Kathy Perez grew up in Southwest Detroit and will turn 15 soon. For her and her family both are a big deal.
Abel, Maria, and Kathy moved to Southwest Detroit from Inglewood, California in March of 1999 in search of better jobs and a community to raise their young family in. They would miss their home community but the promises that a move to Detroit offered were too much to pass up. They settled in to their new life in Detroit with a shared home on Lexington and memories of California. It helped the transition that Kathy's grandparents moved here a few short months earlier and also that there was a growing population of Mexican descent. Both helped Detroit feel a little more like home.
Abel, Kathy's father, is a lowrider and member of GoodTimes Car Club. Southwest Detroit is often associated with lowriding but this was not always the case. Before their arrival GoodTimes CC, an LA-based lowrider car club, had no Detroit chapter. But within six months GoodTimes' Detroit chapter was cruising Vernor with Kathy in tow. This little piece of Los Angeles that they brought with them would become a big part of Kathy's Southwest Detroit. In the late 90's and early 2000's the neighborhood witnessed an increase in the existence of quality lowrider bikes, cars, and national car clubs with local chapters. Now you can catch quality lowriders at the park, on the main streets, and in local parades and celebrations.
As work picked up Abel and Maria were able to purchase their first home together in Dearborn, a neighboring suburb in 2004. Kathy and her family decided to allow her to continue to attend elementary school in Southwest Detroit to be with her friends and family rather than disrupt her progress with a move. Since her grandparents were still in the neighborhood getting Kathy to and from school and having a place to stay would not be a problem. As an incoming sophomore in high school she is grateful for this decision as she still attends school with many of her childhood friends and is close to her family as a result.
Now that she's turning 15 it is important to the family to celebrate all that she is with all that they can. This age is often celebrated with a quinceanera as a transition from childhood to adulthood among many Latin American cultures.
In communities across the United States its not uncommon for lowriders to be a part of this coming-of-age ceremony. A quick search of 'lowrider quinceanera' will yield photographs of brightly painted rides and groups of formally dressed teens from Los Angeles, San Jose, and Nevada to Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico. So naturally both Kathy and Abel were excited about the opportunity for GoodTimes Car Club shuttle her from the church to photos to the reception hall during her day.
Cars cruised, mass was celebrated, family cooked, DJ's spun, guests danced, and Abel and Maria thanked everyone for their participation in Kathy's life as well as her big day. The message was clear: both would be less without them. Quinceaneras are often successful because what everyone offers becomes more than the sum of its parts when its shared freely and celebrated in honor of something close to everyone's heart. Sometimes this is true with the life of a child, an extended family, or the development of a community. This day it was Kathy.