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Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Community Voices

24 Nov 2020
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Hello there. My name is Matt King. I’m 19 years old, and I have COVID-19. I’ve been writing about music and the arts for the Independent for a year and a half now, but this piece is not about either of those topics. Instead, it’s about how I managed to get this terrible disease, despite an excess of caution. Here’s how it all started … I think: My grandfather passed away shortly after my 19th birthday, and I was left with one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever faced: Should I travel to Mississippi for his services, despite the pandemic? I chose to go. My brother and I decided we would feel safer driving rather than enduring the compressed-air experience of flying—but it’s a long way from Coachella to Mississippi, so the funeral trip turned into a weeklong excursion. From mountains to miles of sand, from heat to snow, from…
09 Nov 2020
Nearly everyone knows someone who has died this year, whether from COVID-19 or other causes. This has been a year of death for this planet, and if you have lost someone close, you have cause to grieve—and you should know about the hidden, dangerous heart condition called broken heart syndrome. This is not about the loss of your loved one; it’s about you as a survivor. Grieving sits near the top of the list of taboo subjects due to the level of social discomfort involved. To be brutally honest, most people don’t want to hear about other people’s grief, despite mouthed words of comfort and offers of help. And that’s their right—they don’t have to share your feelings, memories, explanations. They also don’t really know what to do or say. For some strange reason, in our society, the stoic people are most applauded, and those who deliver three-hanky monologues make…
28 Jul 2020
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Our gardener, Jose, came over today. "How is your family?" my husband and I casually asked. His visage changed. "My brother and his wife died last week of COVID, in Mexico." Speaking with Jose (who rushed over to help us with a totally trivial gardening matter) brought me to tears; in fact, I had to go inside. Jose's family has worked on what is now our home for more than 30 years; frankly, this piece of real estate is more "theirs" than "ours." So, so many working-class families are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. That's why I have so little patience—actually, NO patience—with generally white, work-at-home people (like me) who say, "Oh! We need to shut down until there's a vaccine!" Get a clue, people. COVID is a part of our world now, and people who think everyone can "shelter in place" and "Zoom" into the…
02 Apr 2020
People have been trying to get outdoors during this COVID-19 pandemic, and I don’t blame them. Without fresh air to breathe, clear sunlight or mist on our eyelids, I don’t think we can remain sane. And we need a sane population. Especially now. All over the country, beaches and parks are closed; and warning tape is wrapped around playgrounds. People are trying to get out, but not finding any place to go to. Central Park remains open, and New York City has been asked by its mayor to close certain streets to vehicles so people can get out and walk. In the San Francisco Bay area, residents are still being told that parks are open, and to go enjoy them—with certain caveats: The restrooms aren’t open, and neither are the trashcans. Don’t hike in groups. In the West, we’ve got plenty of space. But are we supposed to be using…
24 Oct 2019
Capitol Reef National Park in Southern Utah receives more than 1.2 million visitors per year, but only a tiny fraction make it down to the park’s south end along the spectacular Waterpocket Fold. This section is more austere than the busy area along Highway 24, and it’s far quieter as a result. Even during peak season, you can linger by the dirt road here for hours without seeing another vehicle. That’s likely to change Nov. 1, when the National Park Service is slated to begin allowing off-highway vehicles, or OHVs, to use roads in national park service units in Utah. The nation’s other national parks, including Joshua Tree National Park, will remain off-limits to the vehicles. Palmer “Chip” Jenkins, the agency’s acting intermountain regional director (yes, another “acting” official in the Trump Interior Department) ordered the change in late September without seeking public comment. The order was not illegal—it’s an…
30 Sep 2019
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Almost 20 years ago, I went through the darkest time of my life. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship with a man who made me feel isolated and weak. I wish I could explain why I loved him, or why I stayed, but as with most abusive relationships, it’s beyond words. In the beginning, I didn’t realize he had a drug habit. By the time I put all the signs together, I was too invested to move on. He nagged me to try it, and out of desperation to fit into his life, I complied. Unfortunately, I liked it. Thankfully, that relationship eventually ended. But just because the boyfriend was gone didn’t mean the addiction went away. I maintained the habit for a year on my own. One day, I realized that I was putting my life, my job and my personal relationships at risk. I needed to come…
29 Aug 2019
Just minutes before a massacre at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on Aug. 3 left 22 people dead, a hate-filled, anti-immigrant manifesto appeared online. In it, the author, whom authorities believe to be the alleged shooter, claims to be defending his country from white American “replacement” and an “invasion” at the U.S. border, as well as from environmental destruction and corporate power. “Some people will think this statement is hypocritical because of the nearly complete ethnic and cultural destruction brought to the Native Americans by our European ancestors, but this just reinforces my point,” reads the manifesto. “The natives didn't take the invasion of Europeans seriously, and now what’s left is just a shadow of what was.” For decades now, warped ideas about Indigenous struggles have buoyed conservative rhetoric and white-nationalist fantasies, and have been used to justify racist violence. While members of the far and extreme right claim to…
30 Jul 2019
I’ve covered immigration as a journalist for almost 20 years, documenting the lives of families in different corners of the Western Hemisphere as they make the difficult decision to move to the U.S. to seek a better life. In the process, I’ve tried to help readers understand immigration policy, even as I personally relate to the challenge of making a new home in America, of learning a new language and cultural norms, of missing friends and family. Yet over just the past two years, I’ve watched America—which welcomed me almost three decades ago—methodically close its doors to people from other cultures while dangerously scapegoating both new and longtime immigrants. I know I’m not alone when I say how helpless it makes me feel, following the back-to-back news stories about migrant caravans, family separations and the inhumane conditions at immigrant camps and detention facilities. I sometimes feel ashamed to enjoy the…
09 Jul 2019
“Nature doesn’t care if you’re gay,” I’ll often hear in reaction to articles by myself or my outdoorsy LGBTQ peers. And it’s true: Nature doesn’t care if I’m gay. But people do. A few ago, I finished a world-record journey to all 419 National Park Service sites. For three years nonstop, I lived in a van, hiked trails everywhere from American Samoa to the Arctic Circle, and accomplished an outdoors journey no human had ever done before. But comments about the trip have included things like, “Well now I need to be careful in the bathroom at national parks,” and, “Why do you have to shove your lifestyle down our throats!” A sponsor terminated our partnership halfway through the project, saying over the phone and in writing that I was doing too much LGBTQ outreach. A camping website called The Dyrt posted an interview with me on Facebook featuring a…
28 May 2019
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I joined the Coachella Valley Independent in 2013, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The Independent has provided me with many opportunities in my journalism career. Thus, it’s bittersweet to say that as of June 19, I will be stepping down from my position as the assistant editor/staff writer here at the Independent. I have accepted the position of entertainment, culture and celebrity reporter at The Desert Sun. In the spring of 2013, when I began writing for the Independent, this was a very new publication. The first issue, a quarterly, had just hit newsstands; we would not go monthly in print for six more months. I was new to the journalism profession and didn’t know what to expect. Now, six years later, as I look back at what the Independent has accomplished, as well as my own accomplishments, it feels incredible. This publication has won three national awards…

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