The doors of the commuter train opened placing passengers squarely in contact with the raised platform at the Fruitvale Bart station. All but one headed to the escalator leading to the exit. Dressed in black, a young man took five slow steps to the edge of the platform, carrying a bag so full it pulled his shoulders back. He leaned over the concrete rail. Looking down over retail and residential buildings with the sun at his back, he gazed at the Fruitvale Village walkway watching people pass through. The district just celebrated 500 years of Latino history.
The village square is a catwalk for the working class. Carrying bags of groceries, buckets of paint, or a box of tools, everyone is hurrying somewhere.
At the far end of a village an arched window was obscured by blinds. A mix of restaurants lined the brick walkway there. An aroma of fried chicken and tacos permeated the air, making stomachs growl. A plain piece of paper is affixed to the window with a few pieces of scotch tape. It reads, “Code Next”.
Dozens passed by without a second glance. Some were listening to music through earbuds. Others were looking down at their smart phones thumbing messages. None of them knew the potential this space has for changing young lives. Code Next was founded by Google to teach computer skills to minority kids. They want to prepare young Latino and black students for future careers in an industry where they are under represented.
Back at the Fruitvale BART station, looking toward the old industrial recycling facility, there is a view beyond the smoke stacks and grey metal paneling Far in the distance, past Alameda and across the San Francisco Bay, is Silicon Valley. It is a reminder of a future that can now be achieved from the other side of the commuter train tracks.