The Luster and the Grit

Outside the non-operational art deco Warner Theater in Huntington Park, California.

Alma had a concept in mind for our collaboration sequel: capture a 'naked' Pacific Blvd. in Huntington Park, California. In its rare early morning form, Pacific Blvd. is desolate and bright. In its usual form, the street is brimming with traffic, music and shoppers. She was especially drawn to the outside of the Warner Theater.

Almie has a dedicated passion for art and culture. She gardens, appreciates live music and works to cultivate the art community. Alma is part of the Southeast Los Angeles Collective (or SELACo) and works with the intent to create a special corner where cultural resources for HP and surrounding cities can flourish. She wants to locate spaces where the community can experience art and culture and connect with one another within their own city rather than having to drive far from home to find spaces and events to enjoy that kind of experience.

Huntington Park is where Almie and I met. Gage Middle School, sixth grade. We both grew up within the three square miles of this little city swollen with people. My husband, who grew up in East LA, says that HP is 'ghetto'. But Huntington Park is a beautiful place in my mind. Whenever I think of HP I picture the streets drenched in the golden glow of sunset light, pink skies and all. I am reminded of what it was like to be young and innocent, but I also know what HP looks like to an outsider: grit. Overpopulated with big families and low incomes, littered with fast food wrappers, unknown and squeezed next to industrial Vernon in all its glory, Huntington Park is beautiful only if you believe it can be so much more than what appears on the surface. Are my eyes open or am I blind for seeing it?

It is where I discovered climbing mandarin trees and liquor stores on every corner. It's where sparse backyards with laundry lines doubled as playgrounds. In HP I learned about the poetry of Langston Hughes in Ms. Roberts' seventh grade English class (what does happen to a dream deferred?) and was thrilled to read Gary Soto (Fresno in the 60s wasn't much different from HP in the 90s in my experience). I was one of many twelve year olds who couldn't resist Mexican chile candy or watching a fight after school in the bathroom. It's where we played Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky on our violins in our middle school's full string orchestra. Huntington Park is where I learned that there are glints of beauty glimmering in the grit. I think my eyes are wide open.

2015 Update: Alma has located a local restaurant in the neighboring city of Bell to host live music, local artists and cuisine for a cultural experience event! Will post more once it happens!