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Bobby Vega

April 28, 2005

Interviewer: Joyce Hanson

Hanson: This is Joyce Hanson for the San Bernardino Oral History Project and I'm interviewing Mr. Bobby Vega at his home here in San Bernardino. Good morning, Bobby.

Vega: Good morning.

Hanson: OK, the first thing we want to talk about is a little bit about your family. Has your family always been in San Bernardino?

Vega: From what I know, my grandparents on my mother's side, (Martha Ortega Vega) her father Valente Lopez Ortega, were born in San Bernardino, California in 1910. His father, Antonio A. Ortega was born in Hacienda de la Encarnacion, Mexico. His mother, my great grandmother, Catarina Lopez was born in Chinanpas, Jalisco Mexico. My grandparents lived at 551 Western Avenue, here in San Bernardino, Ca. the Mt. Vernon area. My grandmother (Mary Hernandez Ortega) Her father was Francisco Hernandez born in Mexico and her mother Vicenta Trego also born in Mexico. On my fathers side (Robert Lopez Vega) my grandfather Ignacio Vega was born in Mexico. My grandmother Esther Lopez was born April 16, 1911 in California. (Note) My grandmother Esther remarried while my father was real young. She married Epigmenio Franco Sandoval born March 24, 1908 in Leon, Guanajato. Mexico. He was not just a step-father he was a dad to my dad (Robert Lopez Vega) He did a very good job raising him, and was a good grandfather to us as well The Vega Family. So we grew up with a lot Mexican core values, family values. We stick together, we worked together and we did things together as a family. One of the things that I've noticed now is that element of family unity is gone.

Hanson: Sure

Vega: I've noticed while growing up that our families were closer. It's like we had family gatherings all the time. We would go out on picnics and do fun things together. Those days are gone as well as family reunions. Everybody grows up, they spread out, they go do different things. Of all my relatives, I think I'm the only one that stayed in this neighborhood. Everybody else left to go to other places, to follow work or have families. Some of my cousins even went to prison for substance abuse issues. Life is hard in these type of neighborhoods with stress, poverty and drugs/ alcohol that can overcome you if you let it.

On the other hand, I was very fortunate growing up with two loving parents, a mother and a father and three little sisters, Joann, Lorraine and Genevieve. Of course, a lot of uncles and aunts, as well as cousins and grandparents too. We lived at 1540 W. 8th street until I was about 8 years old then moved east 1- block, to 1448 W 8th Street. So I have lived on this street forever. My father, Robert L. Vega born June. 8, 1931 in East Highland, CA., worked for East Valley Transit, The local bus company then he starting in the mid 60s and worked until the until the Llate 80s, then the bus company changed to Omni-Trans. My father had a very good work ethic. He worked every day of the week and on the weekends he would take the family out to picnics in the park. We would go to the Lytle Creek wash area to get wet in the riverbed or to Lake Elsinore to camp and swim or just to local parks to play and picnic. He made sure we had lots of fun on the weekends. Just like a father, he would keep us straight, no fighting, no arguing, no talking back to adults. Of course, we had to go to school and do our homework. Both my parents encouraged me to get involved in the community at an early age. My earliest memories of community involvement were when my mother Martha Ortega Vega born July. 29,1938 in San Bernardino, CA. got me involved in my first community activity. That was the U.S. Senator Robert Francis Kennedy campaign. He was running for the democratic nomination for president of the United States of America. He was the brother of the late president of the United States of America John F. Kennedy, who was killed by an assassin's bullet while in Texas. I remember seeing Robert F. Kennedy going west on 7th Street right in front of Ramona school now (Casa Ramona) in a black convertible reaching out and shaking peoples hands. They (Motorcade) drove across Mt. Vernon Avenue (Old Route 66) east to J. Street, then south over to 5th Street then east over the bridge and North on G. street to 555 West 6th Pioneer Park where the Municipal Auditorium once stood. Now where the new Norman F. Feldheym Library sits downtown. Well I got to shake his hand that day. It was June 4, 1968 in the late afternoon and I was about 10 years old. Sadly, he was shot the next day, June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. We saw it on black and white T.V. that night. He died the next day, June 6, 1968. I at a very young age continued to stay involved in community activities starting with Casa Ramona at 1524 West 7th Street. It was almost right in front of where we lived 1448 West 8th Street. In the early 70s it was a school, kindergarten thru third grade. I went to school there as a kid. I guess back in the mid 70s the school closed and a Chicano group of activist incorporated and received a 501c3 title and became a nonprofit organization "Casa Ramona". The school district then turned it over to this group for 1 dollar. They then converted into a community center. Living across the street from this place, my mother and grandmother Mary Hernandez Ortega volunteered all the time at Casa Ramona. I got to be involved in a lot of community programs. I started to really get involved in the early 70s, as a kid. One of the things I was always told as a young man by Vincente Salamanca, a community worker for the San Bernardino City Community Services Dept. (Drop-In center) at Casa Ramona, that if I continued going to school, keeping good grades and staying out of trouble, he would hire me in the summer when school was out. These were the Ceta Summer Youth employment programs. I always had a summer job. The summer jobs were always there and I always went to school. I always looked forward to getting employment during the summer at our local community centers. It helped me to buy clothes for school in early September and it kept me from getting in trouble. I was truly blessed to have had the mentors I had. Growing up, I worked for community leaders like Esther Estrada; now in 2005 a first ward city council member, Kiko Gomez; an expert on local street gangs, Vincente Salamanca, Richard (Dickie) Salas, Ruben Campos, Lucia Valdez, Robert Castaneda then a city council member for the first ward, Rita Arias, Ralph Hernandez and Amparo Olguin and Dr. Armando Navarro now a professor at University California Riverside a true fighter for social justice, a community activist at the national level it was through him that I got to meet the late Ceaser Chavez the leader of the United Farm Workers Union.. They were very inspirational people in my life and remain so today.

Growing up in the neighborhood of the Mt. Vernon area, I had many opportunities to give back to the community. I learned early and was taught by the best. I'm still doing it today, some 30 years later. I probably have worked in every, if not most of, the community based organizations in the past thirty years on the Westside of San Bernardino. Like I said earlier, Casa Ramona, The Boys Club, Los Padrinos of Southern California (Note: I have worked for every Director Los Padrinos Youth Service of So. Cal. has had going back to 1973 since it incorporated) Home of Neighborly Service for Jim Penman, now our (S.B. City Attorney) in 2005. When Mr. Penman was Executive Director there, he instilled some good work values in me and that's something that I won't never forget, and of course continue to use today.

Richard "Dicky" Salas was with the San Bernardino County Dept of Mental Health when he was at Casa Ramona. He was a person that cared a lot about what happened to kids in the Mt. Vernon area. Sadly, he was stabbed and killed breaking up a fight between two young men at the Kola Shanah dance hall on north Mt.Vernon Avenue. There is a full size bust of him in the Casa Ramona Square, 1524 W. 7th Street, at this time in 2005, in his memory. It was people like him. and the ones I mentioned above that kept me out of trouble as well as many other youth in our neighborhood. The success of what these people did in their work to keep us on the right track could never be measured. We thank them as a community.

Now what I've seen over the years is this: While I continue to work with youth, I noticed a lot of these programs have faded off into the sunset. They don't exist anymore. You know, we don't have the programs that we had before. We also don't have the type of leadership in this community that we had years ago, like in the 70s and early 80s. It looks like that came to an end.

Lets talk about the 90s. In mid 1992, I was given an opportunity by then 3rd Ward City Councilman Ralph Hernandez who put this together along with Father Ray Rosales of Our Lady Guadulupe Church on 5th Street and a large group of community minded people (Community Coalition) to run a program. This coalition had come together to do something about the gang problem. 1992 was the deadliest year in the city of San Bernardino by midyear we were at 42 homicides and 23 were gang related homicides. We were going to launch a 90-day pilot program. The only problem was that they the group had no one now one to manage and oversee the city contract it was about to receive for $96,000 from the city. Los Padrinos of Southern California stepped up to the plate. Since they were on their last leg, Their director had just bailed out and they were about to shut down due to lack of funds. They decided, with the Coalitions support, to manage the city contract. The goal was to reduce the gang violence and killings that were going on in the City of San Bernardino's Westside. I was chosen to be the project coordinator of this gang intervention program. I went in with a lot of insight about the gang subculture. What had become interesting to me was that while working with the youth of this community all these years, I was noticing that the youth subculture (Chicano gangs) had definitely changed from the 70s to what were the 90s. I was also aware of the influx of immigration that was taking place in the mid 80s thru 90s in our neighborhoods. They where changing. You know, we were Chicanos and Mexican-Americans born here, of third and fourth generations and most of these community programs were here to serve our needs. That started to change the community programs. It was a real challenge to be culturally competent.

Well, let's look at youth programs. Some of the youth programs worked for a certain ethnic group, but some didn't work for all ethnic groups. One of the things that bother me is the negativity that some people, in the dominant culture of our society, put on our kids. They're always telling us that our kids are bad, our kids are lazy, they don't want to work don't want an education. Of course it is not true. I personally believe that one reason out of many, is that with the influx of immigrants that kept coming into our neighborhoods, that it had an effect on us. It changed the whole job market and the housing market locally. My belief is that the job opportunities we had at one time, for many American born kids coming out of high school then, became scarce. Not only did they have to compete with hard working immigrants, but older people as well, who most likely got the jobs. Even up to now, I mean, we have a lot of issues with kids in our communities and I am very aware of it. When you start labeling these kids as bad kids and some as gang members or drug dealers just because they live in poor neighborhoods, it is wrong! I have heard, seen and read that this as happen too many times to our kids. Being a community worker, I have seen a lot of kids move on to be productive citizens in this community. It is not all true and they're not all bad.

Now let's talk about the conflicts that take place with immigrants and Chicanos/Mexican Americans in this community. Chicanos will tell you first hand that there's definitely conflict here. People in local city/county government don't see it. Politicians will tell us we live just fine together, "Oh, the Latino community...." They paint us all with one stroke of the brush. Well that doesn't apply to a lot us. We have people in this community right now that just don't get along and will never get along with our so called Latino/Mexican brothers from the other side of the border.

Back to the kids, I have learned and worked with a lot of people and different youth programs in this community. It is getting hard to find summer/part-time employment for these kids. Finding programs that actually work for these kids, keeping them out of trouble and away from drugs, gangs is getting harder too. I've noticed that our neighborhoods have deteriorated. The problems have gotten worse. I don't blame it all on the people that live in this community. Some of the blame has to fall on the leadership as well as our so-called community leaders. It's a shame when we have politicians downtown criticizing our kids, our families, telling us that we're not doing what we need to be doing, in terms of raising our kids and keeping them out of trouble. At the same time, why are we are ranked 18th in the nation in regards to violent crime? What do they say about that! Where is the leadership now in 2005 I ask? Also, what is local government doing now to keep crime from rising? Nothing that is really effective! People are being killed every other day! I also ask why did they not do more to keep jobs from leaving here. Employers like the Santa Fe railroad yards, closed on April 21, 1995, Kaiser steel plant in Fontana. CS. opened in 1942 then closed in 1983 and Norton Air Force Base bought in 1942 renamed 1950 after a local serviceman then closed 3/1994.. These industrial jobs supported our families for many many years.

There are no more opportunities like that around here for the young people of this town to work. What are young people suppose to do? They don't have an education and can't afford one. It sure is hard for young people now in this area.

Well, lets talk a little about the gang subculture and low-rider problems we were having in the late 80s thru 90s. I had gotten appointed to the San Bernardino City Police Commission. It was about June of 1985 when I was appointed by 1st Ward City Councilwoman Esther Estrada. I was the youngest member and the only Chicano to ever be appointed to the police commission, what an honor. There where nine members total that represented the city at this time. I had a very good rapport with a bunch of low-rider clubs and people in the area and I was going to be the go between the city police and the low-rider car clubs. We were going to try to reduce the heavy cruising that was taking place on Mt.Vernon Avenue (Old Route 66) as well as some of the violence taking place in our city. It was becoming impossible for emergency vehicles to go through the main city streets on the Westside area, due to the heavy cruising of hundreds of cars that were coming from other cities just to cruise here.

Well, to cut it short, the police department's chief of police, then Ben Gonzales, gave the cruisers one last chance after talking to the car club presidents. They could not reach an agreement. The chief offered to let them take the cruising to the back of the National Orange Show fairgrounds parking lot and also, if they wanted to, they could cruise all night on Arrowhead Avenue. The clubs (low-rider association) refused again and months later the City Council passed an anti-cruising ordinance. It read that if you were seen cruising three times in one hour between Highland Avenue and Mill Street on Mt.Vernon Avenue (Old Route 66), you would be ticketed or they could even impound your car. It finally did come to a stop due to this city ordinance. I continued to work in the community and stayed very involved with community groups. Until a short time later, I found myself coordinating the largest gang intervention program in the history of City of San Bernardino in 1992. Remember, I was also a police commissioner at that time too. Well I really enjoyed working with these youth and it was very good experience and an educational one too, the things I learned. I did many things to bring people/kids some (Gang Members) together to make this work, I even got a chance to recruit old neighborhood friends that I had not seen in years because some had been away in prison. Others were taking care of some of their old problems with drugs and other issues and some were in the reentry homes of Victory Outreach Ministries getting help. They were clean and sober and were ready to start giving back to their old neighborhoods. I started off with about three members of Victory Outreach Ministries. What a great organization! They knew something about the gang subculture in our neighborhood as well. They, my old homeboys, at one time, belonged to gangs here in the Mt. Vernon area in the late 70s. They had an idea of how different street gangs worked. They could be of some help to me. We would go out at night to the different neighborhoods to recruit the gangsters. It was tough! They thought we were police at times, doing undercover work. We finally got their trust. We would sign them up to join the program.

That worked well and we even found out who were the shot callers. We convinced them also to come work for us and that together we could stop the violence in our neighborhoods. In an exchange deal, they could work for a minimum paying job painting over graffiti and doing weed abatement in our town. They also had to enroll in school to get their G.E.D.s, if they were not already in school. It sure did work! It sure did stop the gang violence in our neighborhoods. We went out on outings together, these kids came together and got to know each other well. Yet some in our local police department weren't too happy. One member of law enforcement accused me of creating an army. Why! The gang truce was working so well. They would find gang members from different gangs in each other's neighborhoods. They did not like this. I responded with this. The program and a group of community people came together to stop the senseless killings that were taking place within our young people, in our community. That was our goal, to teach them social skills in which they could use to go out and interact with one another, to try to get steady jobs. This program was a real success, thanks to the many people that gave of themselves to make this work, too many to mention from 1992-1997. It was good! I will tell you one thing that really disturbed me, I attended one of my police commission meetings at City Hall one night and there was a group of Kelly green shirted (SMASH) officers ready to make a presentation about our cities gang problems. SMASH stood for San Bernardino County Movement Against Street Hoodlums. It was a county task force made up of different police agencies from our county. The job was to go out and identify, validate and arrest gang members that were "breaking the law". Here I was! Remember that I was the coordinator of the largest gang intervention program in our city's history. I knew who was who. I knew who the leaders of the gangs and I knew the actual numbers of members that were in the organized neighborhood gangs. We had the Flats gang in the southwest area of San Bernardino near the Lytle Creek Park area. We had in the Mt. Vernon area, the 7th Street gang, The Little Counts gang, The Jr. Counts gang and also the Sur Crazy Ones gang that where located north of Baseline Avenue, around 14th and Massachusetts. Well, when this gentleman with the green shirt goes to the microphone and starts telling the police commission what they do and how they identify gang members, I just about fell out of my chair. He tells us that they've identified over 1,200 active gang members in the Flats Gang. I sat there and could not believe what I was hearing. It was amazing to me that this group of three professional police officers could come here to tell us such misleading information. These high numbers were not so! I knew for a fact that there were only 24 actual members at that time.

Let's look at this situation. The people on the other side of our neighborhood, on the other side of the bridge, the east side of the freeway 215, label us as a gang area the Mt Vernon area. Why do they label all our kids as gang members? Sure, the subculture is here! Kids will pick up the dress. If you dress a certain way in a neighborhood, guess what, everybody's going to dress that same way. That doesn't mean you're a bad kid. That doesn't mean you're part of the gang. It's just the subculture fashion of dress. Some of it looks good! It's always clean and mostly neat!

Let's move on. Let's talk a little about community pride. Our politicians constantly make speeches about having community pride. Well, I will tell you, while growing up here, our parents taught us to have pride in our neighborhoods. Just because we were poor, it didn't mean we didn't have dignity. We didn't have to be dirty. We should always be clean, our clothes and our yards as well. We should have pride in our neighborhoods and be proud of where we came from. All this pride somehow got twisted around and it somehow became a way for law enforcement and politicians to label us yet again. We now have become members of so called imaginary street gangs created by law enforcement Police and the District Attorney's Office. We are identified with a certain neighborhood, like, let's say for example the Mt. Vernon area and Verdugo. That term has been used all the way back to the early 40s. It was used by the Chicano/Mexican people then to let others know what part of a geographical area in San Bernardino the Mexican/Mexican American (Chicano) community lived in the Westside of San Bernardino, kind of an old barrio/neighborhood. Names just like these: Meadowbrook, Del Rosa, Bunker Hill, The Bench, The Manor, Topo City and Carver Dale, Delman Heights ,California Gardens, Waterman Gardens, The Valley: all these neighborhoods are within this city. Are they all considered gang areas ? No! Areas. So why are we Mt. Vernon Area? Now let's use Verdugo. Verdugo is another name that is used for "San Bernardino" in the Mexican American community, just like "Berdoo" is used by the Anglo community for San Bernardino, which is O.K. But wait a minute: when Chicano kids use the term Verdugo, they are labeled as a gang members. This was totally untrue then and is still not true today in 2005. One more thing that always comes up and I will say it once and for all, that Verdugo is not a gang, it is a geographical area in the cities Westside. It has never been and will never be a gang. Just like Mt.Vernon it was never a gang and never will be. It is a street (Old Route 66) that runs north and south through our Westside community.

