I am a proud resident of Wilmington, California. Though it is not a city of its own, I treat it as though it is. It’s my city and it will always be my city. If i were given the opportunity to govern my city, I would gladly accept. I have noticed the struggles we, the residents, face and I have ideas on how to minimize these.
One of the largely known issues that my community faces is gang violence. Wilmington has a few long established gangs that continue to quarrel senselessly. The people involved in these gangs - who tend to be young - kill or harm others. Their fighting brings into my mind a specific portion of a mural on a market at 1210 Hyatt Ave. The image has two parts. In the first, there are two men fighting - they are blindfolded by different color bandanas. In the second, the same two men, with bandanas and weapons lowered, look each other in the eye and shake hands. This speaks to how insensible gangs are. In reality, these groups have no reason to fight. I believe the popularity behind these activities lies behind boredom and the cycle of poverty. The lack of productive recreational opportunities for youth has a major role in the epidemic of gang culture. This can be reduced with group effort.
When I drive through my community, it’s easy to spot what we lack: recreational facilities. The youth in the community don’t have anything to do. There are no centers for entertainment and the few parks that exist are unsafe. This absence of entertainment options leaves the large population of youth in the community bored. Idleness is always unproductive, and commonly leads to negative activities. Luckily, there are many opportunities to create safe, positive places entertainment. As mayor, I would make it one of my goals to remodel and reopen Granada Theatre. I would hope to create a fun hang-out spot for the youth. It would also be wonderful to see the area surrounding the theatre converted into a main street with a sort of outdoor mall setup - similar to that of Long Beach’s Pike. Wilmington lacks big name stores and restaurants, forcing its residents to go elsewhere and contribute economically to other communities. My community is overflowing with 99 cent stores and liquor stores, but it’s missing any real, useful centers. The excessive amounts of small, cheap stores could easily be lowered and replaced by more useful stores. By bettering the opportunities for youth, as well as adults, we could begin brightening Wilmington’s image.
This brings me to the topic of my community’s image. From the time I was a young child, I understood that people tended to have a bad reaction when I told them where I lived. Wilmington is consistently demonized and it carries the title of a bad city or poor community - which is not true. My city is filled with successful and model members of society. Yet, rather than try to show their city in a new light, many Wilmington residents only reinforce its alleged coarseness - claiming to be “bad” or “rough” for the sake of appearing rugged or to reassure some odd sense of false pride. I would try to move away from this sort of thinking by encouraging organizations like I Heart Wilmington and Sharefest to hold events where members of the community could come together and beautify the city. I would avidly participate in their events and reinforce the ideas of unity and pride. It would also be beneficial to bring the wondrous and numerous landmarks of Wilmington to a greater light. The Drum Barracks, the Banning House, Banning’s Landing, the Don, the Hyatt Ave market, Holy Family Church: these are just a few of the historic landmarks we have. Encouraging the youth to learn the histories of these locations, as well as volunteering at them, would immensely contribute to a sense of communal unity and self respect. The efforts of community organisations combined with the spread of more well-known companies and the knowledge of Wilmington’s history would help improve my community’s image and conditions.
Seeing as I’m not actually the mayor of Wilmington, I cannot implement my plans with the urgency I would like. However, I can work towards many of these. I know that I can contact my city’s representative and that I can participate in the ongoing community events and efforts. My voice as an individual carries weight, but it carries power when I can spread my ideas and gain support. I hope to contribute to Wilmington in every way I can. I hope that the issues my city currently carries will diminish over time. I love Wilmington!
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.