South Central Los Angeles. At least, that was her name when I was growing up. Although I was born in Inglewood, I earned my stripes in the insatiable belly of South Central Los Angeles.
My earliest, and some of my fondest memories, belong to her. My friends and I walked her alleys en route to the candy store for our thrice-a-day sugar fixes—much to the chagrin of our parents’ pocketbooks. Her cracked, unleveled sidewalks soaked up my tears and blood whenever a maneuver on my skates or bike went wrong.
I lost friends to her as well. Surrounded by drugs, prostitution, gang violence, it all came with the territory. But no matter what, she belonged to me and I belonged to her.
Life outside her walls was never a thought I entertained. Then an event that was greater than Y2k (extra credit for you readers who remember that reference) interrupted my life, and not in an Oscar award-winning way like Angelina Jolie. It was 2000. I was seventeen. On the brink of
graduating high school and finally declaring independence (but not financially) from my parents, life turned me upside down like Tyrone Biggums searching for change. My family lost their business and home. We were forced to relocate.
The City of Inglewood became my family’s adopted city. I hated it. Suddenly I was a foreigner in a strange land. The people looked like me. Spoke the same language. Yet, they were not familiar and, due to the circumstances, I didn’t want them to be. Inglewood came to represent the painful experience of almost losing everything, and I vowed never to give her the opportunity to win me. My heart and soul belonged to South Central LA.
Everything I knew was back in South Central LA. So, for the next 11-plus years, I avoided Inglewood as much as possible. Inglewood reluctantly became the step-mother I vowed to never like despite how much my parents forced her on me. Hungry for lunch? Grab a bite at the Honey Kettle in Culver City. Need hair? Grab the B#1, 14 inches long by His n’ Hers in the
Mid-Wilshire district. Want to go to a club or lounge? Santa Monica or Hollywood to the rescue.
Anything I needed or wanted, I looked beyond the city limits of Inglewood to provide for me. However, one day I was speaking with a friend, a transplant from D.C., about possibly becoming a vegetarian/vegan. He asked me if I’d ever been to a cool vegan restaurant named, Stuff I Eat. I replied, “No. Where is it?” “It’s in Inglewood. How do you live in Inglewood and not know what’s in your backyard?” he asked. Silence.
After we got off the phone, his question lingered in the air like the church lady who doused, not spritzed, her perfume on that Sunday morning. Who am I kidding? In that moment, my relationship with Inglewood was forever changed. . .for the best.
Within the last few months, I have made a conscientious effort to discover what Inglewood is all about. Culturally. Politically. Creatively. I hope current and future residents will find my experiences enlightening and entertaining as I make amends with Inglewood. After all, she has been my safe haven for the last 14 years. It is about time she got the credit she deserves!