HOW THE CITY OF COMPTON IS INSPIRING CHANGE
Words and Photos by Ursula Vari
In the early morning hours of July 2, in the parking lot of an unassuming strip mall on Long Beach Boulevard in Compton, a crowd of expectant runners have gathered. Families with their children in strollers, bright eyed youngsters, even dogs in attendance along with the distinguished and wise participants with many years of life etched into their faces have all converged to participate in the D2 District Run/Walk event.
Andre Spicer, Compton’s recently sworn-in councilman partnered with Raymond Harvey and his Compton Run Club to “run through the district” and “identify sore spots” and talk about solutions while at the same time keeping people fit and healthy and himself "accountable".
Spicer has only been in office for thirty days but has “done more work in the community than some city council members”. The day prior, Spicer partnered with El Compa Negro and hosted a free gas giveaway for his community, an occasion that put Compton in the news on major networks not for any other reason but for the honest and inspiring change that is taking place in his city. Spicer got to work immediately on behalf of his 25,000 residents, after a judge ruled in late May that Councilman Isaac Galvan had rigged votes to secure his own victory in the 2021 municipal election.
Spicer’s plans for the city doesn’t only stop with providing “basic services to the community” like tree trimming and clean and paved streets. “We have bigger plans, bringing more economic development, public safety plans, something for our homeless population” he said with a lighthearted, bright smile.
Seems like Spicer is on his way to accomplishing even more than he set out for through his community driven approach. In a short few hours he has transformed the parking lot in front of his Water Worx Purified Water, LLC store that he co-owns with his partner, David Chism, into an outdoor wellness center with sea moss and fresh juice sampling and step aerobics and yoga classes.
“I am from the city of Compton, I grew up here and this is my way of giving back” expressed Harvey, the founder of the Compton Run Club in his passionate tone.”I run for multiple reasons, physical health, mental health and also to set a legacy in my city and to bring people together and create community” he continued before leading his runners into a 3-mile run - or a 2-mile version for those who opted to walk instead.
At 8:30 a.m., after a brief warm-up led by Victor Martin from VM Fitness, the sizable crowd of expectant runners streamed out of the parking and onto Long Beach Boulevard like a strong army on a mission to better their neighborhood and to strengthen community ties where everyone is accountable and brings their best and healthy self to the table.
With smartphones in hand, documenting bolts coming up on the sidewalk at Compton Blvd and Willow St., the runners and walkers took their responsibility to identify “sore spots” to heart. By the time they got to Elm Street, the joyous fatigue showed on their faces. Some stopped to take photos of trash and the cracked pavement at Santa Fe Ave. and graffiti on Elm Street and the several “brown spots”, the vacant lots and buildings along the route.
By 9:30 a.m. the last few participants made their way up from Palmer Street onto Long Beach Blvd and back into the parking lot where Greg Lehman, a representative of Hoka prepared for the raffle, giving away Hoka running shoes and other swag.
Many walked away from gift bags from the company and almost all participants got their refreshments while sampling Zen In Juice’s fresh organic beverages and Viibe 90’s fruit infused Sea Moss Gel.
“Running is life, running is health, running is spiritual, running is encouragement, running helps mental health, I love coming and running in groups, running is everything” said Pamela Donaldson who came to the event from Baldwin Hills. Originally from Compton, she worked for the city for 34 years and started running after she retired.
As the sun climbed higher the participants rolled out their yoga mats to stretch and to restore their muscles to the guidance of yoga teacher Camille Phillips, while Spicer turned himself into a “mobile personal mister” drizzling participants from his water bottle. His genuine love for people and the community shows in the way he assists his business partner with his wheelchair, the way he guides the youth and the way he participates in every single activity at the event, sharing in the joy that permeates the parking lot.
“I want to transform Compton Boulevard to be more family friendly, more mom and pop spots, restaurants, cigar shops, I want Compton Boulevard to be more lively, more sit-down restaurants on the outside” he says in his enthusiastic tone. When asked about who he would like to partner with to help serve his community he mentions Senator Steve Bradford and Assemblymember Mike Gipson. “If you are doing work with the community I want to work with you” Spicer concludes.
As the morning builds to DJ Gamma Ray’s beats, Kris Lawrence arrives from KC Fitness Training with his signature broad smile. And if all the running wasn’t enough for the wellness enthusiasts, Lawrence’s Xtreme Hip Hop Step provides an even higher energy cardio experience for the expectant crowd, while Spicer claims his step platform in the back row among other eager participants.
It doesn’t take much to see that Compton is changing for the better. And the change happens through dedicated councilmen who stay one with the community they are serving. Spicer is exactly that, a driven, hard-working family man who truly cares about the wellbeing of his constituents, is hellbent on serving them and to transform the city of Compton into a vibrant, inspiring community.