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December 02, 2004

The Jungle

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine until my children can walk the streets in freedom, in safety, inpeace of mind. So let it shine!"
-- Rev. Leonard Jackson, Dec 2004

The other day, police and clergy marched on MLK Blvd for peace. Sound familiar? It should. As Robin Harris said more than a decade ago, we're talking about the Ghetto, where the cost of living is going up and the chance of living is going down.

This time it's Eighteenth Street vs the Bloods. It's getting dark in the Jungle so get indoors behind the steel plates, lest you catch a stray bullet. Nothing new. Same as 1986. Same streets, different gangs. The speeches and calls are so familiar. Too bad. There's only one solution, it's called escape. Escape requires mobility, mobility requires skill, skill needs desire and discipline. I wonder if they are praying for these things, and yet somehow I doubt it.

Several years ago, I had wanted to bomb (tag with spraypaint) the Crenshaw Wall with the URL for my website. And someday I may yet do it. VisionCircle is ready for primetime. One or two more authors and it could be awesome - it's already growing in strength and relevance. If I put the URL on the Wall in spraypaint, how many hits would I get from around the way? Hard to say. But answers are out here, if people would stop listening to the same tired voices.

Aahh but street knowledge is irreplacable. There's no substitute for it. It's the only thing that will save you in the streets. The question is whether or not you are destined to remain there.

I drove my family through the Jungle a few weeks ago. I forgot the context of why we were there. Maybe it was just after a big dinner at the New Panda Buffet on MLK that was originally built as a Sizzler. I drove up Stevely where my girlfriend used to live in 1979 just before the dawn of the Crack Wars. We drove around to Hillcrest School and Cocoa and I recalled the beginning of the bad old days as well as the good old days before them.

See when the Jungle was first called the Jungle, it was all good. I clearly remember when those apartments were brand new and their pools sparkled. I recall how much everybody wanted them, especially those folks who had previously lived in Liemert Park when that was the spot. The difference, of course, was that Liemert Park had homes as well as apartments and that provided stability. But by the mid 80s, Liemert started to slide downhill to the point where black college students at USC began to swear off it as the premier spot for off campus housing.

Perhaps today in these post-riot, post-Gates days, relations between cops and communities can get to the level of trust necessary to hand the smackdown to the criminal element. It wasn't long ago when gang sweeps meant that basically every black and latino kid got picked up. When investigations showed something like a measly 8% criminal booking rate for these mass arrests, already hostile relations got worse. That's a lot of BS to undo, but it will have to happen, and that's why this march, as futile as I think it is, symbolizes the positive relations which must occur if gangbanging is to be made less deadly.

There's a difference of course. 18th Street is a Latino gang. Blackfolks still remaining in the Jungle and Liemert are among those left behind. Black Flight is real too. View Park may not be far enough away in the future - remember how a very popular black restauranteur was gunned down in Ladera Heights this year. My old neighborhood is growing more and more Hispanic. There's a new dynamic afoot - let's see how it goes down.

In the meantime, there's the old standby of exodus. It's a strategy that's worked since the days of Moses.

Posted by mbowen at December 2, 2004 02:02 PM

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