the inspiring, creative kids of los angeles, straight up
Dan Martensen documents the emerging skaters, poets, musicians, and designers in the City of Angels.
This article originally appeared in i-D's The Acting Up Issue, no. 349, Fall 2017
What does home mean to you? Being a brown queer person in America is really hard, finding stability and a home has been a long and tiring process. I've been dealing with homelessness since I was about 17. Home doesn't exist for me, but hopefully I'll find it soon. What do you find most inspiring about LA? LA is like a big toilet bowl or a big ass circus, and I love it. Who is your ultimate Los Angeles icon? TOTAL FREEDOM. He's an incredible DJ/producer, there's no other person like him, he takes control and one day I want to be where he is.
Ryon Wu, Waiter
What does home mean to you? I share my home with my boyfriend, my cat, and my video games. It's the one place where I can go and just really relax. What do you find inspiring about LA? All the friends I have who push me to do things I never thought I could. Who is your ultimate LA icon? My true Los Angeles icon would be Universal Studios lol.
Jazmin Garcia, Director
What does home mean to you? Home is something that is missing, a mystical place that's been erased from my memory, from my ancestors' memories. Maybe I can only find home in my dreams? What do you find inspiring about LA? The immigrant communities who've left their homes to come to a completely different place in the hope that their children will have a better future. Who is your ultimate LA icon? My pop Leonidas Augusto Garcia. He came to LA when he was just a teenager, but never got to see the beauty of the city because he worked so much. He's the icon I live for everyday.
Jimmy Valdez, Designer
What does home mean to you? Home is a sanctuary, a loving space full of positive energy. What do you find inspiring about LA? It's a place to make your dreams happen, the buildings, the street, the hoods, are all inspiring. Los Angeles is the place to be. Who is your ultimate LA icon? Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson, my priest at St Monica's Catholic Church, he welcomes everyone no matter how they come. He teaches us to love one another and, most importantly, to be of service, no matter what you believe or what your religion is.
Mike Davis, Community Organiser and Poet
What does home mean to you? As young POC we are constantly looking for home; a safe space for sanctuary. Home for me is where I can breathe, where I can sit in all of my complexities in peace. What do you find inspiring about LA? My community, my people, my LA inspires me. It's why I do the work I do, why I fight, why I shit on gentrifiers, why I am so adamant about shifting the intolerable climate we live in, and dismantling the systems that oppress us. Who is your ultimate LA icon? My parents. Since I was little I've had people stop me on the street and ask me if I was Canela or Mike's son. I come from two down-ass people that have run the streets of LA since they were in diapers. My parents put me on and I can't credit no one else.
Ramdasha Bikceem, DJ
What does home mean to you? My queer family is my home. People who I see my reflection in and hold space for me. What do you find inspiring about LA? The ghosts are still here. It's a city where freaks are still doing their thing despite the creepy tentacles of gentrification. There's a vibration to this city, maybe because it's on a fault line and in a desert. I feel like I'm in a freaky dimension sometimes. Who is your ultimate LA icon? I recently learned that one of my favorite sci-fi writers, Octavia Butler, is from here. In her novels black women are the heroines and have abilities to shape shift into dolphins and time travel. She created a powerful visionary body of work despite being overlooked in a genre full of white men. She was an unprecedented dreamer.
Aaron Sanford, Skateboarder
What does home mean to you? Home is where my friends are. What do you find inspiring about LA? Growing up skateboarding in South Central was so inspiring to me as a kid. Not only is skateboarding a gateway for meeting other people who share similar interests but it is also a remarkable way to explore the city. Who is your ultimate LA icon? My mother. She made me who I am today.
Mario Lopez, Photographer
What does home mean to you? Home means everything to me. It's what you work for, it's where you celebrate yourself and others. For me, home should be where you find solace. What do you find inspiring about LA? I'm inspired by everything POC communities have contributed to the city. There's just so much culture and promise here, I think that's why people are attracted to it. Who is your ultimate LA icon? Cesar Chavez is the ultimate icon for me. He represents strength and power in unity. That's what a real icon does, in my opinion.