My Journey to Bella Bella, B.C.

Dear friends,

I’ve been presented with the opportunity to participate in the 2014 Tribal Canoe Journey to Bella Bella. A once in a lifetime opportunity, this journey will cover 550+ miles crossing the waters of the Pacific to the Heiltsuk Nation in the Central Coast region of British Columbia, Canada.

More than 50 Tribes from as far north as Alaska and as far south as Oregon will be participating in this grand event — all culminating in a week long Potlach where we will share our songs, dances, and build new and lasting friendships.

Being on the water has always been an important part of my life — ultimate peace. Last year, after traveling down the Columbia river on the Chinook Canoe Journey, I realized that I’d been neglecting the very thing that gives me deep fulfillment far too long.

I’ve come to understand that a canoe is not simply an object of transport, rather it is a vessel for healing, empowerment, self-determination, youth and community development. For the youth in particular, canoe journey is a metaphor for our journey through life — providing them with the skills needed to live life to their fullest potential away from alcohol and drugs.

So here’s where I need your help:

Our journey will begin on June 22, departing from the Lummi Nation in WA.

This will not be an easy journey. Paddling for 8-13 hours a day is exhausting and painful both physically and mentally. We rely on the lead puller and skipper to guide us through, but every single person in the canoe plays a crucial role. There are dangers both at sea and on land. The cold temperatures, water, and strong winds are a perfect conditions for hypothermia. In addition, we will paddle through and camp in the Great Bear Rainforest — the largest coastal temperate rainforest on Earth and  home to grizzly bears.

Participating in Tribal Canoe Journey will keep me focused on the things I’m most passionate about: working with youth, cross-cultural dialogue, music, adventure, and storytelling.

All money raised will go towards:
1. Waterproof cameras: video and still, batteries, SD cards
2. Waterproof clothing and gear
3. Video software

4. Fees related to journey: ferries, support boats (gasoline),
food, ground crew, travel insurance

Simply put, none of this is possible without your support. I’m reaching out to friends, family, and community. Any donation, big or small is GREATLY appreciated and I will certainly pay it forward ten-fold. If you can help, please click the link below!




My New Year’s Wish For You…

A year of ups and downs, laughter and tears, joy and sadness. I celebrate that I’m alive to experience it all. Happy New Year to all of you. Here is my wish to you. Love, Carlita.


On Being Able To Say “Farewell, Seattle”

Dear Seattle,

I never thought this day would come. After five years of fun, risky, wonderful, and life changing adventures, the time has come to bid you farewell. It seems like only yesterday I was telling my friends and family in Texas that I was finally going to take the leap of faith and move here to explore new possibilities.

I fell in love with you upon my first visit back in 1999. The stunning views of the Olympic and Cascade mountains were the most magnificent things I’d ever seen. The ice blue color and crashing waves of the Pacific ocean sent chills down my spine. The smell of evergreens, the Space Needle, Mt. Rainier, the ferries, the bookshops, all these things and more left me yearning to be here. So in August of 2007, after 6 months of prayers, planning, and packing I made my new home here in the Emerald City.

Truthfully, other than the job I had lined up, I really didn’t know what else I’d be doing here. Of course, I was met with much resistance from friends and family who thought it preposterous to move 2,000+ miles away and alone. On the other hand, there were those who supported my decision knowing that I was too creative to be stuck in my one teaching job and too adventurous to be stuck living in the South.

I was destined for bigger and better things.

I know I’m only moving down to neighboring Portland, but you’ve played a very important role in my life journey. I take with me some very valuable lessons — lessons I’ll never forget.

I’ve learned how easily we trick ourselves into believing there’s only one “right” way to live life when in fact, it’s only that way within the context of the bubble we live in. Pop that bubble and you quickly realize your way of thinking is a minuscule ideal in the brain of the planet.

I’ve learned to cope with life without my mom after her unexpected death less than a year after moving here. I’ve learned to let go of my guilt, grievances, and deal with the expectations of my Latino community back home.

