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weekly hour long internet radio broadcast
streaming live from Central City East (Skid Row)
featuring writing on the wall, community calendar, music of the spheres and voices from the Aether

(click here to listen to previous shows)

“African for the African ---.”


Marcus Garvey was born in 1887 in St. Anne’s Bay, Jamaica. He is the founder of one of the most important organizations in the history of the descendants of the slaves of America (African-American). That organization is the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Before I get into a detail discussion of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association,
I would like to mention two key figures that are important in understanding Marcus Garvey and the UNIA. Those two figures are Booker T. Washington and J Edgar Hoover.

The foundation for the success and influence of the UNIA can be found in its relationship to Booker T. Washington and the ideals he emphasized at Tuskegee Institute. Marcus Garvey at first attempted to put the Universal Improvement Association (UNIA) together in Jamaica, but because of the racial makeup of Jamaica (under the control of the minority alliance between the Whites and Mulattos), the UNIA in Jamaica would fail. Garvey would write to Booker T. Washington explaining the problems he was facing with his organization in Jamaica. Booker T. Washington answered Garvey, encouraging him to continue to stay with the ideals he had for the organization. He explained that he went through the same thing in the early years of Tuskegee Institute. Garvey would never forget those words of encouragement and when the UNIA failed in Jamaica, Marcus Garvey departed for the United States to join Booker T Washington.

When he arrived in America he learned that Booker T. Washington had just recently died (1915). So Garvey would leave the United States and once again join Duse’ Muhammad Ali in London, England. Before I discuss Marcus Garvey’s stay in London and the influence of Duse’ Muhammad Ali, I would like to discuss the source of the success of Booker T Washington and the ideals he emphasize at Tuskegee Institute. That source was Andrew Carnegie, one of the wealthiest men of his time. The best source for understanding the influence of Andrew Carnegie on the ideals of Booker T Washington is the book, Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

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There is a place near Downtown Los Angeles, Central City East, The Recovery Zone. Theater in the Recovery Zone is a dramatic process presented to those who are in Recovery. This dramatic process should be related to the Treatment Programs in the Recovery Zone. Dramastage- Qumran Theater program is composed of two models:


The Community Theater

The Community Theater model is the harmonious integration of seven components working in a spirit of harmony to present theater to the community.

The components are:

(1) The Word

(2) The Artist

(3) The Audience

(4) The Dramastage Groups / Front of the House / Back of the House

(5) The Young People Theater Company

(6) The Dance Company

(7) The Anti-Violence Situation Coping Group


The NESONA model takes it name from the first letters of six concepts working in a spirit of harmony to impact the violence found in the individual, home, school and community.

The concepts are:

(1) Nutrition

(2) Exercise

(3) Spirituality

(4) One-on-One

(5) Needs Fulfillment

(6) Anti-Violence Situation Coping Group


The Anti-Violence Situation Coping Group is based upon the RIP concept.
RIP stands for: Registration, Information and Participation.

Registration - Where community residents sign in.

Information - Where information and resources are made available
to the community.

Participation - The formation of a circle where violent and potential
violent situations are dramatized through the concept
of improvisation.


Dramastage-Qumran hope to provide and lay the foundation for affordable theater for both loft residents and residents of low-income housing in the skid row area through a working relationship of community organizations in commerce, academia, and in the performing arts intelligentsia
of Los Angeles.

Contact Information:
Melvin Ishmael Johnson
213-359-5153 (cell)

click here to download PDF of Recovery Theatre

Like a long distance runner.

Lesley passed the baton.

The harvest are plentiful.

The workers are few.

Oh timeless traveler.

It's just a journey.

Just passing thru.

Helping yourself by helping others.

Helping the community.

Helping the families.

Helping the little children.

Helping those to help them self.

Like Lesley did.

Those that know.

Teach those that don't.

Give of yourself and volunteer some time.

And watch your life change.

It's about giving.

That's where it at.

Extend a helping hand.

Share your blessing and make things better.

Love books.

Love knowledge.

And love each other.

Like Lesley did.

Eternal life.

The Eternal Spirit.

Be born again and live forever.

The baton has been passed.

And now it can be told.

Lesley reached out to all of us.

And touch our soul.

Melvin Ishmael Johnson
April 17, 2009

click here to download PDF of this poem

You got to watch yourself on skid row.
Because skid row will let you know.
You’ll be down in the dumps before you know.

Before you know how to stay a flow.
Stay strong in spirit, body and mind.
Keep the mind clean with positive thoughts.
It starts with the spirit, the indwelling being.

The indwelling spirit will guide you on your
Journey through the physical material world.

If you listen.

