By Pablo Jaime Sainz
Ramiro “Ray” Rojas has been living in the Memorial Park area for the past 15 years.
When he arrived, he said that there was a lot of gang violence going on. So much, that he was once attacked by a group of gang members.
“When I first moved to this community, it was a chaos,” he said.
He said that back then families would live in fear of the violence, many times involving some of their own children, who, for lack of better options, would opt to join a gang. “It was terrible,” Rojas said.
Unfortunately, Memorial Park was a site where gang members would meet. Therefore, children in the community couldn’t play safely there. They would need to stay home behind closed doors, as if they were prisoners in their own backyard.
Rojas said that little by little, and with the help of community leaders and parents, gang activity began to decrease in the area.
There were prevention programs that warned children and youth about the risks of joining a gang. It worked.
Families were then able to go to Memorial Park and enjoy a safe family gathering. Children were then able to play outside their homes, without fear of a drive-by shooting. Parents once againg felt that they were providing a better future for their families.
“It was a time when there was peace on the streets,” Rojas said. “I mean, there still were gangs in the area, but they were respectful of others. They didn’t mess around with la comunidad.”
Then, a few years later, it happened again.
Recently there has been a resurfacing of overt gang activity, Rojas said.
The Memorial area schools have been in what one school administrator called “locked down” due to this violence, Rojas added.
“Sadly this is a return to the condition and environment this area was in approximately 10 years ago,” he said.
But today the community will do something about it, Rojas warned.
“We, the residents of this community, cannot and will not accept this way of life again,” he said. “The community, families, youth and children deserve to reside in an area that is open, safe and enjoyable.”
The Memorial Park area is no longer safe for children and families anymore. Rojas said that besides gangs taking over the park again, there is a great number of homeless people in the park as well. But the main reason is that gang members don’t respect la comunidad anymore.
“When I was young, if you were a cholo, you didn’t mess with older people or with people who weren’t in a gang. Today that respect for our raza has been lost. There’s no respect. Cholos now a days only respect each other, and that’s if they belong to the same gang.”
In order to provide a safe environment in the Memorial Park area, Rojas, who’s a representative from the Memorial Community, Families, Youth & Children Organization, invited community organizations in the area to an open forum on Wednesday, February 22, where they discussed ways to stop and prevent the violence that’s taking control of the streets and the park.
“The central question is, What can we do, as community organizations that work here in Memorial, in order to prevent this from continuing?” Rojas said. “What are we doing in prevention?”
Some of the organizations that were invited include the Dolores Magdalena Recreation Center, the Boys and Girls Club, Memorial Academy of Learning and Technology, and Memorial Swimming Pool.
Some of the issues discussed at the meeting involved law enforcement agencies and how they can take a more proactive role in ensuring the safety of the children.
Other issues discussed included an open forum where agencies and organizations provided information about the services and resources they had available to Memorial residents.
“It’s through meetings like this that Memorial will once again be a safe place for our families,” Rojas said.
For further information contact Ramiro (Ray) Rojas, Jr. MCFYCO Representative at 619-544-9089 or email firstname.lastname@example.org