A place can bring good people together. To honor our memories. In different ways.
Literature has often been defined as a tool for decoding. To remember what it was that makes us who we are. And some of us figure out a way to strategically forget what will destroy us. Over and over again. I’m so honored to have this guy in my circle of friends. Chiwan Choi’s latest book(unbook) experiment brings together a community of writers, and some non-writers, who collectively decode what he’s already decoded, and then attempt to re-code it all. Together we all strategically forget what we don’t want to challenge ourselves to remember. He’s written it all, the stories are there, but we have no proof of even a memory of what he writes, only what we want to remember because he’ll destroy all of it.
And Saturday night at 7pm he’ll be recollecting and sharing what he’s decoded in the latest, and second to last, chapter of this 6-part series. He’ll then, quicker than it’s shared, destroy all remnants of his writing. And all of us, collectively take over from this point on. I’ve come up with all sorts of descriptions for this project, but really — the end of the reading is when the storytelling begins.
And there isn’t a better place to experience this experiment in publishing — storytelling — decoding, than Indian Alley.
Indian Alley is right around the corner from 118 Winston Street. 118 Winston, as this article states, was built in 1887 and soon became a hotel for day laborers working on the nearby railroad. And if you look up the history of railroad worker-type hotels you’ll find that they usually become known as the makeshift homes for the marginalized and forgotten men who were good at strategically forgetting what came before where they were then.
And then, the Indian Relocation Act of 1956 (part of the Indian Termination Policy of the era) happened. In the ’50s, before the Act, the average Native American on a reservation earned $950, the average African American earned $2,000, and the average white American earned almost $4,000. Many Native Americans left their reservations for Los Angeles through the Relocation “program”, with the hope of landing one of the “plentiful” jobs that were supposed to be available to them. They were also promised stipends that many didn’t end up receiving.
Los Ángeles became a city with one of the largest Native American populations in the U.S. And while development was exploding to accommodate the growing Mexican American population, middle-class African American families, and newly migrated White middle-upper class families, the Native American population was strategically forgotten. And many ended up at Indian Alley — to live as the old railroad workers did, trying to forget what came before, and what was happening to their America.
Then in 1974, the United American Indian Involvement happened. The community worked collectively, to help the people who needed it most. It was a hard bunch of years. But the community stuck together to honor the space it was and is.
And thanks to people like Steven Zeigler and organizations like Honor the Treaties …Indian Alley has become a significant place that holds memories that you can feel, and can never destroy. And now, with the help of These Days LA, Katz’s Deli and Writ Large Press are bringing Chiwan Choi’s beautiful project to this important space. Perhaps we can collectively remember the space as it once was and then what it became, and celebrate what it now has become.
We can acknowledge the spirits of those who came before, and we can do this while participating in a story, together recreating a history while honoring the space we all share.
Saturday, September 26th, 2015
Indian Alley, 118 Winston Place Los Angeles CA 90013