Among many challenges including, surviving a concussion from a rafting accident and a broken ankle from a solo hike in the woods, I’ve learned that I’m stronger and more resilient than I’ve led myself to believe.

I’ve learned about social justice issues, the state of arts education, and racism in the northwest. I’ve learned that an ultra progressive person can be just as annoying as an ultra conservative one. Just sayin’.

I’ve been introduced to the importance of recycling, new music, new people, walking up hills, bicycling up hills, lots of rain, and of course the coffee culture.

In just five years, I’ve worked as an emcee, a radio dj, a music programmer, a host at a reputable jazz club, a writer, a teacher, a social media consultant, a vocal coach, and even served as an artist-in-service for an initiative set by Congress.

Whew! I’ve been busy.

I’m sure there are some people reading this letter thinking “it’s not like she wouldn’t have these experiences elsewhere” or “there’s nothing unique about her life experiences.” Well, they’re correct, I’m sure I’ll experience many things similar and different somewhere beyond here, but my life experiences need not matter to anyone else other than me. My time here in Seattle is significant because of where I came from, where I am, and where I’m going in my life journey.The fact is, I’ve undergone a major paradigm shift and as a result, I have a better understanding of the greater purpose in being here.

Seattle, my fair city, you’ve served as the place where I would experience growth and transformation. You’ve given me quiet places to pray, breathe, and meditate my life journey. You provided miraculous sunsets over the coast that left me entranced and pondering adventures beyond the horizon. I’ve reinvented myself surrendering to new possibilities and creating endless opportunities. My survival skills have been tested to the core. I’ve learned what true christianity is all about. I’ve learned to work harder, love stronger, and enjoy each day as if it were the last. Most importantly, you’ve introduced me to the man I love and the reason I’m relocating to Portland.

My life is enriched simply because I took the risk — and for that I’m grateful.

Thank you, dearest Seattle. You hold a special place in my heart. I will visit and return to those quiet places that carried me through many life circumstances, but for now I must I bid you a adieu.

Until next time.

Twisit Jordan Adventure PT. 4 – “Madrasati”

The BRAND SPANKIN’ NEW Twisit Jordan video! This is by far my most personal and most important work in this video series. We were invited by Her Majesty Queen Rania to visit her education initiative–Madrasati. I hope you will watch this short video and  share it with your friends, family, and students! Let’s get the cross-cultural dialogue going!

The Meadowbrook Crew performs at the Arts Corps Showcase

Well, as we come to the close of another year, I’m posting a few photos from our recent performance at the Arts Corps Showcase. We are so honored to have participated in this event. It’s a lot of work teaching new music to a wide age range (4-14) in kids, but it’s also hard work keeping their attention and focus during the start of summer fever! It’s been a long arduous journey over these past two years and the kids have come and gone; nevertheless, it’s been fun watching them learn and grow. It’s going to be hard bidding my final farewell to these kids, a.k.a. “The Meadowbrook Crew” at the end of June; but life goes on and this experience has taught me a lot about myself.

I know I’ll never be the same.

She Taught Me Everything I Know.

She taught me everything I know.

She taught me to be kind, generous, strong, and resilient.

She taught me to be loving, nurturing, confident and assertive.

She taught me that Lena Horne was the best female vocalist, Carol Burnett was the funniest woman on television, and Princess Diana embodied poise and elegance.

She taught me to say what I mean and mean what I say.

She taught me to choose my friends wisely.

She taught me that heels make a woman look sexy.

She taught me that sometimes the answers don’t come easy, so learn to wait, because it’s enough to know that God hears me.

She taught me that sometimes I have to do it alone and every time I fall down, I must get back up.

She taught me that visiting your neighbor is still an accepted practice in today’s civilization.

She taught me that pain and trials are necessary in life because they teach compassion and humility.

