The “Big” Organizer’s Exchange! From the Bay to LA!

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June 26, 2013 by mishagabrielle

“From the Bay… From the Bay… From the Bay to LA organizin’ all the way!”

On Wed., June 19, BOP members hit the road on a four-day road trip to Los Angeles, for a meeting with members of the Labor Community Strategy Center (LCSC), also called “the Center.” BOP members made the six-hour drive across state for an opportunity to meet with members of the center’s Bus Rider’s Union and Community Rights Campaign.

Fifteen BOP members arrived at the Radisson Hotel at the University of California on Wednesday evening to jump right into the packed itinerary, which began with a meet and greet of the two organizations over dinner at Mercado La Paloma, home to several quality restaurants that reflect the diversity of the neighborhood, both in their menu and ownership. (La Mercado is a community betterment project that provides economic opportunity in its South Los Angeles neighborhood, while upholding a commitment to serving the needs of the local community.)

Inside Mercado La Paloma, surrounded by the sound of a thriving community center, about forty members from BOP and the Center met for the first time over a uniquely prepared Salvadoran dinner.

“We matched with each other very well, just getting to know each other. Everybody there was very open and we had good conversation. I always like putting a person’s name with their face. I enjoyed the location… I think it brought all of us together in a nice relaxed atmosphere,” said BOP member, Yvonne Tate.

Community organizers from BOP and LCSC had been planning behind the scenes for a year and a half to bring their membership together for a meaningful exchange that would help members deepen the alliance BOP and LCSC had begun back in 2011. They wanted to create a space for black organizers to come together, build relationships with each other, and vision what the black movement is going to look like moving forward.

With only two days and a lot of ground to cover, BOP and LCSC members met at the 28th Street YMCA in South LA, a historic monument known as the first YMCA recreation center in Los Angeles, founded by and for black men and boys.

Behind the walls of a building that marks history for Southern California’s people of color, BOP and LCSC began a process of exchanging information about their work. Each group presented an enlarged “Facebook” page that members created as a way to present information pertinent to their organization, with “likes” signifying allies, a “profile picture” or logo, and a timeline of important events in organizational history that included pictures, captions, and comments.

A question and answer forum between the two groups gave members from BOP and the Center an opportunity to learn about the principles and vision of each other’s organization around membership development, infrastructure, campaign work, grassroots fundraising tactics, and other important aspects of their organizing.

Day two of the exchange was hosted at the Southern California Library, a people’s library dedicated to documenting and preserving the histories of communities in struggle for justice, with an exchange of information about BOP and LCSC’s campaign work.

Members of LCSC’s Community Rights Campaign, which launched in 2009, are targeting Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the Los Angeles School Police Department, whose policies target black and brown students and contribute greatly to the disproportionate numbers of suspensions, expulsions and arrests of LA’s students of color. As a result of their organizing, Community Rights won a revision of LA’s ‘truancy’ ticketing policy, which targeted the poorest of LA’s students of color, and a ban on LA’s discriminatory school suspensions for ‘willful defiance.’

We shared our story of a quickly evolving campaign (Bettering Our School System) that targets OUSD to change the current policies which encourage police presence as a solution to school safety and student discipline, but disproportionately targets black students for suspensions and arrests.

The two-day exchange ended in the main room of the library, where the sound of chanting voices, stomping feet, and clapping hands rang out, as we danced and celebrated the birth of a new friendship, political alliance, and strengthened black-led movement to end the racist policies that support discrimination by police.

See the photos on Flickr!

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