East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy

Stay tough, keep your character

For 18 years I lived in the heart of East Los Angeles, City Terrace to be exact. I was born in Glendale, which is a completely different city and environment, but I didn’t grow up there. I’m proud to be part of an exotic neighborhood. My parents brought me to my grandparents’ house in City Terrace, and from that very point on I was brought into this world. I’ve been living in City Terrace for 18 years and counting. I want to stay in East L.A. until at least my mid-20s because I want to see the changes in my environment and build new relationships with new neighbors, like the ones my grandparents and I built with our neighbors down the street.

At 15, I recall living in a different community that does not meet the East Los Angeles borders–Rosemead. I can tell you this: there’s a much different vibe there, even though I only experienced it for 6 months. Then, I moved back to City Terrace with my Grandparents after they they adopted me for personal reasons. The ethnicity in Rosemead was quite distinct. There were mostly Asians with a small group of Latinos. The atmosphere was positive, where kids were all about focusing on their education and seeking a brighter future for themselves. I did find it a little bit intimidating as I was an outsider in a school with higher educational demands. That just motivated me to succeed and make a difference in life. Everybody was friendly. There weren’t really gangs except for some big Asian ones, but they were more high class about their businesses. As for East L.A. the atmosphere is neutral. It’s not negative nor positive, but it’s just right. When it comes to school, not everybody wants to attend school and go to college. Some would rather go to parks and smoke weed every day like they are on Cloud 9. After I graduated from Garvey Intermediate Middle School, I returned to City Terrace later that summer and enrolled in Esteban. E. Torres High School, Renaissance Academy.

It was back to the barrio, a city where you build your character and personality. Back to a city where you can’t be a softy, since it makes you vulnerable to the local gangsters. I just wish we didn’t have “hardcore gangsters” because it gets annoying when I get hit up or think about the worst scenario of getting run up and dying on the spot. I’m not speaking from a gangster’s perspective because I’m not gang affiliated, but I can be intimidating because East L.A. made me like that. Strong character is a major key to living in East L.A. because in life you need to dominate and never let your respect fall. I’m not trying to scare you or anything. I mean, we are not that ghetto. Just be “aware” when you want to wander at night, especially what streets and corners you are standing at because there’s always that “suspect” waiting to cause mayhem.

For my family, the culture in East Los Angeles is amazing. The vibe is positive. My family and I could walk  the streets with no pressure, knowing nothing will happen to us. East Los Angeles helped me keep my composure and character. I will not let anyone disrespect me. For example, it’s sort of like a jail where you can’t be a punk or weakling because, well, you know the story, you’ll be beaten, harassed, and enslaved by the deadliest inmates. Some of East Los Angeles’ worst scenarios are getting approached, getting into a fight, drive-bys, you name it. You might think a teenager is lighting fireworks at night and you turn a blind eye, but tomorrow morning you wake up and find out your neighbor was shot dead. My family lived through everything too. That’s why I know. Based on my experience, it wasn’t always sunny in City Terrace. For my grandparents, finding employment was a real struggle. They were just hustling to find work anywhere to feed my dad and my aunts. Eventually my grandpa worked in the fields to make ends meet. My grandmother packed clothes in Downtown. She later ended up in a jewelry shop making diamond bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. She nearly spent 12 years working through sweat and blood to bring food to the table. Then, I came into the picture in 1997.