Recently while scrolling through Netflix, I found a movie I had been wanting to see for a while, the award winning documentary Bully. I first heard about the film when it started making the press rounds last year because people were trying to lower the rating from R to PG-13 so that more children would be allowed to view it. The film directed by Lee Hirsh was originally released in 2011 and follows the lives of several young kids that were being pretty severely bullied in school. 
This is my badge from The Bully Project site.
The site gives kids an opportunity to take a pledge to not Bully others and to stand up for those who are being bullied. The site states they will reach 1 million kids this year. 
The bullying in the film was pretty intense and as a mom and a former educator it was difficult to watch most scenes. The scenes where kids were being physically abused while sitting on the school bus or walking down the hall, were hard to watch. But the most difficult for me had to have been when a mother described the morning her son's body was found by his brother after he committed suicide because he had been so badly bullied at school.  

The film made me feel uncomfortable, which is always a sign of a good documentary. The mothers of these children had no idea how badly their children were being bullied and to what extent. Once the filmmakers and producers witnessed the danger that one of the kids was in on the school bus, they decided to show his mother the footage for his own safety. The other tough aspect to the film, was that the teachers and principals felt as though their hands were tied. They felt they did everything in their power to protect these kids, but I don't think that was true. There should have been harsher punishments or consequences for the bullies. It is not okay to brush it off and say, "Boys will be boys." Not anymore, especially when we are in a world where victims of bullying feel that bringing a weapon to school can solve their problems, and innocent children are being killed.

Personally, I don't remember witnessing overt acts of bullying growing up. I may have been too busy in high school to notice, which makes me sad for the kids that were being bullied. That means I didn't notice them. I didn't bully them, but I also didn't notice them being treated so poorly. Growing up in East Los Angeles in a predominantly Mexican community bullying may have been an issue, but the answer was always fighting. It may not seem like the best solution, but in a community where fathers bleed machismo and mother's most often say, "aye, just don't let your dad find out," that really was the best choice.   

I recommend that this film be watched by kids as young as Junior High School and all through High School  those are some of the cruelest years and, although some kids may be too immature to handle the language or actions in this film, for some kids it may open their eyes. We are raising the next generation in such a difficult world, I think the film Bully can be used as a tool to encourage parents and teachers to talk to kids about the effect that words and actions have on people. 

 Recently, my neighborhood Facebook page Our Town El Sereno shared a link to a video titled "If you only knew" it shows various students making the point that you never know what people are going through and that harsh words can hurt. The video was made with students from my former high school, Woodrow Wilson High School in East Los Angeles. Thank you to Joey Faraon who created such a cool video and allowing me to share it with my readers. 

Hillside Village a suburb of East L.A.

As the saying goes, "Home is where the heart is." For me, home is a small suburb of East Los Angeles called El Sereno, in an even smaller community called Hillside Village. The best part of growing up here, is that I lived so close to my high school, which of course meant that my home became the preferred ditching destination. Now, of course being a mother and raising my kids in this community, I see the value of living here differently. 

I can't erase or hide the fact that I live in a "low-income" "gang infested" area of this country. I grew up here, and on several occasions I have seen the search light from a police helicopter shining through my bedroom window. On a daily basis I will hear the "ghetto birds" over head accompanied by police sirens, sometimes a few times a day, and a lot of the time at all hours of the night. In the almost 20 years that I have lived here, I have seen so much change, I am proud of where I live and where I have chosen to raise my children. 

A Hillside Village Halloween

I have spent almost every Halloween of my life here, in this neighborhood. As a child, this house belonged to my grandparents, so every Halloween, my sister and I would meet up with all of our cousins and trick or treat in this neighborhood. I think one of the factors that makes this neighborhood appealing, is that there is a definite feeling of "safety in numbers." Within the surrounding 5 blocks, you can see the excitement of Halloween all month long in the crazy decorations that people put out. And on the night of, there are numerous haunted houses or little shows that the home owners put on for the kids, our house included. Our house is decorated the first weekend in October, and on Halloween night my dad sets a table up outside with his fog machine handy, while my mom makes all the kids say "trick or treat" if they want candy, and makes endless comments on all of the costumes. In the last 10 years or so this neighborhood has become more popular,  we have estimated that we see close to 500 people every Halloween night. It never fails that we run out of candy and have to retreat inside while another hundred or so kids continue their search for candy.  Now my girls are growing up knowing and appreciating this fun holiday, and look forward to it every year, the way I do. 

Christmas Carolers

A new tradition that has started the past few years around our neighborhood, is Christmas Carolers! Christmas Carolers are straight out of old movies and needless to say pretty uncommon in most present day neighborhoods in East Los Angeles.  I am not sure of which group puts this together in our neighborhood, but I am so grateful that they do. This is the second year that my girls have seen them, and last year, we just happened to be baking peanut butter cookies. My oldest daughter Lacey proudly passed cookies out to the carolers. I love that a group of individuals, with the holiday spirit in tow, go out into the cold, walk around the neighborhood, and sing songs, with the intent of spreading joy.

Wilson High School Fireworks

Hillside Village surrounds Woodrow Wilson High School, my Alma Mater. Something that Wilson High School does, that a lot of high schools don't do is put on a firework show twice a year. Every year at Homecoming and at Graduation the school puts on a pretty impressive show for the community. When your a kid, fireworks are usually a once a year treat, on the 4th of July, but that's not the case for us here. It is awesome that during the Fall and annually in June, my girls are treated to fireworks. It's the small things in life that you really have to take a minute to breathe in and appreciate, becoming a mother has instilled this into me, daily. The look on your child's face as they see fireworks is special, and priceless and should be appreciated. 

4th of July

Every 4th of July, the people of this community go out into the summer heat and line the streets to watch the kids participate in the parade, which leads to the fair at El Sereno Park. Our little community park becomes overwhelmed with people as we search through the crowds for familiar faces, and support our local organizations by playing the games set up for the kids, buy the food, and listen to the music. The evening ends while the kids faces are lit by the show of loud, colorful, fireworks. 

Our View from Ascot Hills

Ascot Hills

In the past few years, the city developed the piece of land across the street from Wilson High School. Ascot Hills is such a beautiful, hidden spot of nature in the middle of the concrete jungle that is Los Angeles. It really is so amazing, to walk 1/4 of a mile and be surrounded by the smell and sounds of nature. There are several hiking trails that take you to the tops of the hills where you can see the Downtown Los Angeles skyline. This past Earth Day we attended the 2nd Annual Kite Festival at Ascot Hills. It was a lot of fun for the girls, they received a complimentary kite, we hiked up to the top of the hill and flew our kites. As we walked down, and on our way out, our local councilman handed Lacey her first trophy for participating in the kite festival. It is all of these little things that matter in life, the proud and confused look on her face was unforgettable. 

I am proud to say that this is where I am raising my children. I hope that they will one day understand and appreciate the sacrifices that we make for them, to be able to grow up in an area so enriched with community support, diversity and beauty. 

Downtown Los Angeles Skyline from Ascot Hills