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Low and slow: Lowriders raise profile of Thanksgiving food drive

on November 23, 2014

As the rain stopped and the sun poked through late Saturday morning, a rainbow of shiny lowriders and classic cars appeared in a parking lot off Bissell Avenue in Richmond.

A baby blue lowrider with matching leather interior. A bright orange pick-up. A few dozen cars polished and looking brand-new despite their retro skeletons. Most stopped to unload bags of non-perishable food.

Tables lining the parking lot were loaded with cans, jars, and packages. DJ Krazy boomed War’s classic “Low Rider” as families wandered the parking lot, admiring the cars and chatting with friends.

This was the 8th annual Thanksgiving Food Drive sponsored by the Richmond Sol youth soccer league and the Family Council, but the first year they partnered with the Cruising Classics Coalition, a group of local car clubs. The aim was to collect food baskets to distribute to day laborers on Thanksgiving Day.

Diego Garcia founded Richmond Sol 11 years ago.

“I didn’t want to just have a soccer program,” he said while directing volunteers selling raffle tickets. “I wanted it to be inclusive of what the needs of the community are.”

Garcia thinks this year’s approach was a success.

“You see all these nice classic cars got the attention of people, and we got a lot more food.”

He estimated they would get enough food donations to give out 400 Thanksgiving baskets, nearly twice as many as they collected in previous years.

Gus Gomez helped organize the Cruising Classics Coalition, bringing the Gomez Family Car Club together with half a dozen other car clubs to attract people to the food drive. His wife Yazmin Gomez helped organize the influx of food as she watched their 2-year old daughter toddle around.

Gus Gomez said he and others were tired of being misconstrued as gang members.

“Whatever they see on TV is not what it really is,” he said. “Not only a gangster owns a lowrider, a lot of family men like myself own lowriders.”

He pointed towards his deep red ’64 Chevy Impala, “we put a lot of hard work, a lot of effort, money, time, blood, sweat and tears into our cars, and we just want to show them off, that’s all we’re doing.”

Gomez and Garcia both said they look forward to joining forces again for next year’s food drive.

“We’re going to keep doing it because it’s positive,” Gomez said. “And we hope to better our community.”

As Gomez discussed the event, Junior Samayoa and his cousin approached wearing oversized brown button-ups with the logo of the Raza Unida Bike Club of the East Bay. They thanked Gomez for inviting them to the event, where they displayed a few of their lowrider bikes.

Samayoa is president of the bike club. He is just 17 years old but has been working on lowriders for a decade.

His club brought five big bags of canned food to contribute to the food drive.

“We’ll do anything for Richmond” he said. “Its where we’re from, we need to clean it up.”

The club is all about family and community for Samayoa. His uncle taught him how to work on bikes.

“I wanted to start a bike club for my little cousins, my brothers, my friends, to show who we are,” he said.

The bikes are about two and a half feet tall. Samayoa’s is chrome with all green details, the seat and spare tire are covered in tailored green velvet.

“If you want to build your bike you gotta put your love and passion to it,” is his advice to up-and-coming lowriders. Samayoa pointed to his bike, “people say, ‘oh you’re already done with it.” Shaking his head “no, its just the beginning of it.”

After all the food is collected volunteers say they will organize and separate the donations into Thanksgiving baskets. On Thanksgiving Day, Richmond Sol members will go to the Home Depot parking lot and distribute the baskets to day laborers who gather there to try to find impromptu work.

Gomez looks forward to other ways the lowrider community can give back to Richmond. There’s even talk of doing a “trunk-or-treat” event, lining up the lowriders and handing out candy along 23rd street on Halloween.

“It’s just the lifestyle of lowriding,” Gomez said. “It’s all family and doing something positive for your community.”

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