Unless you happen to have quite some knowledge about the history of boxing in California, and maybe even if you do, it's unlikely you have heard of or read about Charles ‘Chillie’ Wilson.

He lives, together with his wife and six children, in part of Los Angeles I typically see from the Harbor Freeway. He coaches boxing, a sport that had its glory days more than a decade ago, and having reformed himself from a life of less noble pursuits, he lives each day guided by his love for God and Jesus.

Today's society doesn't create much of an opportunity to develop an appreciation for someone like Coach Chillie. There is no hype to get wrapped up in, no way he's the next big social media sensation, and he's more than a stone's throw from being a celebrity trainer. The chances of even meeting somebody like Coach Chillie, and being touched by his extraordinary verve for life are becoming more and more slim.

If you were so lucky to meet Coach Chillie you might find out about The Good Fight Training Camp, where he takes on any client with the will to box. In coaching as in life, Chillie lends compassion and drive to an immeasurable degree, leading to a strong connection with his fighters. This is one of the most admirable aspects of The Good Fight program. A self-proclaimed dream-builder, Coach Chillie's teaching methodology is such that he becomes a life coach and spiritual guide to his clients, which vary from weekend enthusiasts to professional boxers, short and stocky kids who really want to work out, and guys who seem to be to old to start boxing.

Until such time that society routinely celebrates more of the unseen that make a difference in their community, enriching the lives of those around them -- it's my hope that this film can serve as a tribute to such a man, a purpose, and indeed, a good fight.

This film made by I Am Los Angeles originally was published by the New York Times. During summer breaks, my dad, who worked as a librarian, would bring home Westerns on VHS tape and we'd watch them together. I was fascinated and intrigued by the iconic cowboy characters living out an understated yet dramatic, high-stakes existence against such a spartan, other-worldly backdrop. Sure, much of this was a Hollywood fantasy, but the west truly was once the land of cowboys and indians. And now, in a relatively short period of time, things have changed quickly. Instead of sprawling ranches dotted with quiet loner cowboy types, the landscape is now largely populated by homogeneous residential communities and big box retailers.

Perhaps out of a desire for life to seem simpler, and less encumbered by the lifestyle inherent to all our modern conveniences, I went looking for the closest thing I could find to that cowboy from the silver screen. This is how I happened upon Gary Leffew, an old-school yet surprisingly gregarious rodeo cowboy with some profound things to share about his philosophy on life and his sport.

After meeting Mr. Leffew, I was haunted by this feeling that he represents an era that is slowly disappearing and becoming part of the region's history. It was this feeling that urged me to make a character-driven short film that would encapsulate his character, experiences with the sport of rodeo, and general outlook on life.

At first he seemed a little shy. Quiet but eager to tell stories, share experiences...but maybe not too much. There is still something opaque about him that signals he's holding back. After a few questions everything begins to fall into place. As a teenager of 17 years, Terrance's life experience has led him through trauma and hardship that most adults haven't had to contend with. He's lost multiple caretakers, and while he's been fortunate to stay out of the foster care system, he grapples with deep depression and post-traumatic stress disorder due to grief and an overwhelming sense of loss. His story so far has been dominated with the need to cope with past and present, though he looks forward to a day when he can comprehend what he wants for his future.

Physical problems in ourselves and in others can be seen, and there's often a doctor who can fix them. Mental and emotional problems are a completely different animal. They can be far more challenging to identify, comprehend, and deal with on your own, let alone ask someone for help. It should come as no surprise that teenagers are a group that is especially unlikely to seek help.

“People ask me why they can’t see my injury when I return from the health center,” Terrance says. He's uncomfortable having to explain it, and fears that other students will perceive him as strange. But it was the individual and group therapies available to him at school that is helping Terrance get his life back on track. The feeling that he is not alone, that is can be normal to feel this way, and especially the fact that there are other people with the same situations and feelings have boosted Terrance’s confidence. The results are impressive: Terrance's attendance and performance at school have both improved drastically, as has his general attitude about his future.

There are of course many more kids and teenagers dealing with similar issues, and all of them deserve adequate support. Early help can make a big difference, not only for the individual but also for the greater society (these kids are our future, after all). With the kind of help offered to kids like Terrance by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), more students are motivated to finish school and lead a productive life. Greater awareness may be called for more now than ever, especially in communities where young males face considerable pressure to join a gang and young females are statistically more likely to confront a teenage pregnancy.

For more context please listen to the interview we did with Courtney Pender who works for the school of mental health for LAUSD:

The goals we formulate for our lives are greatly influenced by where we started out in life. As a teenager, Alma Velasco had dreams of finishing school and getting a degree in El Salvador. But her dreams were shattered by the dangerous conditions created by the El Salvadorian civil war which first broke out in 1979, and lasted for almost 13 years. Alma's mother lived in fear for the safety her children, and although it meant she may never see her daughter again, she made the difficult decision to send Alma to cross the border into the United States. This controversial decision was made by a lot of El Salvadoran parents at the time; and some still take this risk today because of the conditions that continue in El Salvador, many years after the war officially ended in 1992.

Alma, only 16, survived the frightening journey across the border to join her uncle in California. Once the dangerous trip across the border was completed a new reality set in quickly -- she needed to restart her life in a challenging and complicated new world. For Alma -- as is the case for many immigrants living in the US -- this meant applying herself to physically demanding work instead of continuing her education.

Today a hard-working, single mother of two girls, Alma is a seamstress working in the factory at American Apparel. At 6:15 sharp Alma and her team are ready to begin working, and will produce hundreds of t-shirts, which today are the color grey. When Alma clocks out in the afternoon, she goes home to do the chores around the house, then picks her kids up from school. They make dinner together, and both girls bubble over telling Alma about their day.

Alma’s dreams of getting a degree in El Salvador did not become a reality, but she has made the most of her opportunities. Thanks to an amnesty program, she is now legally a resident of the United States. Here her job pays her fairly and enables her to make an honest living for her family. She never did see her mother again, but if she did she would thank her. The risks her mother encouraged her to take not only saved her life, they helped Alma make her own dream a reality for her two girls. Alma feels rewarded by her kids' successes and brims over with pride when they exhibit the drive to seek out opportunity for themselves. Her daughters Ashley and Katherine follow in their mother's example; they study and work extra-hard to find what they want out of life. The oldest dreams of someday becoming a police officer, lawyer or maybe an architect.

In the United States, so many begin their lives with with doors open to them, and in this light, Alma’s accomplishments may seem fairly ordinary. She lives an honest life, within her means, and works hard as a basis to grow opportunities for her family. I can't think of a better measure for success as a parent, or in life, and people like Alma have been what makes this country great for generations.

When a murder goes unsolved for some time, Sal LaBarbera will commonly receive the phone calls from a victim's friends and family, inquiring about a case on the birthday or the anniversary of their loved ones' death. Sal is a detective in the homicide division of South Los Angeles, one of the most infamous urban areas in the United States. He's seen thousands of cases since joining the division in 1986. At that time in the city's history, Los Angeles was experiencing a crime epidemic brought by rock-cocaine. The area still comprises about 40% of the homicide activity in Los Angeles, but these days the number of homicides is at a record low owing in part to the LAPD's gang intervention plans and work with the community.

There's no question that murder is a senseless, incomprehensible act of violence, and one of the ugliest of crimes committed by humankind. To be impacted by such an event is utterly shocking and tragic, and for those who've experienced this loss, a full emotional recovery will always be out of reach. Few will understand this as intimately as a homicide detective. In their service to the community, they drift in and out of circles of grief and loss created by a victim's death. Nonetheless, they must also find their way back to their own lives and families each day.

Sal joined the fire brigade as a volunteer when he was just a teenager. There he learned that while life is precious, it can be ended brutally over a minor occurrence. Everyone in the homicide division has his or her own way of coping with this realization. Sal, now 27 years older than he was when he started out in homicide, finds joy in the littlest joke or a smile, and in spending time with his daughter. Still, to compensate for the degree to which his own life is occupied by the death of others, he must perpetually seek access to a certain balance; a way to be wholly, and happily present in the moments of his own life.

Ari Balouzian

There are many reasons why a part of us clings to the past, as time marches on toward our future. We all have memories of times when the pace of life seemed to be more controlled, and things were simpler. The question of who you were was straight-forward and the unknown of what you and the world would become seemed more a hopeful promise than a challenge. Thinking back on these times can make them seem quite a daydream. And a daydream it has seemed to be for many a young boy who saw the Goodyear Blimp in the sky for the first time.

Los Angeles hosts the residency of a rather majestic guest from Akron, Ohio -- one who leaves people with those thoughts of the past. This guest is a symbol, an American icon that has been flying the US and beyond it since 1920. It is the Spirit of America, one of three Goodyear Blimps still in operation today. Goodyear started building these majestic airships in 1920 when commercial flying was still in its early stages. The Goodyear Blimp channeled what was in many ways an American obsession: triumph. During World War II, Zeppelins escorted Navy ships through out their routes on the Pacific. Though there are now larger, more sophisticated, and higher-flying aircraft --- it's a warmly nostalgic indulgence to see that Goodyear has kept the Blimps flying throughout the decades.

Spirit of America pilot David Bowling, first saw the Goodyear Blimp flying when he was about nine years old, and he chased it as long and as far as he could. Early on, David knew he wanted to become a pilot -- but it had never crossed his mind that some day he would fly the Goodyear Blimp. Stealth fighter, Commercials Airlines and private jets sounded much more his speed. But when the opportunity to fly this historic airship came along after years of flying airplanes, he snatched it, and hasn't regretted the choice since. 'It is flying history, when you are sitting up there in the sky," he says.

As Angelenos, we're a bit spoiled to see this American icon floating in the skies. In a city with such a relatively short history, and a tendency to reinvent itself, such reminders of our past are rare. I Am Los Angeles has it on good confirmation that Goodyear plans on keeping this American icon up in the air, and that it will sent out a brand new blimp in the near future...lest we forget who we are and where we've been.