I would again say that some of the problems that we have had in this city goes back to the politicians. They have this thing about inflating data. Their research is flawed at times, but they still continue labeling members of ethnic groups with all the negative things that happen to us in our neighborhoods. They also create bigger problems, for example, it looks like it can really be a big problem when you look at it in writing in terms of statistics. When they begin to disseminate false information through the newspaper or local media, people start to believe it. It can get scary, like the thousands of gang members running our streets. In actuality, for some of us living here in this neighborhood, we know it's different. These are some of the things that I believe need to change. Negative labels are put upon us here, in the Westside, so politicians can go out and get grants to pay for their jobs, so that they can continue to sit behind a desk somewhere in a downtown office collecting a paycheck!

I just read an article in the newspaper this morning about gangs. It said that the gang problem is getting so big and something needs to be done. Well, I've lived here all my life in this neighborhood. I was in a gang at one time in the mid 70s, The Toppers, but I wasn't a bad kid. I had to belong to a gang because that was something you needed to do growing up in this neighborhood. If you didn't want to be bullied by others and didn't have a big family to protect you, you would join a gang. At that time, it was the safest thing to do, yes, to belong to a street gang. It wasn't bad. Remember, I didn't have big brothers to protect me from the neighborhood bullies. When I did join the gang, my family just grew maybe 10 times over. I then begin to feel safe just knowing that I could count on my fellow members for help if I ever needed it. Well, I never did need it. Time moved on and that experience was left behind. I went on to be an appointed police commissioner in my city. I also know people right now that are serving as field reps for politicians, state assembly persons, and so on. They were also at one time involved in local street gangs. That didn't make them bad people.

I would like to talk about gang injunctions. I truly believe law enforcement today has really made a bigger problem about the gangs than what it was before. Let me take you go back to 70s. It wasn't a big deal. We had maybe seven or eight organized gangs in this neighborhood. Everybody knew who they were and people lived with it. You wore gang jackets (colors) for easy identification. Well, the police department decided that it was going to do away with the gang subculture that had been around for so many many years in the neighborhood. I, at this time belonged to a street gang, I was growing up during that time in the late 70s early 80s. Well, we had police officers from our San Bernardino Police Department that worked the gang detail. They would come by and stop us to talk to us anywhere they could. They would tell us that, "Hey, you know what? We're going do away all the gangs around here. And you guys better find something else to do!" So what they did was, they started taking away our gang jackets. They took away many gang jackets, thinking that, "Well, this problem's going to go away real soon, as soon as we take all the club jackets. It is over, we win." I believe that it was the biggest mistake that they could have made. You know, I've been in this neighborhood all my life and I've seen a whole lot. I once wrote a paper for one of the professors in a urban sociology class in 2001 while I was a student in Prof. James Fenelon's class at Cal State University San Bernardino a real grassroots person that is not afraid of doing projects with his students in our barrio, He is not like some "Latino professors" that are afraid to come out here and help us. Now 2005 I often get invited to lecture to his class about Urban community/Gang issues. (The paper) It was about what I thought created the bigger problems that we have now with gangs locally. I believe it goes back to law enforcement. When gang members had jackets, they were visible. You knew who they were! The police department comes in with their suppression and saying, "we're going to do away with gang members."

Well, guess what? When law enforcement took away the gang jackets, they thought that everything was O.K. It wasn't. You see when the rival gangs from Colton, CA. would come into the Mt. Vernon neighborhood where they would look for kids dressed in the so-called gang attire which included the club jackets. The club jackets were the only distinguishing thing about being in a gang, not the white t-shirts or the Levis. The white t-shirts and the Levis were worn by everyone, since it was part of the youth culture. When the club jackets were banned by law local enforcement, rival gangs could no longer distinguish who was in a gang or not. That lead to many innocent kids getting hurt or killed by rival gangs.

Doing what they did, they should have had a better plan. They should have thought, "Hey, if we keep these guys organized with their club jackets, we at least know who they are." They didn't ! Just like the saying goes, "Every Mexican out there is named Hernandez,' they're all brown...same ideology. That's the way they think. Even up to now, we have kids that are being labeled gang members just because of the pride that was instilled years ago by our parents and grandparents. You live in this neighborhood, be proud of where you came from. They would say. That's like me, myself. You know what? Very rarely do I hear when I'm talking to anybody about this subculture that, "I live in San Bernardino. Oh, no, I live on the west side of San Bernardino. I live in the Mt. Vernon area. I live in Verdugo." Chicanos can relate to that, they understand that and know it is not a gang, it's where we live.

Now, if law enforcement got a hold of that. They would turn it around and say, "Bobby Vega's a gangster. Bobby Vega identifies with this neighborhood." Well I'm proud of my neighborhood, my city, my culture and my community service. I served on the police commission from 1985 to 1997. The reason I got appointed was to try to bridge the gap between the police commission and the community. It was a job! I couldn't do it. I couldn't get police officers to come out and play baseball with some of our kids in the community. They wouldn't do it. Police community relations are very poor. That will always be a fact. I know. I've seen it first hand. Nobody could tell me different because I was part of that system. Like I said, I stayed in that system for as long as I could. I just decided, "You know what? It's not gonna work. I'm never gonna get the police department to come out and actually do something positive things with our kids." We don't even have a youth police league. I could never bridge that gap with the police department and the community, even though that was my responsibility and I was committed to do so at the time. I resigned from that commission and was appointed to the Parks and Recreation commission on June 7, 1993 as Parks and Rec commissioner.

My involvement in this community is extensive. Some of the things that I have seen that have happened to this community, I believe are unfair, unwarranted and shouldn't have happened. Some of our so-called Latino leadership are people who make decisions for us, but live on the other side of town. They are afraid to come here. We have Mitla's Restaurant on the NE corner of 6th Street and Mt.Vernon Avenue (Old Route 66) where all the "Latinos" go to have breakfast and sometimes to have meetings. Come 9 a.m., breakfast is over, they're headin' back to where they came from. I have gone and made presentations to numerous social service organizations. I'm not going to name these groups or agencies, but I have asked them for temporary job opportunities for our kids. But nothing comes of it. But they do say that they have scholarships available and but that these kids have to be high achievers to apply. I work with kids that can't meet that requirement because of what they have gone through in their lives. They could use help academically and are barely passing in school, so that leaves them out.

The school district talks about how bad our kids are doing in school. The help is not here. I've got kids right now in a program that I'm working in that have mental health issues and that have never been diagnosed. They've gone to school and they've gotten thrown out of school because of so called deviant behavior. The schools say they just don't want to learn, they're bad kids. That's not the case. I can take these kids out of this community, take them to Disneyland, take them to do community volunteer activities somewhere and they're the most behaved kids around, the most loyal. Given the chance, listening to their problems and responding with a little concern can help.

Right now in 2005, we have a service agreement Casa de San Bernardino and with the United States Forest Service. This past weekend we went up to the San Bernardino National Forest. We took fourteen high risk kids out there. Some of these kids have never been to the forest, even though it's only sixteen miles away. These kids where given the opportunity to go and volunteer for a day to work. They did such a good job that they ran out of work. The U.S. Forest Service Rangers Jack Kennedy and Randy Stripland were very impressed as was the Front Country District Ranger Gabe Garcia. These kids were given a chance to show what they could do and they did it. We will continue to go once every month and every one will enjoy it. These are the kind of kids that are neglected in this community by school officials, by our public officials and even some parents. We can't give up on them!

We have a low-rider bike program. Very interesting. Why? Because we used the cultural context of this community's subculture. Low riding which is very much a part of this community, also consisting of gangs, low-riders, skaters and taggers. Well, the kids in our group identify with the low-riding sub culture and that's not bad. I have my own issues with low-riders but that's another story. Anyway, we had to realize that these kids want to belong to something. We know that gangs are a no-no! A lot of it is negative. But I have seen a lot of positive in it also. Well, we decided that we were going to star the low-rider bike club through this agency Casa de San Bernardino, Inc, a drug and gang violence prevention program in the community. It was going to be run out of a community center that was located on Mt.Vernon Avenue (Old Route 66). The Home of Neighborly Services which has been around since 1922 serving our community, which was then being run by Mr. Jerry Esparza in 2001, He agreed to $300.00 a month for rent. We used a small room in the back. This place was empty so we were very welcomed at the time. We chose this place because all the so called bad kids lived in this area 92411. We could not have found a neighborhood more needy at that time than here in the Mt.Vernon area. We were going to model it like a little gang project. We were going to see if the kids would come. Classes were free, but nobody came, so back to the drawing board. We discussed different ways to engage the youth, but traditional ways didn't work. Sandy Bonilla, our program manager and a very educated Chicana decided to hire a community worker to help us. She hired a young man by the name of Jessie Covarrubio in his early 20s. He drove a 1969 blue two door Impala, a low-rider, and he knew a lot of kids in the neighborhood. I noticed that the neighborhood kids that were at most risk to use drugs and join gangs liked Jessie's low-rider. With that in mind, we created a low-rider bike club. The kids came back, the Mexican, Chicano, Black and even some White kids were interested. We told the kids, "We're gonna start a little low-rider bike club. It's a neighborhood thing." Sure, we talked it up. We talked about low-rider cars, gangs etc., these subcultures are well known by their fathers, mothers, uncles, and aunts now who live here. It also helped that I, Bobby Vega, was born and raised and still live here in the Mt. Vernon Area. I also have a long history of working with a lot of families here. This program has gone on over five years. It's funded by San Bernardino County Dept. of Behavioral Health Services.

I'll tell you about the things that bothered me most, it was when the kids were coming back to me and telling me, "Bobby, we're getting harassed by the cops." Twelve-year old kids! That shouldn't happen. I ask, "What do you mean? What's the problem? What are you out there doing?" "Well, we're just riding our low-rider bikes," the kid responded. "They're stopping us and telling us that we have to have licenses for our bikes." That's a new one. I grew up in this neighborhood, rode a bike as a youth and was never asked for a license for a bicycle. Then the kids were even threatened that the bicycles they where riding looked so good that they were going to take it from them. They didn't have receipts for the bikes and for all the accessories on them. Casa de San Bernardino, Inc. had purchased most of it, if not, all the parts for them.

The kids enrolled in our program had to come to life skills training classes. They were held one day out of the week, on Tuesdays. They had to attend a meeting on Thursday for twelve weeks. The low-rider bike club had rules. They had to stay out of trouble, do well in school and do well at home. Now, if they needed tutoring we would get it for them. They would have to bring a report card. When the report cards came in, it was used to monitor how they were doing in school. They had to do all this to be in the low-rider bike club. It was acceptable to kids in the neighborhood, they bought in to the program. We started hearing negative things about our program from other social service groups, like, what are they teaching these kids. Are they teaching then how to be gangsters or what? Sure this was a very nontraditional method to attract kids to a program, but we knew what we where doing. We used the cultural context of this neighborhood as well as cultural brokers the people that knew the neighborhood sub-cultures in our community. Many community based organizations now don't know or understand it.

Casa de San Bernardino decided that it was going to step up to the plate and do something that a lot of agencies wouldn't do. Casa de San Bernardino would engage the highest risk kids that we could find in the neighborhood and prevent them from using drugs or joining street gangs, right now, as we speak, that service continues with a lot of success and we do go into neighborhoods that are experiencing problems with very high risk kids and gang involved kids as well.

Now we get a lot of lip service in this community by organizations that say they are working with high-risk kids. I personally believe that there's different levels of high risk kids out here in this community. You can't just say, "Sure, all kids are high risk." You have to understand that some are higher risk because of their family dynamics. Another thing you have to know is when you send in the "messenger/worker" to work with these people, he or she has to be the right color, and also know what's going on in that neighborhoods sub-culture. We call them Cultural Brokers. Knowing this has really helped me to understand the kids/people I work with. To know something about their families history helps also. Now I say to others, if you want to impress me, show me that you can work with this type of kids and turn them away from the drugs and the gang sub-culture. Help him or her get through school. I'll say yea! You've done your job. It's easy to pick up the good kids and put them in after school programs. We have all these after school programs which are great. They work for a certain population. But the minute a kid swears he or she is out of the program, the kid loses the chance to stay on track. It might be that the only language spoken at home by his drug addicted father or a single drug addicted mother, it can be that that's all they hear at home, the bad language and the kids think it's o.k. when it is not. You might have to tell this kid over and over not to say this or that, tell them it is not right to use that kind of language. Sure, it takes some time, but that's what youth workers are supposed to do. Correct the youth! It's our purpose in life. My heart's always been with the high risk kids. The kids whose mothers and fathers are incarcerated, living with a grandparent and are in need of direction. These are the kids that really need the help and are dear to my heart. So when I hear that youth workers throw these kids out of community centers programs, it really bothers me. Remember, that young person that just got thrown out can make a big difference in the neighborhood. You know, these are the kids that can determine whether our community will be safe at night for us.

We need to identify these high risk kids and continue to work with them at any cost and steer them on the right track, the higher risk kids in this neighborhood. I'm talking about the higher risk, not about the kids that are getting A's and B's. We're talking about D's, F's, and incompletes. Those are the kids that if we don't find things for them to do and get involved, we will lose them to drugs and gangs or to jail and death. It comes back to our leadership. How many leaders do we know right now that are actually out here on the front line working with this type of kids? We have a lot of generals, but we're very short of front line soldiers. The ones that really make the difference in the lives of our kids, I know of maybe five or six people if any. You know what? I'm one of the first guys that will criticize other people who don't do what they say. They include church groups, social service organizations, community center directors, because at one time I received services as a youth from a lot of community organizations. I know how they are supposed to work. I am a product of community organizations. I've seen them work in the 70s thru mid 80s. I'm sad to say that it has been downhill for community organizations since the 90s, in terms of helping our youth today in 2005.

You don't have to believe me, just look at statistics. It'll tell you that youth crime and youth problems have gotten worse. Well, we've dropped the ball, Community organizations and city government. What we need is more accountability in the way community based organizations operate. Sure they get funded, for example Arrowhead United Way, which is a great organization. It funds several community-based organizations in this area and with very good intentions. But when's the last time a funder, any funder has asked a local organization in this community for a community evaluation about itself. I'm talking in terms of the services that are supposed to deliver to us in our neighborhoods. Ask the people around these places. It doesn't happen and sometimes the community is cheated out of services. The first thing that they'll tell you is we don't have the money to conduct the survey. It costs money to get people to go out there and do the surveys. The services that we're supposed to be getting in the community, it's not there. We could also do something about the professional board members that sit on every board in town, but have no idea what goes on in the organization besides what their executive director is telling them. Most of the time, it favors them. When is the last time you heard of an executive director tell his board that he is not doing his job! Lets start talking to the staff and volunteers that really know their jobs and you will hear a different story about what needs to be done in order to be effective in the services provided to the community.

We have a group of kids right now, the low-rider bike club, a group of around twenty-four kids. We have been displaced four times from four different community centers. I will name the centers, Home of Neighborly Service on N. Mt Vernon Ave. (Old Route 66) Guadulape Church (the old Catholic school on 7th Street), the Paul Villaseñor Branch Library and the Ruben Campos Community Center. The reasons they gave us for displacing the kids was that the kids were defiant, they were disruptive, just plain bad. This is not true. They are always supervised. We always had somebody there to supervise them. Who better than us who knows the community? They just didn't like the way these kids dressed. According to what they read or heard, these kids where from old gang families. That was what we are trying to change. I am a product of this community. I have given back. I have given back in a tireless way. I enjoy working with these kids and I'm going to give it up when I can't do it anymore. Hopefully, I have many more years to go. I've got kids that come to this house every day because they're looking for something to do or they just come to talk about their problems. I'm not going to close my gate to them. I know that if I do, these kids won't have no place else to go.

I'm going to give you an example, The Paul Villaseñor Branch Library on Mt. Vernon Avenue. (Old Route 66) had a problem. I'm not going to name people, but we had a problem there. We were going to have our first meeting one Tuesday night. We asked for permission to use the library two nights a week for two 2 hour sessions. It was to hold life skill building classes for the kids, no problem! We were told O.K., "but you can only come in when the library closes." "Fine, we'll have our meeting there on Tuesday nights and Thursday nights."

The first Tuesday, we get there and I have about fifteen to twenty kids. We were waiting outside, supervised! They're not bad kids when they're with us. We were sitting there and everything's fine. We go in the library, no problem! Thursday, I come in and a gentleman that works for the library says, "Hey, I've got a concern." I said, "O.K., what's the concern?" I'm thinking to myself, "Oh, come on! Give me a break. We've just been here one day, nothing happened." He said, "Well, I got a complaint from the Arrowhead Credit Union next door." " The Credit Union?!" He says yes, "He tells me, you know, the kids that were out there last Tuesday night in front of the library." I said, " Yeah, I was there with them waiting to come in when I got the word to do so." "Well, people felt uncomfortable at the ATM machine out there." I said, "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Did our kids do anything wrong?" He said, "No, but the gentleman from the Arrowhead Credit Union had a problem with the kids being out there because some of the customers were intimidated and scared."

