Paul of "The Virus"
Paul of "The Virus"
Punks always get a bad rep. There’s a lot of misconceptions about who we are as a subculture and as individuals. Looking from the outside-in, we might seem like just a bunch of hooligans causing trouble. But it goes beyond that. Punks are one giant family. We always have each other’s backs, and when we are together, there is no judgement amongst one another; you are free to be you without hesitations.

When I was twelve years old, my mother kicked me out and I was living on the streets in the ghetto, washed-up small town of Oxnard, California. I was an alcoholic doing drugs. I didn’t have many choices presently available to me. There, your only employment options were becoming a farmer, a pot dealer, or McDonald’s cashier. Back then, I was pretty determined to finish school, so after two years of being homeless, I enrolled in high school and made a few new friends. They all had similar morals and values to me, and all had stories of turmoil in their life. The majority of them shared a small living space with each other and welcomed me with open arms, giving me a place to stay that eventually became my home. We helped each other in whatever way was needed.

Jimmy and Josmez the hippy
My best friend Jimmy and Josmez the hippie

They showed me it was possible to retain a sense of myself. We went to shows and wreaked havoc all over town. We did everything ourselves. We organized and promoted gigs, put out our own music, published zines, we even made and sold our own products, such as patches. We believed in “anyone can do it.” You can suck at something but to us, it didn’t matter. As long as you try, you were more than worthy of being called a friend. 

After I had found out I was pregnant with my now three-year-old daughter, I figured I’d become an unwanted burden as I was with my former family. This was not the case. My best friend took on extra hours at work so that he could buy double the food so my daughter and I wouldn’t go hungry. My Punk friends were the only ones who didn’t scrutinize me for being a teenage mum. They all helped me quit any substance I was on, and when everyone gave me dirty looks, my friends gave them dirty looks back. 

Tanless Tanner, John Banks of "The Shitheads", homeless woman
Tanless Tanner, John Banks of "The Shitheads" and a homeless woman

There’s an apparent disconnect from us and mainstream society. Sometimes humans act as if we have nothing in common with each other. There is an inherent lack of empathy when it comes to acknowledging how others feel. Punks came together based on their realization and recognition of their dismissal from mainstream society. The isolation from society led to the formation of a community and thus, a subculture is born. Our solidarity created an understanding within the scene. We all had shared experiences of rejection and loss and attempted to regain a sense of ourselves.

Truth is, most of us are poor and have lived on the streets at some point in our lives, but we always have each other. Now 20 years old, I look back at my youth in pride. I came up from nothing, and thanks to the good will of my punk friends, I am doing okay.

Stereotypes aside, we love each other. We love each other for our flaws, for our stupidity, for our craziness and all. Punk will never die as long as we remain true to ourselves with the help of our community. We’re a family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Punks are notorious for having a negative association within society, when in reality many of us are driven and motivated by each other to do better. Not only for ourselves, but for the community as well.

Sean, Robert  of "Tartar Control", Kevin, Elvin, Alex Hall of "The Shitheads", "Sublime", Rissa Martinez
Sean and Robert [in vest and ties] of Tartar Control, Kevin Elevin and Alex Hall of "The Shitheads", "Sublime", and me at "The Testicle Difficulties" Album Release Party in Whittier

-Rissa Martinez-


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