After the spirit, come the body. It is the temple
for the spirit.

Modest cloths to cover the body.
A place you can call home.
And home is your space as you travel
through the physical material world.

If you want these things.
Then want them for others.

Real love is wanting for others what
you want for yourself.
Help yourself by Helping others.
Give and you will receive.

That‘s why skid row will let you
know that it is
Just a temporary condition.
A twist of time.
Make you strong in spirit and mind.

Skid row.
Don’t you know?
A depression is Right at the door.
Let them know, skid row.

What are you trying to do?
Adjust to this madness.
Or are you just marking time,
waiting on the madness
to adjust.

Skid row will let you know.
A spotlight turned
on history.
The legend of uncontrolled greed.
At the expense of those in need.

Skid row will let you know.

Religion on the run.
Robbers without guns.
Skid row will let you know.
Get up off the ground.
The next generation is still around.
They need you.
Ask them for plans that are sound.
Get up off the ground
And help the next generation save a failing nation.

Things are hard and money is tight.
I don’t even know where I am going to
sleep at tonight.

Well there one thing for sure.
There is a message on skid row.
And the message is skid row will
let you know.

From the play, Surviving The Nickel,
Written By Melvin Ishmael Johnson

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click here to see short video
It’s your fault that 911 happen.

Does anybody care?
Where Eagles dare,
Mad men’s at the control
Seeking destruction for all.
Like a 911 call.
A ball of confusion.
Echoes of the cross, the crescent
and the six point star.
Tearing up the world. Near and far.
Talking about peace.
A piece of this . A piece of that.

The oneness of God.
Have you forgotten about that?

This is a mad, mad world.

This world is angry and people are going mad.
Seeking destruction for all.
Like a 911 call. A cry for help.

Get up, get down, 911 is a joke in your town ---3x

Does anybody care? Where Eagles dare?

People are mad at all those ex-revolutionaries.
Who forgot about the revolution.
The revolution of the mind this time.
A hi-tech revolution.

I am mad as hell about 911.
Mad at the hi-jackers who hi-jacked the mind
Get high off this. Sex, money and drugs.
That’s where it’s at.

I am mad at the hi-jackers.
They hi-jack the prices so I can’t eat.
Hi-jacking all the time. Hi-jack the rent,
Leaving me homeless with no place to sleep.

Hi-jackers. Hi-jacketing all the time.

Hi-jack the religion with idol worshiping concepts.

It’s all your fault that 911 happen.

Dividing among yourself and dividing from each other.
Until you unify as one.
You will remain under the gun

In a society that can split the atom, travel to the moon
and clone a living cell.

Yet there is more poverty, hate and disease than ever before.
Stick your head out of the window and scream.


click here to download PDF of this poem

Excerpt from 'Bowling for Columbine'

watch short performance
SoulVisions Productions,
and the Front Line Poets

Excerpts from the life
of Dadisi X Henry
and his Mentor,
the famous Maya Angelou.

A few Saturdays ago I found myself tucked away in the south west corner of Los Angeles: A.C. Billbrew Library. I remember walking into the Library and the year was 2008, but by the time I left it had felt as if I had been jettisoned back to a time of extreme seriousness.

The sixties.

It was multi-media eye candy, the show was produced and performed by three grassroots production companies: SoulVisions Productions, Dramastage-Qumran and the Front Line Poets

For two hours I was dazzled with the live spontaneous combustion that was playing out in front of me. Live music, spoken word, voices that carried the history because these were voices that came from the past and are alive and well today.

The groups focus presented a program of Black Poetry in Tribute to the Late Dadisi X Henry & All Time Great Maya Angelou.

The entourage featured will be several excerpts from the life of Dadisi X Henry and his Mentor, the famous Maya Angelou. Poetry was recited from the work of both artists as well as a brief performance given by Dramastage-Qumran Productions of a play written by Original SoulVisions founder, Sunji Ali, “Tribute to the Late Dadisi X Henry Black River Rising”.

If you want to experience the legacy as I have check out Original SoulVisions website:



A model to end homelessness


The Reverse Level Housing Model or DHOS is based upon the first four numbers (1,2,3,4) that symbolize the four points of the compass (Universality) and also upon a reversal of the housing level system used by the California penal system. This is a four step process

Step One Oneness - Unity - Alliances.

Step Two Duality - Recognizing the difference between
the Mentally disadvantage and the Economically disadvantage.

Step Three - An alliance of the three major religions to assist and minister to the homeless population and help them find their way back into the community.

Step Four Make these steps universal (Four points of the compass)


Level One Camps and half-way houses.

Level Two Dormitory living.

Level Three Two man cell.

