All Biked Up and Nowhere to Go: Four Boys in Florence-Firestone

Alexis, Carlos, Victor, and Erick pose with their bikes along Hooper St. in Florence-Firestone

FOUR BOYS WITH BIKES between the ages of 9 and 13 stand in a yard along Hooper St. in the Florence-Firestone neighborhood, looking warily at me as I pull up on my bike. Victor, a solid kid with a swipe of grease across his cheek, tightens his grip on a wrench as the others glance nervously at each other. Strangers tend not to show up in people’s yards asking questions very often around here, and these kids are clearly not sure what to make of the situation.

After some introduction, I ask, “Are you headed out for a ride somewhere?”

Victor gestures to the bike laid out like a corpse in front of him and says he needs parts to fix it, but isn’t sure if he can get to the place that sells them because he’s afraid of getting jacked on his way there.

It’s happened before, he says. His bike was snatched out from under him by a gang member that lives “just right over there,” he arches his arm behind his head and points around the corner.

“So, you know who took it,” I say.

“Yeah.”

“But you didn’t get it back.”

“Nah,” he looks uncomfortable and stares down at his wrench.

He had gone to try to get it back with no luck. Then, the kids that stole it sent someone to beat him up. And they continued to “mad dog” him for up to a year later, he says. Undaunted, he recruited his brother-in-law to drive him back to try one more time.

It was a bad idea.

“Good thing the windows were bulletproof,” he shakes his head.

I turn to the other three boys.

“You ever get jacked?”

“Yep,” says a gangly Alexis and promptly clams up. The other two nod, but remain silent.

“You want to tell me about it?” I prod.

Alexis looks down and smiles shyly. He doesn’t like talking about it, he says.

“Your mothers must be nervous about you being out in the street, no?” I ask.

They shuffle their feet a bit, looking like they want to pretend they’re too old to have their mothers worry about them. But in the end, they nod: “Yeah.”

Why this Matters for Long-Term Health
In truth, their moms didn’t really need to be too worried about them going anywhere. They’d learned where they could and could not go the hard way. And, depressingly, what they’d learned was that it was best if they stuck to riding the length of one or two blocks next to where they lived.

Their situation — one faced by a lot of kids in lower-income neighborhoods where gang activity is a constant concern — presents a dilemma. Since 1980, obesity rates have tripled, with the highest incidence being in African-American and Hispanic communities — groups that comprise the bulk of the population in South L.A. Nationally, nearly a fifth of all African-American children, and almost a quarter of Mexican-American children, are obese. Around 40% of adolescents in both groups are overweight. Besides healthy eating, the obvious solution is to get kids moving. But what if, like these kids, some of them don’t have the luxury of being able to move around? How do we teach kids to be healthy adults if they are not able to practice being healthy kids?

Finding Community-Based Solutions
Florence-Firestone is a community that has enjoyed a reduction in violence over the years and, according to neighbors, is a vibrant community on the rise. Even so, there are lingering issues like safety for youth in the streets that are tougher to tackle, and not uncommon across much of South L.A. Getting a handle on the parameters of the problem is not easy, however. Youth may not report an assault (some don’t even tell their parents to keep them from worrying) or theft of a bike and a call to the 77th St. Division confirmed that the LAPD does not keep separate statistics on bicycle theft.

In short, as Donald Rumsfeld once so clearly articulated, we have some known unknowns on our hands. We know the problem is out there, we know it has deep implications for how communities use their streets, but the problem itself is a bit of a moving target, making it hard to generate comprehensive solutions.

Consequently, it may be best to look for answers within the communities that live these concerns every day. Plagued by similar problems in the Watts area, for example, the WLCAC and the East Side Riders initiated the “Life Lanes Safe Passage Project” in 2011. The project established a safe loop for kids to ride around within Watts and was launched with the support of the LAPD, Sheriff’s Department, and the California Highway Patrol. Most notably, because the lanes cross through the turf of a number of gangs, an integral part of the project entailed securing commitments from local-area gang members to allow kids on bikes to move unmolested through these areas.

