It is a Saturday morning, the sun is rising in the east, and after a short ride up Foothill Boulevard from my home in Lake View Terrace. On this windy October morning I am riding my bicycle down Polk street, away from Foothill Boulevard and the 210 highway. The directional change, according to my map, is the first of three turns that I will be making before I reach my final destination.
As I wait for the stoplight to change at the intersection of Polk and Glenoaks, I notice a large group of adolescents walking on the opposite side of the street; as I make my second to last turn off of Polk and onto De Garmo Ave, I see another cluster of youth walking– between the two groups I counted approximately thirty people. The group of youth walking down De Garmo Ave turned onto Lyle Avenue. Nearly half of the group was walking down Lyle Avenue by the time I had reached the closed-off street. As I cycled closer, I noticed many more people walking up and down the street; moving tables, chairs, shovels, gloves, waste bins, baskets, drinks, and food.
“Wowzers,” I thought to myself, “this is going to be big.”
After checking myself in at the welcoming table I began to explore Lyle Avenue. I had been informed that the “Lyle Avenue Neighborhood Pride Day” was a multifaceted event that would involve things such as the collection of discarded waste; the painting of houses and gates; landscaping and even gardening. As the morning sun began to rise over the houses on Lyle street, I realized that the large group of adolescents that I had seen walking on Glenoaks Boulevard had arrived. I confirmed later that many of the adolescents present during the event were from Sylmar High School– some of which were part of the school’s baseball team.
Essentially, the Lyle Avenue Neighborhood Pride Day brought together well over sixty
students (from various educational institutions, including Sylmar High School, Los Angeles Mission College, St Didacus Catholic School, UCLA & CSUN, ); a half dozen grassroots and not-for-profit organizations (including Home Matters, Take Root Los Angeles, For Learners of All Ages Revolution, Neighborhood Housing Services, Life Gets Better Together), and even individuals with interests in community politics (members of the Green Party; Los Angeles City Council member Felipe Fuentes; local educator Patty Lopez; members of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council). More importantly, however, Pride Day brought together the residents of Lyle Street. Without a doubt pride day unified these people in a big way.
In closing, I find that events such the Lyle Avenue Neighborhood Pride Day are successful for two reasons; one, they bring together businesses and nonprofit organizations, community members and residents under the umbrella of a common goal and interest–in this instance, neighborhood beautification; two, the events provide a forum for people (residents, students, community advocates) to work alongside one another in a safe space that has a tangible, measurable goal in mind. The event allowed people to work together on a collective goal.
My belief is that when we possess the proper tools to complete a task, all things are possible. What I witnessed this past Saturday was a community empowered with the proper tools to enact change. How this community will move forward in the days, weeks, months, and years head will be up to them.
To the three families (Wilfredo & Angelica Grijalva; Nellie Barragan; Humberto & Adriana Bañuelos), who opened up your homes, and provided the space for a community come together (to paint, to garden, to have meal) and be part of something larger than themselves, I say “thank you,” with all of my heart. Yes, thank you for showing us what an empowered, focused and motivated community can do.
Michael Ray De Los Angeles Menjivar