What is cruising all about, and when did it become a crime to cruise in California? I will get to that in a second. But, first, have you ever loved someone so much that when they pass away, it’s like part of you is also gone? You feel empty because they were a big part of your life. That happened to me when my good friend Butch died from his cancer battle. He was my wrench buddy.
I met Butch when I needed to rent a house in 2012 as I was a caregiver for my aunt Kathey who had dementia, and we needed a place to park our Rv. I had cared for her since 1999 after her husband died from a heart attack. Kathey and I traveled for ten years around the country.
We had the most amazing adventures together. But her dementia had worsened, so I was pleased to have met Butch and his wife, rented their house in Yuma, Arizona, during the summer, and returned to the desert to camp on BLM land in the winter.
My aunt Kathey and I would winter there when we traveled. I spent a lot of time with Butch; we would go fishing and hiking and worked on many projects together. There was nothing he could not fix. So when he died in 2021, I felt alone, especially since my aunt Kathey passed away in 2016. I moped around the house for several weeks when my wife suggested I get out of the house and photograph cars at a car show her coworker told her about.
I did and had a great time at the car show and found out about the car shows in El Cajon, California, where I met the owner of a low rider called Phantom 63. He told me I should come to Chicano Park during the summer because they have a cruise every other Wednesday, which I did.
That’s where I heard about a group called the Lowrider Coalition that was working on getting the no cruising law repealed in National City, Ca. I knew what it was like to have something you love to do taken away because cruising was outlawed in San Jose, Ca, in 1986, where I grew up.
So my friends and I would get pulled over all the time. It ruined the enjoyment of working on your car because you could not take it out for a cruise to enjoy the hard work you put into it.
Spending time at Chicano Park on Wednesday nights during the summer is to see what Lowriding cruising is about. I saw families spending quality time with each other. I would call it love; it’s that simple—a community of people coming together to form long-lasting bonds with each other.
Cars are cruising up and down the street while groups of people are dancing in the street. There’s laughter filling the air, people saying hi to each other and enjoying their time with each other. It’s what I wish society were more alike. Theirs, a common theme at Chicano Park and the Lowrider car shows that I went to its family.
They do so much for San Diego County and beyond by having these car shows and cruises. They raise money for nonprofits, help family’s out when needed, and do food drives, but most importantly, they show what it’s like to be a part of a strong, loving community of people.
Cruising was outlawed in National City, Ca, in 1992; I knew exactly what it felt like to have something taken away from you that you enjoyed. So I’m happy to say the leaders of San Jose, Ca. Recently change, the law to make cruising legal again. Therefore, I believe it is time to change the law and bring cruising back to National City, Ca, and wherever it was made illegal must also change the law.
The community of people I met, from the elders to the younger generation, are passionate about cruising and want to be able to enjoy something culturally significant to them. It’s part of who they are; taking that away from them was wrong.
I hope creating this art project can bring awareness to how special the Lowriding community is to San Diego County and beyond.
So join me at the East County Art Gallery in El Cajon, Ca, at 124 East Main St, on October 26, 2022, for our Dark and Light Group Exhibition, where my work will be displayed. The East County Art Association is a nonprofit organization created to educate and provide resources to artists— building community through a celebration of differences, diversity, and appreciation of the arts.
10% Goes to East County Art Association.
20% Goes to the Lowrider Coalition.
Donation receipts will be displayed monthly.
By Michael Vance Pemberton.
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