Veterans Park

University of Redlands - Johnston Center graduation pictures at Veterans Park on April 17th, 2018

University of Redlands - Johnston Center graduation pictures at Veterans Park on April 17th, 2018

No one will ever know you like I do. Or love you like I do. But you love me so much more.

For those from the city, you are just a park mostly known for its 14U softball and 35+ adult baseball leagues; either way filling the stands with aunties and their umbrellas risking burning their melanin off with the 114 degree average summer.

For those from The Tuck, you are one of the only spaces that Black people go to.

For those from the E$, you are a war zone. A space that my Big Homies could never let me venture off to without them packing their gun in their SouthPole jeans, or a knife in their FoHi gym bag. You are the line between multiple rival gangs. You are the first space that a cop ever pressed me and made me lift my shirt to show my 12 year old naked skin without gang tattoos, hoping to put me in the gang database before I ever took a high school placement test.

For those whose parents always argued, you were a safe haven. A place that was empty as can be early mornings so you can walk in the dew of the grass, look at the mountains surrounding with a bit of snow covering, and hear the sprinklers and mumble of the homeless people on the benches.

For teenagers, you were a first date. You saw the first kiss.

For the hustlers, you were the lick. You were the bathroom where prostitution could work efficiently, especially for cops who needed to clear their mind from banging on a 13 year old Brown Skin Baby who would grow to be a King. You were the palace of the most weed smoke coming from the project housing next door. You were the parking lot to sell drugs, because we all knew the kids hooping didn’t need to see it - though they knew what was going on anyways.

For the hoopers, you were the facility. No blood, No foul. Man Up. Run the fade. If you drive it down the lane, you are going down HARD. Play through the contact. Play through the bloody nose. Hit the blunt in the middle of the game but keep playing. You better have a good crossover against these somehow young-old 32 year olds. Or just stick to a jump shot that would eventually shoot 50-50-90 Junior year.

For the heartbroken, you were all ears. Crying in the parking lot where everyone still saw, but most definitely understood and let you be. Pacing back and forth down the courts without a ball in hand. Just dribbling thoughts and balancing anxiety. Tagging on the infamous wall on the westside of the court, ‘Fuck Love.’

For the homies grieving, you were a cemetery and art show at once. Flowers in the same spot next to the benches every 3 weeks or so, another one gone. Sharpie writing of the name of the man stabbed covering his very blood that will eventually be washed away by the City of Fontana workers.

For families, you were the community center. Every Sunday another blown up jumper by the swingsets, charcoal grill with carne asada on top, 30 kids that all fit into one van somehow, and oldies bumping from the OG’s who are now too old to hoop but still kick it anyways.

For parents, you were a nightmare. The place they never wanted you going to if they watched the news.

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For my kids, when they ask me to show them where I grew up I will take them here. I will tell them that it used to be different because I know that the city is getting better. I will tell them that we had to make our own fun because I know the city will tailor to youth more. I will tell them that this was my space to be my-full-self because I know that I could not be anywhere else. I will tell them that I never left because I am forever The Mayor of Fontana. I will tell them that when I graduated undergrad I took my pictures here because we never saw anyone graduate college. I will tell them that this was my first love. I will tell them that this was my community because if anyone ever tried to punk me, everyone in the park would jump them. I will tell them how many times we broke into the lighting system so that we could continue playing at 10PM. I will tell them that when I lost my virginity I went straight here to wait for my brother and got chased to the church down the street. I will tell them that every summer night was spent here after, still. I will tell them how much the park used to be packed with people that looked like me. I will tell them that the park raised me. And that I am a Veterans Park Legend.

Marcus Garcia