By Tommy Hough
Tremendous thanks to the myriad of community voices that came together to support Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer’s plan to restore and reopen Mira Mesa’s unique, teen-centered café and cultural center, the Epicentre.
When I was an on-air host at FM 94/9 and 91X, we often promoted all ages shows at the Epicentre, located on Mira Mesa Blvd. in the former library across from Mira Mesa High School in the same parking lot as the Mira Mesa Senior Center.
The facility was unusual in that it was established by the city in 1999 as a teen “hangout” and safe place for kids, and eventually doubled as a center for the Mira Mesa Theater Guild and a venue for local and national bands.
Sadly, the Epicentre fell into disrepair and dilapidation shortly after it closed in 2016, and the city has been unable to find a new vendor and operator for the facility.
The good news is Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who represents Mira Mesa and several of our surrounding communities on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, was able to reallocate $3.6 million of county funds for redevelopment of the Epicentre in a deal that transfers ownership and operation of the facility from the city to the county – so the Epicentre can once again serve as an all ages neighborhood destination and community venue. And because of your e-comments and testimony before the board on May 19th, prompted in part by our e-mail campaign and relay calls to neighbors, the board voted unanimously to facilitate the deal.
Here are some of the comments we received:
Michelle T 5/17/2021 07:09:23 p.m.
Please consider renovating the Epicentre. It would be a wonderful resource for the neighborhood teens. Being right across the high school and centrally located it’s a much needed place with so many opportunities for growth and development for our future leaders of the community. There are also talented people who would love to work with this place and make it a thriving sanctuary for our youth! Yes to the renovation and reopening of the Epicentre!
Rizzhel Javier 5/18/2021 08:45:43 a.m.
My name is Rizzhel Javier, Mira Mesa born and raised, Mira Mesa High School graduate 20 years ago – I am currently the Managing Director at The AjA Project. The Epicenter is an essential space in our town. I was raised in Mira Mesa in the mid 80’s where many of the youth were from military families or children of migrant families, San Diego still remains to be one of the most diverse cities in the world. As a student, I had no space to exercise and explore my Filipino-American identity, first generation, first to go to college, first to get my. MFA – the first in my family to ever work a job that addresses the social and emotional needs of youth.
I credit much of my development, and how I became the MD at The AjA Project, because I was a past participant at the Epicenter. This space, and the people in it, helped me to learn that being different was ok. MMHS at the time had way too many students, Scripps Ranch HS was not yet built, and in my Senior year I was taking English classes in the Auto Shop room. The teachers were at capacity, and me like many students I’m sure, fell through the cracks. The Epicenter caught many of us and provided a space for us to grow in ways that youth that do not get support, in this critical time in their life, expect them to always be ok.
Conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion are essential in the political climate that we live in today. As an Instructor at local universities and community colleges, I can tell you that folks are graduating without have these conversations. We need to start young, I should not have waiting until I was 30 until I spoke to others about my Filipino-American identity. There were no spaces for me growing up to talk about things outside of subjects that we taught to me at school – which was space that was designed to assimilate me, not nurture my natural growth.
What I love about AjA, is that diversity, equity and inclusion are built into the foundation of what we do – youth liberation. I need you to know that after being a resident of Mira Mesa for 37 years – I had to go to City Heights to find a community. This is because 1) there are very few spaces for youth to grow and learn about themselves outside of school 2) like myself, Mira Mesa fall under the radar – people are just noticing it now (recent revival) 3) City Heights acknowledges that it is a home to many migrant families and there are institutions and programs that fund and support that demographic.
After 20 years, and as a 37 year old woman trying to prepare for my own family to grow up in Mira Mesa, I need the Epicenter. I need to know that my children (and their children) will have a space to do what I got to do – find myself. Because of the Epicenter, I spend my career supporting marginalized, displaced youth because I understand how they feel. I understand the impact of freedom, trust, creativity and the ability to trust that I am and can do something important even if I am different from the people around me. Through AjA we have served thousands of youth in City Heights and beyond (w/ virtual instruction) – do we care about the youth in Mira Mesa just as much as other cities?
Re-Open the Epicenter and let me show you. I would also like to share that AjA is the educational team that is supporting some of the design / construction work happening at the Mira Mesa Recreation Center. We have programming running there all Summer 2021 – it would be great to have the Epicenter back up and running to keep these programs running all year, with partnerships with the high school, internships with local businesses that reflect an ecosystem that is truly shaped for the youth and all residents of Mira Mesa.
Ibrahim H Fazel 5/18/2021 09:59:45 a.m.
I was one of the founding kids at the Epicentre. I have learned so many skills through the different programs offered and had wonderful friendships that last me since childhood because of that place. I sincerely hope it does get funding and become a safe place for kids to go and hang out and possibly make opportunities to learn for their future. Kids need new leaders to show them the way.