Author: Nico Gendron
Occidental reverberated with the sound of hovering helicopters and the sirens of LAPD cruisers on Feb. 17 after three men were shot at All Star Lanes in a suspected gang initiation rite. This unexpected and violent outburst in the college’s own backyard, along with a recent significant increase in reported crimes in Eagle Rock, has rekindled the debate about the area’s general safety, and whether or not such an event could justify Occidental’s disengagement from the greater community.
In terms of personal safety, it is hard to determine the best response. But despite such an extreme event, it is important to recognize that Eagle Rock has provided Occidental with a college town experience like none other. While it is true that no community is perfect, Eagle Rock’s unique mix of cultures, vibrant art scene and geographic beauty imbues it with a small-town feel in the middle of the second largest city in the country.
Nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriels, Eagle Rock gives the student body more than just front row seats to beautiful sunsets and easy access to greater Los Angeles. Although life at Occidental can be likened to living inside a bubble, the neighborhood is home to an eclectic mix of restaurants, boutiques, mom-and-pop stores and strip malls that provide students with a surprising amount of space for exploration, culinary and otherwise. From Thai and Filipino restaurants to home-style breakfast cafes like Pat and Lorraine’s, the array of multicultural restaurants allows students to get beyond their comfort zones and experience something beyond the usual Marketplace fare. Several taco trucks flank the nearby Shell gas station, inviting students to sit on the concrete wall while they munch on their tacos or burritos and sip fluorescent orange Fanta for lunch or a late night snack. The Capri, which offers large Italian style meals fit for college kids on a budget, and Swork, a coffee shop with a European twist, are two student favorites that offer Occidental discounts.
Although Eagle Rock is dotted with art galleries, few people are aware that it is home to one of Los Angeles’ last remaining community art centers. The Eagle Rock Center for the Arts offers a variety of forms of community enrichment, including art exhibits, concerts, and summer art camps. The Center is also in its 14th year of organizing the Eagle Rock Music Festival, a popular and free event every October that showcases local musicians of every genre.
Eagle Rock is a place of transience that inspires individuals from all walks of life, which occasionally includes those who commit crimes. The recent shootings speak to the fact that we must remain aware of the safety issues that accompany living in a large city, but it is equally important that Occidental students do not shy away from rich culture hidden beneath Eagle Rock’s superficial appearance of auto body shops and aging strip malls. It may be difficult to control who enters the neighborhood and who does not, but we have the choice to determine how much of a negative light this shooting sheds on the community itself. As Occidental students who have moved to Eagle Rock to attend college, we have a responsibility to support and improve our newly adopted hometown.
Nicolette Gendron is an undeclared first-year. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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