October 13, 2000
African-American, Latino, and Samoan-American
neighbors live side-by-side on a cul-de-sac neighborhood in Lincoln
Park, but until recently didn't talk much to each other. Once
they began talking, they realized they share the same concerns
about the safety and security of their families. Now they are
working together to get much-needed street lights on their block.
Residents began by uniting and celebrating a block party on Sept. 30, to call attention to their dark streets and to work with city officials to make lighting improvements on the 200th block of 50th.
Latina Bevelyn Bravo and Samoan-American Malia Aloese teamed-up to bring culture together that have gravitated to opposite sides of 50th Street. They distributed flyers to neighbors about the cultural event designed to encourage trust, communication, and active community involvement.
"I had noticed people of one culture don't say `hi' or `good morning' to people of another culture," said Bravo, whose family lives in an apartment complex housing mostly African and Latino-American tenants on the east side of 50th Street. "I think it's difficult for parents to change their ways, and that influences our kids. This block party has made us all more open and friendly. Now we can work together to get things done."
The two mothers got to know each other at a "living room" meeting facilitated by the outreach team for the Jacobs Center for NonProfit Innovation. Focused on community change in the Market Street-Euclid Avenue hub, the Jacobs Center supports the efforts of residents who want to get involved in improving their community. Since they met, Bravo and Aloese have been setting an example for their neighbors. Bravo's daughter now takes Samoan dance lessons in Aloese's predominately Samoan apartment building. Samoan dancers performed at the block party.
"We did a door-to-door survey three weeks ago to find out what our neighbors want and need, and what needs to change," said Bravo. "They suggested a block party or cultural events to get to know each other. The need for street lights and a youth center surfaced as two common priorities among those cultures surveyed."
Two faint lights on 50th Street are scheduled for upgrades in June 2001, according to Frank Yates, assistant engineer in the City of San Diego's Traffic Engineering Division. A much-needed third light is approved, but is competing for funds, leaving installation a few years away, said Yates. He added that residents can speed up street light improvements by acquiring a Community Development Block Grant.
By coming together, the new community hopes to gain the support for such a grant from City Councilman George Stevens. Neighbors want the security of other well-lit neighborhoods so they can enjoy leisure walks and know their children are safe playing outside.
At the block party, a representative from Councilman Stevens' office presented certificates of commendation to Bravo and Aloese for their commitment to community.
"From this event we drew attention to our need for brighter street lights," said Bravo. "Maybe next we can begin a neighborhood watch. The block party was a success because people know each other. Just the other day, I was walking with my neighbor who waved across the street saying `hello' to her new Samoan friends."