The lanes have been moderately successful in that the route is often used by the East Side Riders on their monthly excursions. In between those group rides, however, the situation is less secure.

Acknowledging this, Tim Watkins (WLCAC CEO) said that what they would really like to do is hire a few local folks to ride the lanes several times a day. They could either accompany kids moving through the area like mobile crossing guards or just be a reminder to those in the area to uphold the agreement. It could create jobs, keep the community engaged on the issue of safe passage, and create a healthier environment for kids.

Unfortunately, he stated, the WLCAC is still in search of resources to make that happen.

Implemented or not, the Life Lanes model highlights what it may take to transform neighborhoods: active, visible, daily participation in the implementation of changes by a cross-section of community members until new practices take on a momentum of their own.

Complicated as solutions like this might be, they are worth exploring for the sake of kids in tougher neighborhoods throughout the city. Victor and his friends should be able to safely ride a distance greater than just a few blocks while they are still kids. It’s still hard to believe that that is as far as they go, especially because Carlos claims he’s been riding for a few years.

“Really? Just a block or so?” I ask the boys. “That’s as far as you go?”

“Well…” a stout Erick grins excitedly, “I did ride up to the Burger King!”

Great, I think to myself. He risked life and limb to get to a fast food joint. That was four blocks away. Solutions to help these kids out cannot come soon enough…

  • Great to see Sahra doing this reporting. Thanks for adding to our understanding of cycling safety in the city.

  • FAILblog

    A great article that is sad to read.  Nice work!

  • Josef Bray-Ali

    I don’t get it. Where is TAPman to complain about how these kids are spreading the plague?

    All bullshit aside, I think that the beginning of a solution to this problem is to have a BikeSummer or BikeWinter style event in these communities. If there is enough local interest, it can be done. That kicked off a lot of positive changes in LA, why not this part of LA County?

    This type of thing doesn’t need any government or non-profit work, but does require volunteers from the community to figure out whether or not they want to do it.

    Additionally, maybe the Ridazz in metropolitan LA can host more rides in this area? I don’t know … there are enough problems in my own communities like this, but it would be a worthwhile effort if people saw their streets as routes to escape and not walls to their prison.

  • sahra

    Thanks, @f17cf106abbad10e61ef66473033695c:disqus  (and @facebook-100000206014002:disqus and @b4215d84b371c5dec5df42f5720a2c29:disqus )

    We are co-sponsoring an event at the WLCAC with the East Side Riders on March 17th to celebrate biking. More info will be up next week, but, as of now, we will be riding a loop through the neighborhoods of Watts, Florence-Firestone, and Compton, returning to the WLCAC for lunch, an urban planning workshop with James Rojas, t-shirt and helmet painting, and a photobooth (from which a poster with a mosaic of neighborhood faces will be created to be left at the WLCAC). All are welcome to join in. (And if anyone has leads on possible food or t-shirt donations sources, we’d love to hear about them!!)

    Btw… the kids featured were thrilled to hear about the pending ride and should be there on the 17th.

  • Anonymous

    C’mon, I never said any human was spreading plague.  

    Vermin (rats, pigeons, etc.) are attracted to food, including Skittles™.  Vermin carry fleas.  Fleas carry “Yersinia pestis”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubonic_plague

    And other disease.  Sheesh!

    It’s a good thing I didn’t call it by its other name: “The Black Death”!

    Oh, and critters poop and chew through wires.

    Look, just ask any tunnel walker in Los Angeles and then ask a tunnel walker in New York what they think of food being available on Rail Transit.

  • Anonymous

    Fully concur.

  • Carter Rubin

    Thanks for writing this Sahra. I think I’ve taken for granted that all communities feel safe to ride just because theres been a dip in violent crime locally. Clearly, we have a ways to go.

  • Honestly, when I read this for the first time I wanted to scream.

