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A Tale of Two Influencers

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

Y’all know I put on for my community, especially for my neighborhood, Pikes Peak Park. I’ve organized neighborhood meetings, brought art to the neighborhood, and I have a seat at the table for the City of Colorado Springs’ Neighborhood Planning efforts that encompass Pikes Peak Park and surrounding areas.

In November 2021, you couldn’t come to our neighborhood without seeing Parkside taggings. I was frustrated. You’ve probably seen my rants and posts about it. Here I was trying to improve the neighborhood aesthetic and these taggings were popping up literally everywhere. The City and neighbors took the tags down and they would be right

back up the next day. I was determined to figure out who was responsible.

One day I got on TikTok and someone had sent me a video clip of Thuggin by Lil Travieso, a rapper straight outta Pikes Peak Park. His music and videos were all about the gang life of Parkside Varrio or PSV. I finally understood why all the tagging was happening and yet I found myself impressed with the overall production of his music and videos. Lowkey, I was bummed I hadn’t stumbled upon them shooting any of the videos, especially the ones that took place in front of the Pikes Peak Park sign that I recently repainted. The people were also impressed… Thuggin has over 1.5 million views on YouTube, his reach was from Cali to Colorado and beyond.

I found myself connecting to his music because of proximity and familiarity. His work embodied the Pikes Peak Park I’ve always known it to be and from a documentarian and creative perspective, I appreciate the music and videos. From a community advocate perspective I was worried he would influence more than just tagging up the neighborhood. Regardless I recognized Lil Travieso had an influence over the neighborhood that I didn’t and I saw it as a potential opportunity for collaboration.

Lil Travieso and Ambroz

One day my son and I were walking into the Citadel Mall when he noticed a cholo and jokingly said, “Hey Look, there's Lil Travieso” only to realize it actually was him. We were both starstruck. I was scrambling because I hadn't even put much thought into what collaborating could look like and I figured we would have to build some trust over time anyways. So instead of trying to pitch him that day, my son and I were simply fans, said what's up, took a pic, and parted ways fully expecting another opportunity would present itself.

Unfortunately that day for collaboration will not come. On July 6 Lil Travieso became the 27th victim of homicide in Colorado Springs this year. He was killed only days after having met with rival gang members at a local boxing gym where the Men of Influence brought them together to open up the line of communication in an attempt to stop the violence. After seeing this meet up happened, I was hopeful that we reached a turning point in our community. I woke up July 7 to the news of Lil Travieso’s death and felt like that hope was stripped from me.

Photo Cred: Men of Influence

I can list too many people I knew personally that have been killed by someone with a gun. When is enough, enough?! 14 of the 27 victims this year were under the age of 25. This number disturbs me. We should be outraged! I’m sick of RIP’s and gone too soon’s. Not a single problem is solved by pulling a trigger and yet it keeps happening, over and over again. For every one person killed there is an entire community of people that suffers, leaving wounds that go unhealed and the cycle of hurt people hurting people continues. I’m exhausted, aren’t you?

This is a story of two people cut from the same cloth experiencing what is perceived to be two completely different life experiences, From where I am standing we really don't seem all that different, we're from the same hood, with it tatted across our chests, influencing the people around us through creative content. The moral of this story is what looks different is never all that different. We are all just people trying to get by in the only ways we know how and when we take the time to step in someones shoes we can start to understand that individuals are far to complex to keep writing each other off as good or bad, right or wrong.

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