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People Power Convention gives residents a chance for civic engagement

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A forum for South Los Angeles residents to share their struggles and experiences in the community will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 25 at Southwest College, 1600 W. Imperial Highway.

The Community Coalition is holding its inaugural People Power Convention, which organizers hope becomes an annual event.

Experts will be on hand to dispense training on topics of health, civic engagement, mass incarceration and the economic crisis so residents can take the quality of the community into their own hands and create sustainable solutions.

The conference will include three programs: one for adults, one for youth ages 13 to 18 and another for children ages 12 and under.

Rosemarie Molina from the Community Coalition said the organization planned the event around the summer solstice since the kids in the coalition’s youth group “are not excited about summer.”

“Crime rates go up, and schools are out so there’s no safe space,” Molina said. “A few summers ago, there were no after-school programs so kids had nowhere to go. We wanted to kick off the summer with something residents can feel empowered by.”

The event’s guest speakers will include U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

“This is civic engagement at it’s best,” Harris-Dawson said. “The People Power Convention will bring together hundreds of South L.A. residents and leaders to learn about and discuss a range of problems plaguing our community while crafting campaigns to create the change we’re seeking.

“I’m ready to hear what residents have to say about creating jobs, making our neighborhoods safer and eliminating the school-to-prison pipeline and seeing what part of the solution I can work on from City Hall.”

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass will be one of the speakers at the People Power Convention June 25 at Los Angeles Southwest College. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass will be one of the speakers at the People Power Convention June 25 at Los Angeles Southwest College. (Courtesy photo)

Other, more specialized, panelists include Elaine Batchlor, the CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, Cheryl Grills, the director of psychology at Loyola Marymount University and Hector Villagra, the executive director of the ACLU-Southern California.

The workshops and panelists will address three intersecting themes: Justice Reform and Public Safety, Racial Equality and Health and Prevention.

Those attending will learn the history of mass incarceration in South L.A., as well as how to dismantle the youth-to-prison pipeline that is such a roadblock to the area’s future. They will discuss solutions that focus on prevention rather than incarceration, and how to reform the existing structure that puts communities of color at a disadvantage.

Molina said she hopes the event will provide a space to foster a discussion that involves all residents.

“I think a lot of times we assume what people’s issues are, but until we sit down and talk about them, it’s hard to know what’s affecting them the most,” she said

Another topic, racial equality, addresses the root of many other issues the community grapples with daily, such as institutionalized racism and how it affects inequality in high schools. The negative climate then extends into the job search and factors heavily into the youth-to-prison pipeline.

Health and prevention encapsulates the need for improved access to healthy food and drug and alcohol prevention programs, a gap that also addresses mental health awareness. As well as through medical interventions, the workshops “Artivism: Activism and Empowerment Through Art” and “Organizing 101: Transforming Your Neighborhood,” touch on alternative solutions to the problem.

Young people attending will get a taste of those topics, as well as advice on how they can contribute. The program for teenagers includes: “Hip-hop as Political Activism,” “History of Youth Activism & Organizing,” as well as a lunchtime open mic and spoken word session.

Children ages 12 and under will have the chance to take control of their health at workshops covering nutrition and golfing exercises. They will also learn the importance of creative power by making do-it-yourself toolkits and planting a community garden.

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