Although on any given day I don’t usually come in contact with gangs, violence, or drugs, subconsciously I am aware that they are near, and I think that most people in Southeast San Diego are conscious of that fact. I still feel safe in the neighborhood though, because I know that as long as you mind your own business, you’re fine. However, I try to avoid some places, such as the intersection of Imperial and Euclid at night, and a few streets where I know drug dealing and gang activity occur. Theft is also a moderate concern. I almost learned this the hard way when I nearly had my backpack stolen at Martin Luther King Park by a small, innocent-looking woman who was pushing a stroller and walking her young son. This made me realize that I can never be too careful.
Despite the backpack incident, Martin Luther King Park is my favorite, and that’s where the diversity of the area can be seen firsthand. It is not unusual to see Laotians, Mexicans, African-Americans, and Filipinos playing basketball in the recreation center, hitting tennis balls to each other on the tennis courts, batting on the baseball fields, or swimming with each other in the pool.
It dawned on me just how diverse the area is the other day while I was riding the trolley. I saw a mother speaking Spanish to her kids, I saw two elderly women laughing and speaking Lao (I think), and of course there were people speaking English. In fact, many of my friends from my high school are from the Philippines, Mexico, and Eritrea.
Southeast San Diego may have some common inner-city problems, but I still feel a sense of community from the majority of the law-abiding citizens in the area. I’m glad to see the area being rebuilt and restored, which started with the Malcolm X Library a few years ago and now includes the new Elementary Institute of Science. More projects like these will continue to improve and help solve the problems that plague our neighborhood.