“When I started here at Augustus Hawkins High School, it was the first year it had opened. I remember coming in and not really fitting in. I’ve always liked corridos and have always been in touch with my culture, but if you like corridos, it’s like you’re 'Chuntie’ or whatever.
Mind you, we are on Hoover and 60th. The Hoover Gangster Crips are all around here. At the stoplight, over there are the Vermont Brims, a Blood Gang. Half a mile away is the Florence Gang, but this school opened right in the middle of everything.
My first year here there were fights everywhere. It was hard to find a group of people to be cool with and who weren’t involved in anything. I was aware of the gang culture, but never wanted to be a part of it. It’s crazy; you got Crips and Bloods going to the same school.
I kind of don’t blame them going into gangs. It’s crazy, right? It’s almost inevitable; you grow up around it. But coming into this school, most of the staff was really dedicated and passionate. The people here don’t go to college, it’s unheard of.
But it was a blessing growing up here. You’re around blacks and Latinos; it gives you a background on both people.
So I love corridos, but I also love hip-hop. Because when you’re walking down Vermont, you hear whatever is playing, which is either Kendrick or corridos, you get me? Coming from a Mexican background, I was always taught to be proud of where I’m from. I never expressed it until recently, because it was looked down upon.
The most brilliant people come out of places like this. I don’t believe in the idea that you have to leave your hood in order to succeed. We need people to come back and plant more seeds. Obviously somebody said something right to me and that’s why I’m at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Just being in MSA has been a blessing. It’s a space where people share my values and beliefs. They understand the power and resilience of black and brown people. Whether it’s in activism, art, or academia. This is not just a club. We’re impacting people’s lives.
MSA is that thin line between dropping out or continuing. You guys are my brothers, just in terms of me being an only child. I didn’t even miss my house when we went to South Carolina, because these are the people I want to be around. We work for and serve black and Latino youth. Nobody is going to care about your hood like you care about it.I had to get the background knowledge in order to go in and execute at MSA.
Augustus Hawkins High School is where it all started, so I for sure was going to take my portrait there. ‘No importa de donde vienes, sino hasta donde estas puesto a llegar.’ So this is where I’m from, but it doesn’t dictate who I am. It helped shape me, but I’m not just South Central.”