the many programs and services provided by LAHSA in the City & County of LA’s efforts in ending homelessness. As of this afternoon, I am officially a candidate for the Service Planning Area 7 (Eastern Area) Representative for the LA Regional Homeless Advisory Council or RHAC. The RHAC (currently 58 seats) is comprised of the many Service Providers and Advocates that serve the homeless throughout LA County. LAHSA just emailed out the notice (it should be uploaded to the LAHSA website soon), and I’m honored to be listed. I’m the only Candidate to mention that I have first-hand experience with homelessness and have worked with the population since 2007 with emphasis on Veterans and LGBT members of the community; I am also the only one that is not in a management position for one of the many Service Providers throughout the CoC or the County.

I go up against the other two Candidates in a vote by my community members on Fri, 24 Aug during the SPA 7 Meeting at 9 am This meeting is also a Los Angeles Continuum of Care (CoC) Quarterly Community meeting, which are being held to provide opportunities for community stakeholders and service providers to share information and best practices, deliver important updates on program funding, grant opportunities, performance measurement and legislative and policy requirements.

If you want to read my Candidate Statement you can do so by going here: https://www.lahsa.org/documents?id=2215-candidate-statement-apolonio-e-munoz-2018-rhac-spa-7-representative.pdf or by reading the pic below.

LAHSA listed only 3 of my endorsements, however I turned in 5. I want to express my heart-felt appreciation and say, “Thank You to all of them for seeing something in me and backing me in the endeavor.” They are Israel Velasco , HUD-VASH Supportive Service Coordinator at Volunteers of America Los Angeles & Long-Time Homeless Veteran Advocate; Maribel Marin, Executive Director of 211 LA County; Suzette Shaw, Long-Time Homeless Women Advocate & CoC Board Member; Kristine Stanley, Long-Time Homeless Veteran & Women Advocate; and Reba Stevens, Member of the RHAC and LEAG.

You can see the other two Candidate Statements by going here: https://www.lahsa.org/documents?id=2216-candidate-statement-tomasz-babiszkiewicz-2018-rhac-spa-7-representative.pdf

and here: https://www.lahsa.org/documents?id=2217-candidate-statement-vanessa-sedano-2018-rhac-spa-7-representative.pdf

For more information about the RHAC & what LAHSA is doing visit: https://www.lahsa.org/coc/rhac

Remembering Orlando

the_just_wanted_to_danceThis morning while browsing my Facebook feed I happened to stumble across a post about Sia’s newest video “The Greatest” being released as a tribute to the victims of the Orlando Massacre this past June. After watching the video I was moved to share my thoughts with y’all. Yes this was a tragedy that will forever scare our country and the community I call my family. The LGBT Community has been my adopted family since my coming out, and when I woke-up that Sunday morning to hear about the shooting, my world was turned completely upside down. That was supposed to be a morning of celebration, of triumph, since we as a community had overcome may adversities in the past few years, and were a more unified and stronger community. That was the morning of the LA LGBT Pride Parade, and our celebration was put on hold so to speak to mourn the losses of those precious souls who were taken from us just a few hours before. I along with thousands of others had to make a decision, to stay home in fear that we too could be attacked or continue with the celebration, in honor of all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice so we could celebrate pride. As the history books will read, we as a community came together and stood strong, unified, saying we will not back down out of fear, or give in to terrorist threats. We fought long and hard for the rights we have and will celebrate our PRIDE in memory of those we have lost.

I will never forget that day, especially when I could have been a victim that morning of 12 June 2016, as the LA Pride Parade was threatened by a disturbed man in Santa Monica. Thanks to the efforts of the local authorities the terrorist was arrested and the attack prevented. Despite recommendations from the Sheriff’s Dept and local officials, we didn’t cancel the parade, we stepped up our guard and continued as planned. Many of us scared, many of us hurt, and many of us mad. I can say I was truly mad that this type of tragedy can still happen in today’s society, a society where we claim to be tolerant of one another. A society where two men can live their life in peace and not fear another threatening to harm or kill them for living the life the choose.

Recently, the people of Southern Florida were under threat once again by another disturbed man who was to face trial this afternoon however was postponed due to health problems. This man had been making threats on Social Media that he was going to carry out an attack on LGBT men & women over the Labor Day Weekend. A week after the posts the FBI was able to locate and arrest the man before he could carry out any of his threats and Facebook was able to remove the posts and close the man’s accounts.