  • True Freedom

    Infuriating!!  It’s crap that these kids have to worry about such things instead of enjoying a period of life never recaptured.  Starting at age 7, we used to ride our bikes across town to the local university and hunt for spots to stunt.  There were bad parts of town, but they were “over there” and we never had to enter. 

  • Ubrayj02

    Damien, this is what life has always been like (at least when I was growing up in LA in the 1980’s and 1990’s).

  • This has nothing specifically to do with bicycles. Safe routes and volunteer-based efforts will not help other residents escape crime on their feet or in their own homes. It’ll only be a band-aid for cyclists. You have to look at the overall crime picture. There are several avenues of attack to tackle the problem and here they are in no particular order.

    First, take a look at the culture. “No snitching” attitudes are rampant in these neighborhoods. Work with police to root out criminals. This means informing on a brother, a cousin, whatever. They shouldn’t leave it up to God’s will. They shouldn’t glorify those arrested or killed in their chosen profession, gangbanging, as “soldiers.” You see these sentiments expressed quite a bit on the LA Times Homicide blog. Attack these attitudes hard. Make it shameful to think this way, just as liberals shame people who say “racist” things. Don’t chalk up bad behavior as “cultural misunderstandings.” http://www.startribune.com/local/stpaul/139557938.html

    Let the police do their jobs. Don’t get in the way of gang injunctions and police who know who the gangbangers are and what they are up to. If Chuey can’t see his brother because his brother decided to roll with The 8th Street Faygos or something, oh woe is him. I see these techniques akin to ordering a dangerous person to stay away from someone, and they exist for good reason. 

    Other cultural things to look at include making birth control use more prevalent. Airdrop condoms all over the place. The burden of excessive children keep a lot of households in poverty. You’ll see a news report about hungry kids, and then they show the family. “Guillermo and his six siblings live out of a…” For crying out loud. Toning down the Catholicism among Latinos would help. Not sure how you do *that*. I should know. I was raised that way.

    Look at the economics. Repeal the minimum wage. This will encourage businesses to hire young men with no skills, little work ethic and no experience. When I was a college student I was able to work for nothing in exchange for experience and training. I don’t see why a person cannot agree to work for $5 an hour in exchange for something to put on a resume. Right now, they aren’t even thinking of a resume.

    You may think I’m going to attack welfare. Not so. I want to see public assistance expanded *for men*. The benefits of welfare reform accrued mostly to women. Women continue to enjoy the privilege of assistance while men are hunted down like dogs for child support. A child needs a father in his life, and that’s the number 1 problem in these neighborhoods. Make every possible effort to put fathers back into the lives of children. Here’s a good article on the subject: http://www.brookings.edu/articles/2006/0819welfare_haskins.aspx

    “Men generally do not qualify for cash welfare, child care, or Medicaid, and they qualify for an EITC that is worth only a tenth as much as the mothers’ EITC. The only major benefit for which they qualify is food stamps—to go along with continual pressure from child support and, for many, incarceration.”

    I am weary of welfare dependence, but the same reforms that benefit women could also benefit men. If we must have assistance, men must be able to participate on the level of women. Otherwise, we should phase most programs out.

    Make it easier to get a conceal carry permit in this state. It seems that the only people in California who can conceal carry are gang members and certain politicians (the same ones who do not support your right to carry). Enable residents to take their lives into their own hands and defend themselves against attack. If the parents (where are they?) of the kids in this story go along with them on their bike rides, the parent can actually protect their kids from being jacked. 

    And that’s just to start. 

  • Truclippfan

    Josef ESR does alot for this community and continue to change the lives of kids in the community. Its a work in progress and yes we do need Non Profits to help bring resources to help teach the driver in this community the rules of the road. We hold bike ride every month and bike clinics at local Roosevelt Park fro the summer months. To have little to no money i think were doing a Great Job in this under served community.

