I’ve lived in the City of Commerce, next to the East Los Angeles (ELA) border, for about 12 years. I remember moving to the City of Commerce when I began elementary school. My parents moved from South Central to the East Los Angeles area because they wanted to live in a better neighborhood. People had broken into our house a couple times, and we would witness multiple gunshots every week. Unfortunately, ELA and the City of Commerce have similar demographics. My parents believed coming into a mostly Hispanic neighborhood would be a safer environment to raise three girls because they felt comfortable around “their people.” They enjoyed living in Commerce for a couple of years, until an increase in violence occurred in the neighborhood. We have witnessed crimes in our neighborhood, from robberies to gang-related incidents every month. My family witnessed the death of my friend’s uncle a few steps away from our front yard, bleeding out from multiple gunshot wounds. We aren’t allowed out at a certain time because of the violence around the city. Growing up in ELA, I encountered many friends who turned to gang violence. My parents live in fear that something might happen to us every time we walk out of our door. Sometimes, the only place I feel safe is Bristow Park.
When you step out of your car and inhale, you smell the burning of charcoal and carne asada. When you take a look around, you see families swinging at a piñata with a broom stick, and you hear the laughter and screams of people enjoying their time at the park. You look straight ahead and you see bungalows for families to have gatherings and basketball courts for people to come together to play a friendly game. On the left, you notice there is a playground for kids to interact with each other, and at the end of the park, you see two baseball fields. Growing up in Bristow Park, I spent my days hanging out with friends or involved in sports. I always felt safe there, because the employees who worked there saw me grow up. I have a very close bond with them; they are like my second family. They treat us as if we were one of their own kids. Bristow Park always has activities for kids of all ages. There are cooking classes, arts and crafts, movie nights, and sports. The teen club I was involved in would come up with ideas to help the community. For example, we did community service, such as cleaning the city. We went around the City of Commerce collecting trash and painting the walls to cover up graffiti. Bristow Park is the reason I got into sports in high school. I started playing in the park when I was about 8 years old and stopped going when I got into high school. I would play volleyball, basketball, and softball with all my friends and coaches. The park was always full of kids running around.
Today, if you go to Bristow Park, it is empty because of the increased violence. There has been a rise in fear, and nobody feels safe at this park. We constantly hear about fights in this park through word of mouth. We see cops’ cars stationed in the park every single day, patrolling the area. I still can’t believe this is the park I grew up with and had all my childhood memories. Bristow Park was my second home, a place where I felt loved and safe. Sadly, Bristow Park isn’t a place I can call home anymore.