Over the past few months since the tragedy in Orlando there had been other similar attacks on various groups in Florida, Mexico and other locations killing at least 125 Americans and injuring 269 by gun-violence. Nearly 300 victims of gun-violence in America, I can’t believe this. In a country where we are supposed to be safe of violence such as this, however we have the highest rates of gun-violence than any other country in the world. Gun Violence Archive (GVA) reports that in 2016, to-date, there has been 38,254 incidents of gun-violence, 9,820 deaths, 451 Child related incidents (0-11), 2,117 teenager related incidents (12-17), and 263 mass shootings. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my children or relatives to live in a society that will allow this to happen, and not do anything to protect us, to protect our children. I urge who ever reads this to reflect of these numbers, to remember the tragedies of this past year, and previous years and hold our politicians accountable. This is an election year after all, and many of our leaders are bidding for election and re-election. Demand that we as a society prevent our children from growing up in a world where they can be killed for loving someone, to be killed for enjoying a night our with friends, to be killed walking down the street. Write letters, make phone calls, don’t let the conversation stop, and always remember those who we have lost.

“Spread Love, Not Hate”

#ForThe49
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old
Christopher “Drew” Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
KJ Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Lestat Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald “Jerry” Arthur Wright, 31 years old

Below are the videos of tribute to those precious 49 that i found online, there are many more, but i share these with you here to help you remember…

Sia – The Greatest

“Hands” – A Song for Orlando

Stop the Hate: 49 Celebrities Honor 49 Victims of Orlando Tragedy in Ryan Murphy-Produced Tribute

Christina Aguilera – Change (Lyric Video)

Jennifer Lopez, Lin-Manuel Miranda – Love Make the World Go Round (Lyric Video)

“Forty-Nine Times” – Brandon Parsons

“PULSE” by Eli Lieb and Brandon Skeie

Rick Haze – One Pulse ft. Julian Velez

“Broadway for Orlando”: The Exclusive Music Video

Melissa Etheridge – Pulse

Adam Lambert – Outlaws of Love

Janet Jackson – Shoulda Known Better

Elton John’s Tribute to Orlando

Lady Gaga honors Orlando victims at Los Angeles vigil | LA LGBT Center

I am honored to be in the audience for this appearance by Lady Gaga.

 

2 Weeks Under The Texas Sun

I’m been meaning to post this for a month now, so I apologize for the delay. You’ll see why soon enough…

As many of y’all know, I made a recent trip home to visit family and friends in the Great State of Texas. I’d you’re new troop my lil corner of cyberspace, Welcome and Yes, I am originally from Texas. Not just Texas in general, but the part where they like to be called  South Texas. A lil history, grew up in a small town, then a population of a lil more than 21,000, with a family farm where I spent the majority of my life being about 15-20 mins out of town. We lived about a mile or 2 off the main highway and at least 10 mins to the nearest convenience store / gas station.

Ok now that you got a lil picture of my upbringing, I had originally planned to make a trip home for a family reunion over the 4th of July weekend,  A few months before I book my travel my mother informs me of a second reunion the following weekend.  So, I make the appropriate plans to stay in my hometown of Kingsville, TX from the 1st til the 17th. A llllllloooonnnng time since I haven’t made the trip home in nearly 3 years.  When I first moved to LA I tried to go home at least once a year, but for the past few years money has been really tight and simply couldn’t afford the trip. So ya, here I start to prepare myself for the boredom and not to mention the humid Texas summer heat. Well, a week or two after I booked the flight, and reserved my rental car, I get a call from mom to say that the second reunion was cancelled due to a tornado that came thru town. Needless to say I was mortified, first to hear about a tornado ripping thru my lil hometown, then the thought of my plans were now ruined. What was I going to do? Especially now that I had even more free time to steam under the Texas Sun in a town I had out grown many years ago.

I get on my phone and the fabulous social media websites we love such as Facebook, Skype and Google Chat and look up my old friends. I was relieved to be able to keep in touch over the years and with the help of my childhood friends plan to split the time between my hometown when a few trips into Corpus Christi and my previous home before LA, San Antonio. Corpus Christi is about 45 mins to and hour from mom’s house in Kingsville. (A lil side note, many know Corpus as the home of the famous Selena, or as the movie put it Selenas.) Living in LA that’s a normal daily commute for most, but back home people travel that far once a week or less. 
I’m in Corpus Christi / Kingsville reconnecting with family and friends I haven’t seen in years,  some since before I left to the Army, right after Highschool, while others I hadn’t seen in a few years, and some we stay in not so moderate communication. One thing I learned while home was mom still is seeing her “friend” and now lives with him and the guys father, has finally left being a slave for Wal-Mart, however recently became one for another giant corporation, McDonald’s. I’m sorry, but I simply am not happy about that, not one bit. She claims to be doing alright, but I’m worried beyond belief about her well-being.

