Lead Story West Edition

Community Coalition honors activists at awards program

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The Community Coalition several community leaders and raised $450,000 for its organizing efforts in the community Oct. 27 at the 16th annual People Power Progress Awards at the J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live.

More than 500 guests attended the event, which honored Russlynn Ali, the CEO of XQ Institute; DREAM Act co-author U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard; and philanthropic activists Paula and Barry Litt.

“Since its founding by U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, [Community Coalition] epitomizes everything we believe about good community organizing leading to real and lasting change,” said Paula Litt, who accepted the award with her husband for their dedication to community efforts since the civil rights movement.

Barry Litt has litigated key cases such as Lawson v. LAPD— a $3.4 million settlement for LAPD use of dogs to routinely attack and bite suspects, and a policy change from “find and bite” to “find and bark.”

“It was an incredible night,” said Alberto Retana, president and CEO of the Community Coalition. “As we enter the 25th anniversary of the 1992 civil unrest, the accomplishments of our four honorees remind us that transformative change is possible.”

During his address, Retana celebrated the organization’s victories over the past year, which included increasing Proposition 47 savings, winning support from the California Department of Education on education funding, and engaging more than 50,000 registered voters for the upcoming election.

The program also included a moment for reflections, as guests received a preview of the coalition’s commemoration of the 25thanniversary of the 1992 civil unrest. The tribute included testimonies from three generations, including former youth member, Annetta Wells, who was only in middle school when the 1992 riots occurred.

Ali received the Charlotta Bass award for her more than 20 years of advocacy in education.Recently XQ launched a $100 million competition to help communities around the country to rethink and redesign high schools for today and tomorrow’s world.

In Los Angeles, the XQ Super School, to be called RISE High, will be a mobile and multi-facility high school that will meet homeless and foster care students where they are geographically, academically, socially and emotionally, and open up clear pathways to college and career.

The show was stolen by 17-year-old Adriana Rizo, an undocumented student at Manual Arts High School who took the stage to introduce Roybal-Allard for the Augustus F. Hawkins Award.

“Oftentimes, immigrants are portrayed as murderers, rapists, and bad ‘gente,’” said Rizo, using the Spanish word for people. “But we are much more than that. We are diverse, strong, resilient, hard-working people who strive to contribute to this country all we can.”

Rizo plans to apply for legal status under the DREAM Act, which was co-authored by Roybal-Allard.

Roybal-Allard embraced Rizo for her powerful speech.

“Community Coalition has created positive change by joining together with community members and has honored its legacy by creating real social and economic change,” Roybal-Allard said.