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Visions & voices of contemporary community-building in South L.A.



By George Villanueva

South Los Angeles is a vast geography of neighborhoods that includes South Central, Leimert Park, Watts, Willowbrook, and many more.  The area boasts iconic cultural landmarks such as the Watts Towers and Central Avenue Jazz Corridor.  Historically, the area has faced real economic and social challenges that have manifested in community protests such as the 1965 Watts Riots and 1992 Civil Unrest.  The movement to advocate for positive social change in South L.A. is embodied by residential and community leaders who continue to do this through community-building today.

This contemporary community-building in South L.A. is explored by USC’s Visions & Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative*.  Through a series of events that invites a sample of the people committed to this work—perspectives about community-building in South L.A. are shared. 





Last Fall’s event Civic Action and Community Voice invited panelists to share their views on the importance of civic activism and the role of journalism in community-building in South L.A.  Alberto Retana of Community Coalition reminded everyone that the community-building work must be placed in the historical context of the structural disinvestment and crack epidemic that hit South L.A. in the second half of the 20th century.  Long-time chronicler of South L.A. Erin Aubry Kaplan spoke about the decreasing coverage of South L.A. local media coverage by the L.A. Times and how important current hyper-local news websites such as Intersections: South L.A. Report are to keeping the community informed about neighborhood civic activity.  Franciso Ortega of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission pointed out that the city government and LAPD need to be good listeners first and not enforcers first, when dealing with community relations in South L.A.  Lastly, media maker Sahra Sulaiman discussed how important it was to situate her Streetsblog writing and youth work ‘in the community’ because it gave her the community-level perspective needed.

The panel also addressed the university-community tensions that come with USC’s development and expansion into its adjacent neighborhoods.  Panelists addressed their thoughts on how USC and the community can be better neighbors in the face of neighborhood change.  Work such as the UNIDAD coalition of South L.A. organizations that worked for community benefits with USC development plans demonstrated how the university could connect with local engagement work.





Next week, a second panel titled Voices of South L.A.: Food, Recreation, and the Arts as Social Justice considers the role of arts, recreation, and food to social justice efforts in South L.A.  We hope you will join in for the conversation and connect with the work and leaders who are making community-building a reality in South L.A.



Voices of South L.A.: Food, Recreation, and the Arts as Social Justice

Thursday, February 26th, 6-7:30pm

USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Auditorium G26

For more information and to RSVP, please click here.


*The Voices of South L.A. series is coordinated by Doctors Alison Trope, Robeson Frazier, and George Villanueva of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

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