Throughout all the years of global success as the founding and lead member of the Black Eyed Peas, what will.i.am. remembers and values the most is his youth growing up in Estrada Courts, a public housing development in Boyle Heights.
“I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for Boyle Heights,” said the 47-year-old artist, who will be performing alongside bandmates APL.DE.AP. and Garfield alumnus Taboo at Friday’s East LA Classic football game.
“We’re an East LA hometown success story and want to show kids and families that if you have a mission and the drive, you can make it.”
The game between Boyle Heights’ Roosevelt High School and East LA’s Garfield is set to take place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in South Los Angeles.
First played in 1925, the East LA Classic and the rivalry between the two schools have become a part of Eastside culture and tradition. Last year, Boyle Heights’ Rough Riders broke a decade-long streak of losses with a 22-19 win against East LA’s Bulldogs. This year, the Eastern League title is on the line.
“This game brings together two communities that share identical identities,” said Roosevelt’s senior football captain Alexander Arroyo at a media event on Wednesday. “We are both from hard working families. We are both communities that respect tradition. The only thing that separates us is the blue and the gold.”
That shared struggle and tradition, will.i.am. said, is why he always strives to give back – from launching the i.am/Angel Foundation college readiness program in 2009 to this year’s halftime show, where the Black Eyed Peas will perform accompanied by bands and cheerleaders from the rival schools.
During an interview via email this week, will.i.am spoke wrote about the importance of giving back to his community:
“As Black Eyed Peas became a global success, we were regularly asked to perform at emergency fundraisers for tsunamis, droughts, fires and other disasters. Then I looked at my hometown neighborhood of Estrada Courts and noticed that everyday it’s a tsunami there – underfunded schools, industry moving out and good jobs going away, check cashing next to liquor stores and motels, billboards advertising unhealthy foods and beverages: things that communities across the city with stricter zoning regulations do not have to endure.”
Tickets for the Classic are still available to the general public on Ticketmaster for $15; Roosevelt and Garfield students can get a $3 discount and avoid a service charge if they purchase tickets on campus. Junior varsity teams will take the field at 3:30 p.m., followed by a varsity game at 7:30 p.m.
The half time show will be performed between the games.
“I’m truly honored to be part of the team that is producing the half-time show, and it’s going to be filled with awesomeness,” the Black Eyed Peas leader said. “The East LA Classic is an institution, it’s a celebration of sports, scholarship and the culture of East Los Angeles, the real Angelenos.”