Despite having two professional teams and many European stars in Los Angeles, soccer still struggles to compete in popularity with American sports like Basketball, Football and Baseball. In Southern California, Chivas Guadalajara, a team that is hugely popular in Mexico, has brought many of the area’s most dedicated fans to soccer.

Leo, who used to be a Galaxy fan but now plays for the Under 14 league of Chivas USA, usually can’t wait the school day to be over so he can practice soccer. He may be young, but he knows that repetition and conditioning are the best ways to hone his skills. One of his favorite tricks is this one: while juggling, you move your foot in a circle around the ball. He managed to do it once, but he tries tirelessly to master it…he works on it over and over again after school and homework are done.

On the rare occasion that he gets tired, he thinks about how great would it be to play for one of Europe’s best soccer teams–FC Barcelona, with one of the if not the best player in the world Lionel Messi. But if he ended up on a professional team in the US, well, Leo says that would be great too.

It has been estimated that a resident of LA County will spend an estimated 4 days each year stuck in traffic. There’s an extensive network of freeways that’s been built to handle over twelve million cars on a daily basis. But traffic here is still so notoriously congested that even if you’re from out of town, you’re not likely to be surprised by the excruciatingly slow crawl that is the 405 freeway during rush hour.

Sitting in gridlocked traffic is boring, frustrating, even lonely. Listening to traffic on the radio isn’t likely to make you feel much better, but if there’s just one traffic reporter who would snap you out of your bitter mood, it would be Kajon Cermak on KCRW. There is something different about the way Kajon does her traffic reporting — her voice seems to express just the right amount of empathy for your plight, even if she never says the words.

When Kajon Cermak came to Southern California on one of the very same freeways traversed by daily commuters, she had little more than what was packed in her car. Driving through the palm tree lined landscape, she was far from the midwestern city where she had spent most of her life. On her journey bridging the old and new chapters in her life were friendly voices, tunes and information — all courtesy of local radio stations along the route to Los Angeles.

It was later that Kajon, a one-time aspiring actress, would find herself working for a Southern California radio station. She had gotten her start working at a smaller station in Thousand Oaks, when a surprise call from the local NPR affiliated station, KCRW, gave her a new break. Today Kajon runs the board and does the traffic for All Things Considered on KCRW.

It doesn’t matter whether if you are new in town or a long-time Angeleno, the rush hour commute is really never enjoyable. But have you ever been surprised to find yourself sitting an extra minute in the driveway or the garage while your local radio correspondent finishes up a report or story? Now, if only they could find a way to report on tomorrow’s traffic, the night before…

It takes a lot to intimidate Josh, a native Texan, who moved with his family to Venice Beach in the mid 80′s. Venice was a different place then, the streets were ruled by gangs, surfers and skaters. Sometimes you had to run and sometimes you had to fight for your ground. It wasn’t long before Josh was going by the nickname Texas in surfing and skating.

Life throws curve balls including the occasional economical downturn. Josh works as a wood floor maker, and times have not been easy. As challenging that can be, Josh is in balance because of his passion for music.

But music has always been in Josh‘s life. He was raised in a very musical family, and he was just a kid when he chose the trumpet to be his voice. Josh has been jamming ever since he was young, and learning more and more every day. When Josh was introduced to the world of jazz in Los Angeles he started going to spots like the World Stage in Leimart Park– where the doors were opened by the legendary Billy Higgins.

It can be intimidating at times… if you don’t know the song, then you have to stay seated until a song you recognize comes along. Josh walks into the World Stage, and the joint is filled with experienced jazz musicians. The jam session rolls on and Josh takes a seat. When his chance comes he stands up and walks onto the stage. As he puts the horn to his lips and begins to jam, you can practically see the rest of everything begin to drift away.

The Jams Sessions at the World Stage are every Thursday night. We highly recommend checking it out! Click below to listen to the snippets from the night when ‘I Am Los Angeles’ was at the world stage:

There’s something a true artist of any discipline knows better than everyone else in Los Angeles. It’s the fact that opening up your heart and expressing yourself to the world without reservation sounds simple but can be one of the most difficult things a person will ever do. Balancing this act with the natural inclination to seek acceptance and approval from others is an extremely delicate thing.

Eliot Rausch was an emotional kid growing up in the South Bay area, and he could tell that not many others were like him. He didn’t feel like he fit in, but he did grow up in a loving and supportive family. Once he was a teenager Eliot found himself on a very dark path involving heavy substance abuse, which continued for some time. Some people never make it out of this mode, but Eliot would have an experience that would change everything for him.

One night when Eliot was out riding in a car with a friend, there was a terrible accident and the car crashed. Both Eliot and his friend walked away. It was a miracle, and a sign too strong to be ignored. Eliot had to face himself, and consider whether he would keep walking this path or make a drastic change in his life. Eliot chose courage, and embraced the love from his friends and family. With time he learned to accept himself and his vision as an artist. He resumed work on his craft of filmmaking and today enjoys considerable success on account of his talent and vision.

We highly recommend taking a look at his work.

This is the unlikely story of how Katy Haber became the City of Compton’s Ambassador to cricket, and how learning the game became a life-changing experience for a team of former gang members, one of them named Sergio.

Katy Haber was born in England and played cricket at school there. Many years later the film business brought Katy to LA. In the 90’s she worked at the Dome Village Homeless shelter, where she worked with the renowned homeless activist Ted Hayes. Katy and Ted had discovered a common passion for helping the less privileged, and they decided to start the Compton Cricket Club. Offering the youth of Compton an alternative to the ravages of gang activities through the ethical, gentlemanly sport of cricket.

When Ted and Katy brought cricket to Compton, Sergio had never heard of the game. At first he visualized a small race track with actual crickets. He had no way of knowing that this game would change his life forever. But drawn to the novelty of the little known sport of Cricket, and the idea that he could be a part of an elite, unique team from Compton, Sergio dedicated himself to the game with purpose.
Ever since then, Sergio has been a member of the team and Katy has been the Manager of a club that has toured through many continents as Cricket Ambassadors of Good Will. This unique Cricket Team has gone way Out of the Boundary by showing the world a positive image of Compton, and they are now planning to bring the game to other disenfranchised youth around the US.

It goes without saying that there are a lot of people striving to become actors in Hollywood. But for every bright young talent that arrives in Los Angeles aiming to work hard at honing his or her acting skills in the hopes of one day becoming an actor, there are few more aspiring actors of a different variety that showed up on the same day.

This second type really just wants to be able to tell folks back home that they’re here — and for as long as they manage to stay, they’ve made it. Gradually they become part of the landscape, and will continue to put in minimal effort for years, content to say the world missed out on their acting genius before they head home. That still leaves Los Angeles with a lot of people working really hard toward their dream, and they conjure a certain stereotype: the struggling actor, bussing tables and standing in line at auditions.

But generalizations about aspiring actors don’t accurately represent how Jason H. Christopher sees himself or the road he’s traveling. He’s carrying out a carefully calculated plan, and to some extent he’s at the mercy of others for their attention. But he isn’t helpless and struggling. He is creating and using the inertia that will help him in his pursuit to become a successful working actor. Jason grew up in Redlands, California, and he always enjoyed acting and showing off for a crowd. After a brief career in real estate, he took the money he made and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his passion for acting. Here he is the man with a plan, and so far that plan has brought him relative success — the actor has played in numerous national commercial campaigns and several web series. Day in and day out, he works relentlessly on every aspect of himself and his craft, including exercising his mind and his fitness level. Jason tells us what it takes to stay at the top of your game in Hollywood despite the pressure.

Paul Mitchel grew up in Seattle Washington, in what he calls a fairy-tale neighborhood. By this he says, he means the kind of place where kids play in the open streets, the landscape is green, and everyone seems generally happy, being that they’re supported by a sense of family and community. As an adult, Paul started construction work and did well enough to support himself, enabling to live a good life. There was then suddenly a very dark chapter that began for Paul, and disrupted the harmony that existed in his life up until that point. Paul had trouble managing through the challenges of daily life, and things began to unravel. He soon found himself incapable of holding reliable work. Sometime later, he ended up on the streets.

Paul made his way to Southern California to live in a place where the climate is more merciful to someone living in the streets, and where he believed there may be hope to begin again. Here in LA, Paul’s dark chapter continued for years with a few ups and a lot of downs.

Fortunately, Paul found the support he needed and a safe place to stay with the Skid Row Housing Trust. Skid Row is an area of about 50 square blocks just east of downtown LA, and it has a longstanding history as a residential neighborhood occupied by those with the least. Through the federal Shelter Plus Care program, Paul and other homeless persons with disabilities (and their families) are provided with safe housing and supportive services on a long-term basis.

This support and assistance has afforded Paul a chance to start a new chapter in his life. Paul, who was “on his way back” when he shared his heartfelt and inspirational story with I Am Los Angeles, recently got his drivers license back again and is enthusiastic about going back so he can start a new life.

To learn more about the Skid Row Housing Trust, go to their website.

Being that he was named after Neil Young, it’s fitting for music to be at the center of life for Neil Schield. The Origami Vinyl shop owner grew up in a family of music lovers and recalls that his parents have always had a particularly strong attachment their album collection.

Even before Origami Vinyl, Neil spent his fair share of time on the commercial side of the music industry — he worked in the industry during the landmark period when music’s transition to iTunes began and started to take hold. Facing a big decision following a brief career stall, Neil took a chance, and broke from his work in digital music. He decided to go back to where his love of music started when he was younger, which was with vinyl. Now, well frankly, he lives in the best of all possible worlds. He’s carved out his little space in the world of music at Origami Vinyl. Neil spends his days surrounded by the music that has meaning to him, and he makes a living by sharing it with others who have a similar appreciation.