  • sahra

    @twitter-16109589:disqus you offer up a lot of stuff and i’m not going to touch the gun/conceal carry thing or the welfare stuff. it’s true that bicycling/safer streets need to be part of a wider solution…they are not enough on their own. i think we’ll disagree on some points about how to do that, but agree that solutions need to be multi-faceted.

    *fyi and for the information of all who will read this: the following is in no way an endorsement of gangs. i am not an apologist for gangs or criminal activity… what follows is part observation and partly drawn from the perspectives kids express have expressed to me–it’s the lay of the land, in other words.

    for the past several years, i have been doing volunteer work with at-risk youth–meaning kids in gangs, kids in tagging crews, kids were formally part of crews, kids whose parents/families are in gangs (one whose father is the head of a gang), and kids whose siblings and friends have been killed by gang violence–for the past several years. what i have learned is that their lives are incredibly complex and that there are a lot of reasons kids get involved in gangs…probably most surprising to people would be things like they really need love and the sense of family they don’t get at home, they are escaping abusive situations (sexual, physical, and/or psychological), they want to belong to something and feel important, they feel the need for protection because they are getting jumped/harassed, or they get into it before they really realize what it means and then they can’t get out. i think the idea that many people have (and I am speaking generally here, not about your comments, spokker) is one that is perpetuated by films–that kids see some blinged-out dope dealer who gets all the chicks and they look up to that. my sense is that that is the minority. a lot of kids in gangs would like to find a way out, but they don’t know
    how to do it without suddenly both very isolated and very vulnerable. and it isn’t like they can just move to a nicer neighborhood–most don’t have the financial ability and, as we saw from the comments about the blue line vendor, kids that present a little tough make other people nervous. and, believe it or not, those kids feel very insecure and nervous when they are out of their element in nicer parts of town. the cultural/class boundaries are hard for both sides to cross.

    probably most surprising to some might be that fact that not all gangs are created equal. a number of them sling dope. some of them of are incredibly violent. others are tagging crews–they mainly get their names out there so people don’t mess with them and they fist-fight other tagging crews (they tend not to use guns or even knives when fighting, although they do seem to like the mini dodger bats. go dodgers…). not all are involved in criminal activity. some are just friends that banded together to protect themselves from everybody else.

    the fact that there are gradations is important…it means that a single solution (like an injunction) is not effective. The girl whose father is the head of a gang, for example, has nowhere else to go–there is no other family she can live with. And she’s a sophomore in high school…she’s stuck and she knows it. a lot of kids are in a similar boat. it also means that legal solutions and greater crackdowns are not enough…a lot of these smaller incidents among crews fly under the radar.

    the fact that there are gradations also means that there are more options for getting kids on the right path than people would think. i can say across the board with no hesitation that none of the kids or adults that i have come across have had anything other than tremendously good, big hearts. (and i know that will sound crazy to many…but i’m not dealing with big dope dealers or the most violent kids for the most part, so there is that caveat) what these people have not often had is a chance to prove that.

    the wlcac has taken this interesting approach to engaging gang members to give them an opportunity to learn to work with each other to invest in their communities. they often have younger siblings and many would not want their siblings to follow in their footsteps. most are looking for opportunities to win respect, above all. will be
    interesting to see how far this approach can take a community. maybe if given a chance, some will step up to the plate. once they do, and find it rewarding, maybe others will follow. i’ve asked the wlcac if i can sit in on some of these leadership meetings to get  a sense of the extent to which this can be a solution. i’ll be sure to let you know.

    be on the lookout for a piece in the next couple of weeks that will be penned by myself with the help of the girl whose father is a gang leader and a few other gang and ex-crew members, including an 18th st. gang member, all of whom have agreed to help me get behind the day-to-day of what happens in the streets.

    none of it is to glorify or legitimize gangs in any way–i’m not a fan of gangs or crews, myself–but to get a lay of the land. if we really want to deal with them and find sustainable ways to make streets safer, we need to know more about why gans and crews act in ways to make them unsafe.

