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Los Angeles Day 2

– Ilana Hanai 

Many times in life, I, and I’m sure others, hide our true feelings from people that care about us and the world by putting up a front. Sometimes purposefully, but there are also times it subconsciously happens. Today we learned about the different types of hiding, both mentally and physically. We started off the day in traffic– as one does when in LA– then arrived in South Central LA, where we were asked, “What comes to mind when thinking of South Central LA?” Jonah R. hit on how many people think of gang violence and “the hood,” However, there is much gentrification, so it looks like any other neighborhood. Billy agreed and added that although the community looked cleaned up and sturdy to the outside eyes, people on the inside were still struggling. For example, there are still food deserts in the parts of the neighborhood– only having fast food as a feasible option instead of fresh fruits and veggies. This causes people to turn a blind eye because it can pass as a more than functioning area. He made the point that all that really happened was that only a fresh coat of paint was added, but under it remained all the same issues. The only difference is that now they were easier for people outside the neighborhood to look at. This speaks to covering things up to make others more comfortable, even if you feel unhappy inside.

Next, Nikki drove us to the “largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world–” (as posted on their website Link), Homeboy Industries. We met with a man named Steve, who told us about his life in the gang and how he got affiliated. When he joined a gang it was one of the proudest moments of his life. Hearing him talk about his experiences in the gang made me think much differently of people in gangs because all I had ever seen of gangs were in TV shows like “On My Block”. After a few years in the gang, he went to church for the first time and started believing in G-d. However, he hid that part of himself for a while after overhearing some of his gang members mock another member who had turned to G-d. Steve’s mother then got very sick with cancer and eventually died in the hospital, where he visited her daily. He said while he said with words that he loved his mother, his actions spoke differently, and so the day his mom died, he made a promise, not to his mom, but this time to G-d and himself, that he would change his ways. Soon after, he found Homeboy Industries while walking down a road, further boosting his belief in G-d. We also talked to Carlos, who grew up affiliated with one of Steve’s rival gangs, but now they are friends. 

After, we went to lunch at Grand Central Food Hall and then to a farmer’s market where we discussed the issue of access to food and were able to speak ith the people who grew the fruits and vegetables.


Then it was on to lovely Venice Beach!!! The area was super cool! I went to the Small World Bookstore for a bit, then spent the rest of my time in the ocean even though I didn’t have a swimsuit. 

We ended the day at Beit T’Shuvah, a unique rehab, where three people told us their stories of recovery. Their stories were all different but were somewhat connected. They started drugs at a young age but were all still very successful. Two of them started their businesses but, after a while, became too lazy because of their drug use to show up to work. They talked about how they were good at creating a facade. One spoke of his “double life,” where one side was this devious, always getting high, not caring, and the other was his studious, star student, star athlete side. Eventually, this life took a toll on him and hurt him mentally. For me, this was one of the most impactful parts of the trip because most people can relate to seeing someone fade from substance abuse– especially now. Today I learned everyone hides at least a little bit.