Edna Lizbeth Chavez spoke to my inner most being. She like myself are from South Los Angeles, a part of the city that reminds me of my purpose on this earth. She spoke to the 11 year old me who saw, heard and felt her city, her neighborhood, her block burst into flames on April 29, 1992. My family seeking the dream of homeownership had moved to 1406 70th Street (two blocks from Florence and Normandie) only a year before 1992. We were also fleeing from growing violence in our barrio off of Santa Monica and Vine, a tight knit community that had begun to see the consequences of young men being imprisoned coming back to the barrio with no other opportunities than to sling some dope, eventually only to be sent back to prison or dead on the sidewalk. I still recall what they said about the kid killed on the Exxon Station that I could see from my living room window: “Tenia lagrimas en su cara”. I had lagrimas when my mom said we’re moving to a new place, when I had to leave my beloved friends and make new ones.
We moved to a part of the city, two blocks from Florence and Normandie, in which I first learned what it felt to be different, to be surrounded by low expectations because our teachers did not believe in our aptitude because of the color of our skin. What was true was that my new classmates embraced me with love and acceptance despite our differences. My new friends and I played in school and loved each other, despite the growing racial tensions in the liquor stores we visited, despite some of my classmates fathers, brothers, uncles being profiled by police who had decided that Black men could be beaten on tv without consequences by juries in far away places. I remember watching “Eyes of the Prize” and feeling so empowered by a Civil Rights movement powered by people that looked like my classmates, not knowing my own history and power but feeling inspired that justice would someday come. I also still remember, and fear, the sounds of the helicopters crowded over that intersection, Florence and Normandie, two blocks from my house, as people began to hear the verdicts roll out “Not guilty” over and over again on April 29, 1992. My dad was at work; my mom was home and huddled us into the room farthest from the street. I am sure now it was also one of the scariest nights of my life and hers. But you know we don’t speak about trauma, “we just gotta keep going” they told us. I knew my mom had finally had enough when someone opened fire on my middle school playground as we had gym and decided to pack our lives into four suitcases and a cardboard box on a plane to some placed called Takoma Park, Maryland.
So yes Edna Lizbeth Chavez spoke to me. She was powerful, demanding and called for actions that many adults do not have the cojones to embrace because the power dynamic gets thrown off when children and youth, women, POC, immigrants realize their power and have the tools and resources to live, survive and thrive. Y a esos disque “progresistas” y todos que se vayan preparando porque el futuro lo vimos ayer in those youth who demanded inclusion, who called out the media when ones received more coverage than the others, who made sure to reach out to their peers in Chicago within the first weeks after the Parkland shootings to hear their narratives. Those youth are doing exactly what we forgot to do when we were fighting for a sit at the table.They are bringing others to the table and making some noise when it does not happen until it happens. So yes,#LaLuchaSigue but its brilliant, beautiful, bright, brown, black and every color in between.
Written by: Maritza Solano- CASA Director of Education