  • sahra

    ***oops, below, that should be “kids that were formerly a part of a crew.”

  • “probably most surprising to people would be things like they really need love and the sense of family they don’t get at home”

    Supporting fatherhood, through laws and culture, would do a lot to help mitigate this reason. 

  • sahra

    yeah, i don’t disagree with the need to support fathers and families–i think that probably everyone agrees with that idea, in theory. and when i see good fathers/two good parents in the homes, i do see kids who have more balance in their lives… the question is how do you do it? what does it mean to support fathers/parents? making that into policy is not so easy. i am doing a documentary photo project following some of these at risk teens, some who are about to become teen fathers (and who themselves do not have fathers who are present). they are determined to be good dads. but they are 17-18. (and yes, they knew about birth control (to answer one of your points above) and had access to it but for whatever reason did not use it…when asked they didn’t have a real reason besides the fact that they didn’t think anything would happen). most of their fathers are not around for reasons that go beyond things that could be fixable by changing welfare and child support practices–substance abuse, domestic violence, they were teen fathers themselves and their relationships fell apart, mental health issues, or their own fathers weren’t around and so they don’t know how to be around, even if they want to try…

    i don’t say any of that to be a naysayer, and again, it isn’t an apologist perspective. i really wish there were easy solutions. the more time i spend with these kids, the more i realize that the issues are so deep and entangled with each other, that the best thing really might be to pin the hopes on reaching youth and testing out the kinds of solutions the wlcac is working on. focusing on youth can’t be the only solution, but youth everywhere want opportunities to prove themselves and get approval. if gangs are the ones that fill that void for them, they will be drawn there. if we can create alternative opportunities where they can get that same sense of validation, that may be what makes them good future parents and community members… but, it’s true. it can’t be the only solution.

  • Spotter Z.

    The comparisons between the articles on train vending and kids facing gangs are inaccurate. There is a legitimate basis for protecting transit riders from harassment. Sure, the Skittles seller might be respectful, but where do you draw the line? How about the chocolate vendor who places the candy on your lap, even though you don’t want it? How about the beggars? Avoiding vermin infestation is another good reason to disallow food vending on the trains.

    During the early years of the Blue Line, there were far fewer problems. Why? Because the patrols were much more frequent. If Metro had spent the $150 million on TAP and fare gates on more patrols, it would be a much safer and pleasant experience; indeed, that was the original idea.

    By contrast, blaming kids who are stuck in a situation they can’t control goes beyond low…and as Sahra pointed out, many kids really don’t have a choice about joining gangs: they either join or they get shot, based on where they live. That doesn’t excuse or justify acceptance of gang membership, but a simplistic “concealed carry and strengthening fathers” dogma won’t solve it either.

  • Anonymous

    And that money would have gone to salaries in Los Angeles, as well as some lunches, etc. being bought along the Blue Line corridor.  Now that money is going to San Diego and on to China!  Yippee!

  • sahra

    @e3d32d54741b40bdb18118a4fbb235ab:disqus  There is a connection between the two articles. I think what got lost in the Metro Diary was the distinction between policy and judgment over the choices Daniel made. I don’t disagree that Metro has failed to make sure that people actually pay to ride or enforce some of its other rules which might make all of its trains more smooth rides. And I don’t disagree that the Blue Line can be a bit crazy and people can sometimes be pushy. But there was a lot of judgment of the vendor himself for trying to find a way to make a living. We’ve only just launched the South LA part of the site, but my goal is to gather these stories from a wide range of folks that, in part, helps make South LA legible to people that are not very familiar with it. I do see a connection between the neighborhoods that the boys live in and the struggles they face and the childhoods of many of these vendors–most grew up in these kinds of neighborhoods and didn’t have the kind of educational or work opportunities that would allow them to move up the ladder very easily. These are historically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Vendors like Daniel would very much like to be doing other things, but have not found it easy to do so. I’m not endorsing his activities, only putting a human face on them. It is easy to see that with kids like those in this story, but we sometimes forget that those kids grow up to adults whose understandings of the world and opportunities are very shaped by those early constraints. That has nothing to do with whether or not having vendors on trains is a good or bad thing for me…Those two things are separate issues. I’m just looking at the choices he made from his perspective. And that’s the connection, for me at least. hopefully, as I accumulate more stories, that larger picture will be easier to see.

