Last week, I had the opportunity to watch Chavez Ravine, the amazing play that talks about the displacement of the Mexican-American community in Los Angeles.
As a Chicano and die hard Dodgers fan, I had known about Chavez Ravine but never in the way the play was portrayed. The play provided me with further information and took away some of my guilt for being loyal to the Dodgers while at the same time maintaining my progressive politics.
In the next couple of paragraphs, I will share my thoughts/reflection on the play and hope it will also provide people with a different perspective of Chavez Ravine and the connection it had with the Dodgers.
The displacement of the Chavez Ravine residents is not the fault of the Los Angeles Dodgers. After watching the play, it became clear to me that the main issue was an attack on Public Housing. The initial plan was to use the land at the Ravine and create a new housing project, that was going to be referred as The Elysian Park Heights.
The plan for Elysian Park Heights would have included 24 thirteen-story towers and 163 low-rises, that would have created almost 3,600 apartments. The problem was this new housing plan couldn’t be built without dislocating the current residents at the Ravine. The city of L.A., called for the demolition of the entire community with the hopes of building better roads that would have connected the current neighborhoods. In the 1950’s the L.A. Housing Authority sent letters to the residents of Chavez Ravine informing them that, “a public housing development will be built on this location for families of low-income…the house you are living in is included…Later…you will have the first chance to move back into the new Elysian Park Heights development.”
Those plans quickly banished after a coaliton led by the L.A. Times, private home builders and a group calling themselves, Citizen Against Socialist Housing (CASH), used the fear tactic stating the Director of Housing Authority was a Communist and this new project would lead to more “socialist” housing projects being built.
During the 1950s, the word, “Communism,” “Socialism,” were terms that instilled fear just the same way as “terrorists” has since the 9-11 attacks. It is worth noting that during that 50s, the FBI had Edgar J. Hoover as their Director, a man who became notoriously known for cracking down the progressive state of working class communities and attacking the Black Panther Party and using COINTELPRO to kill many of our communities leaders such as MLK, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton and preventing the rise of the Black Panther Party.
As I watched the play, I began to focus on the fear tactic that was used to put pressure on the director of Housing Authority, who was forced to state before a committee if he was ever involved in Communist meetings. When he refused to answered those personal questions and instead focused on the issue at hand, he was fired for refusing to answer personal questions.
To me, Poverty, lack of Education, lack of Housing, and lack of Social Services are “terrorizing” our community. We should fight this war on “terror.”
Currently, in the city of L.A., we are seeing many public housing sites such as Jordan Downs trying to be remodeled or change into mixed income but in reality those housing sites are the new Chavez Ravines that our communities have been resisting. Gentrification in L.A. is spreading faster than ever before. We have whole communities being forced to move up to give ways to the Hipsters such as we’ve seen in Silver Lake, Echo Park and in Highland Park.
The Dodgers come into the picture because the city officials at the time had Chavez Ravine as an empty lot and upon hearing that Walter O’Malley wanted to move the team to the West Coast, struck a deal with him and eventually used the site to build Dodger Stadium.
I know a lot of people will continue to refuse to step into Dodger Stadium because of what happen to the families who were removed by forced. But this played showed me that the Chavez Ravine land was all about the attack of Public Housing, something which the city of L.A. continues to engaged in. We are the Homeless Capital of the Nation and it pains me to see the Housing market blossom but to those who already have it, while thousands of homeless people continue to sleep in the streets.
I hope those who haven’t had the chance to see the play will see it and hopefully they will have a different way of seeing the connection between the Dodgers and Chavez Ravine.