Party in South LA

Staff and campers marveled as Vermont Square celebrated America’s independence Sunday evening.

About 40 of us walked down the street to Vermont Square Park to eat watermelon and cake, play with soccer balls and frisbees, and take in the sights and sounds with the neighbors.

The sky glowed with the flashes of fireworks, both legal and otherwise, for hours. We heard the loud pops of explosives for several nights leading up to the Fourth, but nothing could compare to the deluge of rockets bursting with color and smoke and sound. Glitter unfurled in the sky like palm trees fired from every block, the smoke of driveway firecrackers cast a haze over the park. Professionals put on a masterful display at the Los Angeles Coliseum a mile to the northeast while fathers and sons lit fuses and ran to the safety of their porches.

In one sense, the park was at the heart of a warzone. Helicopters buzzed around the aerial flowers of fire and sirens rang as police cars drove aimlessly in futile attempt to deter unlawful revelers. The ground shook with each explosion and smoke was everywhere, chaos in South Central.

Yet joy remained at the heart of the madness. Neighbors set aside their differences to light the night sky and celebrate the ideals that bring so many to this country.

The campers this week come from churches in Arizona and Idaho. There are no Cal Bears fans, as Hilary quickly learned, and the 360 degree neighborhood spectacle of light and sound was a new experience.

However, just as these campers will form a community this week, they embraced the chaos that night in Vermont Square and shared with its diverse residents in celebrating America.

“Watermelon, fireworks, and Fourth of July,” said one adult counselor. “This is perfect.”

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