On Saturday, students, staff, and friends of the Urban Project went to Nickerson Gardens to conduct sports clinics, a craft table, face painting, and then have lunch with the community. If I could describe the day, I would have to say it was a blessing.
Nickerson Gardens is a housing development located in Watts area of Los Angeles, California. There are 156 buildings which add up to more than 1,000 units. It is the largest public housing development west of the Mississippi River. Nickerson is also said to be the birth place of the Bounty Hunter set of the Bloods, a well known gang. Being there gave me an opportunity to see, in a very small, limited way, what life in the projects could be like.
Our day started with us preparing to arrive at the park. Teams were split up to do a different task in preparation for the day. One team helped with cooking and getting the food ready, another was in charge of arts and crafts, and another in charge of sports activities. Everything was decent and in order before arriving at Nickerson Gardens.
When we got there, anticipation was in the air as the Project crew prepared the grounds to receive the kids of Nickerson Gardens. I was tasked with handing out flyers to community members to spread the word about the sports clinics. Basketball, volleyball, kickball, soccer, dance, and arts and crafts were offered to the kids.
My station, kickball, was lively and fun! There was a group of kids who were so energetic and excited to launch the kickball as far as they could into the outfield. All of the kids were great, but one you man stood out to me. He was about to finish middle school, was there with his cousin, and both were excited to play kickball. The first thing I noticed about him was that he was not afraid to talk to people. He had just met us and was already so willing to have a conversation with me. He was very polite and it was fun getting to talk to him for the short time he was there. I pray for him and pray that he does is not limited by where he is from, and that he feels empowered to conquer the world and go after his dreams.
The day was truly worthwhile because we got to see so many kids outside enjoying the sunshine and just playing. They enjoyed the lunch of hot dogs, chips, and an abundance of Kool-aid. The day ended with a game on the Nickerson Gardens basketball court. Usually the Project team would play a Nickerson Gardens team, but due to another community event, that did not happen. UP-LA ended up just playing each other, with one teammate from the community, but the competitiveness was certainly still there.
I am glad I had the pleasure of serving a part of that community for a short amount of time. It gave me a chance to see and be a part of something greater than myself. I really discovered the power of listening to people speak about their experiences, especially kids. Kids need to be listened to and nurtured. I know this memory will be with me the rest of my life.
University of Northern Colorado