Although many business owners, police officers, parks and recreation teams and other professionals might disagree, to a young person in The City with a passion for self-expression, the art of graffiti is unquestionably a respectable and dignified way to get started.
In my teenage years I was a little writer or “tagger” myself before becoming a literary one. Marking my name out there in trailblazing fashion was an ambition that I shared with my peers at the time, and why wouldn’t we be ambitious about it? We were in the City of Stars, after all, surrounded by billboards from Calvin Klein and Coca Cola, which took their space above us regardless of how we might have felt about it.
Even beyond the billboards, however, American culture was just as crazy about “disruption” then as it is today. That is, the idea of American exceptionalism, or the sense of doing it anyway was just how my peers and I cut ourselves a piece of the American dream in our own little way. I can see no reason why it’d be any different for those still out there taking their space in this fashion today, letting their contemporaries and anyone else know with each ‘tag’ that:
They were here; that they made it; and that they are still going.
Of course, as time passed, graffiti art became for me just one of many ways to express myself. The fact of the matter is that after so many of the young graffiti writers around me were criminalized, I had to make a choice. I could either continue to subvert the laws and write my name out until the law of the land forced me stop, or I could just let it go and find something else to do. I chose the latter. Today, the one thing about graff that’s clear to me is that if you want to do it, it’s best to get the proper permissions first.
But it’s a lengthy process to come of age in the City of Los Angeles no matter what we do. As such, JIMBO TIMES salutes the graffiti writers of L.A., old and new alike, wherever they might be in their journey out here. Without them and their ambition, L.A. could only be half as glitzy and glossy for this scribe.