Neil is a back to basics kind of guy, and he wanted to go back in time to be closer to the experience and the authenticity he cherished in one of recorded music’s first carriers. If you ask Neil, he’ll tell you how vinyl brings back the warmth in the room. How it gathers everybody to go and stand around the record player, experiencing the music in a more complete way. But instead of taking his word for it, you should probably just take those earbuds out and go experience some vinyl for yourself. It’s good for the soul!

Welcome to the Freedom Barbershop at the Veterans Affairs campus in West LA. To many Veterans, this little trailer shop something akin to an island oasis in the thrashing sea. It is a place where personal burdens, internal pressures and anxieties gathered from life experience willingly recede, for here is the forgiving company and calming presence of a fellow comrade. Sit in the chair and receive a shave, a haircut, or a few shared jokes. And for the ones who need it, gentle advice flows from a man who dedicates his time to serve to Veterans who proudly served us, but now walk all paths of life. Some of their spirits are still proud, others broken.

Dreamer, they call him, is himself a Veteran, and has an effortlessly strong and tranquil presence that seems to give him the ability to gently wash away his customers’ thoughts of the world’s troubles. Dreamer believes it’s important to give this back to the men and women who served their country. It may seem a little thing, to give a haircut for free or for whatever the customer can afford. From time to time, Dreamer might be paid with a few rumpled bills found in a jacket pocket or with the gift of a rubber band ball. But he has a good heart, and he offers his time and his service while he listens to his customers’ stories of past and present day.

At night, Dreamer goes out onto the streets, talking, living and surviving the darker hours of the day with fellow Veterans who live on the streets of West LA. Dreamer has amassed memories of many men their stories, which he shares so willingly, so compassionately, and empathetically you’d think they were his own. We highly recommend a visit to meet Dreamer, and the other brave men sharing a few relaxed moments in his little barbershop on any given day.

It isn’t enough to dare to dream. If you want something you can keep dreaming about it, or you can dare to do what it takes to make your dream come true. This positive way of looking at things seems to work out very well for this European transplant in LA.

If you haven’t noticed, the street artist and avid skater called Chase is on a campaign to help you stay mindful of the power of positive thinking and living a life that feels true to your soul. The artist’s murals, paintings, and stencil art makes abundant use of bright 60s pop colors, humor and uplifting messages to bring positive energy to others, and his work graces more than 200 murals in LA and other cities. Chase has items for sale in stores and has collaborated with Puma, Adidas, Levis (just to name a few).

The principles Chase strives to motivate through his work are representative of the artist’s approach to his own life. Like a lot of kids from broken families, the young skater got into his share of trouble growing up in Antwerp (Belgium), and the artist developed his positive mindset as a kind of survival mechanism. Chase figured out early that doing what you love is the key to being happy, and he began dreaming of getting to Los Angeles to skate. His artwork has been a huge part of what has made his dream possible. Most often, the artist can be found in the streets working on murals, cars, complete stores or billboards. Chase believes that every object presents an opportunity to create something and spread the word about his positive message.

All it took was to witness one well-executed kickflip, and Theotis Beasley knew he wanted to skate. It was a lazy sunny day when a cousin asked if Theotis wanted to see something cool. His cousin proceeded to demonstrate one of the best-known tricks in skateboarding, and young Theotis was impressed. He wanted to skate all day and all night after that.

“Los Angeles is a great place to skate,” says Theotis. All of LA is a skate park, because you can find good spots everywhere and it’s not so hard to run into your skating cohorts. These days Theotis can usually be found skiing in and around LA the neighborhood where he grew up. Some note Inglewood to be a rough part of town with high crime rates, and Theotis himself will tell you it can be kind of “sketchy”. But for Theotis, this is home, and it’s fairly easy stay out of trouble if you know the rules.

The young skater is proud to be from the south side of LA, and he carries it with him in the most positive way possible. He doesn’t forget that he is representing Inglewood everywhere he goes. They call him the nicest kid in skateboarding, because he’s always smiling and friendly as can be. Inglewood will always be home to him, and his Inglewood is a place for good skate, good food, good friends and more good food.

At the age of 15, he first started taking pictures with a 35mm camera. He was amazed by the results when he put the film in the enlarger. Gregory Bojorquez quickly became compulsive about finding new subjects for his photography. At a young age, Greg started taking pictures of homeless people. “For some reason I started doing that… Why? Because I was afraid of them; they intimidated me, maybe that is why I did it.”

Gregory grew up running around all over the Eastside of Los Angeles. His perspective on growing up on the Eastside of the river is that “there is much more of a sense of community, the people know each other”. He admits that amongst the hard-working blue-collar crowd, it has sometimes been difficult for Gregory get others to understand his desire to turn photography into a career. But he didn’t resist his calling. When Greg wasn’t in the streets you could find him in the library looking a picture books. He enjoyed looking at the work of his role models: Annie Leibowitz, Bruce Davidson, Danny Lyon, Marie Ellen Mark and Diane Arbus. Inspired by their ability to turn photography into an art form and a career, Greg was determined.