I told him you can tell the gentleman from the credit union that these kids live in this community, they have a right to be here at this public library located in their neighborhood, just like anybody else. Nothing happened that night to any of the bank customers and these kids were nowhere near the ATM machine. If people feel scared or nervous, well, that's something that they have to deal with. We went through all the protocol to use this room for two hours a night. Here we are just on our second day and now there's a problem. "I don't know what to say," I told him. Again, when you have a banking institution in a minority community criticizing it's future members, it's not good for business. Well, I don't bank at that credit union. Kids will talk and say, "You know what? That guy at the credit union, over there...." I shared that with the kids. I let them know that it was wrong for them to say that. I don't want these kids going around feeling that they did something wrong. I did explain it to them, "This is the situation and sometimes people feel uncomfortable, but understand, this is what happened, who knows how long we're going to be here?" When it comes down to choosing between our group of kids or the credit union, the City's going to go with the credit union.

We decided after, I think, a month, a month and a half, we decided we weren't welcomed. We kept hearing that our kids were starting to use the public library during the day, that we weren't using the facility as a group, the complaints just got worst. Some boys were loud, but again, we were working with these kids, to teach them that society works in a certain way. You're supposed to act a certain way in public. Sometimes the situation at home makes a difference in a bad way. I just told our kids, "You know what? This is what we are going to do. We're just going to move from here."

It happens to be our fourth move, within this neighborhood here. We were not wanted or accepted. The facility, "Ruben Campos Community Center," I named that. I spearheaded the naming of the Ruben Campos Community Center in about June of 1985 with the help of Dr. Armando Navarro (CONGRESSO PARA PUEBLOS UNIDOS). Ruben had been there since 1953, as a kid volunteering then as an employee, I decided I was going to name it after him for everything he had done for us in this community. I did name it when he was the center manager there.

Before he left in 1993, forced to retire, I said, "Ruben, you know what I'm doing now? Working with the neighborhood kids you understand what I'm dealing with, don't you." He said yes and smiled. Ruben understood what these kids were going through, getting tossed out of every community center in this community, churches other centers. Ruben knew the hardships these kids faced. He knew they couldn't play organized sports because of financial reasons or whatever. He said, "You know what I'm going to do, Bobby?" He said, " The door's open for you. How much room do you need? What do you want? There was a group in there that is no longer using the room. You know my heart's with these kids. Bobby, you can use the room for free, no charge as long as it is open to everyone, the services you provide." I said, "OK." He did, he kept his word. We got to use the room for our programs.

Well, after about 6 months, he injured his ankle and was not given the chance to come back to his job. That was a big part of his life. He was finally forced to retire because of his injury and also because of his age. We thought that things were going to be fine. We had lots of kids joining our programs and things were going well. That was until the new staff was appointed to run the center. It was a joke! These people had no idea what they were doing. They came from other centers and no neighborhood is the same. The cultural context is different and you need to know how to respect it and know how to engage it. Well, little situations came up, like when the kids brought their bicycles into the center. There were no bicycle racks outside to park their bikes and it didn't help that Nunez Park was infested with drug addicts selling and using drugs all over that park

Let me show you one of the bicycles that we built for the program. We, the staff and kids, built some nice low-rider bicycles as an incentive to join and complete our program. The kids earn the bicycle parts. So, as you can see, we can build some pretty nice low-rider bikes. There's a lot of pride that comes with it, just like with the low riders cars, as adults, they put big money into their cars. Here the kids have to earn it. They do well - they earn points. They can get a bicycle part, either a tire, a handlebar or something. That's the incentive we use to keep them in the program and keep them straight. They do go straight. Some kids rode their bikes over to the center. When they get to the center, the staff says, "Leave your bikes outside!" These are bicycles you don't lock up outside. I don't care how good your lock is, you don't park it outside. So we asked if we could bring them into the room and there was a problem with that too. "No, we don't want bicycles inside the building." "Well, we know...." O.K., What's going on here?

Had Ruben Campos been around, that wouldn't have been a problem. Ruben used to let the gangs meet there when the police were out there messing with them. Back in the 70s and 80s, we would go over there because the police kept harassing us about so-called gang activities and all that. We were more structured in those days. You had officers, like a president, vice-president, a secretary and a sergeant at arms. This was the order. As a member, you would not violate any of the club rules because if you did you would be punished for your actions by the club, maybe a swat from the sergeant at arms. It was a big wooden paddle or even maybe you had to run the line, but there was sure order. Where now, so-called gangs, there is no order, there is no one leader. I don't even consider it a gang, when I here about the "gangs". I know kids that identify with the neighborhood, but I don't see them as a gang members. They don't have leaders.

So anyway, back to these kids in 2005, we sat with these kids. We established an order. There are officers, you know a president, vice-president and so on. These kids will keep an eye on each other out in the neighborhood. We were at the center for a while and the agreement we had was okay. Then somebody from the Parks and Recreation Department decided, "Hey, we're going to have to renegotiate your contract. And then they tell us that verbal agreement we had with Mr. Ruben Campos the longtime center manager hired in around 1966 but volunteered before that, he was there for over 45+ years and his word was no good anymore." I was a Parks and Rec commissioner. I didn't want to get too involved because there would be a conflict of interest. It goes beyond that. You know, these titles, these commission things, they don't really mean anything to me because my heart is working with these kids/community and that comes before anything else. Making positive changes in this community that means more to me than anything else.

We sat down at the table with the Parks and Recreation staff and they decided that since we are a non-profit 501c3 organization, we should be renting space from them. Just like every other nonprofit, we were just staying afloat with what little grant money we had. We were providing a service for the community at no cost to kids. The parks and recreation even had our kids sign their program sheets even though they were enrolled in our programs. Well, it made the Parks and Recreation Department look good for awhile because that community center was almost vacant. When we got there the park staff threw out an Aztec dance group of over 90 people that had been there for many years. This was again, staff persons that did not understand a certain culture.

[END TAPE 1, SIDE A; BEGIN TAPE 1, SIDE B]

Vega: We're providing a service to the community. Being a Parks and Recreation commissioner, I knew that the numbers game is as important, the service units, how many kids are you serving? Well, it doesn't look good when you've only got twelve kids in the community center. You're burning all the lights and you've got four staff members on duty. It doesn't look good. So I thought, hey, by us being in the community, bringing kids to the center, you know what? Everybody benefits, Parks and Rec benefit, we benefit because we have somewhere that we can meet with our kids. Somewhere for kids to meet after school, instead of meeting downtown where our main agency is at, because we brought the program to the neighborhood.

Well finally Parks and Rec decides that they want to charge the agency now. We sat down and they talked about this figure. It was outrageous! They wanted our group to pay. I think it was close to $11,000 a year for rental of a room that was empty. That's ridiculous! I mean, how can you sit here and tell us that you're in the same business that we're in. Trying to help the community's youth, but yet you're going to go out and try to charge a nonprofit agency. Why charge all that money for a service that they're providing to the community and the parks and recreation is getting credit. The articles they send out on a quarterly paper, Parks and Rec; Ruben Campos Community Center, were always doing community projects. Everybody knew the Low-rider Bike Club. When they decide that they're going to charge our agency, I thought it was for other reasons and I didn't go to talk to the director. I'm thinking, "You know what? I'm not going to go in there to make a big thing about it because it's their loss not ours." So we had to leave. Now we have a building there that's probably one the oldest (pool houses) community center in this city. It doesn't have the participation of youth that it should have and could have had. The policies and the people that are there are so out of touch with what we do in these communities it affects what we do here. They do have a negative affect.

(Note: Capitalized portions were added by interviewee during the editing process.)

I have gotten the respect of this community and the people of this neighborhood, the families that have been here along time respect me. I have lived here all my life, it is home to me, that is why I stay involved. I have received a lot of COMMUNITY SERVICE awards from LOCAL congressman and from LOCAL STATE assembly PEOPLE, CITY HALL, MAYORS AND COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS. THEY ARE just pieces of paper THAT YOU CAN HANG ON THE WALL THAT JUST LOOK GOOD. THEY DON'T HELP YOU WITH THE THINGS THAT YOU NEED TO DO TO COMBAT THE STRUGGLES THAT WE FACE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. YOU CAN COME INTO MY OFFICE AND YOU WON'T SEE THEM ON MY WALL. I just get them, put them in BIG envelopes, AND PUT THEM AWAY. They REALLY don't mean THAT MUCH TO ME. IF THE PERSON THAT GAVE THEM TO ME REALLY WANTED TO DO SOMETHING POSITIVE IN OUR COMMUNITY, and WANTED TO help me make a difference with the kids, WHAT WOULD BE impressive to me. IS IF THEY HELPED ME Buy BICYCLE parts, SPONSORED FIELD TRIPS TO AN AMUSEMENT PARK, THAT WOULD BE GREAT. I HAVE COME ACROSS A LOT OF KIDS THAT HAVE NEVER EVEN BEEN TO DISNEYLAND. SPONSORS CAN ALSO send OVER some CANNED food AND UNWANTED CLOTHES FOR THE FAMILIES, NOW THAT'S WHAT I CAN REALLY USE. DO SOMETHING GOOD FOR OUR NEEDY FAMILIES AND KIDS. It's ALL about THEM.....

PEOPLE SOMETIMES wonder why some of these kids LOOK AND act angry. Well, LET ME TELL YOU WHAT SOME OF THESE KIDS TELL ME WHAT THEY HAVE TO GO THROUGH in the morning. JUST before THEY GO to school at ABOUT 7:15 AM, (EXAMPLE) Mom GETS home at three o'clock in the morning, messed up FROM DRINKING AND DOING drugs. THE KIDS DON'T SLEEP WELL BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHERE MOM WAS AND WHEN SHE DOES GET HOME SHE IS MAKING A LOT OF NOISE. BY THIS TIME, THE KIDS CAN'T GO BACK TO SLEEP SO THEY ARE WIDE AWAKE. NOW THE MOTHER STARTS TO YELLING AND SCREAMING AT THEM TO GO BACK TO BED BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL IN ABOUT TWO HOURS AND AT THIS TIME THE MOTHER IS NOW ASLEEP AND THE OLDEST KID HAS TO HELP DRESS THE YOUNGER SIBLINGS AND GET THEM READY FOR SCHOOL. THEY START TO COMPLAIN AND GET LOUD BECAUSE THERE IS nothing to eat for breakfast in the morning. THE OLDEST KID IS THINKING "What am I going to do with my brothers and sisters?" " My mom's all messed up." "My clothes are dirty." " I've got to go to school WITH DIRTY CLOTHES." Then THEY MAKE SURE THE SIBLINGS ARE ON THEIR WAY TO SCHOOL. ALSO, THEY THEN SAYS "I've got to cross DIFFERENT NEIGHBORHOOD GANG territories JUST TO GET TO SCHOOL." "I HOPE HE DOESN'T GET SHOT OR EVEN KILLED. THAT IS A LOT OF PRESSURE ON A KID. THIS IS BEFORE HE EVEN GETS TO school. THIS HAPPENS QUITE A LOT IN THESE TYPE OF NEIGHBORHOODS. THE KIDS SIT in a classroom AND CAN'T DO THEIR WORK BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY JUST WENT THROUGH. The teachers are wondering WHY THEY can't get this guy's attention. Is he BEING defiant? DON'T THEY WANT TO LEARN? WHY IS he dressed like THAT WITH oversized clothes? Well, IT'S VERY COMMON FOR POOR FAMILIES TO HAVE hand me downs, OLD CLOTHES THAT BELONGED TO OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS, LIKE from the bigger brother and sister. I GUESS SOME EDUCATORS JUST don't realize that, AND AGAIN, THEY PROBABLY DON'T UNDERSTAND THE CULTURES THAT ARE INVOLVED.

NOW, ABOUT people in OUR communities THAT HOLD leadership positions, some of them are just FULL OF IT....I would be ashamed to say THAT I'm a leader of A community THAT DOES NOT TRY TO MAKE THINGS BETTER FOR IT'S RESIDENTS. I CAN ALSO say there's nothing to really be proud of in terms of crime IN OUR CITY and STUFF THAT HAPPENS HERE. WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN POWER things can turn around and you can make a difference. You can make a difference, and THEN you can be proud and say, "You know what? I am proud of this community. I do make a difference." THEY couldn't say that right now. I ON THE OTHER HAND, I DON'T CONSIDER MYSELF A COMMUNITY LEADER, I'M A COMMUNITY WORKER. THAT FITS ME BETTER. I am proud of what I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO WITH THE YOUTH OF THIS COMMUNITY. THERE ARE TIMES THAT I JUST OBSERVE THE TRUE LEADERSHIP SKILLS THESE YOUNG KIDS HAVE LEARNED FROM US AND USE DAILY. WHEN THE kids SEE US IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD STORES, they COME OVER TO SAY HELLO AND TO SHAKE OUR HANDS ,THAT REALLY MEANS A LOT OT ME. I HAVE SEEN THEM INTRODUCE THEMSELVES TO people they don't know. They NOW talk to black YOUTH. In the SUBCULTURE OF the MEXICAN/CHICANO neighborhood WHERE you don't NORMALLY associate with blacks. WELL, THESE KIDS HAVE OVER COME ALL THAT NEGATIVE STUFF AND ARE REALLY SHOWING GOOD SOCIAL VALUES AS WELL AS GOOD LEADERSHIP SKILLS. THESE KIDS WILL USE THE SKILLS FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES AND WILL HOPEFULLY BECOME OUR TRUE COMMUNITY LEADERS AND ELECTED OFFICIALS. HERE IS HOW WE DO IT, FOR EXAMPLE, We went camping this PAST weekend WITH SIX Mexican kids AND EIGHT CHICANO KIDS WHO CAMPED with 9 black KIDS. THEY WERE ALL GOING TO SLEEP IN BIG TENTS. I do THIS on purpose, I assigned THE KIDS TO THE THREE DIFFERENT TENTS AND THEY WERE ALL MIXED UP TOGETHER, BLACK, MEXICAN AND CHICANO. THEY WERE NOT ALLOWED TO STAY IN THEIR OWN LITTLE GROUPS. I GAVE THEM ALL CHORES WHERE THEY HAD TO WORK TOGETHER DURING CERTAIN TIMES OF THE DAY. SANDY BONILLA CAME BY TO TELL THE KIDS OLD SCARY folk tales STORIES AT THE CAMPFIRE. WELL Guess what? AT THE END OF OUR CAMPING ADVENTURE THE KIDS HAD BONDED AND GOTTEN ALONG VERY WELL. THERE HAVE BEEN OTHER TIMES THAT I HAVE TAKEN KIDS OUT OF HERE THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND EXPOSED THEN TO OTHER RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES LIKE TO THE ANDY JACKSON AIR PARK (http://www.crestlinesoaring.org/) (RIGHT BEHIND CAL STATE UNIVERSITY SAN BERNARDINO) TO WATCH ME FLY PARAGLIDERS OFF THE LOCAL S. B. MOUNTAINS FOR WHICH I HAVE BEEN A PILOT SINCE 1996 THAT'S FUN FLYING! I ALSO BELIEVE THAT THESE FRIENDSHIPS WILL LAST A LIFETIME FOR THEM. THEY HAVE OVERCOME A LOT OF PRESSURES OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND I ALSO KNOW THAT. They're not going to be the kids that are INVOLVED IN THE RACIAL RIOTS THAT ARE TAKING PLACE IN OUR LOCAL SCHOOLS OF 2005.

It's interesting when I TALK TO the CHICANO kids and I ask them, "Who are the ones THAT ARE fighting AT THE SCHOOL, ARROYO VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL AND MARTIN LUTHER KING MIDDLE SCHOOL (The old Franklin Jr. High School)" THEY ANSWER "Oh, the Mexicans." I ASKED "The Mexicans are fighting with the blacks?" "Yup", THEY WOULD ANSWER. I asked the blacks, "ARE THEY Mexicans or ARE THEY the...E'SES." They call them the E'SES. ESE is the term THAT THE BLACKS USE FOR THOSE INVOLVED IN THE CHICANO GANG SUB CULTURE, the so-called cholos, the gangsters. "It's not the ESE'S!" "No, it's the BORDER BROTHERS." That's A TERM THAT BLACKS AS WELL AS CHICANOS USE TO IDENTIFY THE MEXICAN BORN KIDS OR FIRST GENERATION BORN KIDS OF MEXICAN DESCENT. Why is it that I haven't read ABOUT it IN THE LOCAL NEWSPAPER? Why is it that the school district don't know THIS? Why doesn't the school district know THIS IS HAPPENING? Why don't the SCHOOL police know IT? It's the first-generation American kids that are out there having issues with blacks. Remember, some of that comes from their parents. Being Mexican, I mean, how many blacks do you know that live in Mexico? VERY DARK SKIN PEOPLE ARE LOOKED DOWN ON IN MEXICO, BY THEIR OWN PEOPLE as well.

