Taking Back the City — One Movie at a Time!


When we first moved to Compton in the mid 90′s, it was an accepted reality that most residents stayed away from the city parks.  Parks were considered “dangerous” and “run by gangs”, and other than for some occasional summertime relief at the city pool, best to be avoided.  I drove past Lueder’s Park almost daily back then and most often it was completely empty.  It seemed that even those notorious gangbangers didn’t want to spend much time there!

I can’t pinpoint when all that began to change.  All I can say is that, when I drive past Compton city parks now —  be it Wilson, Kelly, Lueders, or South (obviously my side of town) —  they are always bubbling over with children and their families.  Kids are playing, parents are lounging on blankets, the basketball courts are full — even the family pets may be in tow! They have become what they were intended to be — a joining place for the community.

It is clear that there’s been some hard work done by the Parks and Recreation Department to make these changes. The parks are becoming a source of pride for our city! When I drive by now, I can’t help but smile at the difference.

So I love, love, love the “Movie in the Park” series that Faith Inspirational MB Church is again putting on this summer!!! (Actually, I just LOVE Faith Inspirational MB Church!! Pastor Rafer Owens and his congregational truly love, love, love Compton!!! Way before anyone was putting “Birthing a new Compton” on signs in this city, they had birthed that vision in the very DNA of their church. If you don’t have a church home, do not let another Sunday go by before you visit their church.  These people are the real deal! Here’s is their website for more information:  http://www.faithinspirational.org/.)

Last Friday my family and I showed up at Kelly Park, blankets and chairs under our arms, to watch a movie with about 300 other neighbors (according to the Compton Bulletin).  There were free hot dogs, popcorn, sodas, coloring books, and “The Karate Kid” on a large projector screen.  Folks came early to claim their spots but nobody seemed in too much of a hurry.  Everyone just hung out, waiting for the sun to set. It reminded me of going to the drive-in as a kid. I even saw one family blanket with a full-course meal being passed around!!

It was peaceful and relaxing.  It was fun.  It was…community.  As one Faith Inspirational member introduced herself, she told me, “We’re taking back the city!” Yes you are — one movie at a time!

And we can’t wait til you do it again!


Hanging out in the hot dog line...

Can't have a hot dog without the condiments...

Saving their spot...

Doing the heavy lifting...

Dancing while we wait...

...or texting...

...or browsing a new coloring book...

But keeping cozy for sure...

The only problem is the popcorn never pops fast enough...


The Karate Kid, Smith version -- worth the wait!

And just for fun, cause this little girl was just whipping around on her bike, hot dog in hand…



P.S. Some of you might have noticed that I had taken a few months hiatus from blogging.  My computer crashed after my posts on Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum and I lost a lot of stuff I had been working on.  I was so discouraged!! It has taken me a few months to get back on my feet, get my equipment restored, and get my heart back into business.  But I am truly back now!  Thanks for checking into the site again after it had been quiet for so long!!!

13 Responses to “Taking Back the City — One Movie at a Time!”

  1. Shelby says:

    I was so excited about this idea when I saw Mike post something on FB. What a grand idea! And to find out a church initiated it, well they can just go on with their bad selves! So glad you shared. Question – do you get permission from those you photograph before you take the picture or put it on the website?

  2. Craig & Evie Chapman says:

    Welcome back Tonya, we HAVE been missing the blog and all your amazing Compton updates. We are also grateful to God that He is taking back the city and using ordinary good citizens to do it! Thank you Faith Inspirational for helping to lead the way to a wholesome Compton.

  3. Arnoldo says:

    Great story! I love your pictures and writing, thanks for sharing.

  4. Geoffrey says:

    I agree with you Tanya, the city parks are slowly becoming a pleasant sight.
    Peace to the city.

  5. Kiana Shaw says:

    As a member of Faith Inspirational MBC, I want to invite all of you out on July 15th to the next “Movie in the Park”. It will be held at Gonzales Park 1101 W. Cressey Street, Compton, CA 90222.

    Bring your family, your blankets, a jacket and a desire to have a great time in your community. We will provide the rest.


  6. brock o'compton says:

    Was it because of gangs that the parks were empty or because the city was not providing services for the community @ the parks?

  7. brock o'compton says:

    oh and many blessings upon Faith Inspirational MBC because they are living proof and visible work.

  8. tonya says:

    Hi Shelby — I don’t always ask permission, though people obviously see me take the picture. Because I’m trying to capture the story, I usually don’t want posed photos, but want to capture events as they are really happening. The only objection I have ever gotten was from a guy at the subway station who wanted me to pay him. That was pretty funny because I wasn’t actually taking his picture! (He wasn’t in the most sober frame of mind, to be fair.)

    As for putting photos on the website, this kind of blog falls into what’s called an “editorial use” category – it’s like the newspaper or any other kind of journalism. If I was running some kind of portrait business, for example, and the pictures were to promote that, I would need releases from each individual for every photo shoot.

    Good questions! Thanks.

  9. tonya says:

    Thanks to Arnoldo, Chapmans, and Geoffrey for you comments!

  10. tonya says:

    Thanks for the info Kiana — I just love these events! And Gonzales is another perfect location!

  11. tonya says:

    It is true — Faith Inspirational is living proof the work being done in our community, a great example for all of us to follow. They have also adopted Centennial High and are doing great things over there — I hope I get to capture that with photos someday. They show me that it doesn’t always take a complicated program/effort to make an impact — just some creativity and willing hands. As a Christian, I see God truly being at the center of their mission.

    And your question about the gangs vs. lack of services in the park is a good one. It seems to me that the parks dept is really stepping it up these days, and that surely seems to be making a difference. And like I wrote, I never really saw too many of the gang members who were “running” Lueder’s Park — it was usually just sitting empty. South Park was usually empty, too. Kelly Park was a place that I often saw gang members hanging out — but I’m a strong believer that light prevails over darkness every time. So bringing opportunities into the park is gonna fill up that darkness.

    What do you think long-term Compton residents? Anybody else have any input?

  12. brock o'compton says:

    Thanks for your reply.
    It would be interesting to know just how much violence has taken place over the years at the parks; I would think not that much.
    Just as terrorism is a perfect reason for going into indefinite war, gangbangers are perfect reason for corrupt city officials to not provide services for the community all these years.
    One of the big reasons for the recent improvements with the parks and recreation department was due to Mr. Homer Post, who the city terminated a couple of months ago.
    Light does prevail over darkness and I propose that upon closer examination, we may find that there has always been light; Even in those gang members you saw hanging out. Alas, who want’s to hang out and do nothing when there are movies to be seen in the park?
    Verily, I say to you “Yes! Take back the city from those in control of the people’s resources for they have not dispersed them amongst those in need fairly”.

  13. Shelby says:

    Such a great topic and good discussion. These are some of the issues that really impact a community! So many aspects go into the making of a healthy, vibrant, thriving community…and the outcome depends upon so many people. The gov’t bodies yes, but really the people of the community have significant power. I am so happy to see people taking matters into their own hands. Well done!!!

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