Gregory started to develop his eye by doing lookbook shoots for young designers in Downtown LA, party pictures at concerts and other random jobs. Like many photographers, his camera is an extension of himself, and he is always taking pictures. And so it came to be that because of one photo he took at a late night party in East Los Angeles, he knew what his big project was going to be. Greg’s focus is a photo project focused on the lifestyles of the residents of East LA, and because he’s a native to the area, you get a front-row seat through his lens.

It was “the best of both worlds” for young Ernesto. A child of Mexican heritage, Ernesto grew up in El Centro, CA, which is a small town near the Mexico-US border. El Centro, with its proximity to Mexico and the immigrant culture, helped Ernesto develop an appreciation for the challenges faced by his fellow Mexicans. In El Centro, Ernesto felt safe and had the wealth of resources one has in America, but he also had access to his own rich cultural heritage by being so close to Mexico.

From this experience, Ernesto formed his image on the world, and today his energy is spent bringing his perspective to new audiences. Ernesto relocated from El Centro to LA to expand his activities as an politically-orientated art activist. Los Angeles and its many people from all over the world have taught Ernesto even more about his Mexico. People come to the LA looking for a better life and they infuse the area with their varying cultures, some of which are rarely seen in El Centro and just across the border in Mexicali. Ernesto easily conveys his beliefs to you, stating simply that he is “in solidarity with any movement that stands for self determination.”

Ernesto is now leaving Los Angeles for now, partially so that he can be closer to his cause. You might recognize his work from the pro-immigration marches and demonstrations in Arizona, which were organized in opposition to the strict immigration laws in that state. “Borders are the cause of a lot of issues on this continent,” says Ernesto.

Some people spend their whole lives chasing someone else’s idea of success. In fact, at times it can seem to be that Los Angeles–and especially Hollywood–have a monopoly on this notion. Sacha Dunable, while a Los Angeles native, doesn’t fit this description. For a living, Sacha simply does what he loves to do; all the while admitting that his chosen path might not be likely to make him famous.

But for Sacha, that was never the main goal anyway. Instead, he seems content just to be living his life on his own terms. Sacha is a musician, and he has found personal success doing something he thoroughly enjoys: building and playing music with guitars.

If not touring with his band Intronaut, Sacha can be found in his workshop building and fixing guitars. Sacha has found success doing what he loves without seeming to feel much pressure from the outside world to make things more complicated.

Los Angeles is a place full of people with an agenda, and some will stop at nothing to get what they want. But amongst the chaotic scramble of people trying to make a name for themselves, there are gems like Sacha who manage to live content by the simple notion that in some ways, it’s better to want what you have, and go from there.

Wherever they go, they try to make something that makes sense for the neighborhood, and the community. And they always make something positive, something the artists hope people can enjoy — regardless of whether life has greeted them with great fortune. Armed with a vision and their cans of spray paint, El Mac and Retna will transform a forgotten wall into a piece of art.

El Mac and Retna are street artists, born in LA. They use building walls as blank canvases for their imagery, and the duo has collaborated to create murals all over the world. El Mac and Renta have very different styles, and have been collaborating the last few years. They combine their artistic forces in a specific way: El Mac creates huge lifelike portraits and Retna, calligraphic brushwork and decoration. The result is striking imagery that is unique and recognizable as theirs. It’s not uncommon for street art fans and documentarians to gather to watch the progression of an El Mac and Retna work in progress.

El Mac and Retna art feels appropriate for the street because the artists themselves embrace the city streets, the different neighborhoods, and the blend of cultures and backgrounds of the people that fill them. Street art, including the work of El Mac and Retna, also reflects a new attitude about accessibility to art in our environments. “Why not see all the walls painted,” says Retna. “Let the Arts Roam!”

Every morning before he goes into his shaping room, Guy Okazaki goes out and checks out the waves. “Like a crazy person,” he says. Over the years, Guy has collected cherished memories of the most amazing waves he has ever seen and surfed.

No less cherished are Guy’s memories of his father, who fought in WWII and instilled in his son a mentality to “Go for broke” in everything you do. It’s as though Guy decided to apply this concept in his surfing life: the man simply lives and breathes surfing.

Guy’s dad also taught him how to shape a surfboard, and for as long as Guy can remember, his dad had been shaping boards in the backyard. Guy began shaping boards himself after he graduated from college and moved to Venice, California. In case you didn’t know, Venice is one of the places where surfing really took off, and it’s still vastly popular there today, with a huge influence on local culture. Guy started his career at one of the 5 custom surfboard shops in Venice, when he started working for Dewey Webber and Harold Iggy.

Guy fell in love with it and has been doing it ever since. The Venice shaper still lives and breathes surfing, and is a bit of a local celebrity. You can find him most mornings surfing close to the Venice pier. And if he is not there, than there is probably a board of his in the water surfing the waves.

You might have seen him and his crew riding around LA. The bike he’s riding may seem just like any other, but wait till you see what Dylan Hurst can do on his bike. And we’re not just talking about riding with no hands. Dylan is a trick biker who pulls off crazy stunts in the streets of LA every day.