Hanson: Yes. Well, it's also, I think, a part of economic competition for jobs, because the jobs are so little. You have black people who need jobs, you have new Mexicans who need jobs. They're competing for the same low-status jobs.

Vega: Yes, that's VERY true.

Hanson: And it's part of the issue. And you hear at home that "these people are taking our jobs, they're taking our food, they're taking this...." I mean, that's got to make an impression.

Vega: Oh, it does! I've been saying that from the mid 80s, and everybody thought I was crazy, a racist. I STILL see it! You CAN go to A McDonald's BURGER STAND AND SEE WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT. YOU WILL SEE A LOT OF BROWN FACES IN THERE AND A LOT OF TIMES YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND THEM WHEN THEY TAKE YOUR ORDER. IN THE EARLY 70'S TO ABOUT THE EARLY 80'S, I SAW a lot of CAUCASIAN kids WORKING at McDonald's AND OTHER FAST FOOD RESTRUANTS, young kids from high school. WELL, NOT NO MORE! THOSE DAYS ARE GONE. Now you see A LOT OF YOUNG MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS FROM THE AGE OF MAYBE 16-60 YEARS OLD WORKING THERE. SURE, I understand they ARE PEOPLE TOO AND have a right to SURVIVE JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE, but IT SHOULD NOT BE AT THE expense of our kids. THE KIDS THAT ARE FROM HERE, THIS COUNTRY. Like I said BEFORE, A LOT OF OUR kids are getting a bad rap THESE days. PEOPLE SAY THAT they ARE out there doing A LOT OF negative things. You know what? They want to have NICE THINGS LIKE CELL PHONES, nice clothes AND NICE cars. How are THEY going to do it if you can't get a JOB? Some of them might even go to illegal means BECAUSE THEY WANT TO HAVE NICE THINGS. WE wonder why they're doing what they're doing.

Hanson: Yes. And then the other thing I think is, if you don't have the opportunity to get those jobs when you're a teenager, how do you learn a work ethic?

Vega: That's right.

Hanson: That's the way we learned it.

Vega: Yes. I learned SOME OF IT FROM MY FATHER AND STEP GRANDFATHER. HE had a MEXICAN BREAD bakery on Mt. Vernon Avenue AT 646 N. MT VERNON AVE (Old ROUTE 66) THE BUILDING IS STILL THERE TODAY. IT WAS CALLED "SANDOVALS BAKERY". IT WAS ONE OF ONLY TWO Mexican bakeries (sweet bread/cookies) ON THE CITY'S WESTSIDE. He was ALSO A long time MEMBER of the MEXICAN Chamber of Commerce. At one time back in the 60's, 70s, and 80s Mt. Vernon Avenue was...I WOULD say... "Thriving" WITH BUSINESS. THERE WAS THE Santa Fe RAIL ROAD YARDS. IT SUPPORTED THIS CITY WITH A LOT OF JOBS. WE HAD A LOT OF community pride. The businesses were LINED UP ON BOTH SIDES OF MT.VERNON AVE BETWEEN 5TH STREET AND 9TH STREET. My grandfather WOULD WORK EVERY DAY, FROM EARLY IN THE MORNING UNTIL LATE AFTERNOON AT THE bakery, SOME OF MY UNCLES WORKED TOO. MY COUSINS AND I WOULD go HELP OUT on Saturdays and Sundays, WEEKENDS ONLY. He'd gave US ABOUT TWO DOLLARS AND fifty cents for SIX HOURS OF WORK A day. WE WOULD get there in the morning ABOUT 6:30 AM. MY GRANDFATHER WOULD THEN GIVE US SOME MONEY TO GO OVER TO THE Embassy Liquor Store, which was THEN on THE N.W. CORNER OF Vine ST and Mt. Vernon AVE. WE WOULD buy doughnuts, COFFE AND OTHER SNACKS JUST TO GET US GOING, BEFORE WE STARTING TO WORK. HE WOULD be making the dough and stuff DURING THIS time. We'd start about 7:00 AM. WE only worked until MAYBE twelve p.m. We got fifty cents for the day, but we felt good because we had jobs. ALSO, WE had the privilege of GOING TO THE BAKERY TO GET BAGS FULL OF FRESH MEXICAN SWEET BREAD/COOKIES ANY TIME I WANTED. There was never a time that our family didn't HAVE ANY Mexican sweet bread AROUND OUR KITCHEN. MY FAMILY WAS PROUD THAT OUR FAMILY HAD A BUSINESS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. At that TIME, IT was a big thing because I had a grandfather who was a businessman IN THIS community. He went on to BUY AND OWN a pool hall ON THE SAME STREET 700 block of No. MT.VERNON AVE. WHEN I WAS ABOUT FOURTEEN years OLD, I USED TO TAKE MY FRIENDS there TO shoot pool AND DRINK COKES ALL DAY, FOR FREE. THOSE WERE THE GOOD OLE' DAYS!

Unfortunately, WE HAD BAD DAYS TOO. We grew up back WHEN PEOPLE THOUGHT DRINKING ALCOHOL WAS JUST PART OF THE CULTURE AND IT WAS O.K. I WAS SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE WHO THOUGHT THAT WAY TOO. You know, alcoholism WAS AND CONTINUES TO BE A BIG PROBLEM IN OUR COMMUNITY. It AFFECTED US IN OUR HOME FOR A WHILE. My dad couldn't wait to get home from work to HAVE A NICE COLD ONE, A CAN OF BEER. AT TIMES IT LED TO PROBLEMS IN OUR HOME. MY DAD WOULD GET MAD AT MY MOTHER AND WOULD SOMETIMES HIT HER FOR NOT DOING WHAT HE WANTED. MY DAD, AT OTHER TIMES, LIKE THE WEEKENDS, WOULD GO TO THE LOCAL BARS AND GET SO DRUNK THAT HE COULD NOT REMEMBER HOW HE GOT HOME, AND OF COURSE, WOULD LEAVE THE FAMILY CAR PARKED IN THE ALLEY, A 1951 CHEVROLET STYLELINE STATION WAGON (WOODY WAGON) BOUGHT BY MY FATHER FROM MY UNCLE RAY CHACON FOR $15.00. MY MOTHER AND I WOULD GO OUT AND LOOK FOR IT, TO BRING IT BACK HOME. I WAS ABOUT 15 THEN AND WOULD GET TO DRIVE THE CAR BACK HOME BY MYSELF. THAT WAS FUN. YOU KNOW, AFTER SEEING WHAT PROBLEMS ALCOHOL BROUGHT, I PROMISED MYSELF I WOULD NOT PICK UP THAT BAD HABIT. I THANK GOD I NEVER DID. UP TO NOW 2005, I HAVE NEVER DRANK OR DONE DRUGS. BEING SUBSTANCE ABUSE FREE. HELPS ME WITH THE WORK I DO WITH KIDS....

DURING THIS TIME, WHEN I WAS YOUNG, MAYBE fourteen OR FIFTEEN years old, I saw one of my friends WITH A shoe shine BOX. I said, "DO You shine shoes?" HE SAID "YEA", SO I MADE A SHOESHINE BOX TOO. I STARTED TO Go to every bar on Mt. Vernon AVE AND THERE WERE QUITE A FEW ON THE WEEKENDS. I CHARGED 25¢ TO 50¢ TO SHINE A PAIR OF SHOES. If the guy was drunk, I MIGHT GET lucky. THEY MIGHT GIVE me a dollar FOR THE WORK. SOMETIMES I WOULD GET THEIR SOCKS FULL OF SHOE POLISH AND GET NOTHING BUT A SCOLDING. THAT HAPPENED TO ME MORE THAN ONCE. I HAD THE work ethic I needed, TO MAKE SOME MONEY TO BUY THE NICE THINGS I WANTED.WHILE DOING ALL THIS, I MET MANY PEOPLE FROM THE LOCAL BUSINESS COMMUNITY.

I got involved with the MEXICAN Chamber of Commerce through my grandfather's CONNECTIONS. I started helping THEM out WITH CLEAN UP AFTER COMMUNITY EVENTS. WE HAD PARADES ON THE 5TH OF MAY AND ON THE 16TH OF SEPTEMBER, WITH THE FIESTAS, CARNAVAL RIDES AND A WHOLE LOT OF FOOD BOOTHS. IT WAS LOCATED AT LA PLAZA PARK ON MT.VERNON AVE (Old ROUTE 66) and 7th Street. Every year until about the late 80s we would look forward to these events. REMEMBER THIS WAS A POOR, BUT HARD WORKING COMMUNITY AT THE TIME AND A lot of FAMILIES COULDN'T AFFORD TO GO TO OUTINGS, LIKE Disneyland or Knott's Berry Farm. IT WAS JUST NOT AFFORDABLE. These little carnivals meant a lot to us, THE POOR PEOPLE OF THIS COMMUNITY. People IN the business community, THE ONES THAT OWNED BUSINESSES ON MT VERNON AVE, LOVED IT, THEY WOULD MAKE A LOT OF MONEY DURING THESE EVENTS. PEOPLE WOULD GO TO THE NEARBY STORES TO BUY THINGS. Poorer families saw it as an opportunity to go to a carnival for free. You DIDN'T have to go and pay TO GET IN, AND THE carnival CAME TO US, right here in OUR neighborhood.

WELL, as the FIESTAS got bigger. We started having more problems. WHEN the City of San Bernardino ASKED THE MEXICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE TO move the festival (NUNEZ PARK) LOCATED ON FOURTH STREET, THE MEXICAN Chamber of Commerce DID NOT LIKE IT, they were ANGRY. You know who got the blame for that MOVE ?.....THE LOCAL Gangs. I heard IT AGAIN just the other day, 2005. I was talking to ONE OF my aunts, and SHE SAID "I heard Mijo, THAT THE REASON WE DON'T HAVE THE FIESTAS ON MT.VERNON AVE IS BECAUSE THE GANGS MESSED IT UP FOR US. SURE AT THE TIME WE WOULD HAVE FIST FIGHTS AND DRUNK PEOPLE ACTING OUT AND SO ON, BUT THAT WAS NOT THE REASON THE CHAMBER WAS ASKED TO LEAVE....AND NO! THEY didn't close down the FIESTAS BECAUSE OF THAT." The city decides that THEY COULD NOT close off CITY streets around the park (FIESTA) JUST BECAUSE THE EVENT WAS GROWING FROM YEAR TO YEAR. THE LOCAL RESIDENTS COMPLAINED TO THE CITY THAT IT WAS CREATING PROBLEMS JUST TO GET HOME. THE TRAFFIC PROBLEMS BEGAN, when a public ambulance OR A FIRE TRUCK COULDN'T GET THROUGH because of the festivities going on. AGAIN, THE CITY HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO ASK THEM TO MOVE TO A BIGGER AREA IN THE CITY. THE business community WAS trying to generate all this money for THEIR nonprofit group that BENEFITED themselves and nobody else. You know what? THAT'S THE PROBLEM, WHEN THE FIESTA was asked to move.

SURE THEY DID NOT LIKE IT! When they did move, I talked to my grandfather (Epigmeno f. Sandoval ) AND other business people around there. They were very upset because, "Hey, it's taking money from us." "What do you mean it's taking money from you? What do you get out of the fiestas?" Well, the fiesta is put on by the non-profit Mexican Chamber of Commerce AND the money goes to the ORGANIZATION.

MY GRANDFATHER TOLD ME ONE TIME, "Mijo, you know, the bakery, people come from all over TO THE FIESTA, and they walk across the street TO buy SWEET MEXICAN bread from me. JUST LIKE THEY COME AND BUY THINGS FROM THE OTHER STORES." And I'm thinking, "I Never thought about it." Well, they lost A LOT OF business ON MT.VERNON AVE.

The PARADES THAT TOOK PLACE ARE out now! The MEXICAN Chamber said, "THAT THEY were going to boycott! We're not going to do parades anymore, because we don't benefit anymore. And as an individual businessman, they didn't benefit anymore." We as members of this community, benefited, because like I said, it was a FIESTA WITH VERY AFFORDABLE carnival RIDES. THE EVENT WAS free TO THE COMMUNITY. You COULD go buy MEXICAN FOOD and experience the MEXICAN culture FIRST HAND. It was a big thing to go see horses AND the Mexican charro outfit MARCH IN A PARADE. For them, THE MEXICAN CHAMBER USED THE EXCUSE THAT IT WAS A BAD PLACE TO BE NOW AT (NUNEZ PARK) AND ALSO PUT SOME BLAME ON the gangs. IT WAS NOT A SAFE PLACE TO BE....IS CRAZY! I'm thinking, "Uh-uh, we're not buying that." The real reason was that they couldn't make any more money. They couldn't make any more money because THEY DIDN'T PUT THE SAME EFFORT THAT THEY DID WHEN THEY BENEFITED. AS INDIVIDUAL'S BUSINESSES FOUND OUT, people weren't going to come to that area, MT. VERNON AVE. (Old Route 66) and CONTINUE TO DO business WHEN THE FIESTA HAD MOVED.

I'll tell you another thing that kind of GETS TO me. THAT IS, YOU KNOW WE STILL HAVE OUR TRADITIONAL MEXICAN HOLIDAYS. SOMETIMES WE HAVE ACTIVITIES AT THE LOCAL UNIVERSITIES, COLLEGES AND SCHOOLS. SOMETIMES WE HAVE THEM DOWNTOWN AND IN OTHER PLACES IN THIS CITY. YOU WOULD THINK THE DURING THESE HOLIDAYS, THE CITY of San Bernardino WOULD not HOST other COMMUNITY EVENTS AND would RESPECT THE MEXICAN TRADITIONS TAKING PLACE IN THE Months OF MAY AND SEPTEMBER. WELL, IT DOES NOT HAPPEN! YOU have Rendezvous 66 during the 16th of September. DURING THE Cinco de Mayo, there were times that you had the National Orange Show GOING ON. THERE IS JUST NO RESPECT for the traditional MEXICAN holidays, our FAMILIES traditional holidays. ONE THING FOR SURE YOU would never see the City DOING anything during Black History Month (FEBUARY) THE BLACK COMMUNITY WOULD QUICKLY PUT A STOP TO IT. Yet they'll step all over us CHICANOS/MEXICANOS. Where is the outrage in the CHICANO/MEXICAN community? Where are our leaders... A SLEEP AT THE WHEEL AGAIN? NO! Our COMMUNITY leaders are sitting comfortably downtown somewhere making decisions for us. WHY COME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND DO SOME REAL WORK WHEN THEY CAN SIT AROUND AND SWAP STORIES ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE GOING TO DO. OTHERS SIT AROUND IN their little "GO FOR" positions. YES! WE HAVE DIRECTORS IN some nonprofit ORGANIZATIONS THAT RECEIVE AS LITTLE AS $10,000 a year IN GRANTS to operate. THEY THINK, "I'd better not step on the City's or county's toes. I'd better not ever go against the City or county, because IF I DO I MIGHT lose funding." YET WE ARE SUPPOSED TO TAKE THE THINGS THEY DO OR DO NOT DO TO US, AS A COMMUNITY, SITTING DOWN.

[END TAPE 1, SIDE B; BEGIN TAPE 2, SIDE A]

Vega: CBO ORGANIZATIONS WILL NOT OFTEN STAND UP FOR US. That's one of the biggest things THAT NEED TO CHANGE, hopefully IT DOES. Like I said, I've got a twelve-year-old kid right now that is VERY SHARP IN TERMS OF BEING A YOUNG LEADER. I have a LOWRIDER BIKE CLUB meeting today with the 22 kids IN THE CLUB, and he wants to be the leader of this bike club. That kid has so much leadership potential. I wish I had somewhere to send him TO GET MORE LEADERSHIP TRAINING. You know I can only do so much. I'm not going to sit here, brag and say that I can do all this. I can teach these kids ABOUT WHAT BEING A leader IS, TEACH THEM SOME GOOD SOCIAL SKILLS AND GET THEM TO A CERTAIN LEVEL. But they NEED OTHER TYPES OF TRAINING, AS WELL, IN ORDER TO SUCCEED IN LIFE AND go out and do something better. I tell you what, I'm VERY good at bringing kids in from the neighborhood and polishing them up. If I had somewhere to send them AFTER, where somebody would be willing to take these kids and work with them that would be a plus. Again, we don't have that access to OTHER organizations that are willing to take a very high risk kid into their program. Sure, We have Kiwanis groups out here, they have GOOD leadership programs FOR YOUTH, but guess what, our kids are never going to be in them, because our kids don't HAVE CERTAIN GRADE POINT AVERAGES. It's a very good organization, but again...IT IS OUT OF REACH FOR OUR KIDS. SOME groups WILL SAY We GIVE out scholarships ALL THE TIME TO POOR KIDS. That doesn't mean nothing to me. Again, KIDS THAT GET THE SCHOLARSHIPS ARE college bound. EITHER WAY, THOSE KIDS would have gotten a scholarship one way or another, because he's an "A" OR " B" student.

NOW, take one of my kids IN THE PROGRAM, teach them some work ethnics, hire them PART-TIME AND SHOW ME THAT YOU CARE. I HAVE challenged the business community AT DIFFERENT TIMES in the past, EVEN some black business community members. I asked them to hire some of our kids, JUST to wash windows, do something small. Just open a door for them. I even GIVE them a list OF names and phone numbers. NOT ONE of our kids ever got called, yet they're the first ones to complain about youth problems, gangs, and guess what?.....they're not doing' nothing' about it. ALL they are perpetrating IS bad upon them and nothing more. Like I said, I sit back AT sometimes and WONDER how this community has let this city AND IT'S LEADERS do what it does to us. Like I said, it's just amazing! With all THE organizations THAT OPERATE IN THIS TOWN, you would think that things would be better here...but it's not, it's not.