    And with that, I think that (much to everyone’s relief) I will not say another word on that Metro Diary piece until the next one… it made my brain explode! Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Spokker

    Spotter Z., liberal and progressive policies are more to blame than the children. Also, their parents.

    But then again, they do not lack free will entirely. They join gangs because they have no choice but they forget the lesson when they are adults and shoot, kill and intimidate others just as they were. I always wondered why they do not join gangs that clean up the community, volunteer at a non-profit or otherwise help kids without a support structure. Is the natural order of things simply violent, or should we look at the culture?

  • Spokker

    Oh, I forgot the other horrible policy that hurts these kids, drug prohibition. Gangs that deal in narcotics, and I wonder if there’s any other kind, are great at recruiting. It isn’t about fucking acceptance and support structure. It’s about recruiting these kids to work in the drug operation. As if gangs are all lovey dovey and about brotherhood and support all of a sudden.

    Legalizing all of it would go a long way toward reducing the violence in these communities. Not all, but a lot.

  • sahra

    @e0e51d16008c8a3c8b9be2f232bd8ae3:disqus you asked why kids don’t just decide to not be involved in the things that are hurting them. this isn’t an ideological question. sometimes being too wedded to an ideology precludes people from being able to see what’s there. i suggest that anyone that has such questions put aside their liberal or conservative lenses and spend a few hours a week at a boys and girls club in a troubled neighborhood or at a high school with a high dropout rate. it is very easy to stand on the outside and rail about ideology and personal responsibility, but i think for anyone that spends significant time with any of these kids, it becomes blindingly obvious why they are not able to just walk away from their upbringings. a lot of these kids grew up in the equivalent of war zones…they suffer from varying levels of PTSD. they react instinctively, and are often not equipped to do otherwise, despite their best intentions or efforts.

    this girl i’ve mentioned several times, for example, is one of the brightest kids i’ve ever met. she’s truly amazing. but she’s been smacked around by her father since she was quite young and
    that is all she knows. she has learned she cannot afford to be
    vulnerable. and so she goes on the offensive before anyone has the
    opportunity to hurt her. she is constantly getting thrown out of class for fighting with teachers and other kids, she’s gotten herself stabbed because she doesn’t know how to walk away from situations, when she was in middle school, she and her best friend were in a park in someone’s territory and when they found her, they blindfolded her, made her kneel next to her friend, and shot her friend in the head, splattering her with his blood. she is so angry and so on edge all the time, blowing up at innocent things because she can’t handle her emotions.what drives me insane is that she is smart enough to know that she’s headed down a path that will likely end up with her shot in some random misunderstanding that she instigated. but she doesn’t have the tools to deal with her anger on her own–something that is frustrating even to her, and there are very limited services available to her.  you multiply that across classrooms and neighborhoods and communities, and it becomes very easy to see why they don’t just all join hands and sing kum-baya. kids may want to be good–so many do. but they are often very busy surviving. it’s really stunning to be in a classroom and realize that 80% of the kids in that classroom, if not more, are coming from some sort of traumatic situation. and if they haven’t experienced it themselves, they have been indelibly touched by it some other way. they don’t know anything different–this is what they live and this is what they see. it doesn’t mean they can’t transcend it, but it requires more investment in supporting teachers in schools and offering services to students so that they have a support system.

    if you’d like to read some of the stories firsthand of some of the kids from Belmont High, a school with a 60% dropout rate, you might try one of the book projects i worked on with inspiring teacher Cassandra McGrath:

    http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/voices-ten-feet-deep/12476692?productTrackingContext=product_view/more_by_author/right/1

    http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/the-light-in-the-shadows/17379772?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/2

    the facebook album of the photos i took at the presentation of Voices Ten Feet Deep: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1267945233458.31818.1674645370&type=3&l=17c2538053

    the album from A Light in the Shadows: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1697268046260.76073.1674645370&type=3&l=e8a789d061

  • “she and her best friend were in a park in someone’s territory and when they found her, they blindfolded her, made her kneel next to her friend, and shot her friend in the head, splattering her with his blood.”

