My parents emigrated from Baja, Mexico to Watts in the mid-1970s to realize the “American Dream.” But Watts was not how they had imagined America. Growing up I saw the cyclical reality of poverty, drug abuse and gang warfare. Walking to school I would see bodies, blood, and altars. Although these circumstances brought many hardships in my life, I also feel fortunate to have grown up in a place that is so unique from its historical role in the black power movement, to the arts, to the cultural mixture of blacks and Latinos. But Watts is too often voiceless. I want to share the stories of my neighborhood and bring forward a renewed perspective of South Los Angeles — issues that pertain to the immigrant community, gentrification, foreclosures and the Black community, and LGBT issues. I actively try to contribute to Watts whether through community organizing or through sharing my story of growing up in South L.A. I am also working to obtain my degree in photography, and I write fiction and poetry about growing up Chicana.
23, Jordan High School graduate, speaks Spanish
Three generations of my family have lived in South Los Angeles, and I have lived in the Baldwin Hills section my entire life. Although that area of South L.A. has gained the reputation of being a predominantly middle-class, African-American neighborhood and is often referred to as “the black Beverly Hills,” that is not the whole story. Not all of Baldwin Hills is wealthy, and the media neglects covering the poverty and lack of resources that also exist. While living in my neighborhood, I have always felt that I needed to travel to other parts of L.A. to gain better resources, an education, and entertainment. Unfortunately, my neighborhood has never felt safe enough to walk to various places in comparison to other regions of L.A. I have attended school both in my immediate community as well as in the greater Los Angeles area. As a result of the positive and negative experiences I’ve had in my neighborhood, I have always been interested in learning the ways in which I can give back and improve conditions in the southern Los Angeles region. I am a sociology major at Loyola Marymount University and I had the privilege of taking a community organizing course this past semester. I feel that my experience as a Reporter Corps community contributor will allow me to educate families and the local youth by discussing community events and resources that serve as a positive outlet for stimulating personal growth.
19, Immaculate Heat graduate, Loyola Marymount University student
I moved to Watts with three of my six siblings when I was 4 to live with my grandmother. She had moved back from Panama to take care of us and found low-income housing in Watts. The majority of my life I stayed with my grandmother since my mother struggled with drug addiction. Although each resident from Watts comes from a different background with a special story to tell, nearly all of us have one thing in common: we were raised in poverty. Like many of my neighbors, I was also raised in poverty and saw the effect it has on a child. Growing up, almost everybody I knew did not have a father in the household, my friends were raised by teenage mothers and some became teenage mothers themselves, and most struggled with school because they did not have resources and their parents did not have education. I believe awareness and education can motivate people to break the cycle of poverty and negative habits, thus creating a better life for themselves. As a writer, I am dedicated to serving my community and educating the people who live there through my writing.
21, Frederick Douglass High School graduate, Long Beach City College student
My family emigrated from Guerrero, Mexico when I was 2 years old. I lived in South Los Angeles for most of my life. My grandparents taught my father to make tamales and they sold them for 16 years in South Los Angeles. Growing up, my mom didn’t like for me to go outside and play because she thought the neighborhood was too dangerous. Although I did witness a shooting once, I never saw South Los Angeles through my mom’s eyes. For me, my neighborhood wasn’t bad. For me it was filled with families and people that liked to go outside and play in the park and enjoy themselves. I want to explore afterschool programs in South L.A., because I didn’t see many growing up, nor did it seem to be an issue people were aware of. I am passionate about writing, helping my community, and immigration reform. Through Reporter Corps I hope to be able to inspire my community involved in trying to pass immigration reform this year. I also want to engage my community in education and youth issues. I believe that writing can empower my community and bring positive changes.
19, Big Picture Film and Theater Arts Charter School, East Los Angeles College student, speaks Spanish
My family has lived in South Los Angeles for nearly three generations. My grandparents remember the treachery of the Watts Riots of 1965 just as vividly as they can recall their first time witnessing the genre-bending genius of George Clinton & the Funkadelics at a house party in Compton. And let me tell you their words are unlike anything you’d read in a history book. In the midst of gang wars, riots, and disparity my grandparents would tell me these stories and they’ve worked to instill me with pride, hope, and dignity throughout my life. I always assumed they told me these stories as a reminder that we’ve been here before and we’ve made it through and we have the power to get through it again. For this reason I feel storytelling is important, especially for the improvement of the community. Stories are records of what has happened in the past to form both who you are and how you’ll behave in the future. Through Reporters Corps South LA, I hope to bring light and voice to the overshadowed stories of the streets, the people, and the schools in hopes of instilling all South Central Angelinos with the same pride, hope, dignity and attachment I feel for this city.
23, Saint Bernard Catholic High School graduate, University of California San Diego graduate
I am from a large, proud family from Oaxaca, Mexico. In their town most speak an indigenous language, Zapotec, as well as some Spanish. In 1989 my parents left Mexico in search of work and moved to South L.A., where I was born. As a participant in Reporter Corps I am interested in focusing on two issues: special education and perceptions of Latino and black youth. I was in special ed for three years and if my father had not helped me leave, I may have been stuck in it. I would also like to also show the positive and the untold stories of the “wild jungles” of L.A. Attending Reporter Corps will allow me to gain more experience in journalism and to help me understand about my major when I attend UC Riverside.
18, Foshay High School graduate, University of California at Riverside incoming freshman, speaks Spanish and Zapotec
My parents are both Salvadoran and emigrated in the mid 1980s due to the civil war. They moved to South Central, which is where I was born and raised and the place I call home. After graduating from Manual Arts High School in 2010, I spent two years at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. I took a year off from the university in order to come back home to do organizing and political education work with the Community Rights Campaign, which fights against the school-to-prison pipeline — the phenomenon that pushes students of color, primarily black and Latino students out of schools and into the criminal justice system. As an intern for Reporter Corps, I am looking forward to exploring how the education system, transit, housing, and other issues impact residents’ daily lives. Most importantly I am committing myself to see that the information, news and resources shared in Intersections South L.A are accessible and reach the community.
20, Manual Arts High School graduate, Evergreen State College student, speaks Spanish
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