Amanda Gutiérrez was born and raised in the Ramona Gardens and wants people to know that there’s more to her neighborhood than what is usually covered by the news.
“They’re not just projects. Ramona Gardens is more than a community, we’re a family,” said Gutiérrez, who attended Boyle Heights Beat’s recent community conversation, A Gathering in Ramona Gardens. “We’ve been through ups and downs but we always stick together.”
Attendees at this year’s first Boyle Heights Beat community gathering on April 19 had the opportunity to voice their experiences living in Ramona Gardens while learning about stories recently published by Boyle Heights Beat youth reporters. It was held in partnership with Las Fotos Project and Legacy LA with the support of the Ramona Gardens Resident Advisory Council and the Ramona Gardens Boys and Girls Club.
The meeting was led by Boyle Heights Beat youth reporters Citlalli López and Carmen González, both juniors at Felicitas and Gonzalo Méndez High School. López began the meeting, mentioning how various past stories had been suggested by community members at previous community meetings, citing the paper’s 2017 special edition on gentrification.
González talked about her recent article article about homelessness among community college students. She also brought up youth reporter Stephanie Medina’s article on freeway pollution in Ramona Gardens, playing an audio postcard of noise in the area.
LISTEN TO AUDIO POSTCARD:
López then introduced Melissa Barales-López from Garfield High School and Alexis Casa from Downtown Magnet High School, both members of Las Fotos Project, a community-based nonprofit organization that gives teenage girls the opportunity to engage in photography and self-expression under mentorship. They spoke about their experience in the program and presented part of a photo exhibition about issues of obesity, diabetes, and the importance of body positivity featured in the current issue of Boyle Heights Beat.
Gutiérrez then went on to talk about Legacy LA, a nonprofit organization focused on youth development in Ramona Gardens. She explained the organization’s mission to offer young people in the area the ability to improve their lives as well as their community.
Some issues brought up by local residents were the issue of parking in Ramona Gardens as well as that of noise and pollution from the nearby freeway. Other residents brought up the lack of housing repairs and future possible rent increases and housing relocations. Though many neighborhood problems were addressed, various event attendees agreed that Ramona Gardens has come a long way.
“I live a happy life here, but people usually have a negative reaction when I tell them I’m from Ramona Gardens,” said 74-year-old resident Mirtala Álvarez. “I think because things used to be bad. Things were really bad when I came here twenty years ago so that stigma of the area remains even though things have gotten a lot better.”
Another resident who asked not to be identified, with a daughter who is a registered nurse and two sons in school, said: “I have all of my friends here and we get along well, we’re like a family. I like living here because we’re a great community of people.”
A group of teenagers from the area that came to the meeting said they were happy to come to one of the many community events that are often held in the area.
“I really like the after school programs we have and how we do things as a community,” said one 13-year-old. “There’s a lot of community events going on that everyone can participate in. It’s not just a few people, it’s the whole community.”
The meeting was held at the Ramona Gardens Boys and Girls Club’s gym from 5:00 to 7:00 PM and attendees were offered a healthy meal of tacos, salad and aguas frescas at the end. Boyle Heights Beat shirts alongside gift cards were raffled off to those who attended.
All photos by Keven Almontes for Boyle Heights Beat.
Alex Medina is a senior at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School. He is an avid runner and activist for the LGBTQA+ and Latinx communities. He will be attending Hamilton College in Central New York as an English and Hispanic Studies Major. You can find Alex on instagram @alexmedinagreen.
Keven Almontes is a rising senior at Roosevelt High School. His hobbies include listening to music, photography and video production. He hopes to attend a four-year college after high school and pursue filmmaking.
Listen to Ramona Gardens residents speak with BHB reporters here: