Community Immersion Project

1 Community Immersion Project Delores Turner University of Southern California Dr. Carol Ann Peterson SOWK 534 June 7, 2011 2 Ideally, when one chooses a city to settle down in, certain expectations are envisioned. It might be the scenery, the job opportunities, or, simply, the richness of culture and history.

It might be memories from childhood experiences, or the absence of crime and traffic congestion. There are a variety of reasons why an individual, a family, or a company may be drawn to a particular locale. This paper looks at the shifting of community values as different ethnic groups, at various times, become the predominating culture in the city. I. Identification and General Description of the Community The City of Lynwood is a congested, low-income, and culturally-diverse community nestled in the southeastern area of Los Angeles County, California.

According to a recent census, about seventy-three thousand people live in Lynwood, with a median age of twenty-five years ( U. S. Census Bureau, 2007). The surrounding cities of Compton, Bell, South Gate, Watts, and Huntington Park are closely tied to Lynwood in terms of employment opportunities and social services. 3 Once a bedrock , white, middle-class community, known as “ the land of homes” , celebrities Kevin Costner and Weird Al Yankovic grew up here. Mr. Yankovic named his album, Straight Outta Lynwood, in honor of his hometown.

Most recently, Lynwood has been notoriously recognized as the location where Lyndsey Lohan and Paris Hilton served jail time. Established as a dairy and creamery in 1902, resting on about 400 acres of land, Lynwood was named after the wife of one of the deed holders. The Pacific Electric Railroad ran from Los Angeles directly through the middle of town, headed to Santa Ana. The population was all white and middle-class. In 1929 Pacific Electric installed a Depot to accommodate patrons making the journey from Los Angeles County to neighboring Orange County.

That building still exists today, and plans are to make it into a historical monument ( City of Lynwood Retrieved Jun2 1, 2011 from . http://lynwood. ca. us/city-officials/mayor-and-city-council). 4 From colonial settlement, to dairy and creamery; from all White, to mostly Black; from Black to mostly Hispanic, Lynwood is a city of tolerance and change. Tolerance for new ideas causes a community to grow and change. “While difficult to measure, tolerance is one of the most important qualities you can desire in a community” ( Clayton, 1996).

The community is, today, predominantly Hispanic, with an ongoing flow of Mexican Immigrants steadily moving in and out Long-time residents, Whites and Blacks, tend to remain because of established homes and businesses ( M. Quinonez, City Clerk, May 27, 2011). Cultural diversity is rapidly diminishing as long-time residents retire or die, and others move away. The growing feeling among the long-time residents is that the “beauty” of Lynwood is lost. Outsiders, not Hispanic, see it as “too congested” and ethnic (C. Greenwood, personal communication, May 26, 2011).

Insiders, Hispanics see it as “my town” ( O. Solarzano, personal communication, May 27, 2011) . The increasing Hispanic population has greatly impacted how service is delivered in the community. Without a local Social Security office or 5 Department of Social Services, residents flock to neighboring cities for public assistance. In addition, a Mexican shopping center was recently established to provide services that meet the needs of the immigrant population.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services operates the South Health Center in Watts, once a predominantly Black community, serves Lynwood. According to one insider, the most important recognizable difference between the cultures in Lynwood, is the way people think among the different cultures. The thought of some insiders is that Hispanic culture centers everything around the family, and isolates other groups because of language. Consequently, there is an underlying communication system that provides support through the interconnectedness of family and language, that dismisses other ethnic groups from the network.

On the other hand, it is generally felt by Mexicans that Whites and Blacks seem to be more job-oriented, showing more dedication towards their jobs and making money, and are willing to move away for economic reasons ( N. Stewart, church leader, personal communication, May 26, 2011). 6 Understanding the roles played by neighborhood institutions has become increasingly important in light of dramatic changes in policy in the economic landscape since the Personality Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 ( Small, 2006).

With toughened accessibility to government-sponsored welfare programs, studies have shown that residents of poor neighborhoods rely on social ties and the organizational ties of the neighborhood institutions in which the residents participate. ( Small, 2006). Neighborhood churches, such as Emmanuel temple, a pre-dominantly Black church, recreation centers, and childcare centers like Drew Pre-school Inc. , are primary organizations that residents rely on to bridge the gap of need and services, among the residents in Lynwood. 2.

Community Structure: Community functions The officials in local government consist of a mayor and four council members, four of which are Hispanic: Mayor, Maria Santillan, Aide, Castro, Alfredo Flores, Jim Morton, and Ramon Rodriguez. The five city officials are 7 elected on overlapping four-year terms. The Mayor presides over council meetings, which are held every Tuesday of the month. All official policies and laws are legislated at these meetings. Individual members of the City Council appoint commissioners with the approval of a majority of the City Council.

The City Clerk, Maria Quinonez, acts as the information center on functions of local government (Retrieved from http://lynwood. ca. us/city-officials/mayor-and-city-council). In light of the recent scandal regarding salaries paid to officials in the city of Bell, according to the Lynwood Press, all five members of the Lynwood City Council agreed to disclose their annual compensation for serving on a part-time basis. Council members here are paid an annual salary of under $10,000 ( Santana, M, 2010). St.

Francis Hospital situated on Imperial Highway, is a major employer in the community. The Drew Medical Center nearby is the location where mental health services and other medically-related services are provided. 8 Governmental entities such as the United States Postal Service, the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LAFD), and The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), which operates the Century Station jail facility, are located in Lynwood. The Lynwood Women’s Jail gained national attention last year, when two celebrities became inmates: Paris Hilton, and Lyndsey Lohan.

Because of the ethnic divide, there is a sense of “polite” tolerance versus cultural unity in the neighborhoods (Hispanic storeowner, personal communication, May 27, 2011). Community activism focuses mostly upon the needs of non-English speaking citizens accessing social services. Blacks and Whites tend to be homeowners of low-to middle-class status, and are mostly retirees and the elderly. The youth of these two groups, are career-oriented, attending college elsewhere, and are not focused on developing a voice within the community.

Each group seems to be loosely connected to others, attending to its own needs. “People have a one track mind and are selfishly complacent and are only concerned with their own house”, states an insider. 9 On July 29,2009 the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) announced that Lynwood would be recipient of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant. Funding will assist the Lynwood Redevelopment Agency in their mission to remove blight and provide affordable housing (Santana,Lynwood Press,p1) 1) Community Characteristics

The community of Lynwood is home to several parks, but families complain that the increasing gang activity and culture clash between young Blacks and Latinos, interferes with the ability to fully enjoy the parks. Residents feel unsafe to attend parks. A neighborhood group, Security Parents, would like to see “safer playgrounds” for their children. Gangs contribute to high crime rates in the parks (L. Solarzano, city employee, personal communication, May 27,2011). The city’s overall areas of “walkable” neighborhoods are limited because of gang violence.

Schools and workplaces are close enough that most residents can walk from their homes, but many citizens, especially seniors, are wary of their surroundings. 10 a)Schools There are thirteen local elementary schools, three middle schools and three high schools. Most of the students are Hispanic. Local residents complain that education is poor, and the schools are “gang- infested”. Mayor Santillan recently visited the local churches in effort to build community relations. She states that her family has been involved in the political affairs of Lynwood for decades.

Most afterschool programs have been cut, except for sports, which costs a fee. The Natatorium, formerly a local recreational center, no longer offers free swimming lessons. According to the Mayor, parents and families must become more involved in order to improve community pride. Uneducated parents are limited in resources, and the schools are a growing reflection of the economic shortfall that has touched the city. The Mayor states that children become affiliated with gangs due to lack of supervision.

A news article in the Lynwood Edition of The Los Angeles Wave, reports the Rites of Passage Program implemented to offer Middle School students a “safe haven for youth”, in response to parental concerns about student safety in the 11 middle schools. Program budget cuts have included dropping the Music, Gate, and Afterschool programs. In an effort to lessen campus conflict and tension, the Lynwood School District recently changed the Agnes Street School to Rosa Parks Elementary School ( Santana, Lynwood Press). b)Homes

Empty homes can be a magnet for illicit activities. The quality of living went down due to the migration of younger low-income families who rent and do not have “pride of ownership”. One long time resident states that the beauty of Lynwood is gone. Graffiti and gangs are on the increase and the community is becoming more and more defined by the Mexican culture. c) Homelessness The homeless population is extremely small, and there are no programs planned to assist them. Churches in the area, in conjunction with St Francis Hospital conduct monthly food, clothing and shoes giveaways. 2 Summary This paper has provided a brief, encapsulated view of the shifting cultural influences in the small American city, Lynwood, California. What originally began as a colonial settlement of white America, has evolved from spacious, quaint homes and shops to a congested, inner-city, collection of loosely-knit cultures. The primary language of the average resident is non-English. The political power is amorphously administered. A spirit of quiet tolerance exists within the neighborhoods of this multicultural community.

The community-type that best defines Lynwood is its geographical boundaries, and the sharing of space, territory, and the socio-political values of the American culture. Within this domain, each ethnic group has found a way to co-exist, and yet maintain its very own distinct cultural perspective. I think the community of Lynwood clearly depicts what happens when cultures co-exist. The personality of the group is reflective of the personality of the individual- everybody wants to be the winner. When we cannot “win” or dominate others, we learn how to compromise.

Each rise of ethnic culture in the City of Lynwood, seems to have followed this pattern. References Carter, P. L. (2004). Beyond ascription: racial identity, culture, schools, and academic achievement. Du Bois Review 1(2),377-388. Clayton, J. (1996). small town bound. Career Press, Inc. Dunbar,E. ,Liu,K,,Coping with culture-based conflict: Implications for counseling research and practice. Cultural Diversity and Mental Health1(2). 139-148. Girouard,M. (1985). Cities and People. Yale University Press, New Haven & London Nettig,F. E. ,Kettner,P. M. ,McMurty,S.

L. ,(2008). Socialwork macro practice. Pearson Education,Inc. Santana,M. (2009). Ritesofpassage. LosAngelesWave:LynwoodPress. http://www. bing. com/search? q=lynwood+ca+los+angeles+wave+rites+of+passage&form=DLCMHP&qs=n&sk=&pc=MDDC&x=146&y=21 Santana,M. (2010). Lynwood officials show salaries. LosAngelesWave:LynwoodPress. http://www. bing. com/results. aspx? q=lynwood+ca+los+angeles+wave+officials+salaries+bell+scandal+&form=DLCMHP&qs=n&sk=&x=119&y=9 U. S. Census Bureau. (2007). Retrieved from http://lynwood. ca. us/city-officials/mayor-and-city-council