By Kayla Moon
The Central Valley has some of the most impoverished communities in the nation and appears to always get the short end of the stick in regard to resources and representation. Mendota, only 20 minutes from Fresno, is rated No. 1 in the nation for the worst living conditions according to a USA Today article, “These Are the Worst Cities in America.”
This type of neglect and lack of resources resonates deeply with the people of the Central Valley. We are all too familiar with neglect, poverty, mental illness, homelessness, addiction, low life expectancies, exploitation of labor and an overall limited experience to an authentic quality of life.
Yet, even in times of great darkness, there is still hope. Fresno, specifically, has a dream, a vision of its true potential.
Through a community art project titled “Prayers and Dreams for Our City,” a local census asked the question “What are your prayers and dreams for the city of Fresno?” Different social media platforms and other methodologies were used to engage with a multitude of Fresno residents.
One participant responded that Fresno was “a big city with a small town heart” as quoted by a poet named Aideed Medina, who also participated in the project. Participants were asked to share a short video and speak on their hopes and dreams for Fresno.
The question was extended to the larger community during the May 2019 ArtHop at Cornerstone Café. Thirty people participated, some sending videos and others writing on note cards with heartfelt prayers and dreams for their city.
Participants included journalists, activists, holistic healers, artists, poets and many more. Their voices were clear: Despite limited resources, there is a deep love for the city of Fresno and the people of the Central Valley and a deep passion to make it better.
In front of our eyes, this community is experiencing a renaissance fueled by self-resilience, community building and healing, The once stagnant energy of a traditionally conservative and segregated town is moving toward a more progressive approach.
It appears the core of California is currently healing. Fresno’s once complacent community is now in motion and hungry for better days.
The majority of participants desired to see more opportunities for youth, high-grade education systems for our children, humane resources for those who live on the streets and more access to mental health. A burning desire for community members to learn to value their own lives was expressed.
Responses to the question can be summarized as follows:
- We want to shake off the weight from generations of struggle and conduct ourselves with passion, dignity and pride.
- We want families to be connected, for mothers to have access to healthcare and for everyone to have a right to clean air, clean food and clean water.
- We want Black people to have rights, for immigrants to be protected and for farmworkers to have access to protection and workers’ rights.
- We want the west and east sides of Fresno to heal and for the north side to understand the plight of the south.
- We want the police to stop abusing community members.
- We want women to have a right to a life free from sexual exploitation by the men in their lives.
- We as a community dream and demand a better life right now, and we are ready and equipped to build it.
It is genuinely an exciting time to be alive in the Central Valley as if the crust beneath our feet is shifting to new ground that is ready to produce in abundance for its people.
You may search “Prayers And Dreams For Fresno” on YouTube to find a video of many who shared as part of the project. The images are of community members who took the time to send their city a love note during a May ArtHop.
The “Prayers and Dreams for Our City” project is intended to inspire, to help us understand the times in which we live and to realize that we control our city’s destiny. The time to act is now.
Kayla Moon is a freelance journalist who focuses on women’s rights, youth advocacy, and environmental and social issues in the Central Valley. Find her work at futureofminds.com, We Are Change, the Conscious Resistance, the Fresno Flyer and Instagram (@futureofminds).