Fish and Chips – that’s what they call this London-born rider in the fairly new sport of fixed-gear trick cycling. “Its insane to see how fast this sport is growing and it’s not a cheap sport. Kids are begging their parents to give them a brand new bike for Christmas.” The popularity of fixed-gear trick cycling is beginning to rival what skateboarding was in the 70’s. It’s a fast-moving sport; kids are constantly coming up with new tricks, styles, and stunts and manufactures are scrambling to keep up.

The sport is gaining prominence through professional events all over the country, and there are riders getting sponsors. But for Dylan “Fish and Chips”, it is a lot about having fun, riding the streets with friends and respecting the relative talent of others in the sport. He feels at home on the streets of LA, which might seem crazy to a lot of people who have been in the city’s traffic!

Walking into a boxing gym in South Central LA might seem like an intimidating, but “We are trying to be a second home” says Sauchsee Larkins, who runs Broadway Boxing Gym in Watts together with her Father and son. Sauchsee wants to provide a positive environment for the community and wants to keep kids out of the gangs. Sauchsee knows everybody by name and sees herself as a gym mom. She makes sure the kids have something to eat when they come over after school and makes sure that everybody gets along and have respect for each other.

The Broadway Boxing Gym has been around for several decades and has had champions like Mickey Rourke over to train. “We are an old school boxing gym’ says Sauchsee. “The most modern thing we have is a treadmill; you have got use your body for all the other stuff.”

The gym also has a lot of old-time trainers who have been around for years. Mr. Jesse is one of those trainers who lives and breathes boxing: “This is my heaven”, he says. Jesse Burnett is one of the gym’s champions who grew up in the neighborhood. Jesse used to be in the gangs when he grew up but found a new calling when he started working out and training at the gym. He now works there as a trainer, willing to give back to the community in the best way he knows.

The way Sauchsee tells it, boxing is way more than footwork and throwing punches at your opponent. “You got to have respect for your opponent and discipline to become a champion. Lessons who can also be used in life– therefore boxing is as a lifetime experience.”

Imagine this: There are mature fruit trees planted and cared for all over your neighborhood, so you can just pick fresh fruit and enjoy it as you walk down the street, without ever needing to go hungry. This is one of the thoughts of Fallen Fruit, a collaboration of three artists— Austin Young, Matias Viegener, and David Burns. The guys of Fallen Fruit say they use fruit as their lens for looking at the world. “Fruit is a democratic food, and not bound to class or race difference. Fruit represents all food and is liked by everybody”, says Matias Viegener.

Fallen Fruit started 7 years ago as a one-time project that involved mapping out the locations of public fruit trees. Austin, Matias and David noticed that people were not walking anymore in the Los Angeles neighborhood where they live, called Silverlake. “Walking around in a city like San Francisco or New York is kind of a sexy experience, in LA not so. If you would walk to a grocery store you are only confronted with yourself and that is not a happy feeling,” says Austin Young. So they started publishing maps online at www.fallenfruit.org, showing the location of fruit trees in their neighborhood. What happened? People started to gain interest in their maps, started to pick fruit, and talk to their neighbors. Then people were planting more fruit trees and vegetable plants in the neighborhood. Fallen Fruit had taken off. Through the years, the three men have worked on several similar projects elsewhere in the world.

In 2010, Fallen Fruit even had an exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The exhibition examines the symbolic, abstract and sociological aspects of fruit in art – from religious symbolism to embedded social messages.

Today the artists of Fallen Fruit continue to look at the world and the way we live, with fruit as their lens. What if they could take over city planning in LA? “We would create a fruit neighborhood, with Orange street and Banana Circle!” Fruit trees everywhere and fruit for everyone!

Riding fast is his thing. “Only talking about it makes me smile like a child,” says the 31year-old cycling Angeleno. Sean Martin started riding bikes more than ten years ago, first on a BMX. Now he feels “one” with his fixed-gear bike while riding through the streets of LA. A fixed-gear bicycle (fixie) is a bicycle that has no freewheel, meaning there is no time for coasting. The pedals are always in motion when the bicycle is moving. “That makes you feel one with your bike, you are in control, and if a car comes out of nowhere you have to be in control to bring you self into safety.”

Urban legend has it that the bike messengers in Manhattan were the first ones to take fixies out on the road. Low-maintenance and fast starts and stops were the draw for fast-passed messengers in the Big Apple. Fixed-gear cycling has now been popularized in a number of US cities. Beyond being popular, fixie riding has become a whole new sub-culture to witness in LA. From east side to west side, a wide variety of people can be found riding all different colors of fixie bikes on the streets of LA. This is an even more curious phenomenon given that LA is a city where automobile traffic rules the streets. Cyclists are very much in the minority and still must strive to earn their rightful spot in traffic on the streets. Cyclists routinely organize and form groups, throwing unofficial street races and riding together as a ‘critical mass’ to make their presence known.

Years ago when Sean moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, he had been used to joining several bike events per week. At that time, in LA, only the bike messengers would throw a race, and far less frequently. While Sean was on a training ride around Griffith Park, it hit him: “This route could be a race!” Sean’s first race was The Lord of Griffith, described by some people as the most epic fixed-gear climbing race in LA. Sean soon organized more races (including one called Stairway to Heaven), and started working with good friend Joseph Lobato on Take Over LA, a blog about bikes and other random sh*t we like. In 2010, Sean was featured in To Live And Ride in LA, a documentary about fixed-gear riders in Los Angeles.

