Defend Boyle Heights’ Nancy Meza has brought her anti-gentrification workshops to Chicago and New York. Residents from South Los Angeles to Orange County have asked for similar training.
Fr. Gregory Boyle’s book includes stories of young parents who have figured out how to manage jobs and child care, and enjoy their kids even if the parents themselves didn’t have much of a childhood.
Billed as the area’s first 100 percent solar-powered festival, EastSide Sol heated up Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights on Saturday. Under the scorching sun, activists, residents and community leaders gathered to explore how low-income and minority communities like theirs can be part of the growing green economy.
On the surface, EastSide Sol was a festive celebration. The crowd danced to funky live music by pan-Latin band Buyepongo, ate taquitos and pupusas provided by neighborhood restaurant Un Solo Sol and enjoyed live mural painting by Self-Help Graphics. But at the event’s core was a conversation about economics and the environment, and how to deal with the increasing realities of climate change.
In City Council Member Jose Huizar’s opening remarks to the crowd, he said “Oftentimes in the environmental movement, when we’re looking to preserve our planet, our earth and find alternative forms of energy, the Eastside is left out of the discussion.” The need to include low-income and minority areas in environmental efforts was an ongoing theme of the day.
My mother went to high school in the early 1950s with Donald Sterling — known in those days by his given name, Donald Tokowitz — but doesn’t remember a thing about him. This could be because Tokowitz was one among hundreds of students at Roosevelt High, but perhaps it was an early metaphor for the future real estate tycoon being a generational anomaly.
By the time she got to Roosevelt, my mom — like Sterling, a child of Jewish immigrants — was steeped in the leftist politics of L.A.’s legendary Eastside neighborhood, Boyle Heights. With sizable numbers of Jews, Latinos, African Americans and Japanese, Boyle Heights was a working class ethnic melting pot in an era when all minorities were subject to varying degrees of the prevailing discrimination targeting anyone who wasn’t white and Christian.
It was also a hotbed of liberal and radical social movements, and the staging ground for some of L.A.’s most effective progressive organizing.