Fast forward 10 days of spending it at mom’s house with her and the “roommates” and I’m off to spend the last week of my trip in San Antonio, catching up with a few long time friends from when I used to call the Alamo / River City home. I got to spend most of this time catching up with my besties Vanessa and Andres. Even talked briefly with Andres about the possibility of moving back home to TX some day. He even offered to let me stay on his ranch, just a few miles outside San Antonio, ’till I got established. One big perk is he also is a dog trainer, so I’ll have access to his pack of dogs which is a big plus since I loved spending time with them while he was at work. See my facebook page for their pictures.

The afternoon of the 17th, I started my travels back home to LA. On the plane, in the airport and for a few weeks I pondered this trip and evaluated it from nearly every angle I could think of. And I have come to the conclusion that I am going to have to return back to TX to help take care of mom. I really don’t have anything other than my volunteer work holding me here and I can still do that from there and commute every month or so for board meetings and events.  Definitely got to fulfill my obligations with LA Leather Pride.

So,  it’s official. I know what some of you are saying…  “Didn’t you say a few months ago that, LA is home and you will never leave.” Yes, that statement is still true and I do consider LA my second home. However, I am Momma’s baby boy, and I feel I have some business to take care of back home in Texas. When will this all happen? Not sure to say, but sometime within the next few months. One thing’s for sure I want to be home by the early part of 2017, at the latest. First, I have some obligations and responsibilities that I would like to complete and/or pass on to a capable person. At least during my tenure with the LA Leather Coalition, I will be commuting to LA to remain an active member of the Board and to remain active with the planning for LA Leather Pride. This will also allow me to keep some participation with other groups such as ONYX, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and AVER. I will of course be stepping down at the end of this year as President of the AVER’s Greater LA Chapter, only completing one year of the current term, sadly I feel it is only fair. The President is a extremely active role and I can’t do that from Texas, commuting or remotely. It wouldn’t be right, so sadly I informed their Board of my intentions to step down, effective Dec 31,2016. I’m wishing them well and will be a phone call away if they need my help, while they use this time to revitalize and restructure the group. I definitely don’t see them going away with my departure. LA has many LGBT Veterans and AVER is the only organization to represent them in the region, and currently the only active chapter on the West Coast. I’m not going to transfer to the Texas Chapter for AVER or the San Antonio Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence right away as I’m going to try and stay active from afar as long as possible. Eventually I will transfer to their respective local Chapters. 

So there you have it, my Two Weeks Under The Texas Sun has changed my life. You can say it is for the best, since I’m going to be closer to mom in this tough time. You can say it face me the fever. How long will this move be for? Not sure, could be for a few years to get mom in a comfortable place, or could be permanent. I’m leaving that to the universe. To be quite honest, I’m terrified. I know it will be some getting used to, especially since I’m accustomed to the luxuries and perks of living in a big metropolitan, like LA. But, I’m sure all will be fine and I’m get accustomed to living amongst gun toting Republicans in no time.

Now that children is something I’ll leave for another time. I grew up around guns however then have new “open carry” laws in Texas. Come back for story time, and we’ll discuss that topic there. Until next time, peace & love to you all!

One Door Closes and Another Opens

As I sit here surrounded by the executive leadership of the California Veteran Community.  It’s day 2 of the CalVet Leadership Summit,  a gathering of the Senior and Executive Level leaders of US Dept. of Veterans Affairs, CA Veterans Affairs, the County VSOs,  DAV,  American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America,  Swords to Plowshares, VetFund Foundation, other Veteran Service Organizations from around the state.  I’ve never seen every VA Medical Center and Regional Office, and County  VSO in one room at the same time.  The newly appointed CalVet Secretary, Dr Vito Imbasciani MD called this summit to identify barriers faced by the Veterans of California and create strategies and alliances to better serve the Veterans.  The Secretary and other leaders have set a tone of leaving politics and agendas at the door.

I was asked to attend and represent the LGBT Veterans in the State. The timing of this Summit couldn’t have been more perfect.  I was laid off from my position at VOA as a Peer Support Specialist in the HUD-VASH Program due to lack of funding. With my experience of being an underemployed and homeless Veteran I have an insight in the struggles of the Veterans that most of these leaders don’t know first hand.  At first I asked myself why am I here?  I don’t belong in this room surrounded by these executives with travel budgets and resources to give up a week to travel to the Capitol. However, some how The gods smiled down on me and made this opportunity possible.

When I return back to LA,  I’ll be using the contacts made here to plan the upcoming Operation: Do Ask,  Do Tell 2016 and establish resources and programs for the Veterans in LA,  and possibly find a new position working to continue to serve LGBT Veterans not only in LA but across the State.

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