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“Making it Out” of the Barrio

I was washing the dishes the other night mindlessly “watching” the Dodger game. The Dodgers were playing the hapless Angels on the second to the last night of the craziest of all baseball seasons. The game was ultimately meaningless: Angels eliminated from any post-season the night before, the Dodgers just getting ready having clinched their place at least a week earlier.

Joe Davis and Orel Hershiser are the Dodgers announcers, not quite Vin Scully but not bad announcers. What caught my ear, caused me to stop, rewind the broadcast and record a section was the phrase, “made it out.”

Listen to the short excerpt here:

Dodgers vs. Angels, September 26, 2002

The conversation caught my ear because of the reference to Angel’s pitcher Noe Ramirez who is from Los Angeles, Ramona Gardens to be exact. I kind of grew up in a nearby “neighborhood,” Wyvernwood Gardens – home to the renowned Estrada Courts.

I was raised in Montebello and went to church in East Los Angeles. This is the church of my youth, Bethany Baptist Church on 8th. Street. The picture above it on the left is a picture of the apartment complex my grandmother lived in a block from the church. We spent many a Christmas morning in Wyvernwood Gardens at my grandmother’s, followed by Christmas service at Bethany. Ramona Gardens (pictured on the right) is a virtually identical neighborhood north two freeways away from Wyvernwood.

This is the neighborhood Noe Ramirez “made it out” of by excelling as a baseball player. Joe Davis said that the first thing Noe Ramirez did when he signed a major league contract was to buy his parents a house. Orel talked about how he is moved every time he hears that oft repeated story. I am a life long sports fan and I too have heard this story many times. This time, it struck me:

“WHAT DID HE JUST SAY?”

Think about it, in the US we think it is normal to have neighborhoods where people have to “escape” from. I always talked about my parents “escaping” from the Soviet Union. For the first time, I was shocked by the existence of the ghetto/barrio/gulag in my backyard.

Should we be so casual about the existence of “projects” in our major cities? Should we be so matter of fact about people “making it out?” I don’t have a solution, but shouldn’t we all want it to be different?

No one should have to escape the US to make it to the US.

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