Hanson: You said when you were growing up there were a lot of programs that you were in. What were some of those programs?

Vega: There was the CETA Summer YOUTH Programs. I don't know what CETA stood for, but I do know that there was always money going to social SERVICE programs, like Casa Ramona and the Drop-In CENTER, WHICH WERE CITY FUNDED AGENCYS AT THE TIME. They RECIEVED money for youth leadership TRAINING programs. WHAT Casa Ramona would do FOR THE KIDS is GIVE US work during the summer, JUNE - EARLY SEPTEMBER. THEY HAD A free lunch program AND we'd pass out free lunches to the OTHER YOUNG KIDS THAT CAME TO PLAY OR JUST CAME TO GET A FREE BAG LUNCH. We were required to go to leadership training classes where you would have somebody from the community, a director or somebody, come in and talk about leadership, teamwork, working TOGETHER as a team AND A BUNCH OF OTHER THINGS. Sure, we were passing out lunches, and to us it was kind of like, man, it's not a big deal. AT THE TIME, WE WERE learning how to work AND GET ALONG WITH OTHERS.

CASA RAMONA ALSO had the senior citizen LUNCH/RECREATION program. I was transferred over from one program TO ANOTHER. I was RAKING UP leaves and PICKING UP TRASH AT ONE TIME AND. I'm thinking AT THAT TIME, "This doesn't got nothing to do with leadership! I do THIS at home (RAKE UP LEAVES)." Well, they FINALLY sent me over because I complained so much ABOUT THE MAINTENANCE WORK I WAS DOING. I WOUND UP AT THE senior citizen lunch program. What I DID THERE WAS AT about eleven a.m., I'd ride around with an old gentleman in a van and DELIVER hot lunches TO THE HOMES OF THE SENIOR CITIZENS THAT WERE TOO SICK OR OLD TO COME TO THE CENTER.AND EAT. I thought, "Man! this is A COOL Job!" I REALLY LIKED MEETING THESE OLD PEOPLE. THEY HAD A LOT OF STORIES TO TELL ABOUT THIS CITY. I ENJOYED AND STILL DO, HEARING OLD STORIES. THIS GUY TELLS ME, "You know if we don't feed them, nobody's going to feed them." I said, "Don't they have families? Like me, I've got a grandmother that lives down the street. I've got cousins here. I've got Mom and Dad." HE said, "No! When you get old, this is what happens sometimes." Being exposed to those things changed my whole way of thinking. Old people used to look forward to me coming and knocking on their door. THE OLD PEOPLE WOULD GREET ME, "Hi, how ARE you doing? Come on in. I've got something for you." Even then, I kept relationships with some of those older people. I'd ride my bike over and talk to them after WORK. I REALLY felt bad for SOME OF them.

Those summer jobs, at the time, probably didn't mean TOO MUCH TO US KIDS. IT WAS just something to keep us off the street AND put a little money in our POCKETS TO buy school clothes come September. So I had people around me all THAT time to kept me straight.

I don't REMEMBER how many summers I worked AT CASA RAMONA, MAYBE 6 SUMMERS AND ABOUT 3 SUMMERS AT THE HOME OF NEIGHBORLY SERVICE. I WORKED ALSO FOR LOS PADRINOS YOUTH SERVICES AS WELL AS OTHER youth AGENCIES. I wound up one day over at the HOMES OF NEIGHBORLY SERVICE. Jim Penman, was the Executive Director then. It was interesting, because here we are in the CHICANO/MEXICAN neighborhood, where people knew the neighborhood, THEY knew the culture, AND HERE WERE LOCAL gang members going AND getting jobs AT THIS CENTER BEING RUN BY A WHITE GUY. You know WHAT? HE GOT THE RESPECT OF THE KIDS AND FAMILIES. HE WAS A GOOD GUY.THE GANGSTERS DIDN'T act like a FOOLS over there. IT WAS kind of like a little sanctuary, WHERE everybody was O.K. You didn't go out there and get beat up OR GET IN FIGHTS.WE WOULD HANG OUT AND SHOOT POOL, PLAY PING PONG BALL OR DO OTHER THINGS. WE WOULD STAY UNTIL THE PLACE CLOSED AND THAT WAS ABOUT 9 P.M. WELL, ONE DAY THEY TELL US THAT THE DIRECTOR OF THE HOME WAS LOOKING TO HIRE SOME OLDER KIDS TO WORK FOR THE SUMMER. SO I GO OVER TO MEET THIS GUY AND TO MY SURPRISE IT IS A WHITE GUY! HE HAD A HANDHELD radio, "How ARE you DOING?" HE SAID. Well, I SAID, "O.K., you know, I'm applying for a job here and I'm supposed to talk to you." "Yeah, O.K.," HE ANSWERED. THIS GUY'S NAME IS Jim Penman. I THOUGHT HE WAS THE POLICE. WE FOUND OUT LATER THAT HE WAS A POLICE COMMISSIONER. HE GOT US (THE KIDS) OUT OF SOME JAMS WITH THE POLICE. HE WOULD SHOW UP WHEN THE POLICE HAD US SITTING ON A STREET CORNER SOMEWHERE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. HE CONVINCED THEM NOT TO ARREST US OR GIVE US A BOGUS CITATION, LIKE THE ONE I RECEIVED FOR NOT PICKING UP BEER BOTTLES ONE NIGHT AT THE PARK. I REFUSED TO PICK THEM UP BECAUSE I DON'T DRINK AND NEVER HAVE. THE BEER BOTTLES DIDN'T BELONG TO ME AND I WAS NOT ABOUT TO PICK THEM UP. THE POLICE OFFICER SAID HE WAS GOING TO TAKE ME TO JAIL, BUT INSTEAD HE TOOK ME TO THE POLICE STATION DOWN ON 4TH STREET, WHERE THE BIG STATE BUILDING SITS NOW. HE HELD ME THERE UNTIL ABOUT 3:00 AM AND THEN DECIDED TO WRITE ME A TICKET FOR "OBSTRUCTING A PUBLIC SIDEWALK". WHAT A JOKE! I STILL HAD TO WALK HOME AND IT SURE WAS COLD THAT MORNING. JIM DID SAVE US FROM A LOT OF THINGS THAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED TO US BACK THEN. I guess MR. PENMAN was AT THE HOME there for about a good nine, ten years. HE GAVE ME A JOB AT THE CENTER. I WAS IN CHARGE OF THE WADING POOL AT THE PARK ON 8TH STREET IN BACK OF THE HOME. I WATCHED LITTLE KIDS SWIM IN 2 ½ FEET OF WATER, KIND OF LIKE A LIFE GUARDS....COOL! OTHER TIMES, I WORKED as a recreation leader, I RECEIVED leadership training EVERY SUMMER AT CASA RAMONA AND I GUESS IT SHOWED! Again, I LIKE TO THANK MR. A. DE LATORRE, HIRAM DIAZ, Esther Estrada, (NOW OUR 2005 COUNCIL WOMAN 1ST WARD), AMPARO OLGUIN, VINCENT SALAMANCA A.K.A. (THE GOD FATHER) ALSO A FOUNDING MEMBER OF LOS PADRINOS YOUTH SERVICES IN 1973. Kiko Gomez, Richard "Dicky" Salas, RITA ARIAS, AND LUCIA VALDEZ (A YOUTH WORKER AT THE TIME) WHO were all members of this community THAT GAVE SO MUCH TO US and they all were our COMMUNITY leaders at the time. BACK THEN, everywhere you turned, THERE was somebody around to keep us straight. I COULD BE out on the street SOMEWHERE AND somebody would be telling me, "Hey, don't mess up, WE'RE WATCHING YOU!" Or, "Remember, you're working over there SO STAY CLEAN." "O.K!" That was a good thing back then, because our community workers in the 70s and 80s lived in THIS NEIGHBORHOOD. There was some kind of control over us, being kids FROM this community. I WOULD THINK, "Man, I'd better not go, because I might see somebody from around HERE AND THEY MIGHT THINK I'M DOING SOMETHING WRONG." GROWING UP AS A YOUNG MAN, PEOPLE THOUGHT YOU WERE UP TO NO GOOD WHEN YOU DRESS A CERTAIN WAY THAT CONTINUES TODAY. That's WHAT I tell some of our kids right now, WHO GET STOPPED FOR DRESSING A CERTAIN WAY. When the police ask YOU FOR PERSONAL INFORMATION, GIVE IT TO THEM, BUT DON'T LET THEM FOOL YOU INTO THINKING THAT YOU ARE A GANG MEMBER JUST BECAUSE YOU LIVE IN THIS AREA. POLICE WILL SAY SOMETHING LIKE "Oh, ARE YOU A big gangster FROM MT.VERNON?" You know, THAT IS a psychological tool and our kids fall for it. "Oh, you're FROM Mt. Vernon gang?" TELL THEM NO! YOU'RE NOT IN A GANG AND MT.VERNON IS JUST A STREET (Old Route 66), it's not a gang. THE GUYS IN BLUE COULD CERTAINLY USE SOME CULTURAL DIVERSE SENSITIVITY TRAINING AND A FEW OTHER THINGS. If the law enforcement officers don't know that, I don't know what to say. Again, you know, it's ridiculous when law enforcement and the SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY district attorneys OFFICE CAN'T SEE IT FOR WHAT IT IS. THEY TELL US that there ARE CERTAIN gangs in our neighborhood but we know they don't exist. Like I said, there IS'NT A Mt. Vernon gang. I'm sorry, but IT doesn't exist and I've lived here all my life, SO BELIEVE ME I WOULD KNOW. Now, there was a 7th Street gang, SUR CRAZY ONES gang, AND A Flats gang, but there never was, never! a Mt. Vernon gang or a Verdugo gang.

You know, SOME PEOPLE TATTOO VERDUGO AND MT VERNON ON THEIR BODIES, BUT ALL THAT MEANS IS THAT THEY ARE PROUD OF WHERE THEY COME FROM. IT DOES'NT MEAN THEY'RE FROM A GANG. Is it pride? I AM NOT AN EXPERT ON LOCAL STREET GANGS, BUT I SURE KNOW A LOT ABOUT THE SUB-CULTURE I HAVE LIVED AROUND IT ALL MY LIFE. SO SURE, I CAN PROBABLY IDENTIFY WHO IS INVOLVED AND WHO IS NOT OR I CAN FIND OUT REAL QUICK FROM THE PEOPLE I KNOW. I DON'T know where SOME OF THESE WHITE gang experts/PROFESSORS come from or who trains THEM, AS WELL AS OUR LOCAL law enforcement, BUT LIKE I SAID BEFORE EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD IS DIFFERENT, AS ARE THE GANGS, BLACK/CHICANO. LAW ENFORCEMENT SURELY GOT IT WRONG. I just don't know where they're coming from AND WHERE THEY GET THERE INFORMATION, BUT IT'S NO GOOD! THAT'S WHY WE ARE LOSING THE WAR ON GANGS.THEY DON'T KNOW WHO'S WHO OR WHO THE REAL GANGSTERS ARE. And the gang injunctions, they don't work either, they have just have made the problem worst, the GANG MEMBERS IF THEY ARE JUST MOVE. SO YOU DON'T GET RID OF THE PROBLEM YOU JUST SPREAD IT OUT CITY WIDE AND IT BECOMES A BIGGER PROBLEM FOR ALL OF US. REAL SMART!

ANOTHER EXAMPLE, the SO CALLED I.E. gang (Inland Empire). I just read in the LOCAL newspaper the other day, something about THE I.E. The newspaper PRINTED something about the A YOUNG CHICANO kid BEING IDENTIFIED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT AS AN I.E. GANG MEMBER. MANY OF THE YOUNG CHICANO KIDS ARE NOW TATTOOING THEMSELVES WITH I.E. MOST OF them don't even know what it means OR HOW IT STARTED, BUT BECAUSE KIDS IN THE SUB-CULTURE DO IT, THEY tattoo I.E. on THEMSELVES AS WELL. ACCORDING TO LAW ENFORCEMENT, those with tattoos of I.E. ARE (INLAND EMPIRE). GANG MEMBERS. LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I KNOW ABOUT THE I.E. years ago. MAYBE IN THE VERY late 70s EARLY 80s, I was told ABOUT THE GANGS BY AN OLDER GENTELMAN THAT KNEW THE GANG SUB-CULTURE VERY VERY WELL. AT THAT TIME, NO ONE WHO KNEW IT BETTER THAN HIM. HE HAS SINCE PASSED ON. HE told me that the reason the YOUNG CHICANO MEN STARTED identifying with the Inland Empire NAME, was THAT when they were going to prison FOR WHAT EVER REASONS, THEY FELT SCARED. THEY DIDN'T WANT TO BE ASSAULTED, HURT OR KILLED WHILE IN PRISON. AND THEY DID NOT WANT TO BELONG TO ORGANIZED PRISON GANGS WHILE IN THE CALIFORNIA PRISON SYSTEM AT THE TIME. SO there was a need for them to identify AND PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM OTHERS IN JAIL. THEIR THOUGHT WAS THAT if they all go in as part of SAN BERNARDINO, COLTON, RIALTO AND REDLANDS ECT.... I.E., maybe the big gangs won't TRY TO victimize them. EVEN THEN, it wasn't a gang. It was just a SAFETY NET FOR group of people that were JUST TRYING TO STAY ALIVE. NOW, all of a sudden, there's an I.E. gang. LAW ENFORCEMENT HAS NOT looked at it, THAT way. THESE GUYS JUST WANTED TO DO THEIR TIME AND GET OUT WITH NO PROBLEMS. THIS WAS the only way they could HAVE DONE IT. THEY FORMED A GROUP OF LOCAL AREA PEOPLE (INMATES) not a gang, BUT a group, THAT WOULD protect each other WHILE IN PRISON. SOMEHOW IT HAS NOW BECOME A BIG GANG TO LAW ENFORCEMENT.

Again, like I said, it infuriates me sometimes when I read in the newspaper THAT law enforcement HAS IDENTIFIED A YOUNG CHICANO AS A KNOWN "Mt. Vernon gang MEMBER OR A MEMBER OF THE WESTSIDE GANG. I HAVE READ THAT THEY GET EXTRA JAIL TIME (GANG ENHANCEMENT "California 186.2") FOR BEING AN ACTIVE MEMBER OF A CRIMINAL STREET GANG. I WAS AT A COMMUNITY MEETING ONE DAY AND ASKED A SENIOR DEPUTY D.A. HOW THEY VALIDATE GANGS AND GANG MEMBERSHIP. I ALSO TOLD HIM THAT I WAS VERY AWARE OF OUR LOCAL TRADITIONAL STREET GANGS AND THAT I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF SOME OF THE ONES THAT THEY TALK ABOUT. HE, THE DEPUTY D.A., COULD NOT TELL ME WHO OR HOW THE LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE WORKED AND WHO WAS RUNNING THE GANGS! IN SAN BERNARDINO'S WESTSIDE THAT SHOULD SAY SOMETHING ABOUT WHAT THEY GET AWAY WITH WHEN THEIR PROSECUTING YOUNG BLACK AND CHICANO / MEXICAN KIDS.

Now, AS I'VE SAID, the COMMUNITY pride IN THIS area is strong and it exists. IT was taught to us, again, years ago. I TALKED TO AN OLDER CHICANO MAN ONE DAY, IT WAS couple of years ago, MAYBE 2003. I TOLD HIM THAT I was curious to find out how you can go to THE OTHER SIDE OF the border (SOUTH) to Tijuana, MEXICO. AND IF you're looking for a certain family OR FRIEND, ALL YOU HAVE TO KNOW IS WHAT COLONIA THEY LIVE IN. THEY have what they call colonias. That's what they call the neighborhoods there. We call them barrios here IN THE CHICANO/MEXICAN COMMUNITY. What's the difference? It's been instilled in us from Day One, I guess, when our GREAT grandparents came FROM MEXICO. COULD THEY HAVE BROUGHT THAT TERM WITH THEM. YOU BET THEY DID AND MAYBE THAT'S WHY OUR NEIGHBORHOODS HAVE THESE VERY DISTINCT NAMES ATTACHED, LIKE Verdugo. Who knows WHERE THESE NAME CAME FROM, LIKE VERDUGO, WHICH I HEARD MEANS THE (GRIM REAPER) IN SPANISH.

I was ALSO wondering how the Mexican officials deal with it on that side of the border, THE PRIDE, because again, there's pride OVER THERE TOO. I wonder how they deal with THEIR youth as well. That is interesting to me. I've have always wanted to find out IF there ARE kids labeled AS gang members too? ARE they from a certain colonia? THEY ARE probably dressed a certain way. Now back to how it came about the slang names of our communities (barrios), I'm sure it had something to do with how they do it in Mexico. Well, as you know, we don't call them colonias here, we call them barrios. If you're from a barrio, oh, you know what?....Chances you are a gang member! You're probably living in a gang neighborhood. That's sad, because I don't see it that way.