    I understand that you are interested in personal stories, but these situations stem from social, political and economic realities, and changes in policy might be able to change future personal stories.

    Do you think that her best friend was shot because the murderer knows that the average citizen is unarmed and will probably not resist?

    Do you think the “territory” exists because drugs are illegal, and those who sell drugs must resort to fear and intimidation, as well as stocking up on arms, because their product cannot be treated like a normal commodity?

    The first, gun control is a liberal policy that de-arms otherwise law abiding citizens and creates a situation in which only criminals have guns. The second, drug prohibition, is a more conservative position but few politicians on both sides of the aisle support the full legalization or even decriminalization of drugs. If we had neither policy, her friend would be more likely to be alive.

    And then the neighborhoods clean up, crime goes down, businesses move in, job opportunities increase, welfare is phased down, the culture improves, and the kids aren’t traumatized anymore.

    And hell, the end result couldn’t be any worse than what we have now.

  • sahra

    no, he was killed because he was linked to a rival gang. not because of gun control policies.

  • Oh, silly me. I thought she was hanging around with someone who was living within the law.

    My point about the drug prohibition still applies.

  • sahra

    he was in middle school. he was a child–12 or 13 years old. perhaps you have something snarky to say about that as well?

  • Ubrayj02

    I’m waiting for Uncle Spokker to pull up to their block and be their adoptive “dad” in truck filled with guns and ammo.

    Sounds like a real winning solution to this set of issues.

  • It would be much better than the hopeless situation they are in now. 

  • “he was in middle school. he was a child–12 or 13 years old. perhaps you have something snarky to say about that as well?”

    And he already has a rival gang, haha. Welp, let’s have a bike ride!

  • Don’t feed the troll – Sahra, Josef – keep on doing the writing you’re doing, and don’t let Sp*kker distract you!

  • I never told anyone to stop doing anything. It’s not surprising to see “troll” thrown around when dealing with different opinions, though. Other useless phrases include “racist,” “sexist and “bigot” when one has no argument. 

  • calwatch

    I’ll take the balanced approach here. There is a tendency for Sahra’s stories to be in the “Bart’s People” vein of sob stories with no resolution. While there is a lot of good substance at the end a lot of people gloss over that since it is much more densely written than the personal story portion. Not sure if it is editing but there needs to be a way to break up the dense middle section with all the facts and statistics, and weave it with the rest of the story. This is a lot better than the candy man story, which was basically all a “Bart’s People” type story, but there still is a way to go.

  • calwatch, I see that you love to post all over the Internet about California issues. Any insight into any possible solutions for the children in the story? You seem to have a thorough understanding of the state. 

    Genuinely curious!

  • calwatch

    This is why everyone thinks you’re a troll, Spokker. You’re just being snarky and unfairly denigrating Sahra’s work, and making snide comments about my comment history as well. While there is some work to be done I don’t want her pieces to turn into a complete barrage of sad facts either.

  • I never denigrated her work. I gave an opposing viewpoint about possible solutions that could be implemented in regard to the problems of the inner city.

    I was genuine about enjoying your posts, even when I don’t agree with you. There may be more calwatch’s though, so who knows!

  • sahra

    you all are welcome to your opinions on the writing and they are noted. i will say this, however: I doubt that those I write about would really like being thought of as “sob stories,” or appreciate the moniker–it is rather dehumanizing.

  • I strongly do not agree that it is a sob story. It’s a dire issue that demands very serious reform, reforms that include some approaches that have not been embraced before. 

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