Today was a good day. A day in which I saw good people come together to address issues facing the community. We came together, not representing a specific situation or idea, but to move our community forward.
Today we held a peace march. A march showing that people from Anaheim could have a civil discourse with city officials, police officers, and other community members. We walked in silence. And it was powerful. We showed that you can get your message across without words, shouting, or using expletives.
The message was simple:
We are Anaheim, Somos Anaheim. We are families; we are neighbors; we are students; we are workers. We are here to work with all who want to make Anaheim a better place for all citizens. This is Anaheim; This is our city.
It was a beautiful day. A day of empowerment. Walking in silence through the streets of Anaheim, I’m reminded of the wonderful opportunities my family has been afforded. Passing through the Anaheim Museum, I remember this city was founded by German immigrants in the 1850s. 100 years later, Latinos followed suit. This city that received my grandparents with open arms. As told by them, it was a city of laborers, hard workers, and anyone who wanted a chance at the American dream. Arriving in the 1970s, my family found work in orange groves, strawberry fields, and manufacturing jobs. A generation later, this city would see my parents grow up and be firsts to graduate from high school. My mother would become a banker and father, a construction worker. In the late 1990s, they put their education to work and started their own small business in Anaheim.
I spent the first 20 years of my life in this city. I attended its schools, went to St. Boniface on Sundays, and swam at the Pearson Park pool. I, like my parents and most of my family, would become a proud graduate of Anaheim High School. Go Colonists! From there it would be off to Cal State Fullerton to be the first in my family to attain a bachelor’s degree. My experience in this city has been transformative for myself and my family. I can say… As the city gave to us, we gave back to it.
My roots are in this city. At times, it’s difficult to espouse that I am with my community, but not actually living in it.
You can see from above, how troubled I’ve been from the national press. How, everyday this last week I’ve had to defend my hometown from those who don’t know it and only have seen the negative aspects. As the news unfold, I am reminded that there is much work to be done in my beloved city. Work that includes improving our educational efforts, employment opportunities, and housing options for the citizens of Anaheim.
Education. As with many urban areas in America there is a gross educational disparity in Anaheim. On one side of town, you have my alma mater, Anaheim High School, with 3400 total students of which 94% are Latino. A school were only 12.9% completed the A-G requirements, a must for any Cal State or UC. Of those 3400 students, 93% are first generation students (if and when they attend college). 84% of the students receive free or reduced lunch. This hints towards the low socioeconomic area the students and families live in.
To have a civically engage community we need them to be educated. We need more resources in our schools, after-school programs, college access programs, and more.
Employment. As the city continues to grow its platinum triangle/resort area, we need to hire people from within the community. Much of the plight of our city, and cities throughout the country are the un/underemployment rates facing our communities, especially low-income communities for color. As we revitalize the city, the jobs created should be filled with citizens of Anaheim. At the same time, we need to expand career training and adult re-enter education programs. The city has created the “Anaheim Enterprise Zone” to help its citizens and business owners to enhance the quality of life for all. Successful initiatives need to be replicated and fully-funded.
Housing. Many of the last ten years have rallied city hall to create affordable housing options for its resident. Much of the re-development of the city has lead to a type of gentrification. 100s of Apartments knocked down throughout the city to build new green homes, where old residents can no longer afford the costs. Busing these residents to marginally areas and increase the concentration of low-incoming housing. At times the city council has been called out for pander to tourist, resort developers, and Disneyland, while neglecting the average citizen of Anaheim.
We need to have discourse with civility on ways to educate, employ, and house our residents of Anaheim. Find ways for to create positive change in our community. This can only happen, when we work together. Like today, were children, college students, elected officials, concerned citizens came together to show Anaheim is united. We are Anaheim, and we want to find solutions to problems that affect us all.