Hanson: And I think in other places.... I had a student who's working with Mexican-Americans down in Beaumont, and they call it a barrio, but it's one family. It's a big extended family. That's the whole neighborhood. So it's got to be a transplant. [Volume drops to zero, as if there's a loose electrical connection in the mic. (Tr.)] You know, you bring those things with you when you come.

Vega: I would bet that they were labeled barrio gang members, just like everybody else, too.

Hanson: Probably.

Vega: I have said that living in this community and seeing what I've seen is interesting. The youth sub-cultures have change from the 70s....to now 2005. This neighborhood, being able to photograph people and events, has really been fun for me. I gave a lot of pictures to the Norman F. Feldheym Central Library in downtown San Bernardino.  Ca. (Check out these old pictures at Historical Index) none are mine. But the (CALIFORNIA ROOM) Upstairs has some of the pictures of the SAN BERNARDINO GANG SUB-CULTURE (they also have a whole lot of pictures of the history of this city and families that have lived in and around San Bernardino, CA). I wanted my PICTURES to reflect THE neighborhood SUB-CULTURE AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS NOW, 2005. THE photo BOOK is CALLED THE (VERDUGO/MT VERNON AREA BY: BOBBY VEGA). It IS ABOUT WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THIS AREA the Westside. SO TO US THAT LIVE HERE, THESE PICTURES MEAN SOMETHING. THERE ARE PICTURES OF YOUTHS THAT ARE NO LONGER ALIVE. SOME WERE VICTIMS OF GANG VIOLENCE, OTHERS ARE IN JAIL AND will never come out.. THIS PHOTO BOOK DOES REFLECT 'SOME' OF THE BARRIO LIFE. THE PICTURES WERE TAKEN FROM the 1970s to 2005. A LOT BY ME. THERE ARE EVEN LETTERS THAT ARE WRITEN BY KIDS AND THE THINGS THEY HAVE GONE THROUGH THAT WERE GIVEN TO ME ALSO. I WILL TELL YOU SOMETHING, THESE KIDS NOW DAYS ARE GETTING INVOLVED AT A MUCH YOUNGER AGE THAN BEFORE. THE PROBLEMS SEEM TO GET WORSE. IN GENERAL, YOUTH CRIME IS WAY MORE SERIOUS NOW THAN BEFORE. IT DOESN'T HELP WHEN OUR STATE, COUNTY AND FEDERAL AGENCIES ARE CUTTING BACK OUR resources, DOLLARS HAVE BEEN CUT BY THE MILLIONS. THE MONEY HELPS SUPPORT OUR LOCAL SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCIES. WE ALSO HAVE SOME LOCAL COMMUNITY BASED organizations THAT ARE NOT DOING ANYTHING ABOUT OUR PROBLEMS. THEY PUT IT ON THE LACK OF FUNDS, NO MONEY!

Vega: I have said that living in this community and seeing what I've seen is interesting. The youth sub-cultures have change from the 70s....to now 2005. This neighborhood, being able to photograph people and events, has really been fun for me. I gave a lot of pictures to the Norman F. Feldheym Central Library in downtown San Bernardino. Ca. (Check out these old pictures at Historical Index) none are mine. But the (CALIFORNIA ROOM) Upstairs has some of the pictures of the SAN BERNARDINO GANG SUB-CULTURE (they also have a whole lot of pictures of the history of this city and families that have lived in and around San Bernardino, CA). I wanted my PICTURES to reflect THE neighborhood SUB-CULTURE AS IT WAS, AND AS IT IS NOW, 2005. THE photo BOOK is CALLED THE (VERDUGO/MT VERNON AREA BY: BOBBY VEGA). It IS ABOUT WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THIS AREA the Westside. SO TO US THAT LIVE HERE, THESE PICTURES MEAN SOMETHING. THERE ARE PICTURES OF YOUTHS THAT ARE NO LONGER ALIVE. SOME WERE VICTIMS OF GANG VIOLENCE, OTHERS ARE IN JAIL AND will never come out.. THIS PHOTO BOOK DOES REFLECT 'SOME' OF THE BARRIO LIFE. THE PICTURES WERE TAKEN FROM the 1970s to 2005. A LOT BY ME. THERE ARE EVEN LETTERS THAT ARE WRITEN BY KIDS AND THE THINGS THEY HAVE GONE THROUGH THAT WERE GIVEN TO ME ALSO. I WILL TELL YOU SOMETHING, THESE KIDS NOW DAYS ARE GETTING INVOLVED AT A MUCH YOUNGER AGE THAN BEFORE. THE PROBLEMS SEEM TO GET WORSE. IN GENERAL, YOUTH CRIME IS WAY MORE SERIOUS NOW THAN BEFORE. IT DOESN'T HELP WHEN OUR STATE, COUNTY AND FEDERAL AGENCIES ARE CUTTING BACK OUR resources, DOLLARS HAVE BEEN CUT BY THE MILLIONS. THE MONEY HELPS SUPPORT OUR LOCAL SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCIES. WE ALSO HAVE SOME LOCAL COMMUNITY BASED organizations THAT ARE NOT DOING ANYTHING ABOUT OUR PROBLEMS. THEY PUT IT ON THE LACK OF FUNDS, NO MONEY!

THE KIDS IN OUR PROGRAMS ARE TAUGHT social LIFE skills. We've HAVE a clinical social worker from the SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY Department OF CHILD PROTECTIVE Services. HE PLAYED PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL AT ONE TIME, A PLACE KICKER FOR THE GREENBAY PACKERS. HE HOLDS KICKING CLINICS FOR THE KIDS THAT CAN'T AFFORD TO PAY TO LEARN THE GAME. HE HAS A WEB SITE: http://www.snap-hold-kick/. HE happens to be a good guy, he comes in on his own and he spends ABOUT TWO HOURS with our kids. He's teaching these kids how to make the right choices in life AND IT DOESN'T END THERE. I've told our PROGRAM director SANDY BONILLA, "Sure, that guy comes in, but he's not going to work miracles. We STILL HAVE TO pick up where he left off and carry it on out here in the neighborhood." REINFORCING WHAT HE'S TAUGHT IN THE CLASSROOM, WHICH IS GOOD AND WE DO!

[problem with microphone noticed, volume improves]

Vega: I SAID EARLIER THAT WE definitely need to evaluate the services THAT WE PROVIDE and the agencies THAT PROVIDE SERVICES to our kids AND FAMILIES in this community. Again, boxing...but I just know our kids and we've got about thirty kids...I would never try to teach these kids how to box because these kids ALREADY HAVE issues with anger right now. They see it at home where the FIGHTING GOES ON. It's not THAT WE can't teach THEM, WE can teach him here, but my concern is THEY HAVE to go home AND THEY see that THERE IS FIGHTING GOING ON BETWEEN THE PARENTS. SOMETIMES THEY THINK THAT IT'S O.K. WHEN IT IS NOT. SO THAT'S WHY WE TRY HARD TO CHANGE THE WAY THEY THINK ABOUT THE NEGATIVE THINGS THEY SEE HERE IN THIS COMMUNITY.

I have ALSO learned over the years NOT TO SAY TOO MUCH ABOUT THINGS THAT HAPPEN AROUND US. I JUST concentrate on what I'm doing and TRY TO make a POSITIVE difference OF where I'm at in this community, WHILE WORKING WITH THE KIDS. Now, I'm not afraid to bump heads with anybody. That's one thing that nobody can take from me. Like I said, nobody can take away what I've done in this community or what I've given to it. I don't think any body coming from this neighborhood can compare to that. The first thing I ask anybody at a meeting whenever we're questioned ABOUT WHAT WE DO is "Where do you live?" Boy, half the time they JUST STAY QUIET AND STARE. WHY do I ASK THIS?....Because if you don't live in my community and you don't wake up everyday and have to hear the helicopter, hear gunshots at night and also sometimes, have to deal with THE ISSUES THAT WE HAVE, THEN MAYBE I DON'T THINK YOU ARE QUALIFED TO ADDRESS CERTAIN ISSUES IN OUR COMMUNITY. Don't tell me that I'm not doing something right or I'm doing something wrong, WHEN you don't know YOURSELF.

We have issues with guns, DRUGS AND all that, but a lot of THE PROBLEMS THAT WE ARE HAVING right now ARE BEING MADE BY THE first-generation American BORN kids. It's not all the Chicano kids out here messin' around, I know a lot of them.

Again, it's assimilation. People will come in AND TRY TO assimilate into these communities. I've had kids in our program who I've talked to the parents. The parents will tell me...Mexican parents..."Bobby, well, you know, my kid is getting in fights in school and IT just DOESN'T END." .... I SAY, "You know what, lady?"... I SPEAK TO THEM IN SPANISH... "Let me tell you what the problem is. You come from Mexico? RIGHT" "Yes!" THEY WOULD ANSWER. "You bring your culture and your values from Mexico, YES? Well, guess what? You MIGHT NOT KNOW THIS BUT YOU just stepped into another culture in this barrio. You didn't just STEP into America, you ALSO stepped into a so-called sub-culture in this barrio, where sure, we're Mexicanos, we're Chicanos, whatever, but you know what? We're not doing things like you did in Mexico. I WILL ALSO TELL YOU THAT the way you HAVE your kid dressed up CAN GET HIM KILLED OR HURT. You HAVE HIM DRESSED UP LIKE A GANGSTER. If he's not one now, he's PROBABLY gonna go IN that direction. Because he lives in this barrio, he's gonna have to belong to something. He's going to have to belong to some social group in terms of a community center, LIKE THE BOYS CLUB, THE HOME, or SOMETHING LIKE our group, THE WESTSIDE PREVENTION PROGRAM, or he's gonna belong to a STREET gang. That kid is not GOING TO BE ABLE JUST TO wander around THIS BARRIO DRESSED LIKE THAT WITH NOT GET STOPPED BY THE POLICE OR HOPEFULLY NOT BY OTHER GANG MEMBERS LOOKING FOR TROUBLE." I TELL THEM THAT THESE problems are VERY MUCH alive and well and they DO exist in this community. JUST Like I HAVE said, until we get more help, only THEN will we be able to MAKE THE CHANGES THAT NEED TO HAPPEN AROUND HERE. That's not happening! THE KIDS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS DON'T have too many choices.

People talk about choices. You know what? You can make a choice whether to live or get your butt kicked everyday before you go out of your house. That's how many choices you have. You don't have the choice of saying, "Well, I'm gonna tell that group of kids down the street that I don't want to belong to this little neighborhood thing." It might not be a gang, but it's just a little group that's in the neighborhood. "I don't want to belong to it ANYMORE." Well, guess what? You're gonna get beat up. The choices here are not too many. I've had people ask me, "Why aren't the kids from your bike club and your low-rider bike club attacked by the gangs?" You know what? They're accepted, it's a cool thing. It's kind of like a gang. Right now gangs in our neighborhood aren't fighting. They're not fighting at ALL. I HAVE A THEORY. I BELIEVE BECAUSE WE HAVE WORKED SO MUCH WITH THE LOCAL GANGS AND HAVE EVEN TAUGHT THEM TO GET ALONG IS THE REASON WE DON'T HAVE GANG WARS GOING ON IN THE MT.VERNON AREA BETWEEN CHICANO GANGS. IT WORKS, PREVENTION/INTERVENTION, BUT YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO DELIVER THE MESSAGE EVERYTIME AND THAT ONLY COMES FROM WITHIN THE NEIGHBORHOOD!

Now, there's shootings and all that TAKING PLACE HERE, BUT NOT TOO MUCH IN THE MT.VERNON AREA. The ones that are being victimized are MOSTLY THE first-generation Americans that are trying to acculturate, I guess, is the word, and it's not happening. I HAVE even heard that there were power struggles TAKING PLACE between the immigrant kids and Chicano kids. It's like this, "Wait a minute, you're not gonna take over this neighborhood." These struggles exist, but you don't hear about them, you don't read about them. THE kids THAT WE HAVE IN OUR PROGRAMS have pretty much STAYED CLEAR OF THESE PROBLEMS. Like I said, OUR kids can go out on NICE, LOWRIDER BICYCLES and THEY don't have to worry about getting THIER NICE BIKES stolen by somebody. WHY, because four years ago, it happened TO ONE OF OUR KIDS. This got me mad because I HAD an investment in this program. I HAD an investment with these kids. It's not just ABOUT THE program. These kids are going to REMAIN my LITTLE friends when this program is long gone. I KNOW SOME OF THE FAMILIES VERY WELL, EVEN BEFORE SOME OF THESE KIDS WERE BORN. When that bicycle got stolen from one of these kids' home, everybody I KNEW and I went to through the neighborhood LOOKING FOR THAT low-rider BICYCLE. I made sure that everybody KNEW THAT WE WERE looking for that bike. YOU KNOW, that BICYCLE WAS BROUGHT BACK TO US, COMPLETE TO US, TWO DAYS LATER BY SOME KID THAT KNEW WHO HAD TAKEN IT. HE WANTED TO ALSO JOIN OUR LOWRIDER BIKE CLUB, WHICH HE DID. We DIDN'T have any problems THEREAFTER WITH ANY THING BEING STOLEN FROM US FROM THE low-rider bike PROGRAM. THE INTERESTING PART OF IT ALL WAS THAT EVEN THE GANG MEMBERS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD WERE OUT THERE LOOKING FOR THIS BIKE. I GUESS THAT HELPED TOO.

Like I said, I was very fortunate back in the EARLY 90s to HAVE WORKED with LOS PADRINOS YOUTH SERVICES OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, a gang intervention program, at the time. It was a good program UNTIL AROUND THE LATE 90s. I happened to HAVE HIRED a lot of kids from DIFFERENT neighborhoods and it gave them a lot of opportunities, I took them places they'd never been and they didn't forget it. So when I went out INTO THE NEIGHBORHOOD TO try to get this bike back, guess what?.... everybody came out! The community did what it was supposed to do. This was by the so-called "deviant" group, a group that people would say, "this is a deviant group." Well, guess what? We policed our neighborhood and that bike came back. Nobody got hurt, and the bike came back. We haven't had that problem since. I'm going to show you a bike right now before you leave and you're going to see THIS bike and you'll say, "Man!" These kids will ride them all over the place AROUND here and NO they're not afraid that anyone's going to take them (JACK THEM) away from them. THE THIEVES know WHO they're going to have to deal with in this community.

The ones that THE KIDS ARE afraid of, and it's sad TO SAY, ARE police, because the police HAVE TOLD them, "We're going to take your bike from you." You know, that's sad when kids are more afraid of the police than they are of so-called gang kids that we have in our community. That's a shame! IT'S very sad. ANOTHER THING we don't have is the police chief asking us or inviting us to come and sit at the table and tell them what's going on IN OUR COMMUNITY. WE WOULD LOVE TO IMPROVE POLICE COMMUNITY RELATIONS, BUT I THINK IT'LL NEVER HAPPEN. Can we make things better in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood BETWEEN THE POLICE AND THE COMMUNITY NO? It's not GOING TO happen. It is very sad THAT A LOT OF our kids are more afraid of the police than the gangsters. We HAVE eleven AND twelve-year-old kids that have to ride from here to the other side of this neighborhood. I tell them, "I'll DRIVE you home." They answer, "No, no, I'm O.K." I say, "Are you sure you're O.K.?" They respond, "Yeah, we're O.K." I feel confident now that a lot of our kids, even the black kids, we have ABOUT 16 black kids coming, mingling around with Chicano kids AND MEXICAN KIDS. Years ago it would have never happened. You would never catch a black kid IN THE Mt. Vernon AREA. IT JUST wouldn't happen. Now, because OF ALL THE kids in our LOWRIDER BICYCLE club PROGRAM, the commonality is the bicycle. BY BEING part of the club, we HAVE MANAGED TO BRING THEM together. They're riding' around LOW AND SLOW. THIS PROGRAM HAS DONE SUCH A GOOD JOB THAT WE HAVE RECEIVED NATIONAL RECOGNIZATION FROM GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR CHILD AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT IN THE WASHINGTON D.C. AREA. THEY HAVE RECOGNIZED OUR PROGRAM AS A PROMISING PRACTICE. WE ARE ON THEIR WEB SITE AT THIS TIME AT THE http://www.national/ CENTER FOR CULTRAL COMPETENCE. YOU WOULD THINK THAT THE CULTURAL BROKERS (STAFF) IN THIS PROGRAM. DESERVE SOME GOOD POSITIVE ACCOLADES FROM THIS CITY FOR WHAT THEY HAVE DONE. BY BEING RECOGNIZED AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL BY THIS UNIVERSITY IN D.C. THIS CITY AND ITS LEADERS SHOULD BE PROUD OF WHAT OUR STAFF AND KIDS HAVE MANAGED TO DO. THAT IS, TO COME TOGETHER AT THESE TROUBLED TIMES, WITH RACIAL VIOLENCE TAKING PLACE IN OUR COMMUNITY. I get a big kick when I drive around the NEIGHBORHOOD, I tell SANDY BONILLA, "Look at 'em, there goes the gang!" They're just riding down the street on their CLEAN, NICE, SHINY LOWRIDER bikes. They're JUST having fun! You know. they're not doing anything that's going to get them in trouble.

