Quentin Hoskins, Joe Russell, Wardell Wonder, Erin Williams, Haruka Roudebush, Ryan Kimura, Quillan Rusky, Officer Rogers and Taeophilus Wright are some of the main people that come to mind when I think of the Western Addition as a whole.
I feel like everything has come full circle since my first ride on the 22 line.
I remember my first trip to the Western Addition as a writer. I had been to the Japantown mall on Webster with some of my friends and I had been to the Fillmore when my sister wanted to look at clothes at Brooklyn Circus.
But going to the area to make contacts was an entirely different experience.
Since I had been to the Japantown mall before I thought I would start there. I remember walking around for fifteen minutes before I got the nerve to talk to people. I successfully talked to three employees but then three people turned me away.
My confidence plummeted. It made me even more nervous to talk to random people. After making a couple more contacts I gave up and left for the day.
I knew I was going to have trouble with the assignment, I am usually really shy with strangers and having someone say that they do not want to talk to you was upsetting.
Familiarity with the Fillmore
I did not realize how different it was going to be just by treading up the street. Up toward Upper Fillmore/Lower Pacific Heights there were boutiques of pricey items, tourists visiting the area and the complete opposite of what I just saw down the street.
I really did spend most of my time in Lower Fillmore, by Turk. I felt more accepted and people were more willing to talk. It was comforting to have people respond so quickly. At first I was intimidated; people like to stick with their groups of friends. But if you take the time to visit and get to know people they start to look at you less like a visitor and more as a part of the community.
Throughout the semester I had formed such respect for this community. What used to be dominated by the Japanese and African American communities have dwindled to Japanese making up 1 percent and African Americans .5 percent.
Before I went to the Western Addition, I did not know about all the obstacles they had undergone. They fought through internment, urban renewal, cultural loss and redistricting.
To me the Western Addition is the little neighborhood that keeps going. Even though a lot of the original residents have left the ones that remain fight their hardest to preserve what is left. It is admirable and inspirational.
The Fillmore has a little special place in my heart. I will not forget the long talks I had with Quentin Hoskins about life or the day I met Joe Russell and his friends at Fillmore Turk and Mini Park.
Talking to the residents every time I went there was always a highlight. I felt like a resident myself when I went there for Mardi Gras. You could really feel the essence of the stories the original residents told me.
Back in the day the Fillmore was known as the Harlem of the West. That night everyone came out, listened to jazz and partied the night away. It was a magical sight.
nihonmachi aka Japantown
I fell for Japantown. It was a longer process, but I came to love the area. When I think of Japantown I think of one thing—nihonmachiROOTS.
That group saved my life or at least my reporting grade. They were just regular guys but there was no bs, they really care for Japantown. These are guys who voluntarily spend their time working to preserve their neighborhood.
Ryan and Quillan in particular truly impressed me. They have grown up in Japantown all their lives. Quillan still volunteers for the festivals and helps lead nihonmachiROOTS, all the while attending college. Ryan owns Pika Pika, the popular picture place in Japantown. He also leads JCCCNC and nihonmachiROOTS.
When Ryan spoke at the redistricting meeting I felt so much pride covering their story. I witnessed this group practically save their neighborhood. It was a really beautiful, memorable moment.
Every story I wrote made me gain a deeper connection with the Western Addition. When I wrote about crime I learned the present struggles that people have to go through. I had no idea that the Western Addition, six years ago, underwent such crazy gun violence.
I felt sympathetic. After I wrote the story I realized how attached I got. Every time I went there I noticed familiar faces and met new people with every visit.
My final piece reflects everything I have written about during my semester. The people in the Western Addition inspired me to write about their journey. They have endured so much and have stayed so loyal to their roots that I wanted to write a story that captures that.
It has a little bit of everything I have written about this semester but I added more about their future as a community. They struggle but they always seem to overcome. I just thought it would be the perfect way to conclude my time with the neighborhood.
I am thankful for getting the opportunity to write about this community. At the end of the semester I feel like I have grown as a writer. I am more confident in approaching people and coming up with story ideas.
I just feel like everything fell into place this whole semester and am grateful for how things turned out. I only hope my last story ties everything up and ends my Western Addition experience the way it should be.