My Neighborhood

My neighborhood was tough. It wasn’t tough for my older brother, Paul. It was not as tough for Peter, my younger brother. Why was that? Highway 99 was a line of demarcation. On our side of the highway the population was mainly white. On the other side of the highway was a Black and Latin/x population. We didn’t mix much. There was a junior high school and a high school that received “those” students. There was a junior high and high school for “us.” That is, until their schools got burned down.

In the time between the burning down of the schools and the rebuilding, the populations from the other side of the highway were taught in our schools. This meant that “those” students walked through “our” neighborhood to get to and from school. There is no way, I don’t think there is a way, to make this sound not racist. It is racist. The culture in those days was racist and segregation existed and there was a great deal of animosity between the races. I’m talking about the mid- to late-60s. The Watts Rebellion (Los Angeles) took place for 5 days in August, 1965. The summer of 1967 is referred to as the “long, hot summer.” During this summer (July) the Detroit riot erupted.

Sacramento was no different. In May of 1967 armed Black Panthers “invaded” the California capitol. The Black Panthers chapter in Sacramento opened in 1968 at 29th and 5th Avenue. I lived at 27th and 6th Avenue. There were violent hostilities between the Panthers and the police. The Panther’s chapter was invaded more than once and both Panthers and policemen died.

Earlier in life I was certain that someone might come through my window as I was sleeping and stab me. I thought over-and-over that it would not take a long blade to reach my heart.

Getting to school was not much of a problem but getting home after school was terrifying. Large gangs of black students would pass through Curtis Park, the neighborhood in which I lived. It was a good thing I could run fast. Sometimes I would run from tree to tree or shrub to shrub to steer clear of the violence all around me. There were a few other white students who lived in the Curtis Park area but they walked home in ways that avoided the gangs. I could not. I remember a police car getting rolled and torched.

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