Lowriders packed into the small parking lot of the Mid-City Police Substation March 1. Volunteers from car clubs, church groups, law enforcement offices, community groups and nonprofits came together there for the inaugural meeting of the 2012 San Diego Lowrider Gospel Fest.
Leading the congregation was Richard “Cisco” Mendez, the evangelist counselor of the Lowrider Gospel Fest Ministries. Once the room was situated Cisco’s energy was unchained.
“Roll up your sleeves, let’s get to work. You’re going to serve a lot of people,” Cisco announced to his audience.
The passion he shared about the car show wasn’t so much about the classic cruisers that show up; it was about the crowd that it draws. Finding a common ground thanks to their deep roots in Chicano culture, the lowriders bring in youth who could be or already are involved in gangs.
“On the first Gospel Fest, members of the Mexican Mafia showed up to the planning meeting at the police station,” Cisco said.
It’s people like this who Cisco wants to reach–people who got absorbed by street gangs and think that there is no way out. Cisco and festival volunteers reach out gang members and drug addicts who show up through the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The annual City Heights event acknowledges that gang culture is nurtured in communities with high rates of poverty and limited opportunities for employment and education. To prevent extended hardships and discourage crime as a means of subsistence, the festival offers free groceries, clothing and resources for low-income families and individuals.
“Thats what we’re all about,” said volunteer Carolina Santana, “reaching out to the community and improving life.”
The 2012 lowrider festival is scheduled to take place at the City Heights Recreation Center in October. Organizing meetings continue every Thursday evening and are open to all interested in volunteering.
Photos courtesy of the San Diego Lowrider Gospel Fest, www.thesandiegolowridergospelfest.com