There's times that we've seen them riding in groups OF MAYBE 10-20 and there's the police right behind them. ONE TIME I STOPPED TO ASK A POLICE OFFICER THAT HAD STOPPED THE KIDS. WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM. HE WAS PRETTY COOL AND TOLD ME "THEY'RE riding on the sidewalk AND THERE ARE bicycle laws." WELL, ALL HE DID WAS WARN THEM THAT THEY COULD GET TICKETS NEXT TIME HE CATCHES THEM RIDING ON THE SIDEWALK. Well, the bigger issue is keeping these kids away from drugs and keeping them out of gangs. We shouldn't make criminals out of them, you know, educate them! Sure, pull them over and tell them, "this is what needs to be done." Don't criticize them, don't label them. That's not what happens.

Hanson: Or, have police come in and say, "O.K., these are the rules for riding bikes, and here's a pamphlet, and this is what we want to teach you." You know, do it positively.

Vega: It doesn't happen and I'll tell you another thing right now. We wanted to start ANOTHER bicycle program in November 2005. We talked to the police. Our agency is right across from the police department. Sandy BONILLA is our program manager. I said, "I've got a good idea, why don't we ASK FOR BICYCLES from the police department?" I used to work with Charlie Seymour AT (ADOPT A BIKE AND COMPUTER) NOW THAT'S ANOTHER STORY SUCH A GREAT AND COMMITED MAN TOWARD YOUTH, Charlie Seymour used to get bikes all THE TIME. I used to RIDE WITH him to go get bikes IN A BIG U-HAUL TRUCK AND WE WOULD FILL IT UP WITH BICYCLES, I JUST HELPED the guy out. I was trying to bridge the gap with Chicanos and Blacks IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Charlie Seymour is black and he said, "Bobby, I need to get CHICANOS."IN MY PROGRAM I SAID, "O.K."

I became A CULTURAL BROKER FOR "ADOPT A BIKE AND COMPUTER" and I started bringing CHICANOS/MEXICANS AND people in TO HIS PROGRAM. AFTER A FEW YEARS CHARLIE CLOSED HIS BIKE PROGRAM TO DO ANOTHER PROJECT, A SMALL GOLF COURSE IN THE WESTSIDE OF THE CITY EAST OF MEDICAL CENTER DRIVE WHERE HE IS NOW. I said TO SANDY, "You know what? Charlie Seymour did away with the bike program, now he's working on the golf course. Let's ask the police department across the street if we can get their bikes. Then we'll have the kids work for the bikes. They come in for six weeks, we teach them the basic technical skills of how to fix a bike. KIND OF WHAT CHARLIE DID. WE WILL TEACH THESE kids how to work on bicycles. THEY CAN GET A FREE BICYCLE WHEN THEY to do good in school AND AT HOME and maybe write an essay or something, STAFF agreed." "O.K., let's go over to the police department," SANDY REPLIED. She went across to the police department, they talked to somebody there and a lieutenant, came back. "WE WILL think about it," the lieutenant said. I TOLD SANDY "O.K. THAT'S NOT LOOKING TOO GOOD, SO WHY DON'T You drop my name. I used to be a police commissioner IN THIS CITY. I know the secretary TO THE CHIEF, let's go straight to the chief." So boom, the next day, SANDY GOES straight to the chief, "O.K., well, you know what? Put it in writing, let's see what we can do for you guys."

O.K., that was in November. When December came I thought, "O.K., we're not going to hear anything." We're waiting to hear something, January came-nothing. What's going on? So then at the end of January, somebody calls and says, "We're going to run it before a group of administrators. I guess we're going to see whether we can do something for you guys or not." I told him, "We only need ten bicycles, ten bicycles a month. That's to help some kids get from HOME to this project, just for transportation. They don't have to be fancy bikes, whatever you want to give us. We can fix them. I'll encourage the bike club to fix them for the poor kids that don't have bikes." O.K., the last thing we heard was that it was going to go through some committee and we had to send in our nonprofit number and all that stuff, PROOF THAT we were a legit organization, 501C-3 NON PROFIT. WE WERE ALSO TOLD THAT WE COULD NOT SELL THE BICYCLES BECAUSE THEY WERE GIVEN TO US. IF THEY DECIDED TO GIVE THEM TO US, OKAY! WELL, IT TOOK ABOUT 7 MONTHS BUT THEY DID COME THROUGH AND WE HAVE GOTTEN ABOUT 70 BICYCLES FROM THEM. THE KIDS ENJOY THEM AND I GUESS THEY ARE TRYING TO BE GOOD NEIGHBORS AFTER ALL.

During the holidays, we partnered up with the LOCAL CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL. They were supposed to come by and give us turkeys TO HAND OUT TO THE COMMUNITY. We said, "Fine, we could use all the turkeys you can get us. WE ASKED THEM if THEY could DRESS it down with the uniforms and the patrol cars. That would be appreciated. YOU SEE we were trying to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community. Well, these guys decided they're going to drive up to the worst park in the neighborhood (PLAZA PARK) with their patrol cars and lights going on and all that, making it a big old photo thing, for the newspaper. PEOPLE CLEARED OUT OF THE PARK REAL QUICK BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT IT WAS A RAID..."Oh, wait a minute," WE SAID, "no WE DONT need that!" We backed off at that minute, but they continued into the neighborhood. WITH A LIST OF FAMILY NAMES THAT WERE GIVEN TO THEM, they came back with half the turkeys. WHY People were afraid, they didn't EVEN open THEIR HOME DOORS for a free turkey.

Again, those are the type of things that we do, TO TRY TO WORK WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT. They tell us they want to be our friends, THEN THEY DO THE SOMETHING ELSE, LIKE IN December. The City of San Bernardino says, "we're going to implement Operation Safe Streets." Operation Safe Streets is an effort that saturates this neighborhood with law enforcement, highway patrol, sheriff and police. It's just interesting that the people that are almost immune from this are the people that are doing the worst. The people that are driving down the street with a broken taillight, messed-up car, are the people that are getting their cars impounded because they don't have insurance. Their taillight was out or something. These efforts by the police are creating more hardship for the poor that live here. They're telling us that they want to be our friends? You don't do that during the holidays. You don't come into our neighborhood and start impounding vehicles and then tell us, "You know what? We want to be your friend." You know?

Hanson: Yes, that's not friendly.

Vega: No! You don't do that! You just don't do things like that. They say that they're making an effort to improve police community relations and they want to do something positive in this community. I mean I have to say different. I have to say real different. I SEE BOTH SIDES AT TIMES, HOW CITY AGENCIES WORK AND DON'T WORK. I go downtown and I meet with OTHER CITY commissioners on the 3rd Thursday OF EACH MONTH AT 3:00P.M..WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT PICTURE? WELL THE WORKING CLASS PEOPLE CAN'T MAKE IT TO OUR MEETINGS TO GIVE INPUT, BECAUSE OF THE TIME CONFLICT. WILL THE MEETINGS TIMES EVER CHANGE TO THE EVENING?

[END TAPE 2, SIDE A; BEGIN TAPE 2, SIDE B]

You're telling me, downtown we're trying to make a good effort to resolve some of the issues with kids and we want to make a difference in kids' lives, we'll leave no kid behind like the No Child Left Behind ACT FOR SCHOOLS. Well, guess what? It doesn't happen! I talked to the gentleman across the street at the "Sal SAVEDRA" BALL Park, WHICH WAS FORMALLY KNOW AS "GUADULUPE" BASEBALL PARK IN 1400 BLOCK OF WEST 8TH STREET. I happen to HAVE KNOWN him from years ago and I let him know that, "Hey, I got a couple of kids and I want to scholarship 'em." "Scholarship 'em," he said. What do you mean?" I said, "Well, can you waive the fees?" "Can't do it, Bob. You know, insurance and all that," he answered. I said, "Kids gotta buy shoes and stuff. Well...OKAY...BUT you know what? Check this out. You're going to need something one day from us in this neighborhood and don't count on me." He knew what I meant. The next day he comes back, "Hey, Bob, I talked to the board and you know what? We can do it." "All right. O.K," I said. He was one of the few that was willing to do it. Now, how many kids get left out of these ballparks because THE FAMILIES can't afford to pay? You've got large families in this community.

Again, I can take you across the street right now and there's a good example. That ballpark is chained up close right now. It's supposed to be a community ballpark. You couldn't get into that ballpark. I have made that an issue twice already with our director of Parks and Rec. I said, "You know, that bothers me when the ballpark across the street from a park commissioner's house is closed and we can't use it." The director replies, "Well, no park is supposed to be closed." "Well, I'm telling you the park is closed. We can go right now and it's chained up. You can't use that park," I said. "Well, we'll do something about it," he replied. That's already been two years. Well, guess what? I told the guy one day, somebody's going to jump that fence and somebody's going to get hurt. The first ones that I'm going to tell them to come and sue is THE PARKS AND RECREATION. I COMPLAINED TO THE LEAGUE PRESIDENT AND HE GAVE ME THE KEY TO THE GATE. They gave me a key to the ballpark to open it up whenever I wanted to use it. I've got it hanging right there on the refrigerator. When I see kids TRYING TO GET IN, I OPEN THE GATE FOR THEM. For whatever reasons, they WON'T open the ballpark to this community. It's not the only one! There's another ballpark ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN THAT IS CLOSED AND LOCKED!

Hanson: Doesn't make any sense.

Vega: It doesn't make sense. WE talk about the lack of opportunities. I mean it doesn't take much for me to get a baseball bat and a glove and take some of my kids and go and play baseball out there. I'm sure other people AND FAMILIES would like to do the same thing. Guess what? You can't! People's minds right now think probably if we don't pay, we can't use that ballpark. POOR kids IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD can't use that ballpark. I'm telling you, I have the key hanging right here. The guy found it more fit to give me the key so I wouldn't complain, than leave it open the way it should be. Again, as director of Parks and Rec, he hasn't made an effort to come out here. We got Parks employees that come out here and I don't know if there are any out there right now, but I know they have to use the key to get in. You have a ballpark that's right here in the heart of this community and kids cannot use it to play baseball because they can't get in.

Lets talk about opportunities. There is a lack of opportunities for kids in this community. People can say whatever they want and they can turn THIS around. Who knows what excuse THEY would use, what THEY hear from anybody else. You know what... that doesn't carry any water. Like I said, you can walk there right now and you won't get in that gate. You ask anybody in the neighborhood, we all know that ballpark is locked down. You want to know why kids are out there doing other things? You want to know why? Like I said, our kids are doing O.K., but it's the other kids, THE ONES NOT INVOLVED IN PROGRAMS THAT SOMETIMES GET INTO TROUBLE .

You know, I used to GO across the street years ago with my family and we'd set up NEIGHBORHOOD BASEBALL GAMES there on Sundays. All you have to do is bring out a baseball and bat, people will come. We'd invite neighbors, "Hey, let's go play baseball." It was like a little community thing. We can't do that right now. We can't do it, because again, the ballpark is not open. Now I can do it, but, you know...the point is, that ballpark should be open for anybody to use. Our kids should be able to go out there, whether it's to play football in that field or to play baseball. IT'S something that they shouldn't have to pay to play on because their taxes pay for it, THE USE OF PARKS AND PLAYING FIELDS. Who knows what Mayor JUDY VALLES would say if she knew the ball park were closed. I don't even know if she knows OR IF SHE WOULD CARE, but I know that the Parks and Rec. Director knows because I've brought it to his attention two TIMES at our meetings, informally." I said, "We got a problem. You know, the park is closed and it shouldn't be closed. "SAL SAVEDRA" ballpark. What are you going to do about it? I'II Send somebody down there." Guess what? I live across the street, it DIDN'T happen.

You know, I used to GO across the street years ago with my family and we'd set up NEIGHBORHOOD BASEBALL GAMES there on Sundays. All you have to do is bring out a baseball and bat, people will come. We'd invite neighbors, "Hey, let's go play baseball." It was like a little community thing. We can't do that right now. We can't do it, because again, the ballpark is not open. Now I can do it, but, you know...the point is, that ballpark should be open for anybody to use. Our kids should be able to go out there, whether it's to play football in that field or to play baseball. IT'S something that they shouldn't have to pay to play on because their taxes pay for it, THE USE OF PARKS AND PLAYING FIELDS. Who knows what Mayor JUDY VALLES would say if she knew the ball park were closed. I don't even know if she knows OR IF SHE WOULD CARE, but I know that the Parks and Rec. Director knows because I've brought it to his attention two TIMES at our meetings, informally." I said, "We got a problem. You know, the park is closed and it shouldn't be closed. "SAL SAVEDRA" ballpark. What are you going to do about it? I'II Send somebody down there." Guess what? I live across the street, it DIDN'T happen.

Like I said, it does bother me when people talk about all the problems that these youth have in this community when they're not doing their part. That is the sad thing about it. YOU KNOW, every time A COMMUNITY GROUP WANTS to use a CITY park, IN THIS CITY, WE HAVE TO PAY FOR ITS USE. We did a LOWRIDER BICYCLE show a couple of years ago AT PLAZA PARK WITH DRUG & VIOLENCE PREVENTION IN MIND, we had to go downtown and actually pay. We had to get a bond and we had to pay a fee to use a park. You can drive right now TO OTHER PARKS IN THIS TOWN, WHERE YOU WILL SEE drug addicts AND DEALERS DOING WHAT THEY WANT. AND They use THESE PARKS every day FOR FREE, but a community-based organization with kids HAS TO PAY!

Who knows how much they charge Danny Flores? I'm sure Danny Flores pays his part to use it but he shouldn't, he's doing something good for this community with his events. It shouldn't be that way. All the things that shouldn't happen in this community happen. People just...I know for a fact that people in this community...accept it because it's been the norm for the City to treat us the way it treats us in this community. You know, we've lost jobs, our business community folded up. What did they leaders do to try to stop it? Again, it has to be our leadership, our leadership downtown, our leadership in the Chicano community too. I HAVE SEEN IT too many times WHERE they're offered a position IN CITY OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THEY TAKE THESE JOBS AND THEY SHIFT THEIR PRIORITIES TO SOMETHING ELSE. You can become an executive director OF A COMMUNITY BASED ORGANIZATION and that's a stepping stone to something else, maybe a field rep with a politician or a county job.

I had an opportunity to run an organization here. When I saw the MAKE UP OF THE Board of Directors, some of them were RETIRED EDUCATORS, some of them were law enforcement, BUT NONE WHERE FROM THIS COMMUNITY, I DIDN'T TAKE THE JOB BUT I got onto the board of directors as a community person. Some of THE bylaws WERE written THAT you have to have community representation SO THERE I WAS. I HAVE never had a problem getting ON A BOARD FOR A COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION, BUT THERE ARE TIMES THAT I HAVE LEFT BECAUSE THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND HOW AN URBAN COMMUNITY WORKS. THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND THE CULTURE, BUT YET THEY SIT THERE MAKING DECISIONS FOR OUR COMMUNITY PROGRAMS. VERY OFTEN THEY DON'T WORK BUT THEY'RE MAKING LIFE CHANGING DECISIONS THAT AFFECT A LOT OF PEOPLE AND SOMETIMES IT HURTS THEM AS WELL (THE COMMUNITY).

There are times that SANDY BONILLA who has worked for 3 different Mayors in the City of San Francisco and for the United States federal government (CSAP) In Washington D.C. tells me, "You cuss a lot sometimes." You know what? I might be talking to somebody that I know from this neighborhood and it's the culture, it's the language. I don't catch myself, but we're having a nice, good, long conversation and we're using foul language. It's accepted. In the neighborhood, that's the way we grew up. SANDY tells me, "You know what? I don't appreciate it when you're talking that way." I SAY SANDY, "You've been in too many universities you have too many degrees. That's your problem." Maybe they don't talk that way at the universities, BUT HERE IN THE BARRIO IT'S DIFFERENT.

Hanson: You'd be surprised. (laughs)

Vega: She tells me, I'm like, "No, no, no, no, no. That's my buddy, that's the way we talk." Again, that's acceptable, but sure, I don't do it in front of kids. That's one thing, I don't do it in front of kids. I do know that probably a good majority of the kids that I deal with, that's their first language at home. Their parents, "Get your ass over here! Get this and that! F#$* . Guess what? The kid picks it up as a young kid and he's going to have problems at school. He's going to use the "F" word at school. He's going to use the "F" word at a community CENTER. He's going to get in a group and it's going to slip out, but it's because it's so commonly used at home that people don't realize, you know what? Man, that's not English-this is their first language-not English, this, then maybe Spanish. People tend to forget manners. My mom and dad didn't use those words when I was growing up. I do know that in the 80s the neighborhood changed. Some of the kids that I grew up with were having kids-three, four kids-and they were having problems. They had bad mouths back then. You see THEIR kids AND WHY it goes on. Okay, now I know why.

The whole idea is to try to change these kids, better these kids. That's what this whole thing is about, being in this neighborhood, encouraging these kids to go to school, get tutoring, GET EDUCATED. It's O.K. for you to get tutored, you don't have to be a bad ass when you go to school, and if you get tutoring you're not stupid, oh, no, no, no! The whole thing is that we try to encourage our kids to go to school and do what they need to do. Be respectful at home. Sometimes it's not going to happen at home. I know that, but again, that doesn't mean that I'm going to give up on my kids. They might probably cuss up a storm on the way home, on the way down here, but when they're here, you better have a different attitude. You want to work on your bike in my garage? You want to hang out in my garage? You want me to feed you? You'd better have a better attitude and they do. The whole thing is about teaching them to have a better attitude whenever they go out somewhere. I know realistically that kids are going to cuss. I do it as an adult! I'm not going to clean up these kids 100%, but I want that kid to know the difference when he goes to school, that's a no-no. Leave it behind, leave it in the neighborhood, leave it at home, if that's what you do at home. Don't take it with you when you go out.

