State street park, a comfort zone on the street to me.
I’d go there to play on the swings,
I’d feel the breeze passing through my untamed frizzy hair,
Through leaves of the trees and the rattling grass,
Balancing the warmth of the sun enough to be able to withstand the sun a little while longer.
There are times that the sun gives streaks of golden sunlight on the grass,
The grass that has just been showered with water.
And if you listen closely it’s almost as if mother nature is trying to communicate with you.
This is the park where the recreation center instructor taught me how to play the guitar,
Where I first stepped foot on a stage to perform “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles in cold December.
The first terrifying moment of my childhood,
My heart was pounding and my hands were sweating,
I felt as if I was a contestant on American Idol,
It was only that the recreation center was encouraging me to practice the confidence I carry within me.
Seven years later when I visit this park it’s only a reminder of how I used to feel towards it.
Returning to it now, I see the saddening truth of it all.
There is a fence dividing the park and the street that gets smashed into the basketball court,
Threatening the lives of the youngsters playing in the court.
Young drunk girls peeing on the grass,
The gang that once used to run the park are all cracked out, not going anywhere with their lives,
Fools only looking for trouble asking the kids “what street they claim.”
In a house across the street the dealers sell drugs to anyone who needs a fix.
The police continuously make rounds around the park day and night staring down anyone who looks suspicious.
I can only reminisce about how I felt,
It’s a different life at State street park when you’re all grown up.
In the first half of the 20th century Boyle heights had a diversity of Japanese, Latinos, and Jewish people, but because of racist banks the Jewish were run out. They couldn’t borrow money or buy houses even after Bill Phillips helped in the process of bringing all these people together. The banks didn’t want to lend the Jewish people money or decide to reconstruct their homes, forcing them to move out. Economics and racism are pretty much still the same thing in Boyle Heights.
Julieta Galan is a Boyle Heights native and resident of Los Angeles.