Hayward more than my home


Photo by Louis LaVenture/The Pioneer

Louis LaVenture,

When I drive up the Harder Hill and come to school at Cal State East Bay, it’s like a different world. I can almost forget about what’s waiting for me when I come back down.

Many East Bay students leave Hayward when school is over, but I am still here, in the city I was born and raised in: Hayward.

Growing up, I could see the old Warren Hall Building from anywhere in my city. It was a reminder that Hayward wasn’t all bad, despite what some people may think; we had a University. But now that the building is gone, I sometimes forget about that blinking red beacon of light that used to symbolize something to not just me, but all residents of this city. It symbolized hope and something good from Hayward; our city was more than just drugs and violence, we’re smart.

I grew up on Gading Road, just down the hill from East Bay; the same place where most of my friends and family still live. For me it is a constant struggle between nice buildings, classrooms and education at school—and drugs, gangs and violence just down the street.

There was a shooting on Harder Road two weeks ago. Somebody shot out the windows on a car, passing the gas station on the corner of Harder and Soto Roads. I was on Huntwood Avenue just behind the incident. One gunshot went off and I felt the wind from the bullet over my head as I walked up to my cousin’s building. As I turned around, three more fired out and were heading toward me and I could see a visible line in the sky from the speed at which they cut through the air. I was scared; I ran into the house and stayed there for a long while.

I’ve never had stray bullets come my way before and I realized that just being in the wrong place at the wrong time in South Hayward could have made me a casualty.

But that’s not the only downside.

I seem to “fit the description” when it comes to interactions with the police as well. I can’t even count the number of times I have been stopped because I “look like somebody they are looking for.” Bald Latino males must be the number one suspect of every crime in Hayward, from my experience.

When you see a task force car in traffic, do they look at you or do they just keep going? When they see me, they make a U-turn and make sure to pull me over, usually to search my car for guns or drugs, citing probable cause. During my ten plus years as a legal driver, I’ve been pulled over in Hayward at least 30 times, but only cited for tickets four times.

It’s the opposite at East Bay. The police here are friendly, talk to me and even wave if our eyes lock in passing. Something I never do with cops off of campus.

Some people don’t know what goes on in the city that CSUEB calls home, they just come to school and leave when class is over. However, within the past few weeks, the increase of murders in Hayward has garnered the city much unwanted attention. Just two weeks ago there were four murders in five days in the city. A string of homicides that close together is a first for Hayward.

I used to look up at CSUEB from my apartments when I was a kid and hope someday I could go there. Now that I’m here, I find myself looking down on Hayward from the parking lot and wish I didn’t have to go back down.

I hear people complain about Meiklejohn Hall and its condition all the time—it’s old, it’s not earthquake safe, the mice, the list goes on and on.

But I just think to myself I love it here. It’s peaceful, it’s safe, it’s perfect.