“Ni de aqui, ni de aya” – Not from here, not from there.

I used to think only Immigration would ask us “where you from” but in my neighborhood it became a daily activity. Through every block, on our way to school, from and at school. To some of us it was nothing, we didn’t have nothing to worry about because we didn’t belong from anywhere. We where from our mothers not from no gang or barrio. But they didn’t care because we was from that side of the neighborhood. We lived in the wrong territory, the wrong street. That was all to get those  3 words. We rolled with it, lived with it, struggled with it.

As we grew older some friends grew tired of being asked and fell into the trap and started claiming it then asking the question again. It was repetition like the retaliation we are used on these streets. A cycle going round and round passed generations to generations. But me I stayed neutral and rolled with the punches. By 18, many of my friends where addicted to the lifestyle of being in a gang. The so called money, the power and the status it gave them in the neighborhood. Some friends had been shot at more times than they’ve had birthday parties. I’m not perfect. Hung with another crew, we didn’t have a name but we all did come from the same street. It started fairly innocently, throwing eggs at windows, the MTA, playing knock, knock, ditch, then progressed to bibi gun shootings, a trying of a a puff, a sip. We never claimed anything other than our name.

In East L.A Not everyone is from a gang. Not everyone drives a lowrider, not everyone drops out or gets pregnant in high school. We just live surrounded by them. We are skaters, punks, dancers, cooks, mothers, fathers, lovers, friends, homies, teachers, students, athletes. We claim the Eastside, the land East of the River, the land our parents and ancestors came from and too because there were not allowed to live anywhere else. Our pride is not for a street but for our streets, our tag is our murals that tell our history. From being multi-cultural to multi-lingual. We are more than what the media portrays us to be. Not from here, not from there. We’re from Everywhere!

Photo by Raymond Shobe, used under a Creative Commons license.

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