When we go to the forest, I say, "You know what, that first impression is a big one. AND we're not going to have an opportunity to go camping IF THEY SEE SOMETHING BAD HAPPENING.....!" We know a gentleman by the name of Gabe Garcia, he is the District RANGER of THE FRONT COUNTRY SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST area. He has opened the forest to our kids like no other has. We go out and we help one day out of the MONTH and in return, we can go camping anytime we want. THE U.S. FOREST SERVICE EMPLOYEES ASSIGNED TO US ARE TRULY VERY CARING PEOPLE. JACK KENNEDY AND RANDY STRIPLAND, YOU CAN'T FIND BETTER PEOPLE TO EDUCATE OUR KIDS ABOUT THE FOREST. THESE TWO men ARE TRULY AMAZING AND THE KIDS JUST LOVE THEM! YOU KNOW, IT doesn't cost us too much to jump in a car, or get a couple of cars from the neighborhood AND DRIVE 18 MILES TO CAMP APPLE WHITE. THE RANGERS provide the CAMPING STUFF, THEY SHOW THE KIDS HOW TO SET UP THE TENTS AND TO SET UP CAMP. WE BRING the food, everybody potlucks, we make a list OF THING THAT WE MIGHT WANT TO BRING and WE give a list to the kids, four or five lists, WE TELL THE KIDS "Give'em (THE LIST) to your uncles, AUNTS, PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS AND give 'em to your friends and maybe they can send a can of corn or one bag of potato chips or one pack of hotdogs. If you can't do it, don't worry about it. Somebody else will do it." That is what I tell them. "Don't feel bad if you can't give nothing because somebody else will." They say like, "Oh, O.K." When we come back, we have all kinds of stuff left over. ONE OTHER THING THAT I WOULD LIKE TO SAY IS THAT I DO APPRECIATE THE BASILO ACOSTA FAMILY FOR EVERY THING THAT THEY HAVE DONE FOR OUR KIDS, CARROL, MARCUS, MONIQUE, AND LITTLE JERRY WHO HAVE BEEN COMMITTED TO HELPING OUR KIDS AND THEIR FAMILIES, AND ALSO THE JESSE COVARRUBIO FAMILY FOR THIER PAST SUPPORT TO OUR KIDS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. People say, "How do you guys go camping all the time?" WHO PAY'S FOR IT. WE HAVE A LOT OF COMMUNITY SUPPORT.

A guy at the ball park asked me ONE Saturday, HOW did I take nineteen kids out ONE Saturday? "Man, you guys go camping all the time!" You know what? It don't cost us anything. We do one day of work WITH THE U.S FOREST SERVICE and these kids are more than glad to come out and volunteer. They don't see it as work, they see it as an adventure, going on a hike. THEY like to work with the rangers. The rangers treat them good. We ALWAYS have enough food to take WHEN WE GO. It doesn't cost us A LOT AND WE SURE DO EAT A LOT OF PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY AT THE TIME KIDS ENJOY IT.

THESE are the things that we don't have enough of in this community. It's a shame that other community organizations aren't offering what the United States Forest Service is offering us over THERE. Like I said, we HAVE SIX kids that they promised to hire over the summer. They're going to pay them $9.00 an hour and they're going to work from 20 hours to 32 hours a week. They're even willing to come and pick them up here in front of the house 1448 WEST 8TH STREET AT THE MEETING PLACE. That's what THEY said, "We're willing to come and pick up these kid UP." So YOU SEE THE U.S. Forest Service is doing something THAT this community, the people downtown, aren't doing, aren't willing to do. They recognize the potential of these kids.

It's just amazing some of the things that I've seen, growing up here. I was fortunate enough, again, not to get involved in the riffraff. I've been surrounded by gangs, drugs, and even killers. I've had friends THAT HAVE DIED FROM DRUG RELATED CAUSES O.D'S AND SOME HAVE EVEN BEEN SHOT AND KILLED DUE TO GANG OR DRUG INVOLVEMENT. ONE OF MY LITTLE sisters LORRAINE was murdered at the age of 28 JUNE 26, 1993 in San Bernardino, CA, she left us with a small daughter (Charlette Ballesteros) who was raised by mother and father. LORRAINE'S MURDER IS STILL UNSOLVED TODAY 1995! I've pretty much managed to OVERCOME SOME OF THESE CHALLENGES IN THIS neighborhood. BY STAYING INVOLVED AND WORKING IN COMMUNITY PROGRAMS I ALSO respect people for who they are. If you're in the neighborhood and you're in the same business, people business, then you can help me further educate these kids or get these kids to the next level. You know what? You're my friend. If you're going to try to hinder it or get in the way...you know what?...I'll just go around you! That goes for any community-based organization. Like I say, we've been displaced, we've been asked to leave four organizations in this neighborhood, right here, within a two-mile radius here. It's sad when you've got organizations that are throwing kids out from their own neighborhood. They are throwing them out into the streets and telling them, "We don't want to deal with you guys, because of this thing. But let me have your name and phone number, because we need to send it down to United Way, THE COUNY OR THE CITY so we can get money for service units. We have a FUNDERS and we need a head count." Well, guess what? Our kids don't sign anything anymore. I've told them, "You know what? IF THEY DON'T RESPECT YOU AND THEY THROW YOU OUT. HAVE THEM SHOW YOU THERE POLICY ON WHATEVER PROBLEM THEY SAID YOU GAVE THEM, TO THROW YOU OUT!....."

I've got eleven-year-old kids THAT NOW KNOW THAT EVERY ORGANIZATION HAS A POLICY AND PROCEDURE MANUAL. I TELL THEM THAT IF, "If you ever have a problem with whether it be an elected official, school official, anybody that you don't feel comfortable WITH AND that you feel that you've been mistreated, ask them for a policy ON THAT ISSUE. Tell them you want to read the policy." I had a kid one day, I TOLD HIM, "You're not going camping with me, because you know what, you were cussing up a storm AND YOU DON'T WANT TO STOP." Well, HE SAYS TO ME, " Do you have a policy WRITTEN ON THIS?" "Oh," I SAID, "You want to ask me for a policy? I'm the one that told ABOUT IT. Oh! Well, you know what? I've got one just for you and I'm going to show you." I brought OUT A SHEET WITH RULES ON IT THAT EACH AND EVERY KID SIGNS AND IT SAID THE 3RD RULE, Rules are subject to change at discretion of staff. You see that one?" I SAID THAT'S THE ONE THAT APPLIES TO YOU. SO you'd better make sure that that IF YOU EVER WRITE A POLICY THAT YOU INCLUDE THIS ONE! (rules are subject to change at any time, according to staff). I said it was a rule, now it's a rule. So it was like, "O.K." I like teaching, it's enjoyable. I know these kids are going to need it in years to come or maybe tomorrow they'll need it. Maybe they'll go to school and, you know what?...You're going to get suspended SO LETS SEE THE POLICY!

I've got kids that have gotten suspended for being late to school. They get citations. Well, when you get a $70 ticket, that doesn't help anybody. That doesn't help a poor kid EVEN HIS FAMILY. That's not going to encourage a kid to go to school EITHER. That's not going to encourage a kid to have more respect for law enforcement. When that kid is going to school late because of whatever reasons, something has happened at home. If you're not willing to sit down and ask them, "Why were you late?" That kid, most of the time is not going to say, "Well, because my mom was beating me. My mom's on drugs, I had to make sure that my little brother was taken care of." You know these kids are not going to say that. Again, they don't feel comfortable talking to a school official because of mandates. I'm mandated to call Social Services if you tell me your mom's on drugs. Here is a kid caught in the middle. You know what? You're not willing to say why you were late or you were just late because you wanted to be late. You're being defiant. You know what? Citation, you're on your way.

But again, you know, I blame a lot of problems on our elected officials for not being where they should be. They are not listening enough to the community, especially in this community here. Again, I was fortunate I was born and raised here. I was taught by some of the best and I feel good ABOUT WHAT I DO. A lot of people tell me, "You've got a lot of compassion for what you do." Well, I don't see it as a job. Where else can I get paid to do what I LOVE TO do? SURE, there are times that I didn't get paid and I still do what I do and something GOOD comes out of it. I've never had to apply for a job in a community-based organization. People will call me as soon as they find out, "Hey, Bobby's out of work?" You know what? "Looking for a job?" "Well, yeah. Okay" I'll always ask them, "This is the way I operate. I operate like this and I want that freedom." SANDY says, "Oh, you're just like a Rambo! You don't have respect for authority." I said, "No, it's not IT. But when authority is wrong and authority doesn't know, I've got a problem with that." If people are going to hire me, hire me for what I know and what I can do, what I bring to the table. Judge me on that. Judge me for what I bring to the table.

Don't judge me by what you've heard. Again, you know, we can go to these organizations that I told you about and ASK THEM WHY THE'VE THROWN OUT THESE KIDS AND THEY WILL probably turn it around and say something else happened. They're lucky that I didn't have it in my heart to turn around and go TALK TO their funders and expose them for some of the things that they did not do. That's why when I walk from certain agencies, or I leave, I try to leave on good terms. I hope that one day these directors and CERTAIN board MEMBERS are not going to be there and we can be able to come and use these community centers. SO LETS get rid of these BAD directors!

I know that our kids can receive other types of services in other agencies as well, I can teach them a lot here, but I would feel more comfortable being where I can sit these kids down and have a nice room for them where we could talk and somebody can walk in from off the street and offer them something more or better than what we have. Like I said, right now I don't have the confidence in too many people to tell my kids, "You know what? Go see so-and-so over there for something."

Real quick... a member of a church group one day came and asked me, "Hey, you know, Bobby, you guys got a nice group of kids and this and that, but brother let me tell you something...." I'm like, "O.K., what are you going to tell me?" He said, "Brother, the only thing that you're missing, brother, is God." I said, OH! WAIT A MINUTE "Let me tell you something, brother. Let me tell you what the difference is between your ministry and my ministry." He looked at me. "That's right, this is a ministry, brother. You know. I speak the same language. I'M A CHRISTIAN ALSO. I've gone to church a couple of times. BUT Let me tell you the difference. Do you know what the difference is? I'm doing THIS seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, I'm available to my boys. You guys are only open on Sundays. That's the difference. And I'll tell you another thing...What I teach these kids comes from God...because it's all good. Anything good AS YOU KNOW comes from God. So brother, I don't know where you get your information or what, but next time you ask somebody about their ministry, make sure you got your bases covered. Find out how long they've been open. What they do, how they do it, because it might not be in the spiritual sense the way you do because brother, I tell you what, God has given me enough wisdom that I know that if I start preaching to these boys, I'm going to have no boys. They don't want to hear it, they don't understand it, but God has given me the wisdom to take all these boys camping and WHEN we're at a campfire OR DOING SOMETHING FUN and I can say, 'You know what? I thank God for this campfire OR THIS EVENT. I thank God that he put it in my heart to come out here with all you today.' Now, in that context I can put it in and kids will understand it and appreciate it. But that's the only difference, brother; God has given me a lot of wisdom and the compassion to do it in another way, where I don't scare these kids away."

That guy turned away saying, "Brother, you know what? You ever think about coming to our church, brother? We need preachers like you." I said, "No, I'm not interested in going to preach. I think my calling is here. But I'll tell you one thing, and I know that these kids need God,"...and I do. They need it more than anybody else." I told him, "Why don't you come up, brother? I tell you what, I got probably three kids that you can probably get into your church." It was a non-denominational church. "But I'll tell you what, brother, you know that old thing about fishermen and fishers of men?...Some of these kids have never been fishing. I got fishing poles, if you're willing to take these three guys fishing for the day. THEN you can pour it on them all day long, about God. That might work, but if I ask you to come and talk to my kids ABOUT GOD, they're going to be bored or they're not going to like it, because they don't understand it. The way you present it, that's what you've got to be careful with."

I told him again, "Like ONE OF OUR ministry's the low-rider bike club. RIGHT NOW. That's the way I present it. You know what? It's a low-rider bike club, it's a POSITIVE gang. They understand that first. Now when I have an opportunity to talk about God I do it little by little. They also know that if somebody gets hurt or something I'll say, 'I'm going to go home and I'm going to pray for them.' The kids look at me like, 'What's that?' But it's acceptable to them because they know that they're going to get something in return that's positive." The guy walked away with another guy. He was surprised. It was like, "Man, brother, you know. Man, I apologize." I said, "Don't worry about it, we're in the same business, man, we're helping people, we're trying to save LIVES AND souls."

It's a good thing and a positive thing when working with kids, because you can make a BIG difference. It's not just...a prevention project, anti-substance abuse, anti-gang violence. It's bigger than that. It's about making better people out of these kids, because they're going to grow into adults. It's about changing the culture of this neighborhood. The only way it's going to happen is with the kids. It's going to happen with the harder kids because again, the harder kids are the ones that determine whether this community is safe at night or not. When I was on the police commission, I used to share that with people. Then people thought I was crazy. "Oh, no, police make a difference." Believe me, police don't make a difference. Police do not make a difference in this community. If they do, it's negative SOMETIMES. This group of kids will determine whether you are going to be safe tonight NOT THE POLICE!

You know, in the LYTLE CREEK PARK area, MILL STREET AND K STREET, I was working a gang project. It's interesting, ...I never saw any...heroin addicts on that side of town, the LYTLE Creek area. When I was working on the gang project, I used to see the kids go out there, "Hey, ERNIE." I said, "How come you DON'T HAVE DRUG ADDICTS AT LYTLE CREEK PARK." HE SAYS, "Well, the heroin addicts are over in the Mt. Vernon area, I SAID WHAT DO YOU MEAN. HE SAID we beat their ass's OVER HERE AND CHASE THEM OUT of our neighborhood. They burglarize our homes to buy drugs so we don't want 'em over here." So that gang, THE FLATS GANG, used to police it's own neighborhood. It's unacceptable...again...they're a deviant group. Nobody will accept anything that they're doing as positive, but SOME people in that neighborhood THINK IT'S GOOD. Anybody outside would think, "Oh, no, that's a bad gang, terrorizing people." Well, guess what? They're NOT terrorizing the people ONLY THE ONES THAT ARE burglarizing THEIR HOMES, I used to tell them, "You know what? Man, for being a little gang, you guys are doing a good job." They weren't hurting nobody. They were just hanging out together. Sure, they'd beat up a kid if another kid disrespected him. BUT that was part of the culture of the gang. They weren't out there killing anybody. They kept that neighborhood clean of drug addicts.

Nobody acknowledged that, nobody in City government or in a leadership position. You'd be a fool to say that an organized street gang is doing good. They'd get eaten up! You know, people aren't going to vote for you no more. If you're saying that gangs are good, something's wrong with you. I have been fortunate to see some good in SOME OF THEM. NOW Gang programs do work. I know, because I've HAVE ran NUMEROUS gang programs THROUGH OUT THIS CITY, I've been part of gang prevention/intervention programs most of my life. They do work. Intervention does work. Prevention does work. Law enforcement? Suppression. Sure it works sometimes, and sure WE'VE got individuals GANGSTERS THAT need to be locked up for a long, long time too. It's only, again, a handful that are out here causing problems, but it's amazing that everybody in the neighborhood knows who they are, except law enforcement. It's like everybody knows who's doing bad in a neighborhood except the police. They are to busy chasing everybody, and trying to make criminals out of everybody in our Westside neighborhoods that they lost focus on what they are here for, serving and protecting the public, the people that pay their salaries.

I was very fortunate. I had good mentors. I came from a family that worked hard. It started with my grandfather and my grandmother. Things have changed. The Mt. Vernon area, HAS changed. The culture of this whole community has changed. I feel bad for the kids that I'm dealing with now, because if we don't get them on the right track they will wind up in jail or even dead so we, as a community, have a social responsibility to do the right thing for these kids. If we can't open doors for them or find ways to help them, it's going to get worse, it's going to get much worse. The social responsibility doesn't happen. I guess politicians don't feel that they have one. You're elected to office and you become a representative of the City now, not of the people.

I've had people ask me to run FOR CITY COUNCIL in the past, "Why don't you run?" You know why? If I run, my hands would be tied. I couldn't make as much change as I can at this level. Right here I can organize a group of people, go down there and cause chaos. I've done it with some community-based organizations and politicos. Again, I know enough that I don't ever want to be the downfall of a community-based organization because I know how hard we fought to establish them. A lot of them were established in the 70s. I don't want to be the guy that's going to knock them out because they do serve some purpose...not the purpose that they initially were there for. Again, you know what? It's better to have that building standing there than to not have that building at all. Hopefully these Directors AND Center Managers are not going to be here one day and people with more compassion will take over. I HOPE THE kids will GROW UP AND make a difference. I WOULD HOPE AND PRAY THAT SOMEONE IN THE HUNDREDS OF YOUTH THAT I HAVE WORKED WITH WOULD CARRY ON IN THIS COMMUNITY AND CONTINUE TO MAKE IT BETTER.

That's my reward !

Hanson: Thank you so much. Let's go look at those bikes.

Vega: O.K.!

[END OF INTERVIEW]