South East L.A. Reclaims Their Part of the Los Angeles River


It's Saturday night and a small group forms underneath a freeway overpass of the 710 and 105 freeway interchange in the city of Lynwood. The steady hum of the power generator used to power the event and the traffic zooming by overhead is magnified underneath the freeway, but people chat comfortably as they park their bikes. Along the bike path, swarms of bike lights and helmets approach from the north and the south through the balmy night, as others finish setting up a photography display. On the other side of the bike path, a group of kids play on a hill of rocks. The rocks stop short of a tall concrete wall that seems to block nothing and lead to nowhere. A boy, about 8-years-old, asks a little girl with a head full of curly hair "Its pretty cool here right? Have you seen the river yet?" "No," she answers, "Where's the river? I want to see!" Right over that tall concrete wall was just one small section of the expansive 51-mile-long Los Angeles River. The event, #ReclaimingtheLAriver, was a guerrilla-style, bike-in film screening and photography exhibit organized by East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ). The event aimed to "reclaim the dignity and respect of the L.A. River for the South Los Angeles river communities." On display was photography and films created by participants in the EYCEJ Youth Summer Program that reflected how the river is experienced by the artists and those in the community. "Barrios de los Rios," a documentary by UCLA freshman Jocelyn del real Jimenez, included interviews of 15 people near the river. Among those interviewed was an older woman who spoke in Spanish of how her health issues pushed her to start walking the L.A. River Bike Path near her home. A group of young boys spoke of how they've played near the river as far back as they can remember, before taking off on a race up the river on scooter and on foot. Another man spoke of how he uses the bike path to commute to and from work. He said the route is convenient, but mentioned that the bike path needs gets dangerous after dark and attracted the danger to the lack of lighting.