She taught me that saying “Good Morning” and “Good Night” are an expression of gratitude to God’s promise for today.

She taught me that growing old is a natural part of life and if you have a good husband to grow old with, you are truly blessed.

She taught me to enjoy a margarita or two…or three.

She taught me that adding your own dialogue to a movie is annoying for the people sitting next to you but heck, do it anyway!

She taught me to dance even when there’s no music and to hum your own tune even if you can’t stay in key.

She taught me to have people over for dinner even if you don’t have enough for yourself because the fellowship will fill you up in abundance.

She taught me to stay close with God.

She taught me that if I can be on time to work, I can be on time for God.

She taught me the joys of sipping a cup of coffee in the early morning and chatting with family.

She taught me everything I know. And I still have so much to learn. So here I am,  saying “Good Night, Mom” because I know that where you are it’s always a “Good Morning.”

I miss you.

The Naked Truth – Pt.3 “Music doesn’t save lives”

I’m starting to realize that it’s about relationships and not music that’s at the core of this whole situation. Truthfully, it’s only been a few weeks since I’ve actually been teaching music and I’m sure you’re wondering what we’ve been doing in the meantime.

Well, lots of talking and listening.

I’ve decided to start each class period sharing our highs and lows of the day. Sometimes this takes a good portion of the time, but I don’t care. The kids are learning to listen to each other which is a hell of a lot better than listening to me! They’re asking questions and laughing with each other instead of yelling and bickering.

When we do get to the music lesson, they’re learning the true meaning of teamwork. A concept quite different from what our society tends to promote which is, that we’re all perfect – in rhythm – in sync – and other misconceptions our competitive nature seems to conjure up. The reality is, teamwork is about working with and working through the person that’s not quite getting it and may never get it. Everyone deserves to be successful. An obvious concept to most of us, but for kids who’ve been practically living in solitary confinement…togetherness, whoa! What’s that?  Of course, before we even got to a point where we could have a civil discussion about teamwork, there was a near knock-down-drag-out fight between three girls, another class cancellation, and a second near knock-down-drag-out fight out on the courtyard after I canceled class.

Here’s the part where the “music doesn’t saves lives” comes into play. See, I’ve made no impact teaching world music—the shit hit the fan a long time ago. They could give a rat’s ass about learning African dances, playing Gamelan instruments, and what not.

No connection. Nada. Zip. Zero.

The thing is, me teaching music to these kids is not the same as experiencing it for themselves; but they have to experience relating to one another before the musicking becomes meaningful–the ultimate challenge, I think, for all music teachers out there.

Relating = Musicking = Meaning

Music isn’t going to save these kids from domestic abuse, nor save them from school suspension, nor save them from a night without dinner because they ran out of food stamps. It might get them through pain and turmoil, but it doesn’t save them. Not yet.

Does this make sense?

Furthermore, that utopian idea that music is ‘universal’ is really confusing and somewhat inaccurate. What’s universal about it? What universal message are we transmitting? That we all share the commonality of music perhaps, but it doesn’t convey the same emotion to all people. The music pounding from their boom box for instance, isn’t reaching everyone, it’s annoying and negative! And clearly the music I’ve exposed them to hasn’t reached them either.

Do you see why relationship is key here? I have no commonality with their lives. Besides differences in musical experiences, there are differences in our upbringing. Raised in a functioning community, I function rather successfully in our society. As much as my heart is there, and my compassion is there, and my willingness and dedication are there; it doesn’t change the fact that the kids and I have nothing in common.

I know this sounds depressing, but just stay with me here. This is the truth of life, teaching, music, and just trying to make a damn difference. I know for a fact, after long phone conversations and several email exchanges, that my Musiciancorps fellows share my sentiments.

Not a lot of people will write about this stuff, but I will because I’m all about keeping it real. This is NOT Mr. Holland’s Opus, or Stand and Deliver, know what I mean? Let’s stop romanticizing the truth shall we?

So what’s next?