SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Local elected officials joined hundreds of residents and business mogul Russell Simmons Aug. 3 to celebrate the multimillion-dollar renovation of Community Coalition’s community center.
Several politicians spoke in praise of the long-term community efforts of the Community Coalition organization.
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, who founded the Community Coalition in the 1990s to combat the area’s economic despair and gang violence associated with crack cocaine and other inner-city woes, called it an exciting day for the community.
“Community Coalition just opened the doors of their renovated, state-of-the-art facility on 81st Street and Vermont,” Bass said. “I hope this redesigned space will be a home to hope and many years of impactful work in the community.”
The renovated building was originally city property when Community Coalition rented it a few years after the South L.A. riots in 1992.
The celebration also included speeches from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, new Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, like Bass, a former leader of Community Coalition; and Simmons.
Simmons, on behalf of his company, Rush Card, presented the Community Coalition with a check for $25,000.
“We are here today because all of us have seen an organization born out of tragedy, tears and destruction start to build little by little, block by block, street by street,” Garcetti said. “It’s a vision that we do say — not just as leaders, nonprofits and government, not just as individual donors ourselves, but as people — this is the best. It doesn’t get any better than Community Coalition.”
“Today we have something worthy of an organization and a community that deserves it. Days like this don’t come quickly, in fact, if you read the pages of history, they often come so slowly. … But in the midst of struggle, any of us who have ever been in the midst of community organizing and struggle know how slowly those pages are written, those paragraphs are made and those pages are turned,” Garcetti added.
“Twenty-five years later, we have begun to write a chapter, a different chapter here, in the heart of Los Angeles. We say here in South L.A. and throughout Los Angeles that no life should be lost, every life has worth and we will continue to fight for black lives, for brown lives, for the lives of Angelenos until we have a sea of possibility and a sea of success.”
Villaraigosa also spoke about the value of the Community Coalition.
“People see the Community Coalition as one of those important organizations that have brought us together,” he said. “And together, we are powerful. … We had Karen Bass, then Marqueece, and now we have Alberto [Retana] leading the Community Coalition.
“This movement has been organic, it’s been good. I believe that this organization is an opportunity for us to see, in … the most diverse city anywhere in the world, what can happen, the power that can happen, when people come together around issues negating the things that divide us,” Villaraigosa added.
Ridley-Thomas said, “This is a moment of profound pride. The Community Coalition has done something that has made us proud. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little pride, now and then. We have gone all the way uptown with this $5 million renovated state-of-the-art building that no one can doubt.
“This is about institution building, this is about re-creating community, this is about giving people a sense of purpose, a sense of hope and a sense of capacity to run on to see what the end will be regardless of the opposition. We can make good things happen in our own space. That is what the resiliency theory is all about,” Ridley-Thomas added.
The celebration marked a milestone for the group, which started in Bass’ living room 25 years ago.
One of the main issues at the time was stopping the proliferation of liquor stores in South L.A.
After the ceremony, community members toured the building, which includes a computer lab, a kitchen and meeting spaces.