As a kid, Sal traced and drew images out of the Gray’s Anatomy books that belonged to his cousin and sister. The teacher was impressed until she found out Sal was copying everything from books. ‘You have to give it something extra’, she said. Sal listened. He continued drawing and he got to be quite good.

Salvador Preciado, an East LA native, has been in East Los Angeles for most of his life, and he calls this his home. Growing up, Sal was impressed by the tattoos worn by East Los Angeles gang members; he was fascinated by the strong, bold lines exhibited in this style of tattooing. Initially, Sal began experimenting with his own skills at correcting and refining this style of tattoo work, but soon Sal found himself inspired by the artistry of tattooing and he later decided to become a full-time tattoo artist.

Sal is now the proud owner of El Clasico Tattoo, a tattoo shop in Echo Park. Representing the East LA cultural style in his artwork, and being proud of the authenticity in the work he creates, Sal aims to bring the same sense of pride to the rest of the neighborhood through the works of El Clasico Tattoo.

For more than 14 years he’s worked and watched as people from all over the world float by with smiling faces. It’s not Disneyland that’s the work place of Andy Waller, but the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California. Sunshine, the ocean and hundreds of people for watching; Andy seems to have one of the best working environments on the planet.

Born in Texas and programmed with a pre-disposition for the Californian sun, Andy works almost every day, year-round. Andy is the shoe shiner at 3rd Street Promenade. His customers come from all over and wear dress shoes, tennis shoes, and sometimes, even slippers or flip-flops. He started out shining shoes at Fox Studios, but that was before he moved his business just outside the Santa Monica police station, to make sure that the boots of the police officers were always shining.

Several years later, Andy was asked to become the shoe shiner of 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica and has been there, watching the crowds, ever since. Andy knows everybody and sees and hears a lot of stories.

Fresh vegetables, herbs, honey and new eggs every day; Jules and his family are living the farm life. It’s also a most unconventional lifestyle given that their home is in the middle of Pasadena, California. The family struggles to be as self-sustainable as they possibly can—their car drives on biogas, solar panels power their television, and each day they have fresh food from their own meticulously well-maintained crops.

Jules first began his farming life before moving to Pasadena, when he lived for several years in New Zealand. Jules embarked on his current lifestyle after becoming concerned about how the food industry controlled what he and his family ate. Jules wanted to be more in control and minimize his family’s impact on the environment.

Living this lifestyle doesn’t mean that you have to be old fashioned. After a day working on his urban-farm lot, Jules and the rest of the family sit down to watch movies on Netflix or work on one of their many websites. The Devraes family websites center around the idea of living a greener life, and are some of the biggest websites/communities about urban farming. It’s a growing movement; and a green revolution!

Not unlike the burrito and taco Food Trucks Angelenos have frequented for years, the new-wave of Food Trucks can be found the streets of Los Angeles. But the new Food Trucks create buzz using social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, and use the internet to broadcast the location of their trucks. These trucks have become a familiar phenomenon on the boulevards of Los Angeles. They come in different shapes, colors and have all different menus.

A significant departure in cuisine served on these new Food Trucks also reflects the way fast food culture is changing right now in Los Angeles. Fusion kitchen is new, hip and happening; from Korean BBQ, to Brazilian Burritos, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, and Vietnamese Tacos. The four-wheeled restaurants are serving up something new and exciting, not just your everyday fast food cuisine.

Natasha Case is co-founder of Coolhaus; a Food Truck serving architecturally-themed ice cream sandwiches. Sure, they have delicious flavors like bacon-flavored or persimmon flavored ice cream, but they want most to teach their customers a little bit about architecture. Coolhaus focuses on the architects whose work you can find throughout Los Angeles, including Franklin Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry. I Am Los Angeles talked to Natasha about her food truck sensation; Coolhaus.

The boardwalk is always crowded during the summer, and this continues during the weekends the rest of the year. The beach, the skate park, the pier, the bike-lane path on the beach, and the famous Muscle Beach are all entertaining attractions at the cultural center of Venice Beach.

Most people who have been on the Venice boardwalk have seen him. You would probably describe him as ‘The Speedo-Guy’ or ‘The Tarzan Bodybuilder’. Fast-moving Amir Edwards makes his way through the crowds on the Venice Boardwalk, posing for and with tourists in return for small donations. But being a bodybuilder on the Venice Boardwalk isn’t an easy life. Amir works hard to keep his physique, and his sunny, social disposition in top shape for the Venice Beach crowds.

Amir is one of many artist and vendors on the two-and-a-half mile boardwalk for pedestrians. He came moved to Los Angeles to become famous. Amir is indeed a well-known figure on the boardwalk and is posing with tourists for years. I Am Los Angeles followed Amir for a day and this is what we captured.
  Getting more posts...