Level Four Single Cell.

I find it very interesting that the California correctional system have a housing system that rewards the most violent offenders and those with the most time a single cell style of living while the non-violent offenders are crowded into dormitory style living with little or no support system.


The DHOS model stands for Dormitory; Hostel; One-on-One
and Single living.

Dormitory living This style of housing is based upon Dorm
living with support services such as substance abuse programs;
mental health and other assistance programs such as amnesty,
retraining and placement.

Hostel living This style of housing will be a combination of
dormitory, single and double units with support services such
as substance abuse programs; mental health and other assistance
programs such as amnesty, retraining and placements.

One-on-One This style of housing is based upon double occupancy
in the community and out of the Recovery Zone.

(a) Two family housing.

(b) Two community members housing.

A reduction in support services will be needed at this point.

Single living This style of housing is based upon single family or
community members living through rent or ownership.

A reduction in support services or none at all is needed at this point.


The downtown skid row area is considered a central recovery zone (programs, missions and support systems) and it is important that most of the mentally advantage who live in this area should remain close to this recover zone.

265 South Lake Street #314
Los Angeles, California 90057


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click here to for interview

The beauty within her did not scream for attention.

Rather Thurstina knew it was only for those with eyes that could see.

Jovial presence, she celebrated her existence.

Always finding joy and hope in her mere being.

Sometimes off-kilter, she balanced my soul.

The moments great joy hers for the taking.

A compassionate listener, earnest in her appreciation.

Such a contrast to downtown's usual face.

Thurstina showed us all its ills in how you carry your load.

More charming than mere physical beauty.

A deep well of earned optimism such a pleasure to have beheld.

The universe reflected through such a gem and growing in our hearts.

Still our lives her memory will always fill.



before 911


always on

want to be a millionare

then buy an erickson phone

the batman

captain power

heads of security

a frequency they seek


control of what you watch

into the hands

that oversee

digital transition

boob tubes were independent machines

we were independent once...

boob tubes picked up radio waves and turned them into pictures and sound

free and totally unregulated

we were free once...



for them to know

whether or not you were watching them - watching you

controls completely in our hands...


ready for the digital domain???


the boob's not the tube anymore

we've become the boob

centrally controlled

that frequency

it can move through buildings, walls,


decoding before you own set can pick it up

decoding is controlled by the network

not me

not you

the network decides what, when and whether you watch – watch us

they are giving us the boxes for free...

Just like a dope dealer, the first one is free...


remember when dorthy pulled the veil away to reveal who the wizard was???

stick that bluetooth in your ear...

how much closer are you going to let them come to your soul...



(ghost in the machine)


I did not wake up this morning saying I want to be disrespected.
I am not here today to tell you about the two white cops taking kids
off the MTA, taking them off the corners waiting for the light to change,
handcuffing them. Then carting them off to jail cause they skipped class.

I am not here to talk about the old woman on skid row trying
to cross the street and being yelled at by an MTA driver,
"get out of the street you crack-head!" If he only took a moment to
see the white cane he might see that she was blind.

He might see beyond the stigma of skid row, that not everyone is a crack-head.

I look at all this and say to myself, ‘this is all temporary’.

There is more to a straight-line then two points.
I found myself in another line.
It was not a checkout line.
It was not a line to get on a ride at Disneyland.
It was not a line to get into a movie or other social event.
It was a line to get into a homeless shelter.

They separated us last night – blacks to the left -
boarder brothers and woods to the right –

Aren’t we all I the same boat?

There are a few of these human warehouses round town –
just a step up from county jail.
It’s said that the case managers have not got paid in months,
nor the security or the rest of the staff.

Guess what, were all prisoners of this homeless cycle.

I have to keep telling myself, ‘this is all temporary’.

I keep looking for a way out…

All I’ve found in the last year and five months is more ‘staircases’
leading me down to a lower level of existence.

The staircases had steps I was asked to take to maybe get section 8 housing.

Maybe get any housing at all.

I once walked through a transitional housing recommended by my case manager.

I tried my best…
‘And lead me not into temptation…’

I asked myself ‘where is God in this?’
I ignored the crack pipe and the smell of alcohol and sweat…’

I ignored the fact that the room was small, made smaller with
the two bunk beds.

Remember that this is only temporary…

I ignored the fact that in order to stay at this transitional housing
I had to give them my food stamps and check, and I would receive an allowance.

Who’s kidding who. This is no solution. It is a perversion.
Homelessness has become an industry.
I realize that I am have become cog in that industry.

Remember this is only temporary…

As the night blew in I found myself back on Hope Street.
See my 90 days was up.

No more shelter till the winter.

Out here there is a saying:
‘It’s not about where you sleep; It’s about how well you sleep’.

I close my eyes, thank God, and remind myself once again.

This is all temporary and it to shall pass.


It is known that US paper currency in the general circulation is contaminated with cocaine. Several mechanisms have been offered to explain this finding, including contamination due to handling during drug deals and the use of rolled up bills for snorting. Drug is then transferred from one contaminated bill to others during counting in financial institutions.

The possibility of contamination of currency with other drugs has not been reported. In this study, the author reports the analysis of 10 randomly collected US $ 1 bills from five cities, for cocaine, heroin, 6-acetylmorphine (6-AM), morphine, codeine, methamphetamine, amphetamine and phencyclidine (PCP). Bills were immersed in acetonitrile for 2h prior to extraction and GC-MS analysis.

Results showed that 92% of the bills were positive for cocaine with a mean amount of 28.75+/-139.07&mgr;g per bill, a median of 1.37&mgr;g per bill, and a range of 0.01-922.72&mgr;g per bill. Heroin was detected in seven bills in amounts ranging from 0.03 to 168.50&mgr;g per bill: 6-AM and morphine were detected in three bills; methamphetamine and amphetamine in three and one bills, respectively, and PCP was detected in two bills in amounts of 0.78 and 1.87&mgr;g per bill. Codeine was not detected in any of the US$ 1 bills analyzed.

This study demonstrated that although paper currency was most often contaminated with cocaine, other drugs of abuse may be detected in bills.

Hoodwinked Again

So what...


Another PAWN for the WHITE QUEEN to play...

Brother we are expendable.


On Monday, January 21, 2008, as part of the Celebration of Martin Luther Kings Birthday, Dramastage-Qumran Presented 'Surviving the Nickel' at the Regent Theatre. Once again Dramastage-Qumran shed some light and opened some eyes on the blight of the homeless that survirve on the streets of Los Angele's Skid Row.

To read views and reviews of the performance, click on the links below to access the downtown blogs. Dramastage-Qumran would like to thank those who did show up for the performance and made donations.

There was a parade today.

Fifty spent a year in an Iranian cell.

I know thousand and me
we spent three years in hell.

Got no parade just brought home
monkeys on our backs.

In hell discipline is a virtue that I lack.

Taken to fight in a war I could never understand.
The man they all say started it ain't around
to demand answers from, but it was kill or be killed
by gooks who blended with the scenery.

A glance of fear leaves no time to be lenient.
Got notches on my gun.
None I was ever proud of.
Memories that still cling to my dreams
leaving grim reminders of a fight
I so wanted to bow out of,
cold sweat on my skin
after I wake up screaming.

Am I proud to be a Vietnam Veteran?
They told me America was the land of opportunity and justice.
I guess that only applys at home.
Drafted fresh out of high school wondering if I'd live to see college.
I left my values behind as I combed the jungle foliage.

Can you blame me for complaining?
Can you blame me for hating?
Can you blame me for sometimes wishing I was dead?

I've seen plenty of death, so invitingly peacful.
A whole world better than this unceasing resentment.

Ten years after and I still have trouble looking in my mirror.
Each loud burst of noise gets my knees shaking in fear.
I just don't know what it is that makes me keep on trying.
Each time I see an Oriental I feel like breaking down and crying.

Am I proud to be a Vietnam Veteran?
I've no choice
I'm a Vietnam Veteran.

Alan Evans

O Timeless Traveler.
Do you have self-delusional thoughts of madness?
Like a two-way traveler on a one-way street.
One way in.
One way out.
Packing for a trip and leaving your baggage behind.
O Time Traveler with too many moments of sadness.
That’s just your self-delusional thought of madness.
Do you want some gladness?
Then dwell within and listen to the voice of the spirit.
Like a raindrop upon the ocean.
Many travelers on the ultimate trip.
Traveling both ways.
But the path to God is a one-way street.
A two-way traveler is a human spirit under the karmatic effect
Of the material world.
Your goodness transcends passion, ignorance and shed the body
Of the physical form and become One with God.

Melvin Ishmael Johnson

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On Saturday, August 4, 2007, Dramastage-Qumran Held a fund raising performance event of 'Catch the Tiger'. This event was sponsored in part by CHAC. The event was held in the Historic Firehouse located in the heart of Skid Row on 5th Street. In addition to the performance of the play, the story of J. Edgar Hoover's efforts to bring down Marcus Garvey, a presentation was given by Daniel Taylor, CEO of the Historic Firehouse, an HIV and Education presentation by Hector Arzate and readings by Guest Poet Ron Allen .

Dramastage-Qumran would like to thank all those who attended and supported us with donations.

Shakespeare once said, "all the world is a stage." But before any show goes before the public there is rehearsal after rehearsal. Dramastage-Qumran has been blessed with a venue to hold its workshops and rehearsals for upcoming performances.

Thanks to the Belmont Community Adult School, Levey Center; located in Skid Row, our stage company has a place to meet and practice our art. This is a special acknowledgement going out to Mrs. Rosine Taylor White, who is the site coordinator of the Levey Center.

After being invited to the center to do a performance of "Surviving The Nickel", Mrs. White was so impressed by what we are committed to she extended the invitation for us to have this venue available to us. Mrs. White has been a part of the Los Angeles Unified School District since 1995. Thanks you Mrs. White from all of us at Dramastage-Qumran.

The first two lines of this message are uttered by John Doe, a character in "Surviving The Nickel." Surviving The Nickel is a play about surviving life on fifth street in the skid row area of Los Angeles,as we follow the journey of two community members who fall from mainstream society and end up on skid row. Through their journey they (the audience) come across several other characters that have either experienced life on the nickel, or that are new to it and are just trying to stay afloat.

The play is written and directed by Melvin Ishmael Johnson, himself a resident of the area. The Characters are played by either individuals who currently live in skid row or at one time were living on the nickel, each one a fascinating story on their own.

The images of desolation and despair about skid row portrayed by the media (Los Angeles Times and KCET for example), that in skid row everyone is crazy, a prostitute, a drug addict or whatever label main stream Angelenos and the rest of society associate with this area, although a reality and does sell news, fall very short of painting the entire portrait. We shudder, to say the least, when it is alluded through comments on a PBS station that everyone and everything in skid row is garbage or it is useless.

There is an equally important segment of skid row inhabitants that has been largely, perhaps purposely, abandoned by the media and consequently by the vast majority of the population. They live productive lives and try to make the best of the situations, hoping and working hard for an opportunity to do so. Not everyone is blessed with a safety net. But for a second imagine what would you do or would happen to you if your house burned to the ground or became awash in a flow and lost your job, your car, your family; just imagine what would you do?

Well here we have a group of ten to twelve individuals whom given their experiences in skid row and through utilizing drama, music, and poetry have formed a group theater called "Dramastage-Qumran" and whom, after seeing so much violence around their surroundings, introduce a new group or concept: " The Anti-Violence Situation Coping Group". The goal of Dramastage-Qumran is to utilize Community Theater to impact the violence found in the individual, home school and the community. And even after one performance we are able to reach one member of the audience; then our mission statement has been fulfilled.

We can give you examples of individuals and members of this cast, whom at some point where a difficult choice had to be made they did and ended in skid row. One of them had to leave her son behind with her mother. But she could not stay and had to wander through the streets. Her story is heartbreaking, as it is for example, the young import from New York and wanting to become an actress, well she hasn't made it yet, but she can; if given a chance. Some others have been the victims of some kind of violence, either domestic, emotional or other types. They all got together and saw that no one was paying attention to them. They are not drug dealers, or prostitutes.
They are human beings that deserve to be treated in high respect. In some way surviving the streets of L. A. if you have nowhere to go are hunting for those who have been blessed to have a home; or some kind of safety.

As Dr. Solomon, another character in the play, says that "violence is not the answer". That is not just a mantra for Dramastage -Qumran, it is a responsibility to other members of the community who are neither addicts or otherwise. They subsist and survive the rough streets of skid row everyday. And for some reason, they, we ended up here where we are. There is a need in the main living area of downtown Los Angeles, that people have equal services as anyone else; yet they don't. They live in one of the poorest, poorest areas of the city, and what is worse, no one wants them anywhere else. But also we have the phenomena of gentrification; and no more affluent people are moving in the area. What is happening to this other inhabitants of the area who were there first? They are either being pushed away,a s they are harassed by the police and are forced to move on somewhere else. But for some others, downtown L. A. is home, and they see it everyday that we have dogs and cats living in high rise apartments or trendy lofts, the homeless are not only being ignored but tried to make go away.

As a rule, Dramastage-Qumran is not here to judge, but rather to show and present to other people in the community, that not everyone is what everyone else somewhere else thinks of the area. They have set time aside from their daily comings and goings to get together and work really hard at bringing community theater of quality to the members of the community and specially those who might be interested. Dramastage-Qumran believes that it is through the showcasing of local talent such stereotypes can b broken or hopefully eradicated.

If you would like to see "Surviving the Nickel" succeed and prove the critics wrong, that a skid row community based theater group will not succeed